Riding your bike and training are two different things

Riding your bike and training are two different things

by SamShaw   February 6, 2013  

Sam-HC-Training

I've been kidding myself for a while that I'm training, it's the buzz-word that's given to any kind of exercise these days.  I started riding my bike to lose weight, at some point that became “training”, that magic word that makes it sound like you've got a purpose.

I'm ok at getting out to ride my bike, most of the time, I can force myself to pull on damp shoes, a couple of base layers, two hats, a winter jacket, thermals and a couple of pairs of gloves and brave the best of the Scottish weather.  Most of the time, I just ride.  In the winter, I keep my heart rate low – it's all about getting in the base miles, isn't it?  In summer, I'll take similar routes but dig in on climbs and push my heart rate up.  That's about as structured as it gets.

This isn't doing me much good though, well not for racing anyway, my high-end ability is pretty much non-existent... ok, I'll admit that it's better than it was this time last year, but on the recent Falkirk Reliability, I got dropped.  The group I started with (2nd from scratch) got caught by the scratch group about 15 miles from the finish, I knew that the climb up Dollarbeg was coming, I was hoping we'd have made it up there before the scratch got us, we didn't. 

I had a plan though: move up near the front at the start of the climb and try to hang in til the end.  It very nearly worked too.  The climb is just over a mile long and I was on the limit for the whole time, I knew I was moving backwards but there were still guys passing me so I kept digging in.  I made it to the junction with the B9140 in touch, then the group surged and I was gone, 2 bike lengths became 4, 4 became 8 and that was that.  I wasn't strong enough.

I blew just where the blue arrow is, the climb finishes at the green marker. 

How do I stop this happening?

This was a reliability, not a race, but it's pretty similar in character so it's a good marker for the season to come.  There were some Elites, Cat 1's, 2's & 3's in the group that dropped me, but I'd be surprised if there weren't a good few Cat 4's too – the guys I'll be racing against this season.  There's a problem with my climbing, it was there last season and I've got to get it sorted. But how?  The way I see it, I've got two options: 1. the turbo; 2. intervals on the road.

Turbo troubles.

I hate the turbo.  I know loads of people do, but it's really, thoroughly unenjoyable.  It doesn't even feel as if I'm riding the same bike when I sit there, pedalling away like some giant, sweaty, demoralised, oversized hamster.  I use it exclusively in winter if it's icy and those sessions generally consist of low HR stuff, sometimes I push hard on the pedals and get my heart pumping harder, but the effort seems so different to what I feel when out on the road that I wonder if it's doing me any good.  Muscles don't respond in the same way on the turbo and I can't wait for the weather to allow me to get back outside.  Pain cave? No, it's just the storage room at the back of the office with a sweaty bloke in it.

On the road.

So if I'm not a fan of the turbo, what are the options for structured training on the road?  I've got to aim for specific sessions, building them into my otherwise generic rides to work.  My commutes are between 60-90 minutes so there's enough time to build in some specific strength training.  Choosing the route will be crucial; the benefit of the turbo is that you can concentrate solely on what you're doing, there's nobody trying to pass around a blind corner on double white lines, there's no potholes, there's no weather (ok, you may have to open the window if you get a bit warm).  There's plenty of back roads round here, flat and hilly, so there's a number of options to get off the main roads, the cold weather can be a problem though, if it's icy then I'll have to stay on gritted routes.

What should I be doing?

40-20's/Flying 40's keep coming up whenever I've been reading up on interval training; 40 seconds full-gas followed by 20 seconds easy, repeated 10 times with 5 minutes easy pedalling between blocks (up to 4 sets per session).  There's a number of similar interval sessions, some shorter, some longer (this link from www.bicycling.com is a good starter, but there are many more available on the web if you start Googling)  The other thing that I think I should be doing is hill reps.  I'm weak on climbs so I should be riding more and going harder than I usually do.  I can't get Merckx's mantra of “Don't ride upgrades, ride up grades” out of my head.

Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it.

Make a plan and stick to it.  I've got to do this, if I don't I won't get faster and I won't be able to keep the pace when it comes to racing.  Good intentions are great, I love 'em, but unless they're put into action they're pretty worthless.  This means having a specific focus for each session rather than going out and doing what I feel like, invariably I end up doing similar rides all the time, great for endurance, but unhelpful when it comes to changes of pace and following hardcore racers up climbs.  I've shied away from training plans for too long, seeing them as the preserve of serious riders, the problem is that I'm failing by not focussing on my weaknesses so perhaps it's time I gave it a go.

