Last week’s column was How Much Should You Train to Get Faster? After I posted it to Facebook, readers made a number of good responses.
First, in The Cyclist’s Training Bible Joe Friel writes, “An athlete should do the least amount of properly timed, specific training that brings about continual improvement.”
- Least amount means more volume doesn’t necessarily make you better.
- Specific training means the kind of training to produce the results you want.
- Properly timed means that you do different types of training at different times during the year. I use this training model:
- Base training is endurance riding to improve your endurance. If your training objective is to do longer rides then you’ll do more endurance training over a two to four month (or longer) period. If your training objective is to do shorter faster rides then you’ll do less endurance training over a two to three month period.
- Build training is to improve your power and speed while maintaining your endurance. If you’re an endurance rider then four to six weeks are sufficient. If your primary objective is get faster then six to eight weeks (or more) are good.
- Peaking is specific training based on your objective(s). Peaking is riding a similar course, learning to pace yourself, dialing in your nutrition, testing your equipment, etc. These will vary depending on whether your objective is an endurance ride such as a 100K or a fast shorter ride.
- Tapering is recovering fully so you are on form for the big ride.
- Continual improvement means that if your training isn’t making you better then change something.
Readers’ Thoughtful Comments
Mitch writes, “Depends upon how much faster! Ride with the kind of riders you want to be like and just hang on as long as you can before getting dropped once a week or so. Check with local racing/fast touring clubs.”
John writes, “Ride by yourself, or a slower friend.”
I ride weekly with a friend. We’re about the same pace and our rides are always conversational. Our simple rule is “never pass anyone.”
Christian writes, “I know I’m on the cusp of overtraining when I get annoyed at the little things, like that gap between the 17 and 19 on my 11-25.”
One of the best indicators of overtraining is your mood. It’s XC ski season in Colorado. It can be 10F, windy, snowing and I’m having a blast. Or it could be 30F sunny and I’m not having fun so it’s time to go home.
Doug writes, “Here is something to consider beyond getting faster. Super high mileage is stressful on your joints. When I started to have knee problems many years ago, the various orthopedic surgeons I talked with all said the same thing and that was essentially too much is really bad.”
Remember Friel’s advice to do the least amount that brings improvement.
Shusanah writes, “I’ve been tracking resting HR to look for signs of overtraining. You say, “research shows that there is little correlation between [resting HR] and overtraining”. Please can you provide a source for this? I’d like to read more.
I’ve just moved and all my books are packed away. Look at Cheung and Zabala Cycling Science.
Gordon comments, “Being retired I have a lot of time so: I train 90 -100 minutes five days a week for three weeks and six days the other. Never on Sunday and typically will take a day off following a HIIT session.”
You’re smart to include your days off especially after a high-intensity workout. Training tears your body down and you only get stronger when you give yourself time to recover.
Ed comments, “Some people respond better to volume while others respond better to intensity. Data shows that I respond to volume better. Interesting that since PBP 2019, I have cut my weekly training hours slowly from 20-25 down to 6-8 hours but actually significantly increased the intensity workouts attempting to compensate for loss of volume but it did not work for me.”
One of the interesting parts of coaching is figuring out for each client the proper mix of volume and intensity and right kind(s) of intensity. As a randonneur changing weekly volume down to only six to eight hours a week is probably cutting back too much. Significantly increasing intensity training only works if it’s the right kind of intensity for a given type of riding. A randonneur should do relatively long (5 – 10 minute) intervals in the Sweet Spot. Riding in the Sweet Spot you can still talk in short phrases; you’re not breathing super hard and your legs aren’t barking at you. See my column Six Kinds of Intensity Training: Why One Is Best for You
Gordon writes, “I stick with 10-12 hours in the winter. I guess at 66 the slow-twitch [muscles] are taking over even though I do work to keep the fast going. With all of the ideas I still fall back on Eddy – “just ride.”
Eddy Merckx was arguable the best pro ever and when asked how to improve he said, “Ride more.” Improvement comes from asking your body to do more than it’s accustomed to doing and increasing your volume may yield improvement.
Many roadies don’t specifically train.
Diego writes, “Figure out what you want from cycling. I hope it’s a sense of pleasure and confidence in your fitness. Seeing the world from the intimacy of a saddle has a very rewarding effect. I like the speed sensation cycling gives. So how fast you want to be is in your head. Enjoy it all.”
Why you ride may change with time — mine has! I used to get pleasure from long distance rides; now I enjoy scenic climbs in Colorado and challenging myself on my MTB.
James writes, “Going faster is only useful if you race. We rode 13,000 miles last year without concern for speed other than maintaining a quick enough pace to be home by lunch-time. Hunger drives our pace. We don’t “train.” We ride our bikes because it’s who we are.”
My buddy and I don’t do training rides. We enjoy the outings and always stop for lunch during our rides. My goal for this year’s XC ski season is a 25K in March. That’s farther than I’ve skied before and will take me four to five hours. I just enjoy the skiing and slowly increase the duration of a day’s skiing. Currently I can ski for about 2:30 including time to stop for snacks and to take a few photos. (If you’re interested in my skiing check out my posts on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/john.hughes.5283. I’ve skied 42 fun days so far this winter.)
Here are several related columns
How to Improve as a Cyclist On August 1, 2019, Patricia Anne Baker set the Masters Women’s 80-84 Hour World Record of 27.447km (17.96 mi). This column describes the nine training principles for riders in your 50s and beyond.
Can Coach Hughes Still Improve? I discuss my goals for my 66th through 70th years and how I improved.
5 Ways to Improve Your Cycling This Winter. Five ways that don’t involve either volume or intensity!
Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond bundle includes:
- Fit for Life: Different ways you can improve while having fun.
- Peak Fitness: Four specific programs to improve your fitness in one or more of the following ways: Improved Endurance, More Power, Faster Speed, Higher Aerobic Capacity (VO2 max).
- Training with Intensity: Doing some hard riding slows the aging process and delivers an array of benefits at any age.
The Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond bundle is 100 pages for $13.50.
- How to Become a Better Cyclist: The Six Success Factors – A 36 pages eArticle explains how to train and the five other components of success.
- Your Best Season Ever, Part 1: A 32-page eArticle on how to plan and get the most out of your training.
- Intensity Training 2016: A 41-page eArticle with the latest information on how to use perceived exertion, a heart rate monitor and a power meter to maximize training effectiveness.
- Optimal Recovery for Improved Performance: A 16-page eArticle with 10 different recovery techniques illustrated with 14 photos.
- Eat & Drink Like the Pros: A 15-page eArticle of nutritional insights from pro cycling teams. It contains a dozen recipes for you to make your own food and sports drinks.
The Best of Coach Hughes: 5 eArticles to Make You a Better Cyclist totals 140 pages for $15.96.
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Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.