Erinne Willock with Houshang Amiri at Bear Mountain in 2010

An athlete and coach should work as a team. Two-way communication and trust are key to any successful team and this is no exception.

Most people will start to seek out a coach once they start setting some specific goals in the sport and realizing they need help to achieve those goals. Even the best athletes in the world still have a coach who they communicate with.

However, when a rider is first starting out and learning about this crazy sport you must have complete trust in your coach and try to listen and learn from their expertise. The coach must also be able to have trust in you as the athlete to follow their program 100%.

The first thing to do with a coach after every season and intermittently throughout is to sit down and talk about your short term and long-term goals. Talk about your strengths and weaknesses. Is your primary goal to maintain or improve your strengths or is it to improve your weaknesses? What worked well for you in the past?

It is your responsibility as an athlete to communicate your lifestyle, sicknesses, injuries, stress, vacations and any event, which will make you tired or alter your training. You cannot expect your coach to be a mind reader. For example, stress somehow seems to be what most people forget to mention, even though we all know it can have huge impact on us. On the other hand your coach needs to be mindful of your schedule and a big week of training should not be scheduled during a busy time for you such as final exams.

You must understand the basic point of your training in order to follow through with it. It is the athletes’ responsibility to be involved with their training because this helps you trust the program, and understand the effects of the training so that frustration doesn’t occur. The early years of working with a new coach will also require more time and patience to grow. Learn how your coach works and ask as many questions needed so that you understand what your training will entail. You must understand that if you’ve agreed to work on something specific that it will take time to see improvement. I’ve seen too many athletes give up after only a few short weeks of trying something new to conclude it didn’t work.  As much as we would all like our coaches to be magicians, they aren’t, and improvement requires dedication to the training and hard work.

By Erinne Willock

(Erinne was one of Canada’s top road cyclists, joining the National Team in 1999. She podiumed at many national and international races and cycled for Canada in the 2008 Beijing Olympics)

Pacific Cycling Centre is adapting to the current situation by offering indoor training alternatives. While we have coached the traditional way over the last 40 years – one-on-one and through camps – over the last decade we have been coaching athletes online all over the world. So offering virtual training is not new to us. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing training advice to make your indoor riding a meaningful experience for you.

Setting up

Set up your trainer in an area with good airflow. The room temperature should be on the cooler side. Have a mat or towel under your trainer and bike to absorb some of the noises and vibrations during your workout. Have a small table beside you with all the things you may need during your ride including hydration, nutrition and a towel.

Hydration is crucial as you will sweat more indoors compared to riding outside. You become dehydrated faster and lose more minerals through increased perspiration, included but not limited to chloride, potassium and sodium. To offset this you should be consuming 500ml of your favourite electrolyte mix for every 30-45 minutes of riding time.

During the trainer ride there is no need to be energy deficient. Nutrition for the workout should not differ much from your regular road ride (have your main meal three hours before the workout). You may think your ride is short, and that you don’t need any fuel. Though you may feel and think this way, going into a calorie deficit during the workout will harm you in the long-term.

Warm-up

Breathing Exercises: Before you get on the bike for your ride, start with 5-10 minutes of breathing exercises (if you have respiratory muscle training devices, such as a power lung, use it). Breathing exercises helps to warm up your lungs, and increases working capacity while also strengthening your diaphragm.

Dynamic warm up: Dynamic Leg Swings (see below for exercises)

On the bike

  • 15-30 min below 2w/kg -use a light gear and increase the cadence as you are warming up. This allows your core and muscle temperatures to increase to ideal working conditions.
  • 1-2 min x CP (Cadence Pyramid) a good on bike activation and leg speed maintenance (example below)
  • 5-10 min easy at (~1.5-2.5w/kg) before the start of the main workout

Main workout

Based on individual needs, and training program.

