Riding is AWESOME! We all love to get out on the road or trails and have fun. However, it’s MUCH more fun when we get better and improve our fitness over time!
The following tips apply to ALL cyclists, whether casual commuters, recreational or competitive. The more you ride, the more important it is to focus on these things. Hey, if you are putting in the saddle time, you may as well get the best benefits from your efforts! The 3 tips I feel are most important to improve your fitness for cycling include:
- Establish a baseline and decide to “train smarter”
- Have a plan and set goals to improve (even simple ones) on each ride
- Cross Train and recover to avoid injury
Establish a baseline and decide to “train smarter”
In order to improve, it’s important to know your starting point. Not just in terms of fitness, but also your movement quality, risk of injury, and knowledge.
Fitness tests are pretty simple, and can be as basic as straightforward as riding one of your favorite routes. Just track your time early, mid, and late season. This will be a decent indicator of your improvement. If you use apps such as Strava, this is a great way to measure your own progress throughout the riding season, and against others who ride the same routes.
For a more structured evaluation, the “Gold Standard” of cardiovascular fitness testing is a VO2max test (exercise metabolic analysis). In addition to the maximum volume of oxygen you are able to use (VO2max), this test provides your unique heart rate zones, your “fuel efficiency” throughout the entire heart rate spectrum (amount of fat vs. carbs you burn), plus valuable tools such as your aerobic and anaerobic threshold, and wattage at each heart rate level. The test can be completed on virtually any endurance tool, but most are done on a treadmill or bike. (click here for more information).
Regardless of what level of detail you decide on, finding your baseline will be the best way to track your improvement
Have a plan and set goals to improve (even simple ones) on each ride
Sure, casual rides are fun, and should be part of your overall training plan. However, many people spend lots of time riding, but do it at the same intensity, or never really focus the effort they put in.
While a coach can help you set up a more formal training plan, at the simplest level, focus is merely about being mindful of your training efforts. Commuting to work by bike is a great example. To improve, simply decide on what your focus will be during each ride and measure your effort/progress. Even if you ride the same route each day, understanding your heart rate zone and knowing the benefits of each zone will be a great help in getting the most out of your training rides.
The following are simple examples, and will be tailored to your specific needs and goals. However, if you are just starting out, it will give you a great overview of how you can vary your efforts to get better results.
One day you can challenge your ability to steadily ride at threshold (Zone 3). Think of it as going hard for a prolonged period of time. Another day, you may work on power output and interval training by going extra hard in shorter bursts (sprints, or hills). Other days you may decide to ride longer, and go easier. This will work on your aerobic efficiency (Zone 2). Ideally your heart rate is used to measure effort during these sessions.
Longer term goals are great too, but even without those, simply varying your intensity and riding focus will spark improvement!
Cross Train to Improve Performance & Avoid Injury
Endurance athletes (i.e. cyclists and runners) are notorious for being extremely focussed on one particular activity. When they do vary their activity, it’s often to another repetitive, linear, endurance activity (i.e cycling, running, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, etc.). This is a primary reason why these athletes are plagued with nagging and sometimes debilitating injuries over time.
The good news is that a simple, highly effective cross training and recovery program will make a massive difference in performance and injury reduction. At the simplest level, endurance athletes must move their body in ways their sport does not provide. For endurance athletes, this involves greater joint range of motion, rotational patterns, multi-joint coordination,mobility, and strengthening.
Proper recovery is another key piece to this puzzle. Massage, mobility, and foam rolling are essential components that everyone should master, particularly endurance athletes! Following simple strategies that can take as little as a few minutes each day will decrease muscle imbalances and compensation patterns, improve function, and reduce overuse/repetitive stresses on the entire system.
As mentioned in point 1, it’s important to know your starting point and be evaluated regularly. Booking something like a Functional Movement Screen (FMS), or Primal Patterning Movement Analysis will be a wise investment of your time and money as it will provide you the keys. To learn more about FMS or Primal Pattern Analysis, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 403.217.2730.
Have a great riding season! Get outside, have fun, and share the love with those around you!
Yours in health,
FRESH! Wellness Group.
Tim is a mindset and vitality expert who is passionate about helping people live their best life through optimal health and personal performance. He is an avid cyclist who loves the mountains, and has competed in many events such as the TransRockies Challenge, 24 hours of Adrenalin and a few triathlons (just don’t ask him to swim too far or fast).