TrainerRoad’s Ask a Cycling Coach podcast gives you the chance to get answers to your cycling and triathlon training questions with USAC certified coaches Chad Timmerman, Jonathan Lee and special guests. Check out a few questions we answered in our latest episode with special guest and TrainerRoad CEO, Nate Pearson.

Listen to the Full Episode

How do I become a better climber?

The key to good climbing is your power to weight ratio. As the road turns upward, every gram of weight requires you to put out more power to maintain your speed and especially to get ahead. While many cyclists are labeled as natural climbers, improving your climbing isn’t out of reach for anybody.

The first point to focus on is your weight. Most people have 5-10 pounds to lose at any given moment, and you’d be surprised at how much of a difference that makes.

Sometimes, all it takes to drop this extra weight is a little more discipline when it comes to post-meal desserts, mid-day snacks and post-ride beers. Breaking it down to a simple equation of managing your caloric intake in relation to your caloric expenditure goes a long way when your improving your climbing.

The other side of the equation is power. Once again, the increased grade of the road will place greater importance on your power output than normal.

If the climbs that you will be riding or racing on are steady and long, then you’ll need to focus on building sustained power and muscle endurance. Our Sustained Power Build and Climbing Road Race plans are perfect for building this type of fitness.

Alternatively, if your climbs are short, punchy and varied, then you’ll need to focus on your ability to put out repeated high-power as you’re forced to recover between spikes in elevation. Our General Build and Rolling Road Race plans are designed for these situations.

To hear the coaches’ advice on this topic, listen at 21:26. 

Self Coaching vs. Hired Coaching

Choosing to coach yourself or hire a coach is completely up to you. In most cases, self-coached athletes feel they have sufficient structure, knowledge and motivation to do things on their own.

On the contrary, a coached athlete may feel that he is lacking in any one of those three areas.

When it comes to training structure, the most valuable thing to consider is whether you have a training plan that’s tailored to your fitness level and your fitness goals. Most training plans these days follow a generic template. While they may improve your fitness, it’s doubtful that they’ll help realize your full cycling potential.

So, what kind of training plan allows you to reach your potential? One that’s structured to your personal fitness and one that changes as you get stronger. The knowledge required to create the this kind of structured plan also brings benefits in interpreting what your training data means and how to react.

Plenty of athletes use power meters to collect data from their training. It’s knowing what that data means and what decisions you should make where the real value of it all comes into play.

Circumstances will always require somebody to alter their training plan in some way, so knowing how to do so is key. Having said that, this knowledge can be learned.

Finally, you need motivation. More specifically, you need the motivation to push yourself to and well beyond your limits as you move towards your goal. This is perhaps the most important part of successful self-training.

On their own, a well-designed structured training plan and the knowledge to make the right decisions won’t make you faster. The effort and sacrifices that you make to become a better athlete will be the leaven to raise your performance to new heights. Doing this day-in and day-out is physically, mentally and emotionally taxing. Having a mentor, friend and confidant will help get you through these dark days.

When considering these three points, remember that TrainerRoad can be the perfect tool for either of these scenarios. Your coach can use our workouts and training plans, or he can create his own. That coach can then assign those workouts to you, analyze your performance and communicate with you through our Teams feature.

If you are self-coached, we provide the structure and knowledge with our app, workouts, training plans that you’ll need to succeed. We also provide educational content, on-screen text, workout and training plan summaries and a responsive and knowledgable coaching and customer support staff that is always available to help you make decisions and motivate you.

To hear the coaches’ advice on this topic, listen at 24:46. 

How long of a break should I take during the off season?

The short answer for this is 2-4 weeks — but as in almost every case, this depends on each person’s situation. It’s important to know that it doesn’t take long for you to lose your hard-earned fitness.

If you take four weeks off the bike, for example, you should expect to lose a noticeable amount of fitness. If you take a week or two off, you should be able to maintain most of your fitness.

Perhaps more important than timing is the quality and type of rest that you are taking during this time. If you feel like you need a break from training, try to understand your motivation. Are you physically worn out, mentally fatigued or emotionally empty? Make sure that your time off allows you to recharge the right batteries.

If you are physically spent, it’s pretty straight forward: don’t train and reduce your physical activity as much as possible. If you are mentally fatigued, take time away from cycling in general and focus on different aspects of your life that you may have neglected during the season. If you’re emotionally empty, try taking easy rides with no clear objective in places that you love.

Rekindling your love for riding a bike goes a long way to improve motivation over time. Not to mention, it will probably make you faster too.

To hear the coaches’ advice on this topic, listen at 37:13. 

Additional Notes

We answered a lot of questions in this week’s Ask a Cycling Coach podcast. You can learn more about these topics with our resources below:

If you have a question that you’d like to ask Coach Chad, submit your question here. We’ll do our best to answer them on the next episode of the Ask a Cycling Coach podcast.