Words: Mark Fenner
 
Each of us will reach stages in our training lives where we seem to be battering our head against a brick wall and wondering why we’re seemingly not progressing, not seeing those new power numbers, reduced lap times on our local track or progressing in our local races! Don’t be worried by this as it is very normal as you could well have reached a plateau in performance.

When an athlete first starts out on a structured training program,big improvement can be seen. I have witnessed improvements in power output between 5– 20% across multiple time durations. Big gains are often associated with the athletes cycling history and would generally be bigger for those new to cycling.

Using a power meter to measure our output on the bike is the best way for us to quantify our performance gains and make educated decisions about the type of energy systems we may need to focus on to continue to improve. Gains in performance can be seen in as little as 4 weeks, but, for more highly trained athletes this can take longer.

 

What can we do if we have reached a plateau in performance?

Let’s identify some reasons for this stalling in performance gains and look at some ways to break through a plateau in performance;


1.     Are you tired a lot of the time and been training solidly without a break all year? If the answer to this is yes and you have tried adding load, but the results are not happening, it could be time to have a break. Taking a few weeks off can allow all that training load to be absorbed by the body and make the adaptations to come back stronger in the next block of training.


2.     Have you been consistent in your training or do you miss workouts often and/or sometimes miss a week here and there? Sometimes breaking through a plateau can be as simple as consistency of training over time. Often it is better to do less training more consistently, rather than cramming and missing blocks.


3.     You might well be very consistent in your training, but always do the same thing week in week out. The same bunch rides and the same route all the time. Is this you? If it is look at areas within your cycling that you don’t address in these rides. Often bunch rides are a mixture of very easy riding at the back of the bunch generally at recovery/low endurance intensity. This is interspersed by short periods of threshold or vo2 intensity when coming through for a turn or chopping off back to the coffee shop. These rides can be great, but they need to form part of a structured approach to the plan as key areas of building condition are often neglected by doing this week in and week out. The body often needs new stimulus to create new adaptations. Often, we tend to neglect the workouts we don’t like doing, pretty simple really, but the 5-minute vo2 ergo efforts or the 1-minute anaerobic froth fest efforts are often the workouts we need to complete to help us to step up to another level.