By Luke Ramseth
This is the second of perhaps three or four posts about collegiate cycling, and my experience doing it at HSU. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions, or want me to try and cover something specific. I’d be happy to give it a go.
There is a misconception about training for collegiate bike racing, or any bike racing, and it goes something like this: “I can ride tons during the week, stay up late for all my school work, travel every weekend to the races, and I will be so incredibly fast after just a couple weeks. I’ll just go hard all the time! I DON’T NEED REST!”
Uhhh, right. When I write it down it looks stupid, and you should quickly and clearly deduce why that strategy won’t pay off. Plenty of people have thought that’s their ticket to success, but I’m here to say it’s the strategy for getting tired, burned out, and fed up.
Now that you’re getting into the meat of the collegiate racing season, there’s really just one strategy for training to get faster while still staying sane, assuming you’re traveling to several of the races. That strategy is simply to rest a lot, and tune up your legs and body for racing at just the right times.
If you’re racing Stanford this weekend, and you’ve got UC Berkeley next weekend, the training between the two might look something like this:
Monday: Totally off the bike, or a light spin. The day after a race weekend, you’re probably pretty tuckered out, not only from some hard riding, but also the travel and perhaps a lack of sleep. Listen to your body — if you don’t even want to think about riding, then don’t. Get caught up on school work, and stretch those taught muscles. If you have a little downtime, though, go for an easy spin for a half hour, which will often help your body feel back to normal more quickly.
Tuesday: Might look a lot like Monday. I typically would find I’d still be pretty tired on Tuesday, and might only head out for an easy hour-long recovery ride. Sometimes, I’d attempt the “Tuesday Nighter” — the race-pace ride that heads out West End Road and Fieldbrook — but my legs would almost always laugh, and later try to fight back at me for attempting such an idiotic and painful effort. I don’t recommend putting yourself through such a battle with your rubbery, jelly-like legs before they’re ready to rip.
Wednesday: Intense ride. Midweek is a good time to do your one fast, tough ride. If it’s a club ride, mix in some sprints and pacelining with your teammates. By Wednesday, you should be mostly recovered, and it’s time to “tune-up” your legs and body for the next weekend of racing. You want to give them a little taste of intensity, so they don’t fall flat when the going gets tough at the next race. If you did the Tuesday Nighter or another tough group ride Tuesday, you might consider taking Wednesday easy, or doing something like a two hour long easy spin. The key is this: sometime in the middle of the week (between Tuesday and Thursday), you should do one hard effort, so your body don’t fall asleep, get complacent, and forget what it’s like to suffer.
Thursday: One to three hours at an easy pace. This should be another relatively easy ride. If you want to add a little bit of “volume,” i.e. longer distance, you might consider doing it on a Thursday. But just a brief spin is fine, too, if that’s what you have time for.
Friday: Opener ride. Perhaps one hour of riding with several “jumps” or sprints mixed in to get the legs prepped for the weekend ahead is ideal for today’s ride. See last week’s post for more specifics about what an opener ride should entail.
The training schedule above can be summed up in just a few words: race, recover, intensity ride, recover, opener, and race again.
Even keeping up this basic, low-key training schedule can leave a bike racer exhausted after a few weeks. Thinking of your training as “blocks” of training and rest can be helpful; I, like many other racers, do three straight weeks of training and racing, and one week of rest. For a true rest week, skip the intensity ride and just ride your bike twice for perhaps an hour and a half each time. This type of alternated training schedule and rest week schedule allows the body to fully recover from all the training and stress that’s slowly been accumulating over the last three weeks.
If you follow this basic structure, you’ll hopefully come into form as the season continues, even if you didn’t train much before the racing began. Your real fitness gains will come from the racing itself and the midweek intensity ride, while pretty much everything else is rest. This strategy is also known as “racing into shape,” and if you do it right, it should have you peaking for the last few (and most important) races of the season, including WCCC Conference Championships.
Keeping this sort of regular training structure in mind — and do feel feel to modify it, as you see fit — will hopefully give you the time to keep up with everything else in your life, including class, while still making incremental fitness gains week after week.