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Get cycling this summer!

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Summer is in full swing and the motivation to look and feel good seems more heightened. Your holiday is approaching and the sense of having more time over weekends due to more light is now apparent, so how can we make the most of our time to exercise, have fun and spend quality time with our families?

The thing that gets you about cycling is the amount of ground you can cover, all the sights you can see in just one workout can be so beautiful that longer times in the saddle can just fly by.

The summer months make it a lot easier to self motivate a workout in the great outdoors, getting to the gym or an exercise class can be more appealing in the winter months, so try getting out of the city into the hills and steady inclines of more country terrain, it not only gives you more fresh air but builds a great endurance fitness.

Whether you are cycling down a tow path with your child in a seat on the back of your bike, or grinding up great hills on a light weight road bike, you will be reaping great benefits from cycling, planning your training so it is balanced can involve the rest of the family and also allow room for more intense sessions on your own or with a cycling club.

The same three core components always apply.

  • Volume
  • Intensity
  • Frequency

Volume

The volume of training that you do will have a direct link to your training gains; increase mileage slowly. Think about your training over a month period, the first three weeks consisting of rides designed to put mileage on the legs and make you stronger and faster, then drop the distance down for an active recovery on week four. Keep the heart rate to a low level i.e., 220bpm - your age.
 
Once you are fitter you can add some short faster rides to this week to keep leg speed but keep them easier than in weeks 1-3, active recovery periods will give the body a chance to rest, minimise the chances of over training and injury and allow the muscles to grow and repair ready for the next phase.

Intensity

Within the volume of your training, we then have the different training intensities to consider. This will vary from person to person so please consider your own fitness levels when reading the examples below. To get the best from your training these should include hill intervals, speed work, threshold sessions (e.g. top end heart rate, race pace or time trials), longer fat burning endurance rides and active recovery rides on week four.

If you are going to compete in some races, then use October-March solely as a base building phase. Longer, slower, more frequent rides at low heart rates will insure a good race endurance, help keep body fat low and give you a chance to work on your technique. 

Week one

  1. A hill session for strength, (warm up, find a hard climb and use the descent as recovery, repeat for 30 - 45mins depending on fitness level)
  2. A 10 mile time trial for a threshold ride (warm up, hold a fast pace in a big gear for the whole duration)
  3. A family ride at the weekend for endurance and fat burn.

Week two

  1. A speed interval session (e.g.warm up, then one mile fast pace - one mile recovery x5, cool down) you can vary the distance week on week
  2. A hill interval (as above) vary the hill used
  3. A weekend family ride.

Week three

  1. A 10 mile time trial, vary distance week on week
  2. An endurance ride for two hours. Keep a slow steady pace
  3. A weekend family ride.

Week four

The fourth weeks purpose being for active recovery, so perhaps one low level ride for one hour, plus the weekend family ride.

Frequency

Training frequency simply refers to the number of training sessions performed over a period of time, when adding in more sessions to the monthly plan, do so with caution so not to overload the body, it is a nice idea to just add in a non technical short ride on weeks 1 and 3 over varied terrain and go at a medium pace making sure not to push too hard. 

Energy balance: Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!

Always remember that nutrition and fluid are essential to quality training and recovery, you would never try to drive your car without petrol, oil and water and likewise you shouldn’t try to train on empty or without sufficient hydration levels. Cycling and all other endurance sports need to be supported by a high carbohydrate diet.

In order to sustain the energy required to train and recover safely, regardless of fitness level, pre and post training foods and fluids should always be considered a must prior to every session. Also be prepared to have snacks and possibly electrolyte based drinks and gels for your rides, topping up glycogen levels will help prevent fatigue.

Post training fuel is of equal importance, before hitting the shower have something to eat, a meal or at the very least get something into your system such as a banana and some nuts with plenty of water, there is a 40 minute window here if you can remember this it will help to optimize your recovery.

Cycling is a great sport for building fitness, regardless of age and fitness level. You may just want go out for rides with the family, or you could get all inspired and start to plan for some summer races! There are lots of options available to join clubs for weekend rides and coaching advice, it is a really friendly and social sport. Always remember have fun and work to your levels of fitness! 

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