Episode 29 – Periodization… How to plan out your season, and why 3 weeks on, 1 week off is NOT the recipe for success

The strong savvy cyclist & triathlete podcast

Transcript

Speaker 1:

Human Vortex Training and Menachem Brodie present The Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast, where we talk strength training, physiology, psychology, tech and much more, to help you get fitter, faster and stronger, in and out of your sport, giving you expert insights, talking with other leading experts. And now your host, world leading strength coach for cyclists and triathletes, Menachem Brodie.

Menachem Brodie:

Hi, everyone, and welcome to this episode of The Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast. I’m your host, Menachem Brodie, and today, on episode number 29, we are going to answer a listener and reader email in part. As part of the podcast, and this is one of the best parts of starting this, to be honest, is getting the different questions from you out there who are looking to learn, looking to get better, looking to improve, and even those asking, “Well, what about X, Y and Z? I tried the opposite of what you said and it worked for an athlete.”

Menachem Brodie:

As you go through and you listen, you’re going to hear more and more questions come from the readers, come from listeners, come from other coaches that I’ve had come and do an apprenticeship with me or an internship with me here at HV Training, and what’s great about this is it allows us as a family to grow. So here at The Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast, we’re part of the Human Vortex Training family, so this includes the newly-released and soon to be publicly-released Strength Training for Cyclists Certification. It’s December 17th when this will be released, so what that means is about two to four weeks from now, we are going to reopen the Strength Training for Cyclists Certification.

Menachem Brodie:

The initial opening was only for those on the HV Training newsletter, so if you weren’t there, there were a bunch of people said, “I missed it. I wasn’t on the newsletter. Can I get in?” Now we’re going to open it for the public, and we’re going to have it open for a couple of days, and then it’s going to close again. So we’re opening January 2020, and then closing it again until fall of 2020. The reason we’re doing this is it allows for the people in the course to get more attention, and it’s just a better way to teach that way. So if you’re interested, keep an eye out for the Human Vortex Training website. We’ll announce it on the Facebook page as well.

Menachem Brodie:

Now, today’s episode is really something I love. I’ve gotten a number of listener emails, and those of you who have sent me are shaking your head. Yes, when I say this, I answer every email, usually within 24 to 48 hours, or in the case of today’s it’s actually a very deep email, meaning there’s a lot to answer here. So we’re going to get into that, and we’re going to answer the first of three questions that Pavel wrote in and asked. Let’s read the email.

Menachem Brodie:

“Dear Mr. Brodie, my name is Pavel, and I am a former pro cyclist for a UCI Continental team. In 2020, I’ll race just a little bit of races, and I’ve been studying coaching first, second and third level for a national cycling coach, TrainingPeaks university in Hunter Allen’s power training course, and I want to become a cycling coach, a good cycling coach, with the most up-to-date and latest knowledge from the best cycling coaches such as yourself.

Menachem Brodie:

It would really improve my own knowledge and help me be able to coach better and continue to learn. I have read your articles on Cycling News, and I would really like to ask you about periodization. It’s a relatively new training system to me, and it looks nice and it could really work well. If I understand it correctly, the periodization is separated into three phases. One is three weeks of working and then one week of recovery. And you’ll do that until race season after a rest period, so it would look something like this: eight to 12 weeks of base phase, four weeks of build phase, four weeks of build FRC and max effort phase, and then the first race of the season, and you’d start and continue through the season.

Menachem Brodie:

Do you have any recommendations as to what I should train in each phase? And also, what are the best trainings to do in the race season in between races? Let’s say there is a race every week or one to two races on a weekly basis.”

Menachem Brodie:

Pavel, this is a fantastic question, as I already responded to you in a private email saying, “Hey, you know what? We’re going to make a podcast out of this.” Let’s get into periodization a little bit. Now, the first thing I’m going to do is I’m going to kind of knock periodization, the three on, one off, on its butt. And if you are on the HV Training newsletter, actually the first newsletter that came out after I received Pavel’s email was about three on, one off and the Ancient Egyptians.

Menachem Brodie:

If you read that, you got the feeling that I’m not really such a big fan of three on, one off. And I talk a little bit about how, when I first started coaching 14 years ago, I followed this religiously. Three on, one off, three on, one off. Until year two or three, I got to the point where I’m like, “Hey, you know what? 80% of my cyclists,” or my athletes, because I was also working with triathletes, “80% of the athletes I’m working with are not responding to this. What is going on? All the textbooks say this. This is something that I’ve learned at USA cycling, USA triathlon. We even learned it in the ACSM program at Pitt, three on, one off. What is going on?”

Menachem Brodie:

In fact, two of my racers were actually getting slower. They were getting slower on this three on, one off. Now, they were also female, so that started my whole trip down the female specialization, like what is going on here, and what can we figure out? Which by the way, thankfully I keep a lot of notes. I have so many notebooks. My wife keeps saying, “Why don’t you get rid of some of them?”

Menachem Brodie:

But I go back and mine them. Mine, M-I-N-E, going back through and reading, so I’ll have someone email me or someone I’m working with will have traits of someone I worked with eight years ago, so I go back through and read their testing and notes and all this stuff. Which, by the way as a coach, if you can, it’s a lot easier now it’s digital. I prefer handwritten. I remember it better. Then you have to have storage for all of it. I’m sure there’s a scanning something or other. But I remember the specific color of the notebook, the cover of the notebook, how deep in it was, a huge nerd like that.

