So, we have four weeks (eeeek!!) till the Leukaemia Foundation ride from St Kilda, Melbourne to Adelaide. That’s 1070kms in effectively 6 days (as we have a recovery day in the middle). Needless to say, some of us are getting a bit nervous about this undertaking! As such, I know that questions are being asked like “What was I thinking?!”, “will I make it?” and “how can I improve my training between now and then?!”
While this blog post could give many readers ideas to improve their cycling results (or running) at any stage of their training, I am particularly writing this for my ‘Ride as One’ team members.
There are three training-hacks that I would suggest will significantly improve your cycling results and give you significant improvements above the benefits you are getting from your current training. Now, different riders will need different strategies to fast track their improvements and be ready for this great undertaking, so pick the one or two that you think will address your needs more specifically. I’ll expand on each below.
Three Training hacks to fast-track your cycling results:
- Increasing kilometres and riding frequency by commuting
- Increasing fatigue resistance through improved strength
- Increasing efficiency by dropping some weight!!
Increasing kilometres and riding frequency by commuting
One of the things that will be the hardest during the ride from Melbourne is the accumulated fatigue of long days on the saddle, and then having to get back on the bike early the next morning! Now that we are all committed to our training rides, and have put some decent Ks in the legs, it can be a good idea to put some more consecutive rides together, to get used, and adapt, to that feeling of heavy legs from the day before. Adding a few commutes to your week over the next 4 weeks would not only increase your total weekly mileage, but also get you used to being on the saddle day after day. I wrote a blog a few months back which discusses this in more detail, which I would encourage you to check out!
Increasing fatigue resistance through improved strength
Introducing some strength training into your weekly routine can have two significant effects. Firstly, and perhaps obviously, if you are stronger, each pedal stroke is a smaller percentage of your maximal strength, so you accumulate less fatigue over a ride; and you also get to apply more power to each pedal stroke if desired, so you get to ride faster both on flats and up hills!
Secondly, and along the theme of the effect mentioned above for commuting, the timing of your strength workouts can also affect your resilience to ‘heavy and tired’ legs. Doing your strength work the day before a ride will have a ‘pre-fatiguing’ effect for your ride. While this is likely to make your ride a little bit less enjoyable, it will result in overcompensations happening, which will lead to accelerated results.
Ideal exercises to perform would be squats, split squats, step ups, etc. If you are unfamiliar with these, I would suggest focusing on the other ‘hacks’, or consulting an exercise professional for guidance.
Increasing efficiency by dropping some weight!!
In my opinion, this is the greatest return on investment strategy at this stage of the training journey. If needed and desired, you could easily lose 2-3kgs in the next four weeks without losing strength or affecting your performance negatively.
Now, buckle up (!) because I’m about to potentially bust some long-held cycling myth! One of the best strategies to achieve the outcomes mentioned above (or even better) would be to adopt what is known as a Low-Carb-High-Fat (LCHF) eating style. In essence, this would be made up of about 60% fats (yum!)-25/30% protein-10/15% carbs
Ok… are you feeling alright??… Let’s continue.
There are some things that I would like you to keep in mind before we flesh this out further:
While there are large volumes of research that clearly show that to maximise high intensity exercise we require adequate amounts of carbohydrates (glucose) in our system (as much as 100grams per hour), this does not necessarily translate to exercise requirements at lower intensities. Let’s remember that we are not racing from Melbourne to Adelaide! so improvements in ‘elite’ performance at maximal intensities is not what we are concerned about!! If you were a TDF rider, we’d be modifying this for competition.
High Fat, and fat adaptation for cycling
So how does this work? Well, in simple terms, by following such a nutrient breakdown, we increase our reliance on fat as an energy source, as highlighted in this paper.
There are some key benefits to this, which are described in more detail here which include a lesser reliance on ongoing external sources of carbohydrate supplementation during a ride. We effectively use much more of our own fat stores for energy than we would when ingesting larger amounts of glucose.
This increased reliance on fat for our energy also leads to decreased lactate production at given workloads… meaning less fatigue! This happens because lactate is a by-product of glucose metabolism. Relying on fat for energy delays the need to access glucose in large quantities, hence elevating the threshold at which you start to produce lactate.
In fact, studies such as this one show very favourable improvements in performance at moderate intensities, that may not be seen at high intensity.
There are many benefits to a LCHF eating style, including consistent weight-loss and reduced hunger, as well as many health benefits for those with any range of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. All these are well explained here in a good narrative style, so if you would like to delve deeper, I would encourage you to read the paper.
Application of a low-carb-high-fat diet for cycling
Many of the studies I have shared have seen results from LCHF in 2-3 weeks, so the four weeks we have left give you plenty of time to see some good results. Ideally you would commit to it and follow the eating style everyday, but it isn’t essential, so you don’t have to do it everyday or during your riding days – but I would recommend it! And you certainly don’t have to do it during the ride from Melbourne. I would suggest that now you treat it as a training exercise to get greater adaptations!
So what does this look like on a day-to-day basis?
While a simple Google search can give you lots of great ideas, the broader structure looks like this:
Breakfast: eggs with some sort of added meat (bacon/ham/salmon) plus some veges (mushroom, baby spinach), cooked in olive or coconut oil (I tend to add extra butter!)
