Performance Tips

March 16, 2012

Volume 1: Train Hard…but Train Smart!

Yes, the WCC Social has inspired us and the “unofficial” first Tuesday night ride has already happened. You’ve spent the offseason in your basement on rollers or at the gym on a spin bike trying to keep your legs close to their season-ending capacity. Or maybe you took some time off to relax with the kids and your spouse over Christmas and then a final trip over March Break and now you are ready to hit the pavement hard. No matter how you spent your offseason it is time to prepare for THE season.

Training and the many theories behind it can get very complex – and can often leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused. Many cyclists just keep doing what they have always done or what their cycling buddies are doing without using their riding time wisely. Many of us have full-time jobs, spouses, children, a home to keep up, and many other responsibilities, so using training time to train right is a necessity. In every training season there are times for high-volume aerobic training (base period), times for interval & power training (build period) and times for race-specific training (peak period). It seems simple but many cyclists fail to get it right.

The following cycling principles will help prevent overtraining and inspire the right training for the WCC 2012 Season:

  1. Listen to Your Body – Your body has limits when it comes to endurance, speed and strength. Muscles will only contract forcefully a certain number of times before they refuse to pull hard again. The biggest mistake of most athletes is to overtrain on the easy days, so when it comes time for a hard training day, they can’t go hard enough. Fitness gains are maximized when you are adequately (if not completely) rested for each workout; the more effectively you manage recovery, the more productive your workouts will be, and the more progress you will make.  Rest, nutrition and stress levels all have a direct impact on how you will feel each day.
  2. Have a plan, for the whole season as well as each workoutThis is fundamental for improvement in anything – ie. Fail to plan and you plan to fail. Plans can always be modified when life gets in the way and you cannot stress over having to change the plan to fit the new situation. Training programs should be divided into periods of time, each with a specific purpose.  The aim of periodization is to make performance consistent & predictable. Your seasonal plan must prevent overtraining and injury by the appropriate training stress in the proper amount.  Typical designations in the pre-season are the BASE, BUILD and PEAK periods followed by periods of competition and R&R. Similarly, each workout must be carefully planned in relation to selected goals, and care should be taken not to improvise if you really want to use your riding time wisely.
  3. Consistency in Training is CrucialIf you are going to come close to your riding potential you will need to overcome training challenges. Training consistently, not extremely, will help you achieve the highest possible fitness and your ultimate racing performances. The key to consistency is incorporating moderation and rest into the overall training routine. Maintain a sense of proportion in your training, being careful to avoid large, rapid increases in training variables – this may require you to analyze your training on a day to day basis monitoring training variables such as frequency, duration and intensity.  Patience is a virtue, and good things take time – that includes physiological adaptation in VO2Max, lactate threshold, strength and power. If you miss workouts your performance will suffer. Your body thrives on routine so develop a training plan which stays consistent from week to week with minor changes in line with your periodization of training to promote improvement in your performance.
  4. Commit to Your GoalsAfter you set your goals, take a look at them and determine how they relate to your lifestyle and training. Have a sense of who you are, where have you been, where you are now, and where are you going; this determines how you will structure your training plan in order to achieve your goals for the season. Determine whether change is needed. Keep a training log. Record work out  details, perceptions of effort, stress signals, race results and analyses, signs of increasing or decreasing fitness, equipment changes, and anything else that describes your daily experience. Most athletes also find that keeping a log provides them with a sharper training focus and more rapid growth toward their goals.
  5. Aim to improve your weaknessesWhen you feel you are strong at a particular performance aspect you tend to spend a lot of time working on that aspect because you want to keep it as a strength. What type of training do riders with great endurance, but not much speed, do the most? You guessed it, endurance work. What do good climbers like to do? Not surprisingly, they like to train in the hills. Most cyclists spend too much time working on what they already do well. What’s your weakest area? Ask your WCC riding buddies if you don’t know. Then spend more time on that area to improve your performance.
  6. Balance Competition with Structured Training – The neuromuscular demands and the intensity spikes found in racing & group rides are hard to replicate precisely with your structured training plan. However, that does not necessarily mean that ‘the best training is racing’. In fact after a period of racing, aerobic endurance and lactate threshold need rebuilding through structured workouts such as 2- 3 hour steady-state tempo training and long (40-60 minute) intervals at lactate threshold to create consistent aerobic demand & increase muscle respiratory capacity through a process known as mitochondrial biogenesis.  Following your training plan will keep your training balanced and help prevent overtraining & injuries.
  7. Believe in your training programThere is often a fear in many athletes that they haven’t trained hard enough or their endurance training program has not prepared them for their competition. Taper your training before key events to ensure you are fully recovered. Few of us trust our training when it comes time to race. There’s a great fear as the big event approaches that we haven’t done enough, so we just keep pushing. It takes 5-15 days of reduced workload for the human body to be fully ready to perform at race capacity, depending on how long and hard the training has been. Cut back before the big events, and you’ll do better.
  8. Eat to Fuel Your Training – Eat nutritious food to not only fuel the body for training, but also to help speed recovery, replenish depleted energy and nutrient stores, and provide the building blocks for a stronger body. Good nutrition is vital to performance and recovery. When considering post-exercise nutrition, you should consume carbohydrates and protein in a ratio of 4:1  within 30 minutes of finishing moderate to high intensity training sessions. If you don’t get energy immediately after exercise then you maintain the catabolic status and delay the recovery process.
  9. Go the Extra Mile to Succeed – Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper into your reserves when you train. The saying is “no pain, no gain” and there’s no doubt a bit of suffering can go a long way if you want to beat the opposition.
  10. Keep it Fun – Seriously, this is a sport – not a job.  Since you’re probably not racing to provide for a family or for yourself, you’ll need to find motivation simply in the enjoyment of training and competing, and even most professionals will tell you that in the end, they race because they enjoy it.






About the Author

Kelly Ellis
Besides being extremely passionate about cycling and running, she is also committed to fitness both personally and professionally. As the Fitness Director, Personal Trainer & Indoor Cycling Coach for Northfield Racquet & Fitness Club with both a Kinesiology and teaching background, she strives to find ways to educate and motivate others to lead a healthy, active lifestyle. Her training style focuses on functional movements, core strength and having a lot of fun while training. Don’t just train... train right!


Be the first to comment!

You must be logged in to post a comment.