Preparing for the Haute Route – a Discussion: Training Overload

Coach Wiroth is back with us to explain (in a somewhat confusing way, in my opinion) what he calls ‘training overload’. Comments and questions below the article.

sitelogo2Article #3 – How to plan a training overload

Jean-Baptiste WIROTH – PhD
Founder of WTS – The Coaching Company® –

If you want to improve your performance on the bike, it is absolutely necessary to increase your amount of training in a significant way. Overload is of primary importance in order to have perfect fitness during Haute Route!

What is overload?
To create physiological adaptations, you have to stimulate your body with unusual training amounts. This is called overload. If you are accustomed to train 10 hours per week, you will do a significant overload if you train for 12 to 15 hours.

Keep in mind that overload is one of 5 main principles of training. The others are progressiveness, training/recovery, specificity and individualization.

Overload and super-compensation
To be efficient, a training session should stimulate the body and create fatigue. During the rest period that follows training, the body adapts and develops new capabilities. This period of super-compensation is always transitory. If someone makes an intense training session (3 hours) on Sunday morning, the period of super-compensation will begin on Wednesday and will finish 24 to 48 hours later.

When overload should be planned?
Before answering this question, it is important to remind that a season is cut in 5 periods that succeed in a logical and progressive way.
1- Global preparation
2- Base period who is an optimal period to try to improve its weak points
3- Build period (PPS) which includes the first races
4- Peak period where the best fitness should be achieved
5- Recovery period

For an athlete who trains for Haute Route, it is recommended to plan one overload week during each training period. During the last period before the race, it is recommended to stop overloads around 2 to 3 weeks before the race.

July is the most important month for someone who trains for Haute Route!

Example of periodization


  1. Firstly, I’m not sure why this periodization chart starts at Week 9 (this is both a comment and a question..).
  2. As I understand the principle, the last week in a 4-week training period will be harder than the rest. Does this assume that the previous weeks were the same number of hours on the bike then? My program last season was cut into one-month chunks, with each week progressively higher in hours than the previous, then, after a week of recovery, resetting (but at a higher number than the previous period) for ‘week one’ of the next period. In this scenario I wonder where the ‘overload’ is. Still the last week, or just spread out over the month?
  3. This idea of ‘super-compensation’ is, in my mind, crucial for getting stronger. A week of recovery (but continue riding every day) after 4 progressively harder weeks allowed me not only to remain sane and have something to look forward to every 5 weeks, but I’m sure it was invaluable in repairing the damage I did to my body during those 28 days.
  4. The Haute Route must be approached differently than the Etape du Tour, I’m assuming, since it is, essentially, several Etapes strung together over consecutive days. I wonder what others think about the ‘2 to 3 weeks’ comment above. I’m guessing that means that your last peak week of training will be 14 to 21 days before the Haute Route begins, meaning recovery of that long as well. This is 2 to 3 times as long as I did for the two Etapes this year. It seems extreme, but is it because the Haute Route is that much more extreme? Comments very welcome on this one!

Lastly, for your viewing pleasure, I present you a video that has just come out – Haute Route, The Movie! Warning: watch at your own risk. The author shall not be liable for any marital issues resulting from spontaneous Haute Route registrations. 

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