There’s always a sense of curiosity when it comes to a pro cyclist’s training—what intervals they do, how many hours they ride, and at what intensity level. Other than the sheer awe we experience upon finding out what allows them to attain such a high level of fitness, it can be hard to find ways to apply what they’re doing to our own training plan. As if the pros’ level of training isn’t far enough out of reach, oftentimes so, too, is the language they use to describe it. In the hope of bridging the gap between us and them, we asked three professional riders—Ted King, Jesse Anthony and Matthew Busche—for details of their training. Once we got it all down, we did our best to adapt it to be relevant for the majority of day-in and day-out riders out there who can only dream of having pro-level fitness. Read on to find out what Cannondale-Garmin rider Ted King, who announced his retirement earlier this season, has to say.
OFF-SEASON FITNESS BY TED KING
“My race schedule usually starts early in the season with the Classics, and as a result it ends on the earlier side, in September. Rather than hanging the bike up entirely after my last race, I keep fitness going with unstructured riding into early October. I’m happy to continue riding for a few extra weeks, since I can get together with friends back home that I don’t get an opportunity to ride with during the racing season.
“After that I’ll hang up the road bike for 10 to 15 days for some mental and physical rejuvenation. It takes a lot of discipline for me to take the time off, because I love riding my bike. It’s good to focus on other things and find a balance during this time; family and friends certainly appreciate it. I mix in jogging every other day, beginning with the first couple of runs being only 15 minutes in order to not feel like total death afterwards, then I work my way up to 30 to 60 minutes. Cyclists have the aerobic capacity to run, but teaching your ankles to flex takes a little time, so you have to ease into it. Six years ago I started doing 30 minutes of regimented core work five to six days a week. It’s a bit of everything—sit-ups, planks and stretching. So much of cycling is based on a strong core, and it gives me a sweet six-pack!
“Strength training is important in the off-season and depends person to person on how to do it. I came from an ice-hockey background when I first got into cycling and wanted to lose muscle mass, so I’ve avoided weight training in the gym. Instead, I incorporate functional weight training for strength, similar to TRX. For example, I’ll be out on a run and find a rock on which to hop up and down, or mix lunges in while keeping a good aerobic workout going.
“Generally, I use the month of November as a launching point to start structured training again. Back in New England that time of year, the weather can be all over the place, but unlike most amateur cyclists, I have the luxury of chasing good weather. I begin with real low intensity and start building up the volume. The first week I average two to three hours a day on the bike, then by the middle of the month I’ll shoot to be at between 20 to 30 hours a week. I’ve been doing this for a long time and don’t have to put in as many hours as some of the younger riders that are still building a base, and instead I can focus on specific intervals. I’ll do some three-to five-minute strength intervals at 50 rpm on a climb to increase power. Then, on another day, I’ll do 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off at high cadence— 120 to 130 rpm—and repeat this for 10 minutes.”
WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU
• Taking a break at the end of the season is a good way to be physically and mentally rejuvenated. Be careful how much time you take away from exercising, though, because unlike Ted King, few of us can make up for lost time with a few 30-hour weeks of riding.
• Running can potentially be a good way to cross-train; you just really need to ease into it with some very short runs. Better yet, incorporate hiking into your schedule. It’s much easier on your body, helps strengthen muscles that can become weak from being clipped into a bike all the time, and it’s easy to do with your significant other or a group.
• Strength training is important for cyclists for a couple of reasons. One is that cycling is not an impact sport, so it does not prevent bone-density loss like running or weightlifting. This is especially important for older cyclists. Another area strength training can help cyclists with is reducing muscle imbalances that come with the territory of having overdeveloped quadriceps and hamstrings.
• Practice the extremes—do low-cadence and high-cadence drills. Hitting a certain intensity level is not the focus of these workouts; it’s the form and control that’s most important. Do 3×3-minute drills at 50–60 rpm on a gradual climb. Focus on a smooth pedaling stroke and pushing over the top of the stroke, then three minutes of recovery between each drill. Increase the number of drills each week until you get up to six. If this hurts your knees, try increasing the cadence slightly, or stop doing them. On alternate days, do 30 seconds at 110 rpm followed by 30 seconds at 90 rpm on flat ground. Again, intensity level should not be high. Try repeating this for a total of 10 minutes.
• For more training wisdom, check out Ted King’s Tips For Riding Cobbles!