What happens when we take time off our bikes? Our “Bike Fitness” decreases; we lose speed, stamina, efficiency and we sometimes put on a few pounds. Sometimes you’ve got to be a few miles into a group ride to realize how far your fitness has slipped, especially when the group starts up the first hill on the ride. Legs are burning, breathing is deep, your lungs feel like they are on fire, and your heart is ready to thump right out of your chest! The confidence that you had at the end of the last season is gone. Rolling out past the city limits in a paceline has just left you completely drained and survival mode has now kicked in. It’s time to get back in riding shape!
How do we get our bike fitness back? For this, I reached out to Joe Booth, a local racer with the Fulton Race Team, cycling coach, and all around bad-ass. Joe is also the owner of Hammer Valley Coaching. (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Coach Joe Says:
How can we make the most of riding in the winter, and more importantly, how can we make the most out of having taken time off the bike, and work on regaining our strength in a fast, efficient manner? Daylight savings time and spring are here! For many of us, that just means getting on the bike a lot more than we have been for the last few months. What it doesn’t always mean is riding faster, longer, safer, and conquering new or old challenges.
The first step to upping your game on the bike is to answer a few questions;
- Where am I,
- Where do I want to be,
- What have I got to work with, and
- What have I got to work around?
These open-ended questions are what I ask of all my prospective clients.
Where am I? Subjective answers to this question are insightful but nothing beats objective data. My clients get put on a watt measuring device and tested. If you’re serious about improving performance on the bike a power meter is a fantastic tool. It’s not a magic bullet but it’s close.
Where do I want to be? This may be the real ‘magic bullet:’ setting a goal is one of the most important components to improvement. Answers to this open-ended question describe a client’s passion and motivation in cycling. I love clients who have a ‘shoot for the moon” goal. Then, we articulate a longer term SMART goal and as many short(er) term SMART goals as one can identify.
What have I got to work with? What are your strengths as a cyclist, personality traits, and lifestyle factors, and even the time frame of the goal itself that contribute to your success?
What have I got to work around? Health issues, family and work obligations, confidence or psychological issues, schedule, and lifestyle commitments that hold you back or limit your ability to reach your goal.
Once you’ve made goals, you have to get a training plan. And, as different or novel as every plan claims to be, the good ones all structure training to address the demands imposed on the rider by their approach to the event. People have written hundreds of books with little tweaks to the recipe, but the ingredients are basically the same. Base or foundation miles, build, event specific preparation, taper, and peaking phases.
Coach Joe’s Tips:
Most riders will progress by going longer between breaks. Especially when the weather is cooler and you’re not going through two water bottles an hour. Typically, I push longer duration intervals 15-60 minutes as the key to sustainable power, steady pedaling with minimal rest. On flat sections or up hills is best but rolling hills can work if they aren’t so steep that you stop pedaling on the descents. To top up the engine several shorter intervals of 4-6 minutes either as an interval session with 2-3 minute rest periods between or as part of a long ride. I’m more about the duration than the terrain. If you have a power meter it’s easy to know when you are at the right intensity. If you don’t have a power meter, then using hills gets the power in the right range.
That is excellent advice. I know I will be using some of his tips myself! It wasn’t long ago that my bike fitness fell way off, and honestly, it still isn’t where it needs to be. I have been slowly working it back, using tools like what Joe described and have been seeing results on my own rides. I’m finally feeling good standing out of the saddle and just enjoying riding my bike and not dreading the hills as much. Hopefully this helps you feel better, be faster and kick your riding buddies’ butts!
Devin Bovee – Devin@stevensbicycles.com – 559.797.0148