Monday, October 31, 2016

Just get to the top!

By PCG Elite Coach Joe Hydrick

Building fitness on the bike requires time and effort.  This is unavoidable!  A well-designed training program should include workouts structured to invoke a specific training stimulus to your body.  Depending on the time of season, and your specific goals, the nature of the workouts will vary, and you may come to dread certain workouts because of the hard work involved.  Yet, you push through them knowing they are beneficial.  On the other hand, you will look forward to certain workouts, knowing they are killer fitness-builders, also because they are reasonably enjoyable to carry out.  One of my favorite workouts is one I like to call “just get to the top”.  




The Protocol:

Warm Up:  Spend 15 minutes getting warmed up, incorporating 3x1 minutes of Fast Pedaling (110+ rpm) with 1 minute rest between.  Then, pedal for 2 minutes right at FTP, followed by 5 minutes of easy spinning.  Move on to the Main Set.

Main Set:  Arrive at a hill that is ideally 12-15% in pitch with NO TRAFFIC.  For the next 20 minutes, we’re going to ride up the hill for 30 seconds, then turn around and coast back down before turning around repeating.  Time the rest period to work out to be roughly 30 seconds.

  •             Make a note of the exact spot you got to in 30 seconds up the hill; this will be your mark to hit every single time, regardless of how long it takes.

  •             Your repeats should be HARD (zone 6) but not a sprint effort up the hill.  Keep it ON, and STEADY.  Go by feel, push against the hill, and tell yourself “JUST GET TO THE TOP” during each repeat, not worrying about specific wattage targets.

  •             Alternate SEATED and STANDING repeats.

  •             During the recovery period between repeats, focus on getting your heart rate and breathing in check as much as possible.  EVERY SECOND of recovery counts on this workout.


Then, spin for 10 minutes in Zone 1 to come back to life.  Finish by riding 20-30 minutes in Zone 2, with a nice, quick cadence of 90+.

Cool Down:  Spin for 10-15 minutes very easy in Zone 1.  Get your breathing and heart rate FULLY in check and make sure to perform some mobility work immediately after hopping off the bike.

For me, this is one of my favorite workouts because ticks all the right boxes.  Here’s the rundown:

It’s multi-systemic.  This workout draws on an array of our body’s resources to perform.  Each repeat will tap into our body’s anaerobic glycolysis to make the power, which will expand our anaerobic work capacity.  The steep grade will require significant muscular force production, and the back-to-back efforts bolster our muscular endurance.  The alternating of the seated and standing efforts forces us to employ multiple groups of musculature.  Focusing on form and stability in the saddle during the repeats works our core strength in a real world, bike-specific approach.  Finally, for the entire 20 minute Main Set, your heart rate will be near/above LTHR for the duration which can serve to improve our FTP, even given the variable nature of the workout. 

It’s real world. 
Many of us are training to improve our race or group ride performance.  For many riders, it’s often repeated anaerobic efforts and accelerations are what ‘breaks the elastic’.  Invariably, a lot of times these decisive efforts take place on steep grades.  This workout incorporates this specific criteria and serves to bolster our fitness in real-world conditions.

It’s testing. 
This workout is a great gauge of fitness and mental fortitude that can be performed any time.  With the main driver of the workout being to “just get to the top” rather than specific power targets, this is an effective training ride regardless of the speed or power that you carry up the hill for each repeat.  You’ll tend moderate your efforts based on your capacity at that time which is a great indicator of fitness.  What I do like to keep an eye on is my Normalized Power for the 20 minute block in real time.  During race-preparation phase, you can turn it up a degree and really push yourself to expand your bookends.  Compare your NP for the block from session to session to monitor your progression.

It’s mentally engaging. 
Honestly, it takes more than brutal effectiveness for a workout to be considered a favorite.  It has to be fun to a certain degree, and this is one of those workouts that I look forward to.  It’s simple: just get to the top!  You don’t have to think much beyond that.  I also love the introspection that comes from doing the similar efforts in high frequency.  You build a fine resolution with your body and, through validation, you learn to trust yourself to be able to do another repeat. 

Complete fitness requires a well-rounded approach, pushing limits, staying mentally engaged, and gauging your fitness frequently.  This is one of my favorite workouts, because it does all of those things in one single session.  See you at the top!


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