Training question #1. Who should you trust?
It’s overwhelming. There are thousands of cycling training plans and methodologies. Who should I listen to? To help simplify, I break them into two groups. Evidence-based and Marketing-based.
Evidence-based is not a few guys on a forum or your friends saying XYZ plan increased their FTP. It’s not someone stating, “We base our plans on science.” It’s typically reputable coaches that have coached winning athletes backing up their claims with science-based studies that are providing evidence-based recommendations. Just because someone sounds like an evidence-based coach does not mean they are. Certifications mean very little.
Verify your “gurus” credentials and the basis of their claims. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but it really can take a minimal amount of time. Potentially minutes of correctly searching google can save you months of wasting your time. We will even try to help guide you down the evidence-based path and attempt to minimize our biases.
So we are using the term marketing-based to represent everything that is not evidence based. Everyone is trying to sell you what they think is great, your friends and many organizations and products that may all mean well.
It’s your life
When you are talking about spending potentially hundreds of hours sitting on your bike and following someone’s advice you should spend a few minutes to verify it. Evidence-based is not always perfect, but if you think like we do, then it makes sense to trust evidence based programs over marketing-based ones. Human physiology is very complex, which makes it very easy to make something sound logical and make sense when it has actually never been proven to be true.
If a particular marketing-based program is fun and hopefully safe, great, enjoy it. For many indoor cyclists, Zwift is great fun. When used correctly Zwift can be great and help support an evidence-based approach to training. Riding around in Zwift medium-hard every day is not typically a recommended approach to optimize your performance. You can ride in Zwift taking a more structured and focused approach and get results.
Reading on some blogs, you hear people suggesting ERG training plans and workouts are far superior to free-ride mode. Again, I would check the evidence. A lot of fast guys have never trained in ERG mode. ERG mode is great. We have 10,000+ ERG based workouts 🙂 I am just saying look at the evidence.
Most coaches agree medium-hard all the time is not as effective as very hard days and very easy days. If ERG inspires you to do better evidence-based training than ERG might be a great benefit for you. Research 80/20 i.e. polarized training as one example of easy/hard.
To get fast just buy our product
Marketing-based plans and practices frequently come from books, magazines, software vendors and indirectly from your friends. They include pretty pictures, grand titles and so on. They just lack proof. We at TrainerDay are guilty too. We provide a platform that provides unverified user contributed plans and workouts. I can say personally, we do our best to base our own opinions on advice that originates from top coaches and science that rely on evidence-based knowledge.
The great advantage
If you focus your energy on evidence-based programs, this should simplicity deciding who and what to believe and help you design your own highly effective training programs. More good news is it is surprising how many of the evidence-based coaches and sources agree on how you should train, at least in the big picture and most important details.
Pro vs amateur
“They” have shown most training principals apply to both the pro level and at the amateur level. Human physiology is generally the same across all humans.
A good deal of evidence-based training programs today have been around for 20-years or more. Yes, everyone wants the latest and greatest shortcut. Taking the risk of following something that has never been verified that it performs better than the tried and true does not seem like the wisest choice.
So how do I start?
Start with the big picture. If you get the big picture right, your self-coaching will take you a long way down the right path.
What is the big picture?
I suggest you focus on having an annual training plan (ATP), even a very loose one. Build periodization into your year. Don’t do the same thing all year long!!! Evidence-based coaches agree, for the rider that is targeting a spring/summer peak, early winter is not the time to focus on increasing your FTP.