Towards the end of summer, it’s natural that you are nearing the pointy edge of your fitness profile for the year. You’ve been riding all summer, putting in long rides on weekends and morning or evening rides during the week. Maybe you were even lucky enough to take a couple of weeks of vacation and managed to put in long hours in the saddle. Despite all this riding, you may be less sharp on the bike than you’d expect. Your hard accelerations, prolonged efforts and intense sprints may feel a little dull. These are signs you need a fitness top-up to turn that excellent base fitness into some sharp, high-intensity form. Here are five tips to hone or form before the end of the riding season in Canada.
1) Don’t do too many long rides
While it may seem counter-intuitive, keeping your legs fresh for hard rides is important to building top-end fitness. If you are doing multiple long-rides a week, you may be lessening your ability to dig deep in workouts and on high-intensity rides. Prioritize your workouts and shorter more intense rides instead of the long rides to build sharper form with your already considerably trained base.
2) Start interval training
High-intensity interval training is not only extremely efficient at developing fitness for the time-crunched cyclist, but it can also turn a strong base of fitness into better top-end fitness. Developing a training program with intense intervals can push your fitness to the next level. Depending on what you want to improve, you can do hard intervals of 30 sec to 2 min or sets of 5 to 10 min. Both will help you build fitness beyond the base that allows you to ride at a moderate intensity for four hours.
3) Join a fast, drop ride
Long weekend rides are often made more enjoyable because they are frequently done in groups. It’s enjoyable riding with people, catching up with friends and stopping for a coffee on a mostly leisurely day in the saddle. But this won’t help improve your fitness. To mix things up, find a fast drop ride you can join. You can still ride with people but hopefully, your limits will be pushed and you’ll be challenged to hold the wheels instead of riding along at a conversational pace. Fast group rides are a great way to get in those hard efforts while still in a social environment.
4) Give yourself sufficient rest
Accumulated fatigue can be a real limiting factor to your fitness. If you have been riding a lot all summer, your perceived lack of high-end form may be partially due to simply being tired. It can be hard to let off the gas when the weather is nice and there are always fun group rides to join. Taking a week off to ride easy and spend fewer hours in the saddle might be what your body needs to recover. When you are back in the saddle, you might find your legs are fresh and you are able to find that next level of fitness.
5) Ride cyclocross or mountain bikes more often
The profile of a road cyclist is much different than a mountain biker or cyclocross racer. Those disciplines require very different efforts than road riding. If want to develop a more well-rounded skill set, hitting the trails on a mountain bike is a great way to develop your ability to produce sharp accelerations. Likewise, riding a cyclocross bike requires a different fitness profile. You’ll dismount to run-up stairs or over obstacles and unleash sharp accelerations out of corners. Mixing different disciplines into your riding can help improve your fitness in beneficial ways. You’ll also be working on your bike handling skills which is never a bad thing.