As a sport, cycling is unique in the way it blends fitness, competition, and a social element that bonds enthusiasts of every level through shared-experiences.
It is these fundamental elements, and so much more, that keep many of us pedaling, mile after mile.
With that in mind, and the knowledge that every rider wants to cover those miles faster, we have compiled the following “fundamental elements of training” that can be put to use during every workout, long or short, easy or intense, to ensure a successful day in the saddle.
By making these “fundamentals” a regular component in training you are sure to pedal faster and see greater gains from all your miles. Enjoy!
A proper warm-up and cool-down is a great time to enjoy the social element of cycling that we all enjoy so much! Photo Credit: Big Wheel Coaching
#1: Warm-Up & Cool-Down Properly- Every Workout
Although this may seem obvious, warming-up at the beginning of each workout is not as common as one might think.
Each of us can be faulted for trying to squeeze in a “quick workout” or otherwise finding an excuse to avoid warming-up before a workout begins.
With that in mind, it should be said that the purpose of warming-up is to prepare the body and mind for the workload ahead.
What’s more, a good warm-up allows the body time to divert blood-flow from non-essential organs to skeletal muscle (i.e. the legs) that will power a successful workout.
In regards to “warming-down”, the benefits also suggest that this should be a regular practice as it jump-starts the recovery process and allows the body to begin repairing itself following a tough bout of training.
By incorporating a proper warm-up and cool-down an Athlete can both reduce their chances of sports-related injury and maximize their bodies adaptation to training stress with each workout they perform.
Proper hydration and nutrition habits are paramount to maximizing our bodies ability to perform optimally in stressful scenarios. Photo Credit: Kathy Fegan Kim/Cotton Sox Photography
#2: Eat Early & Drink Often- Fuel Your Workouts For Maximum Gain
It doesn’t take much research to see that there is a mountain of literature available detailing the benefits of eating and drinking during a workout.
Despite this seemingly common knowledge, there is also no shortage of conflicting views on the best-practices an Athlete should follow to maximize their nutrient uptake during exercise.
With this in mind we offer the following ‘jump-off’ point to help each Athlete determine what hydration & nutrition approaches suit their unique situation:
A- Look to consume 200/kcal, or more, per hour on rides lasting more than two-hours. Note: rides of 90min. or less don’t usually require food, but use your best judgement, this is not a “hard and fast” rule.
B- Consume at least one water-bottle of fluid, per-hour, each hour of a workout. Note: An Athlete should drink more when it is hot (above 80*F), and likely less when it is cold (under 45*F).
C- The greater the overall intensity of a workout, the more easily digestible the hydration and nutrition sources must be. For example, on easy days solid nutrition is completely suitable, but race-day will likely require semi-solid or liquid nutrition sources.
A 'red' workout on your TrainingPeaks calendar is not the end of the world. When this happens, move-on and don't stress! Photo Credit: TrainingPeaks
#3: There Are No “Make-Ups”- Move-On After Missing A Session
The typical cyclist is a Type-A, driven individual that is working to improve in one or many areas of their fitness.
So it is no surprise that when they miss a workout the initial reaction is an intense desire to ‘make-up’ for the loss.
Unfortunately, that drive can be counter-intuitive, unproductive, and leads to further setback or in some cases over-training.
The wisdom to take from this ‘fundamental’ is that a missed workout is exactly that, a missed workout. Let it go!
Just as research has shown that we never truly “catch-up” on sleep, an Athlete is unable to “make-up” for missed training opportunities.
When this happens to you, we suggest moving forward by adjusting the training plan to account for the missed workout(s) and working to get back into your routine as quickly as possible.
Note: In the case of missed training due to travel, work, family, or other commitments, an Athlete can often resume regular training immediately. However, if the missed training is due to illness or injury, training should be “re-worked” to account for any loss in fitness as the result of the time off.
Knowing how to apply your effort on the bike is as important as having oodles of effort to give! Photo Credit: Kathy Fegan Kim/Cotton Sox Photography
#4: Over-Achieve Where It Counts- Know When To Go Hard Or Easy
This bit of advice is particularly valuable for those Athletes that are following a structured training program, but also has value for the more casual cyclist.
This is because knowing how to balance “intensity”, “volume”, and “recovery” is key to creating the greatest adaptation to training.
Unfortunately, most Endurance Athletes are guilty of not training hard enough on “hard days” nor easy enough on “easy days”.
By giving extra effort on the interval portions of a workout, while being disciplined about riding easy during the recovery fractions, a cyclist is sure to get the biggest gains from each workout they perform.
Pacing off a friend can be good or bad, what matters most is learning to pace yourself to complete every effort to the best of your abilities. Photo Credit: Lisa Mindel
#5: Pace Yourself To Finish Strong
It’s a sad reality, but “blowing-up” is an experience that many cyclists can relate to.
Nearly every bike rider knows what it is like to have gone to hard, spent all their energy, and be left wishing they had more watts to give.
One way to combat this and “finish strong” during an interval, long day in the saddle, or at a race is to be conservative at the start of any effort performed.
Additionally, we suggest thinking of every effort as a hard, harder, hardest type output (unless otherwise prescribed). This simple pacing strategy is especially helpful on longer efforts where it is common to expend to much energy early, which results in a drop in pace as the interval wears-on.
By being disciplined about pacing and starting more conservatively, regardless of the duration of a given effort, an Athlete is sure to have a more positive experience and greater success in every training session.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading this edition of the BWC Coaches Corner and that applying these tips to your training regimen helps you see gains straight-away!
At Big Wheel Coaching, helping our Athletes get the most out of every training session is our passion.
And that passion directs our focus to how an Athlete executes a particular workout as much as it guides us to prescribe them the best training protocols possible to achieve their goals!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian and Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching