Rowe & King Coaching: Training smarter, not more

Getting the most out of your training is not necessarily about training more. It’s about training smarter.

By training smarter, you can become a better athlete whilst committing fewer hours of your busy week. The key is to train smarter, not more, by avoiding the junk miles. Here are a few fundamentals to remember.

Nothing changes overnight

Your training needs to be progressive. If you are a novice cyclist and want to complete a 100 mile sportive with 4,000ft of climbing in 4 months time, don’t expect to be able to be in that sort of condition next week. It’s all about making progress, slowly but steadily. Without the endurance, you won’t have the fitness to complete and benefit from the intense efforts that come later down the line.

smarterPicture this – it’s your first week of training and on day 1, you go out and do some intervals up a mountain. The next day, you are not going to be able to walk.

Splitting your training in to phases will ensure you build up to your goal progressively, reducing the risk of injury or total exhaustion.

Train with intensity

Even if you are lucky enough to have a spare 30 hours a week to dedicate to cycling, it is likely that you will get more out of yourself if you didn’t ride your bike 30 hours a week. Very few people can handle that sort of workload, at any sort of intensity. Unless your aim is to complete ultra long distance events like 12 or 24-hour time trials, or rides across countries – then stay away from riding in ‘no mans zone’ for hours on end. Instead, get smart with your training and put some structure in place. Give yourself time to work on those specifics that will help achieve your end goal.

Train your strengths

The old saying ‘Train your weakness, race your strengths’ is fine. However, without training your strength, it is never going to really be a massive strength. Your natural strengths are what separate you from the rest. You are born with ability, so make the most of it and ensure it remains your strength. This may be technique or bike handling, climbing, time trialing, sprinting, etc. Whatever it is that you find comes natural, make sure you dedicate training time towards it, ensuring your natural strength really packs a punch.

Don’t abandon your weakness

You can’t abandon your weakness. If you find climbing difficult, and you never put any focus on climbing in training – as soon as an event goes uphill, both physically and mentally you are finished.

By giving your weakness some attention in training, you know when you come to that dreaded uphill section, you will be ready for it. You have worked on your climbing in training, so physically and mentally the challenge will be less.

All the above components, plus more make a structured training plan

A properly structured training plan needs to take into consideration you as an individual, your strengths, weaknesses and goals. Put the whole lot in to a melting pot, along with the right training techniques and sessions and you have the basis of a thorough training programme.

If you are heavily fatigued from last nights training session, there may be little value in continuing with your original training plan. Depending on the phase you are in, and when your next rest day is, the smart option may be to alter your training in favour of a lighter session. Or it may be a case of cracking on and getting it done. There is rarely one-size fits all answer – we are all different.

smarterLuke:I am naturally quite a powerful rider and can have a decent sprint – handy in lead-outs. Naturally, I struggle on the climbs as I am towards the bigger end of the scale in terms of rider size. For me, its important that I maintain my power and sprint, as this is what makes me the rider I am – I have some natural power which I draw upon across the cobbles in the classics, and in positioning the team leader at the front of the bunch in a hectic bunch sprint, or before the final climb of the race.

That’s all well and good being able to produce that power and speed when needed, however without being able to get over the climbs – like in the Tour de France, I am unable to do my job. For this reason, I ensure I focus on my climbing in training, not just my sprinting.”

Dani: “Similar to Luke I guess, my riding style is quite punchy, and with a track background – I struggle on the climbs. For this reason, I spend as much time as I can on my endurance rides doing climbs. In Mallorca at the start of the year, I always head in to the mountains where I naturally struggle, and ensure I factor some climbing specific efforts in to my training, forcing me in to the red on a long climb, and forcing me to recover whilst still climbing at speed. That said, I am always doing sprint specific sessions as this is where my natural abilities lie and what gives me an edge. If you don’t use it, you lose it!”