21 Days to Glory VYNL's quick-and-dirty three-week training plan

photo: Dave McLaughlin

There are no shortcuts. If you want to be fit and fast, get yourself a coach and do the work. That is the only way.

However, not everyone gets to live and train like a pro and we’ve all found ourselves staring down the barrel of a big event or race with not enough fitness in the bank. Here’s what we do when it’s down to the wire and we need some quick watts.

Week one: The Build

Get out and ride, every day---especially if you haven’t been riding much. Pick routes that are rolling or include a few short, 10 minute climbs. Keep your cadence high and effort low. If you don't have a heart rate monitor or power meter, ride at Level 3 or 4 on a 1-10 scale - you can easily talk to your ride buddy. The goal this week is to get time in the saddle and either reacquaint your body with regular training, or possibly rest and ‘reset’ if your riding volume and intensity has been hit or miss.

Goal: Get 10-12 easy hours in the saddle. Longer 2.5-3 hour rides on the weekends.

GO slow to go fast.

week two: the suffering

You’re not going to like this part, but this is where the speed comes from. Most riders fail at training by going too hard on easy days, and not hard enough on hard days. But you’re not going to do that, are you?

Monday: Easy hour spin. Seriously. No steep climbs, no big ring. Old ladies on cruisers should be passing you.

Tuesday: You’ll need a computer or stopwatch for this. Go find a hill that takes you at least 2 minutes to climb at a normal pace. Warm up for 15 minutes at Level 3 or 4, and then approach that hill at a normal pace. Once the climb starts, pin it all-out for 30 seconds. On that 1-10 scale this should be a 10+. By about 12 seconds you should be out of juice---and that’s the fun part because you’re going to keep digging as hard as you can all the way to the 30-second mark. These suck. Do two sets of three with a 10 minute break in between. Limp home. If you puked a few times, you did it right.

Go Forth and Thou Shalt Climb Until Thy Upchucks

Wednesday: Easy 1.5 hour spin. You’re recovering from yesterday.

Thursday: Go back to that moderately long hill, or find a long flat road with minimal traffic and stop signs. After a warm-up, make two 12-minute efforts at ‘threshold’ effort. If you don’t know what that is in terms of wattage or heart rate, think of it as one notch below what you can consistently sustain for the whole effort - probably a Level 7. Keep your cadence high and your effort steady. Done right, these will feel fairly easy for the first half and have you checking the clock to say uncle by the end.

Friday: Easy 1.5 hour spin. More recovery.

Saturday/Sunday: Get out and ride as you feel, 2-3 hours each day. Climb some things. Have fun. Don’t push it.

Recovery is important. Do it with style.

week three: the finishing touches

Much like week one, get out and ride every day to get your volume. The goal here is to recover from last week while also keeping the engine hot for your target event. Aim for 10 hours of rides at a moderate to easy pace. Add these two workouts: Wednesday, get out there and do three 5-minute efforts at Level 7. Friday, do four solid 20-second efforts at Level 8.

Go Time. You’re not going to come out of our little cram-session with ProTour form, but you’ll be in a better spot than you would've been just playing around.

VYNL rider Andy Jobin getting the job D-O-N-E. Photo by Mike Hopkins

get more seriouser

We are not licensed coaches, but the above program comes from some basics we’ve learned over years of training with some folks who professionally know what they're doing. If you really want to take your race game to the next level, there is no better investment you can make than starting up a relationship with a rad, qualified cycling coach. You down? Here are few places to start:

Sportvelo Coaching

Cycleution Coaching

Hibbard Coaching

CatUp Coaching

Want more options? USA Cycling has a place where you can search for a certified coach.

Remember: Ride it like you stole it.

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