Thursday, June 20, 2019, 14:22 | No Comments »

A recurring theme that I hear from clients, friends and other cyclists is an obsession about what speed they should be going and how they can get faster.

Now don’t get me wrong,if you are wishing to be a competitive cyclist, or ride with a club then sure I get it, you need to train to improve your performance, ie to be faster.


But for mere mortals, i.e. those of us that might like to join our buddies on a mid-week ride or Sunday “ride to the cafe” jaunt, or we ride purely with an intent to improve our fitness and wellbeing, by concentrating on speed without understanding the need for the accompanying bike handling skill is tempting fate.

At some point when you least expect it, without good technique, it is highly likely that your confidence in your abilities will exceed your actual competence to handle the situation, with the usual predictable outcomes of costly damage and/or painful injury.


So what type of bike handling skills do we need to master to get the most enjoyment out of riding, keep the rubber on the road, and strangely enough will increase your overall speed. The following is a list of common skills required, and is not meant to be exhaustive:

  1. Braking: use of the brakes in a progressive manner, knowing when and when not to use your brakes, the differences between the front and back brake and how affect your balance; what do do to prevent and recover from your wheels skidding, at preventing the front wheel “washing away”.
  2. Cornering : how to safely and optimally approach a corner, using the apex to find the best line through the corner and how to exit the corner such that you are ready for next corners or obstacles. Doing this right will give you significant speed advantages.
  3. Descending: how to safely descend hills, staying under control to maintain smooth bike handling
  4. Riding in a Group: riding safely with two or more riders, positioning and drafting
  5. Pedals; how to smooth out the pedal stroke thereby avoiding “stamping” and strains, plus correct feet positioning and use of cleats, thereby getting more speed for your efforts
  6. Use of Gears: use of the appropriate gears to maintain smooth progression
  7. Use of hand signals : notifying other road users of your intentions and warning other riders of obstacles, rough road surfaces, changing your riding line, slowing down and stopping
  8. Riding Slow: maintaining control and balance of the bike when needing to undertake slow speed manoeuvres
  9. Riding in Traffic: understanding how to ride safely in traffic, being assertive and controlling your space, maintaining awareness of potential hazards and how to avoid potential issues with other road users (pedestrians,cars, horses, etc).
  10. Eating/Drinking while riding: how to ride while taking one or both hands off the bars to take a drink from your water bottles or snacks from your jersey pockets. It’s no good being a speed king if you have to stop every time for a slurp of water :-)

How do you learn to master these skills ? 

  1. Recently the UK Government rebranded the cycling proficiency test (if you can recall them from your thought) into Bikeability training plans that cover the very basics of handling a bike (in a playground) to more complex road awareness training. However it is basic.
  2. If you are looking for something more advanced, the most common route is to join a club and get instruction from the more senior members, but...
  3. If you are not ready or willing to join a club then there are a lot of videos on sites such as YouTube from organisations such as GCN that will give you the basics but that can only help so far.
  4. Other means are to sign up to a cycling “bootcamp”...there are plenty in Spain and Mallorca for instance, however from my experience these are primarily targeting the club and competitive rider....if you can’t keep up then you are assigned to a “social group” which maybe highly enjoyable, but is not there to teach you technique.
  5. The best therefore is to work with a cycling coach. There are a couple of options:
  • The first is a fitness coach. This type of coach usually offers online coaching which requires you to sign up a programme; you may or may not actually ever meet the coach as the focus is on structured workouts and post activity advice to ensure your fitness increases without you suffering high levels of fatigue, or preparing you for a particular cycling event.
  • The second type of coach is more of a conventional instructor, i.e. observes your techniques and provide guidance on how to improve your bike skills and eliminate bad habits. This can be either individually or as a group. British Cycling base their coaching model on this type of instruction, going from basic techniques that you would learn in a safe, off-road environment (for example a school playground) to specific techniques for road, MTB, track, downhill, etc to the elite programmes aimed to get talent onto Olympic podiums.
  • A much newer type is the hybrid coach. This type focuses on fitness, but also offers individual or group rides to help improve technique. This is the model offered by Cycle For Fitness, ie primarily fitness focused, but also providing advice on our blogs, and options for accompanied rides to help with the techniques that will make you safer and improve basic bike handling skills.
    With any of these options, make sure that the person coaching you is accredited to a national organisation such as British Cycling and has public liability insurance.

If you’d like to talk these options through with us, please get in contact, or just reply to this post.

Segura ciclista!
Grant


Thursday, June 20, 2019, 14:17 | No Comments »

When is weather fickle ?

Or should the question be, are we really prepared, mentally and physically, for what mother nature has to throw at us, sometimes several shades of “climate” in one ride.

I have previously talked about the need for correct preparation of your bike and use of layers to keep you warm and dry on your rides, especially as we move from Autumn to Winter riding conditions, but this weekend reminded me that we also need to prepare our psyche.

 


Sunday morning, October 21st, 7:30am, after a quick cup of tea to bring me around, I looked forward to the promise of a few hours on the bike enjoying the beautiful colours that erupt during Autumn, especially here in Cornwall, with the bracken high on the coastal hills shimmering golds and reds in the low sunshine. Glorious.

I had checked the weather reports the previous evening, light to zero wind, temperatures climbing to a balmy 15 degrees, light clouds and sunhine….based on that my mind shifted to which bibs to wear, which gloves and shoes needed, should I put on overshoes, a gilet or long sleeve jacket….making choices of what to wear is part of the pre-ride ritual for me; get it right and you get an immediate reward as you push off, toes and fingers warm, you are a little cool, but you know that this is temporary and you will be up to temperature in a few minutes simply through your own exhertions as you warm up for the first 5 to 10 minutes.

