Forum home Road cycling forum Training, fitness and health

Realistic fitness expectations.

ben@31[email protected] Posts: 2,324
With a good training program, dedicated to going to the gym 5 times a week and eating healthy, how far can we push our cardio / VO2 max fitness?

I look at the pro cyclists on the grand tours and would love to be that fit (without EPO). However is it possible for us to get to that level of fitness? When I was looking into improving VO2 max, I read that our VO2 max level can only be increased by 20%. Do pro cyclists have a higher VO2 max level to start with thanks to genetics?
"The Prince of Wales is now the King of France" - Calton Kirby

Posts

  • dw300dw300 Posts: 1,642
    There are 7 days in a week.
    All the above is just advice .. you can do whatever the f*ck you wana do!
    Bike Radar Strava Club
    The Northern Ireland Thread
  • amaferangaamaferanga Posts: 6,789
    Gym?
    More problems but still living....
  • dw300 wrote:
    There are 7 days in a week.

    I think I know what you are getting at.... But won't we make more fitness gains with periodic rest days, rather than over training? I'm lead to believe if you worked the whole body 7 days a week, your muscular system would never get chance to recover and repair the fibres stronger than what they were. And surely you can push yourself a bit harder if your not tired from the previous few days.
    "The Prince of Wales is now the King of France" - Calton Kirby
  • amaferanga wrote:
    Gym?

    I'd rather go to the gym and do some good cardio. Than sit out the winter doing nothing. Yes I maybe a fair weather rider, this may suck but I know I struggle to get out cycling as much now compared to a few months ago. Even Pro teams go elsewhere to train over winter.
    "The Prince of Wales is now the King of France" - Calton Kirby
  • amaferangaamaferanga Posts: 6,789
    amaferanga wrote:
    Gym?

    I'd rather go to the gym and do some good cardio. Than sit out the winter doing nothing. Yes I maybe a fair weather rider, this may suck but I know I struggle to get out cycling as much now compared to a few months ago. Even Pro teams go elsewhere to train over winter.

    Since my goal is to improve my abilities as a cyclist I ride my bike year round. That means training on the turbo sometimes through the winter, but it's way more beneficial (and cheaper) than p!ssing about doing 'cardio' in a gym. If you live in the UK then there's absolutely no excuse for not riding through the winter even if there is the odd day when training outdoors just isn't possible and/or sensible.
    More problems but still living....
  • twotyredtwotyred Posts: 822
    However is it possible for us to get to that level of fitness?

    VO2 max is essentially genetically hard wired so bottom line is pro riders are born not made. You may have the genetic raw material if so you then you need to train like a pro and also have the necessary mental fortitude to push yourself into some dark places
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    What are you doing in the gym ?
    I see plenty of people in there just wasting their time.
    Pros usually have more guidance from their coaches and teams and they have a different mindset to the rest of us.

    You can get really good but if you're not 100% dedicated and smart then you won't get to pro levels.

    A guy I know who is a pro now was dedicated back as a teen. He'd be making sure he was in bed by 10pm in order to get his rest of a week night. There's not many teens that dedicated.

    I'm not sure I buy the genetics theory. Read Bounce by Matthew Sayed. It's a good book.
  • johncpjohncp Posts: 302
    cougie wrote:

    I'm not sure I buy the genetics theory. Read Bounce by Matthew Sayed. It's a good book.

    Agreed Bounce is a good read and makes some interesting points for skills based sports or games, but I think it falls down somewhat in a sport like cycling or running in which there is genuinely a huge contribution from in-built aerobic abilities. Granted aerobic/anaerobic/endurance capacities can all be improved with the right training, but in some of us, no amount of even the best training will get us up to pro or olympic standards.
    If you haven't got a headwind you're not trying hard enough
  • twotyredtwotyred Posts: 822
    I've read Bounce. The 10,000 hours practise thing might work for skill sports but as johncp says genetics plays a big part in endurance sports.

    Even Sayeed's 10000 hour theory is open to question. 10,000 is an average amount of practise to get world class at something and there is a wide standard deviation. Some people take much less time and some do more and never make it so talent does exist.

