Tuesday resting with Coach Potato - Bike Magic

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**How To

Tuesday resting with Coach Potato

Anyone following the plan will be delighted to know that this week is the rest week of our three weeks on – one week off, four week cycle.

The idea is that a week off gives your body a chance to strengthen all the bodily systems you’ve been giving a hard time, so when you go back to your training next week you’re are fresh, fast and raring to go.

Don’t just sit there and do nowt though as you’ll seize up. Take a couple of really, really gentle rides (invite the kids or a novice rider along) for about half an hour or so. This will get the blood swilling through your system and the wind whistling through your lungs. Use the spare time you’ve got from riding less to do a bit of extra stretching, which helps repair and relax you at the same time. While you’re laid out on the floor think about what you’ve achieved so far and what you can achieve by the time summer comes around.

As we haven’t got a training session this week, we thought we’d take the opportunity to run a short informal coaching clinic to answer some of the questions that people have asked since the start of the program. So here we go:

Neil Macdonald – Was flying now flu-ing!

“I’m thoroughly miserable, I’ve had flu for three weeks, it’s showing little sign of going away, and all my fitness is evaporating or going down the pan. Last year I managed to do at least 100 miles every week of the year, yet now I feel so weak I probably could hardly cycle to the end of the road. Upon recovery what do you suggest as a gentle introduction back into a training regime?”

Coach says:

Flu or even a cold / slight cough can be a real cycling killer, but having suffered plenty in my youth I reckon the key is in your approach to forced time off the bike.

Firstly if any illness lasts over a week, check with your GP tht it is just flu. Once you’v established that, accept that you aren’t going anywhere until it clears up – not even a little pop down to the shops. Secondly realise that means the sooner you get better the sooner you are back on the bike. So rather than thinking about all that fitness going (there’s no point doing that, it’s gone, live with it) concentrate on getting better.

Most of this is just a case of resting. Doing anything at all takes away energy that your body can use for recovery. There’s an adage among pro athletes that says “if you can sit don’t stand and if you can lie down, don’t sit” so get as much rest as you can. Eat all those fruit and veg. you’ve been meaning too for ages, rattle a few multi vitamins down and forget about waistband worries and eat like a get to fuel your bodies fight for health. If you’re not too ill, using the down time to improve your stretching and flexibility can help reduce fitness loss.

Once the aches and sniffles have gone you need to go back to training very carefully. If in doubt always wait another day before you go back. The good thing is that your core fitness – heart strength, cardio vascular / aerobic fitness won’t fade much, it will be the sharp pointy bit of your speed that really suffers. If you’ve been riding 100 miles a week, then start again with just a couple of rides a week (no more than 50 miles in total), but be really aware of how your body is coping. Better to take three weeks to get back into it than try and get back in a week and turn your flu into bronchitis or pneumonia!

If you find illness recurring it may be a sign that combined with other work or home pressures you may just be working your body harder than it can sustain. Checking your resting heart rate on a night can be a good guide. Work out your average over the week, and then check it regularly. If it is 10% higher or lower than the average it’s probably a sign that illness is approaching so take the next riding day off.

Once you are back out and riding again you’ll soon forget the illness, but make sure you remember the warning signs for next time.

Dom McGivern – Hammer and tongs!

I have an issue which I am sure isn’t a unique one, and possibly might be worthy of discussion in the Training section of the site.

About 4 months ago I changed jobs and started working in Hurstpierpoint in West Sussex. I live by the seafront in Brighton and its a very hilly 19Km ride from home, over the south downs with the highest point being 650ft at the top of Devil’s Dyke, and back down into Hurstpierpoint. I made the decision to get rid of the car and cycle to work every day and have been doing this nearly every weekday since then.

It’s a gorgeous ride, and takes about 30-40 minutes each way. I use a HRM and have watched my resting pulse gradually drop until it is now about 47bpm. Average HR for the ride to work is usually 145-150bpm and I hit about 172bpm max on a couple of the climbs. According to the Polar HRM I burn about 550 calories on the way to work and 650 calories on the way back, with 40% of this as fat.

I’m very pleased with my fitness improvements, and love the two rides each day, however my problem is this:

I wake up on a Monday after a restful weekend (usually a bike free weekend) and fly to work at warp-speed feeling fantastic, Tuesday is much the same, Wednesday a bit achey but still fast, Thursday a bit sluggish, and by Friday I have legs like lead and on each climb I’m about 2 cogs lower on the cassette and feel really sluggish. I drink plenty of decent isotonic carbo drink during and after the rides, and when I get home in the evenings I try and soak in the bath for a bit and warm down my legs.

