Off Season Training Plan for Cyclists

In this podcast, Coach Frank discusses FasCat's 4 new off season training plans for the 2021-2022 season! Specifically, he breaks down the 30 week off season plan, explaining the phases of the plan, how the workouts, sets, reps, and mesocycles progress, as well as the rationale for the plan and which type of athlete each level is designed for!

Podcast Transcript:

Hello FasCat Nation! I'm your host Frank Overton, some call me the big cat and today we are going to be talking about our new 30 week off season plan. Apologies if this is a salesy podcast for you, but I’m a coach and I like to tell athletes what to do. This plan is my/our latest way of sharing everything we talk about in this podcast in a simple step by step with instructions, what to do each day this off season. Our coaching philosophy, if you will.

The secret to every successful cyclist from Wout Van Aert and Peter Sagan down to athletes just like you is that they follow a training plan. And the plans we design are for you because that’s what we specialize in as coaches: Working man and woman training plans designed for your busy life and limited time to train. Although we are introducing a new Professional level plan for the true pro that is training, recovering and winning in the kitchen full time. 18-26 hours per week - we’ll get into that along with our basic 4-8 hours of training per week and intermediate 8-12 hours of training per week for the time crunch masters and beginner athletes!

But first let's do some announcements and the review of the week!

The review of the week comes to us from username petti2009 who says of the podcast:

“Very informative: This podcast is full of practical training, nutrition, and general cycling information. I enjoyed Frank’s communication style. Its science backed but not actually science heavy.”

Well thank you petti2009 - have to say I have ptsd from teaching Biology 101 to 400 undergrads as a physiology graduate student. There was zero interaction, no one was paying attention and felt like no one was listening - except when it came time to ask what questions would be on the test! Ha.

But actually I podcast from the assumption that you, the listeners, want to ride faster and don’t need a college level lecture! Bike racing is supposed to be fun - not necessarily academic. There’s scientists waaaay smarter than me to listen to for your science but here we are talking about blending 20 years of real world coaching experience that’s data driven and science based. And not bro science like you see on youTube and Instagram as Jackson calls it, haha.

Let’s move on before I digress……don’t make me rant!

The announcement of the week really goes to the heart of our podcast today and that is we have 4 new training plans for you this off season!

Today’s podcast will be the full release notes of our 30 week plan, phase by phase and week by week, sets, reps, mesocycles , rationale and who’s for etc…

As I mentioned, we have a new version in our professional level for the athletes that are training and recovering full time - for those athletes whose job it is to perform.

But let's start with the features if you have 4 - 8 hours or 8 - 12 hours a week to train. Plus if you have a job, a family, a mortgage - aka are busy and don’t have all day to train but wish you could!

Backing up this plan is for the off season when you do not have any A race competitions and 30 uninterrupted weeks to be focused on the fundamentals to improve your cycling. Weights and base Training. This is the hard work - the putting the time in that many cyclists skip in the winter and pay the price in the spring. And conversely - when cyclists have a great season next year and everybody asks, ‘what did you do?” - this off season training is what they did.

The saying goes, ‘champions are bred in the off season’ and we like to add ‘ the off season is when you can take your riding to the next level’. This is the training that the Pros do but boiled down and designed for the master and amateur cyclist.

So how do you do that? Well the two most effective ways are with lifting weights and ride a lot - base training.

More specifically, lifting weights in a cycling specific way. Speed specificity. With our 4 phase cycling specific training plan that does have plenty of riding and neuromuscular sprint work.

And then following that up (because timing is everything) with sweet spot aerobic endurance base training. That takes 10 weeks and 16 weeks respectively and we’ve redesigned our 3 week Fall Foundation to provide the right lead into your weight room entry. By lead in, I mean ‘muscle tension intervals’ - low cadence, big gear force work to prepare your connective tissue and muscles for the forces you’ll encounter in the weight room - namely with the squats and leg press.

What I did with the new 30 week off season plan is adjusted the riding volume, hours and amount of muscle tension work appropriate to each of our four levels: basic, intermediate, advanced and pro for the first 3 weeks.

For example a muscle tension interval workout in the basic level plan is 2 x 7 min on 3.5 min off during a one hour ride. That is going to be the goldilocks amount for the master ride that is new to training and mti’s and only has an hour a day to train.

Conversely the same day MTI workouts in the advanced plan is 3 x 10 but after an hour of zone 2 for a two hour ride. So 30 minutes of MTI work compared to 14 and double the duration. Its these subtleties that make a big difference when applied over the course of 10-20-30 weeks for different ability level and age riders.

