Top Training Tactics for Cyclists
When it comes to the most important tactics in training, there are a few that carry more weight than all the rest. From determination to knowing how to recover, these traits are associated with the best athletes in the world. To become good at anything athletically, consistency is the number one factor and to stay consistent, it is necessary to develop and use this list of tactics.
Grit and determination
Nothing athletically happens easily and that includes the desire to get stronger on the bike. It takes work to get strong on the bike, and at times it can be more work than what you want to put into it. Consistently training and riding is going to build fatigue, which can lead to tiredness and soreness. While recovering from fatigue is important, its also important to work through low levels of fatigue to build fitness. This is where grit and determination come in. In a typical three-week training block, its in the third week where you will need to call upon some grit and determination to make it through the week and stay consistent. Not every day in training is a hard day but when feeling fatigue even the easier days can sting a little. The number one rule for developing grit is to not make any decisions until your on the bike and riding. Once on the bike you can see how things are responding, such as how the legs feel, how well heart rates and power are responding, where your mindset is at and more. This approach gets you on the bike each day and that at its base is consistency, whether your feeling great on the day and ride longer or feeling lack of motivation and fatigue, cutting the ride short.
For cyclists there are many things to focus on in training. Whether it’s a power number, heart rate zone or a Strava segment, the cycling world has more technology today than ever. If you’re looking to be a stronger, more fit cyclist, its important to use this data daily. Following proper power and heart rate zones to target specific energy systems, and muscle fibers, keeps you focused on training. To make gains as a cyclist, it takes this daily focus along with consistency to build fatigue, which is the goal in training. No focused easy days where you are out spinning the legs, enjoying the views, hanging with friends is fun and should be a part of everyone’s training but the more of these days you have, the less physical limits you will push, the less gains you will make over time. The flip side of this is the good old group hammer rides. These rides are great and should be part of everyone’s training, just not all the time. Too much intensity in training too often can lead to over training in several ways. To make the best gains in cycling, its important to be focused on training the right energy systems at the right times of the season.
Pushing limits, building fatigue to make gains in cycling is the primary goal. Recovering from this fatigue is the next most important factor in training and one of the most overlooked. Recovery periods in training look different for everyone, with all recovery periods still including riding, just at a lower duration and intensity, usually around 50-60% of what you do on a normal training week. Recovering from a given amount of fatigue is the basis for how the body adapts or the general adaptation theory. Read about the general adaptation theory in my article here. Without this recovery period and as long as you keep pushing in training you risk over training and training at lower than ideal power outputs. Reduced training allows muscles to heal, grow and adapt, leading to gains in strength and endurance.
A training Plan
Not all training plans are created equal. With thousands of training plans written by coaches out there, you’re going to find some plans that focus heavily on one thing but not so much on the other. In truth, there is no perfect training plan out there but there are plans that will suit you best. Custom one on one coaching, like what we do here at Highland Training, is the most ideal way to get a plan delivered. With an experienced coach you can dial in training all the time, each week if needed, learning from this process and in detail about heart rate training zones, power ranges, analyzing data and more. Regardless of where you get the plan, there are key questions you should always be asking to assess the plan. Are you pushing limits with this training plan? If your not pushing limits at times, then no plan is going to work. Are you working in the proper zones and peaking into your events properly? This is a question to ask the author of the plan, then take that answer, use the plan and compare it to other sources over time to learn what’s best for you. Is the plan practical and fun? Structured training plans and workouts are great but they are not always practical outdoors, depending on where you live. Find a plan that addresses both the indoor structure needed and flexibility for an outdoor ride.
Out of all the tactics here, having fun at times is an essential element. For a cyclist that likes to get stronger, fun at times can come with a PR on a long climb, or dropping friends on a hammer ride. Having fun on the bike goes hand in hand with cycling strength and to get stronger, consistency is the key.
Mike Schultz, CSCS