Tags: cycling, beginner, diary, biking, women, training, skills, road
So, you know me. I’m the one who likes getting muddy, and toiling up slopes with my bike on my shoulder, and falling off on singletrack. I do a bit of running. I ride on the road when I have to, mainly to try and get a bit fitter for ‘cross.
But something weird is happening to me. I’m turning into a ROADIE. I find myself idly browsing forums, looking for views on Look vs. Time pedals. Someone goes past on a Dual and I think, that’s the one with the mudguard eyes. I wonder whether I need different handlebars. I still can’t do anything useful, like adjust my gears, but I nod sagely as the boyf tells me that clunk-down-two-gears-at-once-and-have-to-go-up-a-gear-again is a common Campy problem. I start to refer to Campagnolo as ‘Campy’.
Of course, there’s a simple reason for this. Avid readers will remember me buying a new road bike. A part of me still feels embarrassedly ‘all the gear, no idea’ when I’m getting ready to go out on it. Everyone’s pointing and laughing at the slow chick on the cool bike, right? But this evaporates as soon as I am riding it, because the FUN takes up all of my brain.
Nevertheless, it strikes me I lack skillz. I mostly go out on my own, and the tricks of group riding are mysterious to me. (Until recently, I thought ‘through and off’ was when you wobble up the inside of a line of stationary traffic, then topple over at the lights because all your library books are in one pannier.) So when @sparkieturner volunteers to run some women-only skills sessions at Seedhill athletics track*, I know this has my name on it.
We have all sorts of laughs. Mark sets out the cones and we wobble in between them. (Well, I wobble; Lucy manages to nip in and out of them without knocking over a single one.) I practise. Mark moves the cones nearer to each other. It’s like the Matrix. I am Neo. Suddenly, I start to believe that the back wheel will follow the front one. I do it perfectly, raise both hands from the bars in jubilation, and don’t fall off. No-hands riding, too, then. There is no spoon.
We do partner work, passing each other bottles while going along, or giving each other a friendly push. We learn that elbows-out riding is just like that bit in Dirty Dancing. We try to learn to trackstand, to impress our kids.
Most funly, we try to go FAST. I’m scared of this on the road. OK, I’ve been doing my TT-for-one, creaking up to Todmorden and back, trying to break 33 minutes for 10 miles. But I don’t dare go for it properly, as buses have a habit of suddenly appearing in front of me. Indecisive sheep loom out of the fog. Potholes materialise like gateways to Hades. Whizzing round a running track turns out to be the answer. The bike wants to go fast, and now I can let it try, safe in its artificial world, where the only thing holding us back is the indignant screaming of my quads and the howling headwind in the back straight. We do through and off in a little group. I’m so excited I keep forgetting to yell CLEAR! and the person behind has to do it for me. We push the pace up and SPRINT for the line, each lap. I’m right down as far as I can get, chin on the bars, pretending I am Cav (the boyf remarks later, ‘You’re just a 12 year old boy.’) I notice that I can wind the sprint up a bit and catch Lucy for the line, even when she starts ahead of me. This feels so utterly PRO I can hardly breathe for glee.
There’s a lot to learn. I’m still scared to get on someone’s wheel (though I’m getting used to the slightly unsettling feeling of staring at the bum in front of me). I have no idea how to position myself coming into the sprint, and I push far too big a gear, ‘cos I can’t think about changing up in the middle of it. I STILL can’t get my left foot into the DAMN pedal. But, astonishingly, I’m not terrible at this. And that makes me too happy for words.
* You’ll remember Mark from the terrific cyclocross skills sessions last winter. There are still a couple of weeks to go on the women-only road skills course: Fridays, 7-9pm, Seedhill Athletics Track, Nelson, BB9 7TY. Just show up with your bike. £5 a session.
