I’ve developed and started a new training plan for cycling that’s going to be awesome! I will become a better, faster cyclist because of it and I am posting it here, for the benefit of all new cyclists that they may reach, even exceed, their goals.
To start, a decent cycling base is a must. Start before the snow melts (if you happen to be unlucky enough to live where it snows) on the trainer. Alternate hard efforts (30 – 45 minutes) incorporating intervals, medium efforts and easy efforts. For the easy days, concentrate on high cadence (100+ rpm) and perfecting a “circular” cycling pattern in easy gears.
Once the snow melts and outdoor cycling can commence on a regular basis, I want to build frequency, concentrating mainly on building distance at first, then adding speed, or intensity. I am already an accomplished cyclist so I won’t have to worry too much about the technical aspects, but if you’re new, now is the time to work on important things like cycling in a straight line (I’m not kidding) and paying close attention to your surroundings while maintaining a consistent pace and tempo. The importance of this phase cannot be understated because it will come in handy later.
By mid to late spring, you want to be in decent enough shape and have enough miles under your belt that you can join in with the advanced group – an average of 18-19 mph is helpful, even necessary. If you’re not quite there yet, increase your intensity by short strides. Cycle at your normal pace until you warm up and then kick it for a stretch until you have to slow down to your normal pace. Rest for a few minutes and hit it again. Rinse and repeat – you will get faster, and in a hurry. To aid in this process, attack every rolling hill you come across. Instead of slowing down going up a hill, make it your goal to speed up. Now, in the advanced groups you should find that there will be three distinct groups: The racers, the mid-level cyclists and the slower crowd. If you’re not planning on racing, you want the mid-level group. They’ll be the one’s who hang on for the first 15-20 miles of the club ride but fall off when the pace really picks up. This is the group you want, this is the group I hang with. They should be just a little bit faster than you, but if you stay in their draft and take short (but fair) turns pulling, you’ll be able to stay with them. As the weeks build, work on taking longer pulls up front. Use the group ride as one of your hard efforts and solo rides as medium and easy efforts (same idea for the easy efforts as you used on the trainer – slower speed [16-17 mph] with a high cadence).
Before you know it, you will be faster. Not only will you be faster, you’ll be keeping pace with the 21-22 mph group and enjoying a very nice draft so you’re only going to be working hard when you’re second from the front and pulling up front. The rest will be 30-50% less effort.
Now, if you’re new to cycling, this plan might sound pretty cool. If you really don’t know anything about cycling, it may even seem revolutionary. It’s not. This is actually, pretty much, how I got fast on my own. It’s nothing special because there is nothing new under this sun, it’s just a matter of phrasing.
Look at the Galloway method of running and walking… You will not run faster if you walk. If walking for a few seconds every mile was faster, you’d see it practiced in competitive athletes. Walking is, after all, slower is it not? Well, not entirely because we hear of plenty of runners who knock time off of their personal bests by walking for a short time every mile or so. How could this be?
The Galloway method is just like any other diet or training plan. Joe Freil’s triathlon training plans, and all of the different methods of cycling: Hill repeats, cycling in a circle, lifting on the back stroke, “scraping mud off of your shoe”… They all work for one reason only. They’re all based on changing the one thing that boosts performance the most. Your mind. You only have to run at a hard pace for a mile before you get a respite. Then you do it again and again until you get to that last mile… This changes the focus to something much more attainable.
These training plans get you to believe the very most important thing: I can – or better, I will.
Special Thanks to Tisch at 90in9 for inspiring this post, you inspire so many cool ideas for my posts. I appreciate you greatly.
UPDATE: One last note… There is no such thing as “cycling faster with less effort”, unless you take the draft into account for “less effort”. The truth is, you get used to the harder effort – the “suffering” becomes the new norm. In other words, “it doesn’t get easier, you just go faster” – to borrow a quote.