10 May 2016


Those new to sportive riding or crit racing – or more experienced campaigners needing a training and nutritional refresh – should follow these four key rules of riding…

1. Train, train, train… recover
Sadly, we’re not all elites so we don’t have the luxury of riding for 4hrs, before heading home to a good helping of rest and recovery. That’s why it’s useful to follow a training template where you gradually increase distance and time – specifically for your weekly long ride – over three weeks before easing off in week four. In this way, you should see your training as four-week blocks before race time and prevent overtraining.

So if your goal race is a 100-mile sportive, you’re aiming for around 7 hrs and your first week’s long ride is 3 hrs, you could add 30 mins for each of the first three weeks (for a total of 4:30 hrs) before easing back to, say, 2 hrs in week four.

From week five you’d add 30 mins to week three’s time for a total of 5 hrs and stack up the time following that template. By week seven your longest ride would be up to 6 hrs. Week eight’s recovery drops down again to 2 hrs before your biggest training ride of 6:30 hrs in week nine.

Week 10 could see you drop that long ride to around 5 hrs and then drop dramatically for week 11 (say 2 hrs) in preparation for week 12’s race. This should leave you fresh and strong.

Do what you can, but if the time commitment is beyond you, don’t give up, look for ways to train smarter, such as our sister brand FSA’s Tips for the Time-Poor.

2. Fuel like an elite
You might not have the training time of a professional but there’s no reason you can’t eat like one. There are myriad diets around purporting to send you higher, faster and stronger but we’d recommend keeping it simple. That means slow-releasing, energizing carbohydrates from foods like sweet potato and protein-packed, muscle-repairing foods like tuna and chicken. You should also get your quota of good fats from nuts and seeds – these keep many of your metabolic processes running smoothly – as well as ample antioxidants to sweep up free radicals left over from exercising. Colored foods like berries are a good choice and will strengthen your immune system.

Check out our Nutrition advice here.

3. Raise your fatmax
Each of us has an optimal intensity for burning fat as fuel known as fatmax. Professor Asker Jeukendrup and his team discovered that, for trained riders, this figure is around 70-75% maximum heart rate; for untrained riders, this figure’s more like 60-70% because regular aerobic training teaches the body to burn fat more efficiently.

There’s evidence that the longer you train, the more important fat becomes to fuelling, so fat-burning efficiency’s increased with fewer longer sessions than many shorter sessions. For instance, it’s better for burning fat to cycle three times a week for one hour than six times a week for 30 mins. That’s why if you have a 30-min commute, once or twice a week take a different route to double its length. It’ll pay off come the races where you can spare precious glycogen stores for harder efforts like climbing.

4. Optimum revolution
This ties in with gearing and is integral to maximizing every pedal stroke, especially when ascending. And, typically, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. However, those who are more muscular, who have heavy legs, should beware of trying to pedal too fast because gravity’s opposing those weighty limbs on the recovery section of the pedal stroke. Instead, bigger-legged guys may be more efficient using a lower cadence of around 70rpm. Ultimately, after time and hill practice, you should naturally unleash a cadence that suits you.

Remember, everyone’s progress rate is different, so use this advice as guidelines, not as hard-and fast rules. Make a plan, make it fit you, and listen to your body.