#1. Every session should have a clear purpose.
While there is no doubt that you can obtain a good level of fitness just riding around and doing bunch rides, there is nothing quite like a structured training program for getting the best out of your body. However, even the best training program is ineffective if the sessions are not completed as intended. That’s why my #1 training tip is to ensure you understand the purpose of each training session and then do your best to complete it as intended.
#2. Nutrition matters
To get the best out of your body you need to ensure that it is correctly fuelled for the session you have planned. Different sessions and races will have different nutrition requirements, just as different training phases will require different approaches. Recovery nutrition is also important and it’s best to have it sorted before your ride so that it’s ready to go as soon as you get in the door
#3. Get a bike fit
The correct position on the bike will enable you to get the most out of your body, with more power to the pedals, reduced fatigue, better endurance and comfort with a far lower chance of injury or developing those annoying aches and pains that come up just when they are least welcome.
#4. Care about your ride data
Strava has really started the trend for sharing your ride data online but there are other services and programs that can help you analyse your ride data more effectively. Tracking your training volume, speed, average heart rates and power are all good ways to see whether your training is being effective and many of these programs have additional options for more detailed analysis. My two favourites are Golden Cheetah (free) and WKO+.
#5. Pick a route to match the purpose of your training session
This one is closely linked to #1. If you have an endurance ride planned then make sure you pick a course that maximises the time you spend in the right training zones. Sure it might be nice to go and have a crack at the local berg but that changes the session and it becomes less effective. Also consider your race goals, if you’re racing a hilly time trial then do some of your time trial efforts on a hilly course. If you need better race power on flat terrain then stick with the flat stuff.
#6. Don’t be afraid to pull the plug. It’s not a lost session, just a different one
Recovery days tend to get a bad rap in cycling, however they are just as, if not more important that the training days. Too much training without enough rest is a sure fire way of getting sick and usually leads to reduced performance. Where it gets hard is if you have a session planned for that day but your body just isn’t up for it. In these situations you need to seriously question whether you should change your session or pull the plug and go home. If its a hard session, then ride around at an easier pace for a bit to see whether the body comes good or just aim for a shorter session.
#7. Pick your training partners and groups carefully
Again this one is closely linked with #1. Bunch rides tend to be more erratic with the pace and sitting in the draft for prolonged periods can be just like a long recovery ride that provides minimal benefit. If you like to hit the bunches or go riding with your mates then that’s fine, just structure the rest of your week so you are getting in some quality sessions on other days. Then again, there aren’t too many sessions that can replicate a hard bunch ride for good top end race power so if that’s what you need then go for it.
#8. Learn to critically review your race results
So you want to improve your race results? Training will help but so will analysing what you did during a race. How were your tactics? Did you spend to much time in the wind or working on the front only to be too tired at the end when it really mattered? Learn to honestly assess how you raced and you should start to see improvements in your results
#9. Remember the forest
Sometimes we can lose sight of the bigger picture that is our cycling season and we get too tied up worrying about the smaller races that are earlier in the season rather than the bigger, more important races later on. Make sure you keep this in mind and if necessary sacrifice some early season form so you can make sure you are going strong when it really counts.
#10. Have fun
One of the reasons we all ride our bikes is because we love it. Structured training can become a bit monotonous so be sure to remember to have some fun as well! There is nothing wrong with throwing in a group ride every week just for the fun of it, or hit the XC trails with your mates for some fun in the dirt. In the end its these things that keep us riding out bikes so enjoy them without worrying too much about the training.