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The great debate... Intensity versus volume.

Every coach has their philosophy, something which they believe separates them from others. Some hold the belief a year-round high-intensity approach holds the key to upgrading our racing engines. Others think an hour upon hour of ‘Base' miles will drive our fitness to go up a level. Some will advocate racing frequently, others infrequently, intervals regularly, others occasionally.

Yes Cyclo-Cross?

No Cyclo-Cross?

Yes winter track league?

No winter track league?

Someone must be right?

Everyone can accept that going fast is the goal, but we are unable to agree with the method of achieving this.

Like coaches, riders will swear by a training philosophy or method, single training sessions that they believe trump all others. I have things in my physiology that I know I have to stimulate to ensure I arrive on a race day in the best shape possible to compete. That is me though, isn't it? Nobody hires me as a coach to ride their bike, so the answer to the question remains of what is the best method.

So, what if everyone was, to a certain degree, correct?

Curiously, specific methods may suit some riders, while others will be better suited to something different. I believe that a coach must be flexible with their approach not principled and stubborn.

Holding an idea or philosophy under the pretense that, just because it has worked with riders before, or indeed not worked, therefore insinuates that it will succeed or fail in delivering that rider to their optimal state of fitness once again.

It is also important to consider from a mental, as well as physical perspective that while a rider in the past may have followed a specific approach with much success, that is not to say they will desire or persist with this method.

Right! Everyone down tools

I have found this to be the case with many athletes who have previously followed a philosophy which has involved many hours on the bike both over the winter and during the season itself. They have admitted that although it brought them some success, it in some cases also led them to quit the sport for a period or all together.

Riding their bike became a burden rather than enjoyment, particularly with a family and full-time employment to concurrently. We all go through times where motivation is lacking, but this should be a short-term issue. If it's not broken don't fix it, but what defines broken?

In conclusion, everyone is different. For 99% of riders, the sport is, first and foremost, a hobby, and it may not be so much about striking a balance between intensity and volume or choosing to believe in traditional versus reverse periodisation, but instead optimal training versus optimal motivation. Everyone will agree that structured training trumps unstructured training, but if the former is unsustainable, and your coach is stubbornly sticking by what he believes in, then it will be of no benefit to anyone. What use are watts when you aren't motivated, and therefore cannot use them? Whatever you just remember to have fun and Get Out And Ride.

Craig McAuley is one of our dedicated cycling coaches at Elevation Coaching, if you are interested in a plan with Craig as your coach email us at

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