Some of my riding buddies have recently asked me about training; if they should work with a coach, how to train correctly, any advice for getting on the right path. I only started seriously training a year ago, and have learned so much in that time. I'm continuing to understand the complexities of training, and have a lot to learn.
I work with a coach, and he helps me schedule the all important annual training plan (ATP), and holds me accountable for every workout. I've read most of Joe Friel's Training Bible, but it took me a while to be able to understand and absorb all the information.
You don't really need much in the way of gear, but two things I couldn't go without are my heart rate monitor and indoor trainer. I've got a power meter, too, but if I were on a budget I'd stick with just the heart rate monitor. The indoor trainer just makes for a very controlled and even environment for doing intervals properly.
What I've learned is that training requires a lot of consistency and commitment in order to see the results you want. It was really hard at first, especially sitting on an indoor trainer, but eventually I got into a rhythm and enjoy doing interval. I saw results quickly, but learned you need variation in your training blocks to see true fitness gains.
Training also means really listening to your body, and knowing when you need more recovery. Resting and nutrition is just as important as the workouts themselves.
Right now I'm settling into my first real tough training block, having spent most of the latter half of fall doing more endurance rides. I'm doing more long distance races this coming race year, so my annual training plan will be very similar to last year's, with the exception of increased volume and intensity.
I try to keep it fun, too. Not every day is a hard workout day. It's important to me to have fun on the bike, and not take it too seriously. As long as I'm putting time in the saddle and decide early on what kind of workout I'm doing, if any, then I'm better off than not riding at all, unless I absolutely need to recover.
I'm not a pro, and probably will never be, and that's cool. I love training because its goal oriented and requires a lot of discipline. It was hard to fit training into my busy life, but eventually it everything just fell into place. I made time for it without impacting the rest of my day and responsibilities. It was important to me put in the work, knowing the kinds of results and goals I could achieve with that kind of commitment. It's worth it to me.
So get out there. Understand the fundamentals of training and know it'll take time and commitment.