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How to Optimize Your Cycling Performance – A Guide for Avid Riders

By Amanda Wilks

For athletes with a mindset on improvement and perfecting technique through hard work and dedication, no task is more daunting than beginning a routine. Any new task can seem monumental even if it’s simply a variation of what one already does on a daily basis, be it cycling or pursuing a new career path, but the pains of transitioning to a better routine can be reduced if you adopt sound strategies with solid scientific backing and adjust your training regimen accordingly.

While there is no one perfect plan to follow, any existing plan can be modified or a new plan may be drafted with a few core concepts in place to assist technique in a logical manner. Most of these techniques revolve around how a cyclist approaches training, the techniques practiced during training and how those methods are put into play during events.

Practice Makes Permanent

The benefits of a training regimen are hard to understate yet not every athlete and enthusiast approach training in the right way. There are a great many myths and less than ideal solutions to common problems in the common sphere of knowledge and several of these methods could lead to harm. For example, pedaling techniques of old and the angle at which one holds their ankles during pedaling could actually lead to long-term injury when compared to modern pedaling technique.

These issues persist into training systems as a whole, especially systems without proper periods of rest or tapering before an upcoming event. A 2000 study on interval training found a significant increase in cycle performance and quad strength simply by introducing a two-week tapering period after six weeks of training. By allowing the body time to recover and repair itself before another high-intensity event, performance increases despite colloquialisms suggesting the negative impact a break in exercise may have on the body.

Yet something much more basic than the rate at which you train might have adverse effects that aren’t immediately obvious as shown by a separate study focused on the effects of mild dehydration during intense biking. Unsurprisingly, even mild dehydration hampers performance and causes cyclists to reach a rate of high fatigue much faster than a well-hydrated individual. Forgetting to drink a few extra ounces of water during workout periods can hurt in ways that aren’t apparent until after you’ve corrected your methods.

In short, ensure your training focuses on strength building and periods of rest, but don’t forget the importance of hydration and other basics that are easy to neglect.

The Science of Recovery Aids

Any post-workout or even post-event routine should involve rest, re-hydration and potentially a period of lower intensity workouts to foster effective recovery, as shown in the above segment regarding tapering periods. It may feel natural to reach for an electrolyte-filled recovery beverage during these times and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but the tangible benefits of specific recovery aids may be less pronounced than originally perceived.

Sports nutrition studies have shown chocolate milk and recovery beverages have roughly the same benefits on the average exerciser in between sessions, despite a prevailing public attitude favoring isocaloric drinks marketed with sports recovery in mind.

While it’s still important to ensure one’s intake of beverages post-exercise has a balanced nutritional impact on the body, you shouldn’t feel beholden to sports drink labels or outlandish claims about future performance if you choose not to drink isocaloric benefits due to concerns over sugar content or perceived benefits.

The Art of the Follow-Through

When it finally comes time to demonstrate what your weeks of training have led up to, how you approach and begin an event could help or harm your course time even worse than skipping a few training sessions throughout the preceding months.

Cyclists have long discussed the upsides to different starting strategies, for instance, with different schools of thought praising aggressive starts versus slower, more moderately paced beginnings, especially during endurance-oriented events. These disagreements generally stem from the idea that one will be too tired later in an endurance race to perform bursts of speed, which calls for a quicker start to take advantage of one’s fresher constitution.

Yet the data shows it may be wiser to start off slow and steady when approaching an event, especially during the first four to five minutes of exertion, due to long-term benefits from a more measured pace versus immediately pushing yourself to your limits.

Conclusion

While there may be no one right way to approach cycling training, there are plenty of small methodologies to fold into a new or existing routine that can help prevent bad habits from becoming deeply ingrained muscle memory. Fight the urge to follow trends that are only backed up by marketing buzz and see what physical therapy and sports science shows to be best for your body before setting out on a new course of action. Your biking technique will almost certainly improve, and your health may shortly follow.

Author Bio: Amanda Wilks is a writer, contributing author at MountainBikeReviewed.com, and sports activist. Before embarking on a new biking adventure, she likes to train properly and prepare herself for the unexpected. Visit Amanda’s Twitter for more of her writings.