JANUARY TRAINING HINTS
We have a challenge ahead of us! A considerable one!
Fortunately, there are six months between now and the Etapes du Tour – we will need to make careful use of that time! The secret will be to progress steadily from our present state of fitness to that needed for the challenge in July.
Whichever of the routes you have chosen, the challenge is similar. Around 100 miles of cycling, and about 5000 metres of climbing in a day! So where do we start? Right here!
The plan will be to increase the lengths of your rides month by month, reaching the 100 mile mark around the end of March and the beginning of April, by the tried and tested method of increasing the lengths of the rides month by month.
Similarly, the lengths of the climbs, and our speed of climbing, will be increased month by month.
INDOOR and OUTDOOR TRAINING
Fortunately, the weather has been reasonable this winter, which gets us off to an excellent start. We have not suffered icy roads, with the risk of injury, or extremely low temperatures with a risk of hypothermia and winter ailments. Let’s hope it stays that way! With the help of accurate local weather forecasts, it is possible to make the most of stretches of good weather.
However, the evenings are dark – so how is it possible to find sufficient time to train? According to basic theory, training once a week will maintain fitness, but two or more sessions will improve it.
Most of us have jobs to hold down, and families to spend time with. However a daylight ride is usually possible on the day off. If you live near a floodlit cycle track such as the one in Reading at Palmer Park, evening riding is possible even in winter. If not, valuable training time is possible on the turbo trainer or in the gym. But how do we make best use of that time?
SOME TRAINING TARGETS
To some extent, these depend on your starting point! I will assume that you are starting from scratch after a wonderful relaxing Christmas and New Year’s break!
The length of your rides should steadily increase during the month, even if you do not have time for a long ride every week. A good target for the first weeks of January is a 25 or 35 mile ride. A continuous ride is good, though a café stop is allowed – particularly if the temperatures are low. Include a few hills on your route if there are some handy – perhaps some 100 metre climbs if they are available – though a flat ride at a slightly higher speed is equally useful. By the end of January, a good target is to complete a 45 mile ride. Speed is not too important at this stage.
If you have been in hibernation for a while, the first ride after the New Year celebrations could be short a short – say a 5 mile or 10 mile ride, to get everything working!
On the other hand, if you are already riding 75 miles a day – so much the better!
Indoor training at the gym or on a turbo trainer is very useful for practicing climbing. Ultimately we will need to produce a steady power output for periods of an hour or more on those long mountain climbs, so pedalling a cycling machine for long periods at steady rates is ideal training, Again we will need to steadily build up from our current fitness level to the high degree of fitness needed for the Etape, but we need to start at the level we are at.
A good start is therefore to pedal at a sustainable rate for a period of a quarter of an hour, half an hour or even an hour at the beginning of January, gradually increasing the level during January. A starting point might be 100 watts for a quarter of an hour on week one, then maybe half an hour on week two. Olympian levels are not needed – yet! By the end of January you will have increased both the power and the duration.
As with all training – the important thing is to ride at a level you feel happy with rather than just at a level someone else tells you!
Evaluating your Progress
It is worth recording and evaluating your progress. A training diary is very useful for this. This may be nothing more than a sheet of A4 paper for each month. “Wide ruled” A4 typically has 33 lines – one for each day of the month and a couple of spare ones! You may want to allow more than one line per day of course, depending on how much detail you want to record.
Fitness measurement may simple be a matter of recording distance, average speeds and terrain, to show your improvement as you go through the year. Using an exercise bike, recording heart rates vs. power output is useful– the fitness calculator on this web site will give you a useful comparative figure.
Enjoy your training!