By Joe Friel
Starting with a Blank Page…
I recently finished writing a “somewhat” new book—The “All New” Cyclist’s Training Bible. The original version was published more than 20 years ago. It had been edited three times over the years. Last year my publisher suggested it was time to edit it yet again. I balked at that as editing it could end up being a more daunting task than rewriting it from scratch. There had been lots of changes in training since the last edit. An edit in one chapter would require small changes in several others. And those might call for other somewhat nuanced changes downstream. It would have been like putting bandaids all over it. So I decided to throw away the old manuscript and start with a blank page.
I didn’t realize at the time what a huge task this would be.
More than a year later the all-new version is just being released and is due to be on bookshelves by the middle of April (the e-book version will take another two months). The paperback book can be ordered here.
The following is the Prologue to the book where I describe what you’ll find in it. I hope you enjoy it.
The Cyclist’s Training Bible was the first book I ever wrote. That was more than 20 years ago. My interest at the time didn’t lie in selling books. In fact, I figured it would sell only a few copies and within a handful of years would be long gone. My motivation then was to see if I could describe the training philosophy and methodology I had developed over the previous 20 years as an athlete, student, and coach. I never dreamed this book would become the best-selling book on training for cycling, or that it would play a role in changing how so many riders prepare to race.
This latest edition of the all-new Cyclist’s Training Bible is, indeed, all new. When I decided it was time to rewrite it, I threw away the old manuscript and started with a blank page. The only thing that remains similar is the table of contents.
The project took me a year. That’s partly because the content had nearly doubled in 20 years, from 70,000 to 130,000 words. Whew! But it also took me a year because before writing each chapter, I went back to the research to see exactly what had changed in the past two decades. While that certainly added to the project’s writing time, the research was crucial in helping me describe the advanced and updated training concepts you’ll find here.
I’m pleased with how it turned out. But more important, I think you’ll find it beneficial to your training. That’s been my motivation with every edition.
Writing a book for a broad spectrum of riders is a challenge. I know that some who will read this book are novices who are in their first year in the sport. Everything here will be new for them. Other readers will be intermediates in their second and third years who are still developing their basic fitness and learning about training. Then there will be the advanced riders who have been in the sport for more than three years, who read a previous edition, and who have developed a sound understanding of training and many of its nuances. At the highest level will be elite athletes who have not only been in the sport for several years but also have the ability to perform at a winning level in their race categories. They generally have a deep knowledge of training and sports science.
Regardless of the group you belong to, I’ve tried to address your needs. By following the training guidelines proposed here, you will advance to the next level of performance.
In fact, competitive performance is what this book is all about. My hope is that you will learn new ways of training to help you grow as an athlete and see better race results. Of course, I don’t suggest that reading this book will magically transform you into a professional Grand Tour rider, but it’s certainly possible to take your riding to the next level of performance and achieve goals that you previously didn’t think were attainable. I’ve seen this happen many times with the athletes I’ve coached over the years. I’m certain you can also do it by applying the principles you’ll read about in the following chapters.
The purpose of this book is to help you become fitter, ride faster, and achieve high goals. Collectively, these outcomes make up what may be called “high performance.” I’ll use that phrase a lot in the following chapters. I intend it to mean achieving those three outcomes—fitness, speed, and goals—but high performance goes well beyond your results. It’s as much an attitude as an indicator of how well you race. In fact, attitude comes before race results—way before. It is living in a way that makes the achievement of high goals possible: how consistently you train; how disciplined you are about training; what, when, and how much you eat; who you hang out with; how you think about yourself; and much more. A high-performance attitude is a life that is pointed directly at your goal, a goal you relentlessly pursue. Chapters 1 and 2 will touch on many of these matters.
Attitude and lifestyle, however, play only supporting roles in this book. There are other works by sports psychologists that can help you achieve mental high performance. Our focus is primarily on developing your physical high performance, so after introducing the mental component in Part I, we will get to work on your fitness, form, and plan for success.
In many ways, cycling is a different sport than it was 20 years ago. Perhaps the biggest change has been the acceptance of the power meter. Very few riders in the 1990s had them, even though the technology was developed in the late 1980s. Power meters were simply too expensive—about a month’s salary for the average person—and too mysterious. Back then, we gauged intensity with heart rate monitors, which had been around for 20 years and were relatively inexpensive. Before that, riders determined training intensity strictly from perceived exertion: how they felt. With power meter prices coming down dramatically in the past several years, training with power has become common and heart rate monitoring and perceived exertion appear to be fading away. But as you’ll see in the chapters that follow, while the workouts rely heavily on power metrics, heart rate continues to play an important role and perceived exertion remains critically important for high performance.
