If half of what you are about to read in the next paragraph seems like gibberish, grab a cup of coffee and give me a few minutes… and there’s a twist at the end.
Once all of the science, diet and weight are sifted through, once we’ve fixed the electrolyte imbalance and acquired the best bike we can afford and all of the aerodynamic kit that goes with it, once we understand FTP, VO2 max and the like, what is the one thing that must be done to keep up with a faster group on a bicycle?
We have to push harder on the pedals. It’s not rocket science, though many attempt to make it appear as though it is to sell you something. Now, in my case, I’m trying to go go into the spring in good enough shape to be able to enjoy the ramp up to our 23-mph average on Tuesday night with the B Group. We should start at 21 to 22-mph and by June we should be cranking out 28-1/2 miles in something like 1h:12m and change. In terms of “wattage”, our normalized average is something around 250-260 for the course.
I have to embrace an ugly truth when I begin my winter training plan; pushing harder on the pedals sucks. I also put a more positive spin on it than that – at least for the benefit of my melon committee: It’s only going to suck until I get used to it sucking.
The cleaned up “melon committee approved” version made it attainable – and it’s the absolute truth. Training to pedal harder only sucks for the first week or so. After that, the progress gets a little easier. This is what I like to focus on during the trainer months in the winter. A goal helps with the monotony.
First, there are two aspects to cycling fast. Cadence, how fast you can turn the pedals over, and power, how hard you push on the pedals. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to deal with power. One of my best cycling posts ever, relating to cadence, can be read here. Personally, I preferred working on cadence first, then power because I find the higher cadence a little more difficult to get used to and once I got used to the higher cadence, it was easier to maintain it whilst, and at the same time, using a harder gear.
The first thing to get down is mindset. I have to be willing to work at this if I’m going to make it stick because it’s going to hurt. If I don’t have the willingness, I’ll give up… Or maybe I should say, I’ve given up in the past because I couldn’t maintain the willingness long enough to make a decent breakthrough. Just know this, if you keep at it, you’ll get stronger and it won’t suck as bad.
The next step is simple: Suit up and show up. Enough said.
We pick our gear next, especially if we’re on the hamster wheel of doom (the trainer). You want a gear that makes your quads burn within three or four minutes but isn’t too hard to get around. From there we back off one gear (downshift, one gear bigger on the cassette). This is your “easy” gear.
Warm up for five minutes in the easy gear, then upshift to your hard gear. Ten minutes in the hard gear, then downshift for five. Fifteen more in the hard gear then cool down for ten minutes (or put the ten minutes on the warmup and cool down for five).
The next day do the same thing. The following day is a rest day – not a day off, though, it’s an easy day; go the full 45 minutes in your easy gear.
The following day is another hard day, only this time we only warm up and cool down in the easy gear. The middle half hour is entirely spent in your hard gear.
The next day is an easy day, same as before only cut the warm up and cool down to five minutes each. Then another hard day followed by a rest day. This is your pattern. After a week that hard gear should be getting considerably easier. Do another week following that pattern. After that second week, your hard gear becomes your easy gear and you upshift one for your hard gear. Rinse and repeat. By the time spring rolls around, you’ll be a lot faster than you were the year before. Done right, it should surprise you. Just don’t forget, the arm warmers, leg warmers, and/or tights will take some speed off the top.
One final note: Don’t fret if your cadence drops a little bit when you shift into the harder gear. Just keep pedaling. It’ll come around shortly and before long, what once passed for your hard gear will be easier than you thought possible just a month before.
While all of your friends were just marking time waiting for Spring to hit, you were getting stronger. Try it, and don’t cheat. Every minute counts…. Then once the good weather does come around, watch what happens to your confidence and you’re ability to enjoy the ride!
Now, here’s the best part, and the twist: When I ride with my B group friends, and they are all very close friends – we’ve ridden thousands of miles together – because I trained harder and can ride faster, I’ll be able to ride more comfortably with them and do more to help as the group picks up speed.