Ten things you didn’t know about training for a long ride
Many of us have targets that help motivate us or give us a little direction over the winter months, whether they’re having a go at racing, riding a first Century or tackling a Sportive. With the first day of spring finally upon us, now is a great time to take a fresh look at our fitness and plans for 2018, so we can make sure we’re we not only moving towards those goals but on track to absolutely smash them.
When it comes to training for a long bike ride or Sportive (and when I talk about long, I mean long for you) there are few shortcuts so you’ll need to commit to time in the saddle if you want to enjoy your target event rather than simply survive it. With a wealth of downloadable training plans scattered across the world wide web, finding out what kind of strategy to take has never been easier but these documents usually don’t provide much information beyond which training sessions you should put in your calendar.
Once you’ve started on your journey, you’ll soon realise that preparing for a long ride isn’t just about sticking to a training plan; that’s just one aspect of pedaling your way to glory. There are a whole host of ‘do’s and don’ts’ and insider tricks that can make the process of moving towards your target that much more enjoyable and it’s these I’ve collected here, to give you a head start. So read on to discover ten things you might not have known about training for a long ride or Sportive.
It’s easier to do long rides in a group
Long, solo rides can be really fun. Other times they can seem to drag! Riding with a group of people may not only make time go faster so you can train for longer without realising it, it also makes covering more distance easier as you can shelter behind other riders.
You need to eat all the time
Ok, not all the time but one of the biggest mistakes you can make when upping your mileage is not eating frequently enough. Aim to consume between 0.5g and 1g of carbohydrate per kilo of bodyweight each hour, spread throughout the hour. You can get your carbs from a mixture of energy drinks, gels, energy bars, bananas or sandwiches.
Don’t try and lose weight on the bike and train at the same time
Never try to restrict food (to lose weight) whilst you’re actually cycling as it will negatively impact your performance; you won’t get make the fitness progress you should and you won’t enjoy yourself either. If you want to shed a few pounds, look at reducing calorie intake on rest days and avoid overeating in the evening.
You need chammy cream
Friction is unpleasant. Applying cream to your under carriage and/or the inside of your cycling shorts might seem strange at first but just do it and thank us later.
You need recovery time
It can seem counter intuitive but more and more riding doesn’t directly mean more and more fitness. Your body actually adapts to the training you’re doing whilst at rest; your muscles repair any micro tears from cycling and in the process build stronger muscles. Rest days are as important as training days.
Stay in a low zone
Try and keep your heart rate down whilst doing long, endurance rides and avoid overexerting yourself if you want to finish them – an example would be trying not to go too hard on climbs. That’s not to say that short, sharp intervals aren’t beneficial, they’re actually a good way of making quick improvements but don’t go wild on every ride or you’ll never get enough time in the saddle. Long, steady miles are really useful and help build that endurance base
You need to increase distance or intensity
Following on from the above (recovery time) it’s essential that you increase your training load gradually or your body won’t be able to cope and make the adaptions you want. Try gradually adding extra sets of intervals to your more intense rides and then adding time to your long, lower intensity rides. Avoid adding a load of intense intervals AND drastically altering the duration of said rides – you risk burning out.
Make sure your bike fits
The most aero position is not necessarily the best for us all – yes, you’ll save precious watts but that’s pointless if you can’t ride comfortably for long enough. It might be unfashionable to suggest (there’s a real cult of ‘slam that stem’ at the moment) but for some people raising the bars can make sense. If you can, try adding or removing spacers under the stem, borrow a different length of stem or test or speak to a professional about getting a bike fit.
You’d better hydrate, hydrate then hydrate some more
Even the slightest level of dehydration really affects your performance so make sure to drink regularly. Some people like to set themselves a reminder on their bike computer.
You can substitute some shorter, higher intensity rides for longer, lower intensity ones.
Not all of us have limitless time to train for long distance events and whilst getting back-to-back hours on the bike is important, shorter high intensity rides can be substituted for some of the hours. Done correctly, you can get more bang for your buck from these rides, particularly if done on a turbo trainer where you never get to freewheel or rest.
How many of these did you know already? Am I preaching to the converted? What goals and targets do you have for 2018? Let me know in the comments below!