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So the Midatlanticcross schedule started floating around this week. Looks like my first cross race will be the third week of September. Assuming I have a good fitness base and I'm working on technique, what type of workouts should I be focusing on?

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I guess the big question is...what is "base fitness" and what are the physiological demands of CX racing?

If you can hang on just a little longer, I've written an article for issue 3 (that should be on it's way to you very soon - if you've subscribed!) that will give you a bit more detail on "How to Train for Cyclocross". Issue 3 contains the first of a series of articles that will guide you through the season.

But if you can't wait and want to start right away, here's a few pointers. Being the 'early season' for cyclocross, your main focus should be on aerobic rides, technique and building core strength. Aerobic doesn't mean long rides in zones 1/2. In reality it means extending your time in zones 3/4/5a which will develop both your threshold power and vo2max. For now, focus on increasing total time at zones 3 and 4 (google SST intervals). As that becomes more comfortable over the next few weeks or so, hold extended z4 efforts building up to z5a (vo2max) efforts. These will help build your aerobic engine and provide increased fitness to build on with the harder workouts later. Avoid doing any significant anaerobic efforts (sprints, hard group rides) right now if you are building up from scratch.

Also, start to bring in some light running, esp. if your body is not used to that form of exercise. And work on core strength - very important for cross.

I know this is a bit brief, but it should hold you until your next issue of CX Mag arrives - any day now.

Mike Birner
Mid-Maryland Coaching
OK, so I probably should have provided a little more info up front. The last couple of years have seen most of my races being time trials and triathlons, so I wouldn't say I'm starting from scratch. But, my wife and I had our second child in May so workouts through most of the spring have been inconsistent to say the least.

The running that I am doing now will continue through cross and I'm still swimming for the core benefits.

Bike workouts similar in focus to the SST intervals have been a good part of the spring, with a few group rides thrown in. I spend a lot of time on the trainer so I have good control over the intensity and focus of the workouts and using a Garmin 305 so I have a good idea of progress and current fitness.

I think right now I need to work with SST type efforts for a few more weeks, working mainly on increasing volume and consistency.

I looking at my first race being Sept. 21 (Charm City), with a more focused A-race mentality for a race in late October. I'm looking at the September race more for training and experience and will mostly train through focusing on later in the season.

To gain some benefit for the race in September, when should I start to progress over to higher intensity workouts? Or am I better to focus on aerobic now train through September and start the higher intensity at a later date?

And, FYI, if you google SST intervals, you'll learn everything you'd like to know about how Sea Surface Temperature is affecting the sardines in Peru.

And I'm looking forward to reading the article. Hopefully the mag has the postage issues solved. I subscribed to Issue #1 and I think I was the absolute last to receive Issue 2.

since you're not starting from scratch, it's probably good to add some hard efforts. I like to do some group rides where the hard efforts are simply trying to stay with someone, doesn't feel like work, and gets the intensity up before you really start getting structured.

i think the other helpful thing is to spend more time on the cx bike. I think riding trails really is invaluable in getting familiar with the bike, getting technical skills up, and can be a lot of fun. riding some technical trails may also force you to do repeated mounts/dismounts/run-ups - that's all a good thing at this stage.

you're not alone in your hopes about the postage! 3 hours at the post office, 6 hours on the phone with usps, 3 checks, a mailing service, and many tears later, it better be faster this time! if everyone doesn't have it by the 24th, I'm gonna be pissed.
Mike - thanks for the post. Could you please define targer HR zones? Really appreciated the article in issue three, but would like to know if I am applying the proper efforts. Cheers!

Sorry for the delay - it's been a while since I checked this post.

To clarify the zones I've attached a chart from a powerpoint presentation I had. These zones are all based on a percentage of your threshold - so the critical info you'll need to determine is your threshold heart rate (or power). To do this for heart rate do a 20-30 min time trial on the trainer or uninterrupted on the road. Take your average heart rate for this period and that will likely be your heart rate threshold barring any variables that might come into play with heart rate readings (whole other subject altogether). Then you can take the percentages off the chart to verify you are using the correct intensities.

Hope that helps.
Thanks for the reply. Will there be a followup article in the next issue of CX magazine?
Yes, the next phase of training will be covered in this next issue. I know they are hard at work putting it together as we speak.
In a nutshell, ditch of longer endurance stuff and only do shorter, more intense workouts. There are plenty of cyclocross-specific workouts out there on the internet or you can checkout Cyclocross has a higher average HR than what you might be used to. That will take some interval training to get that nailed down. I would start with the interval training for a couple weeks. The key to any "interval" workout is the complete recovery of the HR inbetween each peak. Most people do not do this and end up doing a 20-minute threashold work out. That's fine for later but too hard to do early on.


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