Dear cyclist and non-cyclist friends, if you are reading this post it means that one of your imminent intentions is to know the basics of cycling workouts, the techniques and basic works which are the pillars with which the training plans and programs.
First of all it must be said that there is no training of any size and frequency that is independent of the most important thing: YOUR GOALS. So before approaching to know and put into practice the techniques and have training plans drawn up you must print in your head what your goal is; examples of macro objectives are the following:
- Training as a beginner and / or novice: know the types of gaits and increase the time spent on the bike and therefore the kilometers in the saddle
- Lose weight, lose weight: know the rhythms and what intensity of effort to keep (and know how to measure it) to include the bike among your physical activities to improve your general well-being
- Participate in a big fund: you know yourself and the fundamentals as well as the types of workouts but look for a plan and a weekly and monthly program to understand how and where to improve in view of the event. This, for example, is my personal spring goal since I intend to take part in a great Tuscan fund trying to see the word "arrival"; for some, the goal is competition for others it is participating and simply get to the finish line and this is also an important distinction when planning workouts but especially loads and frequencies.
- Recover after a surgery and / or a long period of inactivity
- Workouts to keep an acceptable physical condition for those who practice and or alternate different sports or during the winter phase for those who actively interrupt their normal sports habits
Many confuse macro with micro objectives which are instead intermediate goals between our highest aspiration and our current status. Examples of micro objectives within the training are:
- Improve one of the types of fund: slow, long, medium and fast
- Training to improve uphill
- Improve speed, power, frequency but also pedaling cadence or balance
Heart rate or how you measure a workout (or almost)
"Training level is defined as any type of external stress, which involves the activation of a certain energy system"; substantially bike workouts and not only do they divide based on intensity with which they develop (and therefore also in terms of distances, time and types of routes)
The intensity of any training can be measured by keeping under control the organ that by definition marks our life, that is the heart.
The concept we refer to is that of calculation of the threshold heart rate. As many may know, there are many methods to calculate the threshold, the most intuitive and simple but sometimes also not very precise (because it does not take into account direct tests on the performance and form of individual people who can be more, less or not trained at all. ) provides the following formula:
FCMax * 0.935 (where Max Heart Rate = 220 - age).
So for example for a person of my age (40 years) the heart rate corresponding to the anaerobic threshold is: (220 - 40) * 0.935 = 168 bpm (beats per minute). It is logical and therefore evident that a healthy, more trained and younger body has a threshold closer to that of the maximum frequency than a poorly trained one. Those who want to be more precise can carry out more accurate tests to refine this data such as blood lactate tests as many competitive athletes do or the conconi test (incremental test done on a simulator and / or cycle ergometers indoors, therefore in conditions free of conditioning ).
The threshold value therefore represents the meter on which to calibrate the individual intensity of the types of work on the bike.
Considering the threshold value a theoretical 100% we will see later to correlate the work rates by transforming them to certain percentages of the threshold value.
For our amateur purposes this information can be considered sufficient, in particular to have a good overview of the approach; however it is correct to add that currently measurement techniques are also used not only related to heart rate but also related to power measurement developed in terms of watts produced (therefore with power meters applied on some parts of the bike and the data presented on modern computers). The reason is simple: the heart, as an old song said, is sometimes crazy and is not always able to always reveal a state of form, especially when the pulsations do not rise and the hidden cause seems to be the fatigue that instead the analysis of watts is able to see. The most experienced of you fans will surely understand me.
If you ever have the opportunity to make a sports doctor visit for the practice of cycling you will find that the threshold measurement will be carried out through functional analysis tests the athletic skills in which you will be measured: the skills of Aerobic Power VO2max and of Anaerobic Power W Max.
The basic concept of cardiac threshold certainly remains valid for the practice of sports but today we tend to talk more about "critical power" in a more precise context for those who do high level competitive and performance activities.
The types of training and bicycle work
The basic rhythm (or endurance)
The basic rhythm, as the word itself says, is the pillar on which the cyclist's activity is based at all levels from the amateur up to the agonist.
It is an aerobic "work" which allows you to do a good dose of kilometers at one constant cruising speed but above all a relatively low heart rates. The basic pace is suitable for both the beginner who can progressively increase the number of kilometers but it is an excellent form of warm-up at low speeds and active recovery at the end of an outing or training session. To do the so-called long at a basic pace, going in a small group serves to get used to the situation in which you are not the only one in charge of the road: to keep up, pull, take over. Finally, it also serves to get help when you return home and you don't have much energy thanks to the source of socialization and motivation. Among the works attributable to the basic rhythm there are certainly the slow bottom, the fast bottom and the medium bottom according to the constant speed and frequency that you want to keep; the common denominator is the aerobic phase which involves the metabolic combustion largely of lipids.
