In the second of his monthly coaching columns, Alex Wise of Wise Cycle Training continues with the basics – looking at the importance of understanding you Resting Heart Rate – plus he answers your questions in the new Ask Alex feature.

Before I go on to write articles on how to train for your events I want to discuss the foundations of solid training. I touched on the benefit of keeping a training diary previously and I want to discuss another foundation mentioned in my previous post.

Resting heart rate is very important and can tell you some crucial information about your body. Knowing what to do with the information can prevent you from overtraining. One of the most common mistakes of amateur cyclists across the globe, overtraining, can wreck your entire season. Catching the early signs is vital and your resting heart rate is that early indicator.

There is a number of ways that you can take your RHR. You can place two fingers across a pulse point (such as your neck or your wrist) you could wear your heart rate strap and clock your RHR on your monitor; some use a mobile app, I believe there are a number of mobile apps on the market; I personally use a finger pulse oximeter. I simply wake up in the morning, clip the oximeter on my index finger and take the reading.

You don’t need to be lying in bed; you don’t need to invest in the most expensive equipment as long as what you do is repeatable. This means taking your heart rate at the same time each day, after the same amount of rest, by the same method. Plot these values in your training diary and even better on a graph. Your heart rate will fluctuate day to day. You don’t need to worry about this on the whole. Significant changes in your RHR in my opinion is a change that is more than 5bpm in a short space of time such as over 24-48 hours. Inside this 5bpm spread there isn’t anything to worry about.

Over a period of weeks you might find that your heart rate drops slowly and steadily. This is a good sign; normally an indication that your training is working well and you are getting fitter. The key here is slowly and steadily.

A sudden drop in your heart rate is not a good sign and can be combined with a feeling of fatigue or difficulty reaching your maximum heart rate during intervals. This is a sign that you are tired; you might have been training too hard or not resting enough. You need to rest, if you jump on it quickly you will bounce back after just a couple of days off the bike.

If your RHR rises suddenly it is more often than not a sign that you are coming down with a cold even if you don’t yet have any symptoms. It can also be a sign that you’re under stress whether that is in work, life or via a cold. Rest until your heart rate is back to your normal range.

Your RHR can tell when to start training again. Your symptoms might have completely cleared up but with an elevated heart rate, if you start training too early then you put yourself at risk of overtraining. Wait till your heart rate has fallen back to normal range.

ASK ALEX: 

We’ve had a question from @Whytey30 on how to prepare for a standing start 250m TT, 500m pursuit and an Australian pursuit last man standing event in just a few weeks.

Well Cara, while it would be ideal if you had more than a few weeks to prepare luckily your events are short so preparation can be condensed.

First of all, lets break down the main sections of your events. I am going to group them into technique and physical:

Physical: the 250m event is all about your start. A good start will be about how explosive you can be and how quickly you can get yourself up to your terminal velocity. So strength and explosive power is what is required here. The 500m pursuit is going to be similar to the 250 in that the start is very important but you have the added necessity to carry that effort on longer so you are going to need to be able to keep your effort going for upwards of 50 seconds. This means we need to work on fatigue resistance. For the Australian pursuit the start is less important but your effort will need to be sustainable, this means that, again, fatigue resistance is important.

Technique wise the 250m and the 500m have two main components: your start and your line through the bends. The difficulty here is your best bet for improving these is practice. However, there are a few things that can save you time so I will only touch on these briefly.

Watching videos of professionals starting from a standing start you will notice that they all lean right back and then as the gun goes they throw themselves forward; this is to help the bike start moving, saving you a lot of time and effort. It is best to move yourself back early whilst this technique is new to you, so that you can settle into the position. The next thing you’ll notice in the videos is how vertical the rider stays whilst accelerating; this gives the rider a mechanical advantage as they use their body weight to help them generate extra force on the pedals. The next part of your start is knowing when to sit down and transfer from the start phase to the continuous pace phase. As your cadence rises the benefits of standing up diminishes. Knowing when to sit down and draw on the benefit of lowering your drag and being aero is something that can take years to learn. But as a rough guide when you get up to about 110rpm or about the halfway point sit down. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYx_9qyAk_o)

The next technical challenge you will face is the challenge of keeping your bike as close to the black line as possible. Many professional riders will be able to ride below the black line traveling as short a distance as is physically possible. You want to aim to do the same. As you enter the banking you want to be looking at where you want to exit, the temptation is to let your eyesight drop to just in front of your front wheel, but this will just encourage you to make too dramatic corrections to line and cause you to end up drifting up the banking or worse riding off the track. Look at where you want to end up and in most cases your bike will get you there with little input from you. Just like driving a car. By keeping yourself lower on the track you will save yourself unwanted distance as well as unwanted physical strain. Your temptation will be to grip the bars as hard as you can but this will cause you to wobble and drift
more, so focus hard on relaxing your upper body and looking at where you want to go and you will find the bends will become a lot less scary and a lot easier to handle.

