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Cycling Performance Tipsby Richard Rafoth MD
Your personal athletic performance results from the interplay of:
- Your Genetic or Inherited potential
- a regimented training program to develop that potential
- eliminating barriers such as poor nutrition and inadequate hydration
Of the three, we have no control over our genetic makeup which includes inherited traits such as lung capacity, muscle fiber type, body type, and the mechanical advantages/disadvantages of different limb and muscle lengths. Detailed analysis of family pedigrees suggests that these performance modifying traits may be traced back for up to 6 generations.
But rather than view this as a limitation, we can look at the ways we differ from one another and use this knowledge to tailor a training approach specific for our personal needs.
Here are 5 tips.
BE PERSISTENT. Even though your maximum performance as measured by anaerobic threshold (AT) or VO2 max. may be predetermined, you can calculate and work toward your own personal goals. A cyclist who maximizes his or her own AT at 93-94% of maximum heart rate will prevail over a genetically endowed slacker who is trained below their maximum.
BE PATIENT. Some of us reach our maximum more slowly, sometimes over years. In fact one study clearly documented an increase in type I muscle fibers over a 5 year training program!!
TRY DIFFERENT TRAINING ROUTINES. When you feel you may have plateaued, try something different for a while - intervals, weight training, more rest. Or maybe a switch to a different type of ride, from stage races to a long tour for example.
BE SMART. Technique (smooth pedal stroke) and tactics are important attributes of a premier rider, as is psychological toughness. It's not all aerobic or anaerobic capacity. So don't sell yourself short. A positive attitude and riding smarter can make the difference.
SET THE RIGHT GOALS. Set realistic goals that give you the satisfaction of achievement rather than the disappointment of flailing at the impossible. Breaking that PR (personal record) can mean more than winning a criterium with minimal competition. And maintaining good health and the camaraderie of a team are a big part of the satisfaction of reaching whatever time or distance goal you have set for yourself.
How can you tell if you've reached your maximum potential? Individual measures such as AT and VO2 max. can focus on various aspects of your physiologic performance and indicate when certain "body systems", such as the cardiovascular system, have plateaued. But it will be the combination of several measures that will tell you when you've finally reached your own personal plateau. For example:
- a standard time trial run year after year which integrates ALL aspects of your performance - physical and mental - will level off no matter how hard you train
- your resting heart rate will stop dropping
- your percentage of body fat will stabilize
And it is the combination of multiple performance monitors that gives you the answer. No single number will do the job. That is why there is still an art to designing a training program for cycling, and it can't be reduced to a simple mathematical formula.