In whatever form of triathlon you want to participate, cycling takes up the majority of the duration. So, you may be wondering, you need to train a lot for cycling, right? Ummm, not really, I must say if you follow a minimalistic cycling training routine.
Ride as much or as little, as long or as short as you feel. But ride. – Eddy Merckx
It’s very common to see that people doing 100 miles of riding regularly to prepare for the Ironman but the fact is you really don’t need to train that much that often to see the results. Rather riding like that can cause injuries and add up to junk miles, which don’t actually help in the long run.
Also, it’s not feasible for people like you and me, who have a regular day job and fighting hard to be an age group athlete at the same time. Life of a TryAthlete is hard but what if I say that you can train around 4-6 hours weekly and can still be a faster and a stronger cyclist. Sounds great, right?
That’s where the concept of minimalistic cycling training comes into play.
From my perspective, I’m always looking for solutions to be faster without investing a huge time into training so that I can be involved in my other aspects of life as well. Here are some of my learnings over the years which can help your cycling endurance and performance with minimalistic cycling training.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT has the biggest impact in terms of cycling growth through minimalistic cycling training. Only doing one or two one-hour HIIT sessions every week is enough to raise your fitness to new heights.
Don’t believe me? It’s easy to be optimistic and to think how doing short interval sessions can help you to have the endurance to cycle 180 kilometers in an Ironman. The fact is when you push yourself to the limit, your heart and lungs get stronger. You increase your muscular strength which means you can pedal longer without burning yourself up.
So, don’t be afraid to do at least one HIIT session per week. It’s going to hurt a lot, you can’t avoid the pain but learn to endure it, you’ll be stronger on the other side of it. Besides, you stand to gain a lot more with a shorter time to commit to training, it’s absolutely a no brainer.
Only 3-4 weekly sessions are enough
To improve your cycling performance and endurance, all you need to do is to incorporate 3 sessions weekly along with your running and swimming. You should at least include one HIIT, one steady state session and one long endurance session in your routine to see the benefits.
If you do 1-hour HIIT session, 1-hour or so steady state session and 2-4 hour long endurance session, you’re doing almost 4-6 hours of weekly training which is going to be enough to improve your fitness rapidly.
You can include another session as well if time permits but be careful about the intensity so that it doesn’t hamper your other sessions or hamper your recovery. It’s easy to try to overtrain and burn yourself up, even worse putting yourself in injury.
Have a proper bike fit before you commit to serious training
Performance in cycling comes a lot from comfort and fit. If you’re not comfortable when you’re riding, you’ll never be able to put out the power. Plus, your joints such as the neck, back, shoulder, knees etc. are going to hurt and at one point you won’t enjoy the training or racing. That’s why comfort is paramount in term of cycling.
Don’t try to listen to others and try to be too aero. Being low and aggressive looks good but if you can’t hold that position or put power to the pedals, you’re only going to be slower and slower as the time goes on.
Proper bike fit is also important so that your riding position is optimized. Proper saddle height, reach, saddle position etc. all go a long way to improve your cycling performance and nullifying your injury chances. So, find a bike shop or someone knowledgeable enough to fit your bike whenever you get a new bike or trying to train with your existing one.
Don’t neglect your cycling form
Proper training and bike fit are all important but it’s easy to forget your cycling form as well. Just as your running form needs to be proper to enhance speed and prevent injuries, the same goes for cycling. Now did you think that even cycling needs a proper form? It’s easy for most people to ignore that aspect.
With better form, you can achieve greater power output with less input. Sounds amazing. To do that, practice single leg pedaling drills. Try to put the power through the whole pedal stroke. In that way, you are optimizing your efforts. Also, we tend to have one leg weaker than the other so doing this drill will reduce the difference between the legs.
In addition, try to engage your core muscles when you ride. Stability is important when you ride. Include core workouts every week. Only doing 10-15 minutes of core work is enough to build strength. As your core strength rises, you’ll be able to keep the spine straight and you won’t move side to side while putting down the power. Hence your efficiency will improve and you will be faster easily with less effort.
Make time for stretching
Flexibility is key for many sports but for cycling, it’s even more crucial. The more flexible you are, the more you can put out power in a more aggressive position. Not only that, your joints can stay relaxed and you’ll not face much joint pains especially during a long ride. For Ironman distance, this becomes even more paramount.
So, that means you can be faster and have more endurance just by improving your flexibility. Again, all you need to do is to integrate 10-15 minutes of stretching every day for your minimalistic cycling training approach. For those who do desk jobs just like me, they should prioritize stretching along with regular training.
Join local fast group rides
Long days can be very boring to do alone. Why not join your local cycling groups who train fast? When you join faster riders, you’re training and understanding your level of fitness at the same time. You learn new techniques like riding in paceline, cornering and other important skills which also improves your speed on the road. You’ll be amazed to see how much time you’re saving once you’re confident on your bike and as you improve your techniques.
Moreover, when you join a fast group, you get the chance to measure your performance improvements with respect to the group. That will keep you motivated and hungry for success. Nothing beats your competitive edge in cycling when you are riding alongside with your peers and giving them some pain in their legs.
In Dhaka, we have such a cycling group named TeamBDC who trains regularly, so if you want to improve your cycling, I do advise you to join their regular training sessions. You’ll notice a huge change in your cycling performance and endurance. My life changed when I joined this group and I’m here as a triathlete because of this group.
There’s more to cycling than just training or buying expensive gears. Once you implement the basics, you’ll notice the improvements. The important factor for cycling performance is enjoyment. If you don’t enjoy this discipline, it’s unlikely to see massive gains even if you own the most expensive gears. “Shut up legs”- that’s all you need is to execute a minimalistic cycling training and reap the benefits.
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