'Modern' thinking is that cyclists should take very little break from the sport during the winter, and should focus on getting out on the bike each week if possible. A fine idea, and if you are able to get in a couple of decent length rides each week it will certainly make the new season much easier.
For many of us, however, a combination of shorter days, work commitments and poor weather mean that cycling training opportunities diminish substantially during the winter months. This article is aimed at us...
Note however that it is said that for each week 'off the bike' you will need two weeks of training to recover from the break - so after a two month complete break from cycling you might need four months to recover your form.
The beginning of the cycling season (typically March-April in the northern hemisphere) has particular challenges.You want to get back in top form as quickly as possible, but you don’t want to overdo it, and risk injury, fatigue or ‘peaking too early’.It is easy to do too much at this stage and lose interest in cycling again when the season has hardly begun. Likewise, it is possible to under-do it!
You should aim to get out training at least two and preferably three times a week. Can't stop yourself going out every day when the sun starts shining? Take it easy - remember, the rest days are just as important as the training days, since they allow your body to recover from each effort and consolidate the gains made
A cycle training plan for the spring
The warming up part of a ride is always important, but especially so at the start of the riding season. Likewise, a ride should end up with a decent period of gentler riding to cool down again. Each of these sections should be at least 20 minutes, even 30 minutes.
The main elements of our ride that we need to improve at the start of the year are:
Power is a better word, since we are referring not just to our ability to grind our way up hills. This is best improved using interval training. A good training ride for building strength will consist of:
- 20 – 30 minutes warm up cycling, at a reasonably easy pace
- Between five and eight all out efforts of 1-minute each, each separated by a few minutes of gentle cycling. These should be at an intensity that you can maintain for the duration of the intervals, but after finishing you should feel that you couldn’t do any more. Pedalling should be reasonably fast (cadence 85+). If you have a heart monitor these will be at about 90-95% of maximum heart rate.
- 20 – 30 minutes cool-down cycling, at a reasonably easy pace
The main goal of this ride is to get used to spending a long time on the bike, so a three hour ride would be a reasonable overall target. While the intervals might be less intense, they are still part of the ride. Try and find a route that is a bit hilly not completely flat.
- 30-45 minutes warm up cycling, at a reasonably easy pace
- About 5-8 ‘short sharp shock’ intervals, at your full sustainable intensity, perhaps 30 seconds each with a few minutes gentle cycling between each
- 30 minutes cool-down cycling, at a reasonably easy pace
If each week during the early weeks of spring you can do one of each of the rides above, you should be in great condition to launch into the season in no time at all.