Example: Training target –  mid aerobic endurance; duration:  60-75 minutes  including 3-4×15 min at tempo pace; rest 5 min

Cooldown

  • 1-2x 5 min PT (Pedaling Technique) Single leg pedaling, focusing on pedaling techniques
  • 10-15 min cooldown below <1.5w/kg using light gears and low resistance – lower the cadence as you are getting closer to the end of the ride. This begins the process of returning body temperatures back to normal.
  • 15-20 min static flexibility exercises (this is an important part of your training routine, this brings your body and core temperature to normal conditions)

 

Dynamic warm up: Dynamic Leg Swings

1×10 each Front Leg Swing

1×10 each Rear Leg swings

1×10 each Side swings

1×10 each Side rotational swings

1×10 each Side rotational swings reverse direction

Cadence Pyramidgeneral prescription and guidelines must be adapted to your needs and abilities

Choose the peak cadence for the top of the pyramid, this is what you will hold for 2 minutes. e.g. 125rpm

Start at 95rpm in one-minute segments and increase the cadence 10rpm until your reach 125rpm, hold this for 2 minutes. Reduce the cadence 10rpm for every minute until you are back at 95rpm. For repeat sets take 5min of rest under 95rpm.


By Houshang and Alex Amiri

 

The main idea behind developing a Yearly Training Plan (YTP) is to create a systematic approach to training, competition, and rest/recovery. Crafting a YTP is a highly developed coaching art form drawing on coaching experience, athlete history, and the most current research and science. The “art” of a YTP comes from the fact that it needs to be as simple as possible while still addressing all of the complexities of training. A YTP is a living document that needs to be monitored/maintained and modified. A “complete” plan gives the coach and athlete the ability to plan better for the future, and manage, record and measure all of the various aspects of their training.

A YTP divides the athlete’s season into periods with “peaks” at certain key points in the year. Periodization of YTP can be divided into single, double, triple or multiple periods depending on athlete/team needs, their competition schedule, and level of experience.

Aim of Yearly Training Plan YTP

  • Development
  • Performance

A YTP should have the following component and elements:

Periods:

  • Preparation; covers all component of Training
  • Competition; covers all aspects of Competition
  • Transition; Covers all element of rest

Phases:

  • General Preparatory Phase (GPP)
  • Specific Preparatory Phase (SPP)
  • Pre-competitive Phase (PCP)
  • Competitive Phase (CP)
  • Transition Phase (TP)

Mesocycles:

  • Developmental
  • Stabilising
  • Pre-Competition
  • Competition
  • Restorative (adaptation / regeneration)

Microcycles:

  • Introductory
  • Developmental
  • Shock / load
  • Stabilising
  • Competitive
  • Taper
  • Peak
  • Modelling
  • Restorative (adaptation / regeneration)
  • Transitional or active rest

Here is how it works:

  • A YTP cycle is one part of a quadrennial plan
  • A YTP is made up of periods and phases
  • Periods are made up of mesocycles
  • Mesocycles are made up of microcycles
  • And microcycles are made up of Units

Each period or phase will have a different goal or function. Fundamentally, they are dependent on how far or how close the cycle is from competition. Periods farther away from competition focus on higher volume and lower intensity. The closer the period is to competition the lower the volume and higher the intensity,

For the Units of a Microcycle, I usually use durations of seven days. The length and type of microcycles depend on an athlete/team needs. The cycle is personalized differently for neural or metabolic adaptations. Before I start to develop a YTP for a athlete I need to know basic and very important information about the athletes such as: his/her chronological vs. biological age, training age (general-specific, how many years) and utilize those figures to identify an athlete’s stage in Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model.

Stages of LTAD

  • Fundamentals
  • Learning to Train (L2T)
  • Training to Train (T2T)
  • Training to Compete (T2C)
  • Training to Win (T2W)

Once the stage of LTAD has been identified  and I know what stage the athlete is in, I collect the information I need to develop the YTP. The most important element is balancing competition with school/work schedules. It is essential to know the dates of all races on the athlete’s calendar and to categorize them in terms of importance. I start with the most important race of the year and develop the plan backwards. This includes determining the total volume for the YTP and maximum volume per microcycle, (volume for cycling is measured by time and distances.) The second element is to determine how the YTP will be maintained, modified, and evaluated. Deciding how the athlete will report back to me and what sort of data they will provide is fundamental to this process

Based on those findings, I then choose the aim of YTP (development or performance,) fit the periodization element (single, double, triple or multiple,) build the duration of each period (Preparation, Competition, and Transition,) establish and fit the duration of each phases (GPP-SPP-PCP-CP-TP,) figure the duration and type of mesocycles (Developmental, Stabilising, Pre-Competition, Competition, Restorative – adaptation / regeneration) and finally structure the microcycles, and the units within each microcycle. It is an intricate process with a lot of puzzle pieces to fit together.

