It is the time of year great focus is on the ever impending start of the 2013 road cycling season. Christmas is over and cyclists up and down the country are ready for a new cycling training phase motivated by New Year optimism and renewed focus.
So now what do we do?
How do we turn this New Year enthusiasm into results on the bike come March/April when our early season objectives come into play?
The past 6-8 weeks will mainly consist of larger aerobic workouts based on optimizing the body’s ability to use fat as a fuel. Why do this? To increase cyclists endurance along with ability to sustain efforts below threshold at a controlled effort, i.e. with little cardiac drift over a period of time (20-60min) indicating the body’s ability to perform at a medium intensity with minimal 'cardiac' strain on the body. All of this leads to a increase in base fitness which will have a positive effect on performance and help raise functional threshold, essential in any endurance sport but more so in road cycling. During the Christmas period many cyclists had extra free time which will have helped develop their base and burn off excess calories often consumed at this time of year.
The choices of the NEXT 6-8 weeks are critical. What we tend to see among cyclists who are limited to training over the two day weekend period, most of their emphasis is on increasing these so called base or 'steady' miles in the hope of attaining race fitness. More times than not this increase in volume is not what is needed. At times over reaching during the weekend period can bring a decrease in cycling performance with inadequate recovery resulting in poor mid week indoor/track/intensive sessions. This scenario is one of the biggest mistakes we see in amateur riders. Often we see riders jump onto a turbo for a Tuesday night threshold/Vo2 max/anaerobic session which needs a certain amount of freshness to complete but fail to attain a certain performance because of residual fatigue. The worst thing to do here is continue with a substandard session which increases your fatigue, thus making Wednesday another sub-standard session. By the time you realise this you are back at the weekend and ready to hammer in another 4-5hr ride and starting the vicious cycle all over again.
Does this sound familiar? So what’s the answer?
Prioritise training to become 'race fit' in relation to your race objectives e.g. if you are aiming for a local classic race at the end of March approx 90km long, 3 short 2min climbs per lap and finishes on a 200m long flat, how does 4/5hrs every Saturday and Sunday increase your ability to perform in this event?
Specifics, specifics, specifics are how you will gain your desired result. Drive for perfection and newly found enthusiasm in the New Year can block our sense of detail that is needed to reach performance gains. My experience, both as Professional Cyclist and a Coach, has repeatedly shown the MIND, in the constant search for improvement and perfection, often asks more than the BODY can give.
Too often endurance athletes (cyclists, triathletes, marathon runners, cross-country) give excessive importance to the total volume of hours/kilometres or the repeated execution of quality training, without regard to the need for adequate recovery and rest. Also in the case of imminent major competitions, for this reason care must be taken over the coming 8 weeks training for the cycling road season.
PART 2 NEXT WEEK
We will elaborate on how to make use of time to train and provide sessions from Vo2 max efforts to tolerance workouts and how anaerobic ability is essential for cycling race day coupled with the adequate rest and recovery essential to make each interval count. Focus will be on how to DECREASE volume to bring around desired changes in performance to meet the needs of specific planned races.