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Century Training Plan
The New Century program is the best choice for a novice cyclist or a rider who is returning to the sport after several years off the bike. Even though it’s an easier plan, it is still quite challenging. This program may even be too difficult for some truly novice cyclists (brand-new bike, just started riding within the past 6 months). The ideal candidate for the New Century program is a cyclist who has been riding recreationally for a few years, has perhaps completed a century or two, and is looking for improved fitness and higher average speeds on long rides.
*Endurance Miles (EM) - This is a training zone used to build a wide endurance base and enhance aerobic fitness and stamina. EM efforts are performed at 65-75% of Functional Threshold Power (FTP)
**SteadyState (SS) - This is a training zone aimed at raising an athlete’s FTP. SS efforts are performed at just under FTP wattage or 98% of FTP
***PowerInterval (PI) - An interval used to elicit improvements in strength as well as VO2 max. PowerIntervals are performed at 120-130% of FTP.
Establish training zones using a CTS Field Test. Learn more here »
INTERVAL INTENSITIES AND EXPLANATIONS
This is your moderate-paced endurance intensity. The point is to stay at an intensity below lactate threshold for the vast majority of any time you’re riding at EM pace. The heart rate and power ranges for this intensity are very wide to allow for widely varying conditions. It is OK for your power to dip on descents or in tailwinds, just as it is expected that your power will increase when you climb small hills. One mistake some riders make is to stay at the high end of their EM range for their entire ride. As you’ll see from the intensity ranges for Tempo workouts, the upper end of EM overlaps with Tempo. If you constantly ride in your Tempo range instead of using that as a distinct interval intensity, you may not have the power to complete high-quality intervals when the time comes. You’re better off keeping your power and/or heart rate in the middle portion of your EM range and allowing it to fluctuate up and down from there as the terrain and wind dictate. Use your gearing as you hit the hills to remain in the saddle as you climb. Expect to keep your pedal speed up into the 85 to 95 rpm range. EM efforts are performed at 65-75% of Functional Threshold Power (FTP).
This workout should be performed on a relatively flat section of road. The gearing should be light, with low pedal resistance. Begin slowly working up your pedal speed, starting out with around 15 to 16 pedal revolutions per 10-second count. This equates to a cadence of 90 to 96 rpm. While staying in the saddle, increase your pedal speed, keeping your hips smooth, with no rocking. Concentrate on pulling through the bottom of the pedal stroke and pushing over the top. After 1 minute of FP, you should be maintaining 18 to 20 pedal revolutions per 10-second count, or a cadence of 108 to 120 rpm for the entire time prescribed for the workout. Your heart rate (HR) will climb while doing this workout, but don’t use it to judge your training intensity. It is important that you try to ride the entire length of the FP workout with as few interruptions as possible, because it should consist of consecutive riding at the prescribed training intensity.
SteadyState Intervals (SS)
These intervals are great for increasing a cyclist’s maximum sustainable power because the intensity is below lactate threshold but close to it. As you accumulate time at this intensity, you are forcing your body to deal with a lot of lactate for a relatively prolonged period of time. SS Intervals are best performed on flat roads or small, rolling hills. If you end up doing them on a sustained climb, you should really bump the intensity up to Climbing Repeat range, which reflects the grade’s added contribution to your effort. Do your best to complete these intervals without interruptions from stoplights and so on, and maintain a cadence of 85 to 95 rpm. Maintaining the training zone intensity is the most important factor, not pedal cadence. SS Intervals are meant to be slightly below your individual time trial pace, so don’t make the mistake of riding at your time trial pace during them. Recovery time between SS Intervals is typically about half the length of the interval itself. SS efforts are performed at just under FTP wattage or 98% of FTP.
Tempo is an excellent workout for developing aerobic power and endurance. The intensity is well below lactate threshold, but hard enough that you are generating a significant amount of lactate and forcing your body to buffer and process it. The intervals are long (15 minutes minimum, and they can be as long as 2 hours for pros), and your gearing should be relatively large so your cadence comes down to about 70 to 75 rpm. This helps increase pedal resistance and strengthens leg muscles. Also, try to stay in the saddle when you hit hills during your Tempo workouts. It is important that you try to ride the entire length of the Tempo workout with as few interruptions as possible—Tempo workouts should consist of consecutive riding at the prescribed intensity to achieve maximum benefit.
