Without a doubt, the most precious commodity most cyclists have is time. Unless you get paid to ride, you probably have one or two other things on your daily schedule besides training. Very often I hear cyclists lament the fact that they don't have enough free time to hire a coach and get on a real training program. Of course, my response is that the less time they have to train, the more crucial it is that they follow a smart training program to ensure that they are getting the most out of their limited riding time.
Many cyclists believe that since they only have a few precious hours each week to train, they need to get the most out of that time by hammering every minute of every ride. The idea seems to be that they can make up for a lack of base and endurance by increasing intensity.
This is a bad idea for too many reasons to list here. Riders who employ this all-or-nothing training strategy will very quickly reach a plateau and will most likely begin to experience signs of overtraining. Even with a limited amount of time, it is essential to strike a balance between recovery, intensity and endurance.
The best thing you can do to improve your training efficiency is to hire a reputable coach. Next up is to follow a strong training program out of a book or on a Web site. At the very least, keep a training log and make sure that every three or four weeks you give yourself a break.
Look back at your logs once in a while, and see if you can find markers that might help you tweak and refine your training to make sure your fitness is progressing as quickly as possible. Other ways to get the most out of your rides is to invest in a power meter to fine-tune your zone or to use PowerCranks, which make every pedal stroke count as two (approximately).
Another way to ensure that you get the most out of your workouts is to pay attention to your nutrition, especially during and immediately following your rides. On the bike, keep your system topped off with a drink such as Accelerade, which combines sugar to keep your energy stores up and protein to prevent muscle break down.
Afterward, some simple sugars and protein in a ratio of 4-to-1 have proven to be the most effective recipe for speeding recovery. If you find yourself running off to the office as soon as you step out of the shower, simplify things with an Endurox R4 recovery shake, which has the proper ratio of protein to carbs.
Put it all Together
Hopefully, you've picked up a few tips that might help you in your pursuit of cycling excellence. Keep in mind, it's not just racers and exercise fanatics who can benefit from these tips. In my experience as a coach, the best way to keep riders interested in cycling and excited about getting on their bikes each day is to set goals and then strive to reach them.
Although not everyone has that competitive edge, we all enjoy riding fast, climbing gracefully and getting home feeling tired but not destroyed. Paying a little attention to the small things can make a significant improvement, not just in your performance but in your enjoyment of the sport.