Training Basics

How to Become a Better Cyclist, Part 1: Recreational, Health and Fitness Riders

You want to become a better cyclist? Don't we all? I always strive for improvement. But what does becoming “a better cyclist” mean for you? Do you want to ride more miles than last year? Improve your health and fitness? Have more endurance? Become a better climber? Ride with a faster group on the weekends? Or do you have a more specific goal like finishing your first 100k? Or riding a specific tour? Or climbing Mt. Terrible? Or setting a personal best in your club’s 10-mile time trial? Whatever your goal(s) you want to have more fun, which is definitely part of becoming a better cyclist!

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How to Become a Better Cyclist, Part 3: Endurance Riders

Are you an endurance rider who wants to become a better endurance rider? Endurance riders aren’t just century riders! There is no defining distance for what is an endurance ride? An endurance ride is any ride over about an hour at a conversational pace. In these columns I’m describing how Six Success Factors apply to three different kinds of riders: Recreational, Health & Fitness; Performance; and Endurance. You may fit into two or three of these categories. A health and fitness rider who wants to increase your endurance. Or an endurance rider who wants to increase your speed.

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Do Miles Matter? Yes and No

Summer is just a couple of weeks away, and roadies in the Northern Hemisphere are understandably excited about riding more! But will racking up more miles this year help you ride better? Yes, and no. Just riding a lot more probably won’t help you to improve as much as you want to improve. While distance is important in some very meaningful ways – it is not the be all and end all for improvement. If you've already got all the benefits in your body that distance has to offer, then you need to add intensity to your riding as well to continue to improve.

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Why Increasing Intensity Is Good for All Roadies

Last week I wrote about the benefits of riding miles at a conversational pace. I also explained that once you’ve built your endurance base in the spring, just riding more miles won’t make you a much better rider. Further, if you’ve been riding for years then just piling on more miles brings little improvement. Every roadie – from health and fitness riders to high performance racers – can benefit from intensity exercise. Intensity exercise doesn’t mean “no pain, no gain." It simply means riding harder than you usually ride.

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Three Tips to Make You a Better Cyclist

The March 2017 VeloNews includes an article about Andrew Talansky. Team General Manager Jonathan Vaughters says: “Fundamentally, he’s very perfectionist about every detail. He has to be because he’s not the 95 VO2 max rider. He’s not this massive world-beating physical talent. In the races that he’s won, or has done really well in, he’s been able to optimize every last little detail.” If you’re reading this you’re probably similar to Talansky. You’re not naturally gifted. But, just like Talansky, you, too, can improve by paying attention to the details. Here are three ways:

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How Can I Best Use Commuting as Training?

This past fall, a job change meant a change to my commute. I now ride over 15 miles each way. This means my weekends are now recovery time instead of riding time. I can fit intervals into my commute twice a week and I can occasionally take a day off by getting a ride from a co-worker. But other than that, how can I, at 51 years old, use this commute time as a training benefit? 

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Benefits of Combining Strength and Endurance Training

If you want to gain maximum benefit from an exercise program, you should combine endurance heart-lung training with resistance muscle-strength training. The safest way to do this is to do your endurance training with your legs, such as running, walking or cycling, and aim your resistance training on your upper body and core in your belly and back. Researchers in Australia showed that adding a weight-lifting program to cycling or running will help to improve performance only if you know that when your muscles are sore, you have to take the day off or go slow and easy (Sports Medicine, July 2017;1–14).

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Even a 100-Year-Old Can Improve with Training

A new research report shows that you can improve athletic performance with proper training, even if you are over 100 years old. Traditional feeling among scientists is that aging is progressive and inevitable, and that your genetic programming causes you to age no matter what you do. This paper shows that physical training can reverse established markers of aging (J Appl Physiol, February 15, 2017). 

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Fit for Life IX: The Four Pillars - No. 4 is Enjoyment

Let’s review. Your goal is to stay as fit and healthy as possible for the rest of your life, what the gerontologists call "squaring the geriatric curve." You can control the rates of decline of your different physiological systems. How? By following the Four Pillars, which I've been detailing in a series of columns over that past month. (Each of the numbers below is a link to that specific article in the series.) So far I've covered the first three pillars, Consistency, Intensity and Recovery. Today, I'll finish the series with a focus on the fourth Pillar, Enjoyment.

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Fit for Life VIII: The Four Pillars - No. 3 is Recovery

Cycling legend Ned Overend on training: “I do exactly what I’ve always done; it just takes me longer.” Overend, now 62, last year took second overall in the Iron Horse Classic Omnium in Durango. He was third in the Durango to Silverton road race, which goes over two passes, each over 10,000 feet. “… it just takes me longer.” Overend means he needs more recovery between his hard training rides than he did when he was younger. Recovery is the third pillar of four pillars we need to follow to slow the rate of our inevitable physiological decline:

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Fit for Life VII: The Four Pillars - No. 2 is Intensity

In the first column covering The Four Pillars, I discussed consistency. Today, I'm discussing why intensity matters. As you get older, how much you work out and how hard you work out both determine how fit you remain. In fact, longitudinal studies looking at how fitness changes over time show that how hard you work out is more important than how much you work out. Working out hard helps lessen the decline in your VO2 max. The higher your VO2 max is compared to others your chronological age, the lower your physiological age, which means greater expected longevity!

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