Triathlon Training: Cycling

Many triathletes consider cycling to be the focal point of each race. It’s not uncommon to come across triathletes who also compete in cycling as a competitive sport on its own.

In order to hang with these gear-heads in a race, you must be sure that your bike training is approached with the utmost diligence. It’s important to make the best use of your time by training effectively. This guide offers cycling training techniques that will help you raise the bar and compete with the best.

Leave Distance in the Dust

Here's a sample anaerobic interval workout for cycling:

  1. Three-mile warm-up at 40 to 60 percent.
  2. 10 rounds of biking one mile at max effort, and one mile at 40 percent.
  3. Three-mile warm-down at 40 to 60 percent

Many triathletes spend most of their training time going for long distances on the bike — and rightfully so. They’re competing in an endurance sport, so they should train to increase endurance capacity. However, long-distance isn’t the only way to train on the bike. Mixing up distance rides with short, intense sprint intervals can produce effective results.

Anaerobic capacity, which is utilized with sprint-related exercises, can also improve aerobic (long-term) capacity. It trains the body to recover quickly when in high demand. The body will develop efficiencies with processing lactic acid build-up.

Rather than going with a steady and moderately intense pace, break up the high-intensity workload with an active recovery period. This allows the heart rate to slow down and recoup. This is not only tactical for improving cardiovascular efficiency, but it's also great for improving muscular strength on the bike.

Sport the Right Gear

In reality, all cycling training takes is a bike, a helmet, and a place to ride. However, there are certain pieces of equipment that can improve the capabilities of your bike, and allow you to perform at a faster, more competitive level. Here are a few examples of such equipment:

  • Bike shoes: These are essential. Bike shoes help pull and push the pedal. Pulling recruits a different set of muscles than pushing. By alternating between a push and pull of the crank, you can allow for different parts of your leg to rest during a ride. Bike shoes also keep the feet in an efficient peddling position, so you get the most out of each stroke.
  • Glasses: If you think cycling glasses are just a fashion statement, think again. Cycling glasses are a must-have for riders of all abilities. Don’t run the risk of catching a bug in your eye while cycling at a high speed. Additionally, the sun’s glare can begin to strain your eyes over time. Glasses help alleviate this discomfort.
  • Water bottles: While cycling, it’s imperative that you remain hydrated. If your bike doesn’t have a water bottle cage (holder), get one immediately; in fact, get two if you can. With two water-bottle cages, you can carry both a water bottle and a sports drink. Alternating between the cell-expanding water and cell-shrinking sports drink keeps the body balanced.
  • Extra tubes: Don’t be caught roadside with a flat tire and no way of fixing it. Always carry spare tubes and a means of inflating them. Miniature, low-profile hand pumps can easily be mounted to your bike for emergency situations. Similarly, small compressed-air containers can also be used for a one-time fill of a bike tube. Carrying either along with two bike tubes is a wise idea.

Take Small Sips

Carrying water, a sports drink, or both is great, but it’s also important to know when and how to hydrate. Consuming too much water at once results in a waste of fluids; it can also result in needing to use the restroom, which can become annoying on long rides.

The key to hydration is moderation: Taking small, frequent sips. This tactic is especially important when cycling in warm weather. It’s essential that your body absorbs as much liquid as possible to remain hydrated and adequately fueled. Hot or humid conditions easily evoke perspiration, so it’s important to remain hydrated and replenish lost fluids.

Change the Scenery

Don’t save hill climbing for race-day. Frequently train on hills to build up your tolerance for climbs you might encounter on race day. Sprinting uphill while taking an active recovery on the way down can serve as a great training tool to improve cycling strength and work capacity.

Don’t fall into the monotonous pattern of riding the same route again and again. Keep switching up your routine in distance, elevation, intensity, and even scenery. Changing scenery not only keeps the workouts fun and interesting, but it keeps you prepared for the unexpected. Changing routes or trails can offer a variety of hazards and variables to your ride, which can prepare you for the unexpected conditions of a race.

Little Changes, Big Results

By making these simple adjustments, you can increase your training efficiency and overall performance. Additionally, breaking up long, steady rides with sprint intervals can provide performance gains unseen by traditional aerobic training. Integrate these tactics into your cycling training and watch your bike times improve almost instantly!

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