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Coach's Column with Alison Dunlap

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |February 23, 2012 1:27 PM

This week our question goes to Alison Dunlap. Alison is a certified Level II USAC Coach and has been working with athletes for five years. She runs a coaching business called Alison Dunlap Coaching, and has mountain bike camps in Moab, UT through the Alison Dunlap Adventure Camps. Alison is also a two-time Olympian, MTB World Champion, and 13-time National Champion. 


Question: I push hard the whole ride. How long do I need to ride a trainer per session during the winter months to keep my speed and endurance up?

Answer: Riding the trainer during the winter months is a great way to stay fit, especially if you canít ride outside.  The biggest challenge, however, will be maintaining your endurance.  More endurance means you can go on longer rides.  To maintain your endurance you have to do long rides.  That can be a problem if youíre riding the trainer every day. 

What to do?  I recommend riding your bike at least an hour every day with longer rides on the weekends.  An hour on the trainer is very doable.  3-4hrs on the trainer is miserable.  If you are up for a long ride on the trainer the best thing to do is break down your ride into one hour segments.  Ride for an hour and then get off and stretch, have a snack, walk around, play with the dog etc.  Then get back on the bike and only focus on riding for another hour.  Then get off and do the same thing.  Donít think about riding for 3-4hrs.  Thatís overwhelming.  Only focus on one hour at a time.  Your long ride then becomes a bunch of short rides linked together. 

If you want to maintain your endurance youíre going to have to ride your bike a lot.  The more you ride the better your endurance will be.  If you want to be fit enough to do a 100 mile ride, then youíre going to have to spend some long days on the trainer.  If you only need to be fit enough to do a one hour ride, then you only need to do one hour rides on the trainer. 

Maintaining your speed over the winter is much easier.  To be fast on the bike you need to do lots of short, high-intensity intervals at a high cadence.  These kinds of workouts are great for the trainer.  After a quick 15 minute warm-up you can do various sprint workouts.  One workout example is to do a 60 second sprint followed by 3-4 minutes of complete recovery.  Then do a 50 second sprint, 3-4 minute recovery, 40 second sprint, 30 seconds, and finish with a 20 second sprint.  Each sprint is an all-out max effort.  You could also do a "lead-outĒ type of interval.  Start at 60rpms and then quickly accelerate to 120rpms while remaining seated.  You want to choose a gear that is hard to accelerate but allows you to ride at 120rpms for at least half the interval.  These efforts last between 10-30 seconds.  Then recover for 2-3 minutes.  You could do 5-10 of these depending on your fitness level. 

Training for speed and endurance couldnít be more different.  To maintain both over the winter I suggest doing a 3-4 week block of endurance training. Then switch and do a 3-4 week block of speed work.  Then go back to endurance and then back to speed.  If you are able to do any kind of group ride on the weekends then youíll be able to hit both systems by doing a long ride with periodic hill sprints or sprints for speed limit signs. 

Always remember that specificity is the name of the game.  If you want to be a better hill climber then you have to train on hills.  If you want to be faster on the bike then you have to do speed intervals.  Figure out what skill you want to improve and then match your training as close as you can to that particular skill.  

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