By Chris Baldwin
Training for our beloved sport of cycling has become more complex at a staggering rate. Watts per kilogram, chronic training load, micro-intervals, fat utilization crossover point, vertical ascension rate… it can get overwhelming quickly. These metrics add texture and accountability to the training process and are stepping stones to maximizing human athletic potential, but aren’t what’s most important.
I like to revisit the basics – “the umbrella under which all training should fall”. Below are my top tips for simplifying your cycling training.
1. Follow basic principles of progression
Gradually increase your training load in a challenging, but reasonable way. Consistency is paramount, a massive day followed by a physical and mental void is not the way to go. Fatigue is not static, it should slowly accumulate as a training block goes on.
Ideally, during a three week cycle, you’ll feel good the first week, OK the second and tired the third. Then after a rest period, you should fully absorb the training, super compensate, and feel fitter than before. The same should apply for each week – fatigue will gradually build, and be unloaded on the rest days.
2. Work on your aerobic system first
Aerobic training lays the foundation that the remainder of your work rests upon. Without adequate work here, fitness peaks will be short lived and rate of recovery lessened. These adaptations take much longer than anaerobic ones to develop, so use available training time early in the training year to build endurance, strength and leg speed.
Baldwin says: “First we build a V-12, then we add a turbo!”. This no longer means super slow miles, but work mostly under lactate threshold. If you don’t know your threshold, hone in on your breathing and make sure it’s a nice rhythm, and not excessive or gasping. Sometimes it’s better to pass on the fast bunch rides or early season races if you still need work in this department.
3. When you begin intensity and racing, make sure to increase rest and reduce volume
Intense training is difficult, and you need fresh muscles to execute the sessions properly. If you are doubting your recovery, err on the side of caution with that extra easy day or day off. The key to that aforementioned ‘turbo’ is hammering out quality interval sets, this requires sharp sensations and good energy levels.
4. Mid season: Reset and start the process all over again
Plan on splitting the season in two, and make sure to have a mental and physical break between them. This can be a week without riding, a mountain bike get-away, some cross training or just a nice easy week. When you begin again, start with endurance and then later add intensity. Going about your year this way will facilitate an upward spiral of fitness throughout the year.
5. When things go wrong, stick with low intensity work
We’re all human, and things can go wrong. Sickness, family life, work stress and other things can affect our energy levels and training.
When adversity strikes, I like to get back to basics for a few days with simple zone two endurance rides. High-intensity work can exacerbate sickness or excessive fatigue.
When the dust settles, it’s back to intervals and the like. Not only is this approach conducive mentally, but it’s also effective physically. Training always works best when it’s built around your life, not the other way around.
This article originally appeared on Bikeradar.com