Drop the Weight, Not the Power
Give your body more furnaces to aerobically burn calories.
As much attention as professional and elite amateur athletes receive, the reality is that cyclists in the 30-50-year-old age group make up the majority of the athletes most coaches work with. As grown-up men and women with full-time jobs, families, and mortgages, your priorities and goals are likely to be significantly different than those of aspiring professionals and Olympians, but they?re just as important and valuable. Almost every cyclist wants to be a stronger rider and a faster climber, and as a result, a common combination of goals is to simultaneously increase sustainable power and reduce body weight. <?xml:namespace prefix = o /?>
When you?re reasonably new to the sport of cycling, and perhaps carrying more weight than you?d like, it?s pretty easy to achieve these two goals at the same time. Your fitness level has so much room for improvement that any amount of training, preferably structured, leads to improvement. Likewise, increasing your activity level above sedentary is enough to shed weight. What you?re not seeing, however, is that your fitness and your bodyweight goals are like two trains picking up speed and heading straight towards each other: when and if they collide, everything comes to an abrupt halt.
When Goals Collide
To improve your fitness, your training intensity has to be sufficient to overload your energy systems, and as you make progress, it takes more intensity or longer workouts to create that overload. Increasing the amount of work you do in training raises the number of calories you have to consume to fuel your workouts. At the same time, the process of losing weight requires that you consume fewer calories than you expend. As your progress towards your goals, and your training leads to both improved power and weight loss, the difference between the calories you need to support your training and the caloric restriction you need for weight loss gets smaller, and may eventually disappear.
This is the point at which many athletes stagnate: the quality of your training is suffering because you?re restricting your caloric intake in an effort to lose weight. Of course, the point of losing the weight was to improve your performance, but instead of being faster and stronger, you?re lean but losing power because you can?t sustain training at a level high enough to even maintain, let alone improve, your fitness.
Divide And Conquer
You?ll most likely encounter the scenario above when you?re trying to lose those last 10 pounds, and it?s frustrating because your progress slows to a crawl just as your goals come into sight. Getting past this point is a matter of focusing on one of your goals individually for a while, and letting the accomplishment of that goal provide the necessary tools for the achievement of the other. The fall and winter is a great time to do this because, for many cyclists, the lack of events or competitions allows for a more focused schedule of steady training.
Preserving the quality of your training takes precedence over restricting your caloric intake when it comes to losing those last few pounds.