Menachem Brodie:

But as it pertains to today, keeping those records will help you realize what is and is not working. I don’t like having everything on a totally digital platform. I still write out stuff longhand, especially training programs for the year. I don’t really work around annual training plans per se. I usually have annual training year goals and when we want to achieve them by, and then we’ll work on two to three months’ worth of training, and have an idea of where we’re going next.

Menachem Brodie:

But I do not believe, and Pavel, I would strongly recommend this to you, do not plan out an athlete’s whole year of training ahead of time. I think it’s a waste of time. I think that it locks you into predisposed ideas of where the athlete is and what they need, and it really can detract from your ability to really develop as a coach, and also to work with the athlete in front of you and what they really need right now.

Menachem Brodie:

This is important to note, because the systems that are prevalently taught are write an annual training plan, know exactly when the peak is, work backwards, three on, one off, da, da, da, da. Absolutely you need to know where peak is. Absolutely you need to have a rough idea of where the athlete’s important milestones are going to be. This is really, really important, because we do need to have some guidance to what we’re doing, and we definitely need to have a skeleton framework.

Menachem Brodie:

But as a coach, the further down the rabbit hole I went, the less and less I went to annual training plans. I used to plan out the whole year’s training, like I knew exactly … If you asked me in April what you’re doing in August, I could tell you already to the week. I didn’t know the exact workouts, but I knew to the week.

Menachem Brodie:

I’ve gone away from that to a large degree. We know where the milestones are, where you need to be at specific times, but we also need to be malleable, so we have to know what our must-haves are in order to progress. Surprisingly, a lot of cyclists, and we actually heard here on the podcast from Dr. McGill, if you ask most cyclists what they need to be able to do, or what they need to have in order to be successful in their sport, most of them don’t know.

Menachem Brodie:

Now, the thing is, we look at it, we need watts per kilos, watts per kilos, watts per kilos. And Pavel, we’re going to get into this in a second, as to how we structure the periodization here, and why it’s not just eight to 12 weeks for base and only four weeks for build, but we need to have a good idea as to what skills the cyclist needs to have.

Menachem Brodie:

Nowadays we are way too focused on power, power, power, watts per kilos, how many times can you repeat, what’s your fall-off. Those are certainly important, but we’ve lost the art of coaching on bike skills. This includes when to eat, what to eat, how much to carry with you, how often should you eat, do you need to set a timer, what should you be drinking, how often should you be drinking? What are considerations that you need to keep in mind? Have you planned the route, and written down on your [inaudible 00:09:11] athletic tape the key important pivotal parts of a race?

Menachem Brodie:

When I do, and I did a lot more actually in the past with the riders who were going more professional or were on that track, is I used to have them come year, maybe year three with me, when they were Cat 3, Cat 2, so that’s … Let’s say that’s national competition level, like Category 3, they usually drive five to seven hours to competitions. Category 4 and 5 don’t usually travel as much, just to give you an idea. Russia I’m sure has a very different system than the US if that’s where you’re coaching. Europe is completely different. But the Cat 3 is kind of like you’re on the national level. You’re driving to competitions, and then Category 2 and 1 is where you’re getting to the point where you’re very competitive.

Menachem Brodie:

These athletes, as we go through, once you get to Category 3, I have my athletes write out by hand on their [inaudible 00:10:04]. We’ll do it with athletic training tape, which doesn’t have a super adhesive or destroying adhesive on the back. They’ll write out with pen, and put it on their [inaudible 00:10:13], because I want them in the habit of writing down important parts of their workout or important parts of their races, and we’ll write down numbers of other riders, like names of other riders on the group ride that we want them to be aware of. Because this is all tied into the periodization for me.

Menachem Brodie:

We want you to be practicing the exact skills and habits that you need in order to succeed in bike racing. And a lot of coaches miss this, and I think that a lot of it is a miss on our part, because we’re not thinking about the skill side. We also have this on the strength and conditioning side of things, where a lot of strength and conditioning coaches, and this is a rampant problem in my opinion, in 2019, 2018, 2017, we have athletes, to use baseball as an example, American baseball … not that there’s another type of baseball. We have athletes that can smash home runs, right field, left field, center field. We have athletes that can throw a direct line from outfield to home plate. We have athletes who can throw fast balls at 90 miles an hour in high school, but they can’t play a simple game of catch.

Menachem Brodie:

For cyclists, we have cyclists who can put out four, four and a half watts per kilo. They can sprint in the 1,300, 1,400, 1,500s. They don’t know how to bump. They don’t know how to bunny hop. This is a systemic problem, and we must address it at its roots. This is something that as a coach … this is why I’m very stringent with who I take in online coaching. There’s a process. I don’t take everybody. Part of it is because I want to make sure that I’m the right coach for them. The other part is because do they need somebody to help them learn skills? Most of the athletes that I work with have individuals or groups that they have more advanced individuals who they’re learning these on-bike skills from. This is all-important.

