28 September 2010

Training Basics

To start, let's define some terms:


REST
  • One easy hour on the road. Keep your heart rate monitor handy so you don't go over 120-140/zone 1.
  • Mellow trainer session, something like 30 minutes and keep that heart rate down. Maybe use rollers instead and just work on form.
  • Stay off the bike and get a massage.
Active rest means you want to move the muscles and flush out all the lactic acid so that you are not feeling as heavy or sore the next time you try to go hard. You might start the rest ride feeling like crap but you will hopefully warm up and the legs will become more supple as you go. The goal is finish the easy ride feeling much BETTER than when you started, not more tired. Hydrating helps recovery too.

SPRINTS
  • This consists of short (200-300 m) efforts at 100%/zone 5 with complete recovery in between each effort. Complete recovery is when your heart rate goes back down below 120 bpm or better yet, 100.
  • Pick out a flat stretch of road with a 'start' and a 'finish'. Roll up to the start with some speed (18-20 mph) in a 53x17 or similar and then get out of the saddle and go like stink to the finish. It's OK to shift as you accelerate or to start in a 15, whatever allows you to still push at the finish.
  • After finishing, coast, rest and then pedal easy back to the start for another go.

INTERVALS/HILLS
  • These are longer efforts lasting from 30 seconds to 5-15 minutes each usually in zone 4 or starting in 4 and finishing in 5 if they are shorter.
  • If you find a repeatable stretch of flat road or a hill and time yourself, you will be able to measure your progress.
  • Go hard - like 90% - but not so hard that you will blow before you finish the interval.
  • If you are doing hills (as opposed to intervals on the flats), try to give it an extra push as you crest the hill. Pedal a bit faster/dial it up to 95% or shift up/stand up.
  • Always push through until you are PAST the summit, not just TO the summit. This is mostly for mental fitness (which is almost more important than physical fitness) as attacks usually go when everyone is tired; like at the summit of a hill...

LSD (Long, Slow Distance)
  • First off, this is supposed to be a fun ride. Go places you have always wanted to go or where the scenery is nice.
  • This is NOT the ride to race your friends on. It's the traditional take a bunch of food and water and get lost ride. You should be able to hold a conversation throughout this ride if your company is interesting enough to warrant talking to.
  • In addition to not going too fast, try not to slack off too much either. Steady state is what this is about.
  • 'Slow' is a bit of a misnomer. In the winter this might be zone 2 but in the spring and summer (or if you are fitter or super serious in the winter) these rides are mostly zone 3.

