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Tuesday Training: Q&A for rest week

As we’re running a two week on, one week off programme at the moment, it’s time for all our trainers to take it easy and recuperate for the next big push before Red bull or whatever other events you’re interested in. To fill the downtime we’ll answer a couple of questions folks have sent in.

The weekly plan

As we’ve said, this is a rest week, but that doesn’t mean don’t do anything. A couple of gentle rides out will keep your heart and muscles ticking over and a decent stretching session at some point will be a good idea.

And now on with the Q&A

Hi Coach Potato,

I’m doing the Manchester to Blackpool sponsored ride in June. I’ve been training to get my endurance better the last few months ( I’ve overstrained though once or twice, but from your advice to others I’ve learnt when to rest for a couple of days).

What I am nervous, no I’m terrified about is that although I am fitter and slightly faster than I used to be, I’m no fast whippet or hill climbing iron man, I’m more of a tortoise than a hare and just want to finish the ride in one piece.

I’ll be riding my Dawes Chilliwack with Specialized Crossroads EX tyres. I’ve been training to maintain between 12-15mph on the flat and 4-7mph up hills. (I’ve noticed that this has been a great way of loosing weight) I know these speeds are miserably slow. My longest ride has been 45 miles which included three good steep hills.

When carbo loading, could I use Science in Sport PSP22 for a few days before the ride instead of eating loads of pasta or rice?

I’d very much appreciate your advice.

Regards, Mike Loveless.

Hi Mike,

The first thing to do is stop being scared. It sounds like you’ve prepared in exactly the right way, and as best you can with a structured training plan that you’ve monitored carefully to keep you the right side of overtraining. As for the tortoise and hare, A) we know who won that one, and B) tortoises live a hell of a lot longer! The speeds you quote are certainly not miserably slow – I bet they’re a lot faster than what you used to do, and that’s what counts.

From the ready reckoner in the back of my road atlas Manchester / Blackpool looks about 60 miles depending what route you go. You’ve already said you’ve done 45 miles with 3 good hills, and that’s without the encouragement, company and general “taking your mind off the pedalling” of being in a group of other sponsored riders. That alone is worth another 15 miles.

The key to enjoying the ride – not suffering it – is to pace yourself to your limits. If you know that 15mph is pushing it then don’t be tempted to follow others at 17mph unless the slipstream makes it feel easy. If you’re still feeling full of beans by the time you get to Preston, then by all means crank up the pace towards the beach, but don’t go off fast and then pop before Parbold.

The only ride advice would be to stretch regularly while you’re riding as it’s the sitting in the saddle for 6 hours or so that will give you the grief. Making a point of rolling your shoulders, standing on the pedals and giving your gusset an airing and your legs a stretch, and keeping hands and arms as relaxed as possible while riding will all make a big difference on the final stretch. As for carbo loading advice see our fit tips panel at the bottom.

I’m sorry if there doesn’t seem to be much extra information here, but from the sound of things you just don’t need anything except a bit more confidence. I have absolutely no doubt that you can do this as long as you stick to your own pace, and you’ll be surprised at just how many people you’ll pass towards the end. Enjoy the ride (it’s not a race) and treat it – and all the preparation you’ve done for it – as the real achievement it is, and remember even if it does take all day, there’s no town better illuminated for finding at night than Blackpool 😉


I am just 15, and take part in cross country mountain bike races regularly, at least 2 a month.

I weigh about 65 kg and I am about 5f 11″. I eat plenty of carbohydrates, proteins etc. and on the whole I have a healthy diet. I ride a 28lb, 19″ hardtail.
I have just started my first season in the Youth (15-16 year olds) category
and the race is normally about 8-10 miles long, off-road with a variety of long and short climbs, decents, firewood roads and technical singletrack.

The training I do at the moment is as follows: 2 times a week, i do interval training, 6-7 times up my road, which has a reasonably steep gradient, each accent takes about 1 min, and then I rest for 1 min in between each one. Then at the weekends, I try to cycle for about an hour to an hour and a half, on at least one day, if not 2, and I vary my pace between 75 per cent effort and 50 per cent effort. This is done off-road.

My problem is I don’t seem to be improving on the time that it takes me to complete my race. Normally 40-60 min, depending on the length of the course. I am normally at least 5-10 min behind the leader, and I just don’t seem to be getting any faster.

I would be very grateful if I could have any tips on how to cut my race time down, and improve my speed. Any ideas for a better training plan would also be helpful.

Thanks a lot, Nathan

Hi Nathan,

It sounds like the training you’re doing is all good work, but it lacks one crucial element – variety. Without variety your body will hit a plateau where it is doing the best it can with the loads and stresses you’re placing on it.

Your body responds to different stimulus by developing different muscles / ways of supplying power etc. so at the moment you’ll have a body that’s great at 1 minute sprints (so can probably tolerate a massive amount of pain) or ride steadily for an hour and a half.

The latter is great and ideal for the race distances you’re doing, but you need to play around a bit more with the shorter stuff. We’ve run through plenty of training sessions with intervals anywhere between ten seconds and 40 minutes, and working through a blend of these will help lift your body out of it’s current rut. Which order you do them isn’t that important, but generally if a session is really grim to do it concentrates on an area that needs more work so is worth repeating.

If you’re racing twice a month it’s also very important to let your body recover after and before each race. I know it sounds daft but just try cutting back to one or two good hard sessions (rather than 4) a week for the next couple of weeks and you might suddenly find yourself nearer the front on race day. If you want to get out and ride your bike without training then just concentrate on riding technical stuff to improve your skills, and if the race is regularly on the same circuit (and open to public) try visiting it and practising tricky sections on the weekend.

Hope that helps and let us know how it goes next time out.

Coach Potato’s fit chip tips Carbo Loading

Carbo loading is one of the great misunderstood concepts of athletic preparation, to the point where the pre race pasta party sees people stuffing themselves so full they can’t even breathe.

The trouble with this is it will very rarely help, and often cause problems of bloating, dehydration (as the foods absorbs all the water in your system. You’ll also be riding round with a big block of un / semi digested food in your system – certainly enough to make buying all those lightweight bits a waste of time.

To properly increase your body’s ability to store carbohydrate you have to systematically reduce the amount / proportion of carbohydrate in your diet over a long period (days and weeks, not hours). You then eat just the right amount of carbo overload at just the right amount of time depending on the before the event duration. Does doing this accurately sound possible on your normal schedule? No, we thought not.

So to be honest don’t bother eating anything excessive or unusual just before a race. The chances of it reappearing all over your handlebars far outweigh the chances of it adding to your performance.

Instead concentrate on eating and drinking regularly throughout the event (litre an hour, and around 60-100 kcals is perfect) and also snacking a bit before and after. That way you take on fuel as you need it and don’t carry a leaden lump of cud around in your gut.

Next week

This is the final part of our summer training plan, so even if you’re bored senseless and just want to got for a ride, stick with it for the last two weeks and then tear the legs off your mates for the rest of summer.

Go on you know it’ll be fun really J


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