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Article posted: 19/02/2014

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Nik Cook’s goal for 2014 is to convert his forty year old ultra endurance physiology to the higher end demands of Individual Pursuit on the track with an end goal of competing at the Masters World Championships in October.

You’ve got to allow some flexibility in your training plans and, where necessary, adapt them to the reality of what you achieve

With some decent strength gains made in the gym through November and December, the dual training obstacles of Christmas and man-flu overcome, I was looking forward to getting out on the road and putting in some really solid work through January. My first competitive individual pursuit outing won’t be until the Masters Nationals at the end of June so my focus until then will be time trials in the spring and early summer. With that in mind, I’ll be following the Advanced British Cycling Training Plan for the next 12-weeks. Designed to directly follow on from the Foundation Plan it is ideal for any experienced riders who are targeting faster sportives or racing in the spring. It provides the transition from winter base work to the higher intensity efforts required as the season draws near. The plan was available to members on the 29th January but, in my role as British Cycling’s guinea pig, I’ve had a sneak peek and am already five weeks down the line.

Week 1: January 6th - January 12th

It feels really good to be following a structured training plan again. I love not having to think about constructing my own sessions and knowing that, as long as I stick to the prescribed reps, durations and intensities, I’ll be making progress towards my goals. That’s the theory anyway but, as I tackled the high gear/low cadence hill reps for the first time, I was cursing the coaches who had constructed the plan. With legs that are far happier spinning at high cadences, grinding uphill at 60 RPM was absolute purgatory. It felt more like a gym workout than a ride and, by the end of it, my legs were trashed. My 80.8 km endurance ride was far more enjoyable and I felt strong during the extended tempo efforts on the flat. I’ve definitely gained some leg muscle bulk from my gym work and, although my hill climbing has regressed, it bodes well for the track and TT’s.

Distance for week: 275.6 km

Week 2: January 13th - January 19th

Good SQT (Structured Quality Training) session on Tuesday and it felt good to be back on the track following the Christmas break. I’m slotting my SQT session into the plan either as one of the bonus workouts or instead of the technical cadence interval session. The fast leg speed work of the track did make the high gear/low cadence hill reps session feel even more painful but something so unpleasant has to be doing me good, doesn’t it? A really good tempo workout and a 90.5 km endurance ride at the weekend topped off a decent week.

Distance for week: 255.6 km

Week 3: January 20th - January 26th

The week started off really well with some 8-minute high cadence hill reps. I was really pleased to average over 400W for each of the four efforts and fired up for a big week. During Tuesday night’s SQT though my throat felt a bit scratchy and, although I backed right off for the second half of the session, I woke up feeling pretty ropey on Wednesday morning. Having learned the lesson from my extended lurgy pre-Christmas, I listened to my body and took three days off. I felt okay after two and was very tempted to ride on Friday but I followed the maxim of giving it one day extra and not risking prolonging the illness. I re-arranged the week and tackled my nemesis high gear/low cadence hill reps on the Saturday. It felt predictably horrible but, having fully recovered, I was able to give it my all. Sunday’s club-run was supposed to be a 3-4 hour social but in horrendous conditions only three of us, out of twelve who had said they would be out, braved the gales and freezing rain. We managed a miserable 90 minutes but at least we’d tried. Despite having done the three key workouts of the week, it’d definitely been compromised. I hadn’t done a decent endurance ride and I didn’t feel as though I could justify the scheduled recovery week. You’ve got to allow some flexibility in your training plans and, where necessary, adapt them to the reality of what you achieve. I therefore made the decision to repeat this week and to really earn my recovery.

Distance for week: 171.6 km

Week 4: January 27th - February 2nd

I managed to totally justify my decision to repeat the last week with my best week of training so far this year. Despite some atrocious weather conditions, I didn’t have to resort to the turbo and even “enjoyed” the extra minute added to each of the high gear/low cadence hill reps. My 98.6 km endurance ride included some Sweet-Spot climbing efforts and we logged 101.8 km on our Sunday Club Run. My legs definitely felt tired on Sunday but, with a recovery week to come, I could put my feet up and be confident that, as I rested-up, I’d be reaping the rewards of the work I had done and be gaining fitness.

Distance for week: 396.1 km

Week 5: February 3rd - February 9th

I do always struggle a bit with recovery weeks. I tend to feel a bit low, sluggish and often ravenously hungry. I have to remind myself how important they are and that this is when when my body repairs, grows and gets stronger. My only quality session of the week was my SQT on Tuesday where my legs definitely felt a bit on the heavy side. I took advantage of the downtime to fit a new bottom bracket on my road bike and to do some relaxed morning mountain bike rides with my dog. A short easy paced 67.9 km spin-out on the Friday finished my cycling week before a relaxed weekend away to celebrate my looming 40th birthday.

Distance for week: 147.7 km

It’s been a really good five week block and I feel as though I managed the slight illness blip well. It showed the importance of being flexible, making sensible decisions, listening to your body and knowing when to back-off and when to go hard. I’m fortunate to have top class coaches just across the office to speak to if I want a second opinion but so do you. As a British Cycling Member, as well as having access to all of the training plans and supporting documents, you can e-mail us at insightzone@britishcycling.org.uk  with any of your training questions.

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