Thursday, January 30, 2014

Some advice for those starting to ride or new to training

Friends and facebook "friends", or folks in facebook groups, frequently ask "I'm training for a 100 mile ride in June. What sort of training plan should I use?" or "does anyone have a training plan? I want to start training for a 100km ride next month!". 

So, you want to start training. Great!!! 
And, you want somebody to send you their training plan or tell you what you should do? My answer to you is both simple and not at all simple.

1. The simple answer: Any riding is good riding. Any training plan is better than none.
- This is the simple, happy-making answer. Maybe it's the one you really wanted to hear! By this answer, anything you do on the bike is the right thing - regardless of whether you are structuring your own riding time, or you've found/paid for a generic plan with guidance. 

Sadly, this is the cheap answer. It is true that any activity will make you more fit than none, but a generic training plan does you a disservice if you truly want to maximize your fitness and achieve your full potential. 

The saving grace of this answer is that it IS a great place to start. Just go out and ride your bike!

Do: Have fun! Keep it free flowing and enjoy the routine of being outside, on a bike, having fun, sweating.
- Start out at an endurance pace for 90-95% of your time on the bike, especially if you're starting out over the winter. Ignore everything you're reading or watching on TV about HIT sessions for the first 300-500 hundred miles. Nice, long rides at a pace you can comfortably speak at is the best way to build your aerobic capacity and focus on your form. 
  • Are your pedal strokes nice and smooth and round? Are your elbows bent and your shoulders nice and relaxed?

2.  The not so simple not-really-an-answer: There is no universal training plan. 

- Everyone is different! People come to the sport with different levels of fitness and past riding experience or experience with other sports. Anyone who lends you their training plan, or any website that advertises a one-size fits all couch to century type of a plan is cheating you of the best training experience - if you are really, truly serious about seeing improvement and having fun on the bike.

     Do: ask yourself some questions and answer them honestly. Then, consult with a licensed cycling coach (no, not a personal trainer or spin instructor!) about your goals and get a plan tailored to your specific needs.

1.     What is my baseline fitness?
    • Couch potato? walking the kids to school? marathoner? or, maybe a marathoner five or ten years ago?
      • if you have past sporting experience, especially successes with endurance sports, your body tends to remember. You'll probably see your fitness shoot up quickly with any training.          
 2. What are my goals? 
  • Limited to this one event? Using this event as a springboard to launch a new year round fitness campaign? Looking to race? 

 3. How committed am I?
  •       How many hours do I have per night to dedicate to training? How many hours on the weekend? How many days per week can I realistically be on the bike?
4. What is important to me in developing a plan? What s
  • Examples: A plan flexible enough to accommodate Sunday rides with the guys/kids/dog, etc.
    • I am new to riding and nervous about riding on the road.
    • I have a GI/heart/lung problem and need to ________________.

5. What kind of relationship do you want with a coach? 
The less experience you have with training, the more benefit you will get from frequent contact (even every other week) with a coach, which provides time to troubleshoot problems, ask questions, and pick their brains of all of that accumulated cycling wisdom!
  • Ex:  Personally, I find that I do best with frequent contact and accountability to a coach who is also my friend. I need some moral support, but I also need somebody who's going to lay down the law and tell it as it is if I start slacking/underachieving.
I swear, he didn't put me up to this, but if you want a really amazing coach, check out my coach at Human Vortex Training! He does online coaching too, for those who aren't local.


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