 

27 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I'm afraid Scotland just isn't the best place for structured training outside. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's hard, for all the reasons you've already noted, the main one being the f***ing wind! Although that never stopped Merckx Confused

You need that turbo. Sorry. You do. It will work, even though the pain it imposes is different to the road. Sufferfest's help - honest. I reckon "Angels" and "Downward Spiral" fit your "hills issues".

posted by ded [32 posts]
6th February 2013 - 13:34

like this
Like (5)

Nice blog Sam, a good read.

Specificity is the key to training. You need to train your weaknesses. It’s it’s hill, then you just need to ride more hills. Perhaps plan a route that lets you take in the same, or series, of reasonably steep hill, and go up and down them for a couple of hours.

Intervals on the turbo are good too, but I wouldn’t worry too much about the actual specifics/timing of the intervals, and you can actually tailor them to focus on any weaknesses you’re trying to turn into strengths. One of the hardest I do is 20 sec flat out, followed by 10 sec recovery, and I do eight. This makes for a 4 min block. It’s hard, really hard, but is very effective. Equally, I can easily adjust the session, longer recovery periods, longer interval sections, etc

If the turbo can’t be faced, then just factor in a couple of short hard blasts in every week. My favourite is a 2 hour loop which I aim to ride as fast as possible. I attack the hills, I throw in sprints, a couple of sustained 20 minute over and under threshold blocks.

Just me two cents

David Arthur's picture

posted by David Arthur [1221 posts]
6th February 2013 - 17:06

like this
Like (6)

@ded

I've always considered the terrain and the elements to be a benefit of training in Scotland - the more you suffer through crap weather and battle headwinds, the stronger you get. I've never seen a Sufferfest DVD - it's a bit like Strava, I get a bit wide-eyed and nervous when anyone mentions either of them! I'll see if I can borrow one from a club mate to see if it's something I can get on with. Thanks for the advice.

@David Arthur

The timings will be fairly important to make sure I try as long as possible! One of the things I learned today was that 40 seconds is a really long time, whereas 20 seconds passes in an instant!

When I first started cycling, I'd plough up hills a fair bit, it got me fitter and lost weight, but I've been a bit caught up with getting base miles in. I started doing short hard blasts later on last summer and found that they really helped. Like you say, there's less structure but the outcome was felt through the following weeks.

Twitter: @velosam

SamShaw's picture

posted by SamShaw [201 posts]
6th February 2013 - 17:45

like this
Like (5)

Timing is very important, I agree. But if your effort/power is dropping off rapidly in a 40 second interval, because you can't sustain that level of effort, then it might be better to do shorter intervals to start out with. Then over a course of weeks, as the body adapts, you can increase the duration.

20 second is very short, and seems to easy to begin with. But by the eight set bugger me it's hard to keep the power up all the way to the end.

On the base miles thing, I've taken different approaches over the last few winters, and I don't think the traditional model works. I lose too much of my top-end and it takes ages to train it in the spring. Key is to train for whatever distance events/races you're doing. If you're just doing a summer of crit races, then logging 5-hour rides might be a waste of time

There's some interesting stuff on how Wiggins also ditched the traditional base miles approach last winter and included more high intensity

David Arthur's picture

posted by David Arthur [1221 posts]
6th February 2013 - 18:47

like this
Like (0)

Great blog. I haven't raced for (cough) many years but if there is something to be said for 'hard winter miles' it seems to be mainly about building character - don't underestimate that!

Turbo - even more character building. Think of Hoy on his Watt bike and shame yourself on it...

Specificity is good. I wonder too if your relatively long commute gives you time to recover to get the benefits from other training, or do you have that sorted? I know I struggle to SLOW DOWN on commutes due to (cough cough) old competitive urges.

Intervals. There is nothing like them for getting to where you want to be though, you just have to get used to 'spewing' as we used to put it. Above advice seems sound to me (must take it myself). Even though my riding is Audax and MTB purely for fun I still find interval sessions good - motivating and there is that 'lift' factor, all aspects seem to get better with a weekly session or two.

Maybe also (gulp) get a coach?!

Remember everyone suffers, the best cyclists just suffer faster!

alotronic's picture

posted by alotronic [231 posts]
7th February 2013 - 10:31

like this
Like (5)

Have to agree that the turbo is your friend. You can do some really targetted training on a turbo AND you don't have to spend 8 days getting all your kit on. Great if you have limited time.

