How to Ride Faster: 8 Fundamentals

Are you a new cyclist or a season veteran looking for ways to start riding faster? Well here is your how to guide! In this episode Coach Frank goes over his top 8 Riding Faster Fundamentals that will help you to improve your cycling. While some of you may already know about these, it is always helpful to be reminded and to learn about ways to put them into practice.

Those 8 fundamentals to riding faster are: 

  1. Consistency
  2. Building a Big Aerobic Endurance - with sweet spot training
  3. Performing as hard as you can go Intervals - also known as HIT (High Intensity Training)
  4. Race Specificity
  5. Lifting Weights
  6. Goldilocks - 
  7. Lifestyle - sleep & stress, includes yoga & meditation
  8. Nutrition - Winning in the Kitchen 

    Nothing earth shattering you didn’t already know, eh?  Well it’s one thing to know about the fundamentals, it’s an entirely different outcome to put all of them into practice. So listen in (or read the transcript below) for some practical advice on how to implement these tips into your training!

    Training Tips Referenced in the Podcast:

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      Podcast Transcript:


      #1 Consistency: You heard the 2021 Unbound Gravel winner Ian Boswell talk about it 3 weeks ago on the podcast - he was able to train that much this winter but he did stay consistent. And then the time presented itself he ramped up his hours and was able to capitalize on the fitness he had maintained and nurtured by staying consistent. 

      This is also what I described as the hockey stick training mode: your training load as measured by your CTL gradually slopes upward but then in the 6 weeks prior to you even/A race it turns upward in the shape of the end of the hockey stick with am much steeper slope due to the increased amount of training.  That’s actually a whole other podcast but I wanted to mention because consistency makes the hockey stick approach possible.  

      Make getting on your bike a daily priority, 5 days a week to follow your training plan.  100% of our athletes report back that having a plan to follow helps them get on the bike and accomplish their workout each day. Make it turn green as we like to say - it being your workout in your training plan each day.  Having a coach to hold you accountable to that plan and consequently those goals is also next level. 

      #2 Build a Big Aerobic Base: One of the lowest hanging fruits to riding faster is to ride more than you have been. If you’ve been riding 8 hours a week on average, bump up to 10 hours for a mesocycle and then 12 hours. If your goal means that much to you carve out the time to ride that much. 

      Loyal listeners know we recommend building up your base in the winter in a traditional periodized annual training plan but you can also increase your base during the summer months too with sweet spot training.  Literally 16 years ago while I was racing what was then called SuperWeek which is now the Tour of America’s Dairyland - a 2 week crit series around the greater Milwaukee area - I introduced sweet spot training after developing the concept with a group of coaches and sport scientists also developing the Performance Manager Chart - a power based impulse-response performance model.  Go back in our podcast library to listen to the episode from December 2018 “How I invented sweet spot training" for the backstory. 

      Right now - tomorrow you can improve your aerobic base with sweet spot training at a higher rate than you can by riding in zone 2 alone.  Park your power between 84-97% of your FTP and spend 30-45-60 minutes per ride 2-3 times per week as outlined in our sweet spot training plans to sweet spot what I call ‘the FasCat way”. Also see our training tip on How to Sweet Spot.

      Take home point - ride more to ride faster and use sweet spot training to make the most of your limited training time. 

      #3 Intervals!: You don’t want to sweet spot all year round - you want to ‘switch from base to race’ as we’ve podcasted about before. 

      High Intensity Interval Training - what I call in layman’s terms ‘going as hard as you can’ for specific durations of time like 30 seconds, 1 minute, 2 -3-4-5- 10-15 and 20 minutes.  Going as hard as you can for the durations in a workout will make you ride faster. Not only in the workout but after your body adapts and becomes stronger.   

      Again loyal listeners will be nodding their head about intervals here and you can also visit our website as we have an entire training tips section dedicated to intervals including climbing intervals, criterium intervals, Criss Cross Intervals, and Zone 4, 5 & 6 Intervals - those are the three zones we are talking about - zones 4 , 5, & 6 - those are the zones that require you go as hard as you can whereas zones 2 - 3 & sweet spot are not going as hard as you can. That’s the aerobic endurance portion of your physiology. 

      #4 Race Specificity: Speaking of intervals and riding faster; using power to train in your training zones set to your current fitness is the core fundamental of all these riding faster fundamentals. 

