Andreas Triantafillidis On Μάιος - 24 - 2012

Fitter, faster, further… our experts can help make 2012 your most successful year of cycling

Was last season like the one before and the one before that? Each year you put in the miles, but however hard you try that sportive gold medal still eludes you. Or perhaps you’re still in the same racing category after years of trying to improve. Don’t worry – by taking a good, hard look at your planning, training and nutrition, you could turn another so-so season into your best season ever. We show how…

WORDS: DAVID MOTTON

 

 

ONE SET YOUR GOALS

Lots of cyclists drift through the season without a plan, but to go faster or further it pays to have clear goals, and a plan for achieving them.

“You need goals to underpin the structure of your training program”, Professor Greg Whyte, head of cycling performance at 76 Harley Street (www.76harleystreet.com). “Without them it’s harder to judge how well training is going and to indentify strengths and weaknesses.  It’s important to have short, medium, and long-term goals to stay motivated.”

With a clear idea of where you want to go you can work out how to get there.  Most coaches will break the season into macro, meso and micro cycles. “The macro cycle is your entire season – think of it as the skeleton underpinning your training,” explains Whyte. “Meso cycles are shorter periods that of six to nine weeks, which put the muscle on the bones. A micro cycle is typically a week, and goes into the detail of each individual training session. Think of it as the skin which holds everything in place.”

It’s possible to make these plans yourself, but to make the most of your potential it’s better to consult an expert who can make unclouded judgments about what’s working well and which areas need further work.

 

2 EAT SMARTER, RIDE FASTER

It’s a cliché but it’s true – you are what you eat. Quality training sessions will get you so far, but your body won’t  make the most of them without a quality diet to match.

Matt Lovell, director of  the nutrition consultancy Perform Fuction (www.performandfuction.co.uk), says the first steep is to trip out the junk from your diet. “Doughnuts, crisps, sweets and fries are anti-nutrient-rich foods: they contain fewer nutrients than your body needs to convert them into energy thereby robbing your body of precious minerals and B-vitamins.”

Having junked the junk food, riders should next make sure they’re not eating the wrong amount of the right foods. “Portion sizes are best judged using the palms for portions method – that is eating a palm of protein with many meals, three fists of grow-above-the-ground vegetables and one to three fists of a root vegetable or suitable non-grain starches depending on what you are about to do and what you’ve just done. The more training you do, the more starchy carbs you need to eat.”

 

TRHEE  OVERCOME NERVES

Even the most experienced rider can have an attack of nerves before the start of a race or sportive that really matters to them. “The important thing is to recognize that nerves are normal,” says Dr Victor Thomson. “It’s natural to be concerned and to wonder how ready you are. Just remind yourself about all the training you have done, and if any setbacks come to mind remember that nobody has a perfect build up. Tell yourself that you are ready.”

Nerves aren’t just normal – they can be a good thing. “Getting nervous is a sign that you are up for an event, focused and ready to fire.”

4 QUALITY NOT QUANTITY

Becoming fixated with riding a certain number of hours or miles per week can be counterproductive, warns expert coach Joe Beer (www.coachjoebeer.com). “Some riders think 10 hours is good, and eight hours is rubbish,” he says.

Another classic mistake is to think good training is fast training, and slow rides are pointless ‘junk’ miles. “Often quality can be misconstrued as meaning ride as fast as possible whatever the session. Junk mileage is such a bad term as it assumes you must be doing a certain speed or efford to gain a training effect,” warns Beer. “For most cyclists, just riding more at low intensity can improve muscle efficiency and bike handling and still allow one or two hard training days per week. This is not my opinion but scientific analysis of the best way to train: 80% as base effort and two sessions of quality high-intensity training.”

If your club mates want to turn every ride into a chain gang, don’t get sucked in. Have a plan and stick to it.

5 BACK OFF FOR THE BIG DAY

Don’t be tempted to push yourself hard in training right up until a key event. To be at your best you need to taper, backing off a bit to arrive on the start line in peak form.

Two-time British National Hill-Climb Champion turned coach, Dan Fleeman (www.formecoaching.com) , explains: “If you just trained right up until the  day of a big race you would be too fatigued. In the last few days you need to reduse your training volume but keep the intensity high.”

How long should a taper be? “It depends on individual and the event. In general a taper of three to four days should be about right, but you need to know your body and what works best for you.”

As a rule, the shorter and more intense the event, the longer the taper. “When I raced in the National Hill-Climb Championship I hardly touched the bike  for the two weeks before. But if you are riding a longer event like a sportive then the taper could last up to a week.”

 

6 BE PREPARED

Ever turned up to an event without  your shoes, shorts or helmet? Don’t let a moment of forgetfulness ruin your season. Be prepared.