Menachem Brodie:

Now, this periodization that we’re talking about is going to be based around the skills they need to learn, and that’s why I kind of went off on that. I know it sounds like a tangent, but that’s really important, because the skills are planned into the annual training plan. That part is planned ahead in the year, because I know exactly when, what and how I want them to practice doing things. That involves Category 3s. Hey, you got a trainer at home? Great. We’re going to get rollers. Your recovery ride is on the rollers, and you’re going to practice riding with no hands, riding with one hand, eating on the bike with both hands. You’re going to practice moving on the rollers and controlling the bike.

Menachem Brodie:

These are skills you can work on inside on the trainer. Correction, on the rollers, not on the trainer. That’s another investment, but you don’t need these super fancy trainers. You need the $250 rollers from Bike Nashbar. That’s all you need. This is an important part of consideration. I know that wasn’t part of your question as to understanding the setup of periodization, but this is paramount if you actually want to really understand how to build a training program and make better cyclists, not just powerful cyclists. So please, as a coach, you want to raise your stake and raise your value to your clients and your athletes and yourself. Do this first.

Menachem Brodie:

Okay, now when it comes to the actual periodization when we’re working together, so technically the reason we teach three weeks on, one week off, is because it’s simple. It’s easy for us to understand, and as I’ve gone out and began teaching more and giving more seminars and having apprentices and interns, I’ve too hesitantly, returned back to how I was taught: three weeks on, one week off, but it’s only until the individual understands the concept. Once they understand the concept, I like to take a break and actually show them a real athlete’s training program. What this is is yeah, we’re going to break it into three different phases or three weeks on, one week off roughly, so not three phases but two parts to each mesocycle.

Menachem Brodie:

A mesocycle … In the textbook, it even says a mesocycle example is a month. Why is it? Because it’s easy for us to wrap our heads around it. But really, for most athletes here at Human Vortex Training, if they’re beginners, I start with two and a half weeks on, or about 17 days on, and then a 10-day recovery. And that gives them lots of recovery, because two skills I want them to learn, one is go hard when it’s time to go hard. When we’re building, build. When you do your intervals, you’re going at the power that’s prescribed. If you can do more, don’t. Finish the workout and say, “Hey, I could have done more.” Okay, great. Let’s look at your numbers.

Menachem Brodie:

When it’s time to go easy, go easy. If it says recovery ride, power under 55%, I want you going easy, under 55%. If it says cadence above 90, you want cadence above 90, not 85. Well, my power went up above it. But your cadence was 85. Let’s go up to 90, come down a gear easier.

Menachem Brodie:

So now we’re coaching cyclists, we’re not just coaching phases and power numbers. So the two and a half weeks on, 10 days down, allows me to teach the athlete to recover. It also gives me a lot of leeway and safe space, a margin of safety so to speak, to help the athlete be able to recover fully.

Menachem Brodie:

Now, before we move any further, we’re going to have to break it down into the training week. The training week is going to consist of three different types of rides. Number one is going to be a recovery ride. I like to call these café rides. Why café? Because the attitude I want the athlete to have is, “I’m just putting on jeans and a T-shirt, and I’m going to ride down to the local café, which is about 25 or 30 minutes from me. I’m going to go really easy. I don’t want to break a sweat. I want to get there, I kind of want to look chill. I just want to be relaxed, and I want to ride my bike, and I want to keep by cadence above X.” Usually X is 90, 95 for the more advanced, and 80, 85 for the beginners. That’s a café ride.

Menachem Brodie:

We want the power to stay relatively low. I like to focus a little bit more on cadence, so if their power is around 60%, but their cadence was in the ranges, we’ll let that go. And then we’re going to have stimulation days. Stimulation days, we’re going to be pushing between 70 and 85% of what the athlete is capable of doing for that type of workout. So it could be steady state, it could be VO2 max, it can be all outs, it could be sprints, but we’re going to stay where the athlete still has a good amount left in the tank.

Menachem Brodie:

Does this sound familiar? Have you been listening to The Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast for some time, and you listened to the Tony Gentilcore part one, where we talk about … You’re want fives, sixes and sevens. We want consistency. That’s stimulation day. Stimulation day is also going to carry over to the weekend during the base phase. For the most part, the stimulation day, we’re going 70 to 85% of what that athlete can handle, and that doesn’t mean that we’re necessarily staying on the weekends with just aerobic rides.

Menachem Brodie:

Endurance rides are certainly important, but there are many other considerations that we have to think about, including neuromuscular, with the cadences [inaudible 00:16:58] at. So small ring, or big ring only. What about the ability for them to be able to climb hills nice and steady? So maybe it’s not endurance, but it’s at a nice steady, comfortable pace. What about long tempo? That can really solidify some of the aerobic base. We can do that. We can even put in short sprints or speed bursts throughout, or stomps. These are all things that we can do within a stimulation day, because we’re staying at the 70 to 85% level for that athlete.

Menachem Brodie:

Now, as it goes from there, there is one more type of ride, and that’s what called a developmental ride. This is where we’re working at 90 to 100% of what the athlete can handle. These days, for individuals who train or base their life around their training, and take it very seriously, we’re going to have one developmental day during the week, possibly one during the weekends, but it depends on the athlete’s life stress and ability to recover.

Menachem Brodie:

These are three types of workouts we’re going to have for those build weeks, or the three weeks, if you will, in the three weeks on, one week off. And then the recovery week is going to consist of just endurance and recovery rides. Maybe we’ll throw in one or two sprint sets, just to keep the athlete sharp. If we need to or if we’re working on the technique, we’ll do between six and eight sprints in one of those technique sessions, like full-out sprints. But lots of recovery in between.

