Here we are then, the start of 2021 – I don’t think anybody will be regretting saying goodbye to a shocking 2020. If you want to be ready to rock come the spring there is no time like the present to start training with purpose and intent. Candidly, now is the time to make it hurt just a little.
However 2021 turns out, by training you’re making a positive statement about the future - you’re investing in your physical and mental health. Arguably, this is the most important down payment you can make because it’s the most precious thing you own.
So, without further philosophising, what should your January look like?
Train, don’t ride – I’m overstating this for affect. There is of course no need to stop riding your bike but there is good reason to stop going on bike rides. It’s more than semantics because if it’s your aim to be as good as you can be come the lighter nights, you need to flick the switch from 'ride’ to ‘train’ mode. This means having structure to both your individual sessions and to your weeks and months. Try asking yourself ‘what purpose does this session serve, how does it relate to my goals?’ If you can’t come up with a plausible answer then stop doing it and start doing something else – something measurable and relevant.
Physiologically, you are going to have to introduce periods of intensity appropriate to your current fitness to overload your system. Coupled with periods of rest and active recovery, this will create the effect you’re after. Frankly, it’s going to hurt a bit. If training doesn’t overload you from time to time, you’re not doing it right. You’ll need to find some accountability to make sure you train hard when you should and rest well when you’re not – without this, your fitness will be an insipid beige.
Psychologically, all endurance athletes embrace hard training, that’s the ‘easy’ bit. Paradoxically, the other vital part of the equation – rest - is where most struggle. Rest is not something you do after training, or something that happens by accident when you’re not training but is part of your training. Rest is the bit where you get fitter and faster, your body adapts to the hurt and repairs itself to cope with the next instalment. Without it you’ll grind yourself down. You’ll risk fatigue and a whole host of injuries – some more sinister than others.
Make your training relevant. If you’re training for time trials, you’ll need to start spending time training in an aero position. Whereas If you’re targeting a 100 mile sportive in August, 45 min balls out sessions on the turbo in January won’t get you far. Take a leaf from the elite athletes note pad and think about polarising your training by making your easy sessions easier and your hard session harder. Being on the smart turbo sweating at threshold will work for a bit but you’ll be visiting Plateau Beige pretty soon.
Weight – Don’t panic! And don’t crash diet. if, if (and it’s a big if) you want to shed a bit of timber because you’ve rinsed the Quality Street over Christmas you can comfortably shed a stone (6kgs or so) sustainably in 12 weeks by carefully counting calories (approx. 500 kcal deficit per day) without compromising your training or rest.
January is an important starting point – if you want some help with your training, please get in touch here.
Happy New Year!
Rich Smith coaches riders in the UK and internationally. He has coached the Great Britain Transplant Cycling team for over 10 years, is a British Cycling qualified Level 3 coach and a mature psychology student. He spent 30 years responding badly to people in authority in senior roles for Barclays, HSBC, British Waterways and National Grid Property before launching RideFast Coaching which is much more fun
The ramblings of a cycling coach...