Tags: beginner, biking, cross, cyclocross, training, women
I’m on Strava. I KNOW. Get me! It’s all highly scientific. I’m uploading all my rides, and checking myself out. I got my heart rate up to 162 on the turbo, the other day! And I beat my PB on one segment (though, admittedly, I did have that modern equivalent of a hen’s tooth, a tailwind up Cragg Vale). Garmin overestimates my calorie expenditure; Strava underestimates it, I reckon. I split the difference, and work out how many eclairs it equates to.
People are following me, mad fools. Not sure what they are expecting. Mostly I suppose it makes them feel a bit better about themselves, as I struggle through the week, running slowly, and cycling weakly. I ride 10 miles in 35 minutes; somebody gives me kudos. Bless them.
My friends in other parts of the country are busy amassing QoMs. There’s not much chance of that round here, what with all the demonically fast women Yorkshire seems to nurture. This got me thinking: how am I, a bit rubbish and Not Trying Very Hard, supposed to compete with these Amazons? How can Strava include us, the Crap Ones, and give us a bit of a chance? A level playing field, if you like? Of course, I’m not suggesting we dope (I’m already up to my eyeballs in that, as you may recall). No! Instead, I propose some modifications to the Strava interface.
A new Handicap feature will allow you to modify the details of your ride to take into account the particular conditions that we all know affect performance:
For individual segments, you will also be able to filter results to include only riders who are similar to yourself:
So, fear not! No more will you have to attach comments to your ride, saying how the sun was in your eyes, and you weren’t ready. Strava will work out your handicap for you, and move you up the appropriate leaderboard. Bon courage!
Cartoon by @HerbieGreen. Reproduced with kind permission.
Tags: advice, beginner, biking, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, tips, training, turbo
So, winter. Proper winter, too, with snow and ice and freezing winds and two and a half hours of daylight* and all that. Around this time of year, a young [cough] cyclist’s thoughts turn to staying inside out of the ruddy weather, FGS, thank you very much, what do you think I am, crazy?
But sitting around eating cheese footballs and watching Masterchef only appeals for so long. While Christmas is traditionally a time for getting our fitness baseline right down so that we have something to work on in the New Year, by February most of us are surveying our rears in the mirror with growing distaste, unfriending people on Facebook because they’re on holiday in Tenerife, and biting anyone who suggests we might just go out for a little walk, you know, to clear our heads?
The solution, of course, is folded up in the corner of the spare room: the turbo. I’ll confess to a bit of a love-hate relationship with the turbo. I owe it a lot. My first winter of turbo training** revolutionised my cycling. The following summer, instead of trailing up French climbs throwing mental grenades at @spandelles as he disappeared over the horizon, I actually beat him up Mont Ventoux. (‘I’ve created a monster,’ he said ruefully over pizza that evening.) The turbo kept me sane during pregnancy, when I was dutifully trying to keep my HR down so as not to boil the baby, or whatever was supposed to happen if I exceeded 135bpm. When I gave myself an arch strain jumping around the kitchen in my socks to LCD Soundsystem*** and couldn’t run for nearly a year, the turbo saved me from going postal.
Despite all this, turbo-ing can be a depressing prospect. However, with a few tweaks to your routine, you CAN enjoy your turbo session. Based on extensive personal experience, here are my top tips. You’re welcome!
1. Have a playlist with some fast tracks on it, and some REALLY fast tracks. Choose ‘shuffle’, and try and keep up with the music.
2. Do 20/40s, or 30/30s, or 10/10s, or whatever other heinous alternation of sweating and wheezing you can muster.
3. Sing. This is the one time that singing along to your ipod is completely acceptable. (If you can sing along to ‘I Will Always Love You’, mind you, you may not be working hard enough.)
4. Take advantage of those inevitable trips to go to the loo/ answer the door/ get your towel/ check your @mentions by honing your cyclocross skills: dismounts, remounts and getting your feet in and out of the pedals at speed can all be practised on the turbo. (Well, maybe not the remounts. See ‘wonder why your arse hurts’, below.)
