If you’re a professional, and you’ve raced more than 40 days in the last 9 months, then yes, 3 weeks or so off the bike makes sense. Your body needs a chance to recover completely before beginning to prepare it for your new season.
If you’re like the rest of us, and you have to plan your training around a full time job and family commitments, then it’s unlikely you’ve raced so many days and trained so hard that you need sustained time off the bike. In fact, taking more than a few days off the bike will required extra effort to recover the fitness you lose.
You know you want to improve as a cyclist, but how do you go about it?
“If you don’t know know where you’re going, any road will get you there”. That’s hard to argue against, so the first step in any planning is to determine “point B”. If you want to improve, how do you measure progress, and how do you know if you’ve been successful?
This blog recommends an approach to goal setting that should help you train in a structured and measurable way. If you’re relatively new to cycling, you may not know what’s realistically achievable. If you’re an experienced cyclist, but you’ve not done structured training before, you may not know how much improvement you can make in a single season. It would be very, very disappointing to work for months only to fail to achieve your goal. So, goal setting deserves a bit of thought, and here are four simple steps to help you.
- Measurable. There is a vital difference between vague goals, such as “I want to be faster”, and measurable goals, such as “I want to ride a 10 mile time trial in under 25 minutes”. Working with vague goals is a bit like the opening quote. If you don’t know how much you want to improve, then any training will do as long as it’s more than you’ve done before. So, think about goals you can measure, and that can include fitness goals, such as weight loss or percentage body fat, as well as cycling performance goals.
- Specific. Goals can focus on an outcome, such as winning the club hill climb at the end of the season, a personal improvement, such as losing 10 pounds, or a process, such as training 4 days/week. What these have in common is they are all specific and measurable.
- Achievable. As mentioned above, you may not have enough experience to know up-front what is realistic. There is nothing wrong with setting an initial goal, starting down the path, and then adjusting the goal once you gain some experience. One benefit from working with a coach and doing an up-front fitness assessment is we can work with “Point A” data and with power/weight charts to more accurately determine what is possible given a duration of time and an amount of training. In any case, don’t become a slave to a goal. Injury, illness or matters outside your control may change your plan, so you should feel free to change your goal without guilt.
- Time-bound. How long do you have to achieve your goal? The slope of the lines in these two examples highlight the differences in the training plans required to get from A to B. The time needed to get from A to B needs to be part of your evaluation of what is achievable. Intermediate milestones along the journey are also important. These milestones may reinforce you are on-track and no changes are needed, or they may cause you to modify your goal. It would be very disappointing to training for months toward what is, ultimately, an unrealistic goal and only learning that on the big day. Intermediate milestones and an objective 3rd party view can help avoid such disappointment.
The final point is “a goal without a plan is just a wish”. This should be self-evident, and the next blog entry will focus on the steps to building a plan to achieve your goals.
Do you want to use your training time effectively, be more comfortable on the bike, be safer by improving your braking and cornering techniques, or learn how to ride in groups or multi-day events? Reasons for investing to coaching vary, and racing strategy and techniques are only two of many.
Here are just 10 reasons people benefit from coaching. How many of these would help you be a happier cyclist?
- Achieving a defined goal
- Efficient and effective training sessions
- A structured and customised training plan (based on your current fitness, goals, time available, etc.)
- Basic techniques, such as using clipless pedals, climbing seated versus standing, optimal gear selection
- Advanced techniques, such as descending and cornering quick and safe, group riding, pacing
- Nutrition on and off the bike
- Bike set-up and comfort versus speed
- Planning multi-day rides (recovery, bike set-up, training modifications, nutrition, clothing, etc.)
- Using and analysing data, such as training zones, power and heart rate monitors, Strava/Garmin
In subsequent blog posts, we will look at each of these 10 reasons in more detail. After all, might improving YOU be a better way to invest in your cycling than spending more money on your bike?
At Velocity, we take a integrated approach by combing Fitness Testing and Bike Fit with Coaching. This gives you complete package to improve YOU and help you go further, faster and achieve your cycling goals. There no point following a training program unsuited to your current level of fitness, and it’s vital your position on the bike helps you ride powerfully and comfortably while avoiding repetitive strain injury.
Cycling is an endurance sport supported by your body’s ability to burn carbohydrates and fats in your muscles and generate energy. There are two primary energy systems, Aerobic and Anaerobic. One of those is sustainable for hours and the other can only be sustained for minutes before the build up of waste products in your muscles forces you to stop. Understanding where YOUR threshold is between these systems and being able to work with it and improve it to increase you power and endurance is the primary goal of training.
The aerobic systems burns fats and carbohydrates efficiently, and the by-products are energy, water and CO2. You can use this system for hours with only gradual build up of fatigue, but there is a limit on how much power you can generate in a given period of time. The anaerobic system burns only carbohydrates, and it does so very quickly to generate a sharp increase is energy, but it does it inefficiently. It generates lactic acid as a by-product, which builds up in your muscles causing a burning sensation and rapid fatigue, so you can only use it for a very limited period before your body shuts down.
The Functional Threshold is the point at which you body moves from using the aerobic system as the primary source of energy and the anaerobic system takes over. This happens when the demands of your muscles exceed what your aerobic system can supply, such as when you’re sprinting or climbing hard. This threshold can be measured by your heart rate (Functional Threshold Heart Rate – FTHR) or power (Functional Threshold Power – FTP).
So, why is know the thresholds so important? Firstly, you can use these to pace your efforts to go as fast as possible without causing extreme fatigue. For example, if you’re climbing a long hill and you know your FTHR is 150 beats/minute, you can limit your effort to keep your heart rate at that level. In that way you go as fast as possible without generating excess lactic acid. Secondly, if you’re racing, you can decide when you’re going to go “into the red zone” and learn how long you need to drop back down below threshold to recover before making another surge. Most importantly, by understanding where your threshold is, we can develop training programs to both improve your endurance and raise your threshold, so you generate more power before you reach the threshold and Go Further, Faster.