The length of each YTP is usually about 52 weeks depending on the year with each month and week organized and built around the athlete’s race program.

Included in the program is a constant monitoring system for medical, physiological, psychological, nutritional and recovery/regeneration needs. The monitoring system is based on the particular athlete’s needs and can include monitoring, testing and programs for the following elements:

Physiological Elements and Factors:

Aerobic

  • Low End Aerobic
  • Endurance Aerobic
  • Maximal Aerobic Power

Anaerobic

  • Anaerobic Alactic Capacity
  • Anaerobic Lactic Power
  • Anaerobic Lactic Capacity

Flexibility

  • Dynamic
  • Static
  • PNF

Speed

  • Acceleration Speed (Speed Strength)
  • Speed Endurance
  • Maximum Speed

Strength

  • Respiratory System
  • Core Strength / Endurance
  • Relative Strength
  • Strength Endurance
  • Maximum Strength
  • Elastic Strength (Power)

Nutrition

  • Plans
  • Management

Psychology

  • Goal Setting
  • Information Processing
  • Decision Making
  • Visualization
  • Distraction Control
  • Emotional Control
  • Relaxation
  • Activation
  • Team Player

Recovery/ Regeneration

  • Sleep management
  • Recovery monitoring
  • Recovery Management
  • Weight Management
  • Travel Management

Volume / Intensity

  • Unite percentage

 

Reference, Istvan Balyi, NCI

All of the training plans in the world can never prepare us for what we are going through right now. With races cancelled and group gatherings banned coaches all over the world are having to adapt training programs for their athletes. Is this the ‘New Normal’ we ask ourselves?

Given the current Coronavirus situation there is a need to adapt and change the way we train. Many countries hit hard by the virus and the restrictions forced upon the population have to think change and this means training indoors.

Training indoors is no longer the boring, slog it used to be. You can set up your trainer and ride online with others while challenging yourself. If this is the New Normal, we need to embrace it and take advantage of the technology that is out there – enjoy it and have fun.

Switching training to indoors means setting new parameters and standards which includes new indoor target zones and levels, duration of workouts, nutrition requirements and room temperature. Doing this will ensure you adapt physiologically and maximize your fitness gain.

With no races in the immediate future, taking advantage of online training, including group training and racing, will be an important part of your program for next few weeks.

Pacific Cycling Centre will be embracing the New Normal by planning and organizing online group rides with specific goals in mind, as well as integrating online races into training programs.

By Houshang Amiri / Louise Hodgson-Jones

Every athlete responds differently to training and will progress at a different rate from one another. Consequently a rider needs to have an individual training plan so he/she can optimize their training outcome.

Working with an experienced coach will save you time and money in the long run. Your training plan is just the starting point and you must consider every aspect of your preparation – from nutrition, to recovery, to fitting training in with your daily life (school or work) and with regular evaluation and assessment.

At Pacific Cycling Centre, through our experience of coaching at a variety of levels from youth development to Olympic and World champions, we have learned that there is no “one-size-fits-all” program, and customized training means more than just changing the hours on a training program template.

Some coaches and training plans follow a set template or push their athletes to train exactly like they did when they raced. If the athlete happens to have the exact same make-up, the plan works, but for most it’s a recipe for burnout and may result in falling short of their potential.

We believe that peak performance, personal bests and good results are the outcome of trust, risk, and commitment between a rider and coach. This means trust in both yourself and your coach and the ability to take a risk and to calculate risk. And most importantly, commitment, not just to working hard, but to open, honest communication, giving and receiving feedback, and learning to fully commit yourself to whatever you choose to do.