5. Fine-tune your raceface. Take a few pictures on your phone, to check yourself out. Make sure that your raceface is sufficiently distinct from your sexface. You don’t want your race pictures showing up on those sites, again.
6. Observe the functioning of your body under stress. Wonder why your elbows/ wrists/ knees sweat so much (delete as applicable). Try to get your HR into zone 5. Try to get your HR back down out of zone 5. Wonder if anyone will miss you if your drop off the turbo stone dead, or if you’ll be discovered three weeks later with the cat eating your face.
7. Think about bike fit. Does your arse hurt because your saddle is too high, or because you’re wearing your shortest shorts? When you’re in TT position, can people see down your top? (You’ll need a mirror, or a friend, for this one.)
8. Have a really brilliant idea for a blogpost/ million selling book/ dastardly world domination plan that you can’t write down. Forget it by the time you get in the shower.
* I may have been watching a bit too much Borgen, here
** by which I mean, riding my bike attached to the turbo; ‘training’ is overstating it a touch
*** When I told the doctor this story, she looked at me and went, ‘Idiot.’
Tags: biking, clifcross, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, skills, training
OK. You remember last time? I vowed to go out and ride with other people. My first opportunity was Friday night, at an informal CX skills session in Todmorden park. Riding over there just before 7pm, I was thinking, ‘God, I’m tired. I mean, I’m REALLY tired. What am I doing this for? It’s cold, it’s dark. I’ll have to wash my bike afterwards. Gah.’ And to be honest, if I’d been on my own, I would have turned round and gone home again. But the thought of seeing the #CXChix* kept me going.
When I got there, the Chix were already riding round and round the kiddies’ mini road layout (good cornering practice. And hilarious). We charged over to the other side of the park to find somewhere to practise dismounts & remounts. Hopelessly overexcited, I immediately toppled over. (I did turn my pratfall seamlessly into a TJ Hooker-style somersault; all that falling-off practice I did last year finally paid off.) Sweetly, the Chix managed not to laugh. We set out my orange mini-cones and did a little circuit, jumping on and off and leaping over imaginary barriers. We tried (not very expertly) to teach @CorinneKielty to do it. Then we rode up and down steep banks in the pitch black, which was BRILLIANT, and much easier than doing it when you can see (I’m just going to close my eyes in races from now on). We looked unsuccessfully for some steps to run up, and did some cornering between the bowling greens. We laughed and shared tips and supported and learnt from each other. It was almost tear-jerkingly lovely.
The next morning, I was up early for my second #RidingWithPeople experience in as many days! So keen! Ali (@millsphysio) wanted to ride a bit of the CLIF’cross route which Emma (@waterrat77) had been speccing out. It was bright, clear and C-C-C-COLD as we trundled off from the Co-op and immediately turned up an impossible hill. We were still on-road, and I was walking… Hmm. Onto the bridleway, back into the saddle, and Ali reassured me she was just happy to be out, no pressure, no need to ride for hours, etc. I relaxed. A bit. The off-road riding was HARD for MTB-deniers like myself: lots of rocks and cobbly bits, holes and loosely packed rubble. Add in the gradient and my general lack of conviction, and I got off the bike quite a lot in the next couple of hours. Pushing didn’t feel like failure though, as it was almost as hard as riding. And we were having such a jolly time! It didn’t seem to matter. At the Top Of The World™ we grinned at the 360° view, then screeched down a long descent to Gorple reservoir and rode along past the water in delight.
UP and OVER and DOWN and UP and DOWN via Widdop reservoir to Hurstwood, where we were pretty sure we saw @GreatRock’s back (he says this is his best angle). We turned into the icy wind here and, although the track was easily rideable, I creaked almost to a stop. Hoo. TIRED. Uncharacteristically, I didn’t freak out. I’d eaten enough, and I knew I just needed to keep going. I can’t emphasise enough how COMPLETELY out of character this is for me. Normally I just cry. Maybe ‘cross is teaching me something after all… Ali’s happy attitude really helped, too. I knew I wasn’t being judged. We stopped for a ‘We Were Here’ photo, then turned on to the road for the return leg.
