17 Strategies for Getting Stronger, Faster and Fitter on the Bike

MapMyRun
by MapMyRun
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17 Strategies for Getting Stronger, Faster and Fitter on the Bike

These 17 proven strategies will turbocharge your training and make you stronger, faster and fitter than ever.

1. PEDAL WITH MORE POWER

Researchers found that just one month of plyometric training (jumping exercises) twice a week can increase your power endurance by 17%. This means you’ll be stomping out longer sprints and charging up hills in your big ring.

Try squat jumps twice a week: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at sides. Sit into a squat, lowering until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Jump explosively and reach for the ceiling. Land gently and lower into another squat. Do 2 sets of 10.

2. CLIMB SMARTER

  • Choose a gear you can pedal smoothly, not mash.
  • Visualize pedaling across the stroke rather than simply up and down. Strive to apply power horizontally through the bottom and top of the stroke.
  • When out of the saddle, if you feel your body bobbing too much, shift one gear harder. If you feel like you are excessively swinging your bike from side to side, shift one gear easier.

3. FOCUS ON SPRINTS DURING THE OFF-SEASON

Try not to jam so much saddle time into the cold months that you’re torched by June. Instead, add power sprints — 5–10-second all-out efforts — to your riding, says Neal Henderson, founder of Boulder-based APEX Coaching. “You’ll add quality to compensate for what you aren’t doing in quantity, without overdoing it.”

4. STAY SHARP

Don’t cram in miles the week before an event or race. Keep your rides short, so your body can be rested and ready.

5. AVOID THE DEAD ZONE

This condition, common among cyclists, is like a no man’s land and is brought on by repeated training at a single, moderately hard intensity. The dead zone afflicts enthusiasts who push the pedals hard but don’t follow a training program and amateur racers who have the great Eddy Merckx’s famous maxim, “ride lots,” indelibly burned into their brains. Those suffering from the malady may not be aware of it. That’s because, at a minimum, it maintains fitness, says Henderson. “You’re working kind of hard, but not doing a lot to change your physiology.” In order for your body to adapt and improve, you need to follow a program that hits the extremes, he says, especially the high end.

6. EAT ON THE CLOCK

On long rides, it’s easy to lose track of how much time has passed since you last ate or drank. One easy solution: Set reminders on your watch, phone or bike computer for regular intervals. For example, every 10–15 minutes drink 4–6 ounces of water or sports drink; and every 15–20 minutes (after 45 minutes of riding), eat 7–10 grams of carbohydrates.

7. SAVE TIME FOR A COOLDOWN

A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that when cyclists did a 15-minute cool-down spin at 30% of their maximum VO2 after a hard effort, they were able to perform almost as well 24 hours later on an identical strenuous workout.

8. GAIN FREE SPEED

  • Scoot your butt back on the saddle and ride with your hands in the drops. (If you have a flat bar, scooting back and bending your elbows will still lower your profile, making you more aerodynamic.)
  • On descents, tuck your elbows and knees in toward your bike and lower your head as much as possible while still maintaining control.
  • If you need just one bottle, put it in the cage on your seat tube, which is slightly more aero, instead of on your down tube.
  • When you’re riding in street shoes, tuck your laces inside instead of letting them flap — every millisecond counts, right?

9. MAKE A TRAINING PLAN

Your plan was to be triple-digit fit by April. Now that 100-miler you registered for light-years ago is just a month away, and you’ve barely cracked 40 miles. Do this century crash course (only if your fitness base already includes a few rides a week), and you’ll be ready to roll.

Shoot for 65 miles before a century. Coaches advise that you should do a 75-mile ride before your century. But you can squeak by with a long ride of 65 miles.

Ride 3–4 days a week between now and the century: One that’s steady, one for speed and one easy spin. Ride long one day, and at a fast pace another, with at least one easy-spin day in between. On your fast ride, try this: Warm up for 20 minutes, ride fast for 20, cool down for 20. Inch up the mileage on your easy rides by a mile or two as you progress toward the event.

  • Your Schedule:
    • Week 1: 45 miles
    • Week 2: 51 miles
    • Week 3: 57 miles
    • Week 4: 65 miles

10. GO TO BED ALREADY

When you sleep, your body produces hormones that are critical to recovery. Research has shown that getting just two fewer hours of sleep than normal can slow your reaction time, an extra level of risk you don’t want when you’re navigating in traffic or a tight pack. It’s also a factor in performance, says Stanford University sleep researcher Cheri Mahf. In 2011, Mahf and her colleagues found that when athletes who were sleeping 6–8 hours a night aimed for closer to 10 hours, their reaction time and performance improved.

11. GET A KILLER JUMP

Practice standing starts: Using a big gear such as 53×19, roll to a slow speed, then accelerate at 100% effort as fast as possible for 20–30 pedal strokes. Begin with 3–4 sprints and build to 6–7. The first three pedal strokes are the most important — this is when the “sprint” message is transferred from your brain to the muscle fibers. Take the first stroke with your dominant leg, starting with the pedal at a two o’clock position.

12. ROLL WITH IT

The world would be a better place if we all had the luxury of a daily post-ride massage — with a foam roller,  you can pretty much do the job yourself. “As you roll a muscle back and forth on the dense foam cylinder, adhesions and scar tissue break down,” says Scott Levin, MD, sports medicine specialist at Somers Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Group in New York City. “It also warms and stretches muscles, increases circulation and prevents soreness.”

13. KNOW YOUR RHR

That’s your resting heart rate — taken in the morning before you get out of bed — and it’s one of the best ways to monitor overtraining. If your beats per minute are 10% higher than normal, that could be a warning that you may need to back off and take an easy day.

14. MAINTAIN A HEALTHY CYCLING WEIGHT

  • Eat breakfast. It keeps your energy steady, so you’re less likely to overeat later in the day.
  • Weigh in. The vast majority of people who stay slim step onto a scale at least once a week — those concrete numbers staring up at you are simply too hard to ignore.
  • Be consistent. Most folks who keep the pounds off do so by staying the course. They eat well most of the time without swinging between deprivation and binges.

15. REWARD YOURSELF

Giving yourself strategic incentives for positive behavior can prevent backsliding. Choose healthy incentives, such as a new jersey or gloves, rather than unhealthy options like, say, cake.

16. SET A GOAL FOR EVERY RIDE

Whether your goal for one ride is power and another is recovery, go out there with a plan in mind.

17. CROSS-TRAIN WITH YOGA

Study volunteers reported 79% less lower-back pain three months after they took a weekly yoga class for 16 weeks, according to the journal Pain.


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About the Author

MapMyRun
MapMyRun

MapMyRun provides users with the ability to map, record and share their exercise routes and workouts with each other. Make every run count and join Under Armour Connected Fitness™, the world’s largest digital fitness community: Visit the MapMyRun blog and download UA Record, MapMyRun, MyFitnessPal and Endomondo.

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