Training is hard

It’s not just the riding that’s hard about training…

In the 10 years plus that I’ve been riding bikes, I’ve found it easier and easier to find out about products related to cycling. As the world has moved further online, Google is there to help you find out about the latest bit of carbon bling (including helping you find this site).

I still struggle though to find the answers on training. Yes, there is lots more info out there. Every cycling magazine you pick up has at least one article on training. Most cycling websites have regular articles/posts on training and a new coach (if you have the funds) is also only a Google or a Tweet away. There are training platforms now too like Trainerroad, Zwift or Sufferfest – but which one is best for you and how will you know?

For all this wealth of information I have to admit I find it hard to translate this into deciding what’s best for me. What plan should I be following? How hard should it be? What should my power output goals be? How intensive should my programme be or not?

Everywhere you look there’s a view but is it right for you?

You could decide to try different plans but if they’re not working, have you just wasted your time or should you expect to spend years learning what works best for you? In a perfect world, we might well choose that, but if you only started riding in your 30’s or 40’s, that feels like a luxury that’s not practical.

After over a decade of riding, I still haven’t cracked this. For 5-6 years, I just got and rode as much as I could find time for. I did get faster but it plateaued at a level I couldn’t push through. I thought I could ride better but just going out riding didn’t help me past a certain point.

So I got a coach and at that point in time I wasn’t a great student. I wasn’t good at routine and I found the structured part of the plan impossible on the varying terrain I rode on. So after a few months, I waved the white flag and stopped being coached, having wasted both of our time to be honest.

What I had noticed was that one of my riding buddies had continued to get faster, whilst I hadn’t during that time. The only thing he did differently than me was he trained on a turbo trainer 3x a week all year round. Still that penny didn’t drop for me. I had a turbo trainer (and still do) and it stayed covered in dust tucked away in the corner of my garage.

Then I discovered the Wattbike and training with Power and Heart Rate and the penny dropped. I do believe that the best way to train with limited time is using a structured programme indoors. It’s not as romantic, glamorous or fun, but it’s efficient and effective with the right training plan for you.

When I first got a Wattbike, I downloaded their basic free training plans. I started with a sportive training plan (number 4 in case you were wondering) and I learnt to arrange my week to do the sessions. Within 10 weeks, I was riding faster than I ever had before and pushed through my previous plateau point, which was a revelation.

Since then, I’ve on and off the bike thanks to life. I’ve been sick with coughs and colds, busy with work and family and this has meant a number of periods off the bike. I’ve tried Trainerroad, which I loved but the training plans made me sick – really, they quickly ground me down and my health deteriorated. During the winter I tried the Wattbike winter training plan and that didn’t work for me either. After 13 or 14 weeks I had little stamina or strength and was pretty dispirited.

Some more time off the bike thanks to a busy work schedule took my fitness backwards again. I’ve been back out riding on the road recently and things are now moving slowly in the right direction.

I’ve now changed my views to the point that I think structured indoor training is essential for maximising the 4-6 hours a week I can typically find to ride. This has definitely delivered results and I’m a big fan of the Wattbike as part of this.

What’s hard though, is that I still don’t know what the right training plan is for someone of my age and for the limited time I have. I know I can ride well when I’m fit but how to get there still feels like following a mirage in the desert. As soon as I you think you’re there it moves again.

If this is something you also find difficult about cycling, please leave a comment. I’m trying to put a plan together that might help others as well as me. If that could be of interest, please let me know.

Also if you’ve found your own answer to this, please do tell me what it was, I’d love to hear.

Thanks for reading