Why You Should Forget The Gym For Elite Fitness
These are Four Crucial Tips that apply whether you are a seasoned rider or a beginner, whether you are a top triathlete or a new Cyclist contemplating some testing sportives. We have learned our training methods through many hours and days riding with some of the world’s top riders. Here is a brief summary of the points that we feel really matter.
It’s important to keep a training and eating diary, for every day’s activity and calorie consumption. You can think of these four new tips as golden rules – and if you try to just break ONLY one rule per week, then you WILL become a fitter cyclist. Just one rule though. If some rules seem too simple for you that’s fine – just keep a mental note of the rules that work for you.
1. Forget the gym
Seriously, unless you want to be a pure track sprinter, there is hardly any need to bulk up with weight training. And any other form of light gym work or cross training can become boring, irrelevant for your attempt at Elite Cycling Fitness, or downright harmful if you fail to warm up and stretch correctly. It can be even worse if you go intermittently, that’s less than twice a week. There really is only one substitute for extra kilometres out on your bike. And that’s time spent on your home indoor bike trainer or cross-training apparatus. Otherwise a good course of yoga is recommended, to allow you to improve your stretching and relaxation abilities. But what about improving road sprinting power? There are many other road-based options for training to sprint well * see our advice on Sprint Interval Training.
2. Keep high pedalling cadence on low gears
This is so important for your long-term endurance. But also on every training ride. Low gears and high cadence will mean you fatigue more slowly and can dance up hills out of the saddle, even at the end of a two or three hour ride. This should be on ratios of around 42 x 15 or 43 x 16 for flat tempo riding.
3. Save the big chain ring for competition and interval sprint training
We never recommend much training in big gears. It can quickly cause knee problems and muscle strain. You should always be able to retain a high cadence and feel a supple “suplesse” pedaling action while training. Then, when you are racing and need to maintain that cadence but on higher gears, your legs will be more attuned. The exception is interval training – a great 40 minutes of intervals, sprinting (on quite roads with no side entrances) for trees, 250-350m ahead, in a gear of 53 x 14 or 52 x 15, will build the speed that you would need for criterium racing. Do this every two minutes with easy soft-pedaling in between. Use sharp corners to get your legs used to the pain of jumping hard from a low speed. This is one of several forms of training we will share with you on the site, to make you a better road sprinter.
4. Take ALL your body’s signals VERY Seriously
As a serious cyclist you are pushing your body. Regularly you are pushing your heart and lungs and legs into areas of fatigue that normally improve your fitness, but sometimes cause levels of strain or fatigue that you should heed and respect. Overtrain and your body will pay you back. Don’t stretch and warm up properly before interval training and you can easily pull a muscle. Check your waking, morning pulse and recognise when it is higher than average. Then make that day a rest day. Respond to aching knees or strains by immediately checking your riding position with an experienced coach; plus remember to check the alignment of your pedal cleats and riding shoes. If you regularly suffer chronic lower back pain, learn the relevant yoga stretches, for before and after your rides. In training, spend more time riding out of the saddle and lower your gears. But see your doctor, chiropractor and sports physiotherapist * and deal with the causes rather than the symptoms.
Also try to get at least 30 minutes of massage therapy when your muscles are sore, to improve blood flow to the sore muscle tissue and release micro-adhesions associated with muscle repair. This can be a painful technique to reduce soreness. Ask your senior teammates or doctor to recommend a good sports physiotherapist. Make sure you get at least eight to 10 hours of sleep to help with muscle recovery. Muscles that have been adequately repaired will not be sore. The body repairs itself at night and important hormones are triggered to signal repair to muscle tissue. Failing to get eight to 10 hours will decrease the hormonal response and recovery will be slower. This means the muscle tissue will be sore for a longer duration.