The new Fall Foundation design may only be found in our 30 week plan. Its purpose as I mentioned is to set you up to go in the weight room and also get the timing of your off season right: not lifting too soon and getting in some aerobic endurance training before you go in the weight room where your riding volume will be a little less. The Fall Foundation prevents you from being the Group Ride hero 8 weeks before your season starts!

Moving on after the 3 week FOUNDATION Phase is a 10 week resistance training phase - I have designed new sets and reps for the appropriate plans - less for basic and more for the intermediate, advanced and pro. All levels still do the squat, the leg press and the leg curl - these are the core multi-joint (hips, knees, ankles) that are biomechanically specific to a pedal stroke hitting the major muscle group specific to power on the bike.

As a side note we get all the time is there upper body work? And the short answer is no, there is not because upper body muscle doesn’t make power on the bike AND it often decreases power to weight ratios if you were to do bench presses and bicep curls. Here is a link to a video we recorded 3 years ago on the topic.

That’s not to say upper body strength work doesn’t help with bike handling - it does and we prescribed that in the form of yoga and our Nino’s circuit routines - think a lot of planks, medicine ball and core strength work - all the stuff you see Kate Courtney doing on her instagram. She learned all that from Thomas Friscknect who taught Nino and Kate!

For the younger listeners Frischy as he’s affectionately called was as bad ass as Nino and Tom Piddock winning the MTB World Championships in 1996 and again in 2004.

But I digress…..

One question we got starting last year was what if I can’t go to the gym because of COVID? So we created the at home Weight Lifting Plan with kettlebells, the ViPR tube movements and the squat. We just couldn’t get away from not lifting heavy shit as Dr. Stacy Sims says ,so we kept the squat. We did solve for not having a leg press at home (which would be over the top) so we worked in the ViPR and Kettlebell swings.

I bring all this up because this 30 week plan includes the ‘in person weight lifting plan’ if you cannot goto the gym and want the at home plan - ping us and lacey will swap out that plan and let you know how to splice it into your 30 week plan. It’s copy and paste like a word doc if you highlight the whole 10 weeks.

Point is we got you - and what you can and can’t do with regards to going to the gym, not being able to squat due to back, hip or knee injuries, etc…

Moving on!

Once you arrive at the Hypertrophy Phase, you’ll set our 1RM so that your plan is custom to YOU. Your 1RM is very much like your FTP where all your training zones are set off of a percentage of that number.

The athlete with a 175 lb 1RM for the squat will lift much different loads (weights) than the athlete with a 125 lb 1RM. We provide a spreadsheet that calculates everything for you once you enter your 1RM’w and I tell everyone to take it to the gym on a clipboard.

Its not all lifting weights tho - there is plenty of bike riding. If you are aware to warm up and cool down in zone 2 for 30 minutes before and after each gym workout - this plan has you doing plenty of aerobic zone 2 volume.

As such, those hours and training loads begin to differ to match your age and ability level plus time you have to train (again, 4-8 or 8-12). Suffice it say, with the advanced and Pro levels there’ll be double days starting with the Strength and Power Phases - lifting in the morning and neuromuscular sprint work after either right after or later in the day.

And if you are saying to yourself, I could do that but this, but that and And AND - hire a FasCat coach to talk with, listen and receive a new training plan every four weeks designed by your coach who knows your goals and your limitations. Who knows the timing of everything you got going on for next year! Listen to our When to Hire a Coach podcast from last year.

Back to the Strength and Power Phase, the amount of sets of sprint work are also tuned to the level: less sets and reps for the 4-8 hours and more for the 8-12 and advanced + pro levels.

No matter what level you choose your legs should feel gelatinous from the neuromuscular adaptations you are forcing. I describe the sprint intervals like going to failure in high school gym class doing a pyramid down the bench press where you go to the point of not being able to lift the bar off your chest.

The power graph of your sprints should start off strong and the amplitude of each sprint incrementally becomes less and less powerful until you are barely sprinting at 3-400 watts. Muwhahahahahaaaaa << insert Dr. Evil >>> laugh. And I can laugh like that because I taste my own medicine every off-season. Used to dread these ! But boy, do they work!

Before I digress, let's move onto the sweet spot aerobic endurance base build. For this 16 week phase, we use a pyramidal training approach as described on last week’s podcast with Coach Christian. There are 2 - 3 sweet spot workouts per week that are progressively optimized within a 3 weeks on 1 week off fatigue dependent training plan design.

Progressively optimized: That’s a fancy way of saying you’ll gradually increase the amount of riding and sweet spotting you’ll be doing. By gradually, think in terms of 15 minute increments to give your body time to adapt each week.

