Training 101

Training / Nutrition 101

There is a HUGE amount of training advice out there, both free and expensive. So much so that it is very daunting for a new cyclist (or even an experienced one). If you’re new to cycling, the best thing you can do is to just get out and ride. Learn how your bike feels under you, learn how to shift, how to anticipate hills, how to turn the bike and how to ride in a perfectly straight line. Practice drafting with friends or riding side-by-side (when road conditions are safe of course!) Work on being conscious of your breathing and your pedal stroke.

The correct pedal stroke consists of a downstroke and a slight “scrape” at the bottom and “floating” at the top of the stroke. Most novice cyclists will actually fight against themselves in parts of their pedal stoke. Notably near the top of the stoke (11 to 12 o-clock), many are still pushing down! Work on being fluid and keeping your cadence (revolutions per minute) over 90. Try to avoid upper body movements, as they are a waste of movement and energy (despite what you may see for pros on TV! For a good example of proper form, look at Dave Zabriskie… but I digress). At the same time, try to avoid having a death grip on the handlebars.

Training at different intensities stimulates different biochemical pathways. Maximal efforts acclimates your body to higher functional levels of lactic acid. Training at sub-maximal efforts (i.e. when you’re able to maintain a conversation) trains your fat burning pathways and increases your endurance. But here’s the thing: you can’t train both too effectively at once. Endurance sticks around a lot longer than high-end power when you stop training. So, cyclists generally train endurance in the off season (long steady rides) and train with really hard efforts in season. You can’t perform well without endurance or explosive power, so timing is everything. For more specific questions, contact myself or coach Pat Jak.

Post ride nutrition for college students

Again, there are volumes and volumes of information about “perfect” balances of carbohydrates and protein / fat etc… But really, you have to understand a few simple things.

Cycling is an endurance sport. You expend a lot of energy that needs to be repleted to the body. There is a ~30 minute window after you stop exercising where your body most efficiently takes up nutrients, so eating right after a ride is essential for getting the most out of your training. The first thing your body will want after a ride is carbohydrates. Examples include: oatmeal, bread, cereal, pasta, rice, quinoa.

Example #1: 1-minute oatmeal (~$1/lb) with frozen blueberries ($2/lb)

The nice thing about this combo is you can boil the water and put it directly onto a bowl of dry oatmeal. Let sit for a few minutes, then add blueberries. You only need to clean the bowl after, and takes about 5 minutes to make. It’s very inexpensive too. The cost of items in the photo were calculated to be about $1.

Example #2: English muffins with peanut butter and honey.

The peanut butter adds some healthy fats and protein.

Your body will also need moderate amounts of protein to repair muscle and cardiovascular / pulmonary systems. Monounsaturated fats (olives, olive oil, peanut butter, almond butter, nuts, and most non-animal sources) are used in the synthesis of hormones, and small amounts are necessary to replete fat stores as well.

In general: carbohydrates > protein > unsaturated fats. Go easy on the red meat, and avoid fried foods (sorry!).

During-ride nutrition
Try to eat something every hour. Bananas, cliff bars, cookies, and bagel halves are good examples of portions and portion size for prolonged riding. General rule of thumb: bring more food than you think you need.

Fluids become much more important when riding in really warm conditions or for more than two hours. Even if you don’t feel like you’re sweating, you’re generally losing a lot of water. Every breath leeches H2O into your exhale and you sweat more than you think (the vehicular nature of cycling means very quick evaporation). Also important is the intake of salts. You lose more than water when you sweat, and using an electrolyte drink can go a long way when you’re spending a lot of time on the bike.

If you’re read this far, I hope that this information was of help to you. If you have more specific questions about training or nutrition, feel free to ask.