Coach Potato’s Tuesday training No. 6 - Bike Magic

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**How To

Coach Potato’s Tuesday training No. 6

Last week we started putting together individual training plans for our guinea pigs, while the rest of our crop of sprouting riders had a rest week. We’re carrying on sorting out our guinea pigs one by one, and we’re also putting a growing spurt in the training plans for the rest of you planning to make 2002 your fastest year yet.

So first things first let’s meet our next guinea pig:

Name: Stuart Nicholson

Fitness aim: To be faster, mainly uphills, and loose a bit of weight and get ready for the Red Bull. I’m happy with my stamina which is up to doing 30+ miles at a steady pace. Short burst stuff isn’t too bad..”

Circumstances: Stuart rides most weekends and every Wednesday night. He also plays hockey and netball weekly. He reckons there’s room for one more session to pick up his speed. Most of his riding is done around Leeds and Harrogate in the week and Moors, Dales and Peak at the weekend.

Stuart’s type of fitness is very common for mountain bikers. He’s got short burst speed from riding singletrack on the Harrogate Wednesday night ride and his other sports (he also plays netball and hockey weekly). He’s also got steady ‘plod’ fitness from weekend day rides. The missing part – which becomes obvious in races such as the Red Bull – is being able to maintain a steady but fast pace around the aerobic threshold. This is why we’ve been majoring on increasing exactly that fitness with sessions such as “Saw legs”.

Stuart says he can probably fit another session in per week PHD allowing, and he also mentioned some 3-4 minute hills nearby. If you look at the “Quite saw legs” training session below that’s pretty much perfect terrain for throwing loops round. The fact the session can be worked around physical marker points rather than glances at a watch also make it less likely he’ll get cheesed off as he has done with previous interval plans. It’s all looking good for following the weekly training plan without much alteration then.

His major concern is making sure he does actually get fitter rather than just more and more tired. With two strenuous rides a week, a big weekend ride and two hectic sessions with other sports that’s a serious training load for this time of the year. We’d certainly recommend he at least takes a recovery week each month where he just rides when and where he wants at a relaxed pace. If your legs are feeling heavy or there’s a slight soreness in your throat then it’s probably best to bin the next day’s session, or at least take it very easy and use it as a social not a speed trip.

We’ll be covering how to spot overtraining and exhaustion in more detail on here shortly, but today we’ve got advice on how to avoid all the lurgi still trolling round, which is just as important at this time of year.

Coaching summary

‘Top’ and ‘bottom end’ fitness is common, being able to hold a high sustained pace takes specific training.

Don’t do too much too soon or you’ll go backwards not forwards.

The weekly plan

As we said when we recommended you take it easy last week, this week we’re winding up the intensity of training slightly. As it’s still early in the year we’re not starting any really intensive sessions like sprints of hill intervals, we’re just increasing work on your aerobic threshold so you can ride faster for longer.

This week’s key session is an extended version of “Saw Legs” which you’ve suffered before, but we’ll go through it again:

“Quite saw legs”

Really concentrate on mentally preparing yourself to nail each part of the session. Just keep remembering that making the effort now for the final part of each set will make sprints, hills and anything else you care to tackle a whole lot easier come summer.

Warm up gradually for ten minutes until you’ve got a bit of a sweat on.

Then increase speed until you hit the threshold level you worked out last month. If you need a clue – it’s somewhere between the point at which your legs start to burn, and the point where you start having to think about trying. You shouldn’t have enough breath to hold a conversation, but your shoulders shouldn’t be rolling and you shouldn’t have gritted teeth.

If you ride once a week hold this intensity for three minutes. If you ride twice a week hold it for four minutes, if you ride more than that hold it for five minutes.

Now relax and spin (drop down a whole chainrings worth of gears at the front) for a minute before accelerating up to threshold level again.

Only do one “Quite saw legs” session per week, but fitter folk can ride more repetitions each session: If you train once a week repeat the ride and rest sequence five times. If you ride twice a week repeat it 7 times, if you ride more than that go up and back again 8 times.

Now ride home gradually reducing your effort to help your body flush the waste products out of your muscles.

If you’re keeping a training diary to track progress, write down what the session felt like, Heart rate (if available) and where you got to in the session. Also make a note of what weather was like, what bike you were using, trail conditions etc. so the test can be repeated at regular intervals.


Now you’re getting used to training pace, you can ride more varied terrain. Ideally find an offroad loop you can ride a lap of hard in the appropriate time. This has the added advantage of letting you practice corners or other technical sections repeatedly, increasing you speed and smoothness through them each time. You’ll soon be railing the singletrack ready for race day. Just one word of caution though, don’t include anything too steep – either up or down – or it’ll be hard to keep your pulse rate down


As it’s a hard session it’s best to get this one early in the week so you hit it fresh. If you’re running multiple sessions per week we’ll leave you to play the rest by ear. If you’re tired then take it easy, if you’re raring to go fit another hard session in. Keep concentrating on your base fitness with firm continuous rides rather than short sharp shock sessions. You’ll have plenty of time to sharpen up with them later in the year, and pushing too hard now will leave you a spluttering, coughing wreck by Easter.


By repeatedly taking the body to the threshold between efficient muscle use and flat out burn, you train yourself to recognise that level, as well as being able to accelerate up to it easily. This will be particularly useful coming out of slow corners or winding up for the last charge of a race. The sessions also allow you to spend more time at the threshold than a continuous session for the same cumulative effort, and it’s much easier to hold the level for two minutes than it is for a whole 30 minutes.

This creates a more responsive fitness base for everyday riding situations as well as preparing you for the sprint / technical bit / sprint / technical bit nature of most races.

Coach Potato’s fit chip tips Avoiding illness

As you increase the amount of training and riding you do, you reduce the amount of energy your body has left to fight off infection and illness. This is particularly true in the period immediately after training.

  • Isolation ward
    While pro riders have the advantage of being able to shut themselves from the rest of the disease and plague infested world, we just have to try and live with it. If you know anyone with cold, flu, sniffle, cough or some other virus keep as far away from them as possible, particularly after training. If it’s someone you really can’t avoid then cut back your training and use your energy to fight off any bugs instead.
  • Breeding grounds
    Public transport is another merry breeding ground of assorted evils as are busy air-conditioned offices, so again keep clear as much as possible if you’re training hard. Oh and whatever you do, don’t go anywhere near children if you can help it. They are the bug breeding petri dish of the world.
  • Wellness weapons
    On the cheery side there are some pre-emptive moves that can increase your resistance to illness. Extra Vitamin C (Citrus fruit – particularly Kiwi fruit – juice or vitamin pills) and Zinc (chicken soup Zinc tablets) have been shown to help by some researchers, but bulking up the amount of fresh fruit and veg. as well as your water intake is definitely a help for all round health.


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