    Have a read of this http://www.sportsscientists.com/search?q=10000+hours

    We'd like to think that life is fair and that you can be the best if only you work hard enough but hard work can't turn a donkey into a thoroughbred although it will make for a fast donkey
  • cougie wrote:
    What are you doing in the gym ?
    I see plenty of people in there just wasting their time.
    Pros usually have more guidance from their coaches and teams and they have a different mindset to the rest of us.

    Its not as if I'm sat on an exercise bike for 10 mins, casually doing a cadence of 30 rpm reading womans weekly or watching corrie (which I've seen done before)

    I try and mix it up a bit every time. 5 or 6 days a week with 1 or 2 days recovery, then every month have 1 or 2 days additional recovery.

    -Interval sessions 1 min of effort HR above 170 bpm then 1:30 of recovery HR 145 to 155 bpm.
    -Pyramid sessions building up speed every minute. Or hill sets.
    -Usually a 10km run with HR 150 - 160 bpm. Aiming to gradually increase the distance.
    -Sprint distance triathlon using swimming pool.
    -Some circuit training, some strength training.

    Then when the weathers good I'm outside.

    I know what you mean by having a different mind set. But I do like to push myself and see what I'm capable of.
    "The Prince of Wales is now the King of France" - Calton Kirby
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    twotyred wrote:
    I've read Bounce. The 10,000 hours practise thing might work for skill sports but as johncp says genetics plays a big part in endurance sports.

    Even Sayeed's 10000 hour theory is open to question. 10,000 is an average amount of practise to get world class at something and there is a wide standard deviation. Some people take much less time and some do more and never make it so talent does exist.

    Have a read of this http://www.sportsscientists.com/search?q=10000+hours

    We'd like to think that life is fair and that you can be the best if only you work hard enough but hard work can't turn a donkey into a thoroughbred although it will make for a fast donkey

    Great link thanks for it. The "Super Coaches" podcast here also has an insight into this that's especially relevant to endurance athletes. http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/5lspecials

    Alberto Salazar agrees that there certainly is an established principle that the more you train the better you become. However this comes with a price, apart from the time commitment it also poses an increased risk of injury. Also you are pretty giving up control of your results. No matter how many hours you put in someone else could put in more and be better.

    He makes the case that it much better to train smarter and this means focussed training addressed at specific issues. This may well mean actually doing less training. He cites the example of Mo Farah who's body cannot take the 250mile/week regime typical of African based runners. If he attempted this he would only get injured and even if he didn't would be more no likely to win than any of them. So he does only about half the "normal" volume of running but this is far more focussed and supplemented with other work e.g. strength conditioning.
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    ...
    I know what you mean by having a different mind set. But I do like to push myself and see what I'm capable of.

    What you are doing is fine, the main thing is that whatever you do it's important to stay motivated. The benefits of outdoor training, especially at this time of year, can be over rated. The main benefit from them in my experience is that, if you expect to have to compete when conditions are bad, then training in conditions that are much worse toughens up your spirit and gives you an edge over warm weather riders.

    With regard to your original question it's impossible to answer. The closest you can come is to follow a structured training programme including a good fitness test. Then at least you should be able to see if you are improving and have some idea as to what's making this happen (time spent training, intensity of training, workload mix etc). Also when you plateau you will hopefully have some idea as to whether you have reached an absolute limit or not, and whether adjusting any of the training variables has any effect in terms of breaking through to a new level of performance.
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • MuffintopMuffintop Posts: 296
    I think having a job that can work round your fitness is a big thing. I also think it does take time and need a really strong mind set. You have to be able to cast aside 'not bothering' and be able to get up early and going out to be back in time for doing x, y, z or decide not to do what ever else it is.

    My attitude at the moment is - as both me and the blokie are pretty busy at the moment - I've made my mind up to start proper training this week, he's decided to do other things and I think he thinks I'm slacking. But he's much more naturally athletic than me and he can start later and we can both be at the same level of fitness. In the end that's what I need to do to get where i want to though, or at least give myself the best chance of getting there.

