Structured Cycle Training: A guide from Paul Mill

Posted in cycling on July 8, 2013

Many of us are seeking new goals for the 2013 season, only to realise that we are really hard pushed to find the time to succeed. We asked Cycling expert Paul Mill how he coaches riders on limited time to achieve their objectives.

The first and most important question for anyone on limited time is, how committed are you?  Without commitment, reaching your goal is pretty much impossible.

I help riders set clear, defined and achievable goals. I also believe in setting your goals high.

For riders with busy lifestyles training has to be very structured and well executed to maximise both volume and intensity. You need a balanced and consistent approach to training and “periodisation”, which basically means dissecting your training year into chunks of time is a key element of that process.

The Periodisation Pyramid


The training periodisation pyramid


The Endurance/Preparation phase

The word endurance really is associated with putting the hours in on the saddle. However, when time is limited this needs to be focused.

Aim for a general steady state ride of around 2-3 hours once a week at least.

The key thing for endurance is to make sure you are working in your aerobic range, which basically means at a pace where you are able to hold a conversation.

When time is limited we need to work at a slightly higher intensity for a shorter period of time to get results.

So, why doesn’t everyone just do it this way and save time?

Ideally the more aerobic training you do at this stage the better as it helps develop a strong basis for the next two phases and improve overall performance. In my opinion, the transition from doing a steady wide base of training will give you a better and higher performance level. That is why riders at Professional level ride thousands of miles to increase body fat utilization and maintain a high aerobic fitness. Basically it’s like preparation for an engine getting it to run smooth for a long period of time.

Working at even a slightly higher intensity may also mean that you become more fatigued, so when you are just starting out, breaking the endurance session into segments can help.

The key thing is to set goals such as keeping a steady heart rate throughout. As you progress you can decrease the rest period in between the segments so that you can then bring them together into one piece.

Pre Competition Phase

This phase consists of more race or event discipline specific sessions. Sessions of a shorter duration at a higher rate will increase your speed and endurance and also help with your anaerobic conditioning. This really helps with accelerations either in a bunch or, if you are trying to pick your pace up, on a steep gradient.

This phase is all about decreasing volume and increasing intensity.

Simulate racing by participating in smaller events but approach them the same as you would the big race – plan your nutrition, fluid intake and practice, practice, practice.

What about increasing pace?

It’s all about cadence. Improving your cadence and being more efficient as a rider will mean that your travel across the ground quicker.

And increasing pace on longer climbs?

We all dream of being able to climb like the world’s best. Improving your power to weight ratio is a key i.e. producing more power with less body weight.

A colleague at Maxi nutrition, Gareth Nicholas explained that we are looking to decrease body fat not muscle mass and high intensity aerobic interval training,“HIIT”, is the most efficient way to achieve that.

Competition Phase

Now things get really exciting.

At this stage most riders now feel the need to pick up their training even more. Wrong. Yes we still need to train hard, but it needs to be structured so that volume is decreased and intensity is now at race speed.

Hitting your sessions fresh with lots of rest and recovery are key in this phase. Focus on feeling good and staying healthy. Replace carbohydrate and protein within 30 minutes of finishing exercise. It will help with energy refuelling and muscle repair.  Are you ready to achieve your goal? Of course you are, now go and succeed.

To find out more about training with Paul, check out the coaching options with Elite Cycling here. Paul is also an adviser for Maxinutrition and will be at the Maxifuel stand at the The Tour of Britain (22nd September at The Mall in London), if you fancy a chat!