On to the physical elements involved, the good news is that you can address them in quite short sessions on the watt bike. The bad news: they are going to hurt.

The explosive starts can replicated on a Wattbike by using a high resistance and sprinting from low RPM over a 10sec period. The aim here is to repeat high quality effort so don’t expect to do them repeated every min. You are likely to be doing 4 or 5 efforts separated by about 5 minutes to recover. Looking on the Wattbike website I can see they have a handy gear converter and can see that for this exercise you would want to use resistance Level 4 on the Pro Wattbike or Level 10 on the Trainer Wattbike. So your session here would take the form:

20 minute warm up:

-5 minutes riding at a low resistance setting (L1 for Pro and L for trainer) pedaling at a comfortable pace;

-10 minutes riding from 100 watts up to 270watts maintaining a comfortable cadence;

-5 minutes riding back at your start pace with 1 X 10sec sprint up to 370 watts.

(Slow down and set the Wattbike to the correct resistance.)

25 min main exercise: 5X sprints:

-10secs from a low (40rpm) cadence up to as hard as you can go (flat out)

-5 minutes rest resistance 1 and recover, have a drink.

(Prepare the Wattbike again for your next sprint.)

10 minute warm down: (level 1 resistance, turn your legs slowly winding down your heart rate over the 10 minutes.)

Stretch for 5 minutes (can be longer if you want.)

TOTAL TIME: 60 minutes.

If you find on your fourth sprint you cannot complete the sprint or your power is a long way off (15%) your previous sprint then cool down and don’t attempt the final 5th sprint. If you are confident and the Wattbike is on sturdy ground you could practice your standing start instead of just rolling in from a low RPM. Imagine sitting back, count yourself in and then throw forward and start your 10sec sprint.

For the fatigue resistance exercises you will also be sprinting but here your recovery time is restricted. So you will roll in from a higher rpm. The purpose of this is to force your body to cope with a substandard system and to learn to cope with exhausted muscles.

The session would look like this:

20 minute warm up:

-5 minutes riding at a low resistance setting (L1 for Pro and L for trainer) pedaling at a comfortable pace;

-10 minutes riding from 100 watts up to 270watts maintaining a comfortable cadence;

-5 minutes riding back at your start pace with 1 X 10sec sprint up to 370 watts.

Main exercise: 8X 20:40

-20sec sprint flat out in a high resistance so your cadence replicates your race pace (about 120rpm)

– 40sec recovery low resistance low power.

10 minute warm down: (level 1 resistance turn your legs slowly winding down your heart rate over the 10 minutes.

Stretch for 5 minutes (can be longer if you want.)

TOTAL TIME: 43 minutes

Another fatigue resistance exercise you could attempt is:

20 minute warm up:

-5 minutes riding at a low resistance setting (L1 for Pro and L for trainer) pedaling at a comfortable pace;

-10 minutes riding from 100 watts up to 270watts maintaining a comfortable cadence;

-5 minutes riding back at your start pace with 1 X 10sec sprint up to 370 watts.

Main exercise: 6X 1minute high intensity

-1 minute riding as hard as you can for the full minute (no cheating and riding for 55seconds) set your Wattbike to a resistance that means your 1minute interval is ridden at about 120rpm.

-4 minutes recovery, low rpm, low power.

10 minute warm down: (level 1 resistance turn your legs slowly winding down your heart rate over the 10 minutes.

Stretch for 5 minutes (can be longer if you want.)

TOTAL TIME: 65 minutes.

You need to structure your training to make best use of your time because the last thing you need to do is work flat out right up to the event and then go rubbish because you are tired. Block out the week before your event and do half the number of sessions you have been doing and within those sessions halve the number of efforts. Due to the high physical demand placed on your body with these intervals I wouldn’t recommend riding more than 2 turbo sessions back to back before you take a rest day. If you do get out on the road (you can incorporate 20:40’s into your road ride) then I would do turbo, road ride, rest day.

Rest is vital for your training and it’s where all the magic happens. Do not attempt to ride every day or, if you are pushed for time, cut out rest as a route to getting fitter. This is the fastest way to go slower. I would recommend structuring something like this:

Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: Fatigue resistance
Wednesday: Start power
Thursday: Rest day
Friday Start
power
Saturday: Fatigue resistance (within a road ride)
Sunday: Rest day
Monday: Fatigue resistance.

(And so on.)

You might find that a double rest day suits your body or your life better:

Monday: Fatigue resistance
Tuesday: Start power
Wednesday: Rest day
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: Start power
Saturday: Fatigue resistance (within a road ride)
Sunday Rest day
Monday Rest day

(And so on)

I hope that helps you get the best result in your event

If anyone else has a training related question then please get in touch.

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