Trying to determine how much riding you need to do when training for an ultra-event can seem like guess work for many riders. Putting together a program for yourself should start with looking at the whole picture of your lifestyle (work, family, etc.) and perhaps writing a few things down so that some order can be put into place. At what point should you take your long rides to and how often should you do them? I’m asked these questions often along with how far a rider needs to go in order to be confident in their main event and the distance it covers. Keeping perspective of achieving your goals will help to make it more fun so that you can put meaning into your training along the way. Start by asking yourself some questions and put it down in writing when considering your training plan. Below are a few questions to help get you started.
How much time do you have available in a given week?
Be realistic when you consider how to go about your training. Many riders will try to do make up days when they miss a workout and this can lead to doing too much too soon or simply creating an inconsistent riding schedule. Consistency will take you far when you commit to a plan.
How many weeks do you have to train before your event?
Be sure to allow enough time so that you’re able to write recovery into the plan effectively.
What is the terrain that you will be racing on going to be like?
If you live where there are no hills consideration as to how you will ride hills should be taken into account while preparing with your intensity.
Do you have any existing injuries that would limit you?
If you already have an existing condition that would heal with some rest it is wise to let it heal before starting a training plan. Training with an injury will eventually lead to a chronic condition that can take many weeks to recover from.
I often times have an ultra-rider come on board who wants to do the same thing year round with one thing in mind, increase their volume. At the same time I’m given the task of trying to help them get stronger and faster. It usually takes some negotiation of scheduling before I’m able to convince them to allow for less volume so that we can put some focus on intensity. Most coaches agree that training volume is important, but training intensity is even more important. Research has shown that training with intensity is a vital component of cardiovascular improvement and will continue to improve Vo2 max as well as other physiological components when written into a program along with recovery. Knowing how much and how often to inject intensity into a program can make things even more confusing when training for an ultra-event. Mixing too much intensity with too much volume can lead to injury and burnout quickly. An improved cardiovascular system makes for a more efficient athlete which in the long run will allow you to improve your overall performance. Little or no improvement will be made if recovery isn’t a part of your program on a regular basis. Learn how your body reacts to the different stress placed on it with different types of workouts. This is where a coach can be helpful.
Many ultra-cyclists use distance and speed as a gauge for their fitness. It’s easy to understand why when training for an event that could take up to several days to complete. Long slow distance improves the muscles capacity for receiving and processing oxygen, conserving stores of glycogen, and metabolizing fat for energy. This adaptation occurs as the body responds to the amount of stress placed on it through the days, weeks, and months of training. But, at what point does the body stop responding in a positive way and start to break down when the only goal is to do more miles? Having a plan with some sort of reason other than how many miles one puts in for a given day, week or month will help you make gains more effectively. Riders of different strengths and ability will react differently from the stress of a given ride or workout. For example, two riders may complete a century in the same time, but if one rider is stronger than the other it will be less stressful on the stronger rider. This is where group riding can have an adverse effect on a given rider over a period of time.
Assessment of your fitness will help to determine a point of reference to establish training ranges with, and can be used for comparison as you train through the year. This can be done through field testing or lab testing. When determining how much volume to apply to your program different factors come into play with age, genetics, riding experience, work, etc. Mapping out a program that has a few key points will help you use a system that should help you move forward with progression. Each training day should have a purpose in mind with the training plan. Knowing how your body recovers will help you to understand how much you should do for optimal training adaptation without over-training. Putting realistic goals in place will help you train between events so that you’re not overwhelmed by the big event of the year. This will help you determine what type of intensity for each given event you should be training with. If you train properly along with good nutrition and recovery you should be on your way to improving your performance on the bike.
Trying to put a routine together for an ultra-distance event can be overwhelming to athletes whether they’re new to this type of event or not. A one size fits all doesn’t necessarily work when training for an event, especially for an ultra-event. Following a program just because it worked for someone else may not be the best program for you. Finding the balance of what will give you the best possible performance of your goal event can be done through mapping a process together that fits into your life and following a schedule that is designed for you specifically with each goal in mind.
About the Author: About Kellie Moylan - Moylan Training Kellie works with athletes throughout the world with online training. She has been involved with cycling, triathlons, running and strength training for over 20 years. She is a Level 1 USA Cycling Coach, USA Track and Field Coach, is certified with the National Strength and Conditioning Association and USA Weightlifting. Her knowledge of how to apply a training program specific to the needs of an individual along with her understanding of keeping perspective of a healthy lifestyle are what make Kellie successful.