Coach Potato’s Tuesday training No. 8 - Bike Magic

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**How To

Coach Potato’s Tuesday training No. 8

The nights are getting lighter and its even sunny on a regular (if fleeting) basis. There were even some hard, dry patches of trail yesterday to make thoughts of summer speed a reality – even if a distant one.

So on with the plan to get your muscles and belly as hard as the summer trails themselves, with the peak of our current training phase and advice for another of our guinea pigs. Don’t worry if you don’t have anything in common with this week’s rider though, as we’ll still be keeping you on line with the basic training schedule in the second half.

Name: Richard Brookes

Fitness aim: To lose weight and become generally fitter, including faster recovery from injuries. Possibly do the Red Bull or another 24hour team race in the summer.

Circumstances: I try and get out at least once a week, I run once a week and I have a turbo trainer which I try and get on twice weekly. My local terrain is generally hilly with some big hills to play on and proper trails at the weekend. I can probably put aside about 4 hours a week to get fitter, that’s including the weekend and running.

The spud speaks

After the very restricted time table of Jeremy last week, Richard has a decent amount of time to play with. It’s not a lot though, so we don’t want to waste it by either making him sick of training or not making enough advances to make him feel like it’s worth continuing. A fine line to balance but a very common one.

Hopefully Richard has been following our training plan so far as the one – two weekday sessions schedule will have been pretty much ideal so far. You’ll often read that steady exercise is the best for losing weight, but while it’s true that your body gets more of its energy from fat at lower intensities, it takes longer to get the same overall calorie burn. Richard hasn’t got time in his schedule to sit at a steady fat burning rate for hours on end. Besides his brain would die of the boredom. Training harder still burns the same amount of fat but it also burns glycogen stores as well for an overall higher calorie loss. As these reserves are replaced by fat from elsewhere in the body as well as the food you eat, job’s a good un.

The key issue in losing lard healthily is increasing how many calories you burn through exercise and decreasing how much you eat. It’s a lot more fun burning off an average of 250 Kcal extra per day and eating 250Kcal less than it is trying to starve yourself of 500kcal. Plus you’re getting fitter too which is the whole point.

Another aspect of Richard’s fitness plan which is worth talking about is his running. As a way of burning calories and getting fitter in a limited amount of time running is great. Trouble is cycling really shortens the muscles and attaching tendons in the backs of the legs so you need to be really regular with your stretching to keep injuries and ache anywhere from your feet to your neck at bay.

Finally Richard is one of a few of our guinea pigs who has a heart rate monitor. They are extremely useful pieces of kit if you use them properly, and that’s a future article in itself, but for now we’ll just explain the basics in the training tips box at the end of this weeks feature.

Coaching summary

Fat loss is much better achieved by exercising slightly more and eating slightly less than just by dieting.

Higher paced rides burn more food energy than slow ‘fat burning’ rides.
Running is a very efficient way to train, but make sure you stretch regularly.

Now we’ve given Richard something to work with here’s the training plan for the rest of you.

The weekly plan

This is the last hard week of our three weeks hard, one week easy training rotation, so grit your teeth and make it count. So your tired brain hasn’t got to cope with anything new or clever it’s just a repeat of the first week of the cycle, but we’ll stick it in here again so you don’t have to go looking.

“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 Heart rate monitors What?

Heart rate monitors record the electrical impulse that stimulates your heart to contract, and display the reading as your beats per minute heart rate.

They normally consist of a watch style display and an electrode equipped measuring belt that goes just underneath your chest, passing over your heart. They range from simple heart-rate-only devices for £40 to highly complex computer downloadable cycle computers with multiple alarms and training zones at £200+


How fast your heart is beating is a good indication of how hard your body is working. However the actual number only means anything in relation to your own resting and maximum heart rates, comparing it with other people is a waste of time.

How do I use it

First you need to work out how much work your heart normally does. You’ll often see instructions to work out your maximum heart rate as 220 beats minus your age. This works for some people but for other’s it’s completely inaccurate and could lead to serious overtraining. The best way to work it out is simply to check what your monitor reads when you’re riding as hard as you can (normally this means sprinting uphill).

The next parameter is your resting heart rate. Again just check your heart rate regularly when you’re rested (sat still reading before bed or just after waking up is the best time) and find the average reading after a week or so. Subtracting this figure from your maximum heart rate gives you your ‘heart rate reserve’ (HRR). Work out your zone percentages from your HRR and then add your resting heart rate to give the actual bpm zone limits.

Beware many ‘helpful’ heart rate monitors and even training manuals which work out the zones just as a percentage of maximum heart rate. This can be inaccurate enough to be dangerous so ignore them and do your own calculations.

What are training zones?

You’ll often hear folk talking about training zones. The five zones are normally worked out as follows:

Level / Zone 1: Healthy heart zone = 50 – 60% of HRR. Lowers blood pressure and gently exercises the heart. Also works as active recovery for trained athletes.

Level / Zone 2: Temperate zone = 60 – 70% of HRR. Increases heart fitness and body burns a high proportion of fat. This is the level you’re aiming for with the “Cruise control” sessions.

Level / Zone 3: Aerobic zone = 70 – 80% of HRR. Increases heart, muscle and lung efficiency for long range stamina.

Level / Zone 4: Threshold zone = 80 – 90% of HRR. The boundary between efficient sustained aerobic work with enough oxygen and far less efficient, fast burn anaerobic work where not enough oxygen is present. You’ll feel the change as a ‘burning’ sensation as your oxygen starved muscles start to produce lactic acid. This the threshold you’re trying to find with the “Not quite ow hour” and “Saw Legs” sessions.

Level / Zone 5: Redline zone = 90 – 100% of HRR. Flat out, short burst maximum exertion. Only recommended for trained athletes.

(Obviously these figures are general guidelines but don’t be surprised if you’ve previously been working much harder than you thought).

Ready to go or time to slow?

Resting heart rate is also an excellent guide to your fatigue levels. If it’s over 10% higher than normal. your body hasn’t fully recovered yet so take a rest the next day. If it’s over 10% lower than normal then your body is exhausted so take at least two days off.

However don’t be surprised if your heart rate gradually drops during a training programme at the bigger and stronger your heart becomes by training hard, the slower it needs to pump to maintain resting blood circulation demands.


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