What are the easy wins anyone, from pro cyclist to beginner, can build in to make the most of training? Head coach at Duchy Cycle Coaching in Girona, Will Harper, has some advice you can implement right now to get the most out of yourself.
Men looking for an easy win to boost training want to be consuming upwards of 70g of carbohydrates per hour during long, hard rides, says Will. “Not only will that fuel you for the ride itself, it will have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your recovery afterwards.”
How you fuel during the ride also plays a key role in diet management for the rest of the day. Consuming 30g of carbs or under almost certainly means you’ll eat too much and the wrong thing later in the day to make up for all the glycogen and fat you’ve chewed through on the ride. Running on empty, your body will demand the quickest source of energy to replace the lost stores: sugar.
So eating more, not less, ensures you stay on top of your daily calorie requirements. A good way to do this on a ride is with energy bars or gel because they’re easy to carry, and to eat, and won’t cause stomach upset.
An easy win for women is to track your menstrual cycle and plan training accordingly. This is still a relatively new and underexplored area in sports in general, but research suggests that menstrual phase impacts female athletes’ perceived performance even if findings related to actual performance are less consistent.
Perceived performance is critical to training and competing. The low energy many women feel at the luteal phase (the days leading up to a period) can reduce enthusiasm and motivation, making everything feel harder.
If you know your own hormonal patterns, you can time rest or low intensity days to lower energy days and optimise training on higher energy days.
To make the most of training and to time race events, where possible, Will recommends using a tracking app like Wild.ai to really get to grips with how energy fluctuates throughout your cycle. The app takes data you supply about how you’re feeling, menstruation or ovulation indicators, and objective measurements like heart rate to provide recommendations for training, fuelling and recovery.
If you’re working with a cycling coach, they can optimise your program based on the data.
An easy win for everyone
You might expect an elite coach to be all about pushing clients harder than they can push themselves. But Will’s advice to everyone is, “Never be afraid to take rest on demand.”
This can be where a personal coach can make the biggest difference over an app or done-for-you training plan. Surprisingly, where a one-to-one coach often earns their money is in telling clients when to stop, not when to keep going.
“Too many off the peg training plans stick to the three days on, one day off plan pedalled by coaches since the 60s,” says WIll. A good athlete listens to their body and trusts what it says. And if it tells you you’re tired, it doesn’t matter what your training plan says, rest is more important.
Not all the signs of over-training are as obvious as noticing your leg muscles are fatigued. Other signs you might be over-training are feeling irritable or anxious.