Yanto Barker mixes riding as a pro with running his own cycle-clothing business, so he has to be super organized. “I am actually a little dyslexic and find a routine helpful to avoid forgetting important things. Always have your bike ready days before and make sure you‘ve ridden it a couple of times since making any changes.

“I usually pack my race bag the night before, and I like to arrive at the race HQ in my own kit – it helps me not forget my clothing as I have most of it on. I have forgotten almost everything at one race or another apart from my bike, though I have heard stories of guys turning up without one!”

 

7 PRIME THE ENGINE

To make the most of all that hard training you need to be warmed up and ready to go from the start. The more intense the event, the more important the warm up becomes as there no chance to ease in gradually. “For a hard effort like a time trial riders should start with 5-10 minutes at a stady pace,” says pro-tuned-coach Dan Fleeman. “Then do another 10-15 minutes ramping up to zone 4.” At this level of effort breathing should be rapid and powerful and it should be difficult to hold a conversation. “Finish off with two or three hard 30-second bursts.”

It can be difficult to warm up properly for a sportive where riders are held into pens and so have to wait arround before the start. “Practice warming up then cooling down again before a hard effort in training,” says Fleeman. “This will only come as a shock if your body isn’t used to it.”

 

8 STAY MOTIVATED

It’s not easy to stay motivated all season long, especially if some well-meaning nutritionist has just denied you a doughnut.

If the sofa seems more appealing than the saddle, it’s time to give yourself a quick pep talk, says triathlete and sports psychologist Dr Victor Thomson (www.sportspsychologist.com). “Think about why you are training. Why do you come home from work and get on the turbo trainner? Remember that you have a goal, and the next training session is a good thing because it will help you reach the goal.”

Picture yourself training to bolster your self-discipline. On the way home from work, imagine yourself getting home, getting changed and starting your session. Picture yourself ignoring the distructions you will need to overcome, like not boiling  the kettle or opening the fridge door.

“At the weekend, picture yourself getting up and going for a ride in the morning and have your kit laid out ready. That way there’s no decision to make when the alarm goes off – you’ve already planned your ride and seen it unfold in your mind’s eye.”

That said, Thomson advises against bulling yourself  when you are feeling really ryn down. “It may be that you’ve been burning the candle at both ends and are genuinely tired, in which case you need to adjust your training downwards, eat a bit better and maybe get a bit more sleep.”

 

9 FEED THE MACHINE

Keeping your energy levels up, especially during a long event like a mountainous sportive, means eating and drinking regularly. Matt Hart, founder of Torq Fitness (www.torcfitness.co.uk), recomends consuming plenty of carbohydrate and avoid fat.

“The recommendation used to be 1g of carbohydrate per kg of bodyweight per hour, but recent research suggests the internals of big and small people aren’t that different, so effectively  a small person can consume as much as a bigger person per hour. We take this with a pinch of salt and generally suggest larger riders should try to consume more. You should be comfortable taking on board up to 60g of carbohydrate per hour with most low fat carbohydrate combinations. Keeping fat low is critical, because this severely slows down the passage of carbohydrate through the gut and its absorption.”

Downing at least one 500ml bottle per hour is good rule of thumb for hydration, but Matt says the right amount varies depending on the individual and the weather. “If it’s warmer, and perspiration rates are high, you should drink more than when you sweating less.”

 

TEN …AND RELAX

As soon as you climb off the bike you need to start replacing your depleted reserves, advises Richard Lang, a pro cyclist with Rapha Condor Sharp. “There’s a 20-minute window when your body is primed to absorb nutrients, so you need to get in a good amount of protein and carbohydrate.” After a tough training session, race or sportive, aim to down a specially formulated recovery drink as these contain more protein than a standard sports drink – important for repairing tired muscles.

Eat a good meal within three or four hours of finishing, but don’t eat so much that you feel bloated. “Rice, chicken and red meat are good,” says Lang, “but avoid spicy foods or seafoods. You don’t want to eat anything which could give you an upset stomach, especially if you are riding a multi-day event.”

Lang’s teammate, Christopher Jennings, says professionals need plenty of rest after a tough day on the bike, and the same applies to club cyclists. “Just because the stage finishes in a beautiful Italian village doesn’t mean you suddenly become a tourist. If you are standing, sit. If you are sitting, lie down. If you’re lying down, sleep.”

Jennings swears by massage to flush out the toxins from buttered limbs, and compression tights to speed up recovery. A good night’s kip is also key. “Sleep is when your body goes into full-on recovery mode,” he says, “so obviously the better and longer you can sleep, the more prepared you will be for the next day’s race.”

CYCLING PLUS, June 2012

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