Q&A: Train specifically

Dear Cycling Weekly,

I’m trying to use summer 2013 as training for bigger things next year. I work long 12-hour shifts so time is often at a premium (especially on the dark and short days).

I’ve set myself up a local 13-mile loop I can do which is a mix of hills, sprints and a few small descents. My problem is getting my cadence and average speed up for the ride. I’m currently using Strava to measure some self defined sections to improve on.

Other than that I’m stuck for “short-time training”. What kind of thing should I be doing with my odd hour here and there to keep me on the right road?

Rob Hinds

Rob, the problem here is not so much your available time and riding options but more that you don’t know what it is that you’re training for. The best way to utilise limited hours of training time is to be very specific in what you do with it.

So start by writing down what the ‘bigger things’ you’re aiming for next summer actually are. List them as events or performance targets and put in place some short, medium and long-term goals as to how you are going to go about achieving them.

As I’m sure you can imagine, these goals will then dictate the kind of training you do in your sessions. The 13-mile training loop you describe sounds ideal for just about anything you want to focus on but clearly how you use it will differ greatly if you are training for road races, time trials or sportives.
In the event that you haven’t decided yet on where your focus might eventually be, you can use your training loop for general, all-round, cycling fitness by targeting the ‘components of fitness’.

This means doing longer rides at moderate pace for aerobic endurance, hill work for strength, and high cadence intervals for speed. Have some means of measuring what you’re doing, and gradually increasing on it either in terms of volume, frequency or intensity, and a regular testing protocol to monitor your progress. Your Strava account is not a bad place to start for this but adding a heart-rate monitor and the knowledge of how to use it would also help you to improve.

Work on a couple of elements at a time for a few weeks then move on to others. This blanket approach to training is good for all-round fitness, but be aware that it’s not going to be as effective as targeting improvements for specific events.

For example, the best way to become a good time triallist is to train for time trials. So the sooner you can figure out what events you want to do in the longer term and start training for them, the quicker you’ll begin seeing improvements.

Huw Willams is a BC three level coach

This article was first published in the May 23 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!