The Training Week For Real People

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Photo by Leigh Schilling

Due to the tremendous popularity of cycling these days I see a lot of riders who are in their late 30’s and over.  Many of these cyclists have the same history.  They used to go on massive weekend rides and put in 15-20 training hours during the week.  Then they got a career, had kids, got a mortgage and real life took over.  Cycling is still a major passion but the list of priorities have been re-adjusted.  The endless hours to train just aren’t available anymore. Cycling is a sport that can rule a person’s life if you let it and a line needs to be drawn somewhere.

Ten hours of training per week is a good amount for most serious recreational riders. There will be a natural limit to what you can achieve with this amount of training but ten hours will put to use much of your genetic potential.   You’ll have room in this training schedule for some quality workouts and also some easy social rides.  Anything more and you’ll be experiencing the Law of Diminishing Returns. 90% more effort for 10% gain.  It’s up to you to decide if that extra commitment is worth it.

What I’ve outlined below is a basic training program that will provide some consistency and structure to your riding.  Many times those ingredients are all that’s needed to get on track.  Training for more serious cycling and racing usually entails a number of training blocks that focus on different aspects of fitness that build up to an event (called periodization).  This doesn’t take that into consideration.  Only triathletes are disciplined enough to periodize their training anyway ;-)

Intensity is the key to improvement when time is limited.   If you’re going to skip any of these workouts, don’t skip the ones that require intensity.  Intensity is HARD.  If you want to improve you need to do something that will cause a physiological adaptation in your body.  Riding easy will not do this, but making room in your schedule to promote recovery is still important.

Monday: Rest day. Stay off the bike at least 1 day a week to help recovery. You might want to keep active with some light upper-body weight training or an easy walk with the wife.  (Pilates is my personal favorite recovery activity.  More on this in a later post).

Tuesday : Ride 60-90 minutes. After a warm up, do 5 to 10 sprints, or a short training time trial, or 6 short intervals (about 1-2 minutes long) at a heart rate around 90% of your max. Get some intensity into this workout. Group rides are a great way to get this intensity.  However, if you try to go on a group ride that is above your ability when up at the front, you’ll quickly be relegated to sitting back in the bunch and won’t get anything out of this.   If this is the case, it’s better to get 2 or 3 of your mates together and do a hard ride swapping turns (1-2 mins each).

Wednesday : Ride 2 hours with the emphasis on endurance. Heart rate shouldn’t go above 85% of max.   If you’re pressed for time, split 2 hours of training into a couple of rides. For instance, go fairly hard for an hour in the morning, maybe on the trainer or on the commute to work. Then pedal easily after work or in the evening to promote recovery.

Thursday: Ride 60-90 minutes. Ideally this can be a group ride or a few mates getting together to really push each other.  If there’s a Thurs evening race, even better.  Get some intensity in.

Friday : One hour coffee ride with friends. Finish up with a short upper body weight training session, swim, pilates or yoga.  Commuting to work is also a great way to get in this recovery ride.

Saturday : Two hours with some hills in it. This should be a good quality ride to build the strength in the legs.  Hit the hills hard but you don’t need to smash the whole ride.  If you have a race tomorrow then make it an easier ride.   A short two hour ride leaves lots of time for chores and family responsibilities

Sunday : Ride 2 hours. Race, do an endurance ride, or go out with a good bunch of mates. This is the day to reap the benefits of your improved fitness.  Go ahead and smash your mates!

When I say intensity, it does not mean going balls out right off the gun.  If you are doing a hard interval you should be able to sustain that intensity for the whole period of time.  A 30 second sprint interval will be as hard as you can go for 30 seconds.  A 2 minute interval will not feel so hard at first, but will make you hurt by the time it’s over.  You shouldn’t even be able to hold a brief conversation with your mates while in these intervals.

Also, when I say recovery, this means you should be able to talk to your mates at all times without huffing and puffing.  Use the “talking” guideline to gauge your effort.

Next week I’ll talk about the different fitness systems that make up a cyclist, how to train each on of them individually, and which order to work on them.

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