Simplified Base Bicycle Training
If you are now in your early base period of training there are only three things you should be focusing on in your training: aerobic endurance, force and speed skills.
I seem to write about this topic a lot this time of year, it seems. That’s probably because I see so many athletes doing so little in their training now to optimize fitness in these three critical areas. Most are in a hurry to get into muscular endurance, anaerobic endurance and power training. In fact, those who burned out last July or so have been training these abilities since September when they started to get their enthusiasm for training back. They are flying now. That’s why I call them “Christmas Stars.” By about May motivation will start to wane again and will be totally gone by June or July when, in most parts of the northern hemisphere, racing is still going strong and has a few months to go.
Patience is the key to success in endurance sport. I’ve also written about that idea many times. One must be patient with training. When passed by a group of Christmas Stars on the road now you’ve got to have the patience to hold back and stick with your planned base fitness training. It helps to have a coach, someone who will hold you accountable for what you do in workouts. I seldom have to remind the athletes I train that they need to stick with the plan while avoiding Christmas Star group rides. Down deep we each understand the benefit of building deep levels of fitness in these three key abilities before starting to do the high intensity stuff later on. We realize that if we are patient now and just grind out the miles as planned, the reward later on will be much greater.
There are three simple ideas I build into the workouts of the riders I coach to help them get benefit from every workout this time of year. Here’s the gist of what I have them do in the form of training suggestions for you. There’s more to it than this. You can read one of my books to get all of the details. But it can all be boiled down to three basic elements of training for early base training…
Aerobic Endurance. Maximize 2-zone training time each week. For now, try to get about 40% of your training time each week in this zone. And higher doesn’t count as part of the 40%. Pay close attention to your power meter or heart rate monitor. Ride steadily. Avoid high and low numbers. No sprinting and no coasting. You’ll have a big aerobic engine after a few weeks of this.
Force. Climb all hills on certain select rides each week staying in the saddle. This will do wonders for building hip and knee extension strength improving your riding power overall. After a few weeks of this you will be a stronger rider, just in time to start the high intensity training. This is a simple stepping stone workout for great sustained power.
Speed Skills. Put a 25T or 27T cassette on your bike and pedal at high cadence on all terrains, including hills, at least three days a week. “High” cadence means at the upper end of your comfortable cadence range. Most riders are comfortable from about 75 to 95 rpm. So ride a lot averaging about 95. Your power will drop down some. That’s ok. It will rise in a few weeks as you become more economical. Improved pedaling skills will pay off in faster racing later in the season.