Riding straight into the freezing headwind, being buzzed by motorbikes, I realised how tired my legs had got. 8 fairly hilly miles to go, and nothing left at all. Ali was freewheeling uphill to give me a chance to catch up. Her: You OK? Gonna make it? Me: Yes. What’s the alternative? Her: Good attitude… We chose the offroad route back down from Blackshaw Head, mercifully out of the wind. Mirages of hot baths and cups of tea floated before me. I could smell home.
We took nearly three and a half hours to do 21 miles, which tells you something about the terrain**. It’s the longest ride I’ve done since having kids. We were IMMENSELY proud of ourselves.
So, the tentative verdict on #RidingWithPeople is: GOOD. Key for me have been a happy atmosphere, lots of chat and laughter, challenging riding but a complete absence of competitiveness. It IS possible…
**or maybe about my lack of leg strength and terror of going uphill and downhill
Tags: beginner, biking, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, racing, training, women
So. My 2012 season ended with a whimper, as I was ill for both the Heptonstall Fancy Dress charity ‘cross race and TodCross (which take place within a week of each other and are 2 miles and 5.5 miles from my house, respectively. Insert your own emoticon, here).
But it’s New Year, and everyone is busy Resolving. I hate resolutions; they just seem to be a formal way of giving yourself a hard time about not being good enough (at which I am already black belt, seventh dan). But I need a plan of action for this year, if I’m going to be not quite so comprehensively rubbish at ‘cross.
@sparkieturner suggested doing a SWOT analysis. Once I’d established that this didn’t mean reading a lot of books and sticking my hand up excitedly in class (it couldn’t be that easy, could it), I gave it a go. My first attempt looked like this:
@sparkieturner said this was ‘a start’, but I needed to put at least five items in each quadrant. Ooh.
Well, weaknesses are easy. Descending, rooty singletrack, riding in mud, riding up steep banks, riding down steep banks, grinning instead of doing #sufferface in photos, wobbling and shouting ‘Hoo!’ when people overtake me, being scared of everything, not really trying hard enough, almost complete lack of killer instinct, and most obviously, a general absence of power on the bike. I’m gonna need a bigger quadrant.
Strengths? Oh, I hate this. I don’t have any strengths. Writing about riding my bike? Not sure that qualifies. (I suppose I could always yell at everyone who laps me, “I bet my blog’s funnier than yours!”) Um… My cornering’s better than it was, though I’m still not sure I’d describe it as a strength. I’m going to put running, simply because I know some ‘crossers would do ANYTHING rather than run.
Opportunities. Well, the women-only training sessions have been great, and more of those would be fab. I can find time to ride, as my work is quite flexible, and there are plenty of places nearby to practise. I’m also getting to know other women ‘crossers around here, and they’re very friendly. I should be out riding with them, though I am dimly aware of avoiding this, which brings me to threats.
Threats are (as far as I can tell) almost entirely in my head. I’m not just talking about confidence to tackle scary stuff on the bike (though heaven knows I could do with a bit more of that). No, I’m frightened of riding with others. Anonymous at the back of some race, I can concentrate on how *I’m* doing. That corner was quite good! Look, I got up that bank! I’m gonna get you, Mesh Insert Man! And so on. But bring people I actually know into the equation, and I become despondent. The women’s race at Waddow was brilliant, but I’d really hoped I would do better; having my arse kicked by women who’d only been racing ‘cross for a couple of weeks honestly made me want to weep with despair.
