May 15, 2014

How to Decipher the bike workouts (with an addendum for the run)

Folks ”“ if you do not understand this post after reading, please ask your questions at/before a group workout IF you can make it one. Find a ride leader, and have us help you understand the drills DURING the ride. Teaching via showing is a very easy and effective way to make sure you “Get it”. So please do come if you can – it is much more fun to teach in person!   You may also make it a priority to attend the cycling technique clinic which we host 5 times each year in our Arlington, Maryland, and Loudon County/Reston/Herndon programs.

However this should get you started ”“ the following is a breakdown of how to read the bike workouts for the week (an example) and an overview of the common drills you will see on your schedule. At the bottom is a cut and paste about “why we do drills” and how they help you. Some of this subject (“speed” training) is also covered in the heart rate training clinic.

1. How to read/decipher a workout (Example – Bike 35′ w/u (Z2), 3 x 3′ hill repeats Z5a/b, W/D): 35′ Warmup in Zone 2. Find a hill that takes you three minutes (or more) to climb. You will ride 3 minutues in Z5 a/b (start in A, end in B). Turnaround and coast down to the bottom of the hill, rest, repeat. Warm down. If no Vo2Max Test has been achieved ”“ use perceived exertion to determine your zone. Zone 2 is 4-5 words between breaths. Zone 4 is 1-2 words between breaths. Zone 5a/b ”“ a hard effort you can sustain for the 3 minute interval ”“ it is not all out ”“ you have to sustain the effort for 3-4 minutes.

2. What does “5′ SLD” Mean: Single Leg Drill ”“ clip out with one foot and pedal with one leg only. Alternate left leg, right leg, for 30 seconds each until you reach 5 minutes. Goals is to pedal in smooth (not jerky), even circles.

3. What does “5′ 1/3rd SD” Mean: 1/3rd Stroke Drill – Break the pedal stroke into 1/3rds (12-4 o’clock, 5-8 o’clock, and 9-12 o’clock). At alternating 30 second intervals ”“ while clipped in with both feet ”“ focus (THINK) on each 1/3 of the pedal stroke. Goal is to get you thinking about proper pedal stroke. Think of the stroke as a triangle, some coaches are now suggesting to think of it as a square ”“ I like the triangle. Simply focus for 30 seconds on pulling back with both legs at the bottom of the triangle (hammy’s). Then switch to the upstroke or backside of the triangle, think “drive your knees to the handle bar and push over the top” (hip flexors/glutes). You get the point. You are simply thinking and focusing – thinking and focusing. When done with the drill – keep thinking about this as you do your workout. You should focus on pedaling in even circles EVERYTIME YOU RIDE!

4. What does “20′ Z4 (w 1 x 7′ big gear)” mean: During a 20 minute block of Zone 4 at normal cadence, anywhere during that block, probably after the middle point”¦.switch into a very hard gear which will require your cadence to slow to 60-70 RPM if possible (or lower if you could). Your goal is to stay in Zone 4. After the 7′ block, you will go back to normal cadence.


Why we do drills:

At least one time each week during your rides, it is important to devote some time to improving pedaling efficiency and skills. Among your goals for this skill work are: 1. to refine your pedal stroke and promote pedaling efficiency/coordination/strength, and 2. to develop easily referenced drills that you can employ in training and racing situations. Though it is common to think of these skill drills as ‘winter only’ or offseason training, there can be great benefit to performing these drills throughout the entire training year.

Some goals of these drills (and those we do during the winter frequently, but not so much in the summer) are:

  • To improve your ability to sustain a higher overall cadence during rides at A-Race ‘goal speed/pace.’ (gain efficiency)
  • Learn to be able to feel and reference all aspects of the pedal stroke (to more effectively vary muscle recruitment and spread the workload out) (again, become more efficient and powerful)
  • Improve neuromuscular coordination and strength which eventually will turn into greater power production and efficiency at your ‘goal speed’


Addendum for our run workouts:

1.   Follow the advice above for understanding the Heart rate information (Z2, Z4, etc) and general nomenclature.  

2. For the Pace Pace Based information, this is something we can only offer you on the run.   Basically, you have the choice to use HR or Pace as your guide for training at the proper intensity.   Z2, Z4 are nomenclature for Heart Rate training zones.   LRP, IP800, etc are nomenclature for the pace based training guidance.   You will learn a ton more about the relationship of the two, and how to use Pace Based training intensities by reading Coach Tony Stocker’s FAQ on the subject.

