I don’t race, I ride. Yet I’m training. Many will question the word training. As if an amateur cannot train. Especially one who does not race. You are not an Olympian, you are not a pro, you are not a racer, you are not training.
Yet I am training. Despite being self-coached my amateur training is more advanced than most professionals of days gone by. I have rigid plans and structures. I have training zones and a ‘fueling strategy’ aka a balanced diet. I monitor progress and apply basic sport science, some of it half-baked, some of it not. The trouble being you never really know which is which. I take myself far too seriously and I wear a headband for christ sake, I must be training.
For what I’m training for, I cannot say. There’s no medals to point to. There’s the small number of hill climb races I enter. Or the bravado of leading out the peloton or the fear of being dropped on a club ride. There’s local hills and personal bests. Yet I’m not really training for any of these.
I used to be a contender. I could have taken that KOM. I was quicker goddammit and now look at me. Pathetic.
Slow with a tailwind, the merest incline induces a series of huffing and puffing and effing and blinding. Strava automatically marks my rides as private as a sign of a respect to my former self. Inner chimp has become inner chump. Yep, I’m most definitely outta shape.
Empty legs, head and heart. The unthinkable has happened. I’ve fallen out of love with cycling. Say what now? Surely not? The urge long lost, denial initially fuelled more riding. Perhaps I’ll just blast through it, I thought, kidding nobody. This lasted for two months before THAT ride.
A guide to what, resting? Are you serious? Yes, very. Knowing when and how to rest is the single most important consideration if you want to become a faster, stronger cyclist. More important than how to train properly, more important than nutrition or aerodynamics or losing weight. More important than the bike you ride. Whaaaa? I know!
Oi you, get off that bike and take a break will you? Without rest all of the above is simply wasted effort because you will be too tired to benefit. I’ve been on a quest dear readers. For two years I’ve searched the farthest recesses of Google, of my body [eugh].
Once upon a time riding a bike was something I did to get to a friend’s house. Said friend lived colossal distances away. About 200 of your adult metres. We would go on bike adventures that strayed a massive 500 metres from our homes. We were 7 years old and bikes were something to play with. Not exactly what you might call a cyclist.
For many this is where our relationship with the bike ends. A tiny minority stick with their two-wheeled friend but most progress to sex, drugs and rock & roll before er, progressing to cars, a mortgage and buying bikes for their own kids.
Yet an increasing number of us are rediscovering the humble bicycle. This makes me happy. Although I’ve always cycled, mostly as a commuter, I followed a similar journey myself many a year ago. Cycling begins as a crazy notion of going for a bike ride and before you know it you’re wearing Lycra, carrying bananas on your back and riding insane distances.
Here then are the seven stages of becoming a cyclist. Which stage are you at?
Indoor cycling is boring, right? Mind numbing. A hamster on a wheel. In a cage. Wearing Lycra. Joy. Yet turbo training is undergoing a makeover with the arrival of smart trainers and virtual training websites such as Zwift, Bkool, Tour de Giro and TrainerRoad. The roads may be pixels but your sweat is real.
Virtual turbo rides have been invading my Strava feed for some time and given I’m a relative newbie to indoor cycling I was keen to log some indoor miles in Zwift’s virtual world. Could Zwift make turbo training enjoyable?
Seven seconds. I spent eight weeks training to be seven seconds quicker. Ha! Yet I don’t question the futility of my existence. Well, no more than usual. I’m pleased, satisfied with my progress and my new hill climbing prowess.
Two months ago I began Chris Carmichael’s Time Crunched Training Plan (TCTP) for new competitors. This was back when I was a slower rider. Now I’m a whopping seven seconds quicker up each of my two of my local hills, my previous PBs set as a man two years younger than I. Geez, I sound like a TV infomercial.
This of course is just one measure. There are many others.
Rest is fitness suicide to the cyclist. To rest is to idle, to degrade. Should Sunday morning arrive and the dear cyclist be found lying on the sofa, you’ll see horror etched on their face, eyes wide and glued to their legs, which they believe are undergoing a Kafkaesque transformation into marshmallow.
Getting a cyclist to rest is like sending a child to bed early. It maybe for our own good yet all we think about is what we’re missing out on. We do not exist if our pedals are not turning.