You are hereBlogs / Antsonline's blog / What it Takes #1 (January)

What it Takes #1 (January)

Antsonline's picture

By Antsonline - Posted on 31 January 2014


Given the important racing really kicks off in March, through to the end of April and start of May, January is about setting yourself up with some solid strength. From my perspective, I took December ‘off’ from training seriously. I rode my bike a bit, and over Xmas went to stay with my Fiance’s family in New Zealand. I got to ride most days on their local trails, and also went over to Rotorua for a little break at the end. I just rode my bike. Not fast, no stress, baggy shorts, camelback and an ipod. Solo MTB mileage.
To my mind, it’s the best way to get back into being ‘really’ fit – just by getting ‘normal’ fit. A few too many beers, too much food. All the good stuff.

January started brutally with a set of tests. These were power based tests to determine quite how unfit I had become over the break and would then determine my training levels for the month. The tests took the shape of a 5min maximal test and a 20min maximal test. On the same day. I did the 5min test in the morning – on the indoor trainer (its replicable and unaffected by weather, terrain, traffic lights) – solid little warm up, and then 5mins of FULL STINK. Horrible. Really nasty. The last 90 seconds seemed to last forever.
The evening was to be the very same – but for 20mins. Agony. The results weren’t anywhere near as bad as I had feared – and frankly, just getting it done, and marking a line in the sand is what it was about.
For riders without a power meter – think of a good type of test you can do. One ‘anaerobic’ (4-5mins), which might be a long hill – set a watch to 5mins and literally see how far you get up the hill in that time. Will you make the tree around the corner? Or the rock with the strange crack in it? Remember where you got.
For the 20min test – a flat loop is ideal. Maybe 4 or 5mins around – 20mins of getting as far as you can again. Cent Park in Sydney is pretty good for this. Or a local Crit track.
Its about picking somewhere that you can return to – and see how you have progressed against it.
If heart-rate is your measure – record that. Or use Strava to help you gauge your speed.

January from a ‘training’ perspective – with the tests done – commenced on Monday 5th. It was 4 weeks long and ends on Sunday 2nd Feb.
The focus for this month was to build good aerobic efficiency, continue to build and push my aerobic threshold, and develop some deeper ‘strength’.
Each week would increase in terms of time spent training, and also effort within that time period. It (roughly!) has been 16hrs – 22hrs (this week) in 2hr / week increments.
What have been the key sessions? There are three that I consider to be the building blocks of this phase.
1. Building Threshold – this might look like 4 or 5 repetitions of 5-15mins at your ‘threshold’ (about as hard as you can push for one hour. The first rep should feel ok, the last one of the set will be very tough). Done on a trainer its easy to focus on effort. On a long hill its very good too. A different session might be thus: 60 – 90mins at a really high tempo – very fast – with a 3min even higher effort after 7mins (it would look like 7,3,7,3,7,3,7,3,7,3,7,3) – a very good session. Tough, hard to do anywhere but on a trainer. A final ‘session’ that would fit the bill here would also be racing a club Crit – but perhaps only later on in the month when some fitness was built.
2. Strength – this would be something like 5-10x riding up a 3min, steep, climb at a low cadence (around 60-70rpm) pushing hard – but never getting out of the saddle. All seated, generating power from your thighs and using your hammys to help keep the pedals turning. A really good session. Climb the hill, roll to the bottom – repeat. Always seated.
3. Longer Endurance – A long MTB or road ride. 3-5hrs. Don’t just go and bimble along. Most people would do these rides slightly easier than they ought to. After two or maybe three sentences you should be out of breath. Try and maintain a good cadence (90-100), but also try and focus on remaining seated. Its about building strength.

Those three sessions should form cornerstones of your week. If you did the pure minimum, you are looking at 60-90mins total ride time for threshold. Same for hills, and 3-5hrs on a weekend. 5 hours a week. I put my hand on my heart and say that if you spent 5hrs a week training doing that – you would be well set for a great 50km race, or some super-hot laps at The Mont or a club XCO. The seated strength work will help stave off cramps and muscular fatigue too – so you should feel stronger as well as fitter.

I have been doing all of the above sessions this month. As well as supplementing them with a bit more ‘longer endurance’ riding, and a couple of extra threshold sessions. There is no secret recipe – just hard work. For this phase, and the next, at least.
A couple of 15-30mins stretching / body weight sessions (whilst I am watching TV) really help too.

So Jan is nearly over. I havent done EVERY session perfectly, but most have been done well. No-one ever does a ‘perfect month’. Work gets in the way, life, fatigue – but be honest with yourself. You know if you have bludged, or if it really was too much. Don’t be rigid in your thinking. Try and get the work done as best as possible.

How is Feb different?
Next month things change a little bit. Not as much as you might expect however. The month will start with a week of reduced volume (to recover from the big Jan block) and a repetition of the horrible tests. I’ll be interested to see how I have moved on. I have lost my Xmas weight now, but there are still a few KG’s to go.
The big change for Feb is to include much more time on the mountain bike and less roadie time. As the races get closer its about being more and more relaxed and comfortable at speed on the MTB.
From a pure ‘sessions’ perspective the threshold work will continue. Probably two a week. One off-road for certain. Within the longer rides (weekends) there will also be more ‘race pace’ work. The hill session will move from being seated and low cadence ‘strength’ to being a more natural hill effort – standing, seated – with a natural cadence.
I’ll also include a club Crit once a week too – to bring back that ‘pain’ of racing that is so easily forgotten! There will probably the odd club XC race too…
Its still a high training load – because the focus is still on building ‘base’ endurance and strength.

Other really important points to bear in mind….
A coach much better than me once said “there is no such thing as over-training, just under-recovering” – its very true. Pay attention to your nutrition. Its more important than what bike you ride, how much pressure you have in your tyres, or whether you need a wider handlebar. Your body needs the right ‘stuff’ before, during, and after you train.
Rest is so important. It’s the only time you actually improve – when the body rebuilds.
Finally – your bike / equipment. It doesn’t need to be the flashiest, fastest, lightest thing. But it could do with the being the best looked after, reliable and not going to let you down on the day of a key session. There is nothing worse that gee-ing yourself up for a big ride, to find your bike cant cope.
Make sure it fits well. Saddle height, reach etc etc. A bike fit is a great place to start.

2013 was a year where I was very flattered and fortunate that the guys at CBD in Sydney were able to help me a huge amount after I found myself without a bike at the start of March. I’d like to thank Hugh – a true gentleman.
I’m really excited about 2014:
This year I am delighted to be back riding on Specialized bikes after a 1 year hiatus. I’m excited to be working with Pete and the guys at Cyclery Northside – I personally have strong links with Specialized and am happy that 2014 will involve them. There is one of those fancy new ‘Epic World Cup’ winging its way over pretty soon.
For pretty much the first time ever, I am taking advice on nutrition this year. I had been a real skeptic in the past, but have been helped out by the guys at Essential Sports Nutrition.
Its made a difference. The right stuff, at the right time – I’m very impressed.

So – that’s ‘What it Takes #1’ – 5hrs of focused riding, some stretching during TV ad-breaks, some good nutrition, and a bike that works.
What are you waiting for?

If you really want to see more of what I am doing specifically - go ahead and follow me on Strava (I dont put every single session up there - got to keep some secrets) and also Twitter if you like.

Happy to take comments and questions – let me know if it’s a useful ‘blog’. Hopefully see you next month for #2!

Jubas's picture

Thanks for the effort in compiling this info - it's certainly an interesting read.

What's the balance of time spent on the trainer vs. roadie vs. mountain bike in Jan, and how do you think it might shift in Feb (you mentioned more on the MTB for example). I don't imagine it will be an absolutely critical element - I'm just interested to know!

NathanC's picture

I'm sure I speak for many when I say I really appreciate your insights and advice on NOBMOB and will surely continue to in the future.

Sure is getting my motivation levels to a new high!

mike95's picture

Thanks Antsonline. Great read, thanks for taking the time to post. Im also interested in your roadie, mtb balance.
I don't get on the mtb as much as id like & tend to spend much of my training time on the roadie.

For me, the big difference i notice is the extra core strength needed for the longer harder mtb rides.
Getting my core nice & strong is an area i really need to address to do better.

I tend to neglect core exercise's & find excuses to not do them & just go riding.
I'm trying to be much more focused though this year.

Antsonline's picture

Hi - so for me Jan has had zero MTB time - because I have been without an MTB!

In an ideal world I would have done one of the longer weekend rides on the MTB - probably one that is slightly more casual.

I ride trainer a fair bit, and in fact, have an old MTB set up permanently on the trainer - so it is the same position as how I would race.

Typically, if I was doing a threshold intervals session, I would get up before work and do an hour on the trainer lets say 6-7am. Just spinning my legs, maybe some drills - one legged work etc.
In the evening, after work, I'd get on for a 60-90mins session. So thats 2.5hrs on the trainer.
I'd maybe do another easy reco ride on the trainer too.

If its raining, I am pretty good at getting on the trainer and doing exactly the same ride indoors. Last weekend (for example) it rained on Sunday, so I sat on the trainer for 3hrs doing some really hard work.

My secret to this is a good, gripping TV series. Every season I will buy a new one. 2013 I used the Sopranos. 7 series, 9-10 episodes / series.
I actually used to wake up hoping it was raining I got so into it.

This year is "Breaking Bad" - which I am loving too!

I set up the garage with the permanent bike / trainer, a MASSIVE fan, and a cheapo combined TV/DVD player. Cheap headphones - because they get destroyed with dried sweat after a month.

Into Feb, I have some bikes arriving (Thanks to Northside), so I can do much more on the MTB.
I'll do one road ride a week on the MTB (but on the road, on slicks), I'll do one trainer session in the MTB position. The weekends will be Sat MTB and Sun MTB. This is more than I did last year, and a key change for me. I think it will be a positive change.
This means the roadie will only come out once or twice a week really - for the Crit racing, and for a couple of reco spins (assuming Breaking Bad doesnt get too gripping!).

