Cyclists: How to Combine Races and Training for a Successful Summer

Let’s look at your goals, your schedule, and how you can arrange your training to have both fun and progress this season.

There are so many athletic events taking place now that the summer is here in United Kingdom. It would be possible to book myself in for an event, whether a race or just a social ride, at least once every day of the week – and that is just in my local area.

While these events can provide the opportunity for plenty of hard workouts. It is worth reviewing your goals before getting caught up in the excitement. Let’s look at your goals, your training schedule, and how you might arrange your training plan to have both fun and progress this summer.

Devising a Plan for Progress

As an amateur cyclist, my main goals are to have fun, stay fit, and steadily improve my race results. Most of the local events would satisfy my first two goals, so in this article I will be looking at the last goal – how to steadily improve my results. I would like to think that this year’s results will be better than last year, and that next year’s will be better still.

While it may be tempting to leave thinking about training until the end of the season, there is work you can do to make steady progress through the year. The key is to devise a program that fits in with your event and social calendar and still enables you to work on developing sustainable power output.

Recent research shows that combining endurance with interval sessions is an effective way of developing sustainable power. You should always include time for effective recovery and adaptation, too.

One way of doing this is to have a three-day cycle of two endurance days followed by an interval or race day. It is easy to tweak this to insert an extra recovery day before an important event or to increase the overload by scheduling an interval day with a race on the following day. I find it more motivating to do the race after the interval day, than vice versa. I would not expect to care about the results in this case. The event is just being used for training.

The 28-Day Training Cycle

The following pictures show how this might work over a 28-day cycle. Training effort is shown relative to your functional threshold power (FTP), or your average sustainable power.

  • Endurance sessions should be well below eighty percent of your threshold as the emphasis is on developing the aerobic energy system.
  • Interval sessions should be hard and lead to failure. This is usually more than 120% of your threshold. The interval session could also be supplemented by resistance training as mentioned in previous articles.
  • Recovery and adaptation days should consist of very light activity.

Key to charts:

  • Green = endurance session
  • Orange = interval session above threshold
  • Red = an event, this will typically average out to your threshold
  • Blue = recovery and adaptation, very light and short duration activity

This picture shows a 28-day period with a race or event in the middle. Two additional recovery days have been inserted as this was an important event. The three-day cycle continues until the end of the 28 days. This includes additional recovery and regeneration days before another period starts.

This picture shows a race or event during the middle of the period. This event is of little importance and is being used as overload training by combining it with an interval session on the preceding day. The three-day cycles are scheduled on either side.

This picture shows a 28-day period with regular weekly events. Endurance and recovery days are manipulated in order to maintain the weekly cycle of events. A longer recovery and regeneration period is inserted before the next period starts.

The Benefits of the Three-Day Cycle

One of the things I like about the three-day cycle is that it is flexible and enables programs to be adapted to cater for all the challenges life throws our way – like last minute work or family commitments or even illness. If an extra days recovery is needed, it is easy to insert without upsetting the general precept of the routine combining endurance with intervals and slotting in events.

What events are you signing up for this summer? And how could this plan help you both enjoy the season and continue to make progress? Post your thoughts to the comments below.


1. Westgarth-Taylor, C., et al., “Metabolic and performance adaptations to interval training in endurance-trained cyclists.” Eur J Appl Physiol (1997) 75: 298-304

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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