Pep up your spring training with these six simple sessions to ride faster, all taking an hour or less…
Been training hard this winter? Or have things not quite gone to plan? Either way, we’d lay money on you being ready to add a bit of speedwork into your bike training by now. You should be gradually increasing your riding volume with a long ride on the weekend (anything from an hour for sprint racers up to three or four for long-distance athletes). Down the week you need to add in some strength and speed work. We’ve come up with six simple sessions to pick and mix so you can easily build your fitness.
1. KILLER COMMUTE
Instead of your usual dawdle to work, make the ride interesting and build up fitness while you’re at it with this bike fartlek. Take the first 10 minutes easy (zone 1 or 2) then use every incline to push up your heart rate, as long as it’s safe of course. Start by pushing up into zone 3, then after a couple of weeks aim for zone 4. Use the downhills and flats for recoveries and keep those really easy.
2. QUICK HILL REPS
Use your pre-work or lunchtime rides for a 45-minute session of hill reps, but instead of spinning, use a harder gear and lower cadence to work on your leg strength – try to stay seated as much as possible. Look for a hill that takes about five minutes to ride up and aim for two to three reps to begin with, using the ride to and from the hill to warm up and cool down.
3. POWER HOUR
Use this turbo session from coach and elite cyclist Eamonn Deane. Warm up for 15 minutes in an easy gear, gradually building your heart rate. Then do 3×2 minutes hard and controlled riding in a big gear, with 90 secs rest; 4mins easy spinning; 3x1min hard and controlled in a big gear, with 60secs rest; 4mins easy spinning; 3x30secs at maximum effort with 30secs rest. Cool down with 15mins in an easy gear, bringing your heart rate down.
4. RACE PRACTICE
Meet a mate before or after work for an hour of race practice. After warming up, ride just below your target race pace for 2x10min bursts, and take it in turns to ride in front. Concentrate on holding that pace – ideally without constantly checking your gadgets – while reminding yourself what it’s like to ride at a legal drafting distance. Riding just outside the limit gives you a hare to follow and will safe some energy.
5. JOY RIDE
Add one 45 to 60-minute ride to your schedule for a few weeks that is just about enjoyment. Keep your heart rate or effort level down in zone 1 or 2 – or better still, don’t measure it at all. Take a friend, ideally someone less experienced or less fit than you so you’re not tempted to start racing each other, and just enjoy the scenery. This is a particularly valuable thing to do if you’ve skipped a lot of base training over winter: it will build your base fitness while reminding you what you love about cycling.
6. FORM SESSION
No doubt you’ve got a cupboard full of sports nutrition at home. A specially formulated recovery product is the best way to refuel, but if you’ve left it at home (again) or just aren’t a fan, then simple chocolate milk from the supermarket will do a pretty good job. It’s got protein from the milk, and a good burst of sugar to help bring your energy levels back up.
MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU: GET YOUR RIDING IN GEAR
If this is going to be your first season in triathlon, invest in a few simple gadgets to add structure to bike training for the first time. The ideal is a bike computer paired with a power meter and cadence sensor, costing over £1,000 altogether, but you can start with a basic bike computer (from around £20) and heart-rate monitor (from £50) or use a phone app such as Strava paired with a heart-rate measuring dongle.
Check out other training tips in our cycling section.