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The MS Bike advanced training program

Tips for getting prepped for the big day

You’ve signed up for one of the upcoming MS Bike events this summer. You’ve been cycling for years. You may have even done some racing. Getting through the 160 km effort is hardly an issue. For you the only question is how fast you can get it done.

No matter who you are, the fundamentals of a good training program remain the same. For the best bang for your training buck, finding a coach will be your best option. Having someone who can guide your efforts makes a huge difference when it comes to performance.

You can also make some great headway on your own, though, by developing a plan and sticking to it. That’s where we come in. The following guide is designed to provide you with some tips and suggestions that will help you develop your own training program to get you through a big ride this summer.

Suggested training week

Monday: rider’s choice
Tuesday: steady-pace ride/strength work
Wednesday: rider’s choice
Thursday: speed work
Friday: day off
Saturday: rider’s choice/strength work
Sunday: long ride

Basic cycling workouts

Any training plan should incorporate a long ride, steady-pace ride and speed work every week. Based on the time of year, you can certainly complete all of these workouts indoors. It will certainly be a lot more enjoyable to get outside once conditions allow, especially for the long rides. (Many very successful cyclists will do much of their training indoors through the week and get out outside on the weekends.)

Long Ride

No matter what level cyclist you are, your long ride each week is a critical component to your training. You need to start at a reasonable level and build gradually – most coaches will tell you to follow a 10 per cent rule when it comes to building your mileage, but you can expand on that a little bit as long as you make sure to give yourself a bit of a break every fourth week.

Another important variable for your long rides is to vary the paces for these efforts. One week you’ll want to take this ride very easy, the next week try to make it a bit steadier, trying to simulate the pace you’re likely to be going on the day, or days, of your virtual MS Bike event.

Most people look to get their long rides done on the weekends when they have more time, but any day of the week is fine as long as you get it done. Here are some suggested long-ride builds based on goal distances of 160 km.

160 km ride goal

Week 1: 100 km
Week 2: 110 km
Week 3: 120 km
Week 4: 100 km
Week 5: 140 km
Week 6: 150 km
Week 7: 100 km
Week 8: 160 km

Steady-pace ride

This ride is meant to be completed at a quicker pace or intensity than your long ride will be. Think of these rides being at a 80 to 85 per cent effort – the goal here is to work on your ability to push at a harder pace for a longer and longer period of time. The length of these rides is dependent on how much time you have available to you. Ideally, they are at least 45 minutes in duration, but can be as long as two hours if you have the time.

Warm up for at least 10 (and ideally 15 – 30) minutes and then try to increase the effort. You can vary things with some longer efforts of 10 to 20 minutes with the same amount of time with easy pedalling in between, or simply just keep the pace up for the entire ride. Take the last five t0 15 minutes of the ride nice and easy as a cool down.

These rides can be done inside or outside. Riding inside for these efforts can be very efficient: a 45- to 60-minute block on the trainer can provide an outstanding workout.

Here are a couple of indoor options you might want to try out:

Steady ride 1

10 minute warm-up
30 to 60 minute build. Increase effort (either turn up the resistance or change to a harder gear) every 5 minutes
5 minute cool-down
Steady ride 2
10 minute warm-up
6 to 10 x 5 minutes hard / 2:30 easy spinning recovery
5 minute cool-down

Speed work

You want to push yourself for these efforts. These hard intervals are your way to improve your speed and power. Aim for efforts between 30 seconds and three minutes in length, with anywhere from the same time to twice the length of the interval as recovery.
These sessions should be between 60 and 90 minutes.

Here are a couple of speed sessions you might want to try:

Speed workout 1

10 minute warm-up
5 – 10 x 1 minute hard/ 1 minute easy spinning recovery
Take an additional 5 mins easy spinning recovery after the last interval, then repeat 1 to 3 more times
10 minute cool-down

Speed workout 2

10 minute warm-up
5 x 2 minutes hard/ 2 minutes easy spinning
5 minutes easy spin
5 x 30 seconds hard/1:30 easy spinning
10 minute cool-down

Strength work

Overall strength work should be a critical component of your training plan. Over the winter you should look to work on your overall strength, but as you hit the final few months before the event, you don’t need to hit a weight room for hours and hours of strength training every week. In fact, that probably would hinder your bike goals as you would likely gain some unwanted muscle mass. The gym time would take away from valuable training time on the bike, too.

Your strength work should be very much focused on core strength and incorporate as much own-body exercises as possible. Aim to complete a couple of strength sessions a week for about 20 minutes.

Other workouts

OK, so you have three bike rides, two strength workouts. What else should your training week include? For some riders, that workload will be more than enough. For those who want to add some more training to their weekly schedules, include what we’ll call cyclist’s choice days. These could be some easy bike rides or easy runs for variety. Those looking to really maximize their bike performance this summer should look at adding another speed or steady-pace workout to their weekly schedule, along with one or two easy rides of 45 to 90 minutes.

Day off

One of the most important things you’ll do as part of your training plan is to make sure you have a day off every week. Giving yourself a 24-hour break to let your body rest and recuperate will make all the difference in your performance and ability to build and maintain your fitness. I like to plan days off for Fridays—typically that’s the end of the work week and people are looking forward to a bit of a break. It also ensures you are rested heading into the weekend when, typically, you’ll aim to get some longer training done because they have more time.

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