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CYCLING PERFORMANCE TIPS

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TRAINING TIPS AND TRAINING AIDS


Following are a series of training tips and training aids used by cyclists to improve their personal performance. Although they have been used for improving cycling performance, the ideas could be adapted for other aerobic sports as well. (Nutritional tips have been addressed elsewhere.)

AERO BARS

A nice way to take the pressure off your hands, add another position to your options on a road bike, and increase your average speed about 1 mph without any additional effort. For distance cycling, this is the one accessory that will add the most to your performance.

BIKE WEIGHTS

Nothing more than a lead weight (5.5, 7.7, an 9.9 pounds) offered as a commercial product and attached to your bike, the theory is that if you work harder while training, you'll fly in the race or event. You can make a homemade model by adding lead shot to your water bottle, or in a number of other ways only limited by your imagination.

CLIMBING

A hilly course offers an alternative to an interval ride, and will give you some variety at the same time. And riding a tough course will help you develop the mental attitude needed to face those hills in a race.

COMPUTERIZED TRAINING PROGRAMS

A fancy alternative to the handwritten training diary, these programs do take an extra commitment of time to enter the data. But they may be just the ticket to give you the incentive to collect the numbers, and they will plot your numbers in graphic form which makes it easier to identify trends. And some of them will give you an analysis and recommendation from guidelines written into the program by the author. However like any "cookie cutter" approach, they are tailored for the average athlete, and may not fit all your personal needs.

Commercial products

COOLING DOWN

A good idea to help flush the lactic acid out of your muscles and cut down on soreness the next day. If you can, take 10 to 15 minutes for some leisurely spinning after an event or hard training ride. One study from Iowa looked at lactate levels 20 minutes post exercise in three groups - passive recovery, massage, and slow cycling on a stationary trainer. The easy pedaling group removed more lactate, more quickly, than massage which is often touted as the "gold standard".

CYCLECOMPUTER

You can't record all aspects of a workout accurately and scientifically without a good cyclecomputer - Distance, speed, average speed, cadence, elapsed time.

FLUID DELIVERY SYSTEM

Dehydration can limit optimal performance in a competitive event, and training will suffer too if you don't drink enough. For longer rides, particularly in hot climates or where you don't want to stop for fear of losing the group, a water bottle or two may not be enough, so consider a "Camelbak" or similar fluid delivery system.

GROUP RIDES

Riding with others is an easy way to push yourself. Riding with a group pushes can help push up your over all average speed, as well as offering opportunities for sprints and acceleration training.

HEART RATE MONITOR

INTERVALS

OFF SEASON TRAINING

Picking another sport for the off season will help to refresh you mentally so you come back enthused for the next season's riding. And sports such as in line skating and cross country skiing will keep both your cardiovascular system and leg muscles in shape.

PEDAL CADENCE (spinning)

While training, it is important to consciously work on your pedal cadence (revolutions per minute). Think about the physics for a moment. You are moving yourself and your bicycle a certain distance (therefore expending a certain amount of energy) every minute. If your pedal cadence is twice as great (keeping the total distance and time to cover it the same) the amount of energy imparted to the bicycle/rider combination per revolution of the pedals is 1/2 as much - and the strain on the knees and ligaments in the legs is less per revolution as well. Most regular riders will use a cadence of 80 to 100 per minute on level terrain. If you are getting knee pain, it may be that you need to increase pedal cadence from your current 50 or 60 per minute (a favorite for occasional riders).

Another issue has to do with acceleration of the bike in competition. At higher cadences, it is much easier to accelerate (rapidly increase RPMs) than at a slower cadence. Taking the time to become comfortable riding at higher cadences is an important part of training for recreational riding as well as for competition.

PERSONAL COACH

Although there is some cost involved, it may be less than you think. And a good coach can help you reach your potential by customizing a training program to your needs and goals. To find one, ask local shops, cycling clubs, or check in classified ads in cycling periodicals. Some may use phone conferences and data collected with your heart rate monitor and cyclecomputer.

RACING

Try to race often. There is nothing like a race to prepare you for a race. The more you go through the routine of preparing your bike, warming up, facing the anxiety before the start, and reading the course, the more you will get used to it. And that may be the edge you need when it really counts.

RECOVERY DAYS, REST, AND SLEEP

Don't forget to schedule recovery days into your schedule. Several days with easy spinning and at least one day a week off the bike.

And don't forget to get that 8 to nine hours of sleep. Without it, you will lose the psychological edge and the concentration and reflex speed you need.

RESISTANCE TRAINING

Particularly with mountain biking, you need more than style, you need POWER. Resistance training using free weights or nautilus type equipment is one way to improve your muscle strength. Other options (on the bike) are using a big gear for flat land intervals of several minutes each, and staying seated on long climbs - but watch yourself for knee pain on the latter. Particularly if you decide to push too hard.

ROLLERS

Rollers are an alternative to a stationary trainer (see below). The concepts are the same, the only difference being the need to maintain your balance during the workout (which eliminates the ability to read a book while exercising).

SPEED WORK

At one time, doing long slow distance rides was thought to be the way to train for a long ride (century or double century). But more and more trainers are coming to the conclusion that training faster is the key to improving long distance performance.

Options include riding with a group to push yourself, riding in organized time trials as part of your training program, or using a heart rate monitor and intervals to push the number of minutes you are at your Anaerobic Threshold. And to get the benefit, you will need to push yourself two or three times a week. Then do that long steady ride once a week for recovery and to build up the mileage base.

STATIONARY (INDOOR) TRAINER

Stationary cycling can extend the range of training possibilities. Stormy or dark outside? Need to watch the kids?? Plus you can do intervals while watching your favorite show, reading a book, or listening to your favorite CD. And add one of the more sophisticated models with a computer option, and virtual reality comes to bicycle training.

More information on stationary cycling.

STRETCHING

TRAINING DIARY

As an alternative to one of the computerized "training" programs available as shareware or commercially, a simple, written training diary can be invaluable. Basic information should include:

And don't just jot this information down and forget it. Look at it weekly or monthly for trends.

TUNES (CDs,TAPES)

Not only is it unsafe, but it may be illegal in your state to listen to headphones while cycling. But headphones are a safe diversion while using that INDOOR TRAINER

WARMING UP

A 30 to 60 minute warm up is a good idea for short events. Consider pushing to the point of breaking a sweating just before the start of the event.

WEIGHTS (see also "resistance training")


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Cycling Performance Tips
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