Training and health of the cyclist
It’s not easy to speak about cycle training, because there is no standard training which can be good for any people and any needs. e should know our own purposes and goals so as to get a suitable training program.
Cycle training means great effort, good programming, total commitment and, of course, even a bit of bore sometimes, such as in any other sports.
Tables, repeated bursts of speed, a well-balanced diet, pedalling under the sun and in the rain, gym workout are all necessary when you aim at running competitive races; but it comes to be no use and completely unnecessary when you simply mean to be fit, have a good time on Sundays or take part at our bike Tours.
We have two goals:
- dealing with some general points of cycle training which are good for any person, in spite of his/her physical condition and goals;
- dealing with the main points of cycle training and providing those who want to have a more professional approach to this sport with the minimum know-how.
Main points for healthy training
If you aren’t professional and you only mean to spend some time away from traffic and stress and get a healthy physical well-being (without thinking of becoming a new “Armstrong”!), you should know these three main and closely related points:
- Fun: cycling should be a pleasant way to keep the daily stress away, so you should neither go over the top (especially at first) nor undertake to cycle when you don’t feel like doing it. You should also share your love for cycling with some friends, because pedalling along with other companions will be less wearing and much more amusing.
- Step by step: most importantly in the beginning don’t go over the top in physical effort; only with good training you can face long and excessive efforts. If you expect too much of yourselves, you’ll have failures instead of successes as a result and stiffness in your muscles, together with a superhuman effort, will make your cycling excursions more difficult and less regular.
- Regularity: at any levels, time and perseverance are the main things in cycle training. It’s no use to go 100 km in one day and then stop one month: you should cycle (even if for a short time) at least two or three times a week, so as to keep training no stop. You will improve slowly, but in two months you’ll be proud of your performance thanks to regular training.
How to plan good cycle training
The main things are doing some warm-ups, winding-down exercises and stretching in the end.
If you start too strong, your muscles won’t warm up and your body won’t get used to the position on the saddle, so we advise you to cycle slowly and use easy gears during the first fifteen, twenty minutes.
The same goes for the final part of training: after the effort it’s good to cover the last kilometers easily, so as to bring the heart beats down and loosen up your legs.
In the end you should do some stretching exercises for ten, fifteen minutes with the purpose of loosening up those muscles which are the most used ones when you ride a bike ,that is neck, shoulders, quadriceps, thighs and calves.
To briefly sum up, you should follow this program (in the matter of training lasting two and a half, three hours):
- 15-20 minutes, while pedalling at a slow pace and using easy gears (about 90 rotations of the pedals a minute), will be good to warm up and get ready for the next and much harder step of training.
- 2 hours, while pedalling at a fast pace, will let you cover short stretches of road (for 5 minutes at the longest) at most effort (this is called ‘anaerobic threshold’).
- 15-20 minutes, while winding down and using easy gears, will be good to loosen up your muscles.
- 15-20 minutes of stretching exercises will bring training to an end.
Main points for training aimed at competition
If you want to perform excellently, you should take care and work on various aspects.
To the purpose of complete training, you should take into account the following factors: endurance, power, strength and elasticity, together with rest periods (when you stop training for some weeks and let your muscles regenerate oxygen).
The cycling season is composed of four parts:
- Transitional phase (Rest)
This period is the end of the cycling season: it is the moment when mind and body regenerate and you spend your free time in other activities while setting your bike apart.
- Basic training phase (Build)
This phase,following the transitional one, generally divides into two periods (four weeks each). The first month you should try to get your good shape back, therefore you should start to travel few km (about 40-50 km, so as to reach the competition length about the eighth week).
In the second month you should work on quality and on the development of general features in order to climb the first uphill roads and to make use of the maximum strength and endurance (Climbs-Strength-Endurance)
- Pre-competitive phase (Strengthening)
This 12 week period is aimed at increasing general endurance and specific strength, mostly by means of specific works uphill.
- Competitive phase (Maintenance)
In this phase of competitions you should train in order to maintain the shape achieved in the previous periods.
The heart rate monitor
At any levels of training we strongly advise you to use a heart rate monitor so as to check your beats. Heart beats monitoring will prevent you from excessive efforts which could be harmful for your health and will let you figure out your physical condition and train according to your goals.
Maximum heart rate
If we go over a determined heart beat threshold (anaerobic threshold) our body can’t get rid of the built up lactic acid.
Therefore you should know the value of this threshold that is the maximum effort our muscles are able to keep for a long time.
There are several ways to know our own anaerobic threshold: the most used one is undoubtedly the Conconi test, but you can have an indicative idea (max. 3% error) of your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220.
Professional cycling needs long, nonstop and very hard training. It’s necessary to plan exhaustive training and spend a lot of time to do specific workout.
Very common and peculiar sorts of training are, for instance, the “Climbs-Strength-Endurance” and the “Repeated bursts of speed”:
Climbs-Strength-Endurance: this is the most common kind of training and is aimed at improving your Strength-Endurance.
You have to climb not too steep hills (4-7%) and use very hard gears. The turns of the pedals must be about 40-50 a minute and the heart beats 10-20 under the threshold: this is usually performed by means of 4 minute repeated bursts of speed and 2 minute recovery.
Repeated bursts of speed: another, very common kind of training is based on the so called “repeated bursts of speed”; this technique consists in repeating a specific effort many times and alternating stops proportional to the performed effort.
The repeated bursts of speed can improve sprint, endurance, speed, strength and agility according to the time spent in your exercise, the number of repetitions, the pedalling rate, the recovery time and the sort of pathway (light or steep climb, plain road etc.).