5 common mistakes to avoid with your winter training plans

Posted on: November 27th, 2018

cycling winter training mistakes

Many cyclists will be starting a training programme around now with a view to next year. But don’t fall into the common cycling training traps.


By Matteo Cigala


A former U23 Italian international, now living and racing in Ireland, Matteo Cigala is the founder and head coach at Cigala Cycling.

He’s won some of Ireland’s biggest races in recent years and been Cycling Ireland top A1 ranked rider.

Cigala is now helping others achieve their goals; from becoming a national champion to simply getting fitter and stronger on your bike.

In this piece he outlines the common mistakes cyclists make when following a training programme.


1 Starting without performing a threshold test

One of the basics needed to make sure that your training is effective and that you’ll go on to train at the right metabolism is to know your own threshold values.

It can only be obtained by doing a test on the road or in the laboratory. It is not necessary to have instruments.

Instead, it’s possible to do it autonomously. Just have a heart rate monitor for the Conconi test. Even better, use a power meter for an FTP test.

By doing the test, you will get your own training zones. These will then form the basis for your training.


2 Not having clear goals when beginning

Another thing that many underestimate is the value of clear goals. Without them; where do we get the motivation to move forward?

The first thing to do when planning your season is set your goals. A good way to set goals is using the SMART model, which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

Specific means something that is clearly definable and easy to assess. An example; achieve top three at the road nationals this year.

Measurable means being able to establish criteria for measuring the goal. It also means being able to revise the goal after events.

An example; for a rider looking to do a sportive event, a measurable goal can be to finish within six hours.

Attainable means being achievable. An attainable number of goals can be three. And it is important to keep them achievable. Non-achievable goals can lead to demotivation.

For an A4 rider, for example, an attainable goal would be upgrade to A3 in 2019.

Relevant means a goal that is important to you. For a Kerry rider, for example, the goal may be to ride Rás Mumhan in 2019 or achieve a particular result in it.

Time-bound means having a timeline for the goal to be completed in. It could be to win a race by the end of June, for example.


3 Not making enough time for recovery

Your rest and the recovery are parts of your training. Without them we do not improve as cyclists.

When we are recovering, after a block of intense training, the physiological mechanisms that adapt the body to bear increasingly higher loads do their job.

This leads us to a state of supercompensation; the basis of the increase in performance.

If we neglect the recovery phase, continuing to train with heavy loads, we do not give our bodies time to adapt.

And we risk our condition actually getting worse, over-reaching and, in the worst cases, overtraining.

Once we reach these points it is difficult to go back to where we should be. It is essential to have days of absolute rest or active recovery, and also recovery weeks.

Our formula is 3+1; that’s three weeks of over-reaching and 1 week of recovery.


4 Becoming a slave to a training programme

Follow a training program well is one of the principles of improvement. But it should not be written in stone.

We must be flexible. If we have to do a specific workout but we’re too tired for it; it’s best not do it. Sometimes we should just go home instead. We can see the following day if we feel better.

We must also recognise there may be unforeseen commitments; family and work are unpredictable but they’re important. So, we must adapt.

It is not those two or three days that we have lost that affect our preparation, especially if we’ve done everything else correctly.


5 Having the wrong programme for your goals

It’s very important that we train according to our goals. For example, if your goal is win or ride well in criteriums competition; we need to train anaerobically and not the aerobically.

If our goal is to do a personal best for a 40-50 minute climb, training too much anaerobically is useless. But it will be useful to train around your threshold.