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How I Approach Training
Legal disclaimer: Since we are not doctors, never follow anything based on health-related topics on this or related sites without first consulting with your doctor or other trusted health professional.
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.
- Beware countervailing forces: eating too little to lose body fat might paradoxically lead to muscle loss or even weight gain. Eating too little or training too hard can lead to months-long setbacks. Aim for steady progress, and don’t be afraid of a wimpy ride and eating ice cream sometimes.
- 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. See How Much Should a Bicycle Cost?.