Well, Tax Day has gone by, the days are getting longer, and if you live in the Pacific Northwest you’re probably wondering: Where is the warm weather? Or at least, that’s what we’re thinking here in Central Oregon. The mountains in this area are still getting snow, and the thermometer has not made it over 60 degrees very much at all this spring.
But your BRNW trip is three to four months away. Hopefully, you’ve been working on building your base, and full-body strength work. Maybe some of you are still skiing one or two days a week to maintain your fitness, but if you’re like me you’re ready to be done with winter and start riding in shorts.
If you’ve been building your base, riding two to three days a week and doing a long ride of 3 hours or more at least a couple times, it’s time to start adding some intensity. I define intensity as anything above your endurance zone.
I suggest starting with some long tempo intervals, on both flat and hilly terrain. Your tempo zone is that zone where you’re working hard and steady, your breathing is hard but you’re not panting, and your leg muscles are working but not burning. Tempo intervals can vary anywhere from 8 to 30 minutes, depending on your longest ride so far and/or your plans for your event. (For longer events as well as better base fitness, I suggest doing the 30-minute interval.) Your heart rate can be anywhere from high endurance to a few beats below your lactate threshold zone (or 75 to 85 percent of your max HR). When determining your max HR, use a figure that is specific to cycling, since your max HR when running or Nordic skiing is often 10 beats higher than for cycling. If you’re interested in how to calculate your max heart rate for cycling, go to: http://www.wenzelcoaching.com/blog/q-a-heart-rate-maximum-and-threshold-testing-outside-of-a-lab/.
Do these tempo intervals on a long gradual hill or flat section, and try to maintain the intensity and effort level the entire length of the interval. The rest period should be 1/3 the time of the interval. Start with one of these one or two days a week, and work up to three of them at least once a week after three to four weeks of doing these. These types of intervals are the best bang for your buck, in that they don’t tire you out as much as harder-intensity intervals but they really give you a good training stress to improve fitness. Continue with another two to three days of endurance rides, always increasing your long ride. You may also want to practice doing two long rides back-to-back, to start preparing you for the bike tour.
You need to continue with a full-body strength maintenance program one day a week, and core strength at least two days a week (but three is better!).
Here is a sample week with five days of training: Monday: off; Tuesday: tempo intervals; Wednesday: strength maintenance and core, plus an optional easy spin of less than 1 hour after the strength work; Thursday: tempo intervals or a longer endurance ride; Friday: off; Saturday and Sunday: long endurance rides, plus core one of those days.
You can really do your core workout on any day; you just want to be sure to get it in. As with any training regimen, if you’re not fully recovered you risk getting injured or sick, or just not having fun. So if you find you’re overly tired and having a hard time getting in your workout, just do a recovery day (yoga, walk or easy spin, all with a very low HR) or take another day off.
Now that you’re starting to increase the time and intensity, it’s time to talk about nutrition on and off the bike. You want to maintain healthy meals with a lot of fruits, vegetables and healthy protein and fats. Since you’re increasing your intensity, you need to be sure you’re getting in enough carbohydrates. I find most people underestimate their true carbohydrate needs for fear the carbs will make them fat.
Pre-workout, you need to have a good solid meal (carbohydrates and protein with good fats) up to two hours prior to your workout. For any endurance or recovery workout under 45 minutes, you can just drink water. For any workout between 45 and 90 minutes, you should aim to take in at least 30g of carbohydrates, which equals around 120 calories in the form of food (banana, energy bar) or carbohydrate electrolyte drink.
For any workout between 90 minutes and 2.5 hours, you should aim to take in 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour, depending on your body weight and the intensity. And for any workout greater than 2.5 hours, you need to aim for 70-90g (210-360 calories) of carbohydrate per hour – again, depending on intensity and body weight. As the intensity increases, you need more carbohydrates and easier-to-digest foods.
After any workout greater than 45 minutes and/or involving strength work, you need to take in a recovery drink or food. This can be anything that is easy but provides a good source of carbohydrate and protein. Aim for at least 160-250 cals. You want a high-glycemic carbohydrate source so you can replenish your muscle glycogen stores quickly. Then remember to eat a good healthy meal about 2-3 hours after your workout/recovery drink/food. A great reference book for Nutrition and Endurance activities is Monique Ryan’s “Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes”: http://moniqueryan.com/media/books/
Now, get out there and ride and have fun. See you soon! Next month we’ll talk about adding even more intensity – and something that’s very important for anyone who is training a lot: recovery, and how to maximize it.
Until next time,