Menachem Brodie:

Ideally when we look at this, when we look at the training impulse or TRIMP as it’s called, the trending should be that in the recovery weeks, we’re coming back to more positive. So you mentioned you did training peaks or, sorry, Hunter Allen’s power-based certification, Pavel, so this would be where we have the TSB, training stress balance, as trending more positive.

Menachem Brodie:

Now, every athlete you’re going to learn tends to recover best and race best at different numbers. Not everybody, and actually most people that I’ve coached, don’t race well when they’re above plus five. I can say off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure that most of the racers, the best racers I’ve had, have raced well and their best at slightly negative, like negative three, negative eight.

Menachem Brodie:

But every athlete is going to be different, and it’s also going to depend how dialed in and personalized you’re getting as you go throughout the work with that athlete. Some people, I’ll really toy with that performance management chart, and dial in the ATL, CTL trends for that, so deviate from 42 days. We’ll change it. There’s reasons to do that, but as you go down the course of first understanding what we’re talking about here today with periodization, the stimulation, development and recovery days, and how to build those together, I will allow you do even better and get more out of toying with the performance management chart. For right now, just leave it as it is. Leave it at those settings, and focus on building better programs.

Menachem Brodie:

We talked about the three weeks on, one week off. Again, the only reason we teach it that way or we learn it that way is because it’s easy for us to conceive and understand. 28 days, cool. Four weeks. That’s a month, roughly, and you can kind of go from there.

Menachem Brodie:

Now, once you get through that, when we look at the actual training year, so the base phase is the most important, and a lot of people I think in my opinion are not doing enough base or they’re doing way too much base. When I say they’re doing way too much base, I’m talking about only endurance rides. They’re not adding enough intensity in through the base time of year, and this is something that I’ve done. You can look at my training plans from when I started 12 years ago, and see, there was a good amount of lactate threshold or sweet spot work that was in there.

Menachem Brodie:

There was much more lactate threshold, because I wasn’t really aware of how useful sweet spots were as far as solidifying and building fitness. But nowadays, there is not a single rider in the HV Training stable that’s going to get only endurance rides. You’ll get them on the weekends. We’ll go out and do strictly endurance: small ring, big ring … We’ll also do group rides, where we’ll have up to 78 or 82% of threshold for 90% or more of the time. But it allows them to a little bit of intensity.

Menachem Brodie:

But I don’t really believe in only doing base miles. I think that that’s harping too much on the aerobic energy system. Unless an athlete … If we do something like the inside testing and see someone’s really poor at burning fat, then yeah, we might do six to eight weeks of almost strictly endurance rides on the weekends. But during the weekend, we’re going to still be doing some high-intensity stuff, unless we see that they’re an anomaly and they really need only aerobic. But I honestly haven’t had anybody there in the last five to seven years that we’ve had to do only aerobic for six to eight weeks.

Menachem Brodie:

The base phase, you want to make a good chunk of the year. I’m known to take it up to 16 to 20 weeks for some people if they’re really looking to make a jump the next year. But build … And by the way, the three weeks on, one week off, again, just to stress, even in build, it’s not three weeks on, one week off. You need to have the athlete track how they’re feeling. First thing in the morning, what are your energy levels? How do you feel? Are you in a bad mood, or are you in a good mood? And then after your workout … Going into the workout, what are your energy levels? After the workout, how did you feel immediately after?

Menachem Brodie:

We want to track how the athlete is feeling, and this is another issue we have nowadays, is we’re getting so into technology with the WHOOP band, and the HRV training is really useful, but you still need to ask the athlete, “How do you feel?”, because sometimes, the HRV may tip us off that something’s going on a couple of days before the athlete feels it, or sometimes it may suggest something’s going on, but the athlete the next night gets a really good night’s sleep or maybe they’re a little bit dehydrated, and then they’re fine.

Menachem Brodie:

If you don’t ask the athlete to track how they’re feeling and how their recovering, you’re missing a big part, I don’t know, the athlete, in the picture, as opposed to just reading power files and numbers on a screen. Data is great, but there are caveats and limits, and as a whole, I think that we as a coaching profession are getting too far away from coaching the actual athlete.

Menachem Brodie:

This is why a large part of the assessment, and I talk about this in the Strength Training for Cycling Success course, Strength Training for Triathlon Success course, both of them on TrainingPeaks University, and the certification course that I have on Human Vortex Training here, about getting to know the person. Talk with them, and don’t just pop them onto the trainer or bring them in and do an eight to 10 RM or whatever is appropriate for them. You need to get to know the athlete and how they work psychologically. You need to understand their strengths and weaknesses, and you need to learn to develop a rapport.

Menachem Brodie:

That’s one of the reasons why all of the interns that come in are recommended one of two books as far as reading body languages from the individual, and being able to understand what the athlete is not saying, reading between the lines. What language are they using? How are they framing what they’re saying? What is their body language as they’re saying this thing? There are lots of different things, Pavel, that … We’re talking about periodization, sure, but there’s a lot more diamonds here for you to be able to cut for yourself to become a much better coach beyond just the periodization.

