To round out our introduction to coaching articles, here are some answers to common questions. If there is anything else you’d like to ask, let us know!
Q1 – Should I train in a group or by myself?
There are lot of benefits to riding in a group – there’s the craic and opportunity to learn from other riders, and the chance to pick up group riding skills that you can’t do individually. A group also let’s you measure yourself against the other riders in the group, and they’ll often push you harder than you might have tried yourself!
The main downside is that you can’t control what the group does – if you want to do one hour of intervals, then there is no point trying to persuade the Sunday club run to do that. Some clubs organise “chain gangs” for short, hard speed sessions, but speed training is highly unsociable and difficult to control in a group – it’s likely to be too easy or too hard.
So to answer the question, I would suggest a mixture is best – longer runs at the weekend in a smallish group (6-10 riders), and midweek speed/strength sessions by yourself.
Q2 – What should I eat?
Unless you are a professional or top amateur racing a lot, there is no need for supplements – a normal, balanced diet is fine. There are a couple of points worth noting –
- Before and after hard training, increase the proportion of protein in what you eat – it’s after training that your body will be crying out for protein to build and strengthen the muscles you’ve just been torturing out on the road.
- For the last couple of days prior to a big event, increase the proportion of carbohydrate in your diet – to “pre-charge” your body in preparation for all the energy it is going to burn in the event.
- As you increase the volume of training in the build up to the season, expect to have to eat a bit more. But don’t over do it! One of the skills your body learns in long, steady runs is how to burn fat – this is by far the most efficient way to cycle, and has the added benefit of helping you lose any excess weight you may have added in the off season!
- While on the bike, drink and eat “little and often”. Try to avoid sugary foods as the short boost they give won’t last.
Q3 – Should I train on my good bike?
Pros get given their bikes, and can afford to train on their best bike. The rest of us are generally not so lucky. Also, if you’re training in the winter on dirty, wet roads, you’re going to want a bike with heavier tyres and mudguards. The most important thing is that the riding position on all you bikes is as similar as possible so that you can easily move between them. And think of the psychological boost when you step from your heavy old training iron to your stripped down racing machine!
Q4 – How much sleep do I need?
Sleep varies a lot between people, and also changes as you get older, so there are no hard and fast rules. But training is tiring, so expect to need more sleep if you are training hard – maybe an hour or more per day. You might also feel the need for a recovery power nap in the afternoon after a long session. And even when you’re awake, you’ll need more time for relaxing, so be realistic.