With the 2020 racing season put on hold, everyone is wondering, “What do we do now?” Bike racers around the globe are stuck as they try to figure out just that. Hurdles to overcome include remaining focused, timing training efforts around an unknown event schedule, and maintaining the connection with the sport and your friends. The following is an inside look at the ENVE partnered junior XC mountain bike team, WE Development and how they’re adapting to ensure fitness and fun remain a constant.
WE Development co-founder & coach, Cody Waite and his wife Kathy have dedicated themselves to creating a program that provides a positive foundation for junior development. Here’s what they recommend for moving forward in an uncertain season.
Once the shutdown took effect in early March the team had to pump the brakes hard in their race preparation as things went from getting race-ready to not quite being sure what the immediate future would hold. “The first step we took as this whole virus ‘shut-down’ escalated at the beginning of March was to restructure the training program for our riders,” states team co-founder and coach, Kathy Waite. With no races on the docket to flex their efforts, it was time for a schedule reset. Kathy continued, “Disappointed as we all were, we immediately dialed the training back. This allowed for a bit of recovery before restructuring the training plan.”
#STFD; Slow Down to Get Faster
With the aerobic heart rate restrictions in place for the riders, this meant slowing things down for them. In some cases way down. “Juniors are always eager to go faster and do more. We’ve had to remind them daily to Slow The F#@% Down (teens also love swear words). This is how Cody came up with #STFD,” laughs coach Kathy.
“In fact, getting these kids to slow down at first was a bit comical. We had been training consistently all winter and getting faster and faster. Now all of a sudden we were telling them to slow down. We can appreciate the confusion on their part. For the first couple weeks, we had to call individual riders right after their workouts were uploaded to TrainingPeaks and say, ‘Uhh…what happened to keeping your HR under 160 bpm? You were at 180 for over 20 minutes!’ We’d all laugh. They’d reply, ‘But I was feeling so good and I wanted to ride hard!’… and they knew they had been busted,” recalls the coaches.
By getting their riders to slow down and train aerobically, they are training them to utilize less sugars and more fat for fueling their effort. This, in turn, allows them to safely increase training load to higher and higher levels. With this strategy, the young riders are set up to super-charge their base fitness for the race season if and when it arrives.
State of Flux While Staying On Track
According to the coaches, “We’re in this state of flux right now, but rather than keep pounding away, we’re taking this opportunity to improve weaknesses and get even better. We spend time every winter building a limited base of fitness with these kids in our Wahoo KICKR studio [Sessions:6 Sport Performance Training Studio in Lakewood, Colorado] doing trainer sessions and strength training. We’re always a bit constrained working around school, lack of daylight hours, winter weather, and the like. As a first, we now have more time on our hands, and amazing weather to build a really solid base of aerobic fitness. This is an opportunity to build a base like they would have never had until they were senior racers.”
The whole team is now on track now with the aerobic plan. Training by heart rate and monitoring power output on the road and trainers is already producing gains. These gains are being seen in increased power at the same aerobic heart rates. With individual testing performed at the beginning of the block and the end of the block, they’ll get to qualify the gains in hard numbers: watts gained at aerobic threshold heart rates.
The team is now finding a solid rhythm in their coaching and training lives during the pandemic with weekly ZOOM conference calls to cover the training objectives and review of the workout files. All said and done, these strategies are making the WE Development racing program perhaps even more effective than ever and preparing the riders for a successful start to the season, whenever that might come.