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Tips For Early Season Training

Monday, February 1, 2021

Perhaps the cold, or even snow is making you stare out of the window, putting off the training ride that you have planned. But you remind your inner self that you have committed to being ready for when spring arrives and it really is down to you; fitness and mental toughness do not just appear by watching Boris or Joe Wicks on the TV, it takes personal commitment and self motivation.

So, if you are struggling with the idea or are not sure where to start, here are a few of my tips for training ahead of your summer rides

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Have a training strategy and break it down to monthly objectives that will keep you motivated. Break the training plan down into defined “blocks” or mesocycles and have an objective for each. Break down each mesocyclone into blocks of 4 to 8 weeks and within each week decide what workouts you will do.

If you are new to cycling then only put in one maximum “hard” sessions, the rest need to be lower or low intensity sessions with recovery days built into each week. Your hard days should be after your recovery day and the remaining days should be low aerobic.

Done correctly you will develop power, gain aerobic capacity and build fatigue resistance.

Test yourself regularly to Identify your strength and limiters, then work the limiters and maintain the strengths. Typically these would be factors such as muscular endurance (stamina), aerobic capacity, functional threshold power (FTP), muscular force, fatigue resistance, etc.

Each month run a test to identify your lactate heart rate threshold (the point where you start to fatigue) and hence your training heart rate zones; this is crucial to help you determine the intensity of your training, so that you do not train too hard or too low, either of which may result in an ineffective training session - you may have heard the term “junk miles” , ie lots of effort for little or no gain.

Before you begin each workout, write down its objectives and review how far you met them after the workout. Keeping a log will help you track progress and understand how your body reacts to different training stresses.

Make your training specific to the type of rides you want to do; that culd be endurance, beating your mates on social rides, or just to be better at climbing.

You may have been fortunate enough to have bought an indoor trainer, it could be one where you mount your bike onto it and spin away on Zwift, or have bought into the latest indoor cycling craze of Peloton. While these indoor trainers are marvellous at helping us build fitness and our 20 minute “threshold” power they should be considered just one part of how we train for longer rides.

At the pointin the year we need to put in the Foundations and build our base endurance in order to prepare adequately for the long distances, and multi-day event that you are looking forward to doing later this year.  This means going for duration rather than intensity, lay down the strong foundations, depth of fitness is key. Becoming bike fit is also likely to prevent avoidable injuries such as numbness and sores.

Fuel well before during and after a workout. Everyone’s metabolism is different, but for the average person, expect to burn 500kjoules (equivalent to calories) per hour. Eat lots of slow burn carbs beforehand and for those longer, endurance rides, continue to graze throughout.

Recovery days are gifts that keep giving; remember a key point, exercise only gives the potential for fitness, but you need to recover, to adapt to the new training load and hence improve. Without recovery you will plateau, stall and then potential overreach and injure yourself.

Not to about the above point, but avoid overtraining, keep an eye on your levels of fatigue and never push yourself too far. The signs can be both physical fatigue, susceptibility to illness and injure, loss of motivation and sleep disturbances. Build in recovery. Rest is not cheating.

Train with fellow like-minded people, get used to group riding and understand the massive benefits that it offers you both mentally and physically.   You will only build speed through technique, so include in your training sessions exercises such as cadence drills, use of your gears to maintain momentum, drafting in a group, etc.

In winter lower the pressure on the tyres and regularly check and clean the bike - winter is hard on all the bike’s components.

Off the bike, active stretching is essential to ensure you have sufficient range of movement, especially ankles, calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, etc.

Finally, you may be asking what kind of training should you being doing at this point.

Essentially you should be following a training strategy that broadly starts with building the foundation of your fitness through long, low intensity rides that build stamina and improve your resistance to fatigue on the longer days in the saddle that you will experience.

For those of you who have already been putting in the foundation miles, then you may wish to consider soon moving to what is called chronic aerobic training. This type of training improves your ability to take and use the oxygen that you breathe for sustained endurance performance (aerobic capacity) and use it for the production of power (aerobic power). This is the period of building a strong "depth of fitness" where we improve not only our aerobic system, but also start to improve our neuromuscular system and drive metabolic changes that are needed to build and recruit the muscles, ligaments, cardiovascular system, etc that we are going to need for our challenge.

However, you may be tempted to skip this and plumb for the short sharp sessions and "races" that you can find on the likes of Zwift or Trainerroad. Personally, I love these online immersive Apps, however remember this thought, which I will credit to Dr Andy Coggin, "Performance is the ability of the rider to meet the demands of the event”.

So when is the more intensive workouts on Zwift, etc appropriate ? Simply they should come later once you have a solid foundation. For example, once you have the foundation, start to build a strong “battery”, which we call your Functional Reserve Capacity (FRC); there will be a few hills that will force you into burning through your limited anaerobic energy store (think of it as you battery, in essence you are creating energy from carbohydrates and glycogen in the absence of oxygen, and this is in a very limited supply), so will also need to train to build the battery to avoid what is termed “bonking”; this type of training is normally started once you are transitioning from base aerobic training.

So my advice is, between now and your spring rides, train for the demands of your chosen types of rides, days; the main limiter for aerobic training is time, so use it wisely over this winter period.

Prepare for the weather and put in the foundations to your success.

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