Crash Training Guidelines for Cyclists

When people hear the phrase "crash training" it often conjures up images of stunt men and women training for dangerous scenes in movies, or perhaps race car driver training school. The people that have these images are definitely not cyclists.  

When cyclists hear "crash training" they think (or dream) about a week of bike riding. Every day, the entire focus of that week is, simply, riding a bike.

I believe the phrase "crash training" has cycling roots, though I can't trace the origin. Crash training blocks are used in other sports; however, it is used most often in cycling.

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Traditionally, a crash training week is one that is high volume, relative to the athlete's current training schedule. Training is some 50 to 100 percent above the athlete's normal weekly volume. Sometimes, cycling teams will have a high-volume spring training camp to focus on riding, team building exercises (formal and informal), distribute new kits and begin to plan strategy for the season.

Cycling teams intend for this big-volume training week to spring-board the fitness of every team member, and very often that is indeed the result. Unfortunately, while some athletes respond very well, others leave the week of training ill or injured.

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Planning Your Own Crash Training

Just like the teams, you can use crash training to bump your preparation or base fitness early in your training season. Though the daily riding details are different, you can also use a crash training block as the final icing on the fitness cake within three to six weeks before your key event.

No matter when you plan the crash block, in order to get the best out of the training you need to be rested before beginning the block. You also need to recover on the back side of the training.

You can structure a crash training block for as short as two days. More common is to plan for a week of riding. Of course, you can plan for any number of days between two and seven. While you can plan for over seven days, this column will focus on planning for crash training periods of between two and seven days of riding.

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As mentioned previously, when planning your crash training block, the increase in volume is typically 50 to 100 percent above your current normal training for a similar period of time.

For example, if you are currently riding eight hours per week, your crash training week would be 12 to 16 hours of riding. If your normal ride time for Friday/Saturday/Sunday is one hour/two hours/two hours, a crash block could be two hours/two hours/four hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The combinations and options are endless.

The optimal situation is to plan your crash training away from home. When you've been plucked out of your normal routine and surroundings, it is easier to focus on riding your bike, eating, and recovering if you're not concerned with job, family and routine problems.

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A simple road trip a few hours from home will work fine. You don't have to board a plane and travel somewhere exotic, though that is a nice option.

If it is not possible to travel and you must do a home-based plan, do your best to minimize distractions and obligations. These items can cut into ride time; but, more often they cut into recovery. Skimping on recovery affects the amount of benefit you can gain from the training block.

Before you head into the block, plan your fast, long or "hard" riding days for the crash training block. I do hate to use the word "hard" because anyone can ride hard, but not everyone rides fast. For this column, "hard" means fast, hilly, long or long mixed with fast or hilly.

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If you are riding six or seven days, pick no more than three days to be hard. If you try to make all days fast or high-intensity effort, the result will be mediocre training. Manage your daily ride goals to achieve the results you want.

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