What is fitness?

‘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.

When we set out to ‘get fitter’ it is important to have targets so that we can measure our progress and celebrate our achievements. Do we mean squatting 75% of our body weight, or managing to achieve one press up. Do we mean being able to achieve a two hour aerobically coupled base ride or smashing a 10 mile time trial. These are all very different fitness goals. Because someone can now get up from the floor without using their hands can they ride their bike faster? Not necessarily, but are they fitter? – yes, in a very functional manner. This tends not to be the first measure that comes into mind when we ask ‘are we fitter’ and yet it is an important, distinct part of functional fitness.

Which brings us on to how do we frame our goal? The end of a season, when many people take a break from focused training, is a good time to start defining  your main goal for next season and planning how to reach it.

Make sure your goal is SMART – Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound. Just on the border of realistic and attainable is a good shout!  For most of us winning a Tour de France stage is not realistic. ‘Improve my 25 mile time trial time by 2 minutes next season’ is specific, measurable, possibly realistic, possibly attainable and is time-bound.

Then you need to take that goal and start planning how to achieve it. A great way to do this is to complete a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of everything which can impact your chances of achieving your goal. This will include many aspects of fitness and probably some aspects of organisation and finance eg decisions about  how far to travel and what new kit to buy! .

Table of some of the factors to consider if the aim is to improve your 25mile time trial time by 2 minutes in 2021 –

Aspects of fitness To considerOther areas
Aerobic fitnessBike, wheels, tyres
Muscular enduranceClothing choices
Muscular forceRace planning – A, B and C races, travel, timescales etc.
Anaerobic enduranceHow much time can you devote
Speed skills – pedalling techniqueThe impact of training on your relationships
Strength and conditioningFinance
SleepBike fit
General diet 
Supplements 
Alcohol consumption 
Stress levels 
Find a coach? Do you need one for your goal 
Training plan 
Rest and recovery 
Flexibility – can you hold the position on your tt 
Patience 

From the table one can quickly see that ‘fitness’ is a general term for a raft of aspects. That’s why fitness is a very holistic and complex topic.  And I stated ‘next season’. This is not a quick fix job.

Gaining any type of increase in performance, unless starting from a very low base, takes time, consistency and patience. So within this one aim there could be a myriad of mini-fitness aims which are all part of getting to the main goal.

Whether or not you manage your goal of improving your 25 mile tt time by two minutes it is then unreasonable to complain because you struggled to finish an ironman –  that would be an unrealistic outcome given your stated goal.

Set your SMART goal and good luck on your journey, above all enjoy.

Fitness – it’s a complicated life Hector. (Hector’s house, TV 1970s)

Fuelling on the bike

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.’

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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.

RADSPORT - Oesterreich Radrundfahrt 2012

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.

Back to the question of HOW MUCH?  Ingest between 40g and 90g of carbohydrate an Continue reading “Fuelling on the bike”

Cycling Technique hints

Pedalling 

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.

forces

Position

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”

Covid Reframing

‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth’

Mike Tyson

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’.

kubler_ross_change_curve-optimised

Continue reading “Covid Reframing”

Strengthening the immune system against the Corona virus.

‘Ring a ring a roses,

A pocket full of poseys,

Atishoo, atishoo

We all fall down’

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.

It is a game of minimizing risk.

Things that can minimize our risks- Continue reading “Strengthening the immune system against the Corona virus.”

Heart Rate Zones Explained

 Heart Rate Zones for Mapdec Cycle Studio 

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.

The takeaways are –

Continue reading “Heart Rate Zones Explained”

Training Stress Score explained. TSS

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.

Continue reading “Training Stress Score explained. TSS”

Base training explained…

Why are we doing what we’re doing at Mapdec?

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…”