Training for any sport involves a seesaw balance of stress and adaptation. Training is one of the first and foremost things we always look at if we are not improving or not going as well as we would like. We always look at this first when it is in fact the last thing we need to look at and instead cover the bases and look outside of our time on the bike.
When setting out your program you need to look at all of the factors that surround your cycling by initially asking yourself the questions below. If you can't answer these with conviction, you maybe underutilizing the benefits of your training program.
- Is my bike set up correct?
- Do I have any muscle imbalances that may affect my pedaling stroke?
- Is my iron within the normal range for an athlete?
- Does my nutrition meet the demands of my work, my training and my recovery?
- Do I include enough recovery time in my program?
Is my bike set up correct?
The biggest assumption that people make is that it feels ok so it is. However we are a system of levers that work around another system of levers that is our bike. So when the angles are ineffective we will not produce as much power as what we could and also induce unwanted injuries. Every revolution of missing power adds up. And bike size? Does your bicycle fit you correctly? Over time bike set up needs to be regularly re-adjusted. As flexibility, strength and even body weight change our ability to leverage ourselves around the bike changes. This should be done at least once per year.
Do I have any muscle imbalances that may affect my pedaling stroke?
We may look symmetric but more often than not we aren't. Our bikes are very symmetric and when we tend not to be morphologically or functionally and this can induce injury over time. A simple muscle balance assessment with a physiotherapist can help identify asymmetries and not only prevent injury but improve power.
Is my Iron within the normal range for an athlete?
Iron is essential for endurance performance because it carries much needed oxygen to our muscles. The main purpose of endurance training is to improve oxygen delivery. But if we are limited by a lack of iron any training we do to improve oxygen delivery (ie. any aerobic training!) is useless. Regular iron tests are recommended to establish normal values over time so you can see trends. You can get copies of these when you request a test from your GP.
Does my nutrition meet the demands of my work, my training and my recovery?
Replenishing the muscles and tissues of the body only happens with adequate nutrition. It is not just a case of "what you are eating" but more importantly how much you are eating and when. Endurance athletes classically fall into the under eating category and it is common to see with correct guidance athletes eating twice the amount and loosing weight because they are finally in balance with energy in and energy out and there bodies aren't clasping hold of everything they eat.
Time changes everything and these questions need to be asked frequently to stay on top of things. It is easy to assume these things are ok but you will never know unless you investigate. Prevention is easier than cure and it leads to continuous improvement. The best training program in the world will be useless if these other factors are not balanced to ensure that when you dig the hole through training you bounce back through recover and full it back up. It is easy to become oblivious to our improvement or lack there of in training. We ride week in week out and forget to ask ourselves these questions. Starting with the factors that can make your training program ineffectual will then help you look at what you are actually doing in training and enable you to analyze this and make sure its continuously beneficial.
This article originally appeared in New Zealand Endurance Sport Magazine. Amy Taylor is an Auckland based Exercise Physiologist with a MSc(Hons) in Sports Science. One of the founders of Kinetic Edge Training Technology (www.kecycling.com) she coaches recreational to World Champion cyclists and has been cycling herself for 14 years and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org