Timing is Everything: Part 2

In this episode, Coach Frank reintroduces the topic of timing as it relates to the 3 main phases of a cyclists' annual training plan including lifting weights, building base, and high-intensity interval training. He explains in detail the ways athletes can line up these phases depending on what their race calendar looks like for the upcoming season. He also answers the question that athletes frequently ask at this time of the year, which is whether they should lift weights or start building up their base.

Podcast Transcript:

IntroOn today’s podcast I am going to reintroduce the concept of timing: what to do and when in order to achieve your goals next year! And more importantly WHY. We’ll be discussing timing as it relates to the 3 main phases of your annual training: 

  1. Lifting weights
  2. Building base
  3. Interval training (high intensity)

Because, in mid November it can go a few different ways depending on your… timing….duh…  And depending on the importance of those events for the timing you have chosen.

Long time loyal listeners will remember our OG Timing is Everything Podcast and astute listeners will remember our January 2019 “How to Pair and Sequence our Training Plans.” Today’s podcast is a hybrid of those two episodes as it relates to the question we got a lot right now this time of the year: should I lift weights or do base?

You have some choices to make that will dramatically impact your ability to be your fastest in 2023!  We will break down 2 different time frame scenarios in today’s podcast.  What to do and when in order to TIME your training to be the best!

Those time frame scenarios are:

  • 18 weeks - that’s mid march if you are listening to this podcast in November. This is your Mid-South, or early California road events or even some of the early season Fondo’s
  • 28 weeks - that’s Memorial Day if you are also listening to this podcast in November which is  your Unbound Gravel, or any class Memorial Day bike event

For the summertime time frame or for A events 36+ weeks out which is  essentially all summertime mountain bike gravel and fondo, road, crit, time trial & hillclimb! That is our tried n' true 30 week off season plan combined with 2-6 weeks of our event specific interval training plans. 

Before I get into it let’s do our review of the week and take care of a few announcements

Review of the Week comes to us from Ramses from Columbia, who is on our 16 Week Sweet Spot Plan and he says:

"I'm in the best shape of my life, better than 10 years ago when I was a Pro Athlete. I used to train with HR Monitor and a few years ago bought a powermeter. Now, retired from the competition, I'm training with power from the 16 Week Sweet Spot Plan, it is unbelievable. I was Checking my old numbers and right now I'm in better shape than I was 10 years ago. I enjoy the workouts - they’re FUN and style of training,  it’s going by fast, and it doesn't matter that I'm riding with my Gravel Bike, Road Bike, or Mountain Bike. I can even do my workouts on Zwift. Thank You coaches for this Plan!"

Big Announcement: I am recruiting a podcast host!

Yes - the ideal candidate would be a clone of our original podcast host Jackson Long because you know we had a great chemistry and Jackson was a great podcaster.  Ideally there is a cycling coach or cyclist who is actively training, has podcast experience and can serve as co-host to moi.  And be able to do all the editing, mixing, posting, etc…. 

Maybe it is a dream job for a listener out there. Can be remote, but Boulder is better for in person recordings, especially the Q & A episodes. 

Here is the complete job post and you may also email me frankatfascatcoachingdotcom

Second Announcement: 

The FasCat Coaches and I have redesigned our 6 week indoor/outdoor training plan for smart trainers and Zwift. This plan incorporates short structured indoor trainer rides during the week and outdoor endurance rides on the weekends. Or if the weather is crummy there is a plan B indoor workout that can be done indoors on Zwift.  We’ve included all 5 WinterTime Intensity workouts in this plan as described in our previous January 18th 2021 podcast.    You can export all your workouts from our plan to perform on Zwift with your SmartTrainer! 

And since it is the indoor cycling season (if that is even a thing?) we have an all new Zwift Racing Plan which is very similar to our race n’ recover plans in that we put emphasis on ‘fresh is faster’ - then your rest days are timed to your race days.  In this plan we go ahead and presume you’ll be racing Wednesdays and Saturdays and have designed your endurance training and recovery days accordingly!  

Additionally (!) Coach Nadia has updated our 30 week multisport plans for all the triathlete listeners out there. Coach Nadia is also available to answer your questions about the timing of the swim and the run to your cycling on 

Alright, Let’s Talk about Timing:

Did you know the physiological half life of endurance training is roughly 42 days? For example if your CTL is 100 and you don’t ride for 42 days your CTL will be 50 and then 25 in another 42 days.

Similarly what you do now won’t matter mathematically in 100 days from now.  That’s a limitation of mathematical modelling tho!  Common coaching sense knows that what you do now sets you up for what can do later. Thus the adage - the more you train the more you can train.

