- Simplify your training plan
- Repeat your drill
- Pay attention to recovery
“How To Skate A 10k” is the title of a 62-page PDF by Nils Van der Poel (download here).
And below? are my insights from it and how it can benefit you as a cyclist.
Training for Cyclists by Speed Skater
Did you know that Nils Van der Poel (2 gold medals Beijing 2022 Olympic Games (5k and 10k speed skating)) spent ~30h a week cycling?!
Nils described his training before Olympic Games from 2019 May to 2022 February, it struck me how simple his training plan was, but how he said, it allowed him and his coach to have more control.
When you simplify your efforts it is easier to find what is working and what is not or when to take a break.
General training idea
Training for every athlete is a complex thing that 7-8 different training zones, intervals, and times at every zone, building your aerobic base, building anaerobic capacity, neuromuscular power, and more.
Nils idea of training was to focus on 2 main aspects, racing speed capacity and aerobic base. It also included recovery periods, different disciplines (not a lot), stretching, and strength sessions.
But like he mentioned, “you’re more likely 50 watts of the required bike threshold to make it below 12.00,00 (10k barrier to break) than you are 50kg in squats from it”. Simply saying if you want to be good at cycling you need to focus on riding your bike more.
The 5-2 day training plan
The next aspect of a simplified training plan was “5-2” 5 days of workouts and 2 days off.
That interesting approach let him build fatigue during 5 days of stressing out specific training zone, and 2 days were enough to fully recover from it. If 2 days were not enough then he would take an extra day off, he knew he needs to produce the right output to be able to build out his capacity.
Repeating this week’s plan over and over allows them to have control over the training plan, for example, if you are not able to recover in 2 days you know that your training load is too high (you can simply lower it) or your recovery time is to short (you can simply extend it). Week over a week you would see what is working and what is not, being able to grow your performance.
Four different training seasons
Even though the main events were relatively short efforts, 5k and 10k are 6 min+ and 12 min+ races, it still involves an enormous aerobic base to be able to take your anaerobic and threshold to the highest possible level.
As a coach, I always stress out how important the “second” zone is, if you want to improve your fitness just add more time to training in the aerobic zone. Training for cyclists should be based on aerobic zones, There are no “magical” intervals or systems that will suddenly increase your performance, there are a lot of hours involved on your bike, and a great aerobic base will help you take your capability to the next level.
Example week during the aerobic season:
Mon – 7h biking at 260W
Tue – 6h biking 250W
Wed – 2h x-country skiing + 4h biking at 250W
Thu – 7h biking at 265W
Fri – 6h biking at 240W
Sat – Resting
Sun – Resting
Please do not apply this plan to your training, without appropriate adjustments!
The second season was very similar to the aerobic one, the only difference is that the value of the training change (lower) and intensity was added, intervals at the threshold. Keep in mind that he didn’t start with those values for threshold training, he started with sessions like 6×8 min at FTP. That season last for around 10 weeks.
Example week during the threshold season:
Mon – 5h biking (5min 200W, 6min 260W, 4x30min 401W with 5min rest, 2,5h 220W)
Tue – 5h biking (5min 200W, 6min 260W, 5x20min 405W with 4min rest, 3h 220W)
Wed – 5h biking (5min 200W, 6min 260W, 6x15min 408W with 4min rest, 3h 220W)
Thu – 5h biking (5min 200W, 6min 260W, 4x20min 405W with 4min rest, 3h 220W)
Fri – 5h biking (5min 200W, 6min 260W, 9x10min 406W with 3min rest, 2,5h 220W)
During this season focus switched to ice practices, and again intensity is going slightly up and the value of training is going down. The specific season was starting around 3 weeks before the first world cup. As a cyclist, you can see how you should be focused on increasing your speed and lowering the value of the training during the racing season, but that can be possible if you build enough fitness during the non-racing part of the year.
Example week during the Specific season:
Mon 10k session + 2,5h biking at 210W
Tue 10k session + 2,5h biking at 210W
Wed 10k session + 2,5h biking at 210W
Thu 10k session + 3h biking at 210W
Fri – 10k session + 3h biking at 210W
Sat – Resting
Sun – Resting
Overreach and tapering
Often, part of the racing season, that is completely skipped by many cyclists. Here we can see drastic cuts in value and frequency of training but the intensity is kept at the racing level.
Example of an overreach and taper:
Fri – Rest
Sat – Rest
Sun – Rest
Mon – 10k session + 2,5h biking at 210W
Tue – 10k session + 2,5h biking at 210W
Wed – 10k session + 2,5h biking at 210W
Thu – 10k session + 2,5h biking at 210W
Fri – 5k session + 2h biking at 210W
Sat – 5k session + 2h biking at 210W
Sun – Rest
Mon – 10k session + 1,5h biking at 210W
Tue – 5k session + 1,5h biking at 210W
Wed – 5k session + 1,5h biking at 210W
Thu – 5k session + 1h biking at 210W
Fri – 5k session + 1h biking at 210W
Sat – Rest
Sun – Rest
Mon – Biking 200W 0,5h
Tue – 3 laps of 30”, 8 min rest, 1000m of 5 000m speed
Wed – Rest
Thu – 3 laps of 30”, 8 min rest, 1000m of 5 000m speed
Fri Race 5 000m
Simplicity is a key in Nils’ training, same structure for the almost entire season and focuses on a few elements, aerobic base, threshold, and race speed. In the off-season, he was adding more long/easy workouts in the second zone to constantly keep his aerobic base in good shape.
However there is one downside of this training plan, mentally it can be very boring and can lead to burning out. Always consider your physical and mental abilities when you create your training plan, and use the help of a professional coach when you prefer for racing.
What do you think of this approach to training? Let me know in the comments!