Many of us love training time on the bike, but it’s hard to fit it in around everything else we do in a day. To get the most out of your training time, here are some easy and high impact cycling training tips.
1. Position and Seat
Wind tunnel science has proved that your position on the bike makes all the difference to your energy output and efficiency ratio. Start with checking that your seat height setting is correct, this flows on through your body to help get you the best leg extension when you pedal.
Quick seat height check
Get a good feel for your seat height by positioning your bike close to an easy to hold railing (if you’re using rollers rather than a wind trainer).
While you get on and go through this test make sure to squeeze your brakes to stop the bike from moving around.
Place the heels of your shoes onto the pedals and pedal both legs backwards.
Your leg should extend in full, that means a straight leg, no bend in the back of the knee, and constant contact with the pedal. If you lose contact you are too high. If you have any bend in your knee you are too low.
It’s important that your hips remain steady through this. If you have to drop your hip to keep contact with the pedal then you are using more energy than you want and getting a less effective ride. The same goes for if you lift your hip to get a full extension. Keep your hips steady and even, and focus on the leg movement alone to get your seat position correct.
2. Build Strength and Recover in Intervals
You want to be ready for any kind of ride, and to train for that you should build up your strength with strength training intervals. When it comes to climbs, aim to complete at least three separate, significant (five minutes or more) ascents. Between climbs make sure you get time to rest and recover for the same period of time you spent on the climb (i.e. five-minutes). Use a flat or descent to rest and recover before you tackle the next ascent.
This works on a number of deep and critical levels.
- Works your body up to heavier muscle loads.
- Gives you a significant cardio workout to work your cardiovascular system and distributes more oxygen to your blood and muscles.
- Gives you stamina training to handle climbs in tough conditions.
If you find the weather a challenge or getting out to a safe and usable climb area is not something you can do on a regular basis then you can get a good interval workout indoors on a high resistance trainer. To get the same impact as three climbs you’ll need to pedal for an hour.
Give yourself a warm up then set your resistance for a series of high efforts and rests with even intervals (say five-minutes each) and then finish with a cool down ride.
Interval training builds muscles quickly and burns fat as you are forcing your body to recover as fast as possible. It’s the fastest way to get fit quickly.
Resting is really important, so make sure to give yourself breaks. Make these high interval sessions on non-consecutive days to give your muscles time to repair and rebuild after your workout. Also, make sure your ‘climb’ and rest intervals are equal. If you go too hard for too long you deprive your muscles and deplete them of glycogen. Look to build up and get amazing strength and tone by resting and going hard consistently. Take an easy ride between climb sets and time your downhill so you get adequate recovery time.
3. Core Exercises
Core strength is really important for lots of reasons; balance, spine care and stamina being a few of the big ones.
To really increase both your core and overall strength follow this exercise routine (the days are just guides to show intervals).
Mon: Strength/Rest interval ride
Tue: Rest ride + core training
Wed: Strength/Rest interval ride
Thu: Rest ride + core training
Fri: Strength/Rest interval ride
Sat: Rest ride + core training
Sun: Rest (ride for fun)
Core Exercise Training (10 minutes)
After you complete your ride sit on a towel on the floor. (Change out of your ride shoes and get into some sneakers).
Set a timer for ten minutes and get through as many sets as possible of the following exercises:
- Push-ups (five in a row)
- Sit-ups (five in a row)
- Rest (sit still and breathe deeply)
That is ONE set. (Now repeat steps 1-3).
Aim to complete four sets in 10 minutes.
If you are finishing faster than the clock, take more time pressing up and lowering yourself down. Moving too quickly gives your body the assistance of gravity and momentum. Go slow and force your muscles to take the weight of your body and do the work. Remember to keep your core engaged during steps 1&2 to get maximum impact.
If you do not complete all four sets before the timer goes off give yourself a few weeks to build your strength and stamina. You will get there.
When your time is up, shower and stretch.
4. Massage & Stretching
When you work out your muscles get pumped with blood, oxygen, hormones and toxins. If you stop abruptly all that extra blood is likely to stay there, causing swelling, stiffness and even bruising.
In order to recover quickly you need to unload the excess toxins from your muscles and into your bloodstream where they can be released from your body.
Light stretching after cycling will help speed up recovery meaning a healthier body and less downtime between rides or competitions.
Massage is great as well, especially when coupled with stretching.
One professional massage a week is enough to accelerate your training program. Don’t go for a hard massage if it’s uncomfortable though. You want a firm massage, but not to the point of causing pain. That’s an indication you might be subject to bruising and swelling that needs time and patience (and an ice pack) to heal.
For some everyday cycling exercise examples see this blog ‘Best Stretches for Cycling’.
5. Carb Loading and Hydration
Everyone talks about carb loading for energy and adequate hydration for stamina. Both of these things take time to process. Absorbing carbohydrates and water is really important for your body, but you have to start early. By early, we don’t mean three days, we’re talking three weeks. That’s how long your body can store energy efficiently.
Over a three week period gradually increase the number of carbs you put on your plate at lunch time and make a conscious effort to increase your water intake (including water-rich foods like lettuce, cucumber, and fruit).
This energy will build up in your muscles and body storage to be released when you come under intense pressure.
Don’t worry about carb loading prior to a training ride, just eat well-balanced meals and be sure to eat when you are hungry.
When you get to a high-performance ride your body will naturally release its glycogen-rich stores and give you a slow energy release so that you can perform consistently to the finish line.
Cycling on a time budget is about working smart, not taking shortcuts!
See you out on the road….that’s freedom!
Felicity Dales – Body Torque