You've had a chance to reflect on last season, and you have a clear picture of what you need to do to continue developing your strength and speed on the bike.
Clear as mud, right? Well, even if you're not entirely sure how to build on last year to achieve your potential, have no fear—because right now is the perfect time to make crucial gains that will boost the cycling leg of your triathlon.
Triathletes have long been chastised for being mashers, pushing huge gears at low cadences. While everyone has his or her ideal cadence, it's generally true that while pushing a big gear may feel faster, by doing so you're actually recruiting more fast-twitch muscle fibers.
These fibers fatigue more quickly than do slow-twitch fibers, and mashing produces greater quantities of lactic acid. If that's not bad enough, fast-twitch fibers also burn through your precious glycogen stores at a faster rate.
In contrast, a higher cadence allows you to rely more on your slow-twitch fibers, which are powered by a different mixture of fat and carbohydrate and fatigue at a much slower rate, thus preserving your glycogen stores and reducing lactic acid production and accumulation. As an added bonus, a higher cadence on the bike also more closely emulates the typical triathlete's leg turnover during the run.
FastPedal: FastPedal intervals help you boost your cadence by developing the appropriate neuromuscular pathways needed to recruit and fire your cycling muscles at a higher rate. FastPedal intervals also help you to develop a more efficient pedal stroke.
To perform FastPedal intervals, set your bike up on an indoor trainer with little resistance or find a flat stretch of road and select a light gear. After a warm-up, begin your FastPedal workout by slowly increasing your cadence to the highest possible cadence you can maintain without rocking your hips; stay in the saddle with your hands on the tops of your bars.
Keep your upper body as still as possible and concentrate on pulling through the bottom of your down stroke, as if you're scraping mud off the bottom of your shoes. Try to work up to between 110 to 120 RPMs.
Start by doing several one-minute intervals with one-and-a-half minutes of recovery after each. Each week, add more time to the interval or add additional intervals, but maintain the recovery between intervals (the recovery should remain at 100 to 150 percent of the work-interval time).
Stomps: Many triathletes are able to maintain sustained power on the flats but find themselves jumping out of the saddle or shifting into a lighter gear when the terrain or wind changes.
Early in the season is a great time to work on increasing the power you can produce while seated. Developing this type of power will help you stay in your aero position—and hence maintain efficiency—when you encounter a slight rise or headwind.
Stomps are an efficient way to develop this type of power, and just as the name implies, in this drill you're effectively stomping on your pedals.
To perform these short intervals, stay seated with your hands on the tops of your bars, or if you've spent a lot of time in your aero position, you can do these in your aerobars. Either way, select a large gear, such as your 53 x 11-13, and find a relatively flat road.
Begin with a slow start speed (10 to 15 mph), then begin stomping on the pedals. Focus on producing a smooth but forceful down stroke, pull through the bottom and push through the top of the stroke. Each stomp acceleration should last between eight and 20 seconds. Take a five-minute recovery between efforts. Begin with three to four intervals and work up from there each week.
SteadyState intervals: As you get more miles in your legs toward the end of the base-training period, begin to implement workouts that focus on developing power at lactate threshold, or maximum sustainable power.
SteadyState Intervals last anywhere from eight to 30 minutes, depending on your level of development, and should be performed just below your lactate threshold, which is typically slightly beneath your individual time-trial pace.
The goal is to develop a physiological overload by accumulating more time at that intensity each week. Begin with eight-minute intervals and do three to four intervals with recovery times of 50 to 100 percent of the work-interval time.
Once you can accomplish four eight-minute intervals, increase the length of each work interval (or add additional intervals) so each week the total amount of time spent in your SteadyState power range increases as you adapt to the training.
As with any training schedule, you need to incorporate recovery periods so your body has a chance to adapt to the demands you place on it. Incorporating the above workouts into your schedule early in the season, and allowing for active recovery weeks about every four weeks, will help boost your power on the bike as you enter the race season.
Derick Williamson is a co-founder and partner of Source Endurance and a competitor in XTERRA, Olympic-distance and Ironman-distance triathlons. To find out more, visit source-e.net.