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The Basics of Specialty Training

 

To refine our cycling abilities and achieve peak fitness, making both highly specific to our cycling discipline and racing demands, we will progress through the third (and potentially final) training phase: the Specialty Phase.

Specialty Phase training plans integrate the principle of specificity into training. Each training plan in this training phase strives to be as specific to your target events or riding discipline as possible. So the workouts you’ll find in this training phase focus on the specific cycling goals/efforts that you’ll be faced with on the road, mud, gravel, or whatever tickles your fancy.

What You’ll Gain from Optimal Specialty Training

During the Specialty Phase, we will increase our focus on the intensity levels that you will see in competition.  In other words, we are increasing the specificity of your training to closely resemble the demands that you will see on race day.  With this increase in specificity also comes a slight decrease in volume.  By keeping the intensity high, and the volume levels moderate, your conditioning is maintained and a layer of “freshness” is revealed.  This freshness is what we are looking for come race day, because if you've ever raced with overly fatigued legs, you know that that fatigue does not enhance your performance.

While the Specialty Training Plans are primarily focused on increasing your fitness, the Specialty Phase is the perfect time to seek psychological, technical, and tactical adaptations as well.  It is a good idea to get outdoors and train on the bike you will be racing to gain specific skills and comfort with the demands you will see on race day.  This is important for all types of racers because, as we know, there is more to racing than your FTP. 

  • Time trialists and triathletes will want to gain familiarity with their bikes, and possibly make tweaks for comfort out on the road. 
  • Road racers will want to develop pack riding skills, tactical knowledge, and team dynamics. 
  • Mountain bikers will want to practice riding technical sections and may want to tweak equipment like tires to further dial in their bike.
  • Gravel riders will want to get time out on the bike to make sure their bikes and fit will comfortable over rough and uneven surfaces.

With the Calendar feature, replacing a planned indoor workout with an outdoor one is super simple.  You can learn how to associate outdoor rides here.

Picking a Specialty Plan

If you're looking for guidance on which Specialty Phase to pick, we recommend checking out the discipline-specific articles for an in-depth recommendation that related to your goals and aspirations for the season.  You can view these articles from the "Training Questions" section of our Help Center.

 

Racing During the Specialty Phase

Throughout the Specialty Phase, many athletes will be weaving lower-priority events into their training. This is assuming you’ll be racing a high-priority event at the end of the training phase. While this is the assumption, you don’t have to be racing to achieve a fitness peak.

If you do have a race on the weekend but also have a workout scheduled that same day, consider this a “training race”. Forget about the scheduled workout for that day as you’ll be getting plenty of training stimulus from your race. In these cases, you may also need to adjust your scheduled workout that follows with a lower-intensity ride to maintain a good progression in your training plan. Sometimes a heap of stress from a race can necessitate these kinds of small adjustments.

Tapering for Your Event

I manufacture a tapering strategy into each Specialty Phase training plan I design. The goal of a taper is to minimize the negative physiological and psychological stresses of daily training to optimize sports performance. Instead of trying to eke out further positive physiological responses from increased training, our aim is to enhance performance by reducing training stimulus in a way that reveals a layer of “freshness” in the athlete.

To properly taper for an event, I recommend 1-2 weeks of a progressive, nonlinear reduction in training volume while still maintaining a large portion of training intensity. Since many races will land on a Sunday, I design the taper week to leave out the Sunday workout in anticipation for the event. Should your event land on a Saturday, feel free to leave out Saturday’s scheduled workout in lieu of your event.

Skipping Specialty Phase training amounts to missing out on the opportunity to capitalize on your season of hard work. Specialization is meant to sharpen your skills like a fine blade — should you establish your fundamental skills, build upon them in a slightly more specific manner, then why stop there? If the confines of timing ‘til your event are what you face, reducing the amount of time spent in Specialty training is an option.

Summary of Specialty Phase Training

Establishing base fitness paves the way for workloads that are heaped higher & higher during build training. With both forms of conditioning buttoned up, the intent is now to top off your fitness, uncover a high level of freshness and lock down your confidence over these final 8 weeks of training.

What's Next?

Now that you know the ins and outs of the three training phases, check out the "Adjusting Your Training Plan" section of the Help Center to learn how to make modifications to fit your schedule.

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