  • You will find that FAQ in our Blog here
  • Or in our yahoo groups here

3. To read a workout.     400 = 1 lap of a typical high school track.   1600 (or four laps) = one mile.   2 x 800 Z4 or IP800, R/2′.   To execute this – you will run two laps of a high school track at either Zone 4 pace (Heart Rate Monitor, or 1-2 words between breathes if using perceived exertion), OR Ip800 pace.   Then you will rest for 2 minutes, then repeat.   To rest you can either stand, walk, or jog lightly.

4.   At our track workouts – you will see one or the other of these two “drills”.   Strides, and Pickups.   These are not “drills” per say, as much as they are a “defined period of time during warmup/beginning of a track practice” where you stop, focus, and think about running form/becoming a better runner.   What you focus on during the strides or pickups will be/can be different for each of you.   This is why attending our track practices occasionally is so   important.   Our coaches will provide you feedback on areas where you can improve your running technique.   If we don’t see you in person, we can’t really help (unless you sent us a video or something).   If you can’t make track practice – at least make it a priority to attend our running technique clinic which we host 5 times per year, or pick up a copy of “Evolution Running”    by our friend Coach Ken Mierke.   At least then you can start to understand the components of good running form – though – self diagnosis can be difficult!

  1. Strides as defined by most people:   People use the word/drill/exercise called   “Strides” for several different things.   First – Strides are not to be confused with the word “Stride” (without the “s” – ): Example – This runners Stride Length, or distance covered per step while running.   If you google “how to do a stride” or “what is a stride” you will see several explanations – many of which will contradict each other or be slight changes here or there – it really depends on the coach and what they specifically want you to get out of “the drill”.   For most – strides will be explained a short bursts of race pace speed (20 seconds, etc) done at the end of a workout/warmup – to help prepare you to run fast at “x pace” (which is the pace you would run that stride).
  2. For Team Z – we use the drill/word “Strides” to simply be “a defined time at the beginning of workout” where you turn your head on and say “What did Coach Ed tell me to focus on last time I was here?   Oh yeah…he wants me to work on my posture.   He said – stand talk and proud, shoulders forward with the shoulder blades in the back pockets (this is tricky, but can be done – I’ll show you)”.     Really – at this point after you have turned on your head – you have achieved the goal of the drill.   You have decided you want to be a better runner, and have thought about what you will work on during that track session.
  3. To execute a stride – in our world – you will have COMPLETED your warm up.   And before you start your intervals for the day, you will execute the strides.   To do this you will pick a 100 meter stretch of the track.   This is the length of either straight away, or either turn.   You will stand at the start of the 100 meters.   Turn on your head, and decide what you are focusing on improving. Then you will start to run very slowly with “perfect form”.   Gradually over the length of that 100 you work up to about 75% of your max speed.   The goal of this increase in effort is not to improve your cardio.   It is not to fatigue/strengthen your muscles.   Do NOT make the mistake of sprinting.   I see so many people do strides and end up at full speed half way down the track.   This is not the point of the stride.     The point of the increase in effort is that – over simply put – everything you do wrong when running slowly (bad habits) are accentuated when you are moving “more quickly in space”.   Very imporantly – though our example (posture person) may not feel that they have improper posture when they run slowly – now that they are working on this/focusing on this they will be in tune with what happens during the course of the stride. For the posture example – what happens with most people when first starting to work on this – they start the stride with perfect posture/slight forward lean from the ankles (not the waist).   As they start moving more quickly they tend to become more upright, and even leaning backwards some times.   The cool thing is – you (the runner) can normally feel it, and tell if you are doing this right or not.   After you have completed a stride you will walk back to the start line and repeat – 3 times (or more if you like, this is about YOU becoming a better runner).   But the point is to focus during the drill, then continue to focus when the intervals start – don’t just work on becoming a better runner during the drills.
  4. Pickup – in our world – a pick up will be the EXACT same thing as a Stride – it is just executed a bit differently.   Instead of   starting “after warm up” AND running 100 meters, walking back, and then repeating… You will do three pickups “within/during” your warm up.   Say you run easy for 10 minutes to warm up.   Three times, within that warm up as you move around the track – you will move from your slow/easy/warmup pace and gradually increase to about 75% – working on all the same things.   Except – when you finish, instead of stopping and walking back to where you started, you simply continue warming up back at your warm up speed.