We all know the traditional cyclists who scoff at any “modern” training method, staunchly believing that riding a specific amount of miles by a specified date is the best way to achieve a successful season. They are preaching ‘Base Training’ intended to build a level of fitness so as to allow a higher intensity work to take place. Physiologically there will be some benefits to this type of training – increased capillaries, allowing greater blood flow to the working muscles and an increase in your VO2Max. Put simply, spending time in the saddle will see benefits. Right?
The arrival of March signifies the last few weeks of the traditional Base Mile period, with an opportunity still to look at the benefits of base miles. Every cyclist understands that building fitness in preparation for the season and an event like The Raid Pyrenean is important. Having a solid ‘base’ fitness on which to add speed and power. The traditional thinking is that the greater your base fitness, the greater your speed and power, the greater the season you will have. But is spending long hours in the saddle with cold, wet, and at times dangerous weather (especially in the UK), ridden at a slower pace, the best way to get there?
The downsides to this approach are that you will need to spend many hours in the saddle, with some quoting 20 hours a week, with mileage numbers from 200 plus. This raises a few questions. These miles are slow and constant, meaning you can get a little cold and in the British weather is this wise? What if you are time restricted? Do you want to avoid illness or simply cannot face the dull weather conditions? Can you still achieve the same results?
Great news! Recent studies have shown that shorter more intense rides with specific intervals at your top end will bring very similar improvements.
So for the time-crunched cyclist you can still have a great season. If you are restricted to time however, we recommend that you seek some expert knowledge on how to plan you training. There are dangers trying to plan specific sessions at high intensity without knowledgeable guidance and can lead to overtraining, lack of motivation or injury.
One method that we at ECS swear by are Sweetspot rides. These are rides at threshold, in either the correct heart rate or power zones. Typically these are no more than an hour in length and focus on maximising that hours training. You will need to know you training parameters such as your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) or your Functional Threshold Heart Rate (FTHR). These will allow you quantify your training and ensure you are working at the appropriate intensity.
One word of caution. We are not advocating that Base Training should be avoided. In fact, if you spend regular periods in the off-season not riding at all then a small base period will be beneficial, allowing the body the build up to the longer efforts. On the other hand if you ride regularly all year, then there is no need to complete a base training period.
So Base Training, no or yes? Both!
If you’re a regular rider, then you can drop your base training all together and focus on specifics. If however, you have had time away from the bike then a specific base training period will be beneficial.
Tim Whitehead is head coach at ECS coaching and is attempting to set a world record time for riding from London – Paris – London as part of THE RAID TWENTY-FOUR.
If you have any questions or would like more information on how to achieve your best season. Please feel free to contact Tim ( email@example.com) and mention JUST PEDAL in the subject line.