Structured Training or Not?
I am 15 weeks away from the first race of my XC season. I have dabbled in a few races and enjoyed them quite a bit so now I'd like to do as well as I can for the upcoming ones. I am just starting out racing so I'm going to be in a Novice category. I have started preparing with some base training with light to moderate intervals and moderate paced rides. All that has been going well but interrupted from time to time. My question though is what should be my approach?
I am not obese or anything, but I could lose some lbs. (15 or so). I have also thought of following a structured periodized plan, and while ultimately I think that's the best approach I'm not sure if it's the best use of my time.
So my question, keeping in mind that I'm 15 weeks from starting the season - I have essentially 3 ways of going about things.
1.) Follow a structured plan of base training with a build block afterwards
2.) Focus on just losing the pounds and ride my bike(s) as much as I can, regardless of type of ride or intensity. Just pure seat time.
3.) Focus on losing the weight and ride as much as I can, but for a few rides during the week throw in a couple of structured workouts
I'm at a stage where I'm just starting out, so a part of me thinks that just trimming down and riding my bike as much as possible is the best solution, then I can worry about more specific training later like for the following season.
As for the weight; just cut the crap out of your diet, riding your bike a lot structured or not and you will most likely lose the weight. Before I got back into riding again I dropped 10 pounds by eliminating the daily soda, then another 10 pounds by avoiding the pizza buffet, fast food and French fries. The last 15 pounds came off while riding hard only 4-6 hours per week, and I still eat a lot (occasional bad choices, but it makes me feel icky now). I try to think of food as fuel, and I avoid getting an empty stomach because I'm often recovering from a workout.
If option 1 sounds like fun to you, give it a try, I'll bet you'll just naturally lose the weight.
The main thing is to do stuff that keeps you motivated, burnout is the #1 enemy, it needs to stay fun so you'll stay fit and healthy from here on out. Find some local fun guys to ride with and help you stay motivated, -and it will help a lot if they kick your ass regularly.
IMO, to do well in the Beginner/Novice category a structured training program is completely unnecessary. Just get out and ride and have fun.
I think a lot of us (myself included) take it too seriously too fast. First just have fun riding the bike and meeting new people who also like to ride bikes. See if racing is really your thing or not. Some people think that they have to race to prove something or validate their time on the bike.
The second (like mentioned before) is to cut the crap from your diet. This works amazingly well for people who don't even exercise to lose weight. Diet is #1 in weight loss and #2 is exercise.
The third thing is to remember that you are (likely) not getting paid to do this. This is a hobby that you do for fun. If you are not having fun then do something else that does make you happy.
There are lots of people who take their training very seriously and religiously and enjoy doing that. I however don't. I like to explore I try to do things that I think will give me the most pleasure or be the most fun. I am not the fastest, and I don't really care to be the fastest. Each time I race, I always tell myself "you may not be the fastest out there, but see if you can have the most fun".
If you do enjoy the serious aspects of training and schedule to a T and putting in the hours then all the more power to you and have fun. Just try not to get burned out.
Just get out and ride. Ride hard. When you're tired ride easy (don't confuse exercise tired with ordinary tired). Ride with people faster than you and or with more skills.
I think once you get to an intermediate level it's good to go on a training plan (even better with a coach) for a while. This will give you a better idea of more specific workouts for improving your performance, give you direction, and a convenient way to monitor your progress. Once you have more experience you probably can go back to training more by feel.
+1. I think my fastest was in 2009 when I was in between losing my last full-time job and going back to school. It was kind of a crappy year in many ways, but I rode a ton, raced a lot, and seemed to making progress.
Originally Posted by solo-x
For good or ill, I don't know if I'm faster now - gainfully employed and more experienced, doing more structure in my riding, but getting less time in the saddle. Anyway, if you can ride everything on the course and do the whole thing at your personal open-throttle, you're probably right where you need to be to be competitive in that class.
"Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx
What works best for you is what gets you on the bike and riding. Some people need to have structured plan in order to stick to it and push themselves. Others are better served to just get on the bike and ride and ride hard.
Originally Posted by GT5050
Personally I prefer the later just because I can't stick to a set schedule due to family obligations and rather than get frustrated by being off my training plan I simply don't have one. I just ride hard when I can and try to ride some trails that will prepare me for my races. Then again I am not looking to win when I race, but mostly to have some fun competing and going head to head vs others. If I really wanted to win bike races then I would need to have structured plan so I could maximize my effort over a limited time frame.
Remember also that XC racing requires 3 major skills. Fitness (lungs/legs). Bike handling (getting around corners fast), and Tech skills (obstacle clearing up and down). All 3 need to be worked on to be fast. I just did mtn bike ride yesterday after taking about 6 weeks off the mtn bike and doing road riding. The road riding was fun, but little to no bike handling or tech skills. Well I found my bike handling to be off. I just could not toss my bike around like I could before and it took most of the ride get back 90% of my cornering skill. Now from fitness perspective I finished the rider stronger than ever since road riding really helped with that, but my times were just slow than before I turned roadie for 6 weeks. Amazing how it happened, but it did. So while fitness is always important you need to be well rounded to do well in XC racing.
2003 KHS Alite 4000 26" Hardtail - XC, All mountain, blah blah blah.. I just ride.
Structured Training or Not?
Thanks for the replies. I too am busy with family and other obligations, but if I'm going to race I'd like to perform my best. That said, I think at this point my focus will be on getting as much time on the bike as possible and refine it from there. The thought of having structured training is good, but I agree that the frustration of not being able to adhere would kind of sap the fun from it.
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