In a world where more is everything.
Anything with the word LESS in it is vastly unappreciated.
The latest phones have more speed, more functionality, more apps.
The latest bikes promise more aerodynamics and more efficiency plus disc brakes that are more responsive
We’d like more holidays, more time with family and friends.
When we ride, we target more miles and more speed.
Some crazy individuals even target more hills and climbs.
When we first start riding, the goal is more. We start with a short ride and we will improve by adding more mileage on.
That 15 mile loop, becomes 20 and before long it becomes 50.
We’ve conditioned ourselves to think that more will improve us. I’ve lost count of the number of riders that have said to me “I wish I had time to ride more”.
I’m totally in that camp. I genuinely do wish I had time to ride more.
But until I win the lottery or retire, that’s unlikely to happen. Because there’s one thing that takes priority. Well, a couple of things actually… Earning my keep and keeping my family happy!
So if you are in the camp of wishing you could ride more often so that you can improve your riding, but you can’t because there just aren’t enough hours in the week – There is a simple solution.
I’m going to take you to a time when I had all the time in the world.
My University days.
I remember turning up for lectures, completing all of my work, getting good grades and still having loads of time spare.
Every Sunday without fail I’d be out on my bike, regardless of how “heavy” the night before had been. In fact, I’ve no idea how I managed it and it’s something I’d never be able to do now.
I would be out on the roads at least 3 times per week, and I’d love every minute of it.
But my training had stagnated.
I was stuck in a rut, following the same old routes, riding at the same intensity on each ride.
These were the days before GPS watches and power metres had become affordable (especially for a student). So my training was done using a heart rate monitor and a speed sensor on my front wheel.
I’d keep an eye on my speed in each workout, keeping an eye on my average and use my heart rate to see if I was improving or not.
If I finished my ride above my average speed, I’d clearly had a good workout. But as I look back now that was only half the story.
What I was missing
Within this simple set up I didn’t know how to measure intensity. Back then to improve, my only option was to ride more and even as I did, I didn’t get any faster. My rides felt easier, but I lacked strength to ride quicker.
The intensity was the missing piece of the puzzle. And if you are reading this now and are stuck in a rut, this is the number one thing you need to be thinking about right now.
Intensity is basically how hard your session is – there are many variables to this of course, far too many to squeeze into one post. But if we settle on thinking about intensity as how hard you are working, this is a great starting point.
The 1-5 Scale
Currently when I think about riding I will think of every ride I do on a scale of 1-5.
One is a very easy/recovery ride. Five is a tough interval session.
The rides I used to do were mostly 2-3 on the scale. All the time.
The lack of variation meant that every ride, my body was getting very good at riding at those levels. But nothing above.
The simplest analogy is thinking about lifting weights. When we start out, we might squat 30kgs. If we only ever lifted this number, we’d get very good at lifting 30kg every time. We’d never improve because we never challenged our body with a higher weight.
This same thought applies with cycling. If you only challenge yourself riding in your comfort zone – you can’t expect to ride at a quicker speed or power.
Now we’ve established what intensity is – what can you do about it.
Quite simply, add in harder efforts.
You can do these at home, or if you are looking for a
coach and place to complete structured intervals in a
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I’ll start with what you can do out on the road, but obviously be VERY aware of traffic, animals and whatever else you might come across doing rides like this.
I still quite like completing longer efforts out on the road. 20-30 minute tempo style rides aiming to ride at 3-4 out of 5 on our scale. Personally I’d never do efforts shorter than this on the road because to get the full benefit of riding hard, chances are you won’t be aware of the traffic around you at the same time.
Adding in a weekly tempo session is a great start to improving your riding. And these efforts can be multiplied too, so ride 2-3 x 20 minutes is a great way to break up a 2 hour ride and get a great workout.
For shorter efforts, for your own safety, complete them indoors on a turbo trainer.
And literally ANY trainer will do.
Just hook your bike up, warm up for 12 minutes and give the following session a try:
3x 3:00 hard effort with 3:00 easy spin recovery.
2:00 bonus recovery
3x 3:00 hard effort with 3:00 easy spin recovery.
10:00 Cool Down.
Total time is 60:00 for this hard VO2 max session. This is designed to really ramp up your heart rate and improve strength and fitness on the bike.
You’ll be working at a high level (5 out of 5) and at the end of each 3:00 block you should be at the point where riding for another 30s feels impossible. Which is why there is such a long recovery between each one.
This is also why you should never attempt this out on the road (please don’t!)
What Else is there?
Of course, a smart turbo trainer (as we have in our studio) is perfect for a workout like this, the trainer will adjust the resistance for you so that the power you are generating is in the EXACT place we want it to be. But if you are just getting started, riding on any turbo trainer will do adequately.
The only advice I would give is that if you are riding to improve your performance in a triathlon or a long distance sportive is that you aim to do all of your workouts using your own bike.
Theres no substitute for getting used to your own saddle and position on your own bike that will make your experience on event day that more familiar.
My personal experience, in the 2-3 years since my training has included more time indoors, my fitness and times have improved on the bike with far less time in the saddle.
I’m lucky if I can get 3 rides completed per week, and these days that 2 indoors (hard) sessions with one easier long ride at the weekend. Last year using this very method I posted my fastest 10 mile TT time and I was also generating more power over my long rides (of 4 hours +) that I’d done in the past 5 years.
Could I be faster if I rode more?
Without a doubt.
If I had the time to ride like a full time pro, I would be riding much quicker, recovering faster and be taking Strava KOM’s all over the place (hopefully!).
But I haven’t got all the time in the world.
I’m a time poor cyclist who has to be efficient and smart with my day.
Which is exactly why we created HURTBOX.
P.S. If you are fed up of feeling like you aren’t improving and want to really see some improvements in your cycling out on the road – check out the membership page for details on how to join our thriving community.