Last week we showed you a session (“The not quite ‘Ow!’ hour”) that showed you how to gauge your optimum training level for fast results. Working at this level all the time will leave other parts of your fitness (particularly long haul stamina) neglected, so this week we introduce a session that not only helps push this threshold but also trains your body to recover and relax very quickly between exertions.Introducing the guinea pigs
As soon as we started our regular Tuesday training feature we had a string of people on the forum wanting a training plan for one aim or another. We thought this would be an ideal opportunity to help them out while using them as guinea pigs for to base the training sessions on.
We mailed half a dozen of our keenies with a quick training questionnaire covering their aims, the time they could spend and their training history. Here’s what we found out:
- None of them have heart rate monitors.
- None of them have properly followed a training plan.
- Realistic training frequencies vary from every other weekend and maybe once a week in summer, to others who ride twice at the weekends and 2-3 bike rides / gym sessions a week.
- Between them their main aims are increasing stamina and speed while losing weight, and the event that cropped up time and time again was this years Red Bull 24hr relay race.
With the Red Bull not happening till June we’ve got 4 months to get ready which sounds like a lot of time. Think of it as less than 20 weeks though, and it doesn’t sound so far away. But the last thing we want to do is rush out of winter and end up ill or injured halfway through spring.Session 3: Saw legs What?
This is session that has been proven to work on those fitness freaks, cross-country skiers. We call it ‘saw legs’ because that’s what the exertion profile looks like – a saw – as it builds to a peak and then falls again.
- Warm up gradually for ten minutes until you’ve got a bit of a sweat on and are ready to rock.
- Then increase speed until you hit the threshold level you worked out last week. If you need a clue how that level feels, 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 nor should you have rolling shoulders or gritted teeth.
- If you ride once a week hold this intensity for two minutes. If you ride twice a week hold it for three, if you ride more than that hold it for five minutes.
- Now relax and spin (drop down a whole chainring’s worth of gears at the front) for one minute before accelerating up to threshold level again.
- If you ride once a week repeat this four times. If you ride twice a week repeat it 6 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 it helps, write down what it 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 etc. so the test can be repeated at regular intervals to check progress.Where?
As the session is about consistency, the fewer interruptions there are the better. A flat road route is ideal, with left turning junctions if possible, so you don’t have to stop or slow down as much.
A flat off-road route will work but changing trail conditions will make it harder to compare re-runs round the same route. You should also avoid gates and slow technical sections as they’ll interrupt your rhythm. Hills are great for raising the heart rate but make steady state riding nigh on impossible, so for this ride, avoid them wherever you can.When?
As it’s a strenuous session that requires concentration, do it while you’re fresh. If that means early morning then fine, but lengthen the warm up. Otherwise avoid nights you’ve worked late or had a particularly foul day.Why?
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.
- Fit this training session in every other week if you’re training once a week or once a week (if your training more than once).
- Alternate it with the cruise control workout we showed you last week to speed recovery and increase your stamina.
- If you’re doing other cardiovascular sports then use last week’s ready reckoner to work out equivalent session times.
While you’re being so good midweek, use the weekend as a chance to do whatever ride you want, though at this time of the year. Slow and steady is recommended.Coach Potato’s Chip Tips Hamstring stretch
We’ll be looking at a whole series of stretches to keep you in structural shape. But this is the most important one of all.
Your key skeletal supporter is one long string of muscles and strapping, bridging bony body parts from the base of the neck to the heels. This is why if your legs get stiff, you’re likely to get raging back, neck and shoulder ache before your legs even notice.
The real downer is that the repetitive pedalling motion of cycling never stretches the legs fully out, so the muscles gradually shorten and stiffen.
We’ll be looking at a whole series of stretches to keep you in structural shape. But this is the most important one of all.What?
Hamstring stretch. Elongating the bundle of muscles at the back of the thigh and buttocks.
- Sit on the floor, legs side by side.
- Breathe in, holding your back and head upright
- Exhale slowly and push your hands forwards and down your legs towards your toes.
- Stretch as far as it is comfortable to go, and then hold the stretch for ten seconds or until you feel the muscle start to relax.
- Repeat the stretch twice more, trying to get further each time, but never pushing past the point of ‘grateful’ pain (it should still feel it’s doing you good).
The stretch can also be done standing up, but because of the extra stress on your back it’s not advised for those who already have back problems.Where?
Somewhere warm, where you’re not going to get interrupted till your stretching is over. If you haven’t got a thick rug / carpet then camping mats work very well for stretching on.When?
Straight after a ride before you cool down. Standing poses can be done in the shower, or even out on the bike if you start feeling stiff. It’s also worth having a quick stretch whenever you get the chance at work or home, though make sure your muscles have been doing some activity at least or you risk tearing them.Why?
The Hamstrings are extremely powerful muscles that provide a lot of your pedalling power. If you don’t keep them supple, your pedalling will suffer and you’ll build up tension in your lower back, shoulders, neck and calves as they lose the slack they need to relax and work properly.Next week
Next week we’ll start looking at our guinea pigs in more detail to see how they can fit more fitness into their lives and still have fun on the bike which is, after all, the whole point of the exercise!