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Cycling training mistakes to avoid

Words: Hannele Steyn

Injuries and feeling utterly fatigued are often linked to having some kind of medical condition, but a lot of the time it could actually be due to training mistakes.

Staying healthy and injury free are important, so let's look at a few common mistakes:
• Too little training time.
• Too much, too soon.
• Too much all the time.
• No plan or programme.
• Doing what everyone else is doing.
• Following any programme you find on the internet, in a magazine, and the like.
• Following too many different people's advice.
• Not building up a solid base.
• Neglecting your nutrition.

Too little training time

This is one of the many common problems because many of us don’t have the luxury of being able to train all day, due to having a job and family to consider. As a result, we can only manage to squeeze in an hour of training a few days each week. With limited time available to do what we love doing, we feel the need to make the most of that hour and go hard all the time. If we are not completely exhausted after a training session, we think it was a waste of time.

Doing intensity work all the time will result in poor performance in the long term or getting sick or injured. The reason for this is that the basics of getting better is to stress the body and then give it time to adapt, meaning after a hard session we need an easier session. No session at all after a hard day of training is also not the goal.

Solution: Rather structure your three or four sessions in a week around a hard, easy regime and on the weekend do your slow, long mileage.

Too much, too soon

When you push yourself too hard, too soon, you won't build up a good base foundation for when you start to do your intensity training. If you don't allow yourself to follow an easier phase of build up for a few weeks before you start to push, you will burn out sooner rather than later.

Solution: You need at least eight weeks of building up to riding for the maximum amount of time you have available, at a low heart rate of between 50% and 75%. Your heart is a muscle that needs to get strong before it can be pushed to high-intensity levels. Remember, no single work out is the key to success, you need a base first and then interval sessions, and most important is to follow a consistent training regime.

No training plan

To train without any plan or programme will eventually leave you demotivated and following each and every piece of advice or training plan on the internet. If you have your own training plan, you won’t get sucked into all your riding buddies' sessions or be confused by the different opinions that are out there. It is better to listen to one person so that when things don't go right, you know where the mistake came from.

Solution: Get hold of a coach or find a step-by-step programme on the internet (not just a one-week programme). Having a plan is also very motivational because you can go out every day knowing what you have to do and it helps you to plan for races.

Neglecting your nutrition

Training is one thing, but don’t make the mistake of following a great training programme and then neglect your nutrition. You need a healthy body to be able to exercise and perform at your peak.

Solution: Make an appointment with a nutritionist and find a diet/lifestyle that fits into your daily requirements. Start by following a 'balanced' diet of ENOUGH protein, carbs and good fats. Don’t jump onto every new diet fad that comes along. As sports people, we need low GI carbs for energy, enough protein for muscles and good fats for all cell functions.

So before you jump on your bike and start training, think long term and remember that it is about having a passion, then a plan and then following that plan consistently.