Hello…. Someone asked me why I always look so ridiculously happy on my bike (s). Riding my bike makes me tick, it sorts my head out, it brings me tranquillity and balance. It is where I find peace. I also have a dark side … I like to race.
Training is a complicated puzzle and it is very hard to be objective about one’s own performance. Staying safe and getting the most out of our training process is a constant balancing act. Here are some guidelines to help –
Consistency is key. The route to healthy, sustainable fitness is through the consistent application of the minimum amount of effort to produce the desired adaptations in our bodies. The boom and bust model so many of us find ourselves caught in does not produce long term, sustainable results. We should be aiming to see year on year improvements up to ten years after we start focused training. So if your heart rate is up a bit one morning take a couple of easy days until it balances out again. You could save yourself three weeks out with a chest infection. If you don’t have much time, or can’t be bothered, 20 minutes on the turbo spinning your legs out is better than nothing. Do that twice a week for a month and you have 2 hours forty minutes of training you wouldn’t have had otherwise. As a bonus you may find once you get on the turbo it’s not so bad and you can manage 45 minutes instead. Just keep chipping away.
‘I’ve gone to all this effort and I’m not even fit enough to achieve xxx’
This upset statement from one of my athletes on a downer really made me think and question ‘what is fitness?’
How do we measure it? What do we really mean when we think someone has a high level of fitness? Was it rational for the athlete to expect to achieve xxx?
‘I want to go faster.’ Perhaps this seems a simple enough statement and is probably one of the ones we hear the most often. But does that mean measuring and working to improve our FTP ( Functional Threshold Power) and successfully time trialling, or practicing VO2 max intervals to improve our ability to go with a break, or doing lots of endurance work to go faster over an ironman bike course. All valid aspirations, all variations on going faster and all need training for in very different ways. Success at one will mean failure at the others….. so we need to be very clear where we are heading.
People often ask me how much they should eat on the bike when on a long ride. When I tell them they usually then say – ‘HOW MUCH!!?? I can’t possibly eat or drink that.’
So here is a guide to fuelling on the bike – all I can provide is some basic guidelines and then you have to work it out for yourself through trial and error. Nutrition is complex and very individual; what works for one person will make someone else feel ill.
Practice is crucial. Your body needs to practice being able to absorb nutrition and it needs to work out what it likes and doesn’t like. It is not fun discovering what it doesn’t like on the day of an event. So long training rides are about practicing nutrition as well as developing your aerobic base. If you constantly get it wrong in training you reduce your body’s ability to recover, compromise your immune system, potentially lose too much weight, lose power production, feel cold, lose your mojo, get sick. In an event you may vomit or just bonk – that means run out of energy and feel like the guy in the photo – not the feeling you have trained for months to attain.
Aim for a cadence of between 80 and 100. Therefore if you are cycling inside I suggest aiming for 90. Just in case you have forgotten, cadence is the number of times you turn your pedals over in a minute. Cadence will fall when riding outside due to variations in the terrain, so practice higher cadence inside to accommodate this. Practice cadence and variations in cadence. Pedal at a high cadence (100 – 120) in an easy gear to refine technique and train your neuro-muscular system to be more adaptable. This makes holding a cadence of near 90 for general riding easier.
Think about more efficient pedalling. This is how you propel the bike and you do an awful lot of it, so the better it is the better your cycling. A two hour ride involves turning your pedals over 10,800 times if your cadence is 90. Think about pushing across the top of the stroke to improve the force in the drive downwards. These two are the most important parts of the pedal rotation. In order to put the power on early you need to have flexible joints so don’t forget that yoga and mobility work. Also don’t forget a decent bike fit.
Elements of style – toes pointing more or less ahead, knees pointing forwards, sit bones on your seat, bending forwards from hips, not middle of your back. Engage your core to hold a good position, this also takings strain off your back. Shoulder blades are down and shoulders relaxed, elbows slightly bent to act as shock absorbers and hands covering the brakes but relaxed. Look forwards to where you are going. Continue reading “Cycling Technique hints”→
‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth’
We have all just been metaphorically punched in the mouth big time and our athletic plans and life plans have been torn up overnight.
Time for a re-write. No one is saying this is easy.
For some it helps to make sense of things by using models. This article looks at what has happened in some different ways.
The Kubler-Ross grief curve was originally formulated by Elizabeth Kubler in 1969 and described the five stages of grief people typically pass through when mourning a death. These are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. This has since been applied to our reactions to change and is commonly adopted as a ‘change model’.
This rhyme originated at the time of the Black Death in the 1300s. The Black Death was a global epidemic of bubonic pneumonia with symptoms of sneezing. Flowers are now out as protection. Hand sanitizer and loo roll are in apparently, along with the odd dose of black humour, to protect against the coronavirus.
But what else can we do?
We can continue the normal measures for our everyday persona such as hand washing and social isolation. We have all read more than enough about that I’m sure. So this article considers what we can do within our athletic personas to maintain good health.
All advice indicates it would be wise to proceed with caution. Training sessions can suppress our immune system which makes us more vulnerable to illness. This is most likely to happen when ‘sessions are prolonged, of moderate to high intensity and performed without food intake.’ (Gleeson M) Interestingly ‘long’ is being talked of as anything over two hours so take particular care around your longer bike rides as the weather gets better. If we get ill in the current situation most of us should recover relatively quickly but we could easily pass the coronavirus on to someone else, who may become seriously ill.
Within three minutes of a question on heart rate being asked on the Mapdec weekly check in we had neatly demonstrated the complexities of the subject. We had 3, 5 and 6 zone models, all developed by different people such as Friel and Steiler, and all in use. Not to mention those models which have 4a, 4b or 5a, b and c….I could go on. So we have taken a bit of a mish mash and come up with a working Heart Rate Zone model. This model uses the Sufferfest model used at Mapdec with one or two tweaks – no 4a and b zones, that’s just splitting hairs and I know no garmin which uploads 4a and b religiously onto Strava.
So far we have just been using Training Peaks as a diary of sessions. This is absolutely fine and this programme was set up to support people to exercise and stay healthy. However now we are starting to get a lot of questions around training to be fitter instead of purely exercising. The difference is outlined nicely in an article on the Mapdec App. If you are interested in the training aspect then please read on. If not – STOP RIGHT NOW…. and continue to enjoy lots of varied exercise.
We are to some degree following The Training Cycle…..several of you have mentioned that you haven’t ever trained ‘properly’ and would like to know more about the process. So here I have tried to construct a thumbnail sketch.
You don’t have to consider yourself ‘an athlete’ to benefit from this process, many of us don’t hold that as a self image. You also don’t have to be heading to a main event such as the woman’s Kendal Cycle Club trip or the Kendal Cycle Club Mallorca trip to benefit from using the training cycle. You may just wish to arrive at the British summer feeling ready to enjoy your cycling, gardening and walking.
So, in outline, the training cycle lasts all year. It normally looks very roughly as described below. It should be noted that this year, due to the current situation, the Beginner’s Group is currently working in the Base phase. (May 2020) In a normal year people may well be in ‘Build’ by now and we may progress there, depending how long Covid 19 lasts. Continue reading “Base training explained…”→