How close to a race can you increase your fitness?

I’m 11 days out from my CX season’s A race. Assuming there is a point at which no more fitness can be gained prior to a specific date, is it rational to also assume that doing “productive” workouts(above your current PL) after that point are useless since any increase in fitness won’t be realized until after the race date? I know this is basically describing tapering, but typically the main thought there is to make sure you’re “fresh” for your race. I obviously want to be fresh, but I also want to know at what point am I wasting my time/energy/fatigue by doing challenging workouts meant to increase my fitness.

What you seem to be talking about (specifically leading in to an A event) is essentially a “Taper”. As such, they are usually meant to lean out on volume, keep some intensity, and allow the body to repair and prepare for the big day.

It’s assuming the majority of fitness gains took place in the weeks and months prior. Generally speaking, cramming fitness is not necessarily possible or productive. That said, some types of fitness can be honed and improved in that timeframe, like sprinting.

Some worthwhile reading:

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Will depend very much on which part of ‘fitness’ you are describing, as well as your recent training etc.

Areas like endurance will take a long time to show results while anaerobic improvements are likely to come pretty quickly. I’m no coach but with 11 days and the focus being CX then I would do a couple more anaerobic sessions (that didnt totally kill me probably) and then start to taper.

If in doubt though, I’d take ‘better rested and slighty under fit, than too tired…’ as my guiding principle. In the grand scheme of all your training, is an extra 1 or 2 interval sessions liekly to make any real diference? As Frank at Fascat is famous for saying all the time…‘fresh is fast’!

I guess what I’m really asking is what an ideal week prior to your taper week looks like. Lots of discussion about the week before a race(taper) but not much about the week before that(2 weeks out). Seems like it might should still be a hard training week, but structured with more threshold type work earlier in the week and higher intensity type work like aerobic/VO2 later in the week.

  • Assuming you are a TR user, simply look at the CX Specialty plan, since that has their answer.
  • ETA: make sure to read the weekly tips still present in the main plan page. These give some idea of the “why” behind the plans they offer.

I’ve been kind of doing my own hybrid speciality block build roughly around what AT suggests. What was kind of odd was that it scheduled a recovery last week(prior to a B race) that I followed because I needed it, but seemed poorly placed, considering the timing of my A race.

I honestly don’t love the CX speciality plan, at least not for me. I’ve done it in seasons before and its too much anerobic work and not enough threshold. I have a very strong anerobic engine but struggle with threshold work so following the CX plan I always struggled with sustained work that a lot of the races I do required. This year I’ve basically been doing a modified version of the polarized plan with one threshold workout and one VO2/anerobic workout and its been PERFECT. Actually won my B race this weekend.

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Agreed. I really dislike the CX plan. I’ve been doing a similar plan to you. One day threshold and one day VO2 max per week with some endurance thrown in.

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From what I understanding of research and coaching, a 3 or 4 week block of training is usually considered the minimum for adaptations. Exceptions of course (longer and shorter), but that is the basic rule of thumb.

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Probably not going to get much 11 days out. But a day of 30/30 sprints, rest, day of 30/30, then rest again might gain you a few watts. But I wouldn’t expect much.

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Framing this another way - how can you increase form? This is the key. It’s about an effective taper to reduce fatigue. If you keep an eye on fitness/fatigue/form graphs in the lead up to an event, you’ll probably notice fitness decline ever so slightly in an effective taper, but fatigue reduces and form increases leading to a better performance on race day.

Chad’s nailed it - you begin to reduce volume in the couple of weeks in the build up to an important event, but maintain intensity. It takes a while to figure out exactly what works for each person.


This tends to be pretty individual…and unfortunately requires some “trial and error”.

For me, I tend to take an easier week two weeks out (essentially my taper) and then do a moderate week on race week to “wake the legs up”.

if I taper on race week and take it easier, I usually have flat legs on race day.

That is all for pure bike events. I never did figure out how to taper well for an IM race, though…

11 days out, your fitness is done…the question now is how to have your “form” peak on race day.