by Frank Overton

Have you ever heard of the expression “All the hay is in the barn” ? To many cyclists and farmers alike it has great meaning: the hard work is over and now it is time to reap the benefits of a job well done.

With summer winding down and the racing season nearly over, it’s time for all good little cyclists to cut back on their training and begin tapering into peak form. Its not complicated if you consider decreasing your training volume while maintaining your intensity. That’s code for adding more recovery days into your training and doing 2 sets of intervals instead of three.

Dr, Inigo Mujika Ph.D renowned sports physiologist, summarizes optimal tapering* as the following:

  • Minimize fatigue AND IMPROVE fitness via increased power output
  • Maintain training intensity
  • Reduce training volume by 60-90%
  • Maintain training frequency at > 80%
  • Individualize taper duration between 4 – 28 days
  • Use progressive, nonlinear tapering designs
  • Expect performance improvements of ~3% (range of 0.5% – 6%)

At this point in the year any further fitness gains are unlikely to be realized in the time that’s left with the season, i.e. the barn is full. The temptation to train more should be met with firm resistance. Instead, consider training smarter (Hasn’t someone else already said that?)

By now you’ve done countless intervals in all lengths and amounts. You’re in the best shape of your life and your ready to do whatever it takes to get that big result at the end of the season. But remember the hay–you put it in the barn and it was difficult. Let’s rest for a bit. Don’t stop training, but gradually decrease you training load by 10-20% each week leading up to your final rendezvous with the podium. Along with the decrease in load, increase your number of rest days. The length of your taper will depend on your age and the size of your build (as measured by your CTL).  Most cyclists can will benefit from 4 – 28 days (2 weeks on average) of tapering for peak cycling performance measured by their power output.

Instead of going out and hammering your usual 15 minute climb, consider doing 2 sets of five 1 minute hill repeats. Taper further down the next week by just doing one set. Instead of spending 3 hours in Zone 2, try 90 minutes the first week and just 1 hour the next. The idea is to stimulate the body just enough to remain fit and fast but to allow enough time for your body to adapt, overcompensate and turn you into the supa’ fast cyclist that you were born to be!

*Mujika & Padilla, Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 35:1182-1187, 2003

Copyright 2015 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.  To talk with Frank or a FasCat Coach call 720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation. Otherwise, ‘rest is best’ because ‘all the hay is in the barn’.