Backing WAY up: Molecularly, intracellularly when you train - you provide what’s called an exercise-induced stimulus to skeletal muscle  that signals proteins and enzymes to do what they do ( a lot of pocket protector terms)  but for the lay-folk results it the production of proteins and enzymes that make more muscle and more mitochondria. Mitochondria being the organelles inside our skeletal muscles that are the energy powerhouses of our endurance training. 

When you stop training you stop providing the stimuli to make these enzymes and thus the concept of half life.  Stop for 42 days or thereabout and you’ll lose half of those enzymes and that’s how training load is modeled.  

So what do you do? Well - for starters, don’t think/worry about all this pocket protector stuff - just FtFP because we’ve factored in the timing from our 20 years of experience into the training phases that are going to maintain the greatest adaptations at the right times. Point is if you time these three phases right - you’ll achieve the greatest combined physiological benefit from all three. 

One question we get alot is about CTL not increasing during the weight phase. This is true because a) you are not trying to build endurance rather muscle and you are setting yourself up to make more power and possess greater endurance

When you are in your weights phase and more than 42 - 84 - 168 days out from your goal event even if you were to estimate TSS for weights it wouldn’t matter mathematically next Spring. But again this is why mathematical modeling doesn’t always represent what’s really going on with your endurance training as cited before. 

Skip all the way forward to a 10 week weight program or 16 weeks of base training and that’s 70 days and 112 days respectively.  The stimuli you provide in the beginning of the plan will longer be coded into protein production by the end of the plan! But what you do in the beginning gives you the ability to benefit as you move forward. Thus the adage - the more you train the more you can train. Or in other words the training you do now sets you up for the training you want to do later. 

What does all this have to do with your cycling training?! 

Well it is advantageous to lift weights, build base and do intervals in that order. Don’t spend too much time on one at the expense of timing for the other and similarly don’t skip one because then the other two phases aren’t as beneficial and productive. 

But what if you are training for an event that is in mid-March or 18 weeks away.  Do you do an abbreviated version of all 3 phases? No that won’t work…. Do you skip weights and do base and intervals? Perhaps. And then start training earlier next Fall? Yes. 

If your A race is 18 weeks away - skip weights and begin increasing your training load and switch from base to race 4-6 weeks prior to your A event.  Because with only 18 weeks to get faster your time is best spent on the bike.  Weight training comes at a price of your base - your endurance training.  

If on the other hand your event in 18 weeks is NOT an A race - it is a B race then I would cite the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment to do your weight training now, do your base training like all good cyclists with more time do, and then do your intervals and time all that for an A race that's 28 weeks away.

Et voila - guess what is 28 weeks from now? Memorial Day - And whether you are doing Unbound Gravel, the Snake Alley Crit, the Iron Horse Classic or just about any other classic Memorial Day bike event - you have time to train methodically 

If you go that route we suggest skipping sweet spot part 1 and moving from the weights to sweet spot parts 2 & 3. Its a little more advanced to skip sweet spot part 1 but sets up your timing the best. 

Ok, with the weight training or to not weight train question answered...

If you’ve decided that you have 18 weeks until your A #1 race - that timing is everything sequence would be: Sweet Spot Parts 2 & 3 and then switch from base to race with an event specific high intensity interval training plan.  And by event specific we mean with intervals specific to the power demands of the event. 

By that we mean if the event has climbing - do our climbing intervals plan, if your event has ginormous long rides > 5-6-7 hours do our gravel plan, and if your event is short and anaerobic like an aggressive road race or crit do our criterium and or road race interval training plan.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself already talking about interval training but its to help you understand the timing of what you choose to do in November and December sets you up for success 18 and 28 weeks away.  I wish you could go back in time and reverse engineer your exercise induced skeletal muscle adaptations but until that’s real in the meta-verse you have to think about and make those plans now. 

And if all that is more confusing than ever as it relates to your individual situation and goals we suggesting filling out our new athlete questionnaire and having a coaching consultation to hire a FasCat Coach. 

Remember training is not like your college exams: there is no cramming and late night study sessions. Consistency is king and the less talented rider that methodically trains year round will beat the more talented athlete that slacks in the off season, skips their weights and goes into crisis mode next Spring. I see it every. Single. Year.  So kudos to all those athletes who are already well in their way lifting weight, FtFP’ing and planning big goals next year! 

And for those that want to get onboard there’s still time. If you give up the immediate reward you’ll earn a much bigger performance next Summer. 

And that my fellow FasCats is our sermon for today.  Preach!  Next week we’ll have Coach Jake on the pod because he is our resident Zwift Level 50 guru and as you know its indoor cycling season.  

Thank you SO MUCH for listening, it is an honor that you do - please leave us a review on iTunes and again, seriously - hit us up with your training question on Until next episode remember to “work hard, ride fast, have fun and as always FtFP”!


Vernon G Coffey 1, John A Hawley, “The molecular bases of training adaptation” Sports Med. 2007;37(9):737-63


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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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