Learning Training Advice that You Already Know
Early this year, I flirted with a form of training that I know doesn’t work. I call it “cram training.” I had let my fitness slide. Then, as an event that would have me riding respectable climbs approached quickly, I had to do something. So, I planned to ride as much as I could.
Now, I’ve seen cram training go badly before. If you’re a time-restricted cyclist, priming your legs with a serious flurry of intervals a few weeks before a big ride might sound like a good idea. But binging on intensity just gets your muscles a wicked hangover that can take a while to shake.
So, I knew my little bout of “refresher riding” couldn’t be too hard. But even with that knowledge, there were moments on the trainer or on the road when I had to fight the urge to see higher wattages displayed on the head unit. It feels good to pedal hard. It feels like you’re doing something. Of course, the real hard work – the real discipline – is to ride at the right intensity, which is probably one that feels too easy.
I’d say I did my refresher riding regime pretty well. I kept my inner hammerhead in check. Having a power meter helped as well as having an accurate (albeit humbling) functional threshold power number to work with. Andrew Randell and Steve Neal’s look at the training stress score was also a bonus (p.38). What struck me about that look at a contemporary training metric was how Randell and Neal’s analysis of it reinforces some traditional training wisdom: spend more time working on your base at lower intensities.
It’s good to hear a bit of training advice that you might already know a second time, or a third time, or more. You may understand it the first time, but it may not truly click until later, maybe after you’ve made some mistakes or after you’ve been focused on some other facet of your training. For this issue, Tara Nolan spoke with 12 training experts – athletes, coaches and researchers (p.54). Their advice is top-notch. You should certainly delve into it if you are new to training. Also, if you’re familiar with methods of improving your riding, I don’t doubt that Nolan’s article will have tips that will tune up your training.
When I attended a Shimano press camp, the focus was mostly on the new Dura-ace gruppo (p.96). But while I was there, I also got to experience a fit by bikefitting.com. The pedalling analysis component of the fit showed how my tight hamstrings were actually hindering the smoothness of my pedal stroke. I’ve known for years that improving my flexibility would help my efficiency and power. Before the pedal-stroke analysis, I had been working on my core and on my flexibility. The fit session showed me I still had work to do, which strengthened my resolve. After about a month of regular exercises, I began to notice improvements: my range of motion got better and I moved my saddle up bit. They were changes I knew I’d be able to make, eventually.
“Binging on intensity just gets your muscles a wicked hangover that can take a while to shake.”