Intervals – ah, intervals. So often spoken about, so little understood (as a cycling coach I speak to many riders who know they should be doing intervals, but do not quite know which ones or why). The interval is really the centrepiece of a modern training program, but what is an interval exactly? There are three definitions for the word used as a noun: 1 – an intervening time; 2 – a pause in activity, and; 3 – a space between two things. All three are relevant to cycling.
Some books stress the duration of the active (or ‘on’ phase) portion of the interval (definition 1). Many coaches stress the importance of the recovery (or ‘off’ phase) portion of the interval (definition 2). Programmable bike computers (most companies’ top models) and velodromes permit easy distance-based intervals (definition 3).
Strictly speaking, any drill you undertake that involves alternating between going faster and slower repeatedly is an interval. I would narrow it down slightly by excluding exercises that do not have a set duration, such as the Fartlek drill. Yet this still-broad definition misses all the subtleties that make intervals effective for so many purposes.
Any cunning coach committed to building his or her team of cardio athletes knows there are a thousand-and-one ways to put a cracker under the clacker of an ambitious punter of the peloton and secure their patronage. One such way is to refer to the aforementioned punter as a ‘cardio athlete’ despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Another way is to move from that initial flattery to marketing your services on the grounds of ‘prestige’ and ‘scarcity’.
According to sports dietician Rebecca Hay, a cyclist herself, nutrition is often an afterthought with any training program and is only considered when things like fatigue becomes a problem or riders are not seeing the results they want, particularly with weight loss.
Foot Correction is the term I use to describe the process of ensuring that proprioceptive feedback from the feet is prioritised by the cerebellum for processing. Before continuing I had best explain what that means, as it has significant implications for cycling performance and injury reduction. Bear with me as the explanation is lengthy and I know that many readers who ‘just want to ride my bike’ may find it eye glazing. Persevere though, as it is necessary if you are to understand the importance of what follows for your performance.
An Irish, Dutch, American and Australian woman walked into a pub. They all had one thing in common. They loved cycling. It was July 2014, and they had been called to Pitlochry, Scotland for the unveiling of something very exciting in women’s cycling.
Back in July the New York Times asked Gerry Ryan why he owns a professional cycling team. “That’s what my therapist always asks,” was the splendid reply of the Orica-GreenEDGE boss. Around the same time Bicycling Australia asked the same question of Leigh Parsons from the CharterMason-Giant NRS squad. Parsons confessed team ownership has probably sliced several years off his life. It’s a safe bet he’s not alone.
Returning home to North Wales reminds Steve Thomas just how great the riding there is.
Over the years (way too many of them, yet strangely still not enough) I’ve ridden and raced all over the world; more than 50 countries in all, and lived in a fair few too. Bikes and riding have been my life, or at least they have since I hit double figures in age terms.
Over time, steel frame bikes were replaced by aluminium to lighten their weight and increase rigidity. Then came the ‘be all and end all’ of frame building materials with the arrival and introduction of carbon frames, giving cyclists the enjoyment of stiffness and lightness, and the bonus of customisable comfort.