There are of course many excuses I can bring in here (though, strangely, there’s no column for these in the SWOT analysis*). These include: being a good ten years older than many of the women I’m comparing myself with; not having been in a race of any kind since childhood (apart from coming 176th out of 244 in the Hot Toddy a few years back); having always been completely rubbish at competitive sport; and being generally weak, feeble and prone to crying and giving up when I can’t do things. But enough! I can still improve. I must be able to do better than this: after all, I’m not dead yet. So what do I need?
I think the main thing is to be stronger. To get stronger I need to get fitter; to get fitter I need to ride harder, faster and further. I also need to stop thinking being competitive is nasty and unfriendly. To achieve both of these, I probably need people to whip my sorry arse. So, @waterrat77 and @millsphysio and @makepiece, my resolution is this: I will swallow my pride and my fear, and come out riding with you, if you’ll have me. Just try not to laugh at me until after I’ve gone home…
* maybe because that would make it a SWEOT analysis, which sounds a bit icky
Tags: advice, beginner, biking, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, dismount, remount, skills, training, women
Well. I’d been off work (and the bike) all week with sinusitis, and in a MASSIVE sulk as Sunday approached and I didn’t seem to be getting any better. But then on Saturday afternoon my fairy godmother appeared in the kitchen in a puff of WD40, dressed head to toe in Planet X kit. She waved a track pump at me and declared ‘You SHALL go to CX training with @sparkieturner and @crossjunkie!’ And miraculously, my head cleared, and I grinned like an idiot.
Sunday dawned beautiful, bright, and dry. I hefted my bike onto the car with the minimum of swearing, changed three times (longs? shorts & legwarmers? 3/4s?), and threw the rest of my cycling wardrobe into the back of the car (just in case). The boys hugged me distractedly, one eye on Charlie & Lola at all times.
Mark and Alan are keen to get women into ‘cross, and they’d rustled up a number of bright-eyed girls from Cycle Sport Pendle (CSP) for this session. Then there was @trio25, and me, and @waterrat77 and @millsphysio, who’d (impressively) got hold of CX bikes the week before and immediately entered Cyclists V. Harriers.
A bit of discussion about tyre pressure – and a mass letting-out of air – and we were off to practise remounts. Getting my leg over the saddle at slow speeds still eludes me, so I cheated and went straight to jog ‘n’ hop, which works, even if it’s not elegant. We then combined this with dismounting; everyone made a lot of progress very quickly, much to my dismay (avid readers will remember how many HOURS I spent falling off while practising this).
@crossjunkie got the sticks out and constructed a barrier, then videoed us all trying to coast up to it, dismount smoothly, hoik the bike up and over and leap back on without losing momentum. Here is @millsphysio, a complete newbie, doing it perfectly. I’m not jealous. Not at all.
We practised hoisting bikes onto shoulders without whacking fellow competitors in the face (my secret weapon, according to a video @spandelles took of me at Keighley), and running with them through the dog poo. There followed a discussion about shoulder bruises and the acceptability of sewing Joan Collins-style pads into your jersey. @crossjunkie said this was fine (it’s good enough for Rapha, anyhow) but if any of us put pipe lagging round the top tube he would disown us.
Then we were off for a ‘bimble’ (@sparkieturner’s word; it makes it sound so jolly and effortless, doesn’t it) through the woods. Towneley Park really is lovely, and even when your shoes are full of muddy water it’s a terrific place to ride your bike around. We picked up some pro tips on riding in the mud (weight back; stand up slightly; pull on the bars; pedal smoothly; be confident), judging lines (try going round the outside of churned up bits; standing water probably means there’s a hard bit underneath, so a good place to ride) and keeping your momentum up (when to get off and run; when to shoulder your bike, and when to push). We finished up with a bit of downhilling (the short sharp shock variety). Next time, we’re going to ride @crossjunkie’s CX loop, which has ‘everything’, apparently. Can’t wait.
Many thanks to Mark and Alan for this session, which was friendly, fun, unintimidating and packed with useful stuff. Everyone had made visible progress by the end, and we all left with grins on our faces. Brilliant.
