How to multitask your training
If you’ve ever wondered how to train for an endurance cycling event, whether that means 50 miles, 100 miles or back to back days of 100 miles plus to you, you’ll know that getting your training right can be a bit of a challenge.
Over the course of the summer I’ve been trying to up my hours on the bike in advance of Ride Across Britain and Glacier 360, somehow balancing the two really different kinds of training that I need to do to prepare for long rides and short races. It’s not been easy and I’m aware there’s a risk one could end up not getting fitter but just becoming mediocre at both things. But as my buddies at ŠKODA would say, I’m #drivenbysomethingdifferent, namely making the most of every cycling opportunity, so I’ll take that chance!
The first kind of training that I’ve been doing for a couple of years now is for crit racing and therefore focuses on extremely intense and difficult intervals. Though it’s frequently fairly painful, I get a certain pleasure from battling through a tough workout. I sometimes moan about doing these sessions but I always regret skipping them – if I do I feel dissatisfied and moody. Plus I can’t skip them as then I’ll be rubbish at racing.
Photos: Ian S Walton
Aside from the glorious mental benefit and the competitive edge they give me, the HIIT workouts that I do in order to prepare for racing do come at a price – they really fatigue me. To counteract this I have to build adequate rest into my training plan or cleverly structure my week with troughs and peaks that allow my body to adapt. So how does endurance training fit into all this?
After getting the Tour Series out of the way, I was able to give a bit more focus to endurance training and begin building longer rides in to my weekly plan. I did this in several ways.
Photos: Dave Noakes
Firstly, I began working with a coach (Epic Coaching) for a couple of months to get some insights to what I’d been doing whilst training myself for the last 18 months and to avoid getting stuck in a training rut. In the time that I was working with Epic we zoned in on a couple of ways of making things work in a way that would allow me to train volume and high end without me ending up totally exhausted.
We both felt it wise to put my weekly strength training session at the gym on hold until Autumn, instead focusing on riding six days a week so I could accumulate more hours.
Then we began by adding longer zone 2 endurance rides the day after threshold/high intensity sessions/races, rather than a traditional recovery ride or rest day. In loading volume after a hard ride but keeping effort low to moderate, my body learnt to work through fatigue and build resilience. Though not strictly ‘recovery rides’ I’ found these long excursions actually made my muscles feel less sore than they would be without, plus I logged lots of miles .
But don’t get me wrong, though they leave me less sore, they do leave me tired.
The other thing we did was to focus on different things in each interval session so that we worked different systems on different days, rather than overloading on power again and again, which would leave me with too much muscle soreness to complete my training. For instance, I might do one power based interval session, one ‘sweet spot’ workout and one high cadence ride each week. It’s this variety that allowed me to stay as fresh as possible.
After around a month of keeping my endurance rides to zone 2 in order to allow me to build volume without too much fatigue, we began adding intervals to my longer rides, the thought being that I could then get more out of mid-length ride when I didn’t have enough time for super long ride. As an example, I might have a three hour Zone 2 ride with twenty minute blocks at Sweetspot/high Zone 3 followed by sprints in the final hour. This wasn’t something I was able to leap straight into but it’s now the best way of multitasking and making the most out of all time available. The sprints and intervals not only help with my racing but kind of supersize the time I’m spent on the bike, adding value by increasing my stamina – something that I need for endurance cycling.
Photos: Ginger Beard Photo
So with just a few weeks until Ride Across Britain, am I ready? Well, hmm, that’s hard to say. We’ll be riding roughly 107 miles a day for 9 days so if it was up to me, I’d definitely have done more long back to back rides than I have. But with so much work, travel and racing to fit it, that’s been harder to achieve than I anticipated.
What I do know is that I’m really excited about the opportunity to do something which is so far outside my comfort zone, something that’s going to really test me. My experiences of racing a three day mountain bike race in Iceland indicates that I can ride long distance if I keep my head in the game. So mentally, I feel I can do it. I just hope my body doesn’t let me down – it’s been increasingly cranky what with back, shoulder/neck and now knee pain all rearing their heads at unwelcome times. So I’ll do my best. I reckon that will be good enough.