How to prepare your cycling training
- How to get the most out of the hours in the saddle
How hard should I train? How often should I train? How far should I cycle? How much recuperation do I need between training sessions? I hear these questions a lot, but unfortunately there is not one answer for everyone. On the opposite side, there are some general guidelines that all cyclists – both amateurs and professionals – can benefit from.
This article is about how you gain most out of all the hours in the saddle on the road. We will explain how you can build up your own training programme by using pulse measurement, interval training and different training methods.
How much you should train
How hard, how often and how long should I train? This question cannot simply be answered by naming a number of km. To find the answer you need to take your actual fitness and training load into consideration. General advice about the number of km or training hours is in fact useless. If you for example cycle 500 km in a week, you have not gained the same training effect as when you would have cycled 500 km of which 150 km interval training. And a training session of one hour can easily give a greater effect than a 3 hour easy ride. This is due to the training intensity.
If you for example ride 5x5 min at maximum speed (and thus optimal oxygen uptake) you will gain a greater training effect than a 3 h cycling tour where the training intensity is around 50% VO2max. The above is the reason why you should be careful to compare your training volume with “general recommendations” or others’ training diaries. Of course you can get some inspiration, just remember to follow some basic rules.
How much restitution do I need? This is also not a question that can be answered easily, as it very much depends on the length and intensity of the training you have done. Moreover, there are great individual differences in what you eat, how fast you recuperate and how much training you can tolerate. However, it can be said that the more well-trained you are, the more training you can cope with and the faster you can recuperate.
The length is not decisive
For competition cyclists a total of 400-600 km training per week would be suitable – as long as the quality is all right. Most cyclists, however, cycle much more, but many of these kilometers do not have much value for your training. These kilometers are also called “alibi kilometers” or “placebo kilometers” – they might give you a good conscience, but they do not have an actual training value. It is important to point out that the total number of km over time is relevant – not the length of a single ride. It is namely better to follow a structured programme, where the different training sessions are connected, then to go on long rides and have several rest days or restitution rides. It is recommended that the largest part of your training is done at 55-60% VO2max (which corresponds with 60-65% of the heart rate reserve).
This means that you both before and during intervals train in that zone, where the muscles have the possibility to prepare for harder work.
Remember the anaerobic intervals
Besides the endurance training that we have just described, you also ought to have one day a week where you ride anaerobic intervals. This can e.g. be 45 s uphill sprints at maximum speed – and thus maximum intensity – that are repeated 4-5 times with minimum 5 minutes active pause in between. It is important that the breaks are long enough, so the next sprint can again be done at a high level.
This tough form of anaerobic interval training requires time for restitution. This is why these days should be after the strenuous training days. The intervals should be in the beginning of your ride so you are fit enough to do them properly – preferably after the aerobic intervals, as you often do not have enough resources to carry out quality training after the uphill sprints.
What to do if you do not have time to train every day?
The abovementioned guidelines in relation to training volume naturally require time. However, you can still train both seriously and have a great effect, even though you only have three days a week available to train – they should just be effective. That is why you should get rid of the “light” days and “intermediate” days and have quality in all three training sessions. You could for example ride two structured days between 2-3 hours with intervals that together give 30 minutes high-intensity training (90-95% training heart rate) and 30 minutes endurance training (approximately 80% training heart rate).
The last day you could do a longer ride, where you for example could do some fartlek (see text box on fartlek), as to train high-intensity training in combination with shorter and longer bouts, where the maximum speed is tested. Sprinting uphill and sign-sprints are also suitable, though a bit unstructured.