We've all heard the classic “I have to get in x amount of miles in today,” from our training partners. For most riders, miles are the golden ticket needed to complete their training, but is this the right way to train? In this article, Coach Roger Rilling (Stoller Coaching) will discuss how training based on miles could be the wrong approach, and how it can lead to several training downfalls.
Too often, riders get fixated on high mileage. The sound of 100 miles starts to sound tough or epic and because of this, motivated cyclists go for the big ones more often than needed. There is a time and place for doing high mile days, but for the majority of one’s training, the focus should be on time and not miles. Here are some points to consider next time you go out for a ride based on miles:
- MILES TO NOWHERE - "Mile training" can lead one to aimlessly pedal their bike until they hit the mileage they're after. Such riding falls into the "junk mile" category -- they're there but they're not worth much. Remember that you want to enjoy riding and training, the more junk miles you log, the more stress you're putting on your body for no performance gain.
- INTENSITY CHECK - So you have the perfect 80 mile ride planned on a course you have ridden several times. You're scheduled to do a 4.5 hr endurance ride and you just happen to know that your 80 mile ride will take about that long. Once you set out onto the ride, you notice that the wind starts to pick up after 1.5 hours of riding. Instead of changing the ride route, the "mile bug" bites you and you decide to stay on course. The only problem is that you only had 4.5 hours of the day to ride before you had to focus on other things. Without questioning things, you slam into your big ring and start to ride harder than what was scheduled just to meet your time constraint. You have now completely changed your scheduled workout just to meet the miles you lusted for. This type of action can quickly unravel a very good training season!
- VARIATION DILEMMA - Another problem encountered when an athlete solely focuses on training miles is variation. It doesn't take long for a rider to find some nice training loops that get the miles they're after. Once a good loop is found, creativity seems to take the back burner to the fact that a loop is a certain distance. This may not seem like a problem at first, but once you tie yourself to a handful of courses, you're simply feeding the burn-out fire. When you train based on time, you can modify training routes on the fly; this allows the rides to change and feel more exciting.
- RACE PACE- Here is where things get a little tricky. It's good to include rides within your training that simulate the efforts you'll encounter in your longer races. The mistake that most make is to simply look at distance. For example, rider A is a cat 4 racer and his longest road race of the season is 65 miles, therefore he rides 65 miles once every week at a hard pace. The problem is that rider A is not taking into consideration his energy expenditure. When you are in an actual race your effort needed to complete a 65 mile ride in 3 hrs is less than if you did a 65 mile solo training ride in 3 hrs. Because of the drafting advantages you get from being in a race, the only way to simulate this in training would be to do a very large group ride. When you are doing race effort workout, your main focus should be on simulating the actual energy you use in your races. When a rider simply bases a race effort ride on the time / distance of their races, they usually end up over-training.
These are just some of the reasons that training on miles can lead an athlete down the wrong path. Keep in mind that the cycling season is pretty long, the more you can do to avoid burn-out or over-training, the better!
Roger Rilling is a former professional road and track cyclist with over 10 years of coaching experience. Stoller, founded by Roger in 2004, is a coaching and training club that focuses on giving athletes of all abilities the experience of being a pro. Training at Stoller is based off of personalized training plans, partnered with supported group training events. To find out more about Stoller, please visit www.mystoller.com or call 888.407.0754.
>>> Roger is one of the amazing coaches that utilize the TrainingPeaks software to coach athletes. Want to check out getting your own personal coach? Use our Coach Directory (which lists thousands of great TrainingPeaks coaches) to find a local coach near you!