Ride indoors and out
To get the biggest cycling bang for your buck, also consider performing your weekday rides indoors on a trainer. You will develop a higher level of cycling fitness while targeting a few prime movers for cycling, and working them in the aerobic zones for great adaptations with a substantially lesser time commitment. Because you are always performing steady work, which creates a challenge to your aerobic systems, a 90-minute ride outside can be compared to a 60- or 70-minute ride indoors.
Don’t completely count out the outdoor rides, though. Riding indoors works fewer muscle groups because you’re in a relatively fixed position compared to riding outside, so it is important to still complement your weekday riding with some outdoor cycling to maintain your high-end power. Riding on the road requires recruitment of more muscle fibers because you have to work against gravity, and you have little to no give between your tire and the road as opposed to the give between the wheel of the trainer and your tire. It is the combination of force and leg speed that allows you to work higher-end power, higher-end energy systems, and anaerobic properties within the muscle. So, outdoor riding is imperative to working more anaerobic properties. How much should you ride indoors versus out? This will depend on the type of event you’re training for (crit, TT, stage race, etc.), but obviously some outdoor riding is better than none. Do what time allows.
When you head out for your rides, it can be tempting to do so in a group. Save the group rides and socializing for the weekends — just keep in mind that your workout goals may be different than those with whom you’re riding. Don’t make it a competition and let your planning and purpose go out the window.
Above all, just ride
We cannot emphasize the importance of consistency in your training enough and it is, bar none, the No. 1 fundamental method to improving your performance. A daily ride of 45-60 minutes yields a much greater physiological benefit than cramming in long workouts on certain days with off days in between. Consistency creates a progressive training load and enables athletes to adapt and get stronger while reducing the likelihood of becoming injured.
So, the next time “life is getting in the way” of your planned ride, remember that it is much more valuable for you to get out (or jump on the trainer) and do it today, rather than saving it up for when you have “more time” in the future.
Editor’s Note: Jeff Vicario is a TrainingBible elite coach and a USA Cycling Level III coach. Jeff has been coaching for over 15 years and has led athletes of all levels to extraordinary results. You can e-mail Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org.