Cycling coach Rob Wakefield, from propello.bike, explains how to build solid fitness foundations in your training.
1. The time is now
Foundation training encourages positive changes in your body. The process increases red blood cell volume and trains a stronger heart feeding better quality muscle.
Its primary objective is to improve aerobic fitness, which allows you to cycle for longer and absorb greater training load later in the season, making you faster. It’s done in a measured way, as you can’t keep thrashing threshold and VO2 max intervals for 12 months.
2. Fundamental differences
Other areas covered in foundation training include improving pedalling technique, body position, cornering and descending: all improve economy and give you extra speed for free.
A coach will work on rebuilding or developing strength, both on the bike and, if possible, in the gym. Building strength will increase the force you can put through the pedals, which, when coupled with speed training and improving cadence, delivers an improvement in overall bike speed.
3. Built on sand
Failure to follow a gradual foundation plan, to regain your fitness levels and hone your skills, can impact on your endurance levels later on.
I see a lot of people who are great 50km riders. Invariably, after 70km or so the metaphorical wheels fall off and they have a tactical mechanical. If you’re planning on doing long sportives, multi-day stage races or want to become a well-rounded, competitive racer you need to build endurance fitness.
4. Go zonal
Laying the foundations means one long ride per week, mainly conducted in heart rate zone 2 (65–75% of max heart rate, with increased breathing) with a bit of zone 3 (75–82% of max heart rate, purposeful effort, conversation is tougher).
If you haven’t done this before start at one hour and build to 2–3 hours-plus. Try to keep as even a heart rate as you can in zone 2. Once you can ride for 2–3 hours in zone 2 without fatigue you can increase intensity.