Menachem Brodie:

Now, we’re going to take a quick break here. We’ve already spoken about the three on, one off, why we only teach it that way because it’s easy for us to understand as beginners, but really we need to dial into the athlete. For example, here at Human Vortex Training, I usually do two and a half weeks on, 10 days off for the first two months, see how the athlete’s responding, especially if they’re a beginner. Then we dial it in from there.

Menachem Brodie:

Off the top of my head, I have two athletes right now. One of them is on a five-week build, two-week recover, and another is on a two-week build and a five-day recover. That’s how personalized it gets here, because that’s what those athletes need right now. If you look at their training plans from a year ago, it’s different. If you look at them a year from now, it’ll probably be different. But don’t get stuck in this three weeks on, one week off. Start with that, but really ask those questions about how the athlete is doing.

Menachem Brodie:

The second part we covered here in the first part of today’s episode is the base period. We want to try and make it as much of the training year as is reasonable, so if we have let’s say someone starting with us now, December 17th, and they want to be in riding shape just for an MS 150 in June/July, we’re going to do 12 weeks. We’re going to do a real solid 12 weeks. We’re going to from December until late February/early March with their base, and then we’ll get into six to 10 weeks of build, and I’ll have them actually build through their key MS 150.

Menachem Brodie:

So the MS 150, Pavel, if you’re not familiar, is a charity ride where you do 100 miles on day one, usually 100, 105, and then day two will be 45, 50. So it’s 150 miles total, but it’s a real challenge. It’s well-supported. It’s for a great cause. It’s for multiple sclerosis, and they’re all over the US. But that’s where we’re going to get into part two, is talking about build, how we will put together those training weeks, and how the recovery and build weeks are going to change throughout that. Stay tuned, and we’ll get back to that in just a moment.

Speaker 1:

Want to learn more? Check out humanvortextraining.com for more on this topic from Coach Brodie and today’s guest.

Menachem Brodie:

As you can hear, there is a lot more considerations, and Pavel, I hope you understand now why I don’t want to answer in an email because there’s so much more than just bullet points, and that’s what I want to try and convey to you and the other listeners here, is when you look at the training, there are so many layers. It’s easy for us, and we must by the way focus on one thing at a time, but there are also simple things that we can put into those trainings and to your training programs that are going to help make you a much better coach.

Menachem Brodie:

In this instance, when we’re talking about periodization, the number one thing I would have you start with is get into the habit of asking the athlete, “Hey, before and after your workout, write down how you felt. Did you feel good, did you feel bad?” Some athletes will give you one word. “Felt good, felt bad.” Okay, how did you feel bad?

Menachem Brodie:

This is where it’s important for you to figure out how much connectivity do you want to have with the athlete? Some people are available 24/7 to all of their athletes. Other people are a little bit more limited, where they’ll check the training plans … I’ve heard of coaches coaching and checking training every three weeks. That’s a little bit too lax for me. I prefer to have at least once a week check-in and look over their files and look for stuff.

Menachem Brodie:

What’ll happen is as a beginner, you’re going to spend more time reading through the training files, because you haven’t seen patterns. You haven’t seen everything yet, and you haven’t seen a lot of things. If you’re starting with just yourself, go back through and look at your files from when you were a beginner as opposed to now, and look for different trends. But asking the athlete how they felt is an important way for us to be able to tap in. How are your energy levels? Zero through three. Three is max energy, you’re bouncing off the walls, to zero, you want to stay in bed and sleep more. How did you feel?

Menachem Brodie:

Just those small little actions will build up good habits for you and your athletes, and allow you to become a much better coach, much more dialed in to what that athlete needs. Now, getting into the build, so we spoke in the first part of today’s episode about three on, one off. We spoke about base, and how that’s going to the majority of the year, between 12 and 16 weeks if we can.

Menachem Brodie:

When we get to build, I actually have usually build one, build two and build three. Each one of these is going to vary in length, and each one of the builds is going to focus down a little bit more onto a specific skill and energy system that the athlete is going to need. It’s going to be in an order of what that athlete’s racing style is, and where they are for their peak races or their focal races for that year.

Menachem Brodie:

What I mean by focal races, are they trying to get better at hill climbing, and so we need to work on VO2 max power repeatability with spikes in the middle, where they’re spiking and having to settle back into that comfort of just suffering? Are they going for time trialing this year? They were a good hill climber, now they want to do time trialing, so we’re going to focus on that.

Menachem Brodie:

Build one would be their next biggest building block, so we have base, which is the aerobic base. We’re working on lactate threshold, we’re working on technique on the bike. So if it’s a time trial bike, we’re going to really get them slowly starting, one to two short, 60- to 70-minute rides a week on the time trial bike, and then work up from there during build one, where they’re doing maybe VO2 max or over-unders or stomps, whatever they may need. That first build is going to be four to eight weeks, and we’re going to really harp in on the next level. That’s going to be what we base their abilities for that year on.

Menachem Brodie:

The second build is going to be usually three to six weeks, although there have been four-day. Three to six weeks, where we’re polishing that up or we’re working on a weaker area that they have. So for some of the time trialists we have, because of the focus on time trial, this may be on their anaerobic capacity, where we’re doing some max effort sprints, because we need to get the maximum motor recruitment from the motor unit. And we need to push those big watts in order to get them.

