Dave Wiens shares his two cents on training for every endurance athlete, from the disciplined tracker of heart rate zones to the casual rider who just throws on his helmet and heads to the trail.
How do you train?
This is probably the most frequently asked question among endurance athletes as they discuss targeted events. I think one of the most important things to remember about training, especially for those who are just beginning, is that there is no one preferred method of preparation. Instead, it's a spectrum. There are successful athletes who excel when they diligently follow a strict training regimen, and then there are those who can go out and have a great race even though all their so-called training amounted to was getting in the saddle a few times a week.
Before you can begin training in earnest, you need to determine your personal training philosophy. You need to decide how you want to prepare based on personal commitment, as well as available time and resources. I'll briefly discuss two ends of the spectrum, and let you decide where your training might fall.
We'll start with science-based training. There are a number of ways to go about training scientifically, but I will share two. First, is the DIY route: conduct your own study of training methods and then develop a training plan based on what you discover from the mounds of information out there.
The second science-based option is to hire a coach. You leave the training plan development to them and execute the workouts they design. Remember, every coach has his or her own training philosophy, so your preparation can vary widely from one coach to another.
The other end of the training spectrum is a little simpler: Just ride. Ride as often as you can and as much as you can, have fun doing it, and hope you're fit enough come race day. Even though this method (or lack thereof!) seems like it wouldn't be as effective, you'd be amazed. Many riders dot all their i's, cross all their t's and still don't meet their expectations or potential on race day. And then there are all the riders who wing their training and just have fun, then end up having a great race.
For most of us, the big day is just the cherry on top of the whole amazing journey of committing to an event and working for months toward it. It's all a matter of how you decide that work is going to happen: either commit to getting a plan in place, or commit to not having much of a plan at all.
Either way, you'll experience the rollercoaster that comes with preparing for a big event: the good days and the bad, the elation and the stress, the horrible rides in horrible weather and the best days you've ever had on a bike. All this will come before you ever zip-tie your number plate to your bike and head to the start line.
Until then, happy training!