PRINCIPLES OF TRAINING
For any training programme to be effective you need to follow some simple guidelines. Cycling Weekly’s five golden rules of cycle training can be applied to any level and if rigidly adhered to will result in you achieving your desired goal.
Your body gets stronger through a simple process of adaptation to the stresses of exercise upon it. When you exercise your muscles are damaged slightly and there is a a small loss in performance capacity– the stage when you feel tired and your legs ache.
Following recovery your body overcompensates and gets stronger. Exercise forms a continuous cycle of natural breakdown and gain in performance capacity as your body adapts to the stress of exercise on it.
This is where specificity comes in – your body will only adapt to the stress you place on it. If strength stimuli are applied then only strength is improved; if endurance stimuli are applied, then only endurance is improved. Your body will only get stronger in the area where the stress is applied.
There is no reason to expect training effects from one form of exercise to transfer to any other form of exercise. Tim Noakes, a legendry physiologist and author of “Lore of Running” was one of the first to put this message across, “Training is absolutely specific” .No matter how many miles you flog yourself over you’ll never be a sprinter unless you sprint.
For your body to get stronger the training stress or load placed on it needs to be more than it can easily cope with to provide the stimulus for adaptation to take place. In order for it to continue to get stronger the load needs to be continuly upped everytime the body has adapted. This doesn’t mean that you have to keep increasing the same activity in the same direction – eventually you will plateau which is where the other rules of variety and progression come into play – but the body needs to be continually challenged with tasks it can’t easily meet.
Recovery is the most important part of training. During recovery the over-crucial stage of getting stronger occurs – adaptation. Adaptation is the way the body 'programs' muscles to remember particular activities, movements or skills. It is how your body uses the stress of overload to produce results.
When you start a new form of exercise or start a particularly hard phase of your training you are likely to be sore but after doing the same exercise for weeks and months the athlete has little, if any, muscle soreness. Adaptation happens over varying phases if you do a bit of training but it is sporadic it will improve your fitness but it won’t have any structural or functional effect in the long term unless you continue the exercise.
As you progress and use overload techniques your body will start to look more like a cyclists. You will be able to see it in the shape of your legs but there will also be changes within your muscles and the way they function. By the time you have been cycling for many years or have reached an elite level you will have reached a phase of long-term adaptation where training has altered the body in both functional and structural ways. A final theory - not mentioned here – is reversibility, not even long-term adaptation is permanent and without regular stimulus your cyclists body will revert back to being a plain old Joe Bloggs.
Your body thrives on new challenges, if you keep giving it the same old training (even if that training follows the principles of over load and adaptation) you will get the same old results. Instead you should provide your body with different exercise stresses but not as we have seen in specificity all at the same time. Within a build up to an event you will want to work on several areas of your fitness, endurance and speed for example. Training them together is ineffectual so a block of endurance work could be followed by a block of speed. This prevents the dreaded plateau where for all the extra overload you heap on you don’t seem to see any new improvements.
Progression refers to the rate at which overload and adaptation is acquired. Too much too soon and your body will become fatigued and unable to adapt, too slow and you won’t stress your body enough to achieve the gains you want. Overload that is increased too rapidly will result in injury or muscle damage. If you are a weekend warrior who exercises vigorously only on weekends you will find it hard to make the proper progression, far better to exercise for the same number of hours but including some mid-week sessions than pack it all in at the weekend.
Progression includes the need for proper rest and recovery as continual exercise stress and constant overload will result in exhaustion and injury.