Get Fitter & Build A Stronger Body In 2019!

You have two choices this holiday season: eat lots, gain lots of weight, train less, get slow and start again in the New Year.

Mark Carrol |

We spend much of the year wishing we had more time to ride; but when the opportunity arrives during the holidays, many let it slip through their fingers. Even if you’ve had a heavy year of intense racing, the holiday period is when you can get those long, steady rides in at a pace that’s social. Here is a combination that will have you going faster for longer in 2019.

Strength Training

It works. Upper body and core must be in the programme, of course, but it’s leg strength we care about most. The obvious benefits are more strength to turn the pedals and more muscle fatigue-resistance, so you can ride faster for longer.

But there’s another, less obvious reason to hit the weights this holidays – increased blood flow. As intensity rises and muscles work harder, they compress blood vessels, restricting blood delivery, oxygen delivery, and CO2 removal. This happens when muscles are weak, and because of the weakness, it starves the legs.

After strength training, there will be less vessel compression and restriction, and better blood flow. What’s more exciting is that in a world of quick fixes, the effects of this will be evident within two weeks. It’s effective regardless of age or gender; in fact, it’s of even greater value for older cyclists and women.
An hour, twice a week is what you need. The weight must be heavy for you, and the maximum repetitions should be 10, because the focus is on strength. Eight or even six well-executed repetitions are even better. As technique and strength improve, start increasing the load and reducing the repetitions. Stay off the leg-press machine and heavy back squats; rather stick with front squats, kettlebell squats and lunges – but not walking lunges, or lunges where you step forward and step back.

Big Weeks

Long, steady distances (LSD) are not a new idea, but what exactly do they do? Following on the subject of increasing blood delivery, your cardio-pulmonary system is the engine and transport system, and LSD rides build this engine. Benefits include greater heart stroke volume, and more blood capillaries around the lungs to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.

For long rides, intensity is heart rate in the 70% to 75% range. Watch your power meter or heart rate monitor, but avoid going hard – and likewise, avoid freewheeling as much as possible. You want the biggest bang for your buck in terms of aerobic development, so keep pedalling. Four-hour rides will probably be enough if done correctly, and four to five of these will constitute a big week. This combination of long rides and building real strength will be a winner for your cycling going forward – so don’t let the opportunity slip through your fingers this holiday season.

Cover Both Ends

Many cyclists are still against strength training. But imagine going to all the effort and time of doing long rides, then having weak muscles getting in the way of delivery. What you develop instead is an overstressed cardio-pulmonary system that’s trying to compensate for weakness in the legs. With stronger legs alongside a more developed aerobic system, you will be more resistant to fatigue and will recover faster from sessions. Recovery is the key; as the faster it happens, the faster fitness develops.

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