Upping the Ante: Adding Mileage
The weather in most parts of the country is starting to break a bit, so you may be able to get out on your bike a few times every week. Now is the time to begin thinking about what your training weeks are going to look like and how to add mileage so that you see training gains without overtaxing your system to the point of exhaustion. There is nothing worse than being over-trained.
If you put together a skeleton training plan, it’s time to take a look at weekly mileage increases. If you are a newer rider with just a few months of riding under your belt, then you’ll want to adhere to the 10 percent rule. This rule, although not set in stone, states, “any cyclist trying to increase mileage should not increase mileage more than 10 percent per week.” The 10PR is generally considered the amount of added stress your body is able to adapt to without injury.
The added 10 percent refers to the mileage for the entire week, not for each individual ride. Therefore if you begin your training at 100 miles a week, you would do 110 the next. For most plans, this means adding mileage for three weeks and then reducing the mileage for a recovery week. After the recovery week, continue to increase your mileage for the following week.
While the 10PR is a well-known guideline, it is not designed to inhibit your training or to cause stress if you happen to be in the saddle longer than you planned for a week. For example, if you were invited to join a group ride, don’t panic if the ride adds additional distance beyond the 10 percent. More than anything, it is a good way to keep yourself in check as newer riders are often quite excited to begin outdoor training and pack on the miles.
If you are a more experienced rider with a few years of consistent riding under your belt, the 10PR guideline may be ignored. Adding an increase in miles for a group ride or tour is usually done without risk of injury, as long as your nutrition and recovery protocols are not altered.
If you are unsure as to which rides should have miles added, choose one of your flatter courses when you’re starting to increase your mileage. As your legs become accustomed to the added miles on the flats, then start to add more hills. At first this may be as simple as doing an extra ride up that long hill on your Saturday ride. In fact, there is nothing wrong with climbing to the top, soft pedaling down and riding up again. These “hill repeats” help your legs get used to the stress for climbing without adding in miles and miles of steep climbs.
However you decide to add the miles, listen to your body. You will undoubtedly have a day now and then when you are tired. Don’t mistake being tired for being over-trained or overly fatigued. Added training often requires additional sleep, or at the very least a short post-ride nap. Be sure you are eating correctly and taking any additional water you need for longer rides; remember the ‘one bottle per hour’ guideline. And keep up the stretching, as additional saddle time can often tighten muscles exponentially. Next week’s blog post will discuss massage for cyclists, a tool that is easily added to your training arsenal.