Do you also catch yourself by getting wrapped up in the hype game?
In my athlete’s group I often hear them talking about the ONE new strategy to build cycling endurance. Like “Fasted training is really the shit”, “VO2max intervals boost your endurance like crazy”. Others are talking about altitude training or the “sleep-low” method, where you sleep with depleted glycogen stores and aim to train the next morning in this state.
But the reality is, all these different strategies have one thing in common: They are all kinds of controversial marginal gains of 1% or less. I mean sure they sound sexy and exciting and offer a faster and better way to lasting endurance. And even for me it’s cool to tell my buddy “Yeah bro lately on this sleep-low method”.
However, this is the downward spiral of getting caught up in the hype game. We take an easy step away from the 20% that give us 80% of the return in our endurance, toward some “there’s this one study” thing.
But one major goal of cycling training is to build a big aerobic base and this isn’t done just by getting excited by the latest training method.
The Power of Sticking to The Training Plan
When we look at pro riders we adore them for their insane performances. But what we’re exposed to is just the end result of the process. We see them racing and think wow… if only I could fly up the climbs that way. While all the work that is put in consistently is overlooked.
What really separates the best cyclists in the world from the rest is sticking to a plan long term. And doing the same over and over again. It’s their comfort in boredom that brings them closer to their goals everyday.
A good example for this is Alejandro Valverde. Given his age, his success is a product of massive deliberate practice. And his training data confirms it. When I went over it and compared different training seasons with each other Valverde completed similar workouts and intervals each year. He has a pattern of long rides, sweet spot work and threshold work. And he does this week after week, month after month, year after year. Think about that for a moment. No innovations found in his training or anything sexy like “sleep-low”. Sounds pretty boring to me to be honest…
But Valverde is the one who’s always in shape at the right time and ready to win. Because his training plan is reproducible year after year after year. Just by doing sessions that really work on a consistent basis.
Old School Endurance Training
We have the problem that we underestimate the value of a cycling workout that we have already discovered. The old training program gets underutilized even though we know these workouts are best practices. Because we think that’s something we already tried.
And therein lies the issue: “Every cyclist knows that drill” is very different from “Every cyclist does that drill”. Just because a good workout is known doesn’t mean it’s executed.
Or talking more critically, there’s a huge gap between implementing endurance work occasionally and implementing it consistently.
Every rider can go over the data of the likes of Bernal or Valverde, it’s available. But very few show up with the work on their bike each time.
So, we easily get caught in the trap of assuming we need this new exciting training method to make progress, which isn’t always the case.
Do Endurance Training You Already Know
It’s this model that is so present in our lives as bike riders. We waste time on policies that aren’t sustainable and reproducible for long and skip resources and ideas that really work, but just don’t sound new and innovative.
There are many examples of training sessions that drive progress and endurance in our cycling life, if we just did them with more consistency. Riding on a well examined training plan. Doing aerobic endurance work. Regular strength training. Continually performing sweet spot and threshold intervals. Because we know for sure that these workouts will make you faster.
Of course mastering the fundamentals is boring. And to yield returns these intervals must be repeated over and over again. But the gains are worth the commitment. Why risk it for some “small stuff” when big things give you a sure thing. No matter what cycling specific goal you are working toward, there are simple steps – the basic fundamentals that are best practice for years – that give you a great boost in fitness if you practice them more consistently.
You already know that easy zone 2 riding, aerobic tempo and sweet spot training build that broad base of endurance in cycling. Just use it.
Because the gains in cycling often hide behind boring methods and underused workouts. You don’t need new training science. You don’t need any new strategy. You just need to do more of the drills that already work.
Do More of What Already Works by James Clear: https://jamesclear.com/checklist-solutions
How to 80/20 Your Life by Mark Manson: https://markmanson.net/80-20-your-life
Training Peaks Mathew Hayman Career Analysis Part 1: https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/mathew-hayman-career-analysis-part-one/
Training Peaks Mathew Hayman Career Analysis Part 2: https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/mathew-hayman-career-analysis-part-two-the-making-of-a-classics-rider/