By Jen Fawcette
While riding my big steel commuter bike to work last November I was hit by a car door. The collision damaged the door of the tiny Yaris more than it hurt me, but I took this accident as a sign to put my bike away for the year. Like a cat, I only have so many chances out on the road. I didn’t feel like tempting fate anymore in 2009.
November and December were filled with a variety of off-the-bike activities like yoga (hot and regular), a little running, as well as my most-favourite-activity-ever, holiday eating! Getting “doored” turned out to be the perfect way to start building a base for my 2010 cycling season. It gave me a reason to REST (get off the bike and stay off) and RECOVER, which is the “first step” to building a good cycling base in the off season.
Now that spring is inching closer and I’ve finished the last of the holiday sweets (including the Valentine’s day chocolates), I’ve begun my indoor cycling training. But what’s my goal for the 2010 season? What am I training for? These are good questions to ask yourself right now! Once you establish your goal for the upcoming season, you can start building a training program around it. My goal is to do a 200 mile weekend ride, in June, in 11 hours total. Right now I need to continue working on building my aerobic base. This type of training lasts 8 to 12 weeks. Once I’ve got a solid aerobic foundation I can start incorporating muscular endurance and lactate threshold training, when spring finally rolls in. Building an aerobic base for me entails:
Working on endurance. I’m riding at an indoor cycling studio 3 times a week; at least one of these rides is a “REAL” endurance ride. A real endurance ride means you’re keeping your heart rate in zone 2 — you’re not breathless, you could carry on a conversation with your neighbour (if your instructor allows it) BUT you’re still working. On a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of how hard you’re working (1 being you’re not on the bike and 10 you’re working so hard that you’re puking) you’re around a 5-6/10 (your fat burning zone) for the entire class, which should be at least one hour in length or longer. Endurance rides are offered at many indoor cycling studios, but beware they shouldn’t be grinding your body to a pulp! They’re not as exciting as a normal spinning class, but endurance rides are essential to building a base, and they get your bum used to staying seated in the saddle.
Working the core. The most important group of muscles for cycling is your core! Often cyclists don’t give enough attention to developing their core strength. If you’re doing 200 kms or miles you need strong abs for better power output, to support your back and to reduce injury; you need strong arms to absorb the shock of the road and you need a strong back to support your body over the long hours in the saddle.
I work my core in EVERY indoor cycling class. My studio is equipped with Real Ryder bikes that turn and steer. You can feel the bike move below you. That movement allows you to work your arms, back and abs. Gone are the days of just working your legs on an indoor stationary bike. If you’re not lucky enough to have access to a Real Ryder bike, make sure you do push-ups, sit-ups and planks at home or at the gym. Yoga and pilates are a great way to strengthen your core too.
Doing other activities! I can’t stress this enough. Don’t think that cycling 7 days a week indoors until spring is going to make your upcoming season amazing. It won’t. You may start off the cycling season feeling strong, but by the time the June rolls around, your body and the cycling specific muscles will be fatigued. You will reach your cycling “peak” too early in the season and it’s downhill from there. Right now is the best time to do a variety of activities like hiking, running, or swimming 2 to 3 times a week. You’ll use and strengthen different muscle groups, and at the same time not exhaust the cycling specific ones. I count walking my dog as one of these “other” activities, it doesn’t cost me anything and I’m still getting exercise.
All training schedules can be adjusted depending on the goal of the rider and the time of year, but no training schedule can exclude building a solid aerobic base. If you plan to go out and race hard or if you just want to finish a 50km ride, building a solid cycling base in the winter/spring months is essential to your success.
Jen Fawcette is the assistant manager and indoor cycling coach at Toronto’s newest indoor cycling studio, CYKL. She has an enthusiastic and dynamic coaching style. She applies her cycling knowledge and experience to every class she teaches at CYKL.