Racing for 13 years means one thing—I have logged countless training hours on my bike. Racing as a professional for the last 9 years means that many of those hours have been structured and demanding as I have very specific goals that are important to my own performance and to the success of my team. If you are like me, I train to race. I don’t race to train. Don’t get me wrong—I love to ride my bike, but sometimes training can become mundane. Over the years I have learned to incorporate key elements in my training to keep it fresh and exciting and to help me continually improve even when I think I might have hit my peak.
KEEP IT FUN
Always keep it fun. Sure, there are days when it feels like a chore to ride my bike, especially on days when I’m alone pushing through intervals in the freezing cold, feeling like a slave to my power meter, but then there are days when I would not want to do anything else but ride my bike. Those are the days when I leave my power meter and heart rate monitor at home, meet friends for a casual coffee shop ride, and breathe in the fresh air while my legs feel like they could pedal forever.
Social group rides are naturally fun, but hard group rides can also be fun in a painful sort of way. Instead of staring at a power meter during a hard interval session, you can use a group ride to raise the bar. They’re an opportunity for you to forget the numbers and let the excitement of the group motivate and push you harder and longer than you can go on your own.
QUALITY VERSUS QUANTITY
My philosophy for my own training and for those that I coach is quality versus quantity. I am lucky because I have all day to ride my bike, but I don’t spend unnecessary hours training just because I can. Years ago I had to spend six monotonous, frustrating weeks on a trainer due to an injury. It was mentally challenging to say the least, but because my training was totally dialed for 60-90 minutes each day I was relatively prepared for my first race back—a World Cup nonetheless—immediately after getting off the trainer. This same sort of structure can be taken to the road—make every minute and hour count for something. I’m not saying to never give yourself the freedom to ride as long as you want and enjoy the scenery now and then, but don’t feel as if limited training time means success is out of reach.
REST IS TRAINING
Equally important, if not even more important than quality versus quantity, is getting enough rest. Many people feel that if they take a rest day they are going to lose fitness or they’ve missed an opportunity to train, when in fact it’s quite the opposite. Rest IS training. Not getting enough rest can be detrimental to performance. During a hard workout, we impose a lot of stress on our bodies. In order for our bodies to adapt to that stress, rest is essential. Without the proper rest not only will our bodies not adapt to the stress imposed on them but we won’t be able to continually push our bodies to the same extent time and time again. If training intensity can’t be increased, performance gains will hit a plateau if not even take a step back. Rest doesn’t only mean riding super duper easy (I am talking about 100W and barely above resting heart rate), but taking naps if possible, eating well, staying hydrated, doing yoga, stretching, getting a massage … doing all the things you wouldn’t normally have time to do on a big training day.
There are many different ways to prioritize a training program, but the most basic is usually based around several “build” weeks followed by a rest week. Build weeks can be organized to focus on endurance, speed, power, etc., but typically there should be one major focus for that training block. As mentioned before, finishing the block with a rest week is important for the body to adapt to the stress of the previous strenuous weeks of training before moving on to the next block. With a well-rounded and thought out training program, your body should be ready for whatever is thrown its way and performance will continue to improve.
KEEP IT REAL
Cycling is hard—but don’t let it become a chore. Get the most out of your training. It’s not always how much you do but WHAT you do that counts the most. Give your body the rest it needs when it needs it. Listen to your body, not always your head. Train your weaknesses, build your strengths with a plan that focuses on all the different physiological systems. And above all always remember to keep it real—cycling is supposed to be fun, right?