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Fine-tune your training for Virtual MS Bike with this 4-week plan

Be ready for the big ride by July 25

Photo by: MS bike

by: Kevin Mackinnon

Earlier this year we offered an eight-week training program for athletes gearing up for a Virtual MS Bike event this summer. For those who have completed that build up and are looking to fine-tune their training for the Virtual MS Bike weekend on July 25 and 26, here’s a four-week plan that will prepare you for the big day.

RELATED: The MS Bike 8-week training plan

Suggested training week

Monday: rider’s choice
Tuesday: steady-pace ride/strength work
Wednesday: rider’s choice
Thursday: speed/ strength work (skip week 4)
Friday: day off
Saturday: Weeks 1 and 2: Steady paced ride/strength work. Weeks 3 and 4: Easy ride
Sunday: long ride

The weekly schedule doesn’t change much compared to the first eight-week program, but we will be picking up an extra ride every week for a minimum of four times on the bike. The days can easily be interchanged, but you’ll want to try and avoid having two hard sessions twice in a row. We’ll continue with our steady-paced rides on Tuesday, speed sessions on Thursdays, but we’ll add a longer steady-paced effort on Saturdays before embarking on the long, easy ride on Sundays.


Long Ride

Once again this workout remains a mainstay of your training program, although with the big day just four weeks away we’ll avoid pushing too hard to ensure you’re rested and ready. The main goal for these rides over the last four weeks is to work on your nutrition plan. If you find you’re struggling towards the end of these rides you might want to monitor your fluid and food intake to ensure you’re getting enough energy to last the distance. We’ll have one ride that’s close to your distance goal and pacing – that’ll be a key indicator as to whether or not you’ve dialled in your nutrition plan.

60 km ride goal

  • Week 1: 40 km
  • Week 2: 45 km
  • Week 3: 30 km
  • Week 4: 60 km

100 km ride goal

  • Week 1: 60 km
  • Week 2: 75 km
  • Week 3: 50 km
  • Week 4: 100 km

160 km ride goal

  • Week 1: 100 km
  • Week 2: 120 km
  • Week 3: 80 km
  • Week 4: 160 km

Tuesday steady-pace ride

There are a couple of these on your schedule now – Tuesday’s session will aim to be a bit shorter. Once again these should be done at a quicker pace and intensity than your long ride will be – a 75 to 85 per cent effort. Head out for as long as you can fit into your schedule. Ideally in the summer months you’ll be able to spend 60 minutes to 2 hours on these rides.
Warm up for at least 10 minutes and then try to increase the effort. You can either try to push for a long period of time or split things up with a bit of a break after 20 or 30 minutes of keeping things moving. Always finish with a 10-minute warm down.

So, a 60-minute session might look like this:

  • 10 minutes w’up
  • 40 mins steady
  • 10 mins w’down

An 80-minute session might look like this:

  • 20 minutes w’up
  • 2 x 20 minutes steady/ 5 MRI (Minutes Rest Interval – pedal easy)
  • 10 mins w’down

A 2-hour session might look like this:

  • 15 mins w’up
  • 3 x 25 minutes steady/ 10MRI (after the first two intervals, go right into the w’down after the third)
  • 10 mins w’down

Thursday speed/ strength session

As much as it’s tempting to do all your riding outside at this time of year, this is the one day when hitting the indoor trainer isn’t a bad thing. As I mentioned in the first eight-week program:

“Believe it or not, speed work is still an important part of training for Virtual MS Bike. The faster you pedal on the bike, the easier your easy pace will feel. More important, riding fast improves your endurance because it will improve your anaerobic threshold—the point when your body struggles to keep going.”

That said, if you can find a way to work really hard outside for these efforts, go for it. Riding hills is one way to work on your strength and power, as are harder efforts into the wind. Here are a few workouts you can try for these Thursday sessions:

Week 1 (indoors):

  • 10 mins w’up
  • 5 x 1 min fast spinning/ 30 SRI (Seconds Rest Interval – pedal easy)
  • 2:30 easy spinning
  • 5 x 1 min hard – push as big a gear as you can keep spinning at 80 RPM/ 2MRI
  • 5 x 1 min fast spinning/ 30 SRI (Seconds Rest Interval – pedal easy)
  • 2:30 easy spinning
  • 10 mins w’down

You can do this same set outside if you need/ want to – just add 10 minutes to the warm-up and warm-down.

Week 2 (outdoors):

Hill efforts

  • 20 mins w’up
  • 4 – 8 x ~300 to 800 m hill/ recovery is the descent back down the hill
    • Try to increase your pace through the set – your fastest efforts should be the last two intervals
  • 20 mins w’down

If this workout needs to be done indoors, try to simulate the hill climbs by pushing a big gear for 1:30 to 3 minutes

Week 3 (outdoors)

  • 20 mins w’up
  • 5 x 3 mins hard / 3 MRI (Easy spinning)
  • 5 x 30 seconds hard (try to stand and sprint)/ 1:30 easy spinning
  • 20 mins w’down

Week 4 (Indoors or outdoors)

With a few days to go before your big day, this workout is designed to just loosen up your legs.

  • 10 – 20 minutes w’up
  • 10 x 1 min fast spin/ 1 min easy spin recovery
  • 10 – 20 minutes w’down

Saturday steady-pace ride/ Easy ride

For the first two weeks of the program this workout should be a decent effort. Ideally you’re riding about half to two-thirds the distance of the next day’s long ride. Pick hilly terrain (if you have it around) and aim to hold a faster pace and tempo then you will for Sunday’s longer, easier ride.

As we work into the last two weeks of the program the goal is to ensure you are well rested, so the last two Saturday rides should be very easy and last about 45 minutes to an hour.

Strength work

We’ll only be doing strength work for the first two weeks of this program – give yourself a break over the last two weeks to ensure you’re well rested. These workouts 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.

For core strength workouts that will help every cyclist, check out this equipment-free program or this Tabata workout.

Other workouts

For those who want to add some more training to their weekly schedules, the program includes what we’ll call “cyclist’s choice” days. These can be easy bike rides, easy runs or even just some long, brisk walks to get you out of the house and enjoying some fresh air.

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.

About Virtual MS Bike
Every summer cyclists of all ages and fitness levels come together across Canada to find, and conquer, their personal cycling challenge at MS Bike. This year is no different as we come together at our Virtual MS Bike, uniting online. Join us as together we hit the road, trainer or stationary bike and virtually connect for a cycling experience you will never forget.

Register at msbike.ca

Kevin Mackinnon is a former professional triathlete who has been coaching cyclists, runners and triathletes for more than 30 years. He is the editor of Triathlon Magazine Canada and a senior editor at Canadian Cycling Magazine.