As a bonus we’ve included our six best winning in the kitchen meal plan recipes every Sunday to give you a taste of our healthy nutritious 10 minutes or less recipes including the fan favorite Salmon Watts, the bowl of Health, the Rocket Wrap, our Chipotle Burrito bowl, and Eggs n Rice to name a few.

Those six bonus recipes begin on day 14 in week 2 and run for the next 6 weeks. Enjoy! You can use them over and over if you find one or two recipes that you really like. For more information about our two winning in the kitchen meal plans encourage you to got our training tip section and select ‘nutrition’.

We talk about winning in the kitchen often and Sundays are a great time to go grocery shopping for the week so you can “Meal Prep Monday”. These recipes include all the ingredients you need to grocery shop for in order to prepare a nutritious winning in the kitchen meal .

Let’s move on with the plan description and that optimized progression!

Now that you are done with the weights we get back to Monday/Fridays off, short structured workouts Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursdays and longer unstructured sweet spot rides on Saturdays, zone 2 fat burning endurance on Sundays. The working man and woman’s training plan design. Fatigue dependent.

The sweet spot rides progress from simply sweet spotting on a group ride as described in our training tip, How to Sweet Spot During a Group Ride.

To TSS rides where we challenge you and your legs to get in as much sweet spot that is physically possible with our TSS sweet spot rides. You can do it! The plan sets you up for success and our 20 years experience pushes you just enough so the training pushes you but is not unrealistic.

Of course we provide instructions of what to do when you don’t have a group ride and that includes finding one on Zwift. Zwift is a wonderful training tool to do some sweet spotting on and Coach Jake has a great video training tip explaining How to Sweet Spot Indoors.

By the way, all the workouts have at least one training tip for you to learn about why you are doing what your plan tells you to on that particular day. Of course we advocate following the plan as closely as possible knowing the how, what, why, where, when from our accompanying training tips, podcast and video contents will help you gain even more from your workout, your training plan and that’s a win-win when (haha) we can teach.

There’s three 20 minute power based field tests in this phase - at the beginning, middle and end.

The first 20 minute is to establish a baseline and set your training zones. The second test comes 8 weeks later at the end of a rest week when you should be ripping the cranks off. That test checks to make sure you are progressive and getting faster. It also updates your zones so you can keep training with precision for the next 8 weeks. Gotta have accurate sweet spot zones that make your TSS’s precise and consequently your CTL.

Speaking of CTL:
Your CTL will go from
0 to 59 on the basic level with a ramp rate of 3.7
0 to 83 with the intermediate plan with a ramp rate of 5.18
0 to 108 for the advanced level plan with a ramp rate of 6.8
and 0 to 121 with ramp rate of a whopping 7.8 per week for our Pro level!

Note the ‘from zero’ starting points - we know you will all be starting from various points and deciding to express from zero in order to compare the ramp rates and CTL levels apples-to-apples.

The beauty of the plans is that you can apply them and project your future CTL’s forward for the whole 30 week off season plan paying special attention to the 16 week sweet spot phase.

For those new to the pod, your chronic training load is calculated and projected from the TSS from each workout in the plan, you can project your CTL forward for the next 16 weeks. We covered this in our Performance Manager Chart podcast.

Apply your 30 week plan and adjust the PMC chart forward to display from say for example Sept 1st to March 30th - that will give you a great big picture idea of where your training is going for the next 30 weeks. And what your CTL will be by then! When its time to switch from base to race. But I digress…..haha we’ll save Switching from Base to Race part 2 for a future podcast.

And that my fellow FasCats, is our episode for today: an infomercial podcast if you will, apologies and hope you learned something about big picture training plan design. Thank you for listening, it is an honor that you do and we’ll see you back here same time, same bat time for the next podcast - we’ll have the Stages dynamic Olympic coach-Masters National Champion Pat Warner and his Olympic Coach - Ben Sharp on the pod - in person if delta doesn’t screw that up!

Leave us a review on itunes (google fascat itunes) if you like the pod and feel free to suggest further podcast topics while you’re there. Until then remember to ‘work hard, ride fast, have fun and as always FtFP” Peace out everybody!

Copyright © 2021 FasCat Coaching - all rights reserved.

About Frank Overton

Frank founded FasCat Coaching in 2002 and has been a full time cycling coach since 2004. His educational background includes a Masters degree in Physiology from North Carolina State University, pre-med from Hampden-Sydney College. Frank raced at a professional level on the road and mountain bike and currently competes as a "masters" level gravel and cyclocrosser. Professionally Frank comes from medical school spinal cord research and molecular biotechnology. However, to this day it is a dream come true for Frank to be able to help cyclists as a coach.

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