As the summer season approaches, here’s hoping you’ve been able to stay motivated throughout those cold winter months. For those of you that have struggled to get out of bed this winter, here’s a few things to consider about heart rate thresholds and five main training areas to concentrate on. Before long we’ll have you ready and raring for a cracking riding season.
For those of you who use a heart rate monitor as a training aid, you need to identify your actual maximum heart rate in order to determine your appropriate training zone. Maximum heart rate can be determined by undertaking a maximum heart rate stress test, which although relatively short does require you to push your body and your heart to the very limit. Alternatively, the easiest and best known method to calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR) is to use the following formula for men: MHR = 220 minus your age. For women: MHR = 200 minus your age. Another option for measuring your maximum heart rate is to find a long steady hill climb and ride it. Ensure that the hill will provide you with an opportunity to increase your tempo and keep you climbing for at least five minutes. After five minutes and you feel you can climb no faster, stand up and sprint for 15 seconds. At this point, the world should be getting black and you really feel like falling off your bike. At 15 seconds, stop and take your heart rate. I did this recently on a local climb up Black Mountain and was seeing stars at 199bpm. I don’t really want to visit that place again!
Road cycling is predominantly an endurance sport. As a result, you need to spend plenty of time punching out the km’s and increasing your aerobic fitness. Cycling is all about putting hours into the bike and one of the easiest ways to improve your performance is by simply riding your bike as much as possible. In order to maximise your endurance training potential, rides should be for a minimum of 60 minutes and preferably for 120 minutes plus. Rides should be undertaken at 55-65% of your maximum heart rate.
Interval training involves a series of low to high intensity exercise bursts. Interval training can be done effectively on the road or on your trainer. Interval training is an important tool for maximising your aerobic capacity, increasing your cardiovascular fitness and hammering calories. I regularly use my trainer to interval train. The most effective motivational tool I have found for the job is Sufferfest’s Downward Spiral. It gives me a real work out. www.thesufferfest.com. High intensity intervals should last anywhere from 15 seconds to 5 minutes, with a corresponding recovery period in between. Interval training is a guaranteed way to maximise your potential.
Your lactate or anaerobic threshold is the point at which your muscles start to fatigue. Threshold training forces you to work at your optimal training intensity and maintain that level for a period of time. If you work too hard, you risk too great a contribution of anaerobic metabolism to the energy supply, which leads to an accumulation of lactate and rapid fatigue: go too easy and you may not be training hard enough to gain the maximum benefit to your aerobic capacity. A great way to Threshold train is to TT. Find a ride that you can TT for 30 minutes and ride at 80-85% of your maximum heart rate. Ideally, try and fit this in once a week to reap the rewards.
Hill training is all about developing power and drive in your legs. The more you climb, the better you will get at it. It’s a simple fact. As my training partner once said to me, once you conquer climbing, you can conquer cycling. Climbing hills is all about efficiency. Standing is definitely a more powerful way of charging up the mountain, but it’s also a faster way to reaching the red zone! Remaining seated and in a comfortable position and pace is definitely more efficient. Research suggests that standing uses 10-12% more energy than remaining in the saddle. Find a hill in your local area that takes between three to five minutes to climb. Climb the hill three to five times, with a four minute recovery between ascents.
Recovery training is an imperative part of your training regime. These low intensity workouts are a fantastic way to get blood circulating and reduce inflammation. Easing up on the pedals enhances blood flow and helps to flush your legs of lactic acid. Be sure to add in a thirty minute recovery ride into your program. Be sure to pick a flat course and aim to spin somewhere around 30% of your MHR. Keep up your fluids and simply enjoy the feeling of riding and not RACING your bike.