Through our experience of working for many years with elite athletes at the highest levels of competition, and observing the highs and lows, head coach Houshang Amiri has developed a philosophy to training based on six fundamental principles. These are the guiding principles for all coaches at PCC:

  • Individualized Approach: Elite coaches must develop an acute awareness of how each individual athlete’s body and mind work, and how they react to training and competitive situations. There is a tendency, especially in today’s Internet world, to employ a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to training. This does not work for an athlete looking to achieve their top performance level.
  • Flexible Training Programs: We believe there is a real danger in mapping out every day of your training for the next six weeks. How can we know how you’ll feel on Wednesday five weeks from now? Perhaps you’ll have a particularly stressful day and the planned workout will just dig you deeper into a hole. Our training plans centre on periodized and weekly goals. We give you the tools and knowledge to map out your own week and adjust as “life” inevitably crops up.
  • Meticulous Preparation: Meticulous planning, preparation and delivery that addresses all sides of the athlete are the keys to success in any sport. They separate the leaders from the rest. We create “living plans” that grow with the athlete.
  • Monitoring and Recovery: Houshang emphasizes active monitoring and careful attention to recovery as critical building blocks in a training plan, to minimize injuries and over-training issues.
  • Feedback: Training plans must be refined on a continuous basis, with the proper, analytical use of heart rate and power meter data. Monitoring devices are nothing more than gadgets if the information they provide is not used appropriately to adjust training.
  • Winning Character: The best physical conditioning alone will not put an athlete on the podium consistently. To compete successfully you must have the character of a champion on and off the bike. One of our most enjoyable tasks as coaches at PCC is to help you further develop and express this character. It is something that will benefit you (both on and off the bike) more than any interval session ever could.

By Houshang Amiri

If your goal is to achieve excellence and to be the best you could be, it is important to identify the gaps in your training, i.e. there is always a GAP between your potential and performance, and between an okay performance and excellence.

In order to identify the gaps you need a systematic approach which should include recording all of your training details. You should start with your goals (short term and long term) and review last year’s season results and rate each area: what you achieved, underachieved or overachieved.  To do this you need tools, and one of the tools is your YTP (Yearly Training Plan).

Review your YTP compounds to include training, camps and a race calendar plan for each of the phases: macrocycles and microcycles, volume and intensity. Then check what was the target for the Key Performance Factors (KPF) and rate them to pinpoint where the shortcomings were.

Some of the cycling KPF’s;

Aerobic Capacity
Endurance Capability
Aerobic Power
Maximal Aerobic Power
Anaerobic Capacity / Power
Speed
Muscular Endurance
Core Strength / Endurance
Pedalling Efficiency, Aerodynamic
Body Composition
Recovery Regeneration, Nutrition
Flexibility
Physiological Skill

Of course you can analyze those KPF’s if your plan is measurable and based on your goals. Finding and analyzing the gaps is an important part of each new plan. When you are building your new plan, don’t forget to include your strategies for all KPF’s, and make sure your plan is achievable.

Whatever you race at a club or international level, you and your coach must have a clear idea about the details. The next step is teamwork: a partnership between you and your coach with effective communication between the two. Trust between an athlete and coach is an important element for success.

By Houshang Amiri
Photo: Louise Hodgson-Jones

There are times of the year that you may feel more fatigued than other times.  This may be the result of the accumulating stress of the number of races you did, travel and time changes, poor nutrition (during training or races) and other factors.  Whatever it may be it is critical to find the source.

There are three main areas I look for when this happens: 1- muscular fatigue, 2-central nervous system (CNS) fatigue, and 3- fatigue due to poor nutrition, or combination of some or all of the above, which makes the recovery process complicated.

Recovery from muscular fatigue is not too difficult with – this can happen from 2- 5 days, but recovery from CNS can be difficult and could take a longer time to overcome. Poor nutrition can throw the blood values off and can also prolong the recovery time.

Prevention and having a recovery plan along with the training plan within the yearly training plan becomes critical to control those values.

By Houshang Amiri

 

Many athletes make the mistake of not hiring a coach early in their athletic career. A life of an athlete can be a short one, so it is important to develop an athlete’s ability early, or the risk is they will never achieve their full potential. Results can’t be achieved if you are stuck in a rut, such as finishing in the middle of the pack year after year. You may be training hard, but are you training smart?

You can train smart and more efficiently with a coach. Coaching is an art and a practice for excellence and on many levels is supported by many years of research and science. A successful coach is always learning. Whereas it may take 10 years and 1,000 hours for a cyclist to win a big race and achieve his/her goal, the coach’s job is never done. Whether it is continuing to work for higher goals, or coaching another potential athlete, the coach is always striving to bring out the best in his/her athletes.

What are the qualities of a good Coach?

