4 Benefits of Structured Training for Cyclists
Do you want to compete in a bike race this year?
Do you want to push your limits in a century (100-mile or 100-kilometer) ride?
Do you want to keep up with the fast bunch on a local group ride?
Or maybe you just want to beat your personal best time for a regular route, or lose 10 pounds. No matter your goals, a structured training plan will rapidly boost your speed, endurance and strength.
Elements of structured training
Anyone can just hop on the bike every day and hope to get faster and stronger. To be sure, regular exercise will help keep anyone healthy and fit. But you will also hit a plateau and make slow progress without structured training.
Significant improvements in speed, strength and endurance are best reached with a specific period of rigorous structured training that carefully plans each ride, as well as the days between rides.
Start with your goal, and make it SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Specific.
Every structured training plan is different, based on your starting level and those ultimate SMART goals. Training for an endurance race will be different than training for a group ride. Consult a local trainer or a reliable training app to customize a training plan for your specific needs, but expect any structured training plan to include a few core elements.
A structured training plan will include a variety of well-planned rides. Each week should have a mix of shorter aerobic rides and longer endurance rides at a moderate heart rate, as well as some sprints, intervals, climbs and high-cadence drills that achieve a higher heart rate.
Of course, you will know when your heart and lungs start working harder, but to maximize the benefits of structured training, invest in a heart rate monitor and a power meter.
A power meter measures your exertion and energy output in watts (like a light bulb or other electric device).
The classic, basic power meter attaches to the rear wheel hub, but other reliable models are designed for the crank arm, crank spindle or pedal.
Structured training also includes plenty of time off the bike, including cross-training sessions of weight training and bodyweight exercises.
“The four core movements that tend to give you a pretty good full-body workout are pull-ups, push-ups, squats, and plank,”
The cross-training portion of structured cyclist training can also include swimming, jogging and even yoga.
Scheduling well-timed rest days is also vital for building muscles, increasing endurance and preventing fatigue, while also reducing the chances of injury.
So what do you get for all this structure and effort?
Benefit No. 1: Consistency
Building more structure into your workday or even your weekends can help you accomplish more tasks and stay focused. Likewise, a structured workout plan will help you exercise more consistently and achieve faster results.
Cyclists with a structured training plan also don’t waste time scrolling through maps and workout ideas. They can quickly consult the day’s plan and get in the saddle.
Without a structured workout plan, it’s all too easy to skip a workout for any reason. With a structured training plan, your rest days are part of the plan, and you’ll be ready to get back on the bike the next day for some structured and efficient training. Many cyclists can see major gains in as little as three hours a week under a structured training regimen.
Benefit No. 2: Speed
The top goal of many cyclists is to ride faster, whether in races, group rides or to reach a personal best.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the best way to get faster is not with lung-busting sprints at top speed. Rather, well-planned base-building rides at moderate speed will burn and build up your aerobic engine. It’s like upgrading your car engine.
Boost your fitness and speed by developing Type-1 muscle fibers on these long rides.
These helps burn fat and preserve glycogen, which lets you go faster for longer.
Type-1 muscle fibers also clear lactic acid, which is that stuff that makes your leg muscles scream at you.
Less lactic acid = happier muscles = faster riding.
Benefit No. 3: Strength
The strength training and targeted intense rides will make your legs (and the rest of your body) stronger.
Structured training rides that boost Type-1 muscle fibers will, of course, make those muscles bigger and stronger.
Also, a well-rounded structured training plan will also include work on arms and core muscles.
Core strength will keep you stable on the bike. A weak core or a sore back can make long rides pretty miserable. You don’t want to abandon a ride before you even give your legs a solid workout.
Benefit No. 4: Endurance
The final benefit may not be as obvious as a new top speed or bigger muscles, but it may be the most important factor of all for a successful cyclist: endurance.
Interestingly, a series of structured training rides can actually change your body, and thus increase your endurance.
The rides will help allow you to burn more fat as fuel, and will boost your oxygen levels You will build more capillaries to deliver oxygen and blood to your muscles.
Mitochondria, which produce energy also increase in number and size.
This is all a fancy, physiological way of saying your body’s endurance will increase.
With more endurance, speed, strength and consistency, every cyclist can benefit from structured training.