The secret to smashing those PBs, straight from a pro cycling coach…
We’re all trying to ride faster, but is your training regime doing you more harm than good? Whether you’re powering up for the next mountain climb, or trying to smash PBs on the flat, pro cycling coach, Cam Nicholls shares his top 5 secrets so that you can level up on your bike this summer.
Who is Cam Nicholls?
Cam Nicholls is an amateur cyclist who took up road cycling in 2009 to keep fit. 10 years on, having raced competitively and started a successful online bike marketplace ‘Bike Radar’, Cam is a professional cycling coach with an internationally renowned YouTube Channel. Cam’s cycling Vlog covers training and racing tips, inspirational and entertaining cycling stories and in-depth reviews of road bikes and road cycling products.
1. Train the Aerobic Engine
People talk about ‘base fitness’ all the time and this means your aerobic engine! If you become more efficient with oxygen utilisation during exercise, your cycling fitness will go to another level. The easiest way to think about this is the same way we think about building a house. If the foundation (base fitness) is deep and wide you can build 20 levels. If the base foundation is shallow and thin, you will only be able to build a few levels. This means that base fitness is critical and should be worked in isolation to high intensity sessions to allow it to blossom. If you have never trained aerobically before, you might even like to focus solely on that for a 10-12 week period!
Getting the base formula right includes your equipment: your bike, workout gear, and of course your men's cycling sunglasses and women's cycling sunglasses. Getting the right equipment will make a huge difference to your performance on race day.
2. Respect High Intensity Training (HIT)
Once you have learned to separate your training rides into aerobic and HIT rides, you’ll learn to appreciate the HIT sessions more. Complete approximately 3 HIT sessions per week and have these sessions separated out with an aerobic session or light spin between each HIT workout. Well-spaced HIT sessions allow your body time to absorb the fitness gains and you’ll soon start noticing that you’re getting stronger.
3. Get the right bike set-up for training
One common oversight I often see is that people only train with 1 drink bottle on the bike but always race with 2. This causes the bike to feel heavier and unfamiliar on race day which can affect performance. Always make sure you’re training with 2 drink bottles to condition yourself to the feel of the bike.
Secondly, people often train on their race / carbon wheels when I actually recommend training on heavy wheels with more resistant tyres. This means that when you switch to your race tyres, the bike will feel faster and you’ll feel stronger when it matters most! Two simple fixes which can lead to significant race-day gains.
Not only that, ensure you're armed with road cycling sunglasses to support your vision and provide optimal clarity and UV protection on the day.
4. Hack the recovery process
While HIT sessions are imperative, rest and recovery are equally as important. Remember:
Fitness + Freshness = FORM
Resting is one way to improve freshness and this means doing nothing physical at all for one day. Alternatively, a light 20-minute spin on an indoor trainer also helps the freshness component of the equation. Spinning in a low gear helps reduce waste that has accumulated in your body from tough training, replenishing it with oxygen and nutrients. The key here is to stay fresh and not to 'over train'.
5. Don’t lose sight
If you’re looking to make improvements, it’s important to remember that you have to be willing to make changes. If you’re struggling to get stronger or faster, your routine possibly isn’t working. I’m not saying ditch the ‘same old’ rides because these may form part of why you love cycling. The key is to blend your favorite parts of your original regimes with whatever you feel is missing from above. So, if you’re always heading out on long 5 hour rides, take a few away and add in some HIT sessions. Alternatively, if you’re constantly pushing it and not seeing the gains, give your body a chance to rest and work in some longer aerobic rides!
Finally, don’t forget the golden rule, you need patience. Becoming a better endurance athlete takes time, so please take these five tips on board and give it at least 12 weeks. Once you have spent that initial few months working on it, you will start to see BIG gains.
Cam Nicholls' free eBook for road cyclists ‘The 5 Step System to Stronger Cycling’, can be downloaded from his YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/c/CamNicholls