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Tuesday training: High holidays and turbo boosts

Having really pushed the limits in the last week and a half, it’s time for another rest week to let your body recover and develop the strength to handle the grief you’ve been giving it.

Starting next week we’ll be going back and asking how our guinea pigs have been getting on with their plans so far, as well as offering advice on any problems they may have encountered. This week though we’ve got another informal clinic to answer a couple of the questions that have been popping up in forum threads from previous training articles.

Rather than looking forward to a dream mountain bike holiday in Colorado, Doug Thomson is absolutely dreading it. He’s worried he won’t be fit enough to keep up with the folk who’ve offered to act as guides, and he’s also worried about the altitude effect.

So what’s the best way to prepare for a holiday and are there any short cuts to foreign or high altitude fitness?

There’s not much you can do about your fitness in short order except step up your higher intensity riding slightly, but make sure that you get maximum rest for the week just before you head out. Pacing yourself once you’re out there also makes a huge difference. Speaking to Simon who runs mountain biking trips for “Biking Bonkers” in Spain, it’s clear that if you hammer yourself into the ground on the first two days you won’t enjoy the rest of the holiday. Although you might want to get the maximum amount of riding in, it’s very important that you take some rest days too, just to head off to the local metropolis or chill out and take the scenery in. Much better to have three absolutely stunning big ride days where you feel great and two days off to appreciate it, than have a week where you suffer more each day until the last two rides are absolute misery.

If your planned riding buddies aren’t smart enough to do that themselves then just sit a day or two out of the schedule. That way you’ll be fresher and they won’t be waiting round for your exhausted carcass to drag into view.

The bottom line is that you can’t expect to suddenly do a week of high mountain riding when you normally only manage one ride a week.

Dealing with altitude is also a matter of pacing yourself, as long as you’re staying below about 4000m you should gradually acclimatise over a couple of breathless days. Good aerobic fitness definitely helps once you’re riding but actual aclimatisation depends on genetics, lung capacity and various other stuff that even boffins with frosted beards haven’t fully understood yet. Drinking lots of fluid but very little alcohol definitely helps though.

The second problem concerns matter much nearer than Colorado – in fact it concerns the shed at the bottom of the garden where your turbo trainer lives.

Essentially, we had a few folk who had no daylight time to train who had to use a turbo to keep up with sessions. The problem was their minds were melting with boredom after anything more than 5 minutes.

As with most boredom problems the answer is distracting yourself. If you’re doing a countdown workout don’t think of the full interminable 40 minute session stretching out before you. Chop it into mental chunks of 5 minutes, or if you’ve got a particularly goldfish like memory, 1 minute followed by another similar minute might come as a pleasant surprise. Sticking on a heart rate monitor or bike computer that works off the rear wheel will also provide extra information to keep you occupied.

If your mind is a little less focused than that then you’ll need something else to keep you sat there. Books and mags are generally rubbish as they get soggy with sweat, the pages need turning and if your working hard you won’t take anything in anyway. I can remember staring at the same page of an MBUK for the entire winter of 93/94 in a cellar in Doncaster and still never getting to the bottom of the text.

A stereo and headphones can make a lot of difference as long as you pick some good hard toons to pound your brain along, but nothing works better than sneaking the TV out and slapping a riding video on. You can even do daft stuff like sprint when they sprint and so on to keep you amused.

The final resort is acknowledging that turbo training is just unavoidably vile, but being so sure of your goals that it makes it worth it. Writing down the name of the rider you really want to kick the arse of and sticking it on the bars for those moments when you really desperately want to stop has certainly worked for us in the past.

Anyway, if you’re following our plan we’ll have none of that hard training nonsense this week as you’ll need to feel plenty fresh and spry for the next three week block of work. To give you a taste of what to expect it’s time to capitalise on that base we’ve built over the past months and add some serious speed and power to your riding in double quick time.

See you next week folks….


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