I have been training pretty hard the past few weeks and I'm building up to a solid block of sitting on my arse eating. I thought I would use this post to throw out some of the basics I use for nutrition and training in the base training phase. Bike training is a lot like lego, you get blocks, put them together and make something big and shiny which you're proud of, and, just when you think it's all going well, a bigger boy generally comes and kicks it all down.
For those of you who don't ride bikes or who aren't familiar with periodisation, base training is the part of my season where I ride a lot, not too fast (I use a powermeter to moderate my efforts) to increase the body's fatburning ability and capillary density. Whilst I'm not necessarily going slow I am generally going slower and try to limit heart rate to 80% of max or power to zone 2. I work on leg speed, strength, pedaling circularity and of course my trademarks: riding backwards, picking flowers and bunnyhopping. I'm pretty convinced I will find a use for my flower picking antics one day, I just need to find the right soigneur to hand them off to.
When it's silly cold, like it is in the UK now, I break out the 'cross bike and mess about in the fields, or ride my mountainbike, it helps your handling no end and stops you going stale. Also it's good to get muddy and fall off once in a while; it reminds you not to take yourself too seriously. I went cx riding today, it was cool, I even climbed a tree to see what I could see; now that's cross training. Then I fell off into some sticky burrs – don't ever do that, they might look soft on your way down but they hurt for the rest of your ride, especially INSIDE your jacket.
If I'm riding easy, the need for super technical sports beverages with the exact calculated number of calories per hour is, in my opinion, not as great. I tend to try to stick to one bottle of "food" (I like nuun, motortabs or prolong depending on how many calories I want) and the rest of my calories from real foods. The mainstays of this years winter training have been sandwiches, which always gets me laughed at on the local fast group rides, until someone eating their power(putty)bar realizes what they are missing out on. Favorites include peanut butter and jam, or pb and banana (with honey and cinnamon) peanut butter and nutella (or similar, I make my own with hazelnuts, cocoa and honey or agave) or even peanut butter, plantain chips and cinnamon-honey cream cheese. It's nice to feel like you've eaten something and most of the above are fully vegan, which is nice to the planet too. I mix these up with trek bars (nice and filling on cold rides) raisins (better in the heat, and a nice break in texture) and little honey packets which I steal from cafes! You can make great energy gels out of cocoa and agave syrup as well.
The base building phase is a great time of year to clock some miles with beginners, old men (or women), fat people, mountain bikers and generally he sort of folks that "proper" bike racers wouldn't be seen dead with. It's also a good time to avoid group rides where significant amounts of penis measuring goes down. Try to keep it in your trousers until at least the first of the new year. Whilst I generally use watts and heart rate to keep my efforts moderate I'm pretty cool with zen riding at this time of year (I'm pretty cool with zen riding full stop) and I'm more than happy to throw the monitors back in the shed and ride until I get tired, then stop and drink coffee, eat cake and come home. I know I'm going to hard if the constant stream of verbal diarrhea which spews from my mouth is hindered by a lack of air. IN all seriousness, close your mouth, if you're riding too hard for nose breathing, it's too hard for base. So slow down.