The Seven Secret S’s of Training to Win

( In less than 8 hours a week )

Just to introduce the subject, a little waffle is harmless enough.
Can it really be done ? In less than 8 hours ? If you have a small amount of time then using it wisely will take you a long way. You can win at regional races, say cat 2 or sports category if you like, with a small amount of time in the saddle.

You will need to consider the following points or Seven Essses.
Time spent wisely on each aspect will put you ahead of the competition, most of whom simply will not be considering this much variety.

1. Stamina. Vague term but we all know that we need it. The ability to sustain effort over a prolonged period. In a healthy athlete, it takes around 6-7 minutes to achieve maximum output of blood from the heart, for a set workload. So arguably an effort over and above a 6-7 minute long interval is stamina training. Not the whole story of course.But its generally thought that it takes around 90 minutes for the body to start actually directly using fat as an energy source. Runners call that point the “ Wall” and cyclists usually call the same thing the “ Bonk “ . Practicing hitting that point is worth it as it gets further down the line as you train, if you train specifically for it. The mistake most people make is that in the beginning they try to do this once a week. Sunday ? Convenient maybe, but until you are reaching for the abilities of the pro’s once every two to three weeks is a better plan. When you are chasing Brad you can do these every day. Twice if you like.

2. Speed We all want to go faster, but still many will just train more. See figure 1. For speed training its hard to beat a fixed wheel. Finding a quiet road, or better on the turbo. Once momentum is built you get to try to stay sitting down and have your legs keep up, as they are going like the clappers. If you’re on a turbo try doing this under a doorway, and fix yourself down in the saddle. You can “twiddle” faster and you don’t fall off. Or do yourself a mischief.

3.Skill. Practice off road if that’s your sport, practice jumping out of the saddle, track stands, bunny hops and all sorts of tricks if you need to. But also learn to pedal. Actually not easy. If you don’t already, again on the turbo is best. Cycle one legged, so that you learn a smoother more circular pattern. Learn at least to lift your legs on their way up if you can’t actually “ pull”. Otherwise the pushing leg has to lift the upward leg as well as drive the gears forward.

For muscles to work well they need a blood supply, and work best when there is a rest phase, to allow blood to be refreshed. Its one reason why cycling is so naturally efficient, as you can only really apply a lot of power ( torque if you prefer) for about one sixth of a revolution of the pedals.

Another one for doing strictly on the turbo is to ride out of the saddle…. and then let go ! Try to balance whilst you cycle whilst you keep your hands off the bars. Have fun with this and don’t fall off. At least if you do don’t blame me. Learning to ride a unicycle is also recommended for this one. Go to a club for unicycling is my recommendation.

4. Suppleness. There is a lot of tosh published about this. If you still are being told that traditional touching the toes is a hamstring stretch then read on and watch the videos on the site. Touching your toes is a great strengthening exercise, not a stretch. Its main emphasis, the way most people do it is on the eccentric phase of the exercise, that’s to say the reaching down bit. Coming up is also known as the concentric phase, where the muscle is shortening under load, in this case the muscles at the back, hamstrings and gluteals ( also known as the agonists for this exercise )

5. Strength. Slow and steady grunting stuff, in the gym or overgeared work on the bike. Chris Hoy does did both. He also makes bikes in more sizes than most. A good thing.

6. Surge. Acceleration under load. See the videos, as its not easy to do ( or explain ) in writing.

7. Psychology . Suffice to say you need to be a little nutty to ride bike through the average British winter. But seriously folks, mental attitude is what gets you to the very top. Everything from staying in of an evening… yoga not telly, to mental rehearsals whilst on the grid at the start of a race. You could write a book about this stuff. In fact many have.

So what, I hear you ask does my week look like ? The above list is the framework, or the concept behind the work. So you will, if like most of us you have a job to do to put a crust on the table, need to plan your week a little.

Well the detail is up to you, but depending on the level that you are aiming at you will have to plan in cycles or not. If you are aiming for the very top, then you will need to plan individually and I or others will do that with you. If you are aiming to compete and do well in local races and time trials, a little less sophistication required. Get help to go higher than that.

But I can give you some guidelines to write your own.

Coughs and colds. The science says that these won’t affect how you can train, only how you feel about it. My view is that you must listen to your body. Top athletes will work from a true resting pulse, which is taken on waking. Even small increases in this will set alarm bells ringing and may inform their training.

For most of us its simple. Take the day off if you are not well. It takes a couple of weeks at least to lose condition, so a few days off will benefit you too in other ways.

Stamina training. Most people overdo this and spend huge amounts of time doing it. If you have the luxury of spending all day riding then do it for pleasure. Most races will be 3 hours maximum. If you’re doing longer ones, then you will really need more time than 8 hours in a week.

You can get huge benefits from working on the wall or the bonk. So that’s rides pushing the 90 minute mark. Its’ here that you are starting to run short of muscle and liver storage of sugars, and start needing to get at fat stores. Thats the old fashioned and very simple way of looking at it. Of course its more complicated than that.

I’m neither here nor qualified to give lessons in the most up to date bio-chemistry you’ll be pleased to hear. If you practice hitting the bonk, it will get further away, but not much. So learn to feed yourself. Pre race / training meals and feeding as you go are an art form. Everyone is different so experiment on yourself.

For me it was rice and raisins that helped produce PB’s in longer events. Pasta seems to be a favourite with lots of folk, but its a more refined food so your body is not really designed to eat it.

Pete Keen has done great work with the likes of Chris Boardman, and producing world hour records like that is worth looking at. His book on turbo training is great for the detail and gives simple programmes that will fit into a 45 or 50 minute slot. Two of them in a week will give you a huge boost. Don’t skip the warm up or warm down, it’s one of the most important things you can do.

The reason for that, is, in my opinion to be found in John Douillards book, Mind Body and Sport. Warm up allows you to adjust your breathing and ultimately get in “the zone”. If you have never exercised in “the zone” then you are missing out. Also called the runners high it makes those PB’s seem effortless. Lovely.

In John’s book he talks about a fusion of Yoga and modern medicine and exercise prinicples. By practicing exercising at a much lower than usual pulse rates, you can train your breathing to work much more efficiently. In my first couple of weeks doing this stuff I was doing pre set efforts with a full 10% drop in pulse rate.
So a week might look a little like this.

Sunday. Funday. Go and have a play at the balance stuff. One legged work and keep it nice and easy. Off roaders just go and play in the woods. Every fortnight the local 2-4 hour club run.

Find a course that you can measure a flat mile, and do some timed intervals. About an hour.

A turbo session or two.

Hill repetitions. Up and down. Finding somewhere thats lit ( most of us have to do this in the dark don’t we ? ) Being good at hills takes practice but helps a lot. If in doubt ask Chris Froome.

Above all practice the next exercise, even if you take the rest of your life off the bike. Smiling.

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