– Johann Wykerd
As we get closer to winter and without any races on the horizon for at least another 2 – 3 months, we are challenged to decided on the which training strategy to follow. Do we go back to base training, or do we stay with intensity, etc.
In my opinion it is a very good time to get back to basics, but the climate and the Covid limitations will not always allow us to do those long LSD rides as often as required. So, we need a slightly different strategy … In countries where the winters are very severe many coaches have adopted a strategy called “Reverse periodisation”. Instead of focusing on those longer rides, this method starts with short, intense, and high-quality workouts that will lead to specific results. These workouts can often be done on the trainer, or on a quiet stretch of dirt road or tar away from high-traffic areas.
Specificity vs. Volume
While endurance MTB races often take over four hours to complete, they have little in common with long, steady road kilometres. MTB races are normally hilly, discontinuous efforts on steep grades and are often chunks of near-threshold efforts followed by rest periods. Sometimes, a race effort is so discontinuous that it looks more like a series of bursts than it does an endurance ride. Use this as reassurance that getting away from traditional base training is not sacrificing specificity.
Plan Workouts to Match Your Races
I have been following this strategy since the start of lockdown and the sessions scheduled have taken individual components of typical MTB races into consideration. Most mountain bike races have sections of above-threshold riding, low cadence efforts, and punchy efforts. All this, together with a view that we need to make sure your pedal stroke is good and by mixing it up with some virtual rides/races to keep boredom in check, is on the menu for now.
Watch your weight
The efforts we have planned for now are hard, and you might feel the need to consume more calories. But we need to keep an eye on our weight … This shouldn’t be a concern if you’re eating the right diet, but I would recommend that you consider your portion size.
How to measure early season training
Without the huge amount of volume that comes with a big base build, your Performance Management Chart might look a little lackluster compared to previous years. I want to again assure you that the “blue-line” on a PMC chart is not a true reflection of your potential to perform. During this time, we are focusing on improving key power durations and you will come out of this period smashing KOM’s like you have never done before.
When to Start Logging Base Kilometres?
As the weather improves and we move towards more freedom, it will be easy to find more time for riding. A traditional periodization plan suggests that this is the time to reduce volume and increase intensity, but having those sessions already done, you can focus on enjoying the longer days instead. You’ll need enough time before your first major race to build your endurance, drop any excess weight you didn’t shift during lockdown, and get comfortable back on the trails. I would be looking at a 4-week block of endurance focussed training about 6-weeks out from your 1st big race. This won’t be the time to stop the intensity sessions though; if your races demand threshold or above efforts, these workouts will still be part of your planning all the way to your big day.
Reverse periodization is a tried and tested method to maximize training time when time is not on our side. The main ingredient for this strategy to be successful is consistency. Every week will have some key-sessions, and these should not be missed. If you are not sure which session are key, please reach out to your coach to get to know them … and ask the purpose of these sessions as well … I believe if you understand what they will do for you, you will buy-in to doing them properly.