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Training in the real world

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Article posted: 27/03/2013

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Training is different to keeping fit. Keeping fit sounds like it’s about maintenance; training is about constantly improving: physically, technically, tactically and mentally. Training is about progression, working on areas of weakness and continuing to develop your strengths. If you want to become a better rider, you’ll need to do some training.

The basics

All training programmes start with identifying the demands of the event. What is it that you will have to be able to do to meet you goal? For example, if it’s a sportive you’ve targeted, you’ll need to be able to maintain a minimum speed, ride comfortably in a group and on a wheel, tackle long climbs and equally long descents and stay in the saddle for your target time. You will need to put together workouts or training sessions that look and feel like these demands.

Any training programme should consist of a training load (one or more workouts) that challenges and fatigues you. This is then followed by easier sessions or periods of rest that allow you to fully or partially recover before applying a progressively more challenging training load.

When I think about training load and recovery, I think of pushing a cork under water with my hand. The further I push it under the water, the longer it takes to surface when I eventually release it, but the higher it jumps out of the water.  If I continue to push the cork to the same depth, it will only ever achieve a similar height when it leaves the water. The cork will only ever jump from the water if I release it.

My hand is the training load. The depth to which the cork is pushed is the intensity and number of consecutive workouts. The height it jumps is the subsequent progression in fitness.

Quite simply, you’ll get better at whatever you do in training. You’ll begin to see and feel obvious physical improvements in as little as two weeks and new techniques and skills will start to become embedded too. 

The Rules

Rule No. 1 is give 100%, 100% of the time. You will only improve if you challenge yourself in your key workouts.

Rule No. 2 is If in doubt, rest.  If you don’t have enough rest, your body won’t have time to get better.

Rule No. 3 is quality not quantity. Time spent on the bike isn’t important, only what you do when you’re on it.

Structuring your training

Hard sessions are... hard. Rule No. 1 means you need to be rested and motivated for these key workouts so hard sessions should come after rest and be followed by easier sessions. Chances are, you’re working or in education so longer rides tend to be at the weekend. That’s great! Put harder, shorter sessions in the week, when you have less time and don’t forget Rule No. 2.

What about the number of consecutive days on which you train? Well, consecutive workouts will build endurance, resilience and ability to create power when fatigued. On the other hand, The Rules always apply, so for the body to make adequate adaptations, you have to go in to every training session with the capability and motivation to give it everything. You may find that you require a recovery day every two or three days which might consist of complete rest, or an easier workout or skills session.

In the Real World

In the real world, which is where almost all of us live, you will miss planned training sessions.

If you missed a session because you were tired, worked late, painted the house or took the kids to soft-play, then you stressed your body enough. Especially if it was soft-play. You did the right thing in not training because Rule No. 1 and No. 2 always apply.

If you missed the session because you got home raring to go to find the in-laws waiting for you or it was the quarterly PTA meeting then hang on to that energy and have a re-think. Prioritise the harder, targeted workouts but always remember Rule No. 2.

Table 1 shows an intended one-week training plan. Unfortunately for the rider, she got home late from work on Monday and was too tired to train. Table 2 shows how she might restructure the week. She’ll need to catch the bus an extra day but better that than miss the opportunity to ride with others on Thursday which is not only enjoyable, but develops group riding skills too.

 Table 1

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Tabata Intervals

4 sets of 5 mins with 2 min RI

Rest Day

Commute

16 mile round trip.

Thursday evening social ride

2 hours, road.

Rest Day

MTB

1.5 hours, Tempo, push hard on the climbs.

Road Ride

3 hours, hilly loop.

 

Table 2

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Missed Session

Tabata Intervals

4 sets of 5 mins with 2 min RI

Rest Day

Thursday evening social ride

2 hours, road.

Rest Day

MTB

1.5 hours, Tempo, push hard on the climbs.

Road Ride

3 hours, hilly loop.




The Benefits

Quite simply, you’ll get better at whatever you do in training. You’ll begin to see and feel obvious physical improvements in as little as two weeks and new techniques and skills will start to become embedded too.

Your body composition may begin to change as you shed fat and build leaner muscle. A training schedule introduces a new routine to your life and you may lose weight as you regulate meal times or become more conscious of what you eat. All that exercise and routine will also aid sleep and this will increase your energy, decrease frequent hunger pangs and make you a generally nicer person to be around!

Finally, it can be very satisfying to see and feel the results of a training plan of your own devising. Just don’t forget The Rules.

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