This is how CTS founder and CEO Chris Carmichael describes adaptation and progression:

“All forms of physical training are based on your body’s stress (or overload) adaptation system. To gain positive training effects, you must overload a muscle group or energy system. The training overload will cause these muscles to grow stronger, or the targeted energy systems to become more efficient. As you adapt, the training intensity and volume must progressively increase. If the training load does not increase as you adapt, your fitness will reach a conditioning plateau. CTS always increases training intensities and volume in small amounts to avoid overtraining or injury. You must recover from your training. Recovery is extremely important, and an integral component in the training process. It is during the recovery period, not the training period, that your body adapts — that is, grows stronger, faster, and more powerful.

No recovery–no gains! The proper amount of training intensity, volume and recovery is critical, as overtraining can result from any imbalance among these three factors.

Training needs to progressively move forward. To enjoy further training gains, you will need to increase training loads as you adapt. The progression principle is applied in daily workouts to broad, long-term training plans. For example, your CTS coach will apply progression to your daily workouts as you adapt to a certain volume of training intervals. As adaptation occurs, you need increase the number of intervals, reduce the rest between intervals, increase the length of the interval or increase the intensity.

The long-term application of the progression principle can be shown in the early training of a teenage Lance Armstrong. Early in his cycling career his endurance training was generally done with rides of 40-60 miles. Now, as Lance has progressed and matured, so has the length of his endurance rides. His endurance rides now range from 80 to 140 miles.”

I can hear my friends saying: “Yeah sure, this applies to Lance but how does it apply to me?” Well it applies to all human bodies so it applies to you. The proof? Here’s the proof:

Compare this:

All out efforts, December 2010 - January 2011

To this:

That is what I call progression

Compare this (January 2011 training) to that (June 2011 racing).

Why am I writing this tonight? Why do I write this blog at all? Simple. To share my passion about cycling, my increased knowledge about training and my experience as a time crunched athlete. And to illustrate to my fellow riders that no matter how old (or young) you are, how much experience you have as a cyclist, if you have a training plan and follow that plan, the results will follow.

As most of you probably know by now, I had a pretty good day on Saturday at the Whiteface Hill Climb Race in N.Y. State. But what is most fascinating to me about Saturday is how well it showcases the principles of adaptation and progression in training. I did not wake up Saturday morning and suddenly became ready to move from 40th in my age category to 12th in only one year. I worked at it. And the numbers that prove the progression speak for themselves.

Only six months ago, as part of my winter training, CTS coach Jason had me doing power intervals. He had me doing three minutes power intervals with three minutes recovery between each effort. At first I could maintain 335 watts for three minutes, recover for three minutes, then maintain 332 watts for three minutes, recover again for another three minutes but then on the third effort I could only maintain 325 watts for 2:13 mins before quitting on the effort because of the pain. In total that was 8:13 mins of power interval effort at about an average of about 330 watts with two recovery periods of three minutes each.

On Saturday I maintained the same power as I did in the January power intervals (roughly 330 watts) for the same period of time (8:13 mins) but without any recovery time and then I continued racing for another 48 mins as opposed to quitting because the effort was too hard. Overall I averaged 289 watts for 56:24 mins on Saturday, a personal best. Look at my power file for the race which I posted above: I was able to maintain good and steady power after the initial high intensity effort.

So what do it all mean? It means that by following my training schedule which calls for an increase in training loads as my body adapts I progress as an athlete. Clearly. Once you have experienced what your body is capable of as it adapts to increased training load, the sky’s the limit. You can dream and set higher goals. Forget about only doing that same old Saturday morning ride with the same people and on the same roads as your main training ride. Forget about doing the same old local hill over and over again. You need to have a well defined training plan that will cause your body to be stressed more and more. And once you have progressed, whenever you go out with your friends for that Saturday morning group ride, you get to set the pace on the flats, win a few sprints and challenge your buddies on the rollers.

Thanks in large part to the support of my family, I am able to follow a very structured training program. And as I have said for years, I have the easy job: “I just follow the training schedule. I delegate all the planning and thinking to my CTS coach Jason and I watch the results.” Saturday I watched the results and I liked what I saw.

I find that what is needed to cause adaptation and progression is more of a mental challenge than anything else. Life is full of conflicting priorities, distractions, challenges and set backs. Managing it all while sticking to your training program to achieve your goals as an athlete is extremely challenging and it requires a very serious commitment. And then one day, like last Saturday, you get to break out of the theoretical world and into the real world of adaptation and progression and then you say: “I want more of it.”