I used to hate turbo. Sitting on a turbo and just turning the pedals is horrendous. After some coached group turbo sessions though I learnt to love it. But it's only bearable if you have a structure to follow. And I also try and visualise what I'm actually doing - so if it is a sprint intervals session, I'll try and imagine I'm racing. Or if it is hills, I'll imagine one of the horrendous hills round where we train. Sufferfest videos are ace as they do all this for you! Or, research some turbo sessions online. Pick ones where the actually explain why you would be doing the session they suggest. If i know the benefit I'm much less likely to lose the will to live.

Anyhoo. That is my tuppence worth. Like you I used to avoid 'training' and just rode. I changed that this year, bought a HRM, started listening to the advice of a coach friend and got the turbo out. Definitely stronger than I have ever been at this time of year!

posted by Skipinder [7 posts]
7th February 2013 - 12:08

like this
Like (3)

I don't hate the turbo as I get a lot out of the sessions on it, although they are totally different from being out on the road. The one thing I do find is that my mind tries to come up with a million excuses not to do the session just before going out into the garage (I find it's the same if I'm just about to go out for a run or a long ride too). The thing that works for me is just to get my kit on and get started as quickly as possible without thinking about it.

posted by Sadly Biggins [261 posts]
7th February 2013 - 12:22

like this
Like (5)

I think getting a coach is a good idea. But what interests me is your workload. Given that you have this 60-90 minute commute (both ways?) which you potentially do 5 days a week and presumably something at the weekend I'm not sure that you're giving yourself enough recovery. Pros get to take naps and downtime whenever they like, but as a working man you're subject to the 9-5 and all the rest of the hassles of day-to-day living.

Rest is as important as the exercise itself. It's when adaptation happens that enables you to improve. If you're not giving yourself a break from the bike (or reducing intensity) then you're not going to improve. Increased stress and workload gives rise to improvements (periodisation) but you need to give yourself the break for this to happen. Olympic athletes will work intensely coming up to the Olympics, but the week or so before the event they do nothing.

Otherwise the 40/20 seems to be the work out which Tyler Hamilton used to improve his top-end and I find this really gets my heart rate pushing at its limit. You need to do this to extend your heart rate ranges i.e. you're giving your heart a different top gear to go to. But I wonder also about your hill climbing technique. I see many people attack hills. This can work on a hill which takes less than 30 seconds to ride up, but after that you'll get into oxygen debt and then you have to repay immediately (literally - the energy output from anaerobic work is not enough for the work you are doing and so at some point you have to slow down to resume aerobic exercise ). Sitting into the climb, and dropping down the gears is much better. You'll find a natural rhythm and will get to the top without breathing out your arse. Hills in the UK are annoying because rarely do you have sustained gradients and consistent gradients. You'll arrive near the top in much better shape if you're near capacity than if you're having to recuperate up the hill - it sounds like you attacked at the bottom and suffered, which is why I say this.

Turbo training for me is excellent. It's hard work, but I can put in consistent wattage and heart rate without worrying about weather conditions, traffic and what lies around the bend. You can then use that information to plot progress with your training. Toodling around on the bike just isn't the same in that you have so many variables. Though equally, turbo training can't replace time on the bike. I went out yesterday and did 50 miles in the 60mph headwinds yesterday. That was a sufferfest like few I've ever had. I worked hard, but I wasn't really able to dictate terms on the bike. In the end it was all about my ability to endure. I had better days on a bike, but you just need to get out there sometimes.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [971 posts]
7th February 2013 - 12:43

like this
Like (5)

'Given that you have this 60-90 minute commute (both ways?) which you potentially do 5 days a week and presumably something at the weekend I'm not sure that you're giving yourself enough recovery.'

90 mins each way five days per week plus, say, one 4 hour ride at the weekend, gives 19 hours training per week.
Which means 149 hours per week *not training*. Plenty of recovery time.

posted by andyp [632 posts]
7th February 2013 - 12:50

like this
Like (5)

Oh yes, recovery time. My most favourite part of properly training. Smile

posted by Skipinder [7 posts]
7th February 2013 - 12:56

like this
Like (6)

To clarify: 60-90mins 3 or 4 days per week (depending on work commitments, meetings etc), one way only. 15mins easy pedal home.