Base rate = 65% of the Threshold (or the FCMax resulting from functional analysis tests for the "trained")
The average job
The "medium" as they say in cycling jargon is a job done by one intermediate intensity between that of the long exits and that of the more stretched uphill sections. We are not sure at all, but to sustain this "intensity" a certain commitment is still needed that a good trainer will be able to quantify precisely thanks to the heart rate threshold value.
In practice, a very simple example is the following: go out in training with the insertion of strokes (5,10,15, or more minutes) at higher intensity.
The obvious difference between the base and the medium lies precisely in the change in intensity which therefore introduces us to the concept of a change of pace. What are the rhythm changes for? Always pedaling at the same pace introduces in the body a feeling of "habit" which therefore will not improve as it happens to a car when it is always driven at low speeds at 40 times; in practice it lacks inspiration and despite having a starting point and a minimum of kilometers behind it, it is not possible to engage the higher gear when necessary. Usually for the medium they are introduced repeatedly on short climbs and with a not high slope (5-7%); remember, however, always doing medium jobs without a background base is not needed; it's a little bit like wanting to run without being able to walk yet.
Average pace = 72/78% of the Threshold (or the FCMax resulting from functional analysis tests for the "trained")
Work on the threshold
The threshold, we have said, if it is not a warning it still represents a boundary. It is a border that tells us that we are activating the anaerobic metabolism which produces energy not by taking it from the lipid layers but by synthesizing glucose; without getting into technicalities (which an excellent nutritionist or doctor will be able to provide) this synthesis produces energy but also a waste, the famous lactic acid and in quantities exceeding the normal possibilities of endogenous disposal which can occur by going to the base or to the medium; the accumulation of excessive lactic acid in the muscles is one of the worst things that can happen during physical activity which therefore requires an immediate stop and recovery (and disposal) times that can be more or less long. Anyone who has had cramps, especially uphill, knows what you can feel.
Going to the threshold (or even more so close to the maximum frequency limit) is normal in certain areas, typically when facing a challenging climb, or when shooting on the flat with high ratios. In both cases it means using high intensities and as such these intensities cannot be used for large time spans as it happens instead in basic or medium work.
There are some precautions to take. The first is that off-threshold work should be reserved for those with a solid aerobic base, because otherwise it is "blows" which are of little use and indeed risk not training and burning the muscles due to the accumulation of lactic acid. The second precaution is well explained by a very understandable metaphor that is often cited in support: the threshold should be imagined as a kind of snack basket that you carry around when cycling. This basket contains a certain amount of pies to eat that will be consumed along the way when needed. Going to the threshold or above the threshold means eating very quickly, all consuming the reserves of energy while being below the threshold means gradually consuming snacks. Depending on the distance (and I can also say slope) at which our goal of the day will be found (home, arrival of a competition, refreshment, etc.) we must remember not to finish our energies too far from the finish, otherwise the you don't get there, or you get there by literally pulling the oars in the boat.
Who has never happened to "burst" and give up the moorings for lack of energy and to be carried by the bike rather than driving it home ourselves?
This is the limit of the threshold: going "over the top" is a precious and powerful weapon for the agonist (and the amateur who aims at performance) but the availability in terms of time is limited and if you manage it badly ( in terms of effort but also in terms of nutrition) with cramps you just don't get there. Small digression: those who like to follow cycling races on TV this happens when someone springs forward not gradually but even "bounces back" more than they should literally get stuck. Today less and less happens among the pros and expert agonists because everyone knows in real time his metabolic, muscular (watt) and cardio vascular boundaries so he knows if and for how long he can hold up a certain rhythm and if not, the sentence is certain and it means walking and then bursting; if we add to this the very precise communication in the race on the movements of teammates and opponents, we understand many of the reasons for the lack of spectacle of modern cycling.
Work at the threshold = 90/95% of the threshold (or the HRMax for the "trained" who, as mentioned, have approximate threshold values close to the maximum frequency)
Rise of Strength Resistance (SFR)
This is as the name suggests going up a fairly steep climb and repeating sections of a few minutes several times, whirling a hard relationship, holding the heart rate not too high and leaning on the handlebars without pulling with the shoulders because it means that it is too demanding. They are used to improve the typical strength of the cyclist and which is much more difficult to improve and which in the gym is only partially reproducible with the press.
