Go hard or go home.
You’ll often hear phrases such as this when it comes to sporting performance but it’s important not to follow this mantra every time you get onto a bike.
Finding the right blend of endurance and high intensity training can help you to achieve your goals – but how much High Intensity Training (HIT) should you be looking to do as part of your weekly training regime? Here’s our top tips on how to structure your training.
HIT is essential if you want to transform your cycling from everyday rides to competition. With the right programme, you can transform yourself into a strong climber, sprint finisher and keep up with the rest of the peloton.
But it’s important not to prioritise this over your endurance training – which is the bread and butter that will get you into the race in the first place.
An ideal approach is to devote around 20% of your training time to HIT. In very layman’s terms, this sort of balance allows you to use up your energy through that 20% and then spend the rest of the time building up those reserves through your endurance work.
With HIT – this is truly the go hard or go home phase of your work. These sessions will be maximum effort, but the approach works best when that effort is applied across the entire session. It’s no use leaving nothing in the tank after your first set of intervals if you still have more repetitions to follow. Finding the level of intensity that works best for you might take time – but with careful practice, you should be able to perfect things and use up all your energy by the end of the session.
Keep the session structured with intervals – the recovery between efforts is essential. As you’ll only spend 20% of your training time on HIT, it means you won’t need to do these sessions back-to-back – that’s best avoided.
What about the other 80%?
The vast majority of the rest of your training time should be focused on endurance work. This combination training plan will really see you start to see improvement and achieve those goals.
Unlike the HIT work, these sessions shouldn’t see you going all out – far from it. You’d be amazed at how much fitter and stronger you would get by having structured regular sessions, increasing distances but maintaining a talking pace on the bike.
Want to go faster than that? Who doesn’t – but an increase to speed won’t necessarily see you maintain higher fitness levels or faster paces. Strategic goals and incremental increases where appropriate will produce results that can be sustained for a longer time.
It won’t surprise you to learn that one of the best ways you can track your progress is with your InfoCrank. The data you receive from your InfoCrank – which you know is as accurate as can be in power measurement – will give you your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). This measurement is the maximum sustainable power at which you can ride for an hour. It’s always useful to note this when you start on a new training plan and to keep an eye on it as you progress.
That FTP lets you know the pace you’re riding in your endurance training – but there’s another figure that it’s also as important to track. Your Aerobic Threshold (AT) is the level at which you can still breathe steadily, even if fatigued, and ride for the hour.
Typically, a solid cyclist will find that 70-80% of this level is the pace they could ride at all day – known as the endurance pace, or the talking pace because you can still keep up a conversation at this sort of speed. With these sorts of levels, your body replaces what you are using more or less at the same rate as you use it.
Just below that endurance pace is the recovery pace. This is when your body is replenishing while you’re arriving. At this pace, fresh blood is driven into the muscles and your recovery from fatigue is sped up. It’s one of the best ways to recover from a gruelling session, and these lighter days are essential every now and then to reduce muscular soreness. For best results, spend most of your endurance time between the recovery and endurance pace – find out what works best for you.
So that’s your time on the bike accounted for. But there’s still a need to add some strength-based work as well.
Cycling, of course, is primarily a non-load bearing exercise – although the cyclocross enthusiasts among us may disagree! But because our bodies are designed to take on loads, it can be beneficial to do some load-bearing exercises and you don’t necessarily need to be in the gym to do this. We can use our own bodies to increase our strength.
If you have a bike trainer, take a look at this simple strength training exercise you can do.
So, go hard or go home. Why not both? Go hard for 20% of the time and go home fatigued but in good spirits from endurance sessions at talking pace. Finding the right blend for you and establishing your own parameters and limits will deliver huge results. Your InfoCrank will help you to establish your benchmarks – and in all cases, be it HIT, endurance or strength work, will let you plot our your improvement time after time.
So if you haven’t ridden with an InfoCrank yet, what are you waiting for?