Effective training for cycling
Whether it's for fitness, competitions or just for the hell of it, effective training requires both mental and physical preparation. Before you embark on a training programme you might like to consider the following questions.
What do you want to achieve?
Do you want to take part in the local 10-mile time trial, the National Points Series Mountain Bike races or the National Road Race calendars? Or are you just training to make your leisure rides feel a bit easier? Whatever the reason, write down your long-term goal and keep this in mind when you plan what you need to do.
How much time do you have?
Whatever the reason, write down your long-term goal and keep this in mind when you plan what you need to do
The time and energy that we might like to dedicate to riding is easily absorbed by daily tasks, or work and family commitments. Analyse your time commitments and decide how much time you can then allocate to training. Consider:
- Time spent at work
- Time spent on household tasks
- Time spent socialising
- Time spent on other leisure activities
Now calculate how much time is available for training. Remember, if you have a lot of tasks, you will have a high level of stress, and your training week should take this into account. And don't forget to include time for rest! Now rate these tasks according to the amount of mental and physical stress they cause. 1 = not stressful, 10 = very stressful.
When you have had a physically stressful day, do a lower level of riding within the session. In this way your body will benefit from the exercise rather than seeing it as another form of stress, thus creating an unproductive training session. On days when your stress rating is lower (perhaps at weekends), your riding intensity can be higher.
Now rate these tasks according to the amount of mental and physical stress they cause. 1 = not stressful, 10 = very stressful
Have different types of riding within your week, e.g. long, steady rides; short and intense intervals; medium duration rides with varied intensity. If you are competing, consider what sort of terrain will you race on. Will it be flat, undulating, hilly, winding, or technical?
Components of performance
- Physical considerations - strength training, speed training, endurance training.
- Mental training - attention focus, imagery technique, anxiety reduction training.
- Tactical training - for your cycling discipline
- Technical training - to improve your skill level.
If you were to concentrate on all of the above components equally throughout the year you would be very bored and very busy. By periodising your training you can emphasize the individual elements by changing their volume and intensity according to the racing season.
For example, if you were working towards a race in the summer, the periodisation might work as follows: During the winter (October-February) concentrate on endurance and strength training with a maintenance programme for speed work. Include technical training and some of the mental elements.
Winter riding is ideal for endurance training. In the pre-season, (March-April) reduce the endurance and strength work and increase the speed and tactical components. During the season itself (April-September), you will train to maintain levels of fitness, concentrate on becoming race fit, and developing your tactical ability.
A training plan to suit you
You now know what you are aiming for, the time you have to achieve it, and how to make the most of that time. So what's the next step? First, you need to assess your own ability, strengths, weaknesses, and previous sporting history. Write down a list of all the different factors about yourself before you plan your training.
Training plan guidelines
- How long you have been cycling
- Other sports that you have participated in
- The types of training you like and dislike
- What has worked (or not worked) for you in the past?
- Your strengths and weaknesses associated with the tactical, technical, physical and psychological areas in the sport
- This will form the starting block from which to build your training plan.
If you are new to the sport or have had little previous sporting involvement, or if your last period of regular exercise was at school or years ago, you will need to build up your riding gradually. Work on a variety of areas, but especially endurance. Avoid speed work sessions in the first few weeks of any programme. After four weeks, you could introduce one speed session per week, two speed sessions after eight weeks and maximum of three speed sessions after 12 weeks.
Avoid speed work sessions in the first few weeks of any programme
If you are new to cycling but have been competing or participating in various sports regularly you will have a stronger platform to work from. Beware of introducing high intensity sessions too early into your programme. Your cardiovascular system may be able to cope with the demands but your technique and muscles may not be quite so well developed. Keep your sessions varied and alternate hard and easy training days to avoid overtraining.