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**How To

Tuesday Training – Spring into action

After a rest week last week we’ll know you’ll be bouncing off the walls with supressed athletic energy and with spring in the air it’s the perfect time to flex that new found fitness. However, before we find out exactly how far and how fast you’ve come on since the start of the plan, it’s time to open the training hutch of another of our guinea pigs as we meet forum lynchpin Pimpmaster Jazz.

Name: Pimpmaster Jazz

Fitness aim: To get fit for a better result in the Red Bull in June.

Circumstances: I can realistically fit in one evening per week on flat singletrack and a similar ride at the weekend, but I am venturing to bigger hills once a month.

I run a couple of miles once a week and do martial arts twice a week. I found
running helped a lot with my lung capacity when I raced youth XC. I now need to work on my thighs, because they are what caused me problems on last year’s Red Bull.

Last year I was commuting twice a week through London (11 miles each way) and riding most weekends. I am still riding at the weekends, but have to commute 60 miles to work, which takes a lot of my time. I found the commuting very good for short, sharp bursts (between lights, cars etc.) but did not really benefit my endurance.

I have a niggling leg injury, which prevents me from running more than once a week. I run offroad to ease pressure on my knees. I am considering riding to a
local pool (12 miles each way) and doing 30 mins swimming once a week during the evening.

The spud speaks!

Pimpmaster’s current fitness workload is typical of many folk who enjoy several different sports rather than just burying themselves in one. The good news is this actually works really well for all round fitness flexibility and health, and only needs a bit of specific tuning to maximise the cycling improvements. We’ll go through each bit of information and see how it can be turned into a lower Red Bull laptime for 2002.

If he was getting ready for a big mountain epic – like one of the Welsh marathons – the lack of hills in his weekly riding could be a problem. However though the Red Bull course has some strength sapping drags and a couple of short sharp ups, there’s nothing we’d classify as needing specific hill training. Two rides a week is also enough to gain ‘accidental’ (rather than planned) fitness but if he could fit a planned training session into the week – or just every other week – then his speed would increase significantly.

The proposed ride to swimming and then back again seems an obvious candidate to be swapped for this session. One swimming session a week won’t make him a much faster swimmer as he already does martial arts and cycling twice a week, which make them the natural priority for any body development and upgrading. Following the way of the dragon typically includes intensive warm up and warm down stretching sessions too, so he doesn’t need the all over body conditioning and flexibility that swimming can bring. Besides, from what we’ve read on the forum we’re sure Diane GG and Anne Brown can be persuaded to do a personal swimsuit parade to make up for what he’s missing down the pool!

As we’ve said, martial arts are generally very well-structured and disciplined sessions that develop great all round fitness as well as the skills to defend your decision to wear pyjamas in public, so we’ve no problem with the Pimp still chopping his log twice a week.

Running also gets a fitness fix in very quickly and efficiently, and by running off road, Pimp is reducing impact stress and helping to strengthen the lateral support muscles and joint ligaments that are neglected by mountain biking. It’ll also come in handy if he has to run the first leg of the Red Bull.
As for the Jazzmaster’s worries about thigh strength, running will definitely help, but today’s top tips introduces you to an often overlooked technique that’s becoming more and more widely used to improve leg strength and explosive power.

Coaching summary

  • Multiple sports can be great for all round strength and fitness.
  • Don’t spread yourself too thinly though, or you’ll just be mediocre at everything!
  • Riding twice a week can improve your riding but adding another session every other week will really pick up progress.

Now we’ve sorted out the Jazzmaster’s training diary here’s the next phase of the training plan for the rest of you.

The weekly plan

As we suggested at the start, with two months of the plan behind us, it’s time to check on your progress so far. The first session of the week is therefore a re-run of the first session we ever ran, so you can see exactly how far you’ve got with your fitness, and whether it’s working for you.

A word of warning in case you find you haven’t made as much progress as you hoped. Fitness and fatigue are only partly influenced by training, the rest of your life can have a far more dramatic effect on your strength and health. The bottom line is that if you feel like shite, don’t do the session, and if you aren’t as far ahead as you thought then don’t give up. These things take time and some folk improve faster than others. If you drive yourself too hard you’ll stop enjoying your bike riding and that’s the last thing we want to happen!