    As an asside, do you have a specific goal in mind? Raising your VO2 to which level and to what end? Where are you just now? Once you get the numbers what will that mean in practical terms - if it's just to get quicker, how quick? To be able to do a certain route or event under x time? I'm sure you know it's not just about the numbers, they're just a numerical translation of practical abilities.

    Mx
    FCN: Brompton: 12, Tourer: 7, Racer: 4

    http://www.60milestonod.blogspot.com
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    As an aside: having a goal related to VO2 is going to be pretty hard as you VO2 requires a specialised test to measure (if it's done correctly, some exercise machines have a setting for this but they are not going to be very accurate as they are nothing more than normal fitness load test over time and take no account of the many factors that could affect a result which they are incapable of measuring).

    A far better measure is watts/kg, especially for cycling. This factors in the fact that in terms of end performance racing weight is also very important (save if you are an out and out track sprint specialist) and will, normally, be considered as part of any serious training program. (If using gym equipment to measure watts may still not be completely accurate. Using a variety of machines and averaging results may help with this. And some machines are actually quite good.)

    It also has a fairly well established table that lets you compare yourself with the pros.

    Some sample figures below (source WKO) for 60 mins and 5 mins sustained power (all are ofc subject to variation and also ofc if you are a sprinter then figures will be lower than if you are a climber. Nonetheless in the right ballpark. The figure of 6+ W/kg 60 mins power is for sure the minimum standard for those thinking about winning the tour. If you want to see how close to a pro you are just see how long you can sustain this power for. For most folks it will be less than 5 mins, which illustrates the gulf between us and those who can put out this level of power for an hour)

    Untrained....................60 mins < 2.5 W/kg...................5 mins < 3W/kg
    Trained (cat 4ish)..........60 mins > 3.5W/kg.................... 5 mins > 4.3W/kg
    Good (cat 3/2)..............60 mins > 4 W/kg................... . 5 mins >4.8 W/kg
    Very good (cat 1)............60 mins > 5 W/kg.................... 5 mins >6 W/kg
    Pro............................60 mins > 5.8 W/kg.................. 5 mins >6.9 W/kg
    TDF winner...................60 mins > 6.5W/kg................... 5 mins> 7.7 W/kg
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • GiantMikeGiantMike Posts: 3,139
    bahzob wrote:
    Good (cat 3/2)..............60 mins > 4 W/kg................... . 5 mins >4.8 W/kg

    Interesting. I'm 4.18 W/kg for 60 mins (4.1 recorded on 1 Jan, 4.18 derived from 20 min test in Dec). I wouldn't class myself as Good (cat 3/2). I progressed to 3rd cat last year and then stalled with no additional points after that.

    Am I just really censored at racing?
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    Muffintop wrote:
    ..

    As an asside, do you have a specific goal in mind? Raising your VO2 to which level and to what end? Where are you just now? Once you get the numbers what will that mean in practical terms - if it's just to get quicker, how quick? To be able to do a certain route or event under x time? I'm sure you know it's not just about the numbers, they're just a numerical translation of practical abilities.

    Mx

    Raising a performance level (watts/kg especially for cycling) is a perfectly sensible goal in and of itself and should be done regardless of whether you actually race or not. How "quick" you ride is hugely variable and a much less useful objective. (my granny can ride at 70 kph in her wheelchair if you push her in the right direction down a hill)

    If you look at the training of top riders this is the value they will be monitoring for most of the year, since they know the threshold they need to reach in order to have a realistic chance of achieving a goal.

    By all means supplement goals related to an absolute measure like W/kg with those like setting a PB for a TT or moving up a racing category. This will help with motivation and encourage you to consider broader aspects of the sport like aerodynamics, race tactics and the like which make it more interesting. But even with these knowing your w/kg provides a big benefit since it will help you understand what is and is not working to improve them.
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    GiantMike wrote:
    bahzob wrote:
    Good (cat 3/2)..............60 mins > 4 W/kg................... . 5 mins >4.8 W/kg

    Interesting. I'm 4.18 W/kg for 60 mins (4.1 recorded on 1 Jan, 4.18 derived from 20 min test in Dec). I wouldn't class myself as Good (cat 3/2). I progressed to 3rd cat last year and then stalled with no additional points after that.

