Allen Lim, Ph.D., is an expert in physiology, human performance and sports nutrition. He’s known for his quirky but effective approaches to training. I’ll continue my series on Lim, commenting on some of his training pronouncements.
“For a given type of interval, the power output is always established during the first interval on that day of training. I never pre-determine total work duration for intervals. The athlete stops when they cannot hold their initial power output for at least 50% of the [original] duration.”
Many interval sessions are prescribed rigidly, like this: “Do 5×3 minutes at 300 watts with 3 minutes rest between each effort.” But Lim doesn’t specify either the number of intervals or their length, at least after the first one.
So if you begin with a 3-minute effort at 300 watts, under Lim’s tutelage you’llcontinue striving for an average of 300 watts for 3 minutes in each successive interval. If you can’t maintain 300 watts for the full length, you simply hold 300 for as long as possible.
So the second interval may last 2:45 and each subsequent interval will get a bit shorter. When you can’t hold 300 watts for at least 90 seconds, the interval session is over.
This scheme is similar to one espoused by Eddie Borysewicz, the famous U.S. national team coach from the 1970s and early ’80s. He would prescribe descending intervals starting with 2 minutes and getting shorter by 15 seconds per interval down to 30 seconds. Eddie B didn’t have the advantage of power meters to dose the effort, but the principle was the same.
“During the early season when preparing riders for stage races, I tend to block the training days in 2- to 4-day cycles. Late in the season or when preparing cyclists for single-day events, I tend to use 10-day cycles with extremely hard training every other day.”
Nothing too revolutionary here. Stage racing requires top performance on several consecutive days, so Lim’s training duplicates those demands. Single-day races mean all-out efforts followed by rest days, so Lim changes his training to mirror that strain on the body. He’s simply following the training principle of specificity: training should look like racing.
Remember, though, that Lim coaches elite, young athletes. For masters cyclists preparing for stage races or weeklong tours, a four-day hard training block may be too much. And going hard every other day when preparing for one-day races might be too difficult, too. In order to fully recover, many masters and recreational riders might need two or even three days of rest or easy spinning after each hard day.
“Design workouts as learning experiences. Athletes are students, coaches are teachers –and vice versa.”
You’ve probably heard good teachers say that they learn more from their students than their students learn from them. In the same way, Lim wants coaching to be a two-way street. He recognizes that coaches don’t know it all. He also recognizes that because every athlete is different, coaches must be continually aware of how each rider adapts to the training programs.
The same is true if you are self-coached. You have to split yourself in two — a coach part and a rider part. And each part should learn from the other. It’s possible with dispassionate analysis.