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Training Tips For Spring Events Or Races

Ask a Pro — Diane Stibbard

Coach, Personal Trainer, and Two-Time Canadian Duathlete of the Year

Diane Stibbard - two-time dualthlete of the yearQ: I’m doing part of the Rideau Lakes Tour (a hilly 100 km out and back) in early June. How much time should I spend spinning in February?

A:  Depending on where you live, training for an early season race or event is tricky. Many cyclists live in regions with long winters, and no options for getting outside on the bike until late March or early April. How then do you adequately prepare for an early June race or event? This is where indoor training becomes crucial—not just a way to maintain fitness and prevent weight gain during the off-season but a necessary part of preparing for an early-season event.

Indoor training is not the same as riding your bike outside. There isn’t a direct 1:1 ratio of time spent pedalling indoors to time spent riding outdoors. On a spin bike, or on your own bike on a stationary trainer, there’s no coasting. Once you stop pedalling you stop moving. An hour of indoor riding is the equivalent of 65 to 70 minutes outside.

When I write training programs for my clients, I break the month up into a three-week build cycle with a one-week recovery week. In the recovery week, I reduce the volume by around 10% to 15%, while maintaining the intensity of the rides. Let’s look at a typical monthly schedule for February, assuming there will be some outdoor riding in March.

Week one:
3×60 minute rides per week
1×90 minutes rides per week
*An option for more serious riders is to include a 5th ride per week of 60 minutes.

Week Two:
2×60 minute rides per week
1×75 minute ride per week
1x 1.45 minute ride per week
*An option for more serious riders is to include a 5th ride per week of 75 minutes.

Week Three:
3×75 minute rides per week
1x 2 hour ride per week
*An option for more serious riders is to include a 5th ride per week of 75 minutes.

Week Four:
1×2 hour ride per week
2×75 minute rides per week
1×60 minute ride per week
*An option for more serious riders is to include a 5th ride per week of 60 minutes.

The above schedule outlines the riding time needed during the month of February. However, the Rideau Lakes Tour requires the rider to prepare for a hilly out and back route. To prepare for this during the February indoor training schedule, include the following types of rides each week:

    1. A long ride to develop aerobic endurance – zones 2 and 3 for most of the rides (a rolling terrain type of ride – so move through all the gears, as well as from the big chain ring to the small chain ring throughout the ride).
    2. One shorter 60 minute ride per week – within the ride include some high zone 3 to low zone 4 threshold segments
    3. One shorter ride per week – include short segments of zone 3 and 4 riding intensities.

The experience and fitness level of the cyclist will dictate the intensity of the training. For riders whose goal is to just complete the event, keep all your rides in zone 2 and 3. For cyclists who are more competitive and who want to stay with stronger riders, it’s important to include zone 4 segments of training.

Note: The above guidelines are for someone who has maintained an average of 3×60 minute indoor rides per week during December and January. If you’ve done less than that then you may need to build some more time in the saddle. Adjust the schedule as needed.

Let’s hope March brings some decent weather for us all to get outside on our bikes.

Training for a two-day cycling eventDiane provides training programs for recreational and competitive cyclists, duathletes and triathletes, including nutritional counseling and personal training. Does your company need a fitness consultant? Get in touch with Diane to discuss fitness seminars for corporations

You want personal training but don’t live near Diane? No problem. Diane does email and telephone consultations. To learn more, visit Diane’s website or contact her at

Check out Diane’s e-programs: Keeping Fit in the Off-Season and Training For a Two-Day Charity Event For the Time-Starved Cyclist.

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