OverUnder Intervals (OU)
OverUnder Intervals are a more advanced form of SS Intervals. The “Under” intensity is your SS range, and the “Over” intensity is your CR range. By alternating between these two intensity levels during a sustained interval, you develop the “agility” to handle changes in pace during hard, sustained efforts. (See Figure 5.3.) More specifically, the harder surges within the interval generate more lactate in your muscles, and then you force your body to process this lactate while you’re still riding at a relatively high intensity. This workout can be performed on a flat road, rolling hills, or a sustained climb that’s relatively gradual (3 to 6 percent grade). It is difficult to accomplish this workout on a steep climb, because the pitch often makes it difficult to control your effort level. Your gearing should be moderate, and pedal cadence should be high (90 rpm or higher) if you’re riding on flat ground or small rollers. Pedal cadence should be above 85 rpm if you’re completing the intervals on a gradual climb.
To complete the interval, bring your intensity up to your SS range during the first 45 to 60 seconds. Maintain this heart rate intensity for the prescribed Under time and then increase your intensity to your Over intensity for the prescribed time. At the end of this Over time, return to your Under intensity range and continue riding at this level of effort until it’s once again time to return to your Over intensity. Continue alternating this way until the end of the interval.
OverUnder Intervals always end with a period at Over intensity. Recovery periods between intervals are typically about half the length of the work interval. Note: A more advanced version of this interval would alternate between SS and PI intensities instead of SS and CR intensities.
Note: In the training programs, the parameters of the OU intervals are written as: 3x12 OU (2U, 1O), 5 minutes RBI. This should be read as follows: Three intervals of 12 minutes. During the 12-minute intervals, the first 2 minutes should be at your Under intensity (2U). After two minutes, accelerate to your Over intensity for one minute (1O), before returning to your Under Intensity for another two minutes. Continue alternating in this manner – in this example you’d complete 4 cycles of Under and Over – until the end of the interval. Spin easy for 5 minutes and start the next interval.
PowerIntervals are perhaps the most important workouts in the entire training plan. These short efforts are the way you’re going to apply the concepts of high-intensity training to your program to make big aerobic gains in a small amount of time. These intervals are maximal efforts and can be performed on any terrain except sustained descents. Your gearing should be moderate so you can maintain a relatively high pedal cadence (100 rpm or higher is best). Two types of PI are used in this program: Steady Effort and Peak-and-Fade. PowerIntervals are performed at 120-130% of FTP.
Steady Effort PowerIntervals (SEPI)
Try to reach and maintain as high a power output as possible for the duration of these intervals. Ideally, these efforts should look like flat plateaus when you view your power files (see Figure 5.1). Take the first 30 to 45 seconds to gradually bring your power up and then hold on for the rest of the interval. The point here is to accumulate as much time as possible at a relatively constant and extremely high output.
Peak-and-Fade PowerIntervals (PFPI)
These intervals start with a big acceleration rather than a gradual increase in intensity. I want you to go all-out right from the beginning and keep your power output as high as possible as the interval progresses. (See Figure 5.2.) Because of the hard acceleration, your power output will gradually fall after the first 40 to 60 seconds of the effort. That’s expected and perfectly normal; just keep pushing. Use your gears to keep your cadence high (above 90 rpm) for the entire interval. Don’t let fatigue lead you to start mashing gears in the second half of the effort. These intervals generate a great deal of lactate and are reserved for the later weeks of a training plan.
The rest periods between PIs are purposely too short to provide complete recovery, and completing subsequent intervals in a partially recovered state is a key part of what makes these efforts effective. Typically, recovery times are equal to the interval work time, which is sometimes referred to as a 1:1 work-to-recovery ratio.
Note: Aim for your intervals to be well above 101 percent of your field test power. Many athletes will consistently hit 110–130 percent of field test power, and some may go higher. The 101 percent level marks the bare minimum. If you can’t consistently exceed this level, you’re too tired to complete an effective PI workout.