2011 Beginner Training Program in Detail

Hi all.

I just organised a new bike for a friend of mine who spends way too much time driving cars, watching TV, and devouring too many late night Yiros's after a night out. Hopefully this will kick off a new life for him :

Anyway, in the hope of taking him from dsabled war veteran through to participant in a major group ride or 2, I have put together a little training program for him, in language that he can understand.

In that case - please excuse the 'adult' language, and any deliberate simplifications of metabolic processes ... I failed medical school, so please take that into account before entering into any financially disastrous bets with people at the coffee shop (or pub)

The training program, in the form of a spreadsheet, can be downloaded from here :


I am putting it up here for peer review, feedback, and comment.

Some notes:

- The subject of the program is untrained, and carrying a few extra Kgs. The base period then is very light on .. and designed only to wake up the otherwise dormant lungs and heart.

- No mention of watts, avg speeds or heart rates. I want to keep numbers out of this as much as possible for a first timer. Everything is based on perceived exertion levels + durations. In fact, I am going to avoid putting a computer or HRM on this bike for the first few months, lest he gets fixated on the numbers.

- I have simplified the Zones down to 4 zones only, based on self assessment of breathing and how the legs feel. I think the zones defined here should be easy enough for a beginner to measure ? Comments on that ?

- I want him to measure Resting Heart Rate every few mornings, which can be done with a simple watch. No special equipment needed for that.

- I have written up a description of the muscle recruitment process, using an easily comprehended analogy. The analogy is not technically correct, but I think it suits the purpose of giving the subject a clue as to what is going on inside his body during training, and why this week's intervals are the way they are. Very keen to hear any feedback on this.

- I have added in some notes on diet. As the training program progresses through different phases, the dietary needs change. If you have been riding for a while, you probably take this for granted as you know what works for you and what doesnt. There are all sorts of theories out there about diet, so Id be keen on getting any feedback on this as well.

- Added in some honest and realistic notes about smoking, drinking, and not getting enough sleep ... because all of that will happen despite the best intentions.

- Although its not directly shown in the spreadsheet, I have built in ramping and tapering into the program, specifically based around 3 Adelaide based events for the 2010-2011 season - being Amys Ride, RLC, and MCCT. If he even ends up doing 1 of these rides this season, I think the new bike idea will have been a great success.


If you like the idea of structured training, and want to get deeper into the numbers side of the business (I know its not for everyone), then I can highly highly highly recommend downloading a copy of GoldenCheetah from here :

Its open source, so there is no cost, it works on Linux, Mac and PC, and you can use it to track and plan your training very effectively. Its very usable without a powermeter, or even a HRM. Recommended.

Views: 91

Comment by GlenM on August 9, 2010 at 14:32
From my point of view (overweight/not very fit old commuter) it looks like something I could follow.
Does it matter what type of bike (MTB/Hybrid/Road) that is used?
Does it matter if I do more sessions that you have planned in a week (as long as I keep within the defined zones for that week)?
Comment by Clive Palfrey on August 9, 2010 at 15:19
If your friend wants to give up smoking he will find cycling very beneficial. He will know fairly early on that smoking is really limiting his ability to cycle. It's not practical to smoke whilst cycling and if he can be persuaded to commute on some days by bicycle this will help to reduce smoking. He will soon appreciate that smoking with other cyclists at the after ride coffee is a definate no no. The odd thing is that the craving for a cigarette immeadiately after a ride is remarkably high.
I smoked for nearly 45 years and managed to give up for 2 or 3 months several times but my struggles with improving cycling performance have increased my resolve. So if or when your friend decides to give up smoking I would suggest that he asks his doctor to prescribe Champix. Champix is a drug which reduces the nicotine cravings over time. The course lasts one month and you stop smoking half way through. Ultimately day one is not easy but I just decided, if you don't buy em, you can't smoke em. 5 days off them.
Comment by Steve OConnor on August 9, 2010 at 15:37
Thanks for the feedback GB.

Firstly - type of bike doesnt matter. Since its based on perceived extertion + time. You could for example spend half an hour on a roadie or half an hour on an MTB .. as long as the effort is the same over that half hour, you get the same effect .. regardless of speed or distance covered.

More or less sessions is fine. I have put some guidelines in about adjusting the program as you go along, based on the self assessment figures. Basic rules of thumb are :

- At the start of each block of training, your legs should feel fresh. If you are starting a block with heavy and dull legs, then you probably need longer rest breaks between blocks .. more good food and better sleep.

- Your legs should start feeling heavy towards the end of the week. If they start getting heavy mid way through the week, then back off the intensity and add some more rest days. If you get to to the end of a week and still feel fresh, then add some more time on the bike at the same intensity.

Its really important that the first 9 weeks - base period - is enjoyable as well. Do the time on the bike, but dont hurt yourself. All you need to do through that period is keep the effort down to around the 50-60% mark, and extend the duration out. Consistency is needed here more than hard effort.

The pain train doesnt start till week 11, and only goes for a short period anyway.

Are there any big event rides you would like to take part in ? Amys Ride, RLC, MCCT ?
Comment by Steve OConnor on August 9, 2010 at 16:18
Thanks for your honesty on that issue Clive. Im in the same boat too.

It is a real issue, and it is surprising how many cyclists are closet smokers. And you are right though - just after a ride, the urge to sit back, relax, and light up is pretty fierce.

I wont ever be telling my mate directly to give up - he will just have to wake up one morning and realize its the next sensible thing to do. All you can do for people sometimes is set good examples and let them work it out themselves. There are always demons to be exorsized, and smoking is a big one. One little demon at a time ...

On that subject of kicking bad habits - I find that giving up alcohol is a piece of cake, very easy to do. Giving up being financially irresponsible was also easy, as is avoiding bad relationships.

Smoking has been a pig of a habit to kick, and Im not there yet. But cutting back on salt - extremely difficult to impossible. Its highly addictive and not good for your health either !!!
Comment by GlenM on August 9, 2010 at 18:07
Thanks for the answer - maybe in 2012 I'll take part in an event or 2 as a way of celebrating reaching 60.

I gave up smoking cold turkey after 30 years. I did give it up for several periods of up to 3 months before finally quitting and I still get the odd urge to light up. Congratulations to those who are trying hard to give it up - it is not an easy task but as Steve said people have to work out for themselves when to give up.
Giving up being financially responsible was easy - I got married (37 Years now and she still puts up with me)

Congratulations Clive may you have many more smoke free days

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