Identifying Your Training Goals

The 1st step in planning your training

by Dr Dick Rafoth


As you begin to map out your training plan for the season, look ahead to final ride or event that will be your season’s goal. Once you have identified the goal, you can begin the development of a training plan/schedule along with a sound nutrition program to support the effort. Although each person’s personal goals will have their unique aspects, the following 6 examples cover most of the weekly and final season rides.

Two elements, ride length and ride intensity, have a major bearing on planning – for the weekly mileage plan as well as how you can utilize knowledge of nutritional physiology to eat smart to minimize the chances of “running out of gas” along the way.

  1. Length of the ride
    • Training mileage is linked to the total ride length
    • if the ride will be more than 2 hours (both training rides and event ride), you will need to begin to think about oral Caloric supplements.
  2. The intensity of the ride
    • if you will be riding at > 80% VO2max, intervals need to be part of your training program
    • if you are riding at > 80% VO2max, and for more than 2 hours, you will definitely need carbohydrate supplements to maintain internal muscle glycogen stores for what may become an anaerobic effort at times.

And when we do our planning, we will go into more detail on the specific nutritional needs for the:

    • 4 days to the event
    • 4 hours prior to the event
    • 4 minutes prior to the event
  • DURING THE EVENT – both Calorie needs and fluid replacement

Let’s look at the six examples I mentioned above.  



  • Duration – less than 2 hours
  • Intensity – 50 – 60% VO2max

This ride is done at a comfortable pace of 50-60% VO2 max. for 1 to 2 hours, often multiple days of the week. The goal is a comfortable ride with energy left for the remainder of the day.

BASIC TRAINING RIDE (often referred to as LSD or long, slow distance)

  • Duration – 2+ hours
  • Intensity – 50 to 100% VO2max

This ride is just a bit longer than the 2 hour limit that can lead to the bonk, so snacking on the bike is important. As intensity increases above 60%, it is more important to avoid eating in the 4 hour pre-ride interval to avoid GI distress.


  • Duration – generally less than 2 hours
  • Intensity – 80 to 100% VO2max

For intervals, it is important to have your stomach empty or you risk the GI distress (nausea) that results from exercising close to or above 100% VO2 max. You will also sweat more so fluid replacement is a consideration. If this is a ride of less than 1 1/2 to 2 hours, there is probably not a need for carbohydrate supplements during the ride.


  • Duration – more than 2 hours
  • Intensity – 60 to 80% VO2max

This ride will definitely lead to the bonk if you don’t replace carbohydrates, so snacking on the bike is mandatory. A 300 gram carbohydrate meal 3 to 4 hours before this ride helps “top off the tank”, so to speak, in terms of muscle glycogen stores.


  • Duration – 1 – 4 hours
  • Intensity – 80 to 100% VO2max

This is the ride that will let you know if you trained successfully, and good nutrition and planning your eating strategy can make a difference. You will need a good carbohydrate base to maximize muscle glycogen reserves, and you need to avoid eating in the 4 hour pre-event interval to keep your stomach empty or you risk the GI distress that goes with exercising close to or above 100% VO2 max. You will also sweat more so fluid replacement needs to be watched. If this is a ride of more than 1 1/2 to 2 hours, you will need oral carbohydrate supplements during the ride.


  • Duration – multiday, 4 – 6 hours per day
  • Intensity – 50 to 80% VO2max

This series of rides is basically the same as several long training rides, but you need to careful that you eat a high carbohydrate meal each evening to replace the muscle glycogen you metabolized that day or you will slowly become glycogen depleted and chronic fatigue will develop. This can include a post ride snack and a 300 gram carbohydrate meal each day, 3 to 4 hours before the ride, in addition to a diet that is higher in carbohydrates than normal.

Tips for those trips that will include long back-to-back days on the bike:

  • Train with long back-to-back rides. You can train for a single century by riding long once a week because the event calls for just one day of exertion — and then you can rest. But to build the stamina for a week (or two) of daily rides you should train with several long, back to back, rides.
  • Replace those Calories in training. When you’re maxing those training miles, you need to replace the Calories you are burning (and fluids too) to keep muscle glycogen stores intact. If you skimp, you run the risk of increasing your level of fatigue.
  • Respect your contact points. Keep your hands, feet and saddle area happy. Pain in any of those areas can ruin a good adventure. Think twice about using new gear for the first time on the ride.
  • Beware of overtraining. It’s tempting to put in big miles to prepare for the week. Going too fast (and often) has its own set of risks. Train smart.

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