Twitter: @velosam

SamShaw's picture

posted by SamShaw [201 posts]
7th February 2013 - 12:56

like this
Like (2)

I'd like to second a number of the comments about turbo use, as part of overall preparation. I've been using TrainerRoad (http://www.trainerroad.com) for a number of weeks now as part of a training regime, and injury recovery, and it has already helped immensely physically and mentally.. I couldn't just sit on a turbo and spin, but having structured workouts, and a number of training plans at various levels, based on power output works for me. Add in a few Sufferfest videos for 'light entertainment' (and the recent Tour of Sufferlandria) and it prevents nearly all of the boredom i'd expect otherwise.

Is is the same as riding outside, and on real hills ?.. Well no, of course not - but it has already measurably improved my 'real' riding capabilities and given me focus and goals to achieve in doing so.

Spending a bit more on a decent trainer helped greatly too - I returned an Elite Fluid and switched to a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine. The power profile is good for me (based on same weight more or less, on a 1% incline, no wind) and the 'feel' of spin-up and spin-down seems pretty close to being on the road. The power curve is also temperature neutral and seems to track PowerTap output pretty closely too (aside from zero offset).

I now quite look forward to some of it, and what it brings, rather than dreading it - which is somewhat odd Smile

YMMV.

fukawitribe's picture

posted by fukawitribe [105 posts]
7th February 2013 - 13:34

like this
Like (2)

andyp wrote:
90 mins each way five days per week plus, say, one 4 hour ride at the weekend, gives 19 hours training per week.
Which means 149 hours per week *not training*. Plenty of recovery time.

The problem is Andy you cannot simply apply that 'formula' to his scenario. I think we would both need to understand his work commitments. How hard he rides to work and what sort of rest time he has. A 3hr ride is different from 3x1hrs of training.

I would certainly build in more than 1 rest day a week, unless he was in a solid period of hard training for his periodization, but I don't think we are talking about that. Effectively he could be sabotaging his training by not giving himself a mid-week day off (or two).

Volume of training does make a difference, but it's the quality that you have that makes the difference. Note that the cortisone levels from working are a contributory factor. It's not just about time spent training versus time not spent training. As most of us will know, it's not about just going out the working hard.

Give your body a chance to properly recover and it will reward you. Take the training down. Instensify, rest and 'boom' you're in great racing shape!

posted by Colin Peyresourde [971 posts]
7th February 2013 - 15:23

like this
Like (4)

I would certainly build in more than 1 rest day a week,

likewise, you can't apply that without knowing more. His TSS may be nothing like that of someone doing half the hours...

posted by andyp [632 posts]
7th February 2013 - 16:54

like this
Like (5)

andyp wrote:
'Given that you have this 60-90 minute commute (both ways?) which you potentially do 5 days a week and presumably something at the weekend I'm not sure that you're giving yourself enough recovery.'

90 mins each way five days per week plus, say, one 4 hour ride at the weekend, gives 19 hours training per week.
Which means 149 hours per week *not training*. Plenty of recovery time.

Tongue in cheek, I hope. Overtraining is not to be taken lightly.

posted by paulfg42 [350 posts]
7th February 2013 - 23:50

like this
Like (6)

Tongue in cheek, I hope. Overtraining is not to be taken lightly.

no. there;s no reason why 19 hours a week should be 'overtraining', unless a lot of it is done at high intensity.

posted by andyp [632 posts]
8th February 2013 - 7:22

like this
Like (7)

Erm... I'm NOT doing 19 hours a week, it's more like 9, tops. See above, 60-90mins rides to work are done 3 or 4 times per week, with usually a 3-4hr ride at weekends.

Overtraining isn't an issue. Undertraining is the problem!

Twitter: @velosam

SamShaw's picture

posted by SamShaw [201 posts]
8th February 2013 - 7:54

like this
Like (5)

ded wrote:
I'm afraid Scotland just isn't the best place for structured training outside. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's hard, for all the reasons you've already noted, the main one being the f***ing wind! Although that never stopped Merckx Confused

Not sure Graeme Obree would agree with you on that! Wink

I've never trained as a cyclist, but I have experience training as a runner. Interval training and speed work is an absolute must to improve overall performance, including endurance.

The base mile idea is, in my opinion, a fallacy. In fact, I think it is advocated much less in the mainstream. Quality training is more important.

It is useful to cover long distances to get used to it mentally and to understand and get used to nutrition intake and hydration strategies, but to go faster for longer, it is all about the speed work.

The above is just my opinion based on my running experience.

