These days, there's an abundance of training information available that didn't exist even 10 years ago. Books written by Eddie B. and Greg LeMond were bibles in the 80s, and while they're still relevant today in some ways, they've been supplemented by more modern, scientific training literature. But despite all the good information that's out there, or maybe as a result of it, many racers still have the same question: what should I do for training today?
I am still very much a fan of the classic weekly schedule laid out by LeMond in his Complete Book of Cycling, with some tweaks: easy on Monday, sprints on Tuesday, intervals on Wednesday, long ride on Thursday, easy again on Friday, sprints again on Saturday, and a race simulation ride on Sunday. That schedule has stood the test of time and still makes the most sense to me. It has you doing your shortest and most intense workouts first, and decreasing the intensity of each following workout and increasing the duration until you have a rest day and start it all over again.
Of course, racing season is upon us once again, and while "racing is the best training," as the adage goes, it's also the most disruptive to a systematic training program. Many of you will be racing on both Saturday and Sunday, rather than just the Sunday that the template above accommodates. If you're following a LeMond-style format, what you do on the weekend won't match up, and may not even be best suited to training your weaknesses, so something has to change.
One way to address this is to "swap the cycles," as I refer to it with my clients. Essentially, you should break the 7-day week into two smaller, "mini-cycles:" Monday-Thursday is the first, 4-day cycle, and Friday-Sunday is the second, 3-day cycle. If you view those cycles as entities unto themselves, you can simply reverse them within the context of a training week and still be completing the same amount of training, with the proper progression of decreasing intensity and increasing duration, and be fresh for weekend races.
To see how this fits in, break it down and look what you'd actually be doing each day:
Monday: Friday's workout. Still a rest day, and nothing really changes.
Tuesday: Saturday's sprint workout, or a threshold workout, whichever is the bigger priority.
Wednesday: Threshold workout if Tuesday was a sprint workout, or an endurance day if Tuesday was a threshold workout.
Thursday: Monday's rest day. Now you're starting the second, 4-day cycle, and what was your long day is now your rest day, 2 days before your Saturday event.
Friday: Tuesday's sprint workout, but reduced, to serve as an opening up workout for Saturday. You won't want to dig too deep on this day; just enough to test yourself and make sure everything is working.
Saturday: Race. Now, instead of disrupting Saturday's sprint workout, the race falls on Wednesday's interval day, which coincides well.
Sunday: Race, or Thursday's workout. If you're racing again, a long road race fits in well with Thursday's endurance day. If you're racing a shorter criterium or cyclocross but you're still trying to train through the races, you might want to take a longer warm up and cool down to make sure you get in the appropriate duration. You can let the race take care of the intensity. If there's no race, you can go ahead and do Thursday's workout as planned, with the volume of intensity regulated somewhat by how you feel you've recovered from Saturday's race.
Swapping the cycles like this allows you to be prepared for a Saturday race day, while still getting the training done that you've planned for the week. All this without having to take an extra rest day, or feeling shut down in the race from having rested on Friday.
While I originally formulated this structure to accommodate a Saturday race, it's turned out that an even bigger boon is for people trying to balance working with training. If, like most of us, you're working full-time during the week and have limited training time on Monday-Friday, the benefit here is in moving more of your shorter workouts to the workweek and maximizing your weekends. For many of my clients, the default is now resting on Monday and Thursday, and having Friday always the start of a 3-day run of training. But being flexible enough to move that to Tuesday-Thursday when it works, or vice-versa, is the core of being able to swap the cycles successfully as needed.