When it comes to smart, effective training, going all out isn’t always the best option. One of my sports directors said it best: “It’s easy to train hard, but it’s much more challenging to train hard the right way.” It might sound simple, but year after year, I still see athletes overtraining and losing out on their best possible results because of it. What they don’t realize is that it’s import to train smart.
It’s not always “Shut Up Legs“ and full gas-on training. You need to train high and recover low. That mix makes you train smart and hard. You sweat and suffer but still give your body enough time to recover and turn hours spent pedaling into gains that leave you in better shape on the bike. Use these four tips to train smart and make the most of every workout:
1. Take A Scientific Approach
The approach to training itself has come a long way from my beginnings as a young rider. As a child, I remember the coach telling me “If it hurt today, then it was good training.” As I got older, training became more scientific and structured. When I partook in sports school in East Germany, we measured our resting heart rate first thing in the morning and wrote it into our official journals. We’d check our heart rates on the bike too, but in an old-fashioned way — our coach would actually drive behind us as we rode, honking his horn at a rhythm that allowed us to calculate our heartbeats. Now, devices such as Fitbit’s Charge 3, Ionic, Alta HR, and Versa all measure heart rate and allow you to get effective feedback to help control your training. More knowledge and science often yields better results and smarter training. Smarter training means that you can train more effectively and achieve your training goals quicker.
2. Add Variety To Your Workouts
Variety is the spice of life, so mix it up a little. When I was training, I often scheduled my workouts in three-day blocks. On the first day, my muscles were the freshest and most rested, which made that the day to do high powered, short and intensive workouts. The second day would consist of longer but less-intense workouts. After creating damage to muscle cells for two days, I would finish with a long-and-slow day, something like 6 hours on the bike and no intervals at all. The first day was to build up max power and increase heart rate, the second day was to build stamina, and the third day of that block was to build up endurance and basic miles.
3. Slowly Build Up Your Momentum
In the ideal scenario, your season build-up looks like a pyramid: there’s tons of long-and-slow base miles and rides on the bottom as a foundation. Little by little, you reduce the quantity and increase the quality of your training — that means less hours and more intervals. The most successful cyclist ever, Eddy Merckx, once said you must experience pain when training to make races become easy. From my own experience, I can tell you that your body is only able to do things it has gone through in training. If you want to push 500 watts for 5 minutes, then you cannot train with only 250 watts all year long. You need to slowly train your body to this level, using interval pushes to get closer to your goal.
4. Change Up Your Method
Spending time on the road is important in developing skills that get you comfortable riding the bike and hopping on and off — both of which are essential in cyclocross — but that doesn’t mean it’s the only form of conditioning you should do. Indoor cycling is a great way to stay fit and maintain your overall fitness goals. Indoor cycling gives you the physical strength needed for cyclocross. Long road races require more time on the bike, but a smart way is to either start or finish your ride with indoor cycling.