Menachem Brodie:

Most time trialists don’t even think about this, so they see the blocks and they’re like, “What are you doing? I’m a time trialist, not a sprinter. What is wrong with you?” Then we go through that. I know the athlete, because we went through the assessment and developed a rapport as we talked about earlier. I understand where they’re coming from, or if I don’t understand, we spend the time to figure it out. Sometimes that’s an hour and a half phone call or a two-hour beer. Whatever it may be, we sit there and get onto the same page.

Menachem Brodie:

I have never had anybody come back from doing those sprint blocks weaker or wondering why we did it. What actually happens is the next year where we don’t do it, or we don’t do it as much, they’re like, “Well, it worked so well last year. Why don’t we do it again?” It’s like, “Well, your needs are X, Y and Z, and here’s why we’re doing it this way.” It really allows you to help the athlete learn themselves. You become a better coach. It allows you build them. So that three- to six-weeker, four- to eight-week build two, is going back a little bit to basics and thinking bigger picture.

Menachem Brodie:

The last build is usually two to three weeks, and that’s where we polish them up. That’s where we’re going to really be pushing. These are going to be race simulations once a week. Remember, the stimulation rides are going to be the majority of the week. Let’s say the rider is working a 45-hour work week, 9:00 to 5:30. They have … Weekends are two long rides, and then they ride Tuesday and Thursday. So there’s no racing Tuesday and Thursday during the winter. They’re in the Northeast. Tuesday is going to be the developmental day, so we’re pushing. Remember, that’s 90 to 100% of their abilities. And then Thursday’s going to be the stimulation day. We’ll do that for two weeks in a row.

Menachem Brodie:

The third week might be two stimulation days, where we’re getting a little bit more training load at lower intensities, and then two stimulation days on the weekend, and then we enter into the recovery phase of 10 days, where we’re doing a café ride, we’re doing lower-duration endurance rides, or we’re doing some skill sessions. So they’re still on the bike putting out a little bit of power and effort, but really they’re refining their abilities on the bike.

Menachem Brodie:

When we get into that three-week phase, we’re going to have two, possibly … If they’re recovering well, eating well and everything’s firing, they’ll have two shorter developmental sessions on the bike, and they are going to get us to be able to sharpen the athlete without taking a bigger toll. So even though we’re doing higher intensity and we’re doing more of it, the workouts themselves are going to be shorter.

Menachem Brodie:

Let’s say our average athlete here, Pavel, is doing 90 minutes during the rest of the year. When we get to the sharpening, we’re going to do 45- to 60-minute sessions with those efforts, and then they’re going to get off the bike and they’ll recover. They’ll do a little bit of strength training, and then they’re just going to recover.

Menachem Brodie:

Most athletes at this time are going to run one to two ride more, and this is where we need to run through their brain a million times, you don’t get stronger when you’re training. You get stronger by doing the things outside of training like resting, eating well, getting quality sleep … I know I said resting, but that’s different. Quality sleep, regular sleep, and making sure that you’re drinking properly and doing the things you need to do to keep yourself mentally fresh.

Menachem Brodie:

Like Charlie Munger says, or has been known to say for investing, “We don’t make money when we’re actively trading. We make money when we’re waiting, and we’re patiently waiting for that specific stock or company to find its natural level.” That’s how it works here. It’s the same thing.

Menachem Brodie:

When you go through each of these phases, that three on, one off is not exactly what we want to follow. You need to find what works for the athlete. If it’s easiest for you, the listener, or Pavel to start with the three on, one off, that’s fine. We all started there, and then we went from there and deviated.

Menachem Brodie:

I wasn’t much of a tinkerer. I was petrified of trying anything that wasn’t written in a textbook, to be honest. My friend and athlete Samson and his brother Nemo actually bought a 1998 Mercury Tracer and took it apart to see how it worked, and then built it back. I remember specifically two or three times I was like, “Dude, why don’t you just hire a mechanic?” He was like, “Well, how am I going to learn? This is cool. This is fun for me. If we mess it up, great. We take it apart and we fix it.”

Menachem Brodie:

I was afraid of like, well I’m working with athletes. I’m afraid of breaking them, so I’m just going to follow exactly what was written in the textbook. Well, that’s not what the best coaches are doing. Same thing at the beginning of my career with research. I was totally one of those coaches who was like, “Show me the research, and then I’ll put it into my practice.”

Menachem Brodie:

I was fortunate to have an excellent power lifting coach, may he rest in peace, Joel Alcoff, Dr. Joel Alcoff, who really helped me immensely to grow as an athlete. I learned from him, and he did it the right way in my opinion, where he didn’t force it on me. He really let me go through the process of learning and understanding it says one thing in a book, but that’s built to hit the masses, and then you have to kind of deviate from there.

Menachem Brodie:

That’s what you’ll do as a coach as well. This is where keeping those notes on what you’re doing, what your thought process is … Ray Dalio, if we’re going to stick with the investing, has a great book called Principles. If you’re a professional coach, or you want to make this your profession, I strongly recommend you read that book, because even though it’s based around investing, just change out investing for developing fitness for an athlete.

Menachem Brodie:

If you look up the terms online, you can find and figure out a bond would be kind of like endurance rides where it’s nice and steady and you know the results are going to be X, and it’s very low level, and stocks are going to be [inaudible 00:35:24] sessions where you’re really pushing hard.