    Am I just really censored at racing?

    Yes you may be censored at racing. Or may not have the right sort of power profile for UK racing which tends to place a high premium on short intense efforts with little recovery rather than 60 minute power (which is far more important for events like the TDF which is decided by things like TTs and long climbs).

    I didn't reproduce the whole table, 4.1 W/kg is in fact towards the top of the Cat 3 level. What is probably even more important is that for 1 min the target for this level is >8.5 W/kg and for 5s >17W/kg. If you can achieve this and repeat it with little recovery then you should be capable of scoring points at Cat 3. Winning will depend mostly on getting your tactics spot on and having good sprint power.

    If you can't but find your 60 minute power is improving then you are probably better suited for time trial racing than circuit racing. For circuit racing your best tactics would be to get into an early break and work hard to keep it away since this sort of effort is more suited to your power profile
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • GiantMikeGiantMike Posts: 3,139
    ^^^ Yes, I think I'm in the wrong races!

    I have only ever seen one break-away succeed and whenever I've tried to get into one it just fades away to nothing. I don't know why people try to break and then give up; if you're going you're going hard and for good, not just going hard for 3 laps??!!

    I'm planning to do more 3/4 road races where there will hopefully be a different mentality to circuit racing. Maybe some nice flat ones...
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    Its certainly easier to keep away on road races, since it's much easier to get out of sight from the main bunch. It's surprising how disorganised a bunch can be when they can't see who they are chasing and no-one wants to be the muggins who leads the chase, especially at low level. I have been in and marshalled a number of events where even a lone breakaway from the gun has stayed away the whole race. If you get into a breakaway then talk to the other riders, you should get an impression as to whether they are serious or not.
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • MuffintopMuffintop Posts: 296
    bahzob wrote:
    Raising a performance level (watts/kg especially for cycling) is a perfectly sensible goal in and of itself and should be done regardless of whether you actually race or not. How "quick" you ride is hugely variable and a much less useful objective. (my granny can ride at 70 kph in her wheelchair if you push her in the right direction down a hill)

    If you look at the training of top riders this is the value they will be monitoring for most of the year, since they know the threshold they need to reach in order to have a realistic chance of achieving a goal.

    By all means supplement goals related to an absolute measure like W/kg with those like setting a PB for a TT or moving up a racing category. This will help with motivation and encourage you to consider broader aspects of the sport like aerodynamics, race tactics and the like which make it more interesting. But even with these knowing your w/kg provides a big benefit since it will help you understand what is and is not working to improve them.

    The professionals main aim is not achieving a particular threashold though, and they're not paid for that... it's one (of alot of elements that) enable them to compete at that particular level - to ride (and win) the TDF, TT and all that jazz. For them it's just a means to an end, not an abstract end in itself. I'm sure the OP has his own goals in mind, but being in his position I would need something more substantial than the VO2 alone, which he didn't mention so I was wondering what they were.

    Mx
    FCN: Brompton: 12, Tourer: 7, Racer: 4

    http://www.60milestonod.blogspot.com
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    Yes the pros have lots of aims. But for tour riders the single biggest one would be that of maximising their power/weight ratio. If you can put out 6.5+W/kg FTP you have a chance to win the tour given the other elements are OK.

    As for what pros are paid for, if you read some of the biogs atm it's pretty clear that no only how they were paid but whether they kept a job at all was all about their w/kg. Show good numbers and you moved up the team pecking order, show bad and you are out. That's why so many cheated and paid so much in the hope of being able to buy a shortcut. Not saying this is good but it's a matter of life I'm afraid.

    As for goals I guess its a question of different strokes. Personally I find it strange for people to have goals over which they have little or no control or put all their eggs for a year into one basket by targeting a single event. It makes a lot more sense to me to have 2 sets of goals
    - One like power/weight (or if no power meter something similar like a climb PB) that is entirely under your control and acts as a good indicator of how you are going.
    - Event targets that serve to motivate you for training and, if you hit the power goals, you have a realistic expectation about what will be a stretch to achieve but doable.
    Martin S. Newbury RC
Sign In or Register to comment.