"If only I had more time to train, I'd be in super shape." Ever overhear that comment on the club ride? I bet you have. You may have even said it yourself. It ranks way ahead of other cycling "if onlys" — wishes for more power, a faster sprint or a lighter bike. Give me 20 hours a week on the bike, we fantasize, and Lance would be in trouble.
There's one more fallacy of wishing for unlimited time to ride: you'd probably get bored with cycling. Isn't gonna happen — you love to ride, right? But if all you did was ride — no weight training, no hiking, no leisurely Saturday mornings puttering around the house — you'd eventually come to dislike the bike.
Deciding How Much To Train
Pro cyclists often ride 20-30 hours a week. Riders training for ultramarathon events may log even more. Recreational racers (category 3, 4, 5 and masters) usually put in about 10 weekly hours, although some get by on 5 or 7 quality hours if their events are short. Most people with careers, families and other time constraints find that 7 hours a week is plenty of riding to meet their goals. Fast centuries require occasional training rides of 4 or 5 hours, but other weekly jaunts can be shorter.
All of this said, trying to ride a set number of hours each week — and getting frustrated if you don't meet that goal — is exactly the wrong approach.
You're an experiment of one. That's what running philosopher and physician George Sheehan used to say and he was right. We're all individuals. The training program that makes Lance Armstrong fit enough to win the Tour de France would make most of us too tired to get a leg over the bike. The secret? Ride when you can, and have fun when you do. You shouldn't punch a time clock when you get on your bike.
Remember, intensity is one key to this program. If you could ride 200 to 400 miles per week, sheer volume would guarantee a high level of fitness. But you can't. Instead, make up for missing miles by including intense efforts. Mix short, hard efforts like sprints with longer, steady efforts on hills or into the wind. Spirited group rides raise intensity, too. Aim for efforts at or above your lactate threshold.
Finally, ride smart. Is there a negative to this 7-hours-a-week program? Of course. In lengthy events such as centuries or week-long tours, you won't have the endurance of riders blessed with more training time. The solution is to realize your limitation and ride accordingly. Sit in a paceline, back off a bit on climbs, eat and drink often. You'll do fine.
This Signature Series article is provided courtesy of RoadBikeRider.com. It comes from RoadBikeRider's bible of training for cycling, Fred Matheny's Complete Book of Road Bike Training by Fred Matheny.
From the cover: During three decades as a road rider and cycling writer, Fred Matheny has built an international reputation for his contributions to the sport. In this, his thirteenth book, he amasses his knowledge and that of many other experts in what is truly the complete book of road bike training.
RoadBikeRider offers Fred's book, many more cycling guides and even a free weekly e-mail newsletter full of tips and news for aspiring bicyclists.