But getting it wrong can be dire. The first few minutes you are painfully cold, and although you warm up, the extremities remain bloody cold, it isn’t a great experience !

So, back to fickle weather. I open the curtains to see, well nothing much other than a wall of sea mist that rolled in overnight like an ice blanket. Don’t get me wrong, there is something surreal when riding in mist (with strong lights and a high viz jacket), one of my fondest memories is riding across the Scottish highlands near Altnaherra with a low mist embracing the moorland and giving the appearance of rivers running uphill, but this was not the weather I had been expecting.

For a brief moment I thought “sod it”, that’s the ride buggered, but remembering that this is after all Autumn, and so we should expect changeable conditions, my evening preparation only needed to be slightly tweaked to include warmer gloves, a cycling cap and a change to full legged bibs, and I was ready.

How did it go? The first few minutes at 4 degrees was a little cool, but as I climbed out of the valley the mists disappearing behind me, sunshine greeted my cheeks, the road became smooth, the crystal clear air filling my lungs. You can hear every breath on still days such as this, the bike hums and the sounds of gulls soaring high above add layers to the emotion.

I stop at St.Ives, no longer swamped with tourist, but a tranquil haven, the bay stretched out ahead of me. In the distance, home, shrouded in mist like a welcoming embrace. A few more hills and then the descent into the harbour.

Days like this are to be cherished.


Fickly weather ? Bring it on, cycling in Autumn brings its own beauty and surprises, joy jumping in our hearts, our souls stirring with the graciousness of mother nature.


Keep riding, fitness and personal wellbeing beckons those who do.


Thursday, June 20, 2019, 14:13 | No Comments »

It’s a WRAP !


Once we sign up to the idea of training or any form of exercise, at the outset we are full of motivation and “gung-ho!”, keen to do our workouts with as much vigour as possible, only to quickly feel the soreness and tightening of muscles, the aches and pains of over-exertion.


As we continue down this path, we begin to lose our mojo, with general feelings of exhaustion setting in. If left unchecked we begin to pick up injuries such as pulled muscles and strained ligaments, feelings of desperation, anxiety and inadequacy.


All the work we have put in quickly dissipates and we begin wonder if this is worthwhile…why do training, so much pain for such little gain.
If you are a self-coached athlete or just starting out, this pattern is predictable given media bombardments of training plans that offer heady cocktails of high expectations, underpinned with false promises of quick wins to fitness and health “get fit in 30 days”.... "transform your abs the easy way".... "just sign here !" Surely one of these plans contains the magic potion ?


Unfortunately not. The root cause of the issue is that these types of plans do not take into account the body’s natural rhythms and needs. Whenever we exercise or exert ourselves beyond the norm, we are putting stress on our bodies, and without rest and recuperation, this cumulative workload places stress becomes non-sustainable (Lehmann et all, 1999).

 

Until recently, the conventional answer was simply to rest and allow your body to recover, which in its own right is an important thing to do; however if you wish to train to have sustained performance improvements, and not simply get to the point where your fitness reaches an unsatisfactory plateau as happens frequently (even with seasoned athletes), you need allow your body to not only recover but also to adapt to the new levels of stress. This is called the Stress Recovery Adaption cycle. Without allowing for adaption we may only recover up to the original baseline and hence miss the opportunity to improve performance (see below).


As a layman I am not qualified to talk about the precise science of this, however Joe Friel of TrainingPeaks explains this in detail in his blog on the topic.


So how do we incorporate adaption ?


Here at Cycle For Fitness, our approach takes every part of this cycle into consideration. We focus on all aspects of the athlete, from developing workouts that are specific to your goals, use periodisation best practise in terms of training blocks that develop base fitness, build strength and endurance, and ensure our athletes reach their Peak performance for whatever event or goal they are working towards.


We use a combination of low intensity workouts incorporating endurance, strength and conditioning, intermingled with a limited amount of high intensity sessions, but all underpinned by HRV (Heart Rate Variability) measures as explained by Ithlete to ensure that workouts are at the optimised for your level of stress, recovery and adaption.


We call this holistic approach WRAP (Workout Recover Adapt Perform) and this forms the basis for all our training plans and coaching programmes.

WRAP enables you to get the best out of every workout, never become overtrained, prevent burnout, accelerate the rate at which you see measurable results, get the best out of your determination, achieve your goals and be prepared for every event that you target, and above all, achieve sustainable fitness and feelings of wellbeing.
If you would like to understand why we are confident WRAP will work for you, contact us for a no-obligation chat.

References
1. Lehmann MJ, Foster C, Gastmann U, Keizer HA, Steinacker JM. Definition, types, symptoms, findings, underlying mechanisms, and frequency of overtraining and overtraining syndrome. In: Lehmann MJ, Foster C, Gastmann U, Keizer H, Steinacker JM., eds. Overload, fatigue, performance incompetence, and regeneration in sport. New York, NY: Plenum, 1999: 1–6.


Thursday, June 20, 2019, 14:09 | No Comments »

We’ve all been there, despair at the thought of another torturous workout filling our minds with black thoughts and sucking dry our motivation.

How can it be that only last week we had a spring in our step, our goals were being achieved, we were “on plan”, but that enthusiasm is now replaced by dread.

But why, can it be the lack of sleep, the feelings of heavy legs or our lives’ everyday stresses are getting to me. Why am I beginning to feel so unable to complete my workouts, or the “go get” ride I had planned dissolved into pain and loss of mojo.

 


Thursday, June 20, 2019, 14:06 | No Comments »

When is a cycling training plan not right for you ? The Internet is full of training plans that promise to get you faster and stronger, and usually from reputable sources ? Unfortunately all is not what it seems.

 


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