Coach potato answers your riding fitness questions
This week losing weight, gaining speed and sorting dodgy knees.
Another mixed bag of fitness fixes from our vegetable trainer this week. If you’ve got a question about anything bike and body related, get in touch and we’ll do our best to answer it.
This is in response to your article on ‘fitness tips and training plan’.
I currently commute 7.5 miles each way and have been doing since New Year now. I also try and do a four mile run and a few upper body weights twice a week but sometimes time constraints put paid to one or both gym sessions.
Usually one journey a week I try and do some sprints…35-45 seconds fitting in between 8-10 sprints on the way home, and once a week I do a prob 10 miles on the way home, which I try and do a few mins fast a few minutes slow, but with London traffic never really works out that well. I ride pretty easy on the other rides and on days when I do my run. Occassionally I get the chance to fit in a 1-2hr ride at the weekend but, not very often.
I hope to start doing the Eastway a 1hour race on Wednesday nights. My problem is I don’t seem to be making any more progress speed and strength wise. What should I be doing to make further progress. Do I need to try and push bigger gears on my normal commute, or maybe try and lengthen a few more of the rides?
Coach Potato responds
(sorry, I deleted your name by accident and now can’t remember) although 7.5 miles doesn’t sound like much, that’s 15 miles a day or 75 miles a week, in rush hour traffic, with a couple of hard (though fairly random) sessions, plus gym work, plus a run. If you’re missing gym nights you’re probably getting angry about that too.
We’ve said it before and I’m sure we’ll say it again. Relax. Not only are you (probably) angry you’re not doing enough, but you may well be doing too much.
Training is all about straining and recovering, but you need to overcompensate with the recovery to make gains. If you’re doing the same training week in week out, you’ll just get really good at that, I remember being really good at riding 19 miles to work and back on flat ground in a perfect aero tuck. Although I was super efficient for 50 minutes if I tried to ride for an hour or more at the weekend I just fell over.
If you’re focusing on Eastway then Wednesday needs to be your freshest day. That means Tuesday morning – at the latest – is your final hard session. It also means Thursday is a recovery day, so that leaves you with Monday and Friday as you’re real nail it days. If you’re wanting to gain speed and strength then it makes sense to have one day training for each.
Strength training is best done as slower revving seated efforts (but watch your knees) but if you mean more fast but sustained strength then it’s long ten minute teeth gritted pulls. Like you say this ain’t easy in traffic so try and find some back routes or even some loops on the way home where you can hold a sustained intensity.
For the speed work check out the 30 second sprint intervals I outlined last week, but again doing them correctly is paramount to get maximum benefit so make sure it’s a genuine 30 seconds on 30 off.
By all means ride into work the other “easy” days as they’ll work to help you recover, but you do need to keep the intensity really low if you’re not going to spend the rest of the week (and then every succeeding week until you keel over).
I could also tell you to take every second or third week off to let your body rest, but there’s a smarter way of doing it than that.
To keep track of your tiredness / fitness, start taking your pulse just before you go to sleep on a night. After a week you should have a good idea of how low it drops when you’re properly rested. Carry on checking it using this resting rate as a guideline. If it is over that number by 10%, (ie 66 on a resting rate of 60) then you’re body is telling you it’s still recovering so it’s an easy day tommorrow, whatever you had planned.
As for the running and weights decide whether you really need to do them (a quick homebased press up / sit up / chin up (get a chin bar from Argos) as soon as you get in from your commute can be really effective..
Anyway rejig your plan, start checking your resting state and let me know how you’re doing in a month or so.
I just started XC racing in the masters class (age 47) Top ten finisher (there were 9 of us!! 🙂
First place did his 3 laps in the time it took me to do 2!!
Where to from here. Commute 12km to work via cycle path.
Coach Potato responds
Congratulations you’ve done the hard bit and it’s only going to get better.
Work out where you really lost time in the race – climb, descend, straightline power, sprint – then work on your weaknesses.
It really is that simple. So pull out the training sessions we’ve listed here to strengthen various aspects and string them together on a two or three day a week hard work schedule, depending on how butch you feel. Find your feet for the first 3 weeks, rest on the week before your next race and then let us know how it’s going. Just be careful of dogs and walkers on the cyclepath when you’re riding hard!
Your article on continental climbing was very helpful, as I’m going to ride the shorter Fondo Campagnolo in June and then the Etape du Tour in July. I did a week’s training in Majorca a couple of weeks ago with my husband (who loves hills) to get used to long climbs – but I’ve now got a niggling ache in my knee when I ride uphill, but not on the flat, or off the bike.
Should I use your training tips before the first ride, or is it better to rest my knee completely but not be quite so fit?
Coach Potato responds
This sounds like a classic “pushing too big a gear” injury. Try spinning rather than grinding and you may find it eases considerably. Most road groupsets (I’m presuming you’ve got a road bike) can now be upgraded to a triple chainset version, and this will make the Etape far more manageable however fit you are. If you’ve got short legs, you may find shorter cranks a help too, although you’ll definitely need easier gears. The money spent will be well worth it in the long term too, if it means you can keep riding.
If the knee doesnt settle quickly, go and get it checked by a specialist (not your GP) asap.
I have recently started cycling again and want to shift some weight as I
reckon this is my biggest hindrance in the speed stakes, currently
somewhere over 17st I should think. What would you suggest as the best
training program to shift the lard so that all day trail riding becomes
less tortuous! I suspect my base fitness is not too bad – but carrying x
stone more than everyone else up hill is no fun!
Oh, I have access to a basic gym as well if that would provide any extra
Coach Potato resonds
Alright Rob, and all the others out there interested in reducing your payload.
Quick answer to get you started getting lighter. There are no miracles to getting weight off, it’s simply a case of sweating more off than you put in. Cut fat but just as importantly gradually cut overall portion size, and eat more regularly (fruit not doughnuts mind). This will reduce calorie intake without energy peaks and troughs.
To burn the lard off simply ride more often. It doesn’t have to be super hard work (in fact that’ll work against you if you’re too tired to ride every night) but get out and get a sweat on as often as possible and you’ll have a raised fat burning metabolism for several hours afterwards.
If you’re after figures to play with, no more than 2lb lost per week, maximum 500 calorie drop in daily intake from current level.
We’ve a few questions about 50 mile time trials and the Red Bull in our in tray too, sorry we’re still working through the list, but we’ll try and have them answered double quick as we know time is pressing.