Q & A Coach Forum: Why Have I Stopped Making Progress on the Bike?

Q-&-A-Coach-Forum-white-blackHello, I have stopped making progress despite a regular and highly structured training program supervised by a very well regarded coach. At first (after the first 3-4 months) I made huge progress, now a year and a half later, I am at the same place that I was after the first 4 months, despite increased work load. It’s kinda frustrating to have put in hours and hours of work and not to see any real progress. Any idea what could be going on here?
Thanks so much! ~Nathan

Scott Saifer responds:

You haven’t said what your coach has you doing or at what level you stalled out. If you are winning all your races but not getting better, or are riding better than any of your competitors who train a similar number of hours per week, you may need to just accept where you are, unless you have time to train more.

Unless you are much, much stronger than your competitors, it is close to impossible to continue improving performance throughout the racing season. In general, the first six to eight weeks of racing bring on your race legs, and then you reach your peak form for the season. You should not expect to get stronger after that until you take a break from racing, do a new round of base building, and transition back to racing again. If your coach doesn’t have you resting and rebuilding between racing seasons, that will cause a plateau.

In the rest of this note, I’m assuming you are failing to progress and are stuck at a level below what others can do on similar training volume, and that you did have an “off season” rest and rebuild. Any time a client fails to progress, I have a long list of things to consider: You could be training perfectly, but also sick, underfed, or not getting enough sleep. Work or home stress might be interfering. The first thing I think of though when someone makes good progress for several months and then stalls is that the ongoing program contains too much intensity. The normal response to sustained excessive intensity is rapid improvement, followed by gradually increasing fatigue that leads first to a plateau and eventually to a decline in performance.

Ask yourself these questions: “Do I ever train despite being tired at the beginning of the session?” If the answer is yes, stop that. If you are tired AT ALL, take an easy day. If you feel great, go long or hard as appropriate for your training plan. This is what professional riders call “listening to your body.” In my experience it is the single best predictor of racing success aside having the time to do enough training and quality recovery.

“Am I riding near or above Lactate Threshold more than two days per week, or riding near or above LT on any day when I am not completely recovered from previous hard training?” If the answer is yes, stop that. Strong riders can handle two days per week or riding well above Endurance (zone 2) long enough to get tired week after week. Less strong riders can handle 1 day per week of hard effort week after week. No one can handle three days per week for more than few weeks without hitting a plateau and eventually starting to burn out.

If neither of these rules would change your behavior, please write back with a bit more detail about your current training, season structure, body weight, nutrition and anything else you think might be relevant. ~Scott Saifer

Head Coach Scott Saifer works with all levels and ages of challenging cyclist athletes. Inquire about working with Scott here.  

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