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Cycling Fitness Q&A - Dave Smith answers your training, nutrition and fitness questions

Our health and fitness expert is back to answer your questions this week on winter training, running, food and more. Take it away Dave…

Time at the weekend for some training but not sure what you should be doing? We know just the man with the answers…

If you would like to ask Dave a question about your cycling fitness, training or health you can drop him a line at fitness [at] road.cc or you can email us at info [at] road.cc putting Fitness Q&A in the subject line

Winter weights

Now that we’re in winter do I need to undertake the winter training that seems to be suggested everywhere? Things like weights, turbo sessions and long, easy rides. I ask only because I’m able to train during the day and don’t mind riding a bike in bad weather. I also don’t feel that tired and in need of a rest.
RT

Dave Smith: You haven’t said what kind of riding you do, whether you do sportives, race or just enjoy cycling. However, generally speaking, the factors that change training structure in winter are weather and daylight. If you can still ride outdoors there is no reason why you can’t continue a programme of progressive training, working on stressing areas you want to improve, allowing recovery and increasing the volume and intensity in various combinations. 

Weights, turbo training and weekend club rides aren’t wrong, they’re just alternatives to regular riding. The key in any plan is to have a purpose, direct the time spent sweating towards that purpose, and progress, so you can indeed do this outdoors in preparation for next ‘season’ while everyone else is at work!

And watch for ice!

Run for it?

I’d like to include running in my training but am quite wary of injuries and also wonder if it will boost my cycling. Any advice?
KimT

Dave Smith: My advice is to run, provided you take some precautions. Cycling tends to limit the range of movement of calves, and hip flexor muscles in particular. Running demands flexibility in these areas. So at the very least, spend time stretching regularly (not bouncing around before a run) to enhance your range of motion, before you start to run. And start gently. There’s more info in a previous article here.

How did he do that?

Can you settle a heated debate in my club about Tom Domoulin at the Vuelta. How can a big guy climb like that, especially a TT specialist?
GY

Dave Smith: Climbing ability is closely related to power to weight and efficiency. Time triallists have plenty of power, more peak power than pure climbers. If they lose weight their power to weight goes up. They are skilled at sustained power outputs rather than repeated changes in power. Domoulin wasn’t the best climber at the Vuelta – he had a few great performances which placed and kept him in contention – but the end result was somewhat inevitable. He was draining the tank more often than the climbers and the tank ran dry. The Grand Tours have very often been the arena for good time triallists who can climb a bit and we all come across a big guy who dumps a bit of weight then has a good day and kills it on a climb. That probably doesn’t settle your argument!

Winter fuel

Can you suggest food/fuel options for winter rides? I tend to do long rides on Saturday and Sunday and a two-hour night ride on Wednesday evenings. Should I stick to gels and drinks as I would in summer?
LeeM

Dave Smith: I’m a big fan of what I call ‘mood food’ in winter. Food that lifts the spirits as well as energy levels. And also food that I can unwrap while wearing gloves. My own preferences include new potatoes with butter/mint/salt, half a Scotch egg, Turkish delight, liquorice sticks, and the most wonderful Pocket Coffees – hard to find, but worth the search!

Ask yourself what you’d like to eat after mending a flat, 40 miles from home in the rain. A gel or a few cocktail sausages? You’re not in the last 50km of a spring classic so you can set the gel to one side in preference for something tasty to lift your mood. I open anything with a wrapper before I start, so winter gloves don’t keep me from the food.

I also take a flask of hot chocolate on long winter rides, for energy and mood. 

Back issues

I have ongoing low back issues, which I put down to being an old fart who has fallen off too many moving objects and bits of the earth’s surface since childhood. It’s not an injury as such, just aching after a few hours on the bike. Can you suggest anything other than yoga to make the ache less of a nuisance?
ClaireM

Dave Smith: Can you wait a couple of weeks for an answer? I’m putting together a longer article on just this topic. In all seriousness, if you haven’t got an acute injury from a recent fall, your low back issue will most often be due to muscle imbalances both in strength and length. So a weak and lax muscle in one place and a strong and tight muscle in another place – that could then make another muscle in another place work overtime or pull something out of correct alignment. It’s not a simple matter! You’ve not been specific about your injury site, so what I’d suggest is to make sure your hamstrings and hip flexors are supple and also, have you thought of yoga?

Go camping?

Next year will be my second season of road racing and I want to hit the first races able to hang on to the bunch. I’m thinking about a training camp as a way to get more speed and power. Can you recommend any in particular? If I start racing in April, when should I go?
BM

Dave Smith: I can’t recommend a particular training camp, but consider what you want out of the week (I assume it would be a week) and what level you would be at before the camp. You can opt for six days of being given a kicking in warmer weather, lots of climbing, maybe even a self-planned week with club mates. The main factor is that you want a camp that offers good food, good roads, and a programme that will give you higher quality of training than if you stayed at home and trained. 

I know a few riders who are only interested in nice weather and don’t train more than when at home, which is fine, but if you want progression, the plan should be to get a battering, then have a couple of weeks to get the gains and get fresh again before the racing starts. 

You should also consider that many riders train for the training camp, as being dropped after the first 5km every day for a week is not a great confidence builder. 

 

Dave Smith

Dave Smith has been involved in coaching cyclists in all disciplines for more than 25 years. A former GB national and Olympic road coach, Dave has trained Tour stage winners and Olympic medallists, world champions and numerous national champions. In addition he has applied his quirky and counter intuitive thinking to help dozens of regular cyclists, polo players and F1 drivers. He rides 250 miles a week on and off-road in all weathers.

Once a month Dave will answer your questions on health, fitness, training and nutrition – email him at fitness [at] road.cc ">fitness [at] road.cc

Web: velocityandvitality.com
Twitter: @ffflow

Dave Smith has been involved in coaching cyclists in all disciplines for more than 25 years. A former GB national and Olympic road coach, Dave has trained Tour stage winners and Olympic medallists, world champions and numerous national champions. In addition he has applied his quirky and counter intuitive thinking to help dozens of regular cyclists, polo players and F1 drivers. He rides 250 miles a week on and off-road in all weathers.

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