Get out and Ride! Part 2

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We continue with our experts' advice on how to give your cycling an overhaul with five more key areas to focus on

6. Upgrade your training programmes

In pretty much the same way as we all need to get out and ride new roads, sometimes we all need to freshen up our training programme. This is particularly true if you haven’t been achieving the level you’ve been aiming for previously: after all, to paraphrase Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting a different result.

Peter Giddings, of, advises taking a complete break from riding to draw a line under the past. “Take some time off, skip two or three rides and spend the time resting up instead,” he explains. “If you’re going to train hard you need to be fresh, and a lot of people underestimate this.

“A couple of good sessions that people could then sensibly introduce would be are as follows. If you’re going to be racing, for example, warm up as you would for a race (see ‘Declutter your pre-event routine’ below) then go straight into six periods of one-minute all-out effort with a five-minute easy period in between each one, then warm down. This will help you to develop sprint power, anaerobic power and aerobic capacity all in one session.

“For sportive riding, after the warm-up, sprint hard for 30 seconds and then ride for five minutes straight off the back of that at time-trial pace before going easy for five minutes. Repeat this four times and then warm down.

“Finally, every rider should have one ride per week that they do just because they love to ride their bike. You can do whatever you like on this ride – the only parameter by which you should measure its success is the width of your smile at the end of the ride.”

7. Clean up your position

If you’re looking to put a new spring in your pedal stroke, then it could well be worth investing in a professional bike fit. Having your position tweaked by a master of the art will make you more comfortable and more efficient on your bike. A proper fitting process will take hours and demand a high level of expertise from your fitter, but there are things you can look at yourself to improve your riding position for the 2014 season.

“Cleat fore and aft position is something fairly simple that people often get wrong,” explains Peter Giddings, who performs bike fits under his Honed Coaching umbrella ( “The pedal axle – the location of which is marked on most cleats – should be somewhere between 5mm and 15mm behind the ball of the foot. The bigger your foot, the farther back it should be within those limits. This locates the centre of pedal pressure at the point in line with where your foot is best able to support it.”

To find your sweet spot, you need to locate the ball of your foot on the sole of your shoe. Standing in your shoes and with your weight on your forefoot, have an assistant make a pen mark on the side of your shoe where you can feel the hard bony bulge at the base of your big toe (known as the first metatarsal head).

Measure from the back of your shoe to your mark, jot down your measurement and loosely attach your cleats. Carefully adjust them so that your pedal axle marker is between 5mm and 15mm behind this point. You will need to try your position out and microadjust it, but as a rule of thumb if you have small feet (size 4-5) you will be nearer 5mm, and with larger feet (size 13-14) you will be nearer 15mm.

8. Thin out your body

Not everyone needs to, but if you’re a rider who feels as though one of the things holding you back is your body weight, then the dawn of a new season of cycling is a good time to target getting some weight off. With a lot of riding coming up, combining that exercise with a healthy diet should see the pounds fall off.

Nutritionist Kate Percy, of, says: “Make sure every mouthful of food you eat is nutritious. The calories you eat need to be nutrient-dense to fuel your training properly, satisfy your hunger and help prevent injury. Every car needs fuel: the better quality the fuel, the superior the drive. Your body works in the same way. Fill your tank with healthy nutrients and you’ll feel better and have more sustained energy.

“Yes, if you’re training regularly, it’s nice to have a treat now and then! That’s fine, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of satisfying hunger with quick-fix treats such as pastries, pork pies, processed cakes and biscuits, chocolate bars; empty calories with little nutritional value. These rapidly release their sugars into the bloodstream, causing a spike in energy followed by a massive slump and a renewed hunger; a spiral that is hard to break.

“Choose your carbs with care and combine them with a little protein to make them even more sustaining. Eat wholegrain ‘energy’ carbohydrates such as brown rice, oats, quinoa, lentils and wholegrain bread, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and oatcakes with peanut butter or hummus. Quality lean protein, such as eggs, lean meat, beans and oily fish is also good. These will help prevent weight gain, give you more consistent energy, maintain steady blood sugars and reduce hunger pangs, while at the same time boosting the immune system and mood-enhancing serotonin levels.

“When back-to-back training, refuel the body with a combo of carbohydrate and protein (4:1 ratio) within 15 minutes of a workout, as this is when the muscles are at their most receptive. Whizz a banana, an egg-white and a spoon of honey with a glass of milk for the ultimate balanced recovery shake. Topping up your depleted levels immediately after training and racing reduces hunger kicking in later on and therefore the temptation to grab fatty, ‘instant-satisfaction’ foods.”

9. Declutter your pre-event routine

Warming up for an event doesn’t have to be complicated, but you will need to allow yourself enough time. Get to the start of your race early, sign on, use the loos, collect your number and pin it on. If it’s a time trial, note the route to the start and how long it will take you to get there. You are now free to concentrate on preparing yourself.

Peter Giddings, of, explains just how straightforward a warm-up routine can be: “It’s possible for you to get 90 per cent of the benefits of a perfect warm-up simply from steadily building up your effort over 10-15 minutes until you are working at a level where you are just able to control of your breathing. Hold that level for two minutes, and then relax. You should look to finish that warm-up 10-15 minutes before your start, which will give you time to take off your leg warmers and jacket and anything else that you need to sort out.

“That’s a simple and effective routine, but if you want another five per cent on top start your routine 10 minutes earlier and, after the first part, ride easy for five minutes before going all-out for 20 seconds, then easy for two minutes, then all-out for another 20 seconds, then ease off. Again you should look to finish 10-15 minutes before your start.”

10. Ride More!

This is not as easy as it sounds, given all the other pressures on our time these days. But if one thing can reinvigorate your love for riding, it’s getting out there and doing it, so treat yourself.

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