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Cycling Tips: How I Train (in brief)

Readers ask me how I train so hard every day, so here it is in brief:

  • Ride every day. I do not take days off because it’s psychologically more difficult than a simple ride-every-day rule, and it can devolve into 2 or 3 days once the pattern is broken. If recovery becomes an issue, drop the intensity and/or distance until riding every day is fine, even if that means only 5 miles a day. Then gradually increase the workout intensity and/or duration.
  • Recover properly. I have a friend who scoffs at my rule of a recovery drink within 5 minutes of getting off the bike, calling my 5-minute rule exaggerated in importance. He is welcome to his opinion, but he also seems to have issues recovering from hard rides. Refuel immediately— it won’t hurt and is almost certainly better than 30 minutes, or perhaps even 15 minutes. Delay has no benefits for muscle recovery.
  • Recovery on the bike: if there is a 10-20 minute ride home after a hard workout, consume an extra energy gel (or two), or something like Hammer Perpetuem solids on the bike— 100 to 170 calories. No need to wait to get home; your muscles are ready for the calories.
  • Get enough high quality protein that your body can absorb quickly, not some big meal that takes 2 hours to digest. Especially for sustained training of long duration (miles or altitude), the body cannibalizes muscle protein. It must be replaced, and extra protein is needed to add new muscle. I use Hammer Whey protein isolate, because my experience persuades me that it is superior to plain whey or soy protein.
  • Track your progress. Tracking your workouts is a positive feedback loop (for example: time up a favorite climb).
  • Engage others: by announcing your goals to friends or family, your commitment to those goals is enhanced. My goal for 2012 is to WIN the Everest Challenge in the M45 category. Wow, now I’m on the hook for an audacious goal!
  • If feasible, use a power meter: power is completely objective, so you can train with specific metrics— no guesswork. Also a downward trend for a week or more is warning that the workload is too high. But most important, the power meter is even better than a heart rate meter for a biofeedback loop. I think this is far more of a factor than people realize. I like the SRM power meter crankset.
  • Ride a bike you truly enjoy. There are dead-as-wood bikes that bore me to tears. If your bike doesn’t bring a smile to your face every time you ride, then by definition it sucks (for you), no matter how much anyone else might say it’s a good bike. This is one reason I ride my race wheels with race tires every day of the year— the journey is the reward. If your race wheels can’t hold up to everyday use, then they are poor value by definition, since I want to ride with exuberance and exultation every day.

Values

Dispense with the mental baggage as to what is reasonable to spend on a bike, and don’t look to others for approval: if you ride every day, invest for your own satisfaction, for YOU are your own end in life. If you allow others to dictate what is reasonable (by needing their approval and worse yet, asking for it), you’ll make poor decisions. If you’re married, explain to your wife (or husband) why five bikes are ideal, then bargain down to two or three. Then one bike will seem very reasonable. If the minivan is full of noisy kids, your own sanity demands a good bike, which is cheaper than a psychiatrist. And get a vasectomy.

By the same token, simply spending a lot of money is fraught with peril; research your choices and work with a good bike shop to test ride bikes and save yourself some money, for a less expensive bike might be the dream ride you want at half the price of some other bike. For that matter, there are some superb deals on used bikes out there, last year’s model, etc. If in doubt, wait and learn, ask questions of others about their bike. Go to bike race events where you can test ride bikes from a lot of vendors.

Remember, most people who look astonished as to why you’d spend so much money on a bike probably blow thousands of dollars every year on eating out, movies, coffee or beer or wine, furniture, clothes, cigarettes, iGadgets, and wonder of wonders, health care for health issues caused by inactivity, and so on. Priorities.

I gave CPR to a rider half-way up Old La Honda about five years ago, which is why I had only had 9.5 ascents that day. He died nonetheless, but he had been riding a very nice titanium “Seven” road bike. At least he was enjoying a great ride while the trip lasted, which is the best one can hope for in all aspects of life, speaking both literally and metaphorically.

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