Question: I’m 40 and have been increasing my training annually for the last three years. I accumulated about 4,000 miles last year and regularly rode or raced50+ miles on both Saturday and Sunday.
I did fine on Saturday, but I noticed a lack of power for the Sunday event. Maybe it’s my age. Do you have any tips for consecutive hard days? — John E.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: I doubt that your poor second-day performance is due to age. You’re still a young guy! Some pros are still doing three-week stage races in their late 30s and early 40s, and they still have world-class recovery.
So, I think your performance decline must be due to poor training, poor nutrition or mental factors. Let’s look at each.
Your body must be “asked” to go hard two days in a row. It isn’t normal to do so. What we really want after a hard ride is couch time. So you need to accustom your body to consecutive efforts by doing them in training.
Back-to-back races don’t count. If you haven’t prepared for them, they’ll simply make you tired instead of fit. Racing isn’t training.
Here’s an example: Each year I coach at two or three week-long training camps that have daily rides of 75 to 125 miles, often with intermittent hard efforts. If I went to camp without the proper preparation, I’d have to dig deeply into my reserves to finish the week. Then I’d need a lengthy rest period to recover. I’d probably lose fitness rather than get stronger.
So, I get ready by doing back-to-back rides of 75 to 100 miles on several weekends before each camp. This may not be enough to get me through camp weeks in total comfort, but it helps a great deal.
Nutrition & Recovery
Riding hard two days in a row takes an enormous amount of energy. It has to be replaced with sound nutrition and hydration. All of the conventional rules apply.
Consume carbohydrate immediately after finishing hard rides. Try it in the form of a recovery drink (there are any number of choices on the market) or a tall glass of good ol’ chocolate milk.
Make sure you’re getting enough calories in your total diet.
Stay hydrated with plenty of water and sports drink.
Riding hard day after day is difficult. You give it your all on the first day and what do you have to look forward to? Another day of suffering. I think you have a better attitude than that by the sound of your email. If not, dread of the second day can stop you from riding well.
The solution is to “callous” yourself with consecutive hard training rides and to keep in mind the benefits of doing it right.
I faced this problem when preparing for the Team Race Across America in 1996. Talk about tough repeated rides. My teammates and I each did some 70 individual time trials of 30 minutes apiece around the clock from Irvine, Calif., to Savannah, Ga. We were all 50 or older at the time.
One way we prepared was by doing back-to-back training days that included both distance and repeated short, hard efforts. And then there was our psychological secret weapon: The determination not to let our teammates down. It all worked so well that we covered the 2,911 miles in 5 days and 11 hours, setting a senior record that still stands.
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Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred's full bio.