Build a better base

When winter begins, it’s a good idea to start building your aerobic base in readiness for the big rides you have planned this year. This aerobic base will be the foundation for all of the interval-based training you’ll be doing in the spring, and without it you increase your risk of injury and over-training when compared to a cyclist who has put in the quality sessions over the winter.

A good analogy here is to think of the foundations of a building, the deeper and stronger the foundations (the aerobic base), the higher you can build on top of those foundations (your peak fitness level).

And while building aerobic endurance might not be a whole lot of fun, it really is necessary for you to spend quality time doing long, steady riding at the start of your training for next season. Follow an aerobic base training plan over the winter which includes a mixture of indoor and outdoor riding.

The key to building endurance is to ensure you are training at the right intensity. The Wattbike is a highly accurate indoor bike on which to establish your training zones, which you can then use for all of your indoor and outdoor sessions. Take the results from your test session and input your personalised heart-rate zones into your cycle computer so that you have a live reading when out on long rides too.

You may have to sacrifice some of your group riding with friends during this time as you’ll find varying levels of fitness cause a group to want to ride at different speeds (although you can use your local Wattbike facility where training in a group environment in personal heart- rate zones is possible). 

And if you can’t avoid hills when building your aerobic base, you’ll find that you’ll be spinning a very light gear and ascending more slowly than usual to keep the heart rate in the right zone. All of this is fine; the key is to remain focused on your goal of building base endurance.

Which brings us nicely to the other key component of the start of your winter training: recovery. The quality of your recovery should match the quality of your training. It’s a bold statement and one that is misunderstood – or even ignored – by many cyclists. By training regularly on an indoor trainer that measures power, such as a Wattbike, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between your heart rate and power output.

Look for trends, such as a period of improvement or deterioration, when comparing specific power outputs against corresponding heart rate values. If there is an increasing heart rate for a specific power output or a decrease in power for the same heart rate then it is possible you are either ill or over-training. Usually, there are some obvious signs, such as fatigue. The key here is to back off from training for a few days until you feel well again.

Structuring your winter training is key so get the foundations in place early on so you can hit the spring months with some high intensity interval sessions for a fantastic year of cycling.

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