I’ve covered some of the unique strategies that Allen Lim, Ph.D., uses to guide his riders. Lim is an expert in physiology, human performance and sports nutrition. He’s the founder of Skratch Labs.
Here, along with my comments, are more of Lim’s guidelines:
“You can always train harder than your competition as long as you rest harder than your competition.”
There’s that word again: rest. It has been hammered home by cycling experts for years. You don’t get better from training. Hard work is only the catalyst for improvement. Actual improvement takes place while you rest.
But cyclists have been slow learners. And I include myself as exhibit A. We feel guilty if we’re not out there hammering. Lim’s research has shown that the key to improvement is training very hard when we train hard and resting equally intensely on the other days.
“Go hard when you feel good, go easy when you feel bad.”
This ought to be common sense. And it was for most riders in the days before structured “spreadsheet” coaching programs. Riders didn’t have a daily training plan, written weeks in advance by a coach in front of a glowing screen. They simply went hard when they felt good, enjoying the feeling of fitness and the joy of working hard. If they felt lousy — well, they packed it in early or stayed on the couch.
But many riders today have a rigid, carefully planned schedule. It dictates what they “should” be doing each day.
Of course, reputable coaches tell their athletes not to train hard, regardless of what the schedule says, if they don’t feel ready. But many riders, spurred by a sense of obligation or guilt, hammer anyway. The resulting workout is poor quality and often leads to subsequent sub-par workouts. After all, busting a gut on the bike when you don’t feel up to snuff is unlikely to make you feel better the next day.
“Mimic everything about racing in training.”
The cardinal rule of training is specificity. You develop those skills that you work on in training. If you sprint during the week, your sprint is likely to be better in the weekend crit. If you work on climbing mountains to the exclusion of ripping up short hills, you’ll do better on long, aerobic climbs.
So if you want to excel in a particular race or event, analyze what skills the competition demands. Is it a short, fast criterium that will probably end in a sprint? Then don’t train by doing 5-hour rides. But long rides at a moderate intensity might be the ticket if you’re aiming for an ultra-distance event.
A power meter is a valuable tool to help you quantify an event’s demands. Lim has pioneered the use of power data in coaching. When datareveal that in a Philadelphia race, for example, the winner needed to generate 550 watts during the final 10 ascents of the Manayunk Wall, those parameters can be incorporated into a training program.