I’ve been teaching or coaching in some form since shortly after my sophomore year in college.

Youth soccer camps, basketball, physical education, and health. When I first started coaching, technology resided at the fringes of each of my coaching relationships. Fast-forward nearly twenty years, and the core of my cycling coaching is rooted in technology.

Wireless sensors feed data to a GPS enabled cycling computer recording every second of a ride while simultaneously guiding a cyclist through any workout I design—all in real-time.

Post-ride things get even more impressive when ride data gets pushed to any number of full-featured training apps, each with the capacity to provide advanced analytics on every second of training. This amalgam of data, technology, and coaching is the new norm, and we’re never going back.


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More Clarity, Less Confusion

It’s all impossibly amazing and futuristic, but how much does it really contribute to progress on the bike? No matter how sophisticated cycling training becomes, it misses the mark when it confuses rather than clarifies the process of training.

My job as a coach is to provide some measure of clarity but I’ve always struggled to figure out how best to do this in the context of day to day workouts.

After switching to a new training platform three months ago, I’ve tried to reimagine how to better “teach” the art and science of training, striving to bring clearer intent to each workout an athlete sees on their calendar. It’s all a work in progress but I’m super excited about bridging the gap between the technological and educational potential in cycling coaching.


New Workout Paradigm

Here are a few principles of my new workout design.

Each workout should:

  1. Offer a concise description of the overall intent of the workout.
  2. Offer specific instructions using both power and RPE targets.
  3. Offer a short video with a few quick tips for executing the workout with quality.
  4. Offer a direct link to an in-depth resource to help a client better understand the science and art behind a workout.

New Cycling Workout Layout

My hope is that each workout acts as a clear extension of coaching, helping to teach more about the science and art that underpins the different types of cycling workouts.


With this system in place, the act of teaching becomes embedded in each workout.

The primary resource I’ve built to bring more clarity to each workout is the new Cycling Workout Guide. I built this guide to be helpful for any cyclist wanting to learn more about the primary types of workouts they’re likely to encounter while training on the bike, whether working with DDA or utilizing another training system.

You can check out the new Cycling Workout Guide by clicking on this link, but here is a summary of how things are laid out.

Languages of Training

I laid out this approach in a previous blog post, but in short, we start the Cycling Workout Guide with a full explanation of the three different types of languages used in our workouts. Taking this time upfront to not only explain each zone system, but the ways in which they complement each other ensures client and coach are on the same page when discussing details about training

After we establish a common language to discuss training, we break out the six training zones into individual components.


Training Zone Guide

Each DDA workout links to one of our six training zone guides.


Each training zone has five components examined in depth. After a brief introduction, each zone guide evaluates the larger context, energy systems target, nutritional considerations, pacing guidance, and options to reduce RPE. Let’s take a look at a few examples below.

Context

Each training zone guide begins with an orientation into the larger context of training. What’s the point of each workout? Why would a workout like this show up on your calendar?


Context

Why is “aerobic” fitness important for nearly all types of cycling disciplines? Check out the anaerobic/aerobic energy distribution for a one minute all-out effort. Even short efforts call on your aerobic energy system.

In short, the vast majority of your training on the bike should circle back to driving improvements to your aerobic fitness.

Energy System Target

It’s one thing to communicate subjective (RPE) and objective (power) targets for each workout, but our broader knowledge about training is improved when we link our cycling performance to foundational concepts of exercise physiology.

Building this understanding into each workout helps to clarify why training is often limited to specific durations and intensity of effort (alongside specific rest periods)—details matter.


Details Matter

It’s helpful to understand how different types of workouts target the different energy systems of our physiology. Training is improved when we more clearly align the intent and execution of our workouts.

Nutritional Considerations

As different workouts target different areas of your physiology, so do your nutritional demands shift based on your training intensity and duration. Developing a deeper understanding of how your nutrition should match the context of your ride is a huge asset in training and racing.


Pacing

It’s easy to stay glued to a number on your cycling computer, but this approach to training can not only diminish your love of riding, but also blunt your ability to understand the integrated nature of the mind and body in fueling your cycling.

As much as possible, you should utilize the power of RPE alongside power. Your cycling computer can help in this pursuit, by simplifying and clarifying the feedback you get during a workout, rather than serving up constant distraction with unlimited streams of data.


Cycling Computer Screens

No need to display lots of data on your Garmin/Wahoo screen during an endurance ride. Pare things down to the absolute basics and spend more of your energy enjoying the ride.

Reducing RPE

The subjective nature of RPE means there are many things we can do to make a workout feel easier, while still attaining the desired training stimulus. In short, our nutrition, hydration, supplement use, and many other factors can aid in reducing the psychological burden of training.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that we seek to make every ride and workout easy, but it does mean we seek to lower the RPE burden on the majority of rides, ensuring we have a full tank of gas for the workouts and rides that are most critical to our progress on the bike.


RPE is malleable

A cyclist can control many different factors that contribute to the subjective perception of how an effort feels.

One overall goal in training should be to maximize the quality of the training stimulus while minimizing the overall perception of effort.

If your training always feels hard, you’ll no doubt reduce your ability to objectively train hard.


Interested in taking a deeper look at our Cycling Workout Guide? Become a member of our site for full access.


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Nate Dunn
Founder/Head Coach
Data Driven Athlete

Written by Nate Dunn M.S.

​Nate has spent his entire career in education and coaching. As a former teacher and now Founder/Head Coach at Data Driven Athlete, he is most excited about helping clients discover more about themselves as they achieve their goals on the bike.