It takes time to develop the necessary skills to be a good coach. Understanding athletes needs and goals require knowledge, expertise and confidence. An important criteria for any coach is to have an athletic background in the sport he/she is coaching. That person doesn’t necessarily have to be an ex-World or Olympic champion, but he or she must have experience competing at an elite athlete level. That way they know the expectations of competing at a high level.

A passion for coaching is important and to be able to deal with failure as well as success. The interest in wanting to learn and develop as a coach is also important. Learn the basic coaching skills first and then advance over the years with the goals of being an elite coach.

Choosing a Coach

Before choosing a coach you need to know what your dreams and goals are. Believing in your dream is also an important part of your ultimate success. If you want only technical advice then you may be able to get away with advice from fellow, experienced athletes. They may be able to tell you the best line to ride or what equipment you need, and it may be useful advice and work for them, but it may not work for you.

A competent and experienced coach can also offer technical advice but is more aware of the athlete needs and so can personalize any advice. But coaching is more than just giving technical advice or running a training camp.

One of the biggest reasons an athlete fails is not understanding how to get to the next level. There is a large gap between an athlete’s potential and his actual performance, and a coach needs a systematic approach and long term plan to overcome this gap, and work through it, to keep the athlete on the path to success.

An experienced coach can be the best resource when an athlete is not sure what step to take next or starts experimenting with their training sessions. Changes won’t come overnight as the coach must take the time to understand the athlete’s physiological, physiological, social, and work ethic. A trust has to be developed to build a healthy relationship – the relationship that is also based on respect. Ultimately, the coach and athlete develop a partnership towards the common goal of achieving excellence.

Over the years I have seen many athletes who have great potential but have never taken the time to learn the basics, like decision making, risk management, or effective planning. If they can’t learn these basics they will never be able to dream and achieve their goals.

By Houshang Amiri

Benchmarking your performance and target performance is a very important element of your training and build up. It give a direction and focus to your training and creates objectives and goals.

Performance benchmarks describe or define the level of performance you wish to achieve and it has a direct relationship to race demands (see the earlier tip on race demands).

For example in track endurance, a National level male can complete a 4 km pursuit in 3:40. Researching all of the elements of the performance and benchmarking will establish the method how a rider will have to perform to succeed at the identified target or level.

A good performance benchmark should be measurable, specific, relevant, reliable, and valid, and cover a wide range of factors e.g. technical, tactical, physiological, and psychological.

An experienced coach will use many different techniques to identify and research performance benchmarks that are appropriate and relevant for the rider; for example testing will highlight the rider’s level of performance and his/her strengths and weaknesses.  Once these have been compared to the performance benchmarks that have been established, they will be able to identify goals for the rider and prescribe training for the rider, with the aim to progress the rider from the current level of performance to reach the desired level of performance.

Once the performance benchmarking activity is complete, we then formulate two short, medium, and long-term goals and a time line for the rider.

The next important step is using a relevant process and tools to monitor the performance and make necessary adjustments.

By Houshang Amiri
Photo by Louise Hodgson-Jones

An analysis and understanding of race demands along with suitable preparation and training, will improve your performance and bring positive changes to the outcome of your race. Consider your next important race, think of any specific demands of the race and create a list of factors that could impact your performance.

Many races and competitions require different components and levels of performance, and so training needs to reflect what these components would be. Consequently, identifying and understanding the demands of a race can help the coach and rider to specify goals in response to race demands and then prescribe appropriate training.

Identifying as many different types of demands, including all of the factors, are important and can maximize your performance.

Factors can be listed under these categories:

  • Technical
  • Tactical
  • Physiological
  • Psychological
  • Nutritional
  • Biomechanical
  • Mechanical/equipment
  • Environmental
  • Logistical
  • Recovery

Race demands can be measured or observed, and they can be categorized for a particular type of race. For example, if the above list relates to track sprint we may add the sub categories as follow:

  • Technical: start gate, timing and balance
  • Tactical: choosing the line, considering the wind direction, indoor vs outdoor track
  • Physiological: muscular power and agility
  • Psychological: activation, focus
  • Nutritional: strategy for refuelling between the heats
  • Biomechanical: double disc wheel vs rear disc or no disc wheel – indoor vs outdoor track
  • Mechanical/equipment: gear selection
  • Environmental: hot, cold, altitude, wind
  • Logistical: travel, transportation
  • Recovery: jet leg, recovery from each day

By Houshang Amiri