I’m in great shape, should I skip base training?

It’s getting time for me to begin the Pump Up the Base/Prepare to Pin It workout programs again.

This year, I put about twice as much time in the saddle as last year, and I think overall, my basic cardio/threshold endurance is still in good shape. I’m finding, though, that where I get gassed riding on the trails is riding up steep, technical terrain, where I have to really crank out multiple series of short bursts of pretty high-effort pedaling. Little efforts where you really have to red line it to clear rocks and roots, etc., while pedaling uphill.

So I was wondering what you think of this: Since my aerobic/threshold endurance has held pretty well over the last year, I was thinking that maybe I could double up on Prepare to Pin It. I was thinking I would do each week twice. (e.g., Do the first week, then do it again the following week; do week two, then do it again the next week, and so on, through week 12 for a total of 24 weeks.)

I know P2PI gets really intense, and that last four weeks have the potential to be miserable. Would I be hurting myself more than helping with this plan? Just wondering what your thoughts were on this.



Thanks for the great question.

The right answer has everything to do with your body, lifestyle, recovery ability, etc., as well as your goals for next season.

Some thoughts:

First, what are these programs?

Pump Up the Base is designed for off-season fitness. You focus on aerobic capacity, peak power and pedaling technique.

Prepare to Pin It is designed for in-season fitness. It hits all of your energy systems. The cornerstone workout is “red” intervals: 20-40 seconds full power with a short rest then do it again and again. Super hard. Super effective.

Dude, get some rest

If you had a big riding season, it’ll be good to back off now.

The purpose of most training plans is to gradually increase time/intensity to increase your fitness, then take a break, then start building again, but at a higher level.

PUTB starts easy then gets more challenging as the intervals get longer. If you’re in shape, the first few weeks will feel like a rest, and I think that’s a good thing. As the 12 weeks progress, you’ll be spending more and more time at “sweet spot” power, which gives you the most aerobic benefit for the least punishment, and is a fantastic way to build your engine while recovering from this season.

P2PI is extremely effective but also very hard! Since you’re an adult (not a kid who recovers instantly), I think you might get super fit in a couple months then blow up.

But train your weaknesses

If burst power (aka “red” power; as hard as you can go for about 30 seconds, then recover on the move) is your weakness, it makes sense to focus on it. Not just for fitness, but also for technique and toughness.

Believers in linear periodization say you should lay off intensity during the base period, but I believe in a nonlinear approach, where you maintain all of your systems all year but perhaps with a different focus in each season. That means doing some red intervals during the winter. For me that’s likely on a pump track, technical ride, snow shoveling, moving furniture or on the training device I invented (it’s patent pending; stay tuned!).

Pump Up the Base has you working in the orange and black zones. Red intervals put you in the red zone, which is awesome for fitness but harder on your body.

Mix it up

The best training programs are flexible, and they match whatever your body and Life are doing at the moment. That’s why truly qualified trainers are so valuable (and rare), and why any pre-set program should be adjusted for you.

How about this:

Start PUTB from the beginning, but perhaps at a higher sweet-spot power than last year. When I started PUTB several years ago, I was working at about 200 watts. Now I work at almost 300 watts. My endurance coach Lester Pardoe promised a structured program would make me suck less uphill, and he’s right.

Hammer those PUTB sprints. We’re building pedaling technique and peak power. BAM! I’ve hit 1,800 watts and sure would love to see 2,000. Since you want faster recovery from intense efforts, resume sweet spot power as soon as you can.

Add some red intervals to one PUTB workout per week
. This is where things get iffy. Red intervals (eg 30 seconds full power, 30 seconds rest, repeat) are massively effective but horribly taxing.

Let’s start mellow, say: 30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy, 3 times total. If that feels good, work up to five 30/30s by the end of PUTB. Rather than adding intervals, increase your power during the on phases. This only adds 5 minutes to your workout, but it’s gonna be crazy!

Do red intervals after your last PUTB interval (or instead of it).

If you’re tired, do fewer red intervals, but maintain quality. If you’re too tired to maintain full red wattage, skip the reds that day.

By the time you finish PUTB, you’ll be in great shape but hopefully not burned out. Take a couple weeks easy then rock P2PI at a higher level.

Does that make sense? Does it help?


Read this: Pump up your pedaling this winter

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