So here we are, at the end, essentially of the cyclocross season training program. The hope is that I'll stop eating chips long enough to hold on to some fitness and get another top 10 result in the last 3 or 4 races this year.
In getting to this point I've been following "The Time Crunched Cyclist" by Chris Carmichael and, in smaller letters, Jim Rutberg. I'm wondering how Jim feels about that.
The tag line, "Fit, Fast, and Powerful in 6 Hours a Week." A perfect line for an infomercial if I ever heard one.
It really should read. "Do nothing but intervals, for 11 weeks, and you'll be fine."
I've followed the program very closely for the past 12 weeks or so, and thought I should write an overview of the book. I've been fairly happy with the results, although, unlike any of the anecdotes in the book, I have not ripped anyone's legs off and haven't won any races.
In case you're finding this via the magic of a search engine, I'm a late 30's slow guy with some kids and a real job. Read the title of this blog. It's my first real year of riding with any kind of regularity. I spent the summer doing long rides to build up some endurance, and then with cyclocross season coming up, completed the plan laid out in the book.
At a high level, this book will give you hope that you can become half decent on the bike, without spending so much time on it that you head for divorce. Hope is important.
It also gives you some, but not too much, detail on the science behind the program. I appreciate that, as it gave me the confidence to rest properly, and the encouragement to stick to the program when my legs were telling me to stop.
Here's how the book breaks down, without giving away too much.
Chapter 1 Bringing Endurance Training in to the 21st Century
This is a short chapter. It uses a few anecdotes, including one about some guy name Lance Armstrong, to explain why the classic Eddy Merckx training plan of, ride your bike, ride your bike, ride your bike, doesn't adapt well to people who don't have the time to do so.
There's a whole load of people who have jobs, and therefore, money, who really want to get good, and then spend that money on carbon and coaching in order to relive their glory days.
Chapter 2 The Science of the Time Crunched Plan
This is a good refresher chapter for those who've educated themselves on how the body works, in relation to pushing the pace for longer than it takes to go up the stairs to grab another bowl of popcorn. I liked this chapter as it laid the foundation for the argument as to why high intensity work affects your aerobic capacity as well as your top end, anaerobic capacity.
There's also a really good bit on resting and I learned a few things I hadn't heard before. Or I'd forgotten.
Chapter 3 Measuring Intensity in the Information Age
This chapter will convince you that, to be any good, you'll need to rob a bank to pay for a power meter. And, if you're too chicken to rob a bank, you can do a half decent job by measure heartrate only. I've gone for the heartrate option as I hear that they do go on group rides in jail, but just not on bikes.
This chapter also outlines how to establish a baseline for the program. Hammer for 8 minutes, rest, repeat and do something with your average power/hr. I didn't do this as I was pretty sure I knew exactly what my threshold HR was.
Chapter 4 High Speed Nutrition
This is a really good chapter, especially for people who think carbs are evil. Chris does a great job of outlining a sensible approach to eating. There's no fads or kooky theories here. You can also read my post here. Not kooky AT ALL!
Chapter 5 Workouts and Training Programs
The chapter you've been waiting for. Here each specific type of intensity used in the workouts are explained. Then, those intensities are put together into types of intervals, then workouts, and then the plans are presented.
You'll need to read this section multiple times. The plans are laid out with acronyms, and I was constantly referring back to confirm just exactly what they meant for some time.
There are 4 plans. A New competitor, Experienced competitor, New Century and Experienced Century. The plans are similar, with 4 workouts a week, most with a range of 60-90 minutes during the week, and 1.5 to 2.5 hours on Saturday and Sunday.
I put all the workouts into my Polar software, but I looked at the book prior to most workouts, just to confirm I knew what I was supposed to do.
Chapter 6 Making the Most of your Fitness
The reality chapter. You're not a Jens Voigt. You can't attack over and over until the rest of your club mates give up. You've got to be smart about your riding but at the same time you're probably a bit better than you think, so don't be afraid to put in one big, monstrous, Spartacus sized, attack.
Chapter 7 Supplementing your Training: Endurance Blocks
Should you be lucky enough to have your significant other take the kids away for a week, while at the same time convincing your boss that you're having major surgery for ear hair removal that will require you to not show up at the office, you'll be able to boost your fitness by putting in some long days in the saddle. Yeah, that would be great. Thanks Chris.
Chapter 8 Strength Training on Limited Time
I do plan on tackling this chapter just once CX season starts winding up. Basically there's a bunch of good exercises you can do without having to go to the local gym and compete for access to machines with guys who have biceps as big as your waist.
And that's it.
All in all it's a pretty short book, but it's the kind of book where you'll likely find yourself re-reading snippets of it over and over just to cement it into your head, at least I did.
Is it the best training book in the world? Probably not, as if you're just starting out you should really educate yourself a bit more deeply in fitness training in general. However, if you're somewhat up to speed, and want to follow a very well thought out plan for getting cycling fit on not too many hours, then this book is a must read.
So what are the results? I figure that I'm about 10-15% faster than I was about 3 months ago. I've lost some endurance, as I was easily doing 3-4 hours rides at the end of the summer, but now I feel like that'd be somewhat tougher. I can get up the hills, and I can hammer for 40 minutes and feel competitive at the end of it, and that's just about all I really needed to get out of it.