Need for Speed

I am 44 years of age this August, male, and raced last year and the year before with the vets. I raced as a 1st Cat many years ago and returned to the sport two years ago.

My question/problem is I cannot seem to get any speed into my legs, and really suffer, and get dropped after only a few miles, My weight is 11st 6lbs, and I have difficultly in trying to lose this. I used to be a very good climber, but now that is very hard. Can you please give me some advice as to which way to go, so that I can improve.

B. Kennedy

Dave Palese replies:

Welcome back to the sport! I think that you situation is very normal. I have worked with several clients who have taken time away from the sport. After getting back into racing they all say the same thing, "Man! This is much harder then I remember it!" And, they are right. Racing gets harder and harder every year. Speeds get faster. More people are getting smarter about their training. And so on.

Here are some of my suggestions:

I'm not totally clear as to how long you were away from the sport, but the idea would still be the same.

1) Don't dive whole hog back into hard, specific training. Spend at least eight weeks of training focusing on the aerobic system. Long steady miles is the idea here. You'll increase your aerobic output and muscular endurance. The riding should be done at an easy pace, at or below 70 pecent of your max working heart rate. Maintain a moderate cadence, 90-110 during your easy riding to promote suppleness in your legs.

2) As the weeks pass, add controlled intensity to your long rides. This intensity can be termed Tempo training and consists of riding at a moderately hard pace, a bit harder then your easy riding described above, but not an intensity you might associate with a time trial. Also, do your Tempo with a low cadence, 70-80 rpm, in a bigger gear to make the effort more muscular and training cycling specific strength.

After putting in eight or so weeks of this type of training, you'll have established a more solid aerobic base and should be ready add some harder, more specific training to your plan.

What form these more specific workouts take will be dependent on the type of racing you plan to do and what target events you might be looking at.

Take a look back over some of the more recent issues of this section for specific workouts you can do to improve some particular abilities (i.e., climbing, sprinting...). But in general, I would suggest starting by building a solid foundation of aerobic fitness in the coming weeks.