How To Train According To Your Rider Type (Part 2 of 4)

Let’s start by talking about the basis of all cycling improvement – training all the energy systems. This should lead to a discovery of how to not only train to your strengths but more importantly, improve your weaknesses.

To set the scene, training principles when I started cycling in the late ’80s, the gold standard was that building an aerobic base was fundamental.

So, does this view still hold up, given the advances in science? It seems to have fallen away in the general fitness arena, with HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) being the latest craze in gyms and boot camps.

Given that we now know that all three energy systems work more or less concurrently, depending on effort, is it necessary to “build an aerobic base” from a fitness development point of view and the better the base the further the athlete will go to achieving great results. 


Read Part 1 here –> Understanding Your Rider Type (Part 1 of 4)


Personal lessons – the most fun part of my season always started with 3000 km (3 months approx) on my fixed gear bike to build my base before doing any harder riding. My fixed gear bike has brakes added and the gearing was 46 x 18 which would put me on around 30 kph at 90 rpm.

Back in those days, there were no power meters so I would strictly stay in zone 2 HR (Heart Rate). This would set me with a great base foundation of aerobic capacity, capillary density and great pedalling efficiency gains, for a great year. In my experience, training in this zone is the most underestimated and executed phase of training in Singapore today.


Why should I focus on base training to improve my performance? 

There are many reasons why you should include base training into your training plan:

Base endurance riding increases the overall fitness of your muscles, ligaments and tendons, making them fit enough to support harder training without injury.
Base training produces the following physiological adaptations:
1. Boosts the endurance of the cycling muscles by increasing the number of mitochondria.
2. Strengthens the respiratory system, providing more oxygen to the blood supply.
3. Increases the efficiency of the heart so it can pump more blood to the muscles. Endurance training improves the stroke volume, the amount of blood pumped per heartbeat.
4. Increases the capacity of the liver and muscles to store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen.
5. Furthers the neuromuscular efficiency of pedalling.
6. Endurance training helps to boost your capacity to burn fat during long rides.
7. Tunes the thermoregulatory system by increasing the blood flow to the skin.


Understanding Energy Metabolism and Muscle Fibre Types

The three energy systems are:

1. Oxidative aerobic system (low power / long duration), which is composed of two different sub-systems:
A. Fat metabolism
B. Glycogen metabolism

2. Glycolytic anaerobic system, which metabolises glycogen (moderate power / short duration of about two minutes)

3. ATP-CP, which metabolises glycogen (high power / short duration up to 10 seconds)


Likewise, your legs have three different types of muscle fibres:

1. Slow-twitch: low power, high endurance. This is also known as base training, which should be 80% of your training load.

2. Fast-twitch Part 1: Moderate power and endurance. This should be 13% of your training load – these can be achieved through progressively longer interval sets over time, measured by HR, power or Muscle oxygen sensor.

3. Fast-twitch Part 2: High power and Shorter endurance. This should be around 7% of your training load. These can be done on every ride, 4-10 10 to 20-sec max sprints during the course of a ride, up an incline of 4-6% would be advantageous.



Coaching Counts

If you want to be the best you can, hire a coach who understands energy system and how fibre type responds to different kinds of training and can give you a plan with elements of progressive Overload, recovery and specificity to the three energy systems.



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