RACE/SIMULATED RACE
  • OK, time to let it all hang out and take some risks. This is where you DO try an attack or two or three. This is where you DO try to jump your friends on a hill by coming from behind half way up. This is where you DO try a breakaway and see if you can hold it. This is where you DO go for a sprint and see what happens.
  • If you never try, not only will your fitness lack that edge, you will never feel mentally ready to give 100% when the pressure is on. This 'mental fitness' is what most racers lack and what ALL winners have.
  • Do enough races where it doesn't matter if you make a mistake in one or two (or three). On the other hand, if you DO make a mistake, try to recover from it. Say you attempt a breakaway in a criterium and it only lasts for one lap; don't let the pack blow you away as they pass by, try to grab a wheel near the front and hang on. If you get shelled on a hill and manage to catch back on, make sure you are at the front for the start of the next hill so it will take that much longer for you to lose contact the next time.
  • If you are on a training ride, don't bother saving anything for the end, this is training! If you pulled most of the time and tried several attacks, you will have benefitted WAY more than the person that drafted all the way and then beat you up the last hill to the car.
ROUTINE
  • Routine is important. Figure out how long before a hard ride you can or need to eat, what foods and sports drinks upset your stomach the least and what works best during the ride.
  • Figure out how often and how much you have to drink and if water is all right or if you need a drink with electrolytes and/or calories. Try different concentrations and different brands of drinks too.
  • Warm up! Before every criterium and before every time trial you should have already put in that first effort which is sometimes so hard to do. Don't worry that it was hard, you know from experience that the second one is always easier. Going for a short ride is OK, but having a trainer at the event is the best thing to do. This way you don't get interrupted by stop signs, traffic, you don't get lost and show up late and get a lousy starting position, etc. 20-30 minutes on a trainer should do it. Finish your warm up about 15 minutes prior to the start so that you can grid well in a criterium or 5-10 minutes before the start of a time trial.
  • After the event, have your recovery drink or something ready in that 30-minute window and then spin easy or stretch or whatever you need to recover the fullest. Follow up with extra liquids, a meal and stay out of the cold/heat/sun if you have another race/stage to do.
  • Have your clothes all ready to go (and bring clothing for ANY conditions as you WILL get surprised a few times), know where your spare safety pins are, carry tools, spare tubes and a floor pump to events, keep snacks and water in your car, research the race route, know what gears to ride, be early and all that other smart stuff.
LOGS/DIARY
  • Record as much as you can; something like this maybe. Hours slept, waking heart rate, how you feel in the morning, what you ate & drank all day, miles ridden, time it took, heart rate, power, route, how you felt (use the same scale all the time if possible), if you partied that night, weather you warmed up prior to the event, etc.
  • The idea here is to be able to build a history so that you can repeat success and avoid mistakes by looking stuff up.
The best diary I have found is Joe Friel's Training Bible, it's similar to what I've always used myself. Until I got a web site that is...
The model WEEK
  • MONDAY - Rest. Active rest or just plain rest.
  • TUESDAY - Sprints. Start out with 3-5 and by mid-season maybe you can do as many as 6-8.
  • WEDNESDAY - Intervals. Hills if you are training for the hills or flats if you have a TT coming up. Start with 3-4 and work up to 6-10.
  • THURSDAY - LSD. This just means this is the day you go for a longer ride. If you feel fresh enough, do some intervals too, i.e. you could combine a group ride with extra miles tacked on before and/or after.
  • FRIDAY - Rest. See Monday.
  • SATURDAY - If you have a race Sunday, this should be a fun ride with some medium efforts. If you are training for something down the road, do the type of training that will benefit you most for that event.
  • SUNDAY - Race or harder & longer training ride. If you are training, don't hold back (see above).
This week is per Greg LeMond. Some people will tell you that Wednesday and Thursday should be reversed which is the 'traditional' training week (originally per Eddie B.) but I think Greg was right. His thoughts are that you should do the hardest effort first in the week when you are the freshest and do subsequently less intense efforts later on when you are more tired. Remember, don't confuse a maximum effort with a workout that leaves you wasted. A sprint is 100% effort but only lasts a short while. Hills will be 90% but last much longer. You can't sprint so well after a hard hill but you CAN climb some after a sprint if you recover for a few seconds in-between. That's the difference.
PEAKING This is usually done by stacking two-four progressively harder weeks on top of each other and then having a bit of a rest or taper. After this rest, you are primed to have a great ride. The hard part is figuring out how much to work each week and how much harder this week can be than the previous one.
Disclaimer: Training to race is NOT what will get you optimally fit for stuff like RAMROD or the Death Ride. And the reverse is true as well. Doing tons of miles will leave you flat for races. To do well as a racer, you need to adjust the length of your rides to match the distance you will race. The longest training ride only needs to be a little longer than the longest race. Either way you go, you WILL be making a compromise so don't sweat it too much and have fun. Realize that you can't specialize in everything at the same time.
If it all gets way too serious, remember why you started cycling in the first place and go back there. If it was to stay fit, enjoy your ride. If it was to wear sexy Lycra clothes, go buy a new outfit and show it off on a ride. If it was to race, race more so you don't have to train as much. If it was to do a sport that did not involve a team, grab your mp3 player and go for a long one.
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(this usually means 'active' rest)

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