Core work - it makes a huge differece if you can get the power down. Think of it like this....."when I push on the pedal, why does the pedal go down, instead of my body going up?" - it over simplifies it a lot - but it deals with the importance of a strong body, back and core.
Just a teeny tiny bit (like I said - during ad breaks is perfect) a couple of times a week, and you'll be set....

Bikes's picture

Awesome read! Thanks for sharing!

Pete B's picture

Great write up, Ant. Very inspirational.

It goes to show that a well structured training plan is better than spending endless hours just cycling the streets.

I'll be reading your blog with interest. Smiling

hawkeye's picture

I've just started doing the low cadence seated hill repeats in the last fortnight, 3x5min and have found them to be very tough, but definitely worthwhile.

Only two sessions so far but I can already feel my pedal stroke is smoother and my lower back is improving.

My form goes out the window at the end of the last one but as strength improves I'll add more to the session.

Antsonline's picture

@Hawkeye - you'd be much better doing 5x3mins than 3x5mins.
More intervals = more recovery = more likely to hold it together for the 15mins of total effort.
It also means that when you want to increase the stress of the session, and add another rep, you aren't increasing it by 33% (by doing 4x5mins), but merely 20% (6x3mins)

Any is better than none - so well done on getting it done either way...

andyfev's picture

I'll echo everyone else's comments in thanking you for this great post especially given it was my training advice blog that you generously offered these blogs.

It's also good to know the programme I have set myself (thank you to everyone for their advice) has similarities to yours, though at a fraction of the frequency and most probably intensity, and also picked up on a few pointers.

You'll be pleased to know I've just completed my first week of training, done 3 rides or 6.5hrs in the saddle and I've worked my nuts off... It's hard to motivate when riding on your own but using target heart rates really helps keep the intensity up.

Will look forward to your next blog and I'll be taking you up on the offer of following you on Strava.

Cheers Eye-wink

hawkeye's picture

Thanks for your feedback Ant

I'm also doing 4 x 3min, (+ 2 x 2min if I leave home early enough) @ 105% THR intervals @ 100+ rpm on Tuesdays. Same amount of recovery as the length of the interval.

I suppose the thought that concerns me is running out of grunt after 3 minutes if I'm only doing 3 minute intervals?

andyfev's picture

I'm no expert Hawkeye, quite the novice, but by adding to the number of repetitions structurally over time, builds the cellular mitochondria, ATP efficiency and lactic acid fate (bodies ability to process lactic acid). This in turn results in physiological 'torque' and hence the ability to push in race situations. Your giving your body the ability to ride climbs hard, recover, repeat and continue during high intensity rides such as races.

GAZZA's picture

Nice write up and good advice.
I'm doing a lot more xc clubbies this year so might see you at a few soon?
I'll be racing against you!! Gulp!!!
See you at Heffron also, where I definitely won't be racing against you!!!

Antsonline's picture

First race will be Feb 23rd at Ourimbah Gazza. I'll be on a trail bike (no race bike yet) with 120mm travel and a dropper post.
I reckon it will FLY around that track Eye-wink

See you at Heffron.

evan's picture

Ants, once again you have created an awesome article to read. Your tips are always great to read and try. I hope you have a great 2014 MTB racing year.


GAZZA's picture

See you on Tuesday and Ourimbah!

Antsonline's picture

So I've written the next instalment for you all:

pommyracer's picture

hi Ants. love the blog (admittedly i'm catching up). I see you do lots of training (at least in this block) on the indoor trainer. with a little one on the way i'm looking at this option as i suspect my available hours for normal riding will get a lot shorter soon.

question is - what sort of trainer do you use and why?

Antsonline's picture

I do a fair bit on the trainer - yes. It is easy to do around work / life, when you are half asleep, when its dark etc.
I have a few tips:
1. A good trainer. There are 2 that I would consider. I use the Lemond Revolution. It has the most realistic road feel of any trainer. It does (however) make a lot of noise. If you do your sessions in the garage, its perfect. If you do them in the house, you won't make friends. The other option is the Wahoo KICKR - quiet, good road feel, and compatible with iPhone / pads etc.
2. Trainers are boring have something to look at and a plan to follow. Both the above options have the option of giving you 'power' readouts, cadence, speed, distance. This makes it more bearable. Specific sessions mean the time flies by.
3. DVD box sets! This is just a personal thing, but at the start of every season, I treat myself to a BIG DVD box set. 2013 it was The Sopranos - excellent. This year its Breaking Bad. Very good so far. They are 45-60mins long per episode, with a total of about 60hrs of series etc. I actually get to the point where I am hoping it will rain, so I can catch another episode!
I have my set-up in the garage, with an old frame built up as a 'turbo bike' so it never leaves the trainer. I bought a 150 dollar TV with a built in DVD player from Bing Lee, and some headphones. Oh - and a big fan. I just go out into my little hurt locker, and get settled in.

Hope that all helps?
Maybe I'll post up some ideas for turbo sessions soon.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Best Mountain Bike