Question: I need your advice on my training schedule. I work 4 consecutive days of 13 hours each, then have 4 days off when I have unlimited time to ride. I usually do 2-4 hours, but especially on the first day I feel sluggish. I just turned 50, and my fitness and endurance seem to be on the decline. How can I turn things around, given my weird work schedule? — Rick T.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Your question really has 3 parts, Rick. Let’s take them one at a time.
1. What training technique is best when you work 4 days on/4 off?
This schedule lends itself to “block training.” If you had a normal workweek, you’d do a hard/easy routine or some variation. But when you have 4 days with unlimited training (and recovery) time, you can train hard on 3 consecutive days and recover during your non-riding work days.
Cycling coach Dean Golich is a proponent of this system. He says that because consecutive days of racing often lead to greater fitness, we should take advantage of this phenomenon in training.
Here’s how you might go about it:
- Day 1: Ride about 90 minutes at an easy-to-moderate pace. Just get in the miles and recover from your long hours at work.
- Day 2: Short, intense intervals. Do sprints and jam short hills for 90 minutes or so.
- Day 3: Longer ride with longer but less-intense intervals. Ride lengthy hills and go at time-trial pace for periods of 3-15 minutes.
- Day 4: Group ride or moderate pace for several hours to build endurance.
Notice that rides on days 2, 3 and 4 get longer but less intense. You do the really hard stuff on day 2 when you’re recovered from work but not tired from longer intervals.
2. Why do you feel sluggish when riding after 4 days of work?
Working 4 consecutive 13-hour days would exhaust anyone! You need to relax and recover the following day if you’re going to get any benefits from training.
3. Does turning 50 mean a decline in performance?
Turning 50 isn’t fun, but it could be worse – like turning 70, which I did last September. However, 50 isn’t a major performance barrier. In fact, I set several personal records after I turned 50, including in the 40K time trial, an event I’d been riding for more than 20 years. And with three other 50+ friends, I helped break the senior record in the Team Race Across America. So it can be done.
Here’s what you need to remember:
- You need more rest. Recovery takes longer as we age.
- Resistance training must be included. We begin to lose muscle mass at a faster rate after 50.
- Nutrition and hydration are crucial. To recover better, choose your foods and drinks intelligently, both on and off the bike.