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Cycling Book: The Time-Crunched Cyclist

thumb_timecrunchedcyclistAug 27th,09. Review by local cyclist Paul Waite. "For riders who find it impossible to fit 'serious' training into a busy life schedule." Authors: Chris Carmichael and Jim Rutberg


Book title: The Time-Crunched Cyclist: Fit Fast and Powerful in 6 Hours a Week
Authors: Chris Carmichael and Jim Rutberg
Publisher: VeloPress, 2009

Publisher's Summary

Let's face it: You don't have as much time to ride as you used to. Chris Carmichael's new book, The Time-Crunched Cyclist, presents a new way to achieve competitive fitness and power without the impossible time demands of traditional training methods.

In fewer than 6 hours a week, cyclists can develop the snap, endurance, and strength they need to push the pace in the local group ride, have fun and perform well in local races, or tackle challenging century rides.


Recommended & reviewed by reader Paul Waite

For those who don't know, Chris Carmichael is Lance Armstrong's fitness coach, which is a pretty good reason to buy this book all by itself. Having read it, I can tell you that there are plenty of other reasons as well and although the title may look a bit like one of those awful infomercials which promise 'washboard abs on only 6 seconds a week!', this book is the real deal.

Most other reviews of the book I've read so far sign off with an 'ok now let's see if it works' ending. Not this one. I can tell you that Carmichael's TCTP (Time-Crunched Training Program) techniques work because it so happens that I 'invented' my own version of it this winter.

As I read the book, understood the scientific background to what he was proposing, and then went through the training programs themselves, I realised I had been doing the same kind of high intensity workouts, mixed with lower intensity weekend rides.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Who is the book aimed at, what are the training programs and how do they work?

If you can't find the time in your busy life to train more than 6 to 8 hours a week, but still have a burning desire to do well in the Round Taupo, in local criteriums and shorter races, or just the Sunday bunch ride then this book is for you. The TCTP was born out of the premise that training below a threshold of around 6 to 8 hours a week just doesn't work if you are following a conventional training program because the low training volume can't deliver the aerobic base required.

I won't go into all the physiology here, but Carmichael explains superbly in the book how a training program which features shorter but higher intensity training coupled with good recovery (growth) periods can deliver spectacular results.

But the improvements do come with a cost. Carmichael pulls no punches, explaining that there are trade-offs to be made with this approach. The high intensity nature of the workouts means they are necessarily very hard - the old adage 'no pain, no gain' comes to mind. But most importantly, he explains that time-crunched training only provides time-crunched fitness. Each training program ramps up your fitness in 8 weeks and keeps it there for a further 4 weeks, after which you have to come down off the 'high' in a recovery program of 4 weeks before starting over.

But the fitness is real enough, and all aspects of your physical system get a boost - aerobic capacity, power at lactate threshold, and VO2max, and after the recovery program you will probably be starting off from a higher base level of fitness than the previous time.

The training programs themselves are split into two groups of two. The first pair are dedicated to 'Competitors' who want to kick butt in local criteriums or shorter races. There is a program for newbies, and one for experienced riders. The second pair are for those wanting to complete 'Century' rides such as Round Taupo and once again new and experienced riders are catered for.

For each of these, the program content can be summarised as follows: A maximum of four workouts per week comprising two to three weekday workouts (with high intensity intervals), and one to two weekend rides each lasting 1 to 3 hours. Before starting a program the rider has to do a 'field test' to measure current fitness and derive a baseline in terms of heart-rate and/or output power in watts (if you are lucky enough to have a power meter).

The workouts are then done either indoors on a trainer or outdoors on terrain suitable to the programmed performance targets, but you do need to have a minimum of heart-rate and cadence monitor. A power meter is recommended, but not absolutely essential.

As I said before, by coincidence I have gone through a program very similar to the TCTP where I put myself through various high intensity workouts during the week on an indoor trainer, then went out on the weekend on longer rides and, without quite knowing why, was impressed with the increase in power over about 7 or 8 weeks.

As a result I'm convinced that Chris Carmichael's TCTP will work exactly as it says on the tin, and would strongly recommend this book to any riders who find it impossible to fit 'serious' training into a busy life schedule, but still want to get out there and rip the legs off their riding mates.

Paul is a 50-something company director who would like to get out riding more than he has time to. Though probably in the fun-rider category, he likes to do 100km+ weekend ride, the odd race or two, and like many has aspirations to blitz the field up l'Alpe d'Huez one day.

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