Most of the riders on the Haute Route can’t choose to train whenever they wish, but need to fit their training in around family and professional obligations. Professional obligations generally fill the daylight hours, so unless you have access to a well-lit circuit, a very powerful lamp or don’t mind doing your training on the turbo, your best option may well be to ride between noon and 2 pm.
Advantage to the well-organised
Using an extended lunch hour to train has a number of advantages:
- It is the warmest time of the day;
- You are less tired after a morning’s work than after a full day’s work;
- The endorphins will improve your performance at work in the afternoon;
- It is better for your family life since your evening is left free;
- You can avoid the pain of a post-work turbo session.
A lunch time session will necessarily be short and therefore oriented towards quality rather than quantity. You will do the longer rides at the weekend.
Two hours tends to be the maximum amount of time that most people can take off at lunch time. This means no more than 1h30 on the bike, after taking into account the time needed to get ready beforehand and to shower and change afterwards.
You need to be very well organized and to plan ahead. The countdown starts immediately at 12h. You need a full set of cycling clothes and equipment at work. Post-ride, the most fortunate amongst you have access to proper showers; the others will have to make do with a flannel, wet-wipes or even a bottle of eau de Cologne!
1h30 high quality training
A typical session must take into account the following principles:
- In spite of the limited time available, always start with a 15 to 20 minute warm-up during which you progressively raise your heart rate to 75%.
- The main block will last for one hour, focused on quality.
- Finally, the last ten minutes should be spent progressively warming down, using the small chainring in active recovery mode at a relatively high cadence in order to eliminate the toxins.
The main block should be at relatively high intensity, although not maximal at this stage in your preparation (to avoid creating unwanted peaks of form). Possible themes include:
- Riding at race pace (high tempo, intensity I3 to I4 for periods of time building up from 15 to 40 minutes).
- Building strength (pedalling in a high gear at a low cadence, intensity I3, for periods of time up to 40 minutes depending on the available gradients and your current level of fitness)
- Building speed (anaerobic threshold, using short intervals at high intensity such as one minute at I5, one minute recovery)
- Building explosiveness (sprints at 100% during very short durations of about 7 seconds)
Modify your eating habits
If you reorganise your day round training at lunch time, you obviously need to modify your eating habits. As well as the extra calories expended, you will be unable to eat at the time you would normally be sitting down for your meal. It is thus important to manage your food intake throughout the day.
It is particularly important to begin with a decent breakfast, including different types of cereal, dairy products and proteins. To increase the variety, you can include porridge, rice pudding, semolina or pancakes. Try to include ham and eggs as well: these make an excellent breakfast. Something sweet at the end of the meal can complete your intake of carbohydrates.
It is essential to take a mid-morning snack, not only to cover your energy needs during the ride, but also to tide you over until your return. Skip it and you won’t be able to train effectively. The snack can consist of fruit, yoghurt and a cereal bar or a slice of gingerbread, for example.
During the ride you should sip a high-energy drink in order to sustain the required intensity and avoid any risk of hypoglycaemia (a.k.a. bonking or a “fringale”)
As soon as you finish, your priority must be to replenish your stocks of glycogen and help recovery. There are several alternatives, depending on the time and facilities available. In the first few minutes it is easy to consume a recovery drink with either fresh or dried fruit. You can then eat a sandwich with good quality low-fat protein and a dairy product such as yoghurt.
Keep drinking throughout the afternoon in order to reach a total of at least 1.5 litres during the day, and take another snack mid-afternoon. This can consist of gingerbread, biscuits or dairy. Choose the best quality and the most natural products available.
The evening meal is extremely important to fill any gaps in your diet. Vegetables, fish, meat, nuts and starchy carbohydrates should be the priority, especially if you are going to train again the following day.
To conclude, training at lunch time can be an excellent solution for the time-pressed cyclist. The approach requires disciplined organisation, a focus on quality and a change in your eating habits, but frees up a new opportunity to train and thus to improve your performance. This is as true true whether your goal at the Haute Route is to challenge for a place at the top of the general classification, or simply to finish.