Is there any suggestions for improving recovery during the week? Or is this an inevitable cumulative result of my fantastic ride to work? I know that ten, high-intensity, hilly 19Km rides every week is a little ambitious.

I would love to improve recovery as by the weekend I don’t really fancy going for a recreational off-road ride as I’m trying to rest my legs for Mondays ride to work.

Any ideas?


Coach says:

Congratulations on your fitness increases and commuting commitment Dom, but boy are you giving yourself a hard time!

As you point out “ten, high intensity, hilly 19Km rides every week is a little ambitious”. As a commuter you probably want to stay in bed as long as possible and just arrive in time for work but what you need to do as a cyclist is vary the intensity of your rides rather than doing each one flat out.

Not only will this give your body a chance to recover for the weekend but it will also help your body develop into more than just a specialist 35 minute, 19km, hill engine. Trust me I once developed a very efficient 52 minute, 120bpm York to Harrogate ‘engine’ that was useless for anything else.

There are two ways to go about this. If you always hurry into work then keep rattling on in the mornings, but chill out and enjoy the sea view as you trundle home. If you fancy an easier more relaxed morning then do it the other way round. Keep your HRM to 130 ave. 150 max on the easy leg. You’ll probably find this horribly slow on the bike, but you’ll be surprised how little difference it makes in your overall journey time, and you’ll soon start to enjoy steadier rides. Play around with pace as much as you want – ride gently on the flat but nail the hills, do on-off interval sprints up the hills. Ride the hills at 140 one day, 150 the next 160 after that and then 150, 140 back down again on Thursday and Friday.

We’d normally suggest looking for a flatter alternative route to use too, but a vague knowledge of the area and a look at the road map, makes that seem a non option. In that case why not take the train in once a week on a Wednesday or cadge a lift from someone at work?

So basically you’re lucky enough to have a fabulous commute, but if you’re knackered by the end of Tuesday you’re going too hard. Take it easy on half your rides, and you suddenly might find you have your weekend riding energy back.

Phil Gray-Blest – Spotting the mistakes we didn’t!

Just read you’re latest training notes and am interested in the notion of basing zones upon HRR but the zones you specify have percentages which look like they’re aimed at MAX HR rather than HRR. i.e. my max HR is 192, my resting HR before I get up is about 46 , therefore my HRR is about 146. Therefore my redline zone, using the table, is between 131 and 146 (I don’t think so). Do you have percentages for zones based upon HRR?


Phil Gray-Blest

Coach says:

Sorry Phil and everyone else, obviously a low thought day in the vegetable patch last Tuesday.

The crucial information we missed was to add your resting heart rate back onto the percentage of HRR figures. This gives Phil a red line range between 177 and 192. Much more like it!

The unknown rider – Gaining weight, not losing it.

There was another question on the forum that we’ve temporarily lost but it was something along the lines of: “How come all the advice is for people losing weight, what about those of us trying to keep it on?

Here’s some tips on that theme anyway.

First off, don’t start saying “oooh you’re so lucky not putting weight on”. I can say from experience it’s no fun being a french fry when you want to be a nice chunky crinkle cut chip. While style mags might proclaim you need to look like Callista Flockwit or any other particularly unappetising lollipop, low body fat can be really unhealthy. Loss of periods in women, osteoporosis, anaemia and general drop in immune system strength are all side effects of a skin and bone body, and a hysterical psychological dependency on food is another drawback any of my mates will testify to.

The basic problem is that cycling is a high intensity exercise that shifts a whole load of calories very quickly. Although mountain biking jiggles you around more than road biking, most of the work is done by your legs, so there’s not even a reason for muscle to hang around on your shoulders or arms.

The only answer to cycling related skinniness is to eat like the proverbial horse. Though cake, pies and fish and chips might seem like the ultimate bulking up option, go easy on artery clogging fat and stick with kilogram bags of pasta and a generally oversized healthy balanced diet. Make a note of any local pubs or restaurants doing eat as much as you like offers and pay them regular visits to keep your costs down.

From our experience high protein weight gain powders do very little good, as you’re not doing the kind of exercise that provokes your body to look for extra protein. Even if you go down the gym chances are that a naturally skinny body will just dump any muscle you slaved away to put on as soon as you turn your back on weights for a week. If you want to use any sort of food supplements, lots of carbohydrate drinks are probably the answer, but brush your teeth religously before they all rot away.

That’s all for this week folks, have a nice rest and we’ll be back on the road to riding glory next Tuesday!


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