Get a plan!
When you start training to become a cyclist, as a beginner, any riding you do will be beneficial. You will gain confidence and strength on the bike the more you ride. However, there is a limit to this improvement, you will reach what is known as a plateau, a limit whereby you won’t improve further. For this reason, if you wish to keep improving you will need to consider a plan. Having a plan gives your training structure. Having a good plan and sticking to it will also allow you to improve more quickly for a given amount of training time and more importantly consistently. Having a plan will also go some way to limit the possibility of overtraining
Following a plan will help motivate you to reach your goals!
There are a number of very useful concepts that will help you further understand why we create plans, I will write about some of them below.
Load, Recovery, Adaptation
Load, or training load is the concept of the amount of work you do during training. There are various measurements and acronyms, but they are generally based on some form of calculation of volume x intensity.
Recovery, a very important part of training; the time where your body recovers from the training stress it has undergone. It doesn’t matter how hard you train, if you don’t recovery properly, you will not improve. Recovery is the time when adaptations take place.
Adaptation, this is what we’re looking to achieve; the positive change in your mind and body that comes through the cycle of loading and recovering. Adaptation is a change allowing you to cope with the training load more easily the next time you encounter it. Adaptation can be in your cardiovascular system, in the muscular system, or even a mental adaptation where you are mentally better able to cope with the training stress.
Sometimes more is less; when we train hard, we eventually become fatigued. Continuing to train past this point of fatigue will limit our improvements and can even cause a reverse adaptation! Many cyclists, not just beginners fall into this trap of overtraining.
Training blocks – what are they and why do we need them?
Training blocks give us structure and purpose to our plan. Workouts are like the bricks that build the house; training blocks are the parts we need to put together, the plan we follow in order to build our beautiful home. You could never build a house without laying a good foundation; you would only put the windows and doors in after the main structure was in place. Without all the right blocks in place, in the right order, the house would simply fall apart.
Each block, typically 4 weeks has a purpose in the greater plan. For example we start with base building, or aerobic conditioning. This is focusing on building your endurance and power in the aerobic zones. Allowing you to ride further at a higher average speed without tiring as much.
We have blocks which focus on efficiency, strength for climbing, anaerobic capacity for top end power and even for sprinting. However, without the basic aerobic base blocks in place you will never reach your full potential.
Conquer your fears!
Everyone, even pro cyclists, have weak points. Knowing your weakness and being able to work on it when necessary is what makes the difference between a good cyclist and a great cyclist. In a plan there are blocks such as base, strength or speed. By adjusting the focus to compensate for our weaknesses we can ensure that plan gives us the maximal gain towards achieving our goals.
Take the guesswork out of cycling, plan your way to becoming a better cyclist.
In future articles I will discuss training in more detail, talking about nutrition, weight management, training with heart rate, power and many more advanced topics such as progressive training overload and periodization. I will also discuss what are the best equipment upgrades and why.