The word training is thrown around relatively easy these days. It seems as though any endeavor in exercise means that someone is “training”. I label training as having a plan to a goal and applying a step by step process to get to that goal. When someone does a certain ride or a workout but then label it as training I often wonder how it applies to the big picture of what they’re trying to accomplish. More often than not I feel that what they are doing falls into the category of just exercising and not actually training. I’m not trying to take away from achievements or progress; I’m just trying to say that exercise without a plan is just that, its exercise. This goes for people who want to increase fitness as well as those who want to race.
Here is the main thing that differentiates exercise from training. Training has an exact outcome as to what each day of exercise is trying to achieve. I see people increasing their riding time in hopes of gaining fitness but typically the riding is kept at the same intensity over and over. This does not stimulate the body for growth. Yes, they are able to ride for longer times or distances but they are wasting time by training at the same intensities. This is where a training plan breaks of the monotony of the same ride over and over. Rather than aimless saddle time every ride should have its own goal and even more important is that this goal should be measurable.
The most important element to any training program is going to be consistency. The idea of training is to be continually repeating the process of break down and recovery. If a person is doing sporadic rides here and there they will not lead to any change in the body. They will only help to maintain what the body already has, and if anything it will lead to a slow decline in performance. A proper training plan makes sure that there is consistency from week to week, and month to month. It builds upon that consistency to make the body stronger and capable of more.
Some important things to think about when working on your own training plan.
Do not try and rush your fitness. It takes time, lots and lots of time. Look at the big picture of where you want to be and what you want to be able to do. A big mistake is thinking about what you will do when you wake up each day versus trying to plan out the week (or better yet the month) in advance. If you are short on time then focus more on intensity that day. Days when you have more should be spent focusing on endurance. Try your best to not get into the habit of repeating the same style of riding over and over. This is where having more than one bike helps. Try to add a little of both time and intensity from week to week. If you start to feel tired then take a recovery week and reduce both of those elements.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people doing is over training. Do not exercise to feel exhausted, when you do this you are only delaying recovery and interrupting your training. This is why there are hard days and easy days in a plan. Easy days need to be super easy and on the hard days you need to be recovered enough so that you can fully commit to the effort needed.
If you absolutely want to increase your fitness then you will be thanking about doing what’s best for your body all the time. Every day I make sure to do things that are only going to help me towards me goals. This includes proper hydration, stretching, foam rolling, and watching my diet choices. If you are mediocre with what you commit to yourself, then expect only mediocre results.