Menachem Brodie:

You can be too aggressive. That’s kind of what I do, but it’s a great book, in that it will help you develop the principles and write them down and track them so that you are able to become a better coach faster, because a lot of us as coaches just do our thing, and we’re doing the same thing every year.

Menachem Brodie:

If you don’t look back at your training programs, and kind of want to throw up a little bit at least three years out from what you were writing, or you look like, “Wow, I can’t believe we did that, because now we’re doing this, and it’s so much better,” if you’re not doing that, you are stale as a coach, and you’re stuck.

Menachem Brodie:

Now, some of you may want to slam your computer shut or throw your phone off the bus and be like, “This dude’s full of crap.” But think about it. Has your system actually gotten a lot better? That’s not to say you should get rid of the foundations, the bedrock of what you built, but that definitely is to say that you really need to be able to take a step back and critically assess, “Is what I’m doing working?”

Menachem Brodie:

If you came in and looked at my training plans now, you’ll see the base philosophy stayed the same. And I told you it already, part of it. During base, it’s not just aerobic. We’re talking about doing lactate threshold, VO2 max … Whatever that athlete needs, once we go through our on-bike testing and figuring out what the athlete’s needs are … I don’t just do a functional threshold test, by the way. I don’t believe … I’ve not believed since year one. I did year one with functional threshold power, and then I realized it’s missing a lot. It doesn’t give us the whole picture. This is why I got into the inside testing to look at what’s going on inside the athletes, hence the name for the testing.

Menachem Brodie:

But I really wanted to see what’s going on for the individual, and understand them better, because the functional threshold power doesn’t tell you what’s going on in all their energy systems. It’s an estimation. It may work for some, but there’s a better way, and it involves retesting, which by the way we go over in the certification course, which again, is going to be opened in January 2020, and then again in the fall of 2020. But I give you that in the strength training for cyclists certification course with the on-bike testing, the exact protocols that we use here.

Menachem Brodie:

There’s no surprises in there. You’ll read them and be like, “Well, this is pretty simple.” But keeping it simple is how you keep from doing stupid things. When we get complex and convoluted … And again, raising my hand, totally guilty of it at the beginning of my coaching career, “I’m going to show them, and reinvent …” Some people thought I was doing that with telling my athletes to strength train, which was incorrect. But certain things are simple for a reason, because they work that way.

Menachem Brodie:

Pavel, as you go through this programming, you’ll find some athletes … I always second guess myself. I’m always like, “Okay, let me prove myself wrong. Does this athlete really need five weeks on and two weeks off?” And then we go through, and we talk with the athlete or I go back through and I do a back test and see, well, where did they break down? Where did this go? Where did that go? Oh wow, they really do need five week on.

Menachem Brodie:

There was little … We had three months where they needed four weeks and a week and a half off, but it still falls in the five week on, two week off. And you’ll find that once you start getting to that level, Pavel, your programming is going to go through the roof. Your athletes’ results are going to get way better, and you’re going to be having important conversations with your athletes, that when you start having them, if you record them and listen to them, you’re going to be like, “Wow. I’m really getting a lot out of these interviews and our weekly talks with one another.” That’s where we want to go with an athlete in our program-building.

Menachem Brodie:

When it comes to the racing, the last part of your question was do I have any recommendations as to what you should train in each phase as far as best trainings in race season in between races? The answer to that is yes, what the athlete is not getting in their racing is what you should train.

Menachem Brodie:

This is a much higher level, because you need to be able to look at the athlete’s racing as a very like, okay, what do they actually do, and then take a step back and say, “Okay, so we have all these spikes for all these sprints because they’re [inaudible 00:39:18] racing,” and then take a step back and actually look at okay, what’s their normalized power? And then you look at how many spikes above 105 or 110% did they have, and then you look at what’s the leading edge/trailing edge for each of these efforts, and see how many they did.

Menachem Brodie:

Then you start really getting into what the athlete was doing, so you can see some athletes are in [inaudible 00:39:39] races. They’re actually not doing a lot of sprints. They’re doing some small stomps, very low level, but they’re not doing a lot of big sprints. But they’re getting into trouble because they’re hanging out in that VO2 max lactate threshold, and they’re just going up and down over that line, and then they peter off after a certain point.

Menachem Brodie:

Others, you may see they’re time trialists, and you look at hey, you know what? At minutes six and nine, there’s a huge dip in their power. It’s not straight across. We see the level drops, comes back up, drops, comes back up, and then they peak at the end for the last two minutes. This is where reading the shape of the power curves is going to help be able to better coach the athlete. So the answer is not simple, because it depends. As it’s the first episode of this podcast, it depends.

Menachem Brodie:

We’ve heard that from all of our experts, by the way, is it depends. In race season, generally it’s what they’re not getting, or the little bit they need to get better. This also highly, highly depends on the athlete’s recovery and their ability to be able to travel, to be quite honest. If you’re having a Category 2, Category 1 race or are a professional racer, you need to look at the travel schedule that they have, and how beaten down and beat up they are from those travels.