      By training at specific intensities you can control which parts of your body’s energy systems you train. You can go hard and train your anaerobic system and you can go easy and train your aerobic energy system.  And then because we use Dr Andy Coggan’s 5 training zone methodologies there are a few more layers of the onion between going easy and going hard - like sweet spot training and Vo2 Max training. Incidentally side note - the Spanish traditional cycling training zones are 3 fold: hard, medium and easy.  Which as we know works for the many many world champion spanish cyclists because its a core fundamental. I just think and have found in my 20 years of coaching experience there are even more improvements to be had from a 5 zone training system.  To not beat a dead horse as the expression goes, but be sure to read “Training Zones for Cycling” tip for a better understanding of this topic.

      #5 Lifting weights!: Yes that’s right we are big fans of squats, leg press, kettlebells and ViPR tunes. Lifting weights was part of our seven habits of successful master cyclists training tip and I’ve got an entire podcast episode dedicated to lifting weights for cyclist for you to listen to next if you are interested. And our course our award winning 10 week weight lifting plan

      I will say There is the right time and the wrong time to lift weights and if you have goals this summer now is not the right time.  Wait until this Fall & winter. For our southern hemisphere listeners in their off season and winter now IS the right time.  

      And I mention this because we get this question a lot especially on our Ask a FasCat episodes and my answer every time is going to be don’t lift weights while you're trying to ride fast like during your season. Weight will deaden your legs, reduce your power output and increase fatigue.  That doesn’t sound very good at any time of the year does it!?  

      The right time to lift weights to increase your power output is when you have a 12-18 weeks or more  of non competitive time in between competition which for most athletes is an off season. 

      I could go down a rabbit hole but let’s keep moving on to #6

      #6 Life balance: I call it Goldicks: porridge to hot, porridge to cold or optimally porridge just right.  Same goes for your life: work too much, not ride enough or ride too much and life falls apart - relationships, careers, kids- your lawn! Ha - that is a joke - all successful cyclists know to do yard work in the off season.  

      By achieving a goldilocks balance in life you are going to be happy all the way around and begin to make happiness watts.  That is an “ism” and not a real scientific thing; however some sport psychologists would point to its merit.  

      Similarly don’t train TOO much nor rest TOO much. Not riding enough also counts - this is that consistency concept mentioned at the tip of our pod today. Master races on average do the best on 8-12 hour of training per week.  I see a lot of ego driven athletes that have the time and want to try to do the training but the older you become the less training you can do. This is a function of recovery or not being able to recover from 14 hours of training. You can do it like a big training block or training camp but not in a sustainable way. 

      Which leads up to our next core fundamental to riding faster...

      #7 Lifestyle: How are you living? Are you getting 6.5 hours of sleep each night and working 10 hours a day and stressed out you are having a hard time finding the time to ride and then perform your workout well? 

      I see this a lot - athletes can’t burn the candle at both ends - something has to give. Either get more sleep and train better or adopt less training hours from your training plan to achieve a better balance.  Definitely try to sleep more - set a goal of getting 8 hours of sleep and talk to me in 4 weeks if your power output hasn’t increased. I am dead serious - sleep watts - it's a real thing.  Try it.  

      With the stress - yea, no doubt there is a LOT going around but you can control that with a regular yoga and/or meditation practice. Go back and listen to our Meditation for Cyclists podcast. Start with an app like headspace if you are a beginner. Tens minutes a day - everyone can find ten minutes - you can do it on the bike once you’ve practiced a little. That’s what I call moving meditation.  Many of you may find that a good ride refreshes, clears your head, reduces your stress - you are already meditating.  Cycling is meditative.  Up your game by sitting still with your eyes closed and try to not think about anything for 5 minutes. It's like a recovery interval for your brain and can help you keep a lid on unavoidable life stress.  Don’t forget to do your Yoga on your training plan on Mondays and Fridays to FtFP!

      #8 Nutrition!: You are a Ferrari and therefore should put high octane fuel in your body.  Carbs are king to fueling your workout and eating more vegetables and less sugar will help you lose weight. All this and more is what we call ‘Winning in the Kitchen’ and we have several more training tips, podcast and videos about Performance Nutrition. But at the core of them all it centers around you getting in your kitchen and following our go faster winning in the kitchen recipes.  Check out our meal plans if you want more help.

      About Frank Overton

      Frank founded FasCat Coaching in 2002 and has been a full time cycling coach since 2004. His educational background includes a Masters degree in Physiology from North Carolina State University, pre-med from Hampden-Sydney College. Frank raced at a professional level on the road and mountain bike and currently competes as a "masters" level gravel and cyclocrosser. Professionally Frank comes from medical school spinal cord research and molecular biotechnology. However, to this day it is a dream come true for Frank to be able to help cyclists as a coach.

      Hire Coach Frank!