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In previous years you just trained, trained and trained. This meant miles, miles, and more miles. You got fit, tired and eventually over-trained and probably didn’t get any faster than the other riders you would be riding with.
These days riders specialize. They train specifically for specific events or certain times of the year. So when we talk about winter training, we really mean the time of year when you’re not racing, but building up to a decisive time in your training.
Spring training will be your big build-up to summertime and a full race program.
Autumn time is the time to wind down. You can’t stop riding, but there is no pressure on for quality training and top race performances.
Depending on where you live, you will race at different times. For instance, in Northern Europe, you race in the middle of summer, but further South, racing in the middle of summer would be impossible in the heat. In this case, you might, in fact, have two seasons. One in spring and another in autumn, with a break for the heat. Then if you live south of the equator, everything is all back to front, so read on, but adapt what you read to suit your season and weather conditions.
AUTUMN TRAINING OR WIND DOWN TIME
This is the time to take it easy. You have to ride your bike, or you’ll just seize up, take a holiday, recharge the batteries, and feel like a normal human being again. Then start riding your bike for enjoyment. Go for long rides with your friends, maybe even take your partner for an easy ride. It might get you some space later in the season!
Build up the miles, don’t go at it too hard. Start slowly on easy roads and short distances with the emphasis on pleasure. As you start to feel stronger lengthen the distances and build in a lunch stop, but keep in mind that you are not racing for quite a long time, and you have a lot of work to do before then.
WINTER CYCLING TRAINING OR BUILD UP TIME
Now some proper training starts. Longer rides, harder rides, but not top-end speed work, that’s for the final section of full training in the spring. This part of the year is very important. It’s the basis of all your training from now on. Longer rides, depending on what kind of racing you do and how long you will be racing.
If you only raced for an hour then there is no point in training for five to six hours. However, if you are racing over those sorts of times you will have to train long hours; the younger rider should not be training as hard or as long as an older more experienced rider. Build up to between four to six hours, but be careful not to overdo it, as this is the time of year that you could get run-down and catch a cold or some other virus.
Start with long flat rides and then add in some more hills, but not too severe. Before when you feel stronger put in good long climbs. At the start of this section, you should feel fresh. Knowing that you have been for a good ride, if you feel like you have done nothing, then you are not doing enough. Step it up another notch.
Coming to the end of this faze you should be feeling the effort. This means you have to rest more. Sleep after your ride, this is the best time for recovery. get in a shower, make yourself a hot drink, and some toast and a nice “siesta” before dinner time. This long-distance training gives you the foundations to build the rest of your house of training.
SPRING TRAINING OR FULL TRAINING TIME
Now you have to start introducing speed work into your program. There are three main ways of doing this.
Train with others
First, training with others always makes you ride faster, and if ridden at near race speed then this is the best way to get your speed up. Simulating race conditions also makes you aware of tactics, and if you introduce some sprints, for town signs or lampposts this helps the speed and sprinting ability.
Secondly, interval training on your own. This can be done by sprinting for short or long distances, but the best way (especially for road racing) is to have a mix of distances of sprints and different rests in between as this is what will happen in races. You never know when you are going to have to try hard or how long you will rest in between. Pick a route that you regularly use that has lampposts or phone line posts all around the course.
Once you have warmed up properly, start to sprint between the first and second lamppost and resting between the second and third. This is better if they are spread unevenly, so changing distances of the rests and sprints. For time trailing or solo Triathlon riding you could use a set distance, a quarter, a half or a full mile and build up to doing full mile intervals. Remember to rest when you feel tired or stop and go home if you just cant get going, but you must be riding flat out when doing them.
Thirdly, racing. This is an excellent way of bringing on your speed. Race hard for half the race or more, but understand that you will not finish the race. Do as much as you can without going too deep into your reserves.
This is a great way to train but can work out to be expensive with traveling etc. also, it may annoy other riders as you will be riding hard early on with no intention of finishing.
All the above methods can be done with the help of heart rate monitors. This is a big subject of its own that we cover in another article.
SUMMERTIME OR PEAK RACE TIME
You are now fit and ready to race, picking your races to suit your abilities and talents.
Between races, you need to rest. Training will depend on how much you are racing. A hard race on Sunday will mean doing an easy ride on Monday and a good ride with friends on Tuesday (with a little speed work). Wednesday could possibly be a short race or a good hard ride if you are not racing till Sunday.
Thursday should be like Tuesday. Friday shouldn’t be too hard, not too much climbing, so the legs are not too heavy. Saturday, you should spin the legs and think about Sunday’s race.
The training you should be doing at this time of year is if you need to improve a part of your cycling, sprinting, climbing, solo riding, or even your bike handling skills, it will be obvious from your racing what you will need to look at for improvement. Massage is something you should also consider as it helps recovery from racing and training, and also any injuries will be picked up sooner rather than later.
TO SUM UP
To put it all together, build up slowly. Don’t do too much too early, and remember to rest. If you feel tired, don’t go out. If you are starting to feel that you must go out, even when you don’t want, this is time to take a rest and start again.
Overtraining will ruin your season. Take it easy, go for some nice easy rides and remind yourself why you are doing this, the main thing is to enjoy your riding, be it racing or just training.