Menachem Brodie:

That is probably the most underestimated part of all this, is if you have someone let’s say living in the Northeast US, like I did in Pittsburgh, where they’re driving to central Ohio, northern Kentucky, West Virginia, which isn’t that far actually, New York … And they’re driving pretty much every weekend for a race, four to eight hours, you need to take that in consideration, and your mid-week sessions need to be a little bit less, and your pre-race or arrival at race destination rides need to be really dialed in. So the in-race or in-season between race, is going to be very dependent on the athlete’s recovery, what their needs are, what you need to keep sharp. But that’s also why strength training comes in. Have them buy a eight- or 12-kilo kettlebell. They can do some kettlebell swings.

Menachem Brodie:

By the way, if they’re going to carry it in their car, in the trunk, I strongly recommend putting it into a Trader Joe’s reusable bag, tying the bag shut, kind of, and then hooking it onto the grocery bag hooks in your trunk so it doesn’t roll around. Or you can put it on the floor in the back seat in that bag, but make sure it’s tied around something so it doesn’t fly around the car.

Menachem Brodie:

But this is where, when you do kettlebell swings, you’re working on the neuromuscular and motor unit as opposed to your chain, which is getting a lot of press right now, which I understand, but we have this tendency in fitness of going one way on a pendulum, and then we go the exact opposite, and we don’t really stop in the middle, which is a problem. But this is where the in-season strength training can really help boost abilities, because strength training, we also have metabolic or energy system work, or we have neuromuscular work. So you can walk the balance and help your athlete get better by having them do something other than be on the bike.

Menachem Brodie:

But there’s also the amount of riding that they need to do. This gets much more complex. As you can hear, I don’t have a single recommendation for that, but really it should be managing the time and effort that the athlete needs to put out, and giving them what they aren’t getting in the races. So races tend to be a lot more challenging than our practices, our interval sessions, because they’re much more unpredictable, and this is where you as a coach need to be able to have that conversation with an athlete. What went right? What went wrong? Where did it go right? Where did it go wrong? And then you go back and confirm or deny that through their training file, and then envelop that and build off of that, their training program.

Menachem Brodie:

That’s another reason why I don’t like having the annual training program written out a year or six months or three months in advance. We have a rough idea of where you need be. Certain things we know, like we want to hit X, Y and Z, but maybe we don’t hit the power number for your sprint. Maybe get 1,300 watts, but your technique is way better, so your speed is better. So there’s lots of ways to break this down and look at it, but Pavel, those are the big take-homes as far as periodization.

Menachem Brodie:

I know you have a couple of other questions in here. You’re asking about the base phase and what to focus on, and we’ll get into that in our next couple of podcasts. We also have some great guests coming up as well. We’re going to learn about some non-usual, non-traditional methods for training your cyclists with strength, and learning how to move their body, as well as jumping a little bit into the women’s peloton, and hearing from a national team director for women’s road racing.

Menachem Brodie:

Those are all coming up, and we also have Sebastian Weber for a second interview, where we’re going to talk about the Leomo, which was a lot of fun for us to do. So we have some great stuff coming your way. Make sure you are liking and sharing this podcast. There are lots of YouTube videos for you over at @hvtraining, T-R-A-I-N-I-N-G, on YouTube. Please make sure you like and subscribe to that channel. Every like that you give for a video will help me bump up on YouTube, and knock out or knock down some of those other poorly-executed technique exercise videos on the interwebs, and trust me, there’s plenty.

Menachem Brodie:

The McGill crunch video, please go over and like that 50 times if you can, because I’m still seeing a lot of stuff pop up that is incorrect, and we do not want Dr. McGill to have a poor reputation because other people are not understanding how to execute things properly. All of those likes and subscribes help share this podcast with new coaches, with old coaches. If you found it interesting at all, please subscribe. It really helps me out.

Menachem Brodie:

And send me your emails. As you can hear, Pavel, I hope that this answered, and I’m very open to questions. If you think I’m wrong, write me. Tell me I’m wrong. This is a meritocracy. We get to learn and share from each other. There is no right or wrong way. There is a best practice, and then as those on my newsletter will find out later this week, can you improve pants? That’s an odd question, right? Can you improve pants? We’re going to talk about that, and how things have changed in the world of clothing, and how that needs to trickle over to what we’re doing here in training.

Menachem Brodie:

That’s it for today, and again, thank you guys for your time. Looking forward to talking to you next week, and to the release of the Strength Training for Cyclists Certification course here in January … Yeah, January 2020. We also have a podcast, which will be released later this week, I did with Mike Robertson. I was on his podcast, which is very well-respected and well-known here in the strength and conditioning world. So make sure you check that out, and if you haven’t already signed up for the HV Training newsletter, we are releasing another course.

Menachem Brodie:

Again, this is the trend. If you are on the newsletter for Human Vortex Training, you get special offers and first dibs onto our courses and a lot of things that are going on, as well as great newsletters. Some of them are kind of weird. I’ve gotten that feedback, like why are we talking about Duluth Trading’s Shirt Jac, what does that have to do with training? There’s a lot of nuggets interwoven there, but if you are interested in getting first dibs on our courses or anything that we’re doing, make sure you sign up for the Human Vortex Training newsletter on our website, and until next time, remember, train smarter, not harder, because it is all about you and your athletes and becoming a better coach. We’ll talk to you next week.

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Menachem Brodie

Menachem Brodie

Coaching since 2000, Menachem Brodie has been working with athletes in a number of settings, and a broad variety of sports.

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