Although as a professional athlete you’re always seeking to go the extra mile and paying attention to the marginal gains, sometimes it’s best to keep things simple. I’ve selected 6 elements to prioritise if you want to take your cycling to the next level.
Cycling like a pro – my best 6 tips:
1. Bike position:
Most important thing to begin with. Not only does it prevent injuries, which can hinder or prevent training, but you can make yourself so much more aerodynamic and make sure you are targeting the muscles which can produce the most power. Along with improving your bike handling skills!
Example: Get yourself to a bike shop that offer a service to analyse this, or find a local club where you can have people who may have been cycling for longer and can give advice on how you look on the bike. Or at least get yourself on the static trainer next to the mirror as often you will be unaware of how you are riding.
2. Goals & Planning:
Goals aren’t achieved without a plan. Always set the goal and date, then work backwards from it. There are lots of elements that will help you achieve your goal and it’s always easiest to work backwards. Prioritize what is really going to make the difference and make sure you’re covering all the areas you have highlighted to work on.
Example: You have your first town centre race on June 1st. First, you need to assess what will make you good for the event. Sprinting? 1hr threshold fitness level? Upper body strength so you can be in and out of the saddle when accelerating out of corners? Cornering technique? Second, decide which will need the most time and work and schedule them in with the time you have available.
3. Quality not quantity
It is often an old myth that the more hours in the saddle, the better but to get the most out of your training you need to be fresh. Although blocks of overload are good for the body to adapt and grow stronger, nothing can be more detrimental than putting your body in a state of fatigue.
Example: Unless you’re planning to ride stage races, you’re better off doing intervals for half and hour on the indoor bike than spending more time training by commuting to work, where often you will be spending a lot of time freewheeling in traffic with a low heart rate. Every part of your training session should have a purpose, even if it is resting ready for the next effort.
Always be aware of this. The optimum cadence on flat terrain is roughly 90-100 rpm, and when tired it’s easy to let this drop without realising. Maybe invest in a cadence/speed sensor or borrow one just to get a feel for it.
That said, it is also necessary to include specific blocks where you will work at different cadences.
Example: If you have an event with lots of hill climbing, you could include several low cadence blocks, but with an increased power.
5. Core strength
Can be more important than the on-bike training itself. You want to ensure that all the power you put out is going through the pedals and if your core is not strong enough to support this then you upper body will move too much.
Example: To start with, it’s best to begin with your own body weight. Basic press ups, the plank, etc. Focus on finding exercises that can be done in a similar position to on the bike.
An area that can often go forgotten! To adapt to your training you need to allow your body to recover.
Example: Stretch – hip flexors, gluts and quads are the most important for a cyclist if you have minimal time. Helps the muscles recover and makes sure you can get that next training block in ASAP.
Example: Refuel – Always get your protein recovery shake in within 20 minutes of training. You’re refueling your muscles and again ensuring you can start that next training session in the best possible form. There’s no need to over fuel, but timing can be key.
Example: The foam roller. Your ITB can get really tight when cycling and you should be using the foam roller at least twice a week. It’s the one thing I couldn’t be without and would always try to travel with one in my bike bag!