Thinking about YOU when training.
So I’ve read some articles recently discussing how to train for the off season. I feel that even though the info might be good and well written, it doesn’t take into account individuality. During my ride tonight I found myself really dwelling on the topic of off season and training. I can imagine that a large number of people will start their pre-season quest for fitness with a google search, which I’m sure, brings up a massive array of info and opinions. So please, indulge me for a few minutes on this topic. As a coach I see how important the aspect of individuality is. This is an aspect that I feel some articles seem to neglect. The info is put out to the masses but it doesn’t match up well with all the readers. A beginner should not be on the same base training plan as a seasoned racer. A beginner has a greater need for building a foundation, strength, and muscle stability. Experience will teach a rider how their body reacts to training and what demands it can handle, tolerate, or should avoid. Another thing I dread with new riders is the thought of a person training for hundreds of miles, or doing intense intervals with an improper bike fit and possibly reaping havoc on their bodies. If you ride a little or a lot and have never had a bike fit done by a professional please do so as soon as possible. Besides saving yourself from potential injury you will more than likely increase your power, and improve your comfort on the bike. This can lead to longer saddle time with less wasted energy. So when I read something that doesn’t cover the full spectrum of riders, but suggests intense riding I worry about who may be reading it and the potential for harm it may cause. I'm not saying the info is incorrect, I just wonder if the training load may be too intense for some. My job as a trainer is to assess an individual and their needs. Not having a trainer or some guidance (and no, not your best friend or riding buddy who knows everything about everything) can lead you down a road to trouble, injury, burn out, or just plain nowhere. Just remember you can NEVER replace the guidance and knowledge of a coach. Their job is to make you your best and keep you on the path to your goals. Here's some advice to think about when working on your training plan.
Whether you are a newbie or have some seasoned years under your belt I recommend you start your off season with putting in a solid base of riding. I remember back in the day we would say to have 1,000 miles in before your first race. Even though that’ a great number, it doesn’t take into account how those miles were ridden, or at what intensity. Ten miles of climbing is a lot more work than ten miles on a flat road. Think about time rather than miles, as you get fitter both time and mileage will increase naturally.
Look at your history, be realistic, and think about what time you can put into training. If you just got into riding you should not focus on intervals or sprints. Focus on the mechanics of cycling and your form. Work on your pedal stroke, and as it gets smoother and smoother you can increase your cadence and when it come time for sprints your form will be there and you won't look jerky on the bike. I always say your legs should look like smooth circles, and not two opposing pistons. If time is the larger issue then think about the quality of your saddle time and try to learn from each ride rather than rushing to get it done. All of your riding has the potential to make you a better cyclist. Use your base miles to focus on your skills, such as cornering, descending, and braking.
If you feel you must do intervals as your method of base training, start slowly and start with lower times and intensity than suggested to see how your body reacts. I strongly suggest this with any training you might consider. You don’t want to do a night of serious intervals and go to bed only to wake up feeling exhausted. Not only that, you may be unable to move a day or two later.
Don’t take everything you read as the one and only way. Even this article I’m writing right you can use your judgment on.
Do not try and rush your training. I see it all the time, people trying to go from newbie to pro overnight. Things take time, and you can only learn and handle so much at once. Start slow, stay safe, and focus on your form. Easy base miles are the perfect time for this.
Training is hard and takes its toll on a person both mentally and physically. If there are days you’re feeling down and don’t want to train, then don’t. Come back to it when you are excited about it and know you will commit 100% to the work out and are focused on it. Do not take this as I’m saying you have mentally backed down and are quitting by not doing a workout. I’ve learned from experience that most people will not put 100% into a workout when they are not feeling it. This can lead to further frustration, over training, lack of focus causing injury, or a workout so sad it is a waste of time. Every workout is an opportunity to build towards a better you.
Mix things up. Cycling is a demanding sport. My belief is to be a strong overall individual, allowing the body to be strong on any bike and in any discipline. So don’t be afraid of strength and core training, just keep in mind you’re a cyclist not a power lifter. I have developed my workout routine so that I can do it year round.
Training is learning! Learn from what your body is trying to tell you.