Cycling training to get you started
Cycling training, what does it take to be successful? And what is required? These are often questions you get as a coach.
Many people are stuck in the old ways of long and low-intensity rides. They want to improve their performance, but in reality, they don’t know how to. They then increase the volume in the hope they will see an improvement. But what happens is that they will struggle to get their heart rate up in races.
But if a rider can ride 160 kilometres? How can that rider be dropped in a race that distance? It is not because of the distance. It is because the cyclist can’t sustain the power necessary during the event.
Adjusting your training to incorporate a more modern approach can help you spend less time on the bike. Focus on intervals to build speed, intervals to build maximum power and intervals to work on lactic acid tolerance, can help you improve your cycling in a short space of time.
This article is to written to help cyclists of all levels, not just the elite level.
Cycling training requires an understanding of your body
First, you need to understand your body before starting more specific cycling training. Invest in a heart rate monitor or power meter, this will help you analyze your training, or you can pass the data onto your cycling coach.
As you adjust your cycling training, both power and strength will increase and with that your overall speed. Make sure any tests you do are in a controlled environment, as you need a constant reference point.
Before you get all motivated and head out the door, there is some essential advice you should follow.
Don’t overreach yourself
Familiar with beginner cyclists, I see it numerous times. Often they want a quicker improvement than what is possible and end up being frustrated.
Make sure you rest
It is essential to give the body enough rest. Often people are so focused on improving and training more, they overlook the need to recover.
Any training is better than none
There are often times when you lack motivation but fully recovered from past training. An hour of cycling is still better than lying on the sofa at home.
Ride with mates
It is essential to have company sometimes. Each week try to include yourself in a group ride which will allow you to socialize with other riders. Learning how other people are training can help motivate you, and you might learn a thing or two.
Sneaking in a piece of chocolate or candy won’t hurt your cycling training. Keeping yourself happy has performance benefits in itself. Happy athletes have always been proven to outperform their counterparts.
Enjoy riding a bike
The most important thing is to enjoy riding a bike. Like anything you must like what you are doing otherwise all your time and energy will go to waste.
Before starting your new cycling training plan, learn how your body builds fitness, this will help you understand why you should follow a cycling training plan catered for you.
During training, stress caused by exercise causes microtears in your muscles. The body then needs to repair the damage, which is why there are swelling and tenderness sometimes after your cycling training. The body then needs to rebuild itself and in turn, creates stronger muscles. This only happens if you allow adequate time to recover. If the recovery isn’t there you performance will slowly decline.
We are all born with different types of muscle fibers, whether this is slow-twitch or fast-twitch. Slow-twitch muscle fibers are continuous contractions, which are required for long-distance rides. The fast-twitch muscle fibers are for short bursts of speed, or sprints one could say.
Most ordinary people are located in the middle of these two. Even elite athletes are similar to the beginner, and typically they sit around 60 to 40 of these two.
To make significant improvements with your cycling training, you need to determine your type of fibers and take advantage. Meaning you need to train your body to use both muscle types.
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The ability to deliver blood and oxygen to your muscles is essential in gaining performance. As we talked about above, slow-twitch muscle fibers help rely upon oxygen and turn stored carbohydrate into energy.
Increasing the oxygen your body can use helps you ride stronger and prevents you from going anaerobic too early.
Hours of endurance riding can help your heart push more oxygen-rich blood through the body. In turn, it also helps breed new capillaries, which are blood vessels that help deliver oxygen where needed.
To sum it up, the more oxygen you can get to your working muscles will help you start aerobic. You will ride faster and longer before lactic acid accumulates, and your performance starts to decline.
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This system comes into play during high-intensity sprints or other high-intensity workouts. Lactate helps neutralize the acid which you may feel burning during intense efforts. The harder you push, the faster lactate builds up. Eventually, you will find that the muscles generate more than it can neutralize, and your performance starts to decline rapidly.
The point where you produce more lactate acid than you can clear is called the lactate threshold or anaerobic threshold. Your lactate threshold is a crucial figure we use in cycling training, and you can improve it much more than your maximum v02.
Building a cycling training schedule
To see improvement in your cycling training you need planned progression. This includes training, rest, and more training. The progress should last over months or years, rather than a week.
Using periodization in your training can help gradually build your fitness so you can peak or perform at you best at a specific time of the season.
To plan your training periodization, there are a few things you should remember:
Load and recover
For your cycling training plan to work as it should, you must allow the body to overload and then allow it to recover. Overloading the body triggers the body into adaptation mode, which helps the body to become stronger. During this time, you must progressively increase your intensity or volume as it adapts to the training.
Often as a coach, we see this a lot, people comparing their training to others. Training is based around your fitness level and personal requirements. Following your buddies training plan won’t see the improvements you want.
If you want to perform at you best, the training you do must resemble the activity. An ultra cyclist must progressively build up their volume, while a criterium training plan would require sprinting and explosive power training.
Your cycling training schedule needs to allow for progression. This means you need to push yourself by increasing either the volume, intensity or the number of intervals to see results.
Base training is typically your early season training, or what you do after a period of rest. If you are starting after an offseason break, make sure you speed 6-8 weeks with some low-intensity riding. If you are, to begin with, high-intensity work, you will begin to see your season progressively decline. This can be from fatigue, injury, and other factors. Riders who do follow this format will see an improvement in their speed but lack aerobic endurance, so their fitness tends to decline after some weeks.
Here are some guidelines when putting together your base training phase.
1. Ride at 70% of below that of your maximum heart rate; this means riding at a conversation pace.
2. Aim to ride 4-6 times a week and include at least one rest day.
3. Depending on your available time, start at 5 to 15 hours and continue adding a few hours each week to your total weekly volume.
While this is a general outline to help you get started. Remember everyone is different and have different lifestyles. One person may be about to ride 15 hours a week during the base phase, others may not have the time. Adjusting this is suit your fitness and lifestyle is of the utmost importance. Use this is a basic guideline to help you structure your own plan.
Cycling Training Plan
If you are looking for a more structured training approach for your cycling, SportCoaching can help structure your session with 20 years of knowledge. All athletes are given an ATP (annual training plan) layout where they can see the seasons periodization and peaks.
With a 30-day money-back guarantee and unlimited support, our coaches can help you improve your cycling power, strength and fitness rapidly. From beginners through to professionals, we have coached over 200 cyclists from all around the world.