The Basic Principle
You train, you physically stress your body, you get tired, you recover, you supercompensate, and come back stronger. Train again and you get progressively better. If you don’t get tired, you don’t need to recover. If you don’t recover, you don’t super compensate and you will not improve. It is as simple as that and the key to performance. As with everything the key is balance. EVERY training program starts with this basic principle.
The Human Body Will Adapt
It is a statement that has gotten worn down to a cliche, however, it cannot be more true. In the words of Mike Spracklen: the human body has the extraordinary ability to change and adapt to any stress or environment it is put in. As you train, the body gets accustomed. In order to keep improving you need to keep increasing the stress. In theory there is no limit to how far the body can improve. When you design your program you should set small yet achievable goals. Pain and discomfort will get into the way, however, by pushing through those levels, performance will materialize. Although in theory there is no limit to improvement, you will eventually reach a plateau. Criticism of overtraining will most likely take over the belief that you can get better. There are ALWAYS ways to get better. By going to those extremes you will get an advantage over the people who will not go to those extremes.
The Motivation and Things That Stop Us
You should set a goal and go for that goal. We all have a point where we stop and give up! No matter how ambitious you are or how bad you want to get to your goal, there are times when you will back away. Whether it is because life, job and/or family interfere, whether you are very tired or whether there is a cold rain pouring amidst the gusting winds, this point exists. You need to create an environment where you keep pushing that point further away, until it becomes the point after the finish line. Too often you say “It is just one training.” Missing that workout will not make the difference between winning or losing, however, it is something that STOPS you! Whether it is a pat on the back or just an encouraging word, motivation comes in different shapes and forms.
Training and Periodization
The Aerobic Foundation
The more you spend doing a certain activities (ie. cycling), the better you become. Repetition leads to muscle memory, therefore, motions become habits and the body becomes more efficient. You need to strengthen the muscle around the motion and feed with a good blood supply. You achieve this by working at low intensity, where the body uses oxygen – performing aerobic efforts. As you slightly increase the miles and/or speed, the body supercompensates (see Basic Principle) and can go longer with same amount of oxygen. Therefore a shorter distance can be covered faster since you have abundance of that oxygen capacity.
The Anaerobic Effors
During racing, the oxygen demands are high, however, the aerobic foundation you have created (in the off season) can cope with that demand. Unfortunately when the need for oxygen outstrips the supply (anaerobic very high intensity efforts), the body produces lactic acid. Anaerobic metabolism is 19!!! times less efficient than aerobic. Therefore you need to get the body used to tolerate the lactic acid by doing efforts that push the body to not rely on oxygen.