New Study Offers a Better Way to Plan Cycling Training

Peter Glassford
by Peter Glassford
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New Study Offers a Better Way to Plan Cycling Training

Periodization is the practice of organizing your training into small phases that gradually progress the training load and specificity towards goal events. In cycling, many riders start with long base miles (volume) early in the season and hard intervals (intensity) as race season approaches.

But a recent study goes further than planning when we ride a lot or when we should ride hard, instead, it expands periodization to other areas that influence our performance, like skill training and the mental aspects of sport.. Instead, study researchers, Inigo Mujika, PhD, and team suggest a successful periodized training program design “skillfully combines different training methods to yield better results than can be achieved through exclusive or disproportionate use of a single method.”

Most amateur cyclists are time-limited so they can’t train more and life holds its own stressors so even adding intensity has limits. Using this study and the three sample planning layouts below will help you improve your performance through optimal planning of your season with consideration for all aspects of performance.



All cycling disciplines require skills ranging from pedaling technique, group riding skills, standing pedaling and log-hopping. This new study suggests ways we can plan our skill training for each phase of the year by gradually increasing the amount of event-specific practice and being careful to spend time on new skills that are riskier away from the goal event.

Sample Skill Periodization:

  • Several Months From Goal Event: General Preparation
    Practice a lot and plan to learn new skills. You have time, so gradually progress the challenge as your skills improve.
  • 1–2 Months Before Goal Event: Specific Preparation
    Focus on specific event skills and continue to refine them so they can be done with fatigue, pressure and repetition.
  • Goal Event: Competition
    Maintaining practice between competition days and refining for specific course demands (e.g., weather, terrain). Refine and plan tactics for specific events.
  • Post-Event: Off-season
    Take a break. This is simple, but there is wisdom in the reminder to take a break from cycling to let your body and mind recover to allow for further improvements in the next cycle.


For amateur athletes, sport psychology can seem like it doesn’t matter, but our ‘mental game’ is important at many points during a training session and competition. Setting goals, planning our time, visualizing a course or scenario and self-talk (the dialogue in our head) can all hugely influence the effectiveness of your training and success on race day.

Sample Mental Skills Periodization:

  • General Preparation
    Goal setting for the year and for specific workouts. Learning practices to help relax between sessions and be excited/focused for workouts. Focus on motivation, pain and fatigue management.
  • Specific Preparation
    Refining control of body and mind, managing emotions and self-talk (motivate, re-focus to a positive mindset rather than being negative)
  • Competition
    Honing competition routines, adaptability, competition plan, mindfulness under pressure
  • Off-season
    Evaluating the season. Aiming for balance/self-care and pursuing other hobbies, education, and social experiences.


Nutrition is an evolving field. Having a plan with nutrition that works for you and matches your training and racing goals helps ensure success. The study lays out how elements like the timing of nutrients, avoiding deficiency and timing any changes to body composition can also be periodized.

Sample Nutritional Periodization:

  • General Preparation
    Ensure adequate hydration and fueling for volume. Here, it’s possible to continue the refinement of body composition. Focus on developing consistent nutritional habits and strategies around travel, different training sessions and goals.
  • Specific Preparation
    Train with your specific event fueling during workouts that are similar to your upcoming event. Ensuring adequate calories to support workout and race performance goals.
  • Competition
    Shifting to more event-based fueling. Often more carbohydrate and fewer foods that might cause digestive upset. Execute your race-day nutrition plan and refine it with each race experience. Maintain body composition.
  • Off-Season
    Now is a good time for consultation and adjustment to the nutritional plan and potential focus on body composition. Consider a consult with a dietitian and getting blood tests for baseline and to ensure good health.

When planning your year and setting your race goal, think of all the elements other than just pedaling that can contribute to your success. Having these items arranged in a table (as in this great study) helps you decide how to spend your valuable time, money and energy so you arrive in your cycling season and on race day in your best shape.

Mujika, I., Halson, S., Burke, L. M., Balagué, G., & Farrow, D. (2018). An Integrated, Multifactorial Approach to Periodization for Optimal Performance in Individual and Team Sports, International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 13(5), 538-561. Retrieved Feb 10, 2020, from

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About the Author

Peter Glassford
Peter Glassford

Peter is a cycling coach and registered kinesiologist from Ontario, Canada. He travels frequently to work with athletes at races, camps and clinics. He also races mountain bikes for Trek Canada and pursues adventure in all types of movement. Follow @peterglassford on Twitter, or check out his online and in-person coaching at


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