It is non-specific work done on a specific vehicle that is also very useful for amateurs because it allows you to improve certain aspects, especially the cyclist's muscular. It is often compared to a weight session (or press) done on the bike.
Training plans and programs
Training plans that are real programs and / or tables are composed taking into account the following variables:
- Macro lens (e.g. a large background of n km)
- The period (summer or winter)
- The work cycle (number of weeks)
- The daily work cycle according to the week
- Time of daily outings and exercises to be done
- Mix of the types of work seen previously to be carried out during the exit.
As an example, I report a typical table of the third week alone of training (on a 4-week cycle) for those who intend to prepare a first Gran Fondo lasting 80-90 km during the winter period.
- Monday: rest
- Tuesday: 2h with 2 × 10 'long, 10' medium, 8 × 3 'SFR with 2' recovery, 10 'long
- Wednesday: rest
- Thursday: 2h with 20 'long, 10' medium, 2 × 10 'ascent (7' regular, 3 'threshold, with acceleration)
- Friday: rest
- Saturday: 3h with 2 × 10 'long, 10' medium, 4 × 1.30 '' (1 'with ratios 53x16 or 15 at 50 rpm uphill + 30' 'acceleration uphill), 5' downhill recovery
- Sunday: 3h30 'group exit with 20' long, 20 'medium, 2 × 15' regular climb and last 5 'in the threshold
Obviously not being a trainer I showed you an extract of a program made by experts in the sector. The invitation is based on your needs of form (time and objectives) to have you draw up a plan to be able to progress without relying on chance or excessively standardized plans that may often not be for you and which instead could have the opposite effect and therefore harm you. Speech valid especially for those who approach this sport and are not used to measuring themselves and knowing their values.
These are the fundamentals of the types of work; over time, variants were born, perhaps capturing them from other aerobic sports such as running.
And the case of fartlek which is presented as a "free" variant of traditional interval training where the alternating work blocks are caged in more rigid patterns linked to pauses and repeated accurately marked. It is an ideal workout, for example, for those who have little time available and for those who often use rollers or practice spinning, precisely because it helps to get out of the monotony of a workout that would be very "static". The cyclist usually performs a fartlek or a free exit often on Sundays as a variant of traditional jobs to make the weekly summary or when he intends to recover after a big fund or the day before a commitment. Literally it means varying the intensity and time of our exercises without any pause between one session and another or in freedom, and they can be both aerobic and anaerobic depending on the proposed intensity. For example, in the anaerobic fartlek field, it is possible to climb at times at aerobic regime and at times at anerobic regime without any pause between the two intensities. It is also possible to insert fartlek sessions within the same workout to break the mold and keep the cardio vascular system active at the same time. In spinning, fartlek is often inserted thanks to jumping and / or running. In my opinion it is an excellent compromise when it is not possible to go out in winter or for reasons of a different nature; I myself make extensive use of it for reasons of time and work.
The "definitive" training plan
I wanted to close with an extreme wording that is in vogue today to play down everything. Personally I don't think it exists but I think it is useful for everyone deepen the issues exposed here and be curious about yourself; especially at certain times of the year, many people get mad and sports like cycling are no exception.
It is necessary know each other, measure themselves as I said earlier and above all to aim for goals in line with one's state of health and form but above all in line with one's lifestyle that it was decided to undertake. Finally, for those who have no obligations I would like to say that the greatest pleasure derives from the freedom to be able to practice sport in order to obtain psychophysical well-being; for those who want to reach a large or small goal, however, it is necessary to trace the path, the stages and the progress made. Nowadays we are full of applications dedicated to this, once there was only a pen and a squared notebook where training, distances and progress were noted. In any case, have fun and good times.
Below I provide you with a series of links from which you can buy supplements and bars for sports training and cycle in particular of some of the most important brands on the market:
- Named Sport
I have extracted some of the most relevant books on the subject that can be purchased online
- Those who pedal
- The bible of cycling training
- Objectives, types and means of training in modern cycling
- Nutrition and cycling
- Train and compete with the power meter
Other related articles I wrote on IdeeGreen that might interest you are:
- Racing bike sizes: custom or standard
- Traffic code for cyclists: group fines
- Tires, tubeless and tubular: guide and bike tire sizes
- Tips for winter cycling clothing
- How to clean and lubricate racing bikes and chains
- Bike and cycling lights: LEDs, headlights and lighting tips
- Bicycle touring, equipment to bring on a bike trip
Curated by Tullio Grilli