Building up your cycling strength is a long term commitment that needs to be made if you are looking for success in the sport. Alongside the time commitment there are many elements of a training program that all need to be covered effectively.
Seven tips and a secret (well eight tips really coz if I included a secret it wouldn’t be a secret) follow and focussing on these will make the most from your training schedule.
1 Get set up on your bike
Bikes are machines – and we’re off with the obvious – and there are elements of that machine that need to be adjusted to suit individual requirements. Everyone has differing leg, arm and torso rations and it’s important that you ride a bike that is set up exactly to your requirements. Call in to a specialist bike shop and get them to make sure your setup is right for you.
2 Lighten the load on your cycle
It’s always a great temptation to sling the shopping into a rucksack at the checkout but you’ll find it a more effective way of training any weight you want to carry on your bike (and there’s nothing wrong with doing that) is stored on the bike and not on your back.
Treat yourself to a good set of panniers and you can balance the load on the bike. This makes it easier for you to put in the effort needed without having to focus keeping your balance.
3 Correct cycling kit makes a difference
Accessories (not shoes and handbags though) are really important to a good cycle training program. It won’t cost much but you’ll really reap the rewards with the following:
Bike helmet. An absolute must. You’re likely to take a spill at some point so look after your noddle.
Cycling shorts. They don’t have go faster stripes but will stop soreness and chaffing
Basic bike tools. One day you’ll be out on the road and will suffer a malfunction – essential bike first aid!
Cycling sunglasses. No, not for posing (well maybe a bit) but they’ll keep dirt, dust and flies out of your eyes
Spuds. SPDs or bike toe clips are shoes that lock into your pedals and give better results for your effort.
4 Avoid the ‘bonk’!
Road cycling is an endurance sport and running low on energy, or ‘bonking’ is a frequent problem. You need to ensure you are eating small and frequent meals whilst you are on the go. Try to aim for low GI foods as well.
You should also take carbohydrate drinks as cyclists call it, will prevent your cycling enjoyment. Cycling will increase your energy requirements, so aim to eat small, frequent meals and snacks on the go in order to maintain energy levels. Energy bars and carbohydrate drinks when you are out training will also help.
5 Hydrate properly when cycling
It’s a real biggie this one. We often tend to let ourselves become dehydrated. Remember that if you are thirsty then you srer already slightly dehydrated which will affect your performance.
Try to stay ahead of the game by drinking before you get thirsty. Not an easy one this one, it will take time and practice. Check the colour of your urine to see how effective you are. If the colour is dark then you need to drink more, earlier.
6 Go for long rides
Long rides on your bike will build up your endurance and you need to make sure they are the cornerstone of your training program. You need to feature a long ride fortnightly and if you can manage it, weekly. Along with endurance will come a more efficient use of carbohydrates by your body, something that is essential if you are to be successful as an athlete.
7 Build up cycle strength
Strength training will have a significant impact on your performance on the bike. Focus on three body areas, legs, arms and back and you will begin to notice improvements.
Leg exercises – focus on leg presses and weighted squats for building strength.
Arm exercises – Bicep curls and tricep presses increase strength and keep your arms in balance.
Back exercises – Dumbbell rows and lat pull-downs will develop upper mid back strength
8 Get flexible on your bike (perhaps not so well known but by no means a secret)
A common problem that’s frequently over looked is poor chest flexibility. You need to focus on stretching after each ride to make sure that you don’t end up with overstretched back muscles and a tight. A good warm down routine should be an important part of your regular training.