We don’t all have 20 hours a week to dedicate to training, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use some pro cycling training tips to up our game. In a lot of ways, what you do off the bike matters just as much as what you do when in the saddle. No matter what your goals are, whether you’re training for a race or want to hit a certain distance or time, these tips can help you get there.
6 Cycling Training Tips
Fight the Plateau
It’s easy to get stuck in a training rut, especially when you’re spinning along the same routes time and time again. Be wary of spending too much time at that pace right between easy and challenging. Of course, if you’re building up endurance, this is exactly where you want to be. However, once you hit a certain level of fitness you will not advance beyond it, nor will you give your body adequate time to recover. This is what we call a training plateau. On your easy days, take it really easy. Then, on your hard days you will have a some gas in the tank to really challenge yourself.
Don’t Skip Rest Days
You can come to crave the rush of feel-good endorphins that the brain releases during exercise, especially cycling. But, when you’re training on a consistent basis, you actually put stress on your body and breakdown your muscles. Over time, and through combination of training and rest (periodization), your muscles are repaired to be stronger than before. This is when you begin to feel more fit and you can produce more power for longer on your bike. Although taking rest days may feel like taking a step backwards, you will do more harm than good if you don’t.
Train Your Brain
There are some major differences between pros and recreational riders, but it’s not all in the legs. Part of what separates us from the pros is mental toughness. A lot of us are guilty of allowing negative self talk to take over our minds as we ride. We acknowledge the pain or when the going gets tough, but it’s moving past it that takes some practice. The first step is taking control of this inner monologue and using it to your advantage. Implant some ‘power thoughts’ that help you focus long enough to drown out the negativity.
It’s true that the only way to get better at cycling is to spend more time on the bike, but cross training is a tool that many pros use to better their riding. Focusing entirely on one thing, like endurance, isn’t healthy. Cycling needs to be accompanied by other activities to keep the muscles and joints balanced. Weight training, strength exercises, running, and swimming are great ways to improve your bone density and the strength of connective tissues. Regular stretching or yoga is also necessary to keep the body balanced with a healthy range of motion.
Properly Fuel Your Body
Eating right can be hard at the best of times. Add regular exercise into the mix and it can become a balancing act of replacing calories all the while making sure you’re consuming the right things. Nutrition is a sea of do’s and don’t, and not everyone agrees of what those are. As cyclists, we need a balanced diet to feel our best on the bike. The easiest way to do this is to stick to whole, real foods rather than processed. For more on nutrition for cyclists, check out “Nutrition for Cyclists: A Basis.”
Okay, sounds obvious, but there are some easy ways to go about this. One of the most common times of day to overeat is at night. If you go to bed feeling full, then it is a sign that you’ve had a little too much. Instead, if you go to bed just a little hungry (not ravenous, just slightly hungry), it can help you maintain your weight.