Block Training - How does it work?

The Bike Affair

I often stress this - consistency is the bedrock of fitness and training.

However, every multi-day bicycle tour makes me a stronger and better rider by the end of the tour. This happens although consecutive days of riding increases the short-term fatigue significantly.

So, is this right? Should we do such an occasional short patch of near full day riding? Isn’t a regular consistent riding better? We call this kind of short intense period of riding (in training terminology) block training.

Taking ten days off is a luxury for most of us and we cannot do it often. However, we can achieve similar results in a matter of four days. You could do it over a long weekend - a few days where the family has gone out. Or, you can also do it by riding on your regular training routes. We can use block training to give that required boost of fitness and later further improve it with consistency. I know that a few riders in Hyderabad used this to prepare for London Edinborough London 2017 with good results. It is beneficial for improving performance and endurance.

In fact, we could also use block training to work on a specific focus area as we transition from the base phase to build phase (focusing on specific areas) for a target event. So go ahead and reap those benefits. Here are some tips and benefits you will get from the block training.

  • Start with a ride plan - plan the routes & distances for each day and also create specific objectives (sample ideas for these objectives are covered below). You are more likely to complete something if you write it down.

  • Ideally, ride for 4 days with at least 4 hrs of medium intensity (zone 2) efforts.

  • Ensure that your bike is in good condition and check / replace tyres if required.

  • Recovery is critical to be effective - so ensure you

    • Hydrate well - about 750ml water or electrolytes per hour

    • Fuel correctly - start with a good breakfast and top up on carbs during the ride

    • Sleep at least 8 hrs every day

    • Have protein supplements or BCAA (branched-chain amino acids) after the ride and during dinner

  • Get one or two ride partners of similar strength to make it more fun.

  • Add something challenging like an hour-long climb preferably for 2 days (if not try to increase intensity like a 1 hr time trial effort for 2 days or try to improve your PB in a segment in Strava. This should be part of the total riding time of 4 hrs).

  • Post the training block there will be a sudden spike in appetite - remember that your workouts will reduce and be more watchful of your diet immediately after the block.

  • Take one or two rest days after the block and resume a light work week.

  • While you can do the block from your hometown, doing it in a different city will be more exciting. (we just came back from one such block in the Nilgiris and had a ball)

  • Use at least speed, cadence, and heart rate to record statistics. And ensure you log it online to see progres and tag TBACoachingNotes ;-).

  • Post the block spend some time to analyse key metrics around cadence, heart rate, power and derive focus areas for future.

As always, let me know your feedback or questions by dropping a comment below or emailing me at gokul@thebikeaffair.com.