Why a Simple Workout Makes Cyclists Faster

Peter Glassford
by Peter Glassford
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Why a Simple Workout Makes Cyclists Faster

It may seem like you need to have the latest bike computer, virtual training platform or electronic-shifters to keep up with the true cyclists, but many of us simply want to ride. It’s possible to train for improved performance without overcomplicating things with technology, complex workouts or more screen time. This is how we arrange our training to keep it simple but effective.


A solid, simple training plan combines high- and low-intensity days. For example, two days can be set aside for focused, hard rides. If you are a mountain biker, that might just be a hilly route where you push hard. A time-trialist might go out and do some hard riding on a safe route and focus on their position. These two days should help you experience ‘critical moments’ — the points in your ride, or races, when the splits happen or where the race is won.

Workouts can be thought of as recipes. You might get one from a coach, a training plan, or make it up on your own. A good workout is made up of ingredients we all recognize, just like a nutritious meal. Your workout might have a location, a duration and/or an intensity. Your workouts can be as simple as 90–180 minutes at low intensity; for your focused days, do 90 minutes with 3 x 10 minutes hard or go hard on every climb on the trails.

From here, you can use the ingredients that make sense for you:

  • What is your goal event?
  • What bike is ready?
  • Can you get to trails or to hills?
  • How is the weather?

If the workout is 3 x 10 minutes hard, you could do this on a local hill, around the local time-trial course or on a cyclocross loop in the park, or you can perform the intervals on an indoor trainer. This is the part where you ‘season to taste’ … What do you like? What do you need? What can you actually do today?

READ MORE: A 4-Week Training Plan for Better Mountain Biking


Many cyclists still collect data such as power, heart rate and GPS metrics, but their focus remains on riding and then reflecting on the ride. Getting out the door to do a fun ride should overrule troubleshooting a device or stressing over hitting power numbers. The important thing is to keep track of how your ride went and how you felt. Whether you felt great or tired can help determine what your next ride will be or how the next week’s rides should look.

Instead of stressing over numbers, post-workout reflection like what happened on the ride and how you felt helps inform future workouts. Focusing on enjoying riding and then gradually building on those rides is a simple path to great results and experiences.

About the Author

Peter Glassford
Peter Glassford

Peter is a cycling coach and registered kinesiologist from Ontario, Canada. He travels frequently to work with athletes at races, camps and clinics. He also races mountain bikes for Trek Canada and pursues adventure in all types of movement. Follow @peterglassford on Twitter, or check out his online and in-person coaching at www.smartathlete.ca.


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