Anyway on with the benchmark set:

Session 1: “The not quite ‘Ow!’ hour” What?

This is repeat of our first session for finding out the improvements in your optimum training level.

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 level you reckon you can hold for 40 minutes of riding. 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 go over hills, don’t blow your legs up over the climb, but make sure you keep the pressure on down the far side.

Don’t let your mind wander, keep thinking about the task in hand and concentrate on smooth pedal strokes and even speed.

As you pass the 30 minute mark you should hopefully have settled into a good rythmn and fast cruising speed. Try and concentrate on what the speed feels like in your legs and your head, and what gears you are using. If you have a heart rate monitor note what it’s saying.

Don’t try and accelerate to a flying finish, just maintain the pace to the end of the 40 minutes and then ride home gradually reducing your effort.

Now simply check how far you got this time with how far you got last time, hopefully you’ll be lot further down the track.


As gauging the improvement between sessions is about consistency, the same route is crucial. The closer you can get to the same traffic, weather and bike conditions (right down to tyre pressure) too, the more meaningful the comparison will be.


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.


You might be able to go hard for a few minutes, but few people will be able to push the pace much over half an hour. As a result the speed you can sustain at the end of 40 minutes is a good gauge of the speed at which your body stops burning fuel efficiently and starts to struggle as you run out of oxygen.

This “Aerobic threshold” is the keystone of any training plan to improve speed, power, long distance capability and all round fitness. Identifying what it feels like is therefore essential.

If you’ve got space for a second session during the weekend then we’ll take a cue from Pimpmaster Jazz and get some freeform sprint skiffle grooves going for you crazy training cats.

Singletrack sprint attack What?

After all the carefully controlled steady state or aerobic threshold sessions we’ve been doing we figured it was time to give you a taste of the speed you should expect by summer.

Basically head out for somewhere fun to ride and go nuts until your legs pop. We’ll do this a lot more scientifically later, but for now just get out and have fun.

Once you’ve done a steady warm up getting to your chosen play area then pick the first feeble excuse for a sprint and go for it. If you’re round town, get ready for some “fast and furious” action at the traffic lights, if you’re on singletrack charge as hard as you can between corners. If you’re in the middle of nowhere then just race between lamp posts or trees.

As for intensity, just sprint as hard as you can until the burning in your legs gets too much. Wait until the stinging subsides, then look for another excuse to go nuts again. Repeat this until you’re too knackered to get yourself out of the saddle anymore.

Go home grinning and warming down gently.


Anywhere you like, but ideally with something to sprint between or something to chase – (Ooo-er).


Whenever you feel frisky and you’re driving folk at work / home mad.


This session is just to get you in the mood for higher intensity session nearer the summer, and starts your body getting used to fast power output and repeated recovery. We also thought you’d be bored of all the neatly controlled sessions we’ve given you so far.

The weekend

Well done if you manage to complete both these rides during the week. Your legs might ache on the hills after the 40 minute charge and then all the sprinting, but hopefully you’ll still have energy for a good weekend ride.

Anyway, have a good one and we’ll see you next week, for week two of our rider improvement programme.

Coach Potato’s Chip Tips Potato plyometrics

This is a session largely developed in by eastern European and Soviet trainers, mainly because anyone found trying it in this country would probably have been locked up!


The basic premise of Plyometrics is that using your muscles to absorb a sudden force increases their ability to produce one, and notable recent converts include Steve Peat who seems to be flying on the bike as a result.


The basic technique involves jumping from a squating position, extending your legs ‘in flight’ and then landing in the same position. To reduce the impact on the legs and knees in the early stages it’s best to jump up onto something, so your body isn’t accelerating as it comes back down. After stretching and warming up with a short run, start with a couple of steps or a secure landing platform and try ten jumps before resting and then repeating the session.


As you progress jump up bigger steps, and if that starts to get easy, start jumping down from objects. We wouldn’t advise you to start leaping down flights of stairs at home / work as your ankles / the cat / the important client you landed on probably won’t be pleased.


As with all explosive techniques it is easy to injure yourself if you aren’t prepared, so make sure you take things steadily and don’t overstep the mark and end up in heap.


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