- CSP are running a women-only race as part of their CX event at Waddow Hall on 15 December. It would be brilliant to have as many women as possible entering, to support the event and show the demand for this kind of racing, so please circulate the details far and wide!
- Thanks very much to Alan (@crossjunkie) for the photos and the video.
- And here is @trio25‘s take on the training session.
Tags: advice, beginner, biking, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, tips, training
Guess what? I’ve been doing some ROAD biking. I know! I’m as surprised as anyone. And I’ve been enjoying it! And getting better at it (these two are not unconnected, naturally).
Avid readers will remember me: I’m the one who took up cyclocross as a way of avoiding road riding. Road riding was dull, cold, depressing and dangerous. So whence the volte-face?
It’s not the weather, for sure; that’s been as rubbish as ever. No new steed: I’m still riding my ‘cross bike (complete with mudwrestlers, despite @spandelles threatening to put road wheels on it. I’m not keen; I like a bit of off-road optionality). I HAVE got some new kit, which is clinically proven to make you ride up to* 53% faster: I am looking the part in new (bargain) shoes and new (half-price) shorts. I even have a jersey with some pockets in it, for my tracker bars and lipsalve.
But the real reason it’s all going better is I’ve discovered the SECRET of TRAINING. Yes! Really. Get a pencil! It can be summed up as follows:
Try A Bit Harder.
To be more specific:
- Try and ride faster, all the time. On the flat? Change up a few gears, get down low and pretend you are Michael Hutchinson. Uphill? Someone shouted at me from a car as I was grinding up a hill, ‘Pedal faster!’ He was right.
- Pretend you are Emma Pooley, or Ellen van Dijk. Attack your imaginary bunch relentlessly on climbs. Try to pass someone in real life. Try to stay away.
- Do something counter-intuitive. When the going gets tough or you start feeling tired or bored, don’t slow down. Try harder. Up the pace. Get out of the saddle. Change up a gear.
- Don’t pace yourself, or worry about running out of steam. Just go for it as much as possible. I was stunned to see that I could completely bury myself on a short effort, then be ready for another one a minute or two later.
The completely unexpected side-effect of this approach is it is RIDICULOUSLY good fun. I ride around grinning like an idiot, puce in the face, sweat dripping off me. I shout SHUT UP LEGS! at myself, and sing going downhill (usually just as someone awesome on a Cervélo is passing me). I beam at other cyclists; they give me almost imperceptible Yorkshire head nods of recognition. I no longer feel like a fraud when pro types wave at me, because I am trying really hard. I can’t walk down the stairs when I get home, but I feel like I could conquer the WORLD.
I just need a bit of lunch first.
* statistics experts will note that the term ‘up to’ includes the number 0**
** this joke (c) Monty Python
Tags: advice, beginner, biking, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, food, nutrition, training
Well. I may not have been down the park practising my remounts just yet, but I’ve not been shirking. I have been TRAINING*. And getting hungry.
So. Sports nutrition! As you know, sports nutrition falls into three categories:
- Things you eat before you go out
- Things you eat while you are out
- Things you eat when you get back
I present here a detailed breakdown of these three categories, based on my extensive experience of eating and drinking the wrong things at the wrong times.
- Eating before you go out
This is the most important bit (apart from number 3, which is possibly even more important). Eat before you go out training. While some people swear training on an empty stomach encourages your body to use up fat stores, this has to be nonsense. Even crazy cabbage-soup-dieters know you need breakfast. Have some.
What to eat before you go out:
Porridge is recommended by lots of people. However, the high water content may mean you need to stop for a wee every ten minutes, which is inconvenient in bibshorts. Bananas are good, if you like them. Bread has a reputation for giving runners, well, the runs; but this may be worth it, for a bacon butty. @spandelles swears by eating an apple before riding about 90 miles. OK.
Note: Possibly more important than what you have for breakfast is what you ate the night before. Curry consumption has been shown in extensive testing** to be correlated with running very well the next day. And no, not for the reason you think.
