Cumulative Training

By Voler Staff | 11/11/10


We've teamed up with Marilyn Trout, certified USA Cycling Elite Coach to answer Voler E-mail List members' training questions. You can view her coach profile at: Send your cycling inquiries to Marilyn, and for a limited time, if yours is selected to be answered in our Training Tips column, Voler will send you a $20 gift certificate that can be used towards any purchase from the Voler Store. To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at, and type "Voler Training Question" in the subject line of the e-mail.

The article below is a reprint of our 5th question submitted by list member Susan Raye, and although it's been a couple of years, it's still pertinent information in prepping for 2011!

Her training question that follows was answered by Peg Labiuk (nee Peggy Maass), a colleague of Marilyn Trout, and a certified NCCP level 3 coach with a career in international road and track racing. She is a World Championship medalist, World Record holder, U.S. Olympic Team member, former British national team coach and Kreb's Cycle co-founder (British Columbia, Canada).


With the new year approaching, I'm starting to think about my riding goals for the new year. I don't race, but I like fast club rides, and centuries, and I'd like my centuries to be faster and stronger next year. I read recently that there's a cumulative effect of racing and training at the pro level, and that each season builds on the last. Does one have to train and race at pro level in order to benefit from this cumulative effect or can the amateur also benefit? How does this work? How would I use this year’s riding as an index for setting goals for next year? 

Thank you,


Hi Susan, 

Anyone can get the cumulative training effect as long as they don't join the "old guys who get fat in winter" club. Instead of starting from scratch each year, if you maintain some of the gains you made last year, you'll begin next year with a better base. That means you'll start fitter and add fitness from there and you may be doing this already. All it takes is riding a few times a week. Some people add weight training in the off-season but the most important is to retain your cardio fitness. 

Confidence also builds with more riding experience - like the ability to read the terrain and wind, select the optimal clothing and gearing, knowing how much to eat and drink, when to push, when to coast. Your muscles get efficient at firing in sequence when pedaling, having "muscle memory" from one season to the next. And of course you accumulate mental strength each time out, conquering the elements, the distance, the inclines and descents, and negative self-talk. I'm sure you get as much cumulative training effect as the Pros. Maybe keeping a training diary would help you see it better. 

In setting your goals for 2009, make sure your goals are measurable. By that I mean - how can you measure "faster", "stronger" next year? You certainly don't want to go just by feel, "I feel stronger" or by placings, "I want to be in the top 10 women". Those don't measure your individual progress. Instead, use speed, time, heart rate, gearing, cadence and mental preparation. For example, can you be 5% faster than last year on the same course? Can you climb a section in a harder gear or with a lower heart rate? Can you hit a faster speed on a descent or higher average cadence? Those goals are measurable. It's important to personalize them, making sure the goal motivates you. 

Often overlooked is the mental side of performance. I'm not a fan of the "I'll see how it goes" method of preparation. I'm sure each person has an idea of what they want to achieve during an event they are peaking for. When the goal is stated, it is clear and more committed to. If each ride had a small goal, even if it's just to complete an hour or to finish a ride with a smile, you get into the habit of completing the task you set out to do. There is another cumulative effect - completing tasks successfully. Don't underestimate the improvements you'll gain just by visualizing your performance too. Practice seeing yourself ride the century route. Establish time checks, when and what to drink and eat, gearing choices, cornering lines. Work through scenarios like dealing with a flat tire or broken spoke. There are lots of exercises in my book Sport Psychology for Cyclists, VeloPress. 

Ready, set goals for 2009! 

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