Allen Lim, Ph.D., is an expert in physiology, human performance and sports nutrition, and is the found of Skratch Labs. He’s known for his quirky but effective approaches to training. You might think he’d be a numbers-oriented scientist with few practical suggestions to benefit the rest of us. But the opposite is true. I’ll comment on a few of his training approaches.
Lim has what he calls “personal quirks” in his coaching of elite riders. First, his views on designing a training program.
“I tend to periodize all my programs in a one-to-one ratio of one easy day for every hard day.”
Lim doesn’t mean an unvarying routine of hard days alternated with easy days. He often includes blocks of hard training (3 or 4 days of tough consecutive workouts). But then he schedules 3-4 days of rest or easy spinning. So during any month, the number of hard days and easy days tends to be equal.
I’m not sure that there’s a good physiological reason for this pattern. But the experience of many athletes and coaches over the years seems to demonstrate its effectiveness.
Here’s an easy way to check if you’re following this suggestion. Chart a month of workouts from your training records based on their intensity. Check off each workout in columns marked easy, moderate or hard.
If you’re like most cyclists, you’ll probably find that while some workouts are hard and some are easy, most fall somewhere in the middle. And that’s a recipe for stalled progress. We get better from the combination of hard training and rest. While there’s a place for medium-intensity rides, a steady diet of them will make you medium, too.
“Planning your training is pretty simple. Go hard when you feel good and go easy when you feel bad. I never allow athletes to train when they are sick, injured or sleep-deprived. Not even a little sick, injured or sleep-deprived.”
Lim likes workouts to be either extremely hard or extremely easy. The gut busters stimulate improvement, while the easy spins promote recovery.
Why are his tough workouts so hard? Because racing is hard. You get what you train. If you don’t go all-out in workouts, you’ll be unable to do the same in competition.
However, if you’re not feeling great on a given day, it’s virtually impossible to carry out a high-quality training session. And going hard when you’re sick or injured can make the problem worse. You’ll dig yourself into a deeper hole. The next workout will be even lousier. Hence, Lim’s rule that ill, injured or tired riders must go easy or rest until they’re really ready for high-quality training.
“I make all the athletes I coach write out their own training programs.”
Lim isn’t a dictatorial coach. He doesn’t plan athletes’ programs and expect the riders to blindly follow them. Instead he wants cyclists to understand why they are doing each workout. The best way of teaching riders (instead of merely coaching them) is to make them plan their own training.
After they submit their plan, Lim sits down with each rider to discuss it, making modifications but always explaining why he’s suggesting changes.
The result: Training is more effective because riders understand why a particular workout is on the schedule.