March Training hints
March is here Ė Spring is on the way!
It is difficult to know what the weather will do, but at least the daylight hours are getting longer!
On those sunny winter days it has been great to get on the bike and enjoy the countryside while getting some training in. Maybe you have had a chance to try some hills (or even mountains!)
March is a good time of year to build basic endurance, to practice peloton riding, descending and bike handling. It may also be a good time to pick up a bargain bike, as some retailers are selling off last yearís stock at reduced prices!
The frequency of training sessions is an important factor. According to the sports science manuals, you need to train at least twice a week to improve your fitness. Three times a week may be even more beneficial when it is possible. Donít forget the rest days and recovery rides though!
Weekends: When the weather is good, at this time of year training may consist of a fairly leisurely 50 mile ride at the weekend with friends to a tea shop or pub and back, with a couple of hills thrown in for good measure. Or if you are training alone, you may want to head off at a comfortable speed round an interesting 50 mile circuit, with a couple of nice descents. Riding by feel rather than by the speedo is probably better at this time of year.
Evenings: Most of us are not too keen to do miles in the dark when it is cold or rainy, and it may be unwise from a safety point of view, so the turbo trainer or the gym make good alternatives. Maybe you will be able to follow on from previous training and increase your intensity towards the 200W level.
Be warned though Ė the same intensity may register 200W on one machine and 350W on the machine next to it!
Commuting: As the daylight hours become longer, cycle commuting is a good training opportunity. As it tends to be over a fixed distance, the time taken gives a useful measure of fitness, when road conditions are suitable. Obviously this needs tempering with common sense, so that you donít arrive at work too exhausted! For some people, commuting is almost their only training opportunity, in which case an occasional extended ride may be possible when the weather and commitments permit. People have had excellent results simply by commuting 11 miles each way to work, and augmenting this with 3-5 hour rides on alternate Sundays, or with sessions in the gym.
The intensity of your training rides should be quite low at this time of year, as you build up endurance. You need to recover between training sessions if you are to get fitter rather than become exhausted. If you are training many times a week, the intensity may need to be lower to allow for recovery before the next session. If you have symptoms of over-training you may need a few days break from training.
Targets are very useful for concentrating the mind. Orienting your training towards a charity ride, an Audax or a sportive is extremely useful. For example a 100Km Audax in March and a 200km Audax in May would pace your training nicely ready for the big challenge.
If you are one of the few people already in the 100 mile league this year, maybe it is time to start concentrating on speed over fixed distances!
Training Camps and Cycling Holidays
If you are lucky enough to be able to go on a training camp in Mallorca or another warm and mountainous area, your fitness should benefit considerably. If you have holiday companions who cycle but are more sedate in their style, you may be able to sneak off for a challenging ride for a day, for example to try out part of the route of one of the great continental cycle races such as the Vuelta díItalia. On a family holiday it may still be possible to hire a bike for a day or two and head for the mountains.
Obviously training needs to be kept in balance with more important commitments!
Monitoring your Training
The obvious thing to monitor at this time of year is distance, gradually increasing the lengths of your rides. At this stage, a flat fairly leisurely 45 mile ride should not be too great difficulty, though a very hilly 45 miles may be quite tiring. A 60 mile ride, if not yet attainable, should not be too far away. You may want to increase your distance each week, or maybe increase the length of your longest ride (though this will not always be possible).
If you are monitoring your fitness in the gym it is useful to monitor your heart rate and wattage. If possible use the same machine each week if you are measuring wattage, as machines vary a lot.
Plotting a graph of heart rate vs power every few weeks provides a useful insight into your fitness improvements, as power output at a given heart rate will generally improve as you get fitter.
It is also interesting to record your average speed over a given distance, if only to prove that you are able to improve it later!
Enjoy your rides, find some nice routes, get fit - and donít overdo it (too much!)