Your training questions answered with Dig Deep Coaching: part nine

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We all have questions when it comes to improving our training or performing well at our next race or gran fondo. In an ongoing collaboration with CyclingTips, Stephen Gallagher and Dan Fleeman from Dig Deep Coaching have answered another round of your questions, providing insight that we can all benefit from.


There’s not long left in the road cycling season left here in Scotland and I am wondering how best to use winter so that I can be faster next year at road cycling. I don’t have a winter road bike, but I have a turbo and mountain bike.

I haven’t trained by functional threshold heartrate (FTHR) or anything structured up to now, but I have been doing 100 miles (160km) per week this year and have seen improvements in my speed and stamina through building up my mileage. I would like to improve my times over my club time trial (20km flat) and hilly, longer events over 50 – 70 miles (80-112km) for next year.

I am a 50-year-old woman — my strengths on the bike at the moment are stamina and hill climbing. I am not so good on the flat, especially over short events like the club time trial. I don’t have the speed to do a good time. What do you recommend for the winter months?

Hope you can help!


Hi Carol,

Thanks for your question and I think we can provide some good guidelines to help through the winter.

Firstly I believe that starting to use a basic structure to your training and working within different zones and looking at your FTHR will help a lot and enable you to begin looking at specific areas to improve.

The availability of a turbo trainer will be a great way to both structure your sessions and also work on your threshold and building your speed/performances in the TTs next season. The ability to use the turbo to focus on leg speed ability (increasing your higher leg cadence) will be great way to start to build your TT performances. Mixing this with intervals just above and below your FTHR will help with your TT aims greatly.

Using your MTB to maintain a solid endurance base will be perfect to both mix up your training and keep working on other areas. Using the MTB on different terrain will also help with strength sessions. Mixing solid efforts on the turbo to boost speed/threshold along with MTB rides to keep endurance and strength will cover most bases for this winter.

Good luck with the training.

Answer by Stephen Gallagher

Hi, I’m currently preparing for the hill climb season and I was wondering what nutritional advice you would give before a race and the day before?



Hi Gerard,

I wouldn’t make any massive changes before the race and I would certainly recommend trying these following tips in advance.

The day before the race I used to take on less fluids than before a longer race. By being a little dehydrated you will be a little lighter and with the duration of the hill climb being so short this shouldn’t impact performance. But again, please test this in advance.


The other thing would be cut down on carbs for your meal the night before. For a five-minute hill climb you don’t need a massive plate of rice or pasta like you might have before a 100-mile road race.

Again for breakfast I would go light but there is a balance as you still need enough energy to complete the race. Again, you do need to try these things out in advance.

Good luck with the hill climbs.

Answer by Dan Fleeman

Hi Cycling Tips/Dig Deep,

My wife is due to have our second child in February of next year and due to not having family support locally it’s looking like I will have to take some time off the bike. This will mean I’ll miss the early part of the road race season but I would like to maintain the fitness I currently have to be able to compete during the summer (mainly crits and the odd road race).

During this time “off the bike” I will likely still try to get a couple of hour-long turbo sessions and the odd hour-long ride in per week. How can I best use this time to ensure I haven’t lost all my fitness come next summer?

Thank you very much in advance for you help!


Hi Tom,

Thanks for the email and I am sure we can help you balance this to keep up performances next summer. Firstly I would look at changing your traditional training for January/February just prior to the new arrival. This would mean increasing the intensity during this time so that once your time-off arrives you will have already been working on higher intensive efforts and they won’t feel so ‘alien’ once you are back at it in the spring.

I would look at doing the majority of your rides around threshold or VO2max, to maintain a solid aerobic fitness on short training time. But avoid doing two of these high-intensity sessions on back-to-back days as this can lead to high levels of fatigue.

This should help you keep up your performances come the summer and hopefully the racing itself will help continue your fitness as you progress during the season.

All the best with the new arrival.

Answer by Stephen Gallagher

Hi Dig Deep,

How long do you recommend riders take a post-season break for? What would you do in the break or upon return to training?


Hi Dave,

This totally depends how long or hard your season has been but for most people I would recommend two to four weeks. Some people prefer a total break and some like to stay active with light riding. This is again dependent on circumstances but a week to 10 days off followed but a couple of weeks riding every other day should be plenty to refresh the mind and body.


When you do return to training be sure to increase the volume and intensity gradually.

Don’t worry too much about losing fitness as there will be plenty of time to build up again and you will be itching to go after a break.

Hope this helps.

Answer by Dan Fleeman

Are there any benefits to riding four days a week with back-to-back training rides on the weekend? Would this help me increase my speed and/or power over the winter months?

Teresa Schotzko Bailey

Hi Teresa,

Thanks for your question. What it really depends on is the quality of each session and the durations you will be able to commit to each individual session. I will presume that at weekends you will be able to extend the duration of the rides compared to weekdays. If this is the case I would look at doing the weekend rides at a lower aerobic intensity.

It’s important to build the duration of back-to-back days gradually — to increase one ride too much which will cause too much fatigue and leave you unable to complete the next ride to the duration or intensity you had planned. Increasing the weekend rides by 5-10% every two or three weeks (depending on how you feel you have progressed) will help to gradually keep your fitness improving towards the new season.

The two rides mid-week can be more intensive and perhaps technique-based to begin the winter preparation and then gradually increase the intensity over the winter. I would normally advise at least one rest day between more intensive mid-week rides so you are getting adequate recovery and so that you hit each session the best way possible.

Hope this helps and good luck with the coming season.

Answer by Stephen Gallagher


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