The words “training plan” often strike a note when heard by non-professional cyclists. Scheduled workouts, planned mileage … at first glance it seems to take the fun out of riding. Furthermore, there is long slow distance, cross-training, intervals workouts, hill repeats and periodization; the mere variety of training plans found online can be confusing.
But, if you take a blustery winter’s evening to sit down and organize your training, you’ll reap benefits come spring. The biggest benefit to having everything pre-organized is that you won’t be circling the block riding what cyclists call “junk miles.” Also, your progression will be more measurable.
While I will provide a few basic training ideas you can draw inspiration from, I refer you to Joe Friel’s Cyclist’s Training Bible for the best compendium on training plans.
No matter your fitness level, there are a few things that should be a part of your plan:
- First, you should schedule an active recovery day every week. If you are over 50, you may benefit from one every 4-5 days as the body takes a bit longer to recover as it ages. Active recovery does not mean, “sit on the sofa, watch 13 episodes of your favorite TV show and eat bon-bons.” Rather, it is a day when you should engage in a recovery activity such as yoga, an easy swim or a walk to help your muscles recover.
- Second, you should organize your training so that every 3-4 weeks you have a rest week. A rest week is involves decreasing your mileage and the difficulty of your rides to allow the body time to recover and grow stronger before you begin your next training block. Being over-trained is far more detrimental to increasing your strength as a rider than being slightly under-trained.
As far as workout specifics, I advocate designing a plan that alternates hard and easier efforts.
Types of training that you may add are cadence work and lactate threshold work. While the latter should wait until you have had at least 3-4 weeks of road riding in, cadence work may be done at any time. The best way is to perform cadence exercises is to keep your chain in the smallest front chain ring you have. This will “force” your legs to have to increase cadence to keep your speed up, especially on slight downhills or when riding with a tailwind.
Lactate threshold work is the holy grail of training. This training is taxing on your body, especially if you are a newer cyclist, and therefore should be done in moderation. You can start small with 10 minute intervals at the pace just below LT, or lactate threshold. If you have not been tested in a lab, you can approximate your LT from your heart rate test. It is that razor fine point right between the pace you are able to ride for hours and one that you can sustain for only a few minutes.
LT training should be done sparingly until you have had sufficient outdoor riding as too much will quickly result in over-training.
A simple week-long training plan may be as follows:
- Saturday : Long zone 2 ride (2-3hours)
- Sunday: Hilly ride
- Monday: Active Recovery
- Tuesday: LT or high zone 2 intervals (depending on fitness)
- Wednesday: 1 hour in zone 2
- Thursday: Progressive climbing intervals
- Friday: Cadence drills
This is just a framework to give you a brief idea of how to plan hard versus recovery efforts. Of course, depending on your schedule, the length and days of your long rides may change.