- Eating while you are out
Drinking while going along is fine. Unless you are on course for a national 10-mile TT record, however, stop before you eat anything. Whether @Velominati approve or not, eating while riding along is only cool if you can do it without hitting the kerb and going over the handlebars. And take your wrappers home with you.
What to eat while you are out:
Even no-hopers like me can get away with a bit of energy drink while riding. As you zip past, passers-by will probably confuse you with someone who knows what they are doing. Avoid energy gels, sports beans, yogurt-coated technical filth bars and suchlike, though, if you are a bit rubbish. They’ll just emphasise to you the gaping chasm between you and Proper Sportspeople.
Instead, take something pocket-sized with you, and eat it. Tracker bars, fairy cakes, those strawberry fruit bars you buy for the kids’ lunchboxes, and chunks of bagel are all good. Anything with a bit of chocolate in it is cheery and motivating. Try to remember to eat something before you start wondering why you are bothering, you hate cycling anyway, bloody sunshine, what on earth are you doing, and snarling at riders who wave at you. These are classic symptoms of The Bonk, and mean it is already too late.
- Eating when you get back
On this, I’ll refer you to @Doctor_Hutch, who states correctly here that ‘you can’t leave eating till you’ve had a shower, done your hair and made some stylish selections from your wardrobe.’ However, the need to eat has to be balanced with the need to get out of your horrible sweaty rain-soaked kit immediately, before you lose your toes to frostbite. The best solution is to make a snack while your bath is running, then combine refuelling with decontamination.
What to eat when you get back
A yogurt and a cup of tea in the bath. Then have some normal lunch as soon as possible.
** in my home laboratory
Tags: advice, beginner, biking, cross, cross-training, cycling, diary, tips, training
So, remember all that remounting practice? I bashed my shin pretty hard on the pedal a couple of times, and thought that was why my lower leg and ankle hurt while walking afterwards. But I went for a run on the Sunday and ouch. Ow, ow, ow. Ankle pain. Had to walk home. Iced it and strapped it up and, well, it’s getting better slowly I think but, urgh. Very frustrated as I don’t dare to run or jump, so ‘cross practice (never mind racing) is off the agenda for a bit. Bah!
And what of you, poor blog readers, anxious for the next instalment? Well, it’s a well-kept secret, but if you look away for a moment while I nip into this Portaloo, I’ll emerge as… Training Tsarina! Here, this week only, to answer your training and injury queries*. Fire away!
Dear Training Tsarina: I know everyone says cross-train, but do I have to? I’m a cyclist! Running is for nutters! And if I swim, people might think I’m a triathlete! Thanks, @HeadDownIntoTheWind
Dear HDITW: Think again. Not only does monomania make HDTIW a dull boy, cross-training lessens your risk of overuse injuries. It also means that if you pick up an injury that stops you cycling, you may still be able to run or swim instead, so you won’t go nuts. And I know you hate the gym, but if you can find something you can bear to do indoors this is a real bonus, as you can still do it when it snows.
Dear Training Tsarina: Stretching is for wusses, isn’t it? Yours, @BunchedCalves
Dear BC: Many people shun stretching, thinking it is only for hardbody gymnasts and attention-seeking minor celebrities. But stretching helps to avoid weird aches and pains brought on by tight muscles pulling your body about, and also means you decrease your chances of having to walk sideways down the stairs the next morning.
Hey, Training Tsarina! I’ve discovered running! It’s brilliant! I’m doing fifteen miles a day! I feel great! Marathon next week! Love, @KeenAsMustard
Dear KAM: For you, the golden rule of training: Try harder, but just a little bit harder. The guy who ran my Uni circuits class used to bellow at us, ‘If you want to get FITTAH, you will have to work HARDAH!’ This is true. But suddenly doing loads more than you are used to ends in tears and pulled muscles. Add a little extra loop to your run; do a few more lengths of the pool. Don’t go mad.
