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Cycling Training

How much training do I need to do and when should I do it?

How much training will depend on your current fitness level and your objectives.  If you are a new cyclist and want to ride from Lands End to John O’Groats you will need a lot more training than a regular cyclist who wants to train for a 50 mile charity ride.

 

As to when – preferably before the ride!

 

What sort of training should I do?

You can use training to improve your speed and/or your endurance.

 

If you are training for a race you might want to concentrate on speed whilst for a challenge ride you may wish to concentrate on endurance.

 

The basic principle of any training is to stress the body so that it adapts to the new pressures being put on it.  There are two main factors here, firstly you have to push the body harder than you normally do in order to achieve any gains and secondly you need to give the body time to recover and rebuild itself after each stress session.  If you do not do both of these things you will not get full value out of your training.

 

In terms of improving your endurance you will need to concentrate on increasing the duration and frequency of your rides at a given level of effort.  To up your speed you will need to increase the intensity of your riding using intervals to push your body’s capacity to process oxygen and nutrients more rapidly.

 

Endurance Training

 

Fundamentally, to increase endurance you have to ride further than you normally do.  Very simple (but not necessarily easy).  The secret is to build up by no more than 10-15% per week.  That way your body can cope with the adaptation without becoming exhausted.

 

As an example, let’s say you had a target ride of 100 mile taking place on 1st June.  Back track through the calendar 8 weeks to the beginning of April.  This is where training, ideally, should begin.  Your training goal will be to be able to comfortably (see box) ride 75% of the target distance (75 miles) as one long ride by the time of the event.  If at the beginning you can comfortably ride 35 miles then your first week target would be 40 mile.  Then ramp up by about 5 mile a week until by the time of the event you are covering a distance of 75 miles.

 

 
These training distances are for one long ride a week.  However, to increase your fitness you really need to be riding twice this distance in total every week.  And you should ride at least four times a week. So, for example, in the final week of training you might be looking to ride one 75 miler and three 25 milers.

 

A simple chart would look like this:

 

 

Base

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

Event

Single Ride

35

40

45

50

55

60

65

70

75

100

Other rides

 

40

45

50

55

60

65

70

75

 

 

 

Perhaps the best way to get the other rides in is to bike to work if you are able.  This is a great way of stealing training time and you can use the getting home sessions, when it doesn’t matter if you get too hot and sweaty,  to do some interval work to improve your speed and cardiac response if you need to.

 

If you have more than 6-8 week before an event you can use the extra time to build your base fitness up so that you are able to easily cover half the event distance by the time you come to the eight week intensive period.

 

Multi Day Endurance Event Training

If you are training for an event that covers a number of days, say a London to Brighton charity ride, you will have to train a little harder.  You will be getting up day after day to repeat your efforts and therefore you will need to put in more training than just to cover 75% of your targeted daily distance.
 
If you are intending to ride, say, 80 miles a day, you should train up to that distance and feel comfortable at the end of it.  You should also make sure you have completed at least 75% of your daily distance (60 miles) on two or three consecutive days without feeling exhausted.

 

Because you will be doing some fairly intensive training you must build in rest periods every 3-4 weeks.  This will allow your body to recover and grow stronger. This doesn’t mean you get to have a week off.  You have to continue to cycle but reduce the distance to about half of what you were doing (or should have been doing) in the preceding week.

 

When training you should try to replicate the conditions you will face on your event as much  as possible.  This means cycling on the types of roads you are planning to use, riding in all weather, covering the same sort of terrain, using the same sort of rest periods and eating the same kinds of foods. 

 

Aside from getting you fit, training is also important in ironing out any problems you might encounter that could put an end to your ride.  If you are not used to riding for long periods you might start to notice sores and pains that you have not encountered before.  These might be caused by your riding position or technique and training is a good opportunity to make small adjustments to try and correct any issues.  

 

Of course you will almost inevitably suffer to some degree with saddle sores, although getting used to being in the saddle for extended periods in training will help to toughen up ‘the area’.  Prevention is better than cure and it is recommended that you use clean shorts every day, starting the day with a good spread of butt cream of your choice (a good recommendation is Sudocrem – slightly antiseptic, cheap and gentle enough for a baby’s bottom), and antiseptic wipes for clean up and re-application half way through the day.