There have been many other changes unrelated to equipment since the original book was released. At the time of the first edition, training periodization was largely an unknown concept for the average rider. It was a closely guarded training secret of Eastern Bloc countries throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and remained an enigma in the West into the early 1980s. Before periodization took hold, most riders simply trained however they felt and decided what to do for a workout as they rolled out of the driveway. Saddle time was considered to be the best predictor of performance. When I introduced the annual training plan based on periodization in the first edition, in order to keep it simple I described only one seasonal planning method: classic periodization. In this edition, though, I’ve expanded considerably on the topic of seasonal planning by introducing several methods in addition to classic periodization. It’s all found in Chapters 7, 8, and 9, and created using the annual training plan template in Appendix A. I’ve also helped you decide which method is best for you. I consider this to be the hub of the book. The chapters that come before and after are intended to enhance your individual training plan.
In the previous four editions of The Cyclist’s Training Bible, I also offered only one simple way to train for all riders, regardless of their unique physical attributes. Cyclists have become much more knowledgeable about training since then. This edition allows for individualization by considering the reader’s particular cycling phenotype—his or her sport-related strength—in recommending how to train. This comes down to your personal racing characteristics as a climber, sprinter, time trialist, or all-rounder. Every rider fits into one of these categories, and so the training methodologies you’ll find here are built around this concept, as described in Chapter 2.
The science of training has also grown considerably in the last 20 years, most notably with the development of the Training Stress Score (TSS). As you’ll see, using TSS is a much more effective way to gauge training load than simply adding up hours, miles, or kilometers spent on the saddle each week. Learning to train with TSS is one of the smallest and yet most effective changes you can make to increase fitness and race faster. That may sound far fetched, but I know it works. It will focus your training on what’s important for high performance. In Chapter 4, I’ll teach you what TSS is and how you can use it effectively.
One topic that remains much the same as in the first edition is individualized training based on abilities and limiters. You’ll find this explained in Chapter 6. In many ways, this simple concept is at the core of successful training for endurance sports, and it is closely related to your goals and objectives, and even to the workouts found in Appendix B.
An area of study that has seen a lot of research since the first edition is the stress of training and how best to recover from it. It’s been well established that you must frequently flirt with overtraining in order to approach your potential as an athlete. This is a challenge for most riders, as the repeated fatigue of such training has an impact not only on subsequent workouts but also on daily life. Managing fatigue is a balancing act, and the timing of the stress-adaptation-performance loop is dependent on how effectively you recover following hard rides. The challenge is to keep the time you need to accomplish this progression as brief as possible without shortchanging adaptation. This is the dilemma of short-term recovery and is explored in Chapters 10 and 11.
Long-term recovery from cumulative fatigue also drives high performance. This is especially evident in tapering for your most important races of the season. Achieving a peak of fitness at the right time is not well understood by most riders. Tapering is a complex undertaking that removes fatigue while maintaining fitness. The result is called “form.” It’s another balancing act related to recovery. Chapter 3 introduces this three-part concept, while the full explanation is held until Chapter 13 so that you fully understand all of the training methodologies of the intermediate chapters before delving into this multifaceted topic.
The strength program you’ll find in Chapter 12 is also greatly updated to provide more options for developing the muscular force necessary to produce high power. If you are time constrained, as many riders are, you’ll learn in this chapter that not all strength training needs to be done in the gym. You can do it on your bike with no need to lift weights. Should you decide to follow a more traditional gym-based strength program, however, the weight lifting exercises have been updated to provide maximum benefits for time invested, along with additional exercise alternatives when time and energy allow for them.
There wasn’t much in the way of training analysis in the first edition. Now that we have more precise ways of measuring training and racing performance, in Chapter 14 I’ll help you effectively measure progress toward your performance goals, which were initially explored in Chapters 1 and 5. Training analysis is crucial for continued improvement. We’ll explore new ways of looking at training information, with an emphasis on examining only critical data. This will save you time while also improving your performance level.
If you read and closely studied the original book, you’ll find some contradictions in this one. What I’ve written here sometimes disagrees with what I said earlier. That brings us back to where we started: Things change. The sport has changed. Sports science has changed. And I have changed. The evolution of all of this will continue. And that’s a good thing. My hope is that you also evolve as an athlete after reading this book.
Training to become a high-performance cyclist is not easy. I suppose that’s partly the reason we do it. Growth in any challenging area of interest is rewarding in many ways. It’s not just standing on a podium that makes you successful. The huge challenge of bike racing—and racing well—produces habits and an outlook on life that are good for you in many ways, though not easily formed. You’ll become not only a better cyclist but also a better person for accepting the challenge. It’s not easy because it takes time, energy, purpose, dedication, and discipline. But that’s what makes the challenge rewarding. The benefits come later and are mostly recognizable only to the rider. It is my hope that this book will help you realize all of this.
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The Cyclist’s Training Bible is the best-selling and most comprehensive guide for aspiring and experienced cyclists. Joe Friel is the most trusted coach in the world and his proven cycling training program has helped hundreds of thousands find success in the sport.