Resources‎ > ‎

Training Tips

At the outset, a training program assumes you have a goal in mind.
For many recreational cyclists their goal may be achieving a particular distance for the Around the Bay ride or other organised rides or it may be to lose weight, improve fitness and keep up with more experienced riders during club rides.

For racing cyclists, their training may be focussed on rectifying any weaknesses or enhancing strengths that last season’s racing revealed.
It is also assumed that you will be able to set aside a number of hours each week for training while remembering not to lose sight of the work/life balance.



Building a base

Prior to undertaking a structured training program, it is advisable to establish a fitness base.
This will generally be achieved by lower intensity rides which gradually build up the riding time and/or distance - commonly referred to as
building your base.

During most forms of training it is strongly recommended that any increases be gradual.

A general rule of thumb is to add approx 10% to the distance you are riding (or time you are riding for) each week or block, depending on your training schedule.
By making increases gradually you allow your body time to adjust to the extra endurance required to sustain you throughout the ride.  Whilst building your base, you are concentrating on building your cardio and general fitness to a sustainable level, so you can then move onto the next phase and begin training to build higher levels of fitness and strength.



Diet

During this phase you may also wish to review your diet and perhaps even consult with your doctor as to whether your goals are achievable.

It is important to remember that your body needs sufficient fuel to burn as you ride.  In addition, after a training session your body also needs the right food to assist in recovery.

Carbohydrates are the basic fuel the body uses to give you energy prior to, during and after cycling and proteins can help the muscles repair themselves after a session/ride.

Depending on how involved your training is will likely depend how much you worry about your diet.  Those racing or trying to maximise their efforts would pay close attention to what they eat before, during and after training sessions (and races), where recreational cyclists may do so but not to the same degree.

Training also involves learning what your specific food and fluid intake requirements are, which is very important.  By trying different things during your training you will quickly learn what does and doesn’t work, so that when you are out riding or racing you can take an appropriate amount of food and fluid with you and be confident that this will sustain you throughout the ride/race.

Without practicing this during training you run the risk of being under-prepared and creating issues you could easily avoid.



Keeping track of your progress

It can also be helpful to log your ride data for each ride/session so you can review your progress over time.
A bike computer, even a basic one that shows elapsed time and speed, is a valuable tool and will help you keep track of the distances you are riding and how long you are riding for.

One option you can use to measure your improvements is to find a route of perhaps 10-20 km  (ideally without any traffic lights and minimal traffic), where you are able to establish a base time to complete the route.

This route can then be ridden as required to measure your progress.  As your fitness and strength improves your time for completing the course should get faster .  Of course differences in weather and other external factors need to be considered when comparing times, but this method is a good “basic” measuring stick.



Structuring your training

Having established your fitness base, which would usually consist of at least several hundred kilometres of base training, the next step is to undertake a structured training program.

There are a number of websites that provide training programs or guides in the lead up to their organised rides.
For example, the BUPA website has various ride distance programs -
Training & Nutrition - Bicycle Network.


The common link with most training programs is that they often work on four week blocks that increase in intensity from one week to the next and one training block to the next.
Another common feature of these programs is interval training.

Recovery sessions are an important part of any training program as the body will be placed under stress and adequate rest and light training rides are essential to allow yourself to properly recover. If sessions are missed for whatever reason, it is not the end of the world and you should not attempt to “double up” on your next training session to compensate. You may wish to develop a reward system as a way of keeping you motivated during the training program.


The type or level of training plan you undertake should be relevant to the goals you have set for yourself.
A person who is training to compete in races or very long endurance rides would have a much harder training schedule to someone who is looking to complete a 50-100 km organised or social ride.

Racing cyclists will probably follow a more structured or regimented training program but there may be added emphasis on particular skills such as riding hills or sprinting.

For example, if you want to improve your ability to climb hills then you would undertake a series of hill repeats with increasing levels of intensity.

It is also recommended to train in adverse weather conditions (strong wind,  in the rain or even during hot summer days), so you know what to expect should you be out on the road and caught in these conditions.

Should you not know where to start in building a training schedule for yourself, perhaps have a chat with some of the more experienced riders in the club who will be able to give you an idea on where to start, or perhaps look to engage the services of a qualified coach if your cycling aspirations require a more specific and thorough training plan.



Variation

Another important part of any training regime is variation.  Whether that be variations in distance, effort, terrain or routes ridden (or all of these combined).
Variation will help to keep your sessions interesting and it keeps your body adapting to different levels of exertion. If you were to only keep riding the same distance at the same pace on the same route for every training session your body will become used to this.  Then, when you try to ride for longer or at a quicker pace your body may not adapt as quickly because it hasn’t learnt to continually adapt itself.



Quality over Quantity

One of the key principals to training is “quality over quantity”.

As an example, once you have built your base fitness, you may be better off doing two 30 minute sessions at a hard effort instead of doing one 60 minute session at a low to moderate effort.  Depending on what aspect you are training for will determine what is required, but once you have built your base fitness, to improve further you will need to push your body to adapt to riding with more effort.

This will result in improvements to your cardio (and overall fitness) along with both your physical and mental strength.  The stronger and fitter you become the more effort you can use when riding and for longer periods of time, improving your endurance.



Bike fit

If you plan on spending a number of hours on the bike, as you prepare for a major event, it is recommended that you consider a “bike fit” to ensure that your bike is setup so you are properly positioned on it. Being properly positioned will make your cycling more efficient and should minimise the stresses on your body. There are articles and videos that can assist you if you wish to attempt this yourself or else some bike shops and most coaches offer this service for a fee.



Picking up helpful tips or advice

Apart from reading and searching the internet for tips, useful advice is often offered during TV coverage of bike races. The specialist commentators have been professional riders and will often offer insights and tips during the broadcast. Finally if you are able to attend a professional cycling event you could use the opportunity to direct any questions you have to the riders or mechanics who are generally quite helpful.