Plan your training to maximize your cycling season |

Plan your training to maximize your cycling season

Brett DonnelsonVail, CO Colorado

The Vail Valley Syndrome. It is brutal, season-ending, and it is everywhere. Never heard of it? You may have it. The Vail Valley Syndrome is: skiing and apres all winter long until April 15 and then going out and riding your bike as hard and as fast as you can from April 16 on. Most people with this condition wonder why in mid-August they have made little gain to their speed/power/time and are “over” biking. They also may wonder why they may not be losing as much weight or body fat as they expected. This does not pertain to everyone in the valley but more than you would think.In every athlete’s season, there are periods or training blocks. In these blocks, you focus on different aspects of your whole cycling experience. The trick is to put the right training block in the right time of year relative to events that you want to participate in. Planning a season like this is for the elite and the average rider that wants to make big gains in his or her cycling or multi-sport season.Coaches use a lot of terms in reference to these blocks. Build, base-building, pre-competitive, maintenance, strength, endurance, power and peak are just a few. There are too many to talk about, but there is a pretty common theme through most of them. Three to four weeks of building or increasing work and then a recovery week. Another three to four weeks of building and then a recovery week and so on. You can “build” through duration of workouts, frequency of workouts or the intensity of workout. Generally, you increase one or two at a time, not all three. The Vail Valley Syndrome looks like 15 weeks of build in all three areas and then burnout or injury. So how do we make the biggest strides in our endurance-racing season and be ready for our events? Good planning. If you don’t know how to plan, hire someone to do it for you. I know how to plan, I do it for many athletes, and I still hire someone to plan for me. Tam, my wife, the amateur Xterra Triathlon World Champion, hires someone to coach her. It is not me, thank goodness. Her coach has a coach, and his coach has a coach, etc. The coach takes the emotion out of your training. Emotions can sound like, “I feel really good today; I am just going to keep riding for another hour,” or “Man, I feel terrible today; I will just skip my workout.” Both scenarios can be equally damaging to your training block. When a coach gives you a workout, you don’t have to think, “What am I going to do today?” Instead, you look at your email, read what you are going to do tomorrow, and you do it.We coach many cyclists and triathletes with different goals. We work with people who are looking to do their first triathlon all the way to athletes who want to qualify and place in world-championship events. Each one’s plan is different based on ability, work schedule, injuries, goals, etc. For many, we are just managers who help them organize their season and their training blocks. For others, we offer form correction, video analysis and one-on-one strength training. We are lucky enough to be employed full time at the Athletic Club at the Westin. This is an amazing facility for the endurance athlete. It offers a saline pool, Computrainer bike technology and plenty of places to run. With all of this, each athlete’s plan is fit to what will suit them best and make their time as efficient as possible. The Athletic Club at the Westin has taken coaching to a new level this summer by offering an assortment of coached outdoor bike rides. These road rides are pre-planned and build to help our clients and athletes get effective interval and tempo training. This is an extension of our popular eight- and 16-week Computrainer program. Some of our clients will use these rides as their key workouts for the week and then have other workouts that are coach-driven throughout the week.Our valley is fit and athletic. People here have good ideas of what their training should be and always have the latest training techniques, but so many are haphazard and random. Sitting down and looking at your season from the big picture can add clarity and direction. Knowing when you are going to build your base, add strength, recover before events and how to peak for those events makes your summer more enjoyable. Our summers are so short, we need to be efficient in order to get the most out of them. Brett Donelson and his wife, Tam, own Donelson Coaching, which coaches endurance athletes. Brett is also a personal trainer and cycling director at the Athletic Club at the Westin in Avon. For more information on Brett, visit

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