JANUARY TRAINING HINTS
So you’ve entered the 2006 etape du Tour! And you are planning to cycle 120 miles over the mountains, climbing around 11,000 feet …. And after 100 miles you are going to do the legendary Alpe d’Huez….! Your doctor has signed a form to say you are fit for competitive cycling – but how fit are you?! Probably not very fit after all that Christmas pud!
How are you going to do it? A bit of training might be useful – in fact a lot of training will be very useful!
How are you going to get fit enough?
The answer is .. in stages! Between now and July there are six months. In that six months we will set out to increase the lengths of our rides, our average speeds, our climbing ability and riding skills to the point where the 2006 Etape du Tour is not only achievable, but achievable within the time limit. Some of us will achieve Gold Medals, others Silver and many of us Bronze awards. It won’t be easy! But it is achievable.
How often do you need to train?
Most of us have plenty of important calls on our time – work, family, and other interests. We therefore need to train efficiently and safely. So how many times a week do you need to train?
The received wisdom from the sports science experts is that training once a week will maintain fitness, twice a week will improve it and three times a week will yield more improvements. The benefits of further training sessions is more debatable.
Types of training
You are going to cycle 120 miles – so endurance training is essential.
It will be over the mountains – so a good aerobic capacity is needed.
You will be with 8000 or so others – so you need bike handling skills.
You will be climbing – good leg strength will help!
In the Events section of this web site I’ve listed a series of training events which will help with all these aspects, but in the mean time you will no doubt be training locally.
Where do you start?
From where you are of course! Most of us have had a lazy Christmas, and will be less fit than usual. Maybe you are used to 20 mile rides, or maybe you do a 100 mile ride every week – it does not matter too much at this stage. If you are starting from scratch, a fairly gentle 25 mile ride on a weekend is a good start. If you are at a high fitness level, you will be pushing the speed and distance a bit more.
Road Training Rides
Find a suitable circuit near home, if possible with little traffic. In fact if possible, find several circuits of different lengths – maybe 5 miles, 10 miles and 20 miles. If at all possible they should be fairly traffic free. At this time of year it is worth avoiding icy days.
If you are already fairly fit, push your speed a bit, but ride at a sustainable level for most of the ride. A 20 mile ride is a good starting point. As you go round, various challenges will appear – other cyclists for example, or markers such as road signs! At these points, push yourself much harder, to the stage where your breathing rate is slowly increasing, and you eventually have to slow down (though not to the point where your breathing rate is out of control!) This exercise will improve your aerobic fitness fairly rapidly. A 20 mile ride may be your first step in building endurance.
Set an attainable target for yourself for the end of January – maybe a 40 mile ride. If you are starting from scratch, this need not be particularly fast – you may want to stop at a pub for lunch or at a coffee shop for refreshments!
Indoor training is a good solution when the evenings are dark and cold. If you have a turbo trainer to mount your bike on, indoor training is quite convenient. If it is capable of measuring watts, you will also be able to calibrate your fitness. Fairly long duration rides at reasonable resistance levels are appropriate – say half or three quarters of an hour at 150 or 200 watts.
If you do not have a watt meter, simply choose a fairly hard but sustainable level to ride at.
If you don’t have a turbo trainer, try the local gym. Many of them charge a few pounds a session, so it need not be expensive.
The more advanced machines have the ability to simulate varying terrain, which makes it more interesting.
It is worth noting your ride distances and other interesting facts such as the weather, which bike you use, and average speed, to follow your improvement as the weeks go by. You may also be interested in logging physiological factors such as your weight.
About once a month it is worth measuring your fitness level to see how many watts you produce at given heart rates. The fitness calculator on this web site may give you an idea of your progress.
Enjoyable sessions are less boring – don’t be afraid to dream up some interesting destinations, or even to try out some new scenic areas. Riding with others is sometimes fun and sometimes challenging, and is useful for developing group riding skills. Audaxes and club rides are useful ways of developing riding skills, as are the events listed on this web site.
Let the training begin!