By: Zack Allison
Photo Credit: Jussi Oksanen
You’re scrolling the gram, you look up intermittently and look out your window. The weather is either absolute trash, or you're feeling firmly imprisoned by your day job. You look back down at your phone and you see, yet another proud screenshot, of someone’s 28 hour riding week with 1520 TSS points, and they got a tan. You check your TrainingPeaks, your Strava, and you are instantly deflated upon seeing the measly 8 hours you pedaled in the last 7 days. This is one example of how unhealthy social media and comparison syndrome can be. Your brain remembers the legendary riding week you saw someone put up online and you start to feel inadequate. You’re not not seeing how much work you’ve put into your cycling, your fitness, the success you’ve had, and how far you can go on 8-12 hours of consistent training a week.
Training is specific and different person to person. As a coach with Source Endurance and an athlete racing for Bike Sports, that does intermittently put up huge weeks and apply big weeks to my athletes, each person’s overload stimulus should be controlled, periodized, and specific in volume to make that athlete faster. For some athletes, they react to volume. Some professional cyclists fall apart at 20 hours in a week. You do not see people that live in year round warm weather states being the fastest racers across all events. There’s many examples of focused athletes meeting their goals and getting results in winter states with consistent lower volume training blocks. Set realistic goals, make a plan, and try not to compare your consistent training to someone else's record setting volume week.
Training depends on recovery. I have many athletes that might be able to jam down a 25 hour week, in summer, under ideal conditions. Having 3-4 hours of training a day doesn’t seem impossible, but if you’re not able to spend the time recovering with nutrition, body work, maybe most importantly sleep, that big volume week will set your fitness back. If you have a job, kids, a spouse, a house, you might be better off building fitness with consistent training and recovery that’s manageable and planned.
That big volume week might scare your riding buddies and make you feel pro, but read in-between the lines. If you’re going to be affected by the TrainingPeaks screenshot you saw listing 28 hours in the last week, look deeper into the numbers. A 30 hour week, wow, massive volume, is the average intensity factor 0.51IF? Simplified a bit further, was the volume training time at 50% of FTP on average? Making the week’s huge block mostly junk or black hole miles? Steer clear of junk miles. A 10 hour week with specific intervals, a reasonable intensity for the week, designed to change your physiology, is more effective than a 28 hour week at 50% of FTP. That low of an intensity, aka junk miles, will not change your physiology, but it will make your butt sore.
Volume is only effective if you have time, if you can recover, and if you're at an effective intensity level to change your physiology. We’re all at different levels, different places in our lives, we will all peak differently for goal events. That’s one part of what I love about cycling, it’s diversity in people, different types of events and riding. Take your training where you’re at, by all means post something you’re proud of, but remember hard work pays off and what someone else does for training shouldn't change your whole outlook.
Give yourself a pat on the back for being in a healthy hobby, a healthy sport. Make reasonable goals and do what you have to in meeting those goals. I’m not saying to not push yourself, make a plan, and execute a training camp or big volume block if that will help your fitness move along. When you meet that training goal and do something you’re proud of, I want to hear about it, I want to see it on the gram. On the flip side, becoming negatively affected by other people’s success will leave you in a winter depression spiral that’s hard to shake. Stick to your guns, be pumped for someone else’s goals met, and let that motivate you to meet your goals, even if that’s just riding every day until the weather changes or there’s enough daylight for you to get that bigger training block in.