Dear Training Tsarina: I’ve got my routine down pat now. Treadmill Monday and Wednesday; weight training Friday; long run Sunday. Trouble is, I’m bored stupid. And I don’t seem to be getting any fitter, or losing any more weight. Yours, @CreatureOfHabit
Dear CoH: Surprise your body. If you always do the same stuff, week in, week out, your body gets good at it, and stops adapting, and you stop getting fitter. Do something different: go for a hike. Or a swim. Or try yoga, or Pilates.
Dear Training Tsarina: Pilates? You’re joking, right? @NotGwynethPaltrow
Dear NGP: Be open to ideas. One of the best things I ever did was take up kung fu. I was the only girl in the beginners, and I had somehow overlooked that the main point of martial arts is hitting people. Ouch. But it was brilliant: I got stronger, and faster, and had a laugh. Even just a small change can be fun, like leaving your iPod at home and reading on the cross-trainer instead. Give it a go: it might work.
Dear Training Tsarina: All the training manuals say you should get out first thing in the morning. Trouble is, I can’t function before I’ve had poached eggs on toast and two cups of tea and read the paper. Do I have to? It’s making me miserable. Love, @NotAMorningPerson
Dear NAMP: Here’s the most important principle bar none. Work out what you and your body like, and do it. Don’t feel like you have to go running every day if it makes you grumpy and tired, even if Shirley from no. 42 does it and she seems fine. If you like short bursts of effort, but keeping going for hours on end makes you sad and lonely, don’t feel you have to do Audax riding. Be nice to yourself. Enjoy what you do.
*Of course, you are thinking to yourself, ‘Why should I take training advice from @accidentobizaro? Isn’t she, well, a bit crap?’ This is true. But as @spandelles points out on his blog, Proper Training Advice from Successful Athletes can be enough to make you hang up your SPDs in despair. No doubt you have lots of tips for me, too; I’d love to hear them. There’s a comments box just down there for them. Ta.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to my virtual training buddies, @mmmaiko, @CycleHermit and @stuckinoregon, for fun and thought-provoking conversations on these topics. All errors and idiotic pronouncements are my own.
Tags: beginner, biking, cycling, cyclocross, diary, quiz, training
It is a good idea to assess your level before embarking on a training regime. See how you do on the following quiz:
A. Cyclocross training in the park on Tuesday nights is:
- Better than staying in watching Cupcake Wars
- Brilliant fun! Whee! Crikey, these corners! Oh look, you fell off again. Haha!
- An opportunity to work on your ‘cross-specific skills and simulate a racing environment
B. How many intervals should you do in a typical turbo session?
- One every time your playlist hits a fast track
- 5 x 1 min efforts separated by 30 secs of rest, then 5 mins steady, then repeat
- Keep going hard until you get a Twitter mention, then ease up to reply to it on your iPhone
C. You are going out for a 1.5 hour road ride. How should you maximise the benefit you get from it?
- Plan a hilly route and ride eyeballs-out uphill, attacking out of the saddle to improve fast twitch muscle response
- Plan a flat route and ride at a constant rate of 15% below your maximum heart rate
- Try to avoid getting distracted by sheep and sunsets, and remember you are supposed to be trying a bit harder than usual
D. Cyclocross involves running, so your training should include:
- A 20-25 minute run before work every other day, to complement your evening rides
- Dismounting at speed on train platforms, shouldering your bike and running down the steps to the underpass
- Running up the ‘down’ escalator in Selfridges
E. What part should weight training play in a successful cyclocross training schedule?
- Targeted weight training under the guidance of a professional coach can redress muscle imbalances and improve core strength
- Clean and jerk bike lifts (left hand, then right hand) make the manoeuvre second nature and improve upper body strength
- Weight training? You’re joking, right? When I could be outside getting muddy?
No prizes at all for guessing my answers…