Cheers

Spare time project - cycling price comparison: http://www.leadoutbikes.com

posted by mckechan [158 posts]
8th February 2013 - 12:10

like this
Like (6)

need some ideas ?, found this a while back, not got to using it yet as I'm a lazy fecker... but it may have some worthwhile ideas to alleviate the turbonumbness. Personally I view the turbo like a dentist - most of the time just uncomfortable, sometimes fecking painfully!

http://www.turbotraining.co.uk/indoorCyclingWorkout.php?nav=search

To slo to live, to slo to die! ::-}

posted by OldnSlo [121 posts]
8th February 2013 - 20:22

like this
Like (3)

OldnSlo wrote:
need some ideas ?, found this a while back, not got to using it yet as I'm a lazy fecker... but it may have some worthwhile ideas to alleviate the turbonumbness. Personally I view the turbo like a dentist - most of the time just uncomfortable, sometimes fecking painfully!

http://www.turbotraining.co.uk/indoorCyclingWorkout.php?nav=search

Well if you're using a dentist analogy, then you could consider it essential really...

David Arthur's picture

posted by David Arthur [1221 posts]
9th February 2013 - 13:08

like this
Like (4)

Hi Sam,I wouldn't worry about getting dropped on a hill this early in the year. Keep going steady - some of those lads who went past you will be peaking too soon.

There's a young whippet started riding with us who is leaving me for dead on the hills at the moment, doing intervals on his turbo 3 time a week. I'm might be wrong, but I'm guessing that if I keep working on my base miles for a couple more months and then get the turbo out in the summer for some hard intervals, I'll be able to catch him when it matters, when the hill climbs start.

Interestingly, on our last ride he went for a Strava segment full gas up a local hill. I finished almost a full minute behind him but when I uploaded the ride and checked the leader board, he was 10 seconds slower than when I did it in October last year.

awkward's picture

posted by awkward [62 posts]
11th February 2013 - 14:01

like this
Like (2)

Well I don't mean to sound like a revolutionary but just imagine if cyclists did base miles AND intervals during winter!!! Jeez they could even throw some intervals into their long rides. Silly

Sq

Squiggle's picture

posted by Squiggle [411 posts]
11th February 2013 - 14:28

like this
Like (4)

I live in the equally inhospitable cycling nation of Ireland and back up the comments on trainerroad ! It's a fantastic aid for training ... It gives structure to the otherwise dull turbo sessions and they also provide online programs depending on rider capability and number of hours that on can commit.... I use a lemond revolution turbo which gets round the alien feel issue of the bike ... There is nothing to match the real life feel it provides when compared to other turbos I've used..... Get on trainerroad and watch the numbers improve Big Grin

posted by johnmcardle [4 posts]
12th February 2013 - 18:02

like this
Like (4)

It's easy - just move to Mallorca - the no excuses training venue !

Sudor

posted by Sudor [163 posts]
21st February 2013 - 12:28

like this
Like (3)

I don't race per se but do weekly personal TT efforts to mark improvment during the season. They are 20 mile efforts on a loop with no major climbs. I only ride up to 3 hours, I hate it past that. I do a bit of what Grahm Obree did in training for the hour record, big gear intervals. Turning a huge gear for a minute or 2 at a time can really bulid power. I never got the increase in speed out of normal intervals I get out of the power intervals. I do not believe in "base" miles if I am riding year round. I also like to do one day a week of 2.5-3 hours with 2-5 climbs of 10-20 minutes each, these climbs have to force me into my little ring and at least the 20/19 cog in the rear and if there are some steeep sections all the better.
If you don't like the turbo, might try the emotion rollers. The allow you stand and sprint with adjustable resistance. One of the best bike purchases I ever made. In the winter I do 2 kinds of rides on the rollers, recovery and hour TT efforts.

Bryin

posted by Bryin [13 posts]
8th March 2013 - 20:01

like this
Like (4)

Ride with a group if you can. Our club does steadier rides in the winter but still go up hills quickly, we tend to leave the through & off for the summer. I would question the wisdom of going too hard in the winter; make sure you enjoy it.

posted by Woodface [13 posts]
11th March 2013 - 17:51

like this
Like (3)

I have to agree that doing steady stuff on the turbo can be mind-numbing. Perhaps use rollers for this kind of effort? Much more engaging and time passes more quickly - I can also recommend the Sufferfest videos for entertainment! Then use the turbo for intervals - time passes a lot more quickly if you have reasonably frequent changes of pace.

posted by ploughclose [19 posts]
12th March 2013 - 17:20

like this
Like (4)