Maximise the Benefits of Cycling Training

It is no secret that cycling is an ideal way to improve both health and fitness. For the individual with a competitive streak, cycling can quickly become an addictive pastime. Even if you are too busy to devote as much time to training as you would like, the following principles can help you improve. Remember though, you only get out what you put in. It is unrealistic to expect someone on 5 hrs a week to improve more than someone training for 10 hrs so making the most out of the time you have is critical.

Specificity

This is the golden rule!! Train how you want to compete is the key here.  The best example of this is to compare cycling to resistance training. Cycling improves efficiency and endurance whereas resistance training increases strength and muscle size. The same contrast can be seen within cycling itself.  Sprinters train very differently to hill climbers or the demands of criterium racing are vastly different to that of stage tours.  The take home message is train how you race.

Frequency

For the recreational and professional cyclist alike frequency is always key. There are no magic numbers but usually a minimum of 3 days per week is sufficient to improve fitness in an individual whose baseline fitness level is relatively low. As you improve you will find you need to train more frequently to continue seeing improvement.

Intensity

Different intensities target specific adaptations within the body. An all-encompassing training program will include long rides to improve aerobic endurance as well as high intensity sessions to improve anaerobic tolerance. Generally an aerobic ride is a minimum of greater than 1 hr performed at an intensity you can comfortably sustain a conversation. As intensities increase the duration that a specific intensity can be sustained is reduced. As such, Interval training is based upon completing repeated non-sustainable high intensity efforts followed by set rest intervals. By varying the intensity and duration within sets of intervals each workout will target specific physiological demands. For the time poor cyclist regular interval training can often be the most efficient way to improve fitness, performance and health.

Overload

The principal of training is based upon applying a stress to the body resulting in adaption, which better allows the body to cope with that same degree of stress at a future time. The principal of overload within training is to slowly increase the amount of stress placed on the body so that gradually it learns to cope with intensities and durations that would not be able to be completed at the commencement of a training program. To avoid injury and illness start with something achievable and progress toward more demanding sessions as you improve.

Recovery

It is important to remember that all that hard training you do does not instantly result in adaptation. It is the repeated exposure to training stress then the recovery from that stress that eventuates in changes in the body. The body adapts during recovery so it is important to assist recovery with appropriate nutrition and adequate rest. When planning a program keep in mind that a hard day should generally be followed by an easy day. This way you give the body opportunity to recover for the next demanding session.

Planning

Improvement takes commitment and planning. The first step is always to seek advice and plan out a program that fits your goals. Often the strongest influence on adherence to a program is accountability. Having someone with experience develop a program and help implement it is always a step toward real commitment and progress.