Prepare your body now for those summer rides coming up
by Sue Lloyd, Head Coach at Inspired Training Center, Denver, Colorado
A bicycle coach once said that June races are won in January. While not all of us are planning to race, many of us are beginning to make plans for single and multi-day tours, long rides with friends and family, and the occasional friendly competition with teammates. Anyone who’s participated in any of these cycling activities knows how enjoyable they can be with a fit, prepared body, and likewise, how miserable they are with an unprepared body. So, what should you do in the winter to prepare for those summer rides? If you consider the following three pillars of training, Core Strength, Seat Time, and Base Training, you will lay a strong foundation for enjoyable rides in the coming months.
Your core consists of the musculature all around your body, from neck to hips. It’s not just your abdominal muscles. When you’re cycling, your core is what you’re pushing against on every pedal stroke. It supports your legs, arms, neck and head. A well planned core workout with a variety of movements and resistance will add stability, mobility and strength to your pedaling. Consider using yoga, Pilates, a personal trainer, or any other functional movement program to prepare your core for summer cycling.
This is the fun part of your winter training. In athletic conditioning we talk about “specificity of training.” We can’t improve at a sport without practicing that sport. So, get on your bike! Even if you just ride once or twice a week, your body will respond to the time you spend in your saddle, both on your backside and in your general conditioning. A reputable indoor cycling studio will help you understand training with power and heart rate, challenge you with a variety of different types of rides (see the next pillar: base training), and provide a social atmosphere that allows you to ride with your friends without ever getting dropped. Riding indoors is also an ideal time to practice skills: take a drink without looking at your bottle, change your hand position on your handlebars, stand up out of the saddle to pedal, activate different muscle groups through your entire pedal stroke (scrape across the bottom and pull up the back), and any other skill that you might want to practice from the safety of your stationary trainer.
Riding your bike in the winter (Seat Time) is good, but training with purpose is even better. Building an athletic “base” of fitness involves teaching your body to respond to a variety of stresses you put on it through training. Most of us don’t have the time or resources to spend hours in the saddle during the off season, so the alternative is to make your training very efficient. There is evidence that short, strenuous efforts will produce similar effects in fitness as longer, more sustained endurance efforts. For cyclists, this means that you can achieve a base level of fitness with shorter, more focused training sessions. Not only will you train your energy systems to respond to your efforts, but you’ll also train your heart to recover from those demands. A simple training plan of two to three 990 minute rides per week would include one high intensity interval session, one “tempo” session, and one easy ride. When the weather allows, take advantage of the opportunity for more sustained endurance rides. These long rides, in combination with short, focused rides will naturally increase your fitness level.
Before long, summer will be on us, and you’ll want to be out enjoying the great Colorado roads, trails and sunshine. Prepare now so that you’ll have fun when that time comes!