Lunch: some sort of a protein (fish, seafood, chicken, red meat) plus salad. LOTS of olive oil added.
Dinner: some sort of a protein (fish, seafood, chicken, red meat) plus veges. LOTS of olive oil added.
Snacks could be a small handful of nuts.
On rides I just take nuts… and I’ve even been known to take some roasted sweet potato (yum!!).
First few days are hard… stick to it!! You are probably on a sugar roller-coaster, and getting off it takes a bit of effort, but it is worth it on MANY fronts!
Alright, good luck!! As always , if you have any questions, leave a comment below or contact us!
Road cyclist fatigued!
Wow, I can’t believe its only 4 weeks until we leave for Melbourne to start our 1000km bike ride back to Adelaide for the Leukaemia Foundation’s RideasOne! It’s been a little while since my last post on the series – sorry! But I promise I’ve been on the bike!
In fact, since we last chatted, I have fallen in love with road riding. For a trail addict (running and mountain biking), I never thought I would put that in writing! But the growing sense of strength climbing up hills, the speed of a light and responsive bike flying down hills, and the camaraderie and great chats of group rides has been something that gets me out of bed in the early mornings with a smile on my face!!
Dealing with Fatigue
By now the kilometres on the bike are starting to really build, due both to a few months of riding, and the ‘pressure’ of time getting shorter and shorter ahead of us! So one thing I’m aware of personally, and I think also for my riding companions is that this is the time when little niggles may start to appear; in the form of tight muscles or joints, and perhaps little aches and pains as our bodies compensate for the increasing demands by tightening up.
So this is the time that looking after our muscles and joints becomes paramount to make sure that we get to the starting line healthy!! This ideally involves a warm up before we ride as well as a cool down, and even some other sessions of mobility and flexibility work during the week. The one negative thing about road cycling is the amount of time that is spent in a pretty fixed and flexed position. It is not unusual to spend 3-5hrs o the bike, especially during the weekend rides, and most of this is spent in repeated hip flexion with a flexed trunk and arms fixed to the handlebars… so there isn’t a lot of extension or rotation going on!! So ideally these warm up and cool down sessions focus on stretching and ‘mobilising’ a lot of these joints that are ‘stuck’ in very short ranges of motion for kilometres on end.
Warm ups are important
I know that for most riders a warm up entails nothing more than pulling on the lycra, pumping up the tires and perhaps taking it easy for the first few Ks of riding; and cool downs revolve around checking out our stats on strava! I also know that anything else for a warm up is a hard ask, as most rides need to start very early in the morning, so consider spending even 5minutes preparing the body for the fun work ahead, and focus more on the post ride mobility sessions – your body will love you for it!!
This will be particularly important for those of us doing a multi-day event such as the 7-day Ride-as-One from Melbourne to Adelaide, to ensure we give ourselves every chance to keep our bodies in good form as fatigue sets in!
An optimal mobility session should improve performance and reduce our risk of injury, while only taking 10-15 minutes to complete.
Ideal Mobility for Cyclists Routine
There’s a well established process for achieving best results during one of these sessions:
- Ideally one should start with some self ‘releasing’ (think about the type of ‘soft tissue’/massage type of treatment that a therapist would do to you). This is referred to as Self-Myofascial Release (SMR). Any time you use a foam roller or some sort of ball on tight muscle tissue, you are performing some form of Self-Myofascial Release (SMR). SMR is suggested to improve mobility at joint segments and the flexibility of specific muscle tissue.
- Once we have reduced the stiffness of specific muscle tissues through effective SMR, it is time to move onto stretching. These stretches are going to be short and to the point! with the intent to increase the length of short and stiff muscle tissue. By increasing the length of these specific tissues, we can increase the flexibility of that tissue AND increase the range of movement we have at the joints in which that tissue acts on.
The reason we want to keep these stretches short (~10-20 seconds) is twofold. Firstly, we want to reduce our total mobility time to something efficient and sustainable. Additionally, in our experience, short and strong stretches where we try and focus on ‘teasing out’ the muscle tissue are extremely effective.
The key areas we are going to focus on are:
- Hips – including hip flexors at the front and glutes posteriorly
- Quads and hamstrings
- Thoracic/rib cage region
Spend 10-15mins after your rides going through the program described in the PDF below and let me know if it helps!
iNform Cycling Mobility and Self Massage Program
If you would like more specific advice for your needs, don’t hesitate to contact us!
Adelaide is arguably Australia’s best city to be a cyclist in, and at the moment, with the Tour Down Under (TDU) in full flight, this is particularly the case! It is so good to see so many cyclists enjoying our beautiful roads, and in particular, the number of interstate riders that are here on organised tours.
I’m sure that with this activity going on, cycling apps like Strava would be seeing lots of kilometres adding up! For myself, and my ‘Leukaemia Foundation – Ride As One’ team members, starting to accumulate more kilometres on the bike is very important, as we have our 7-day 1000km ride in about 3 months!
One great way to beef up these kilometres can be achieved by commuting to work!
As you can see from the image above, my travel distance from home to work is a short 5.7km, which would by cycling standards, hardly count as a worthwhile effort to pull the bike out of the garage. But even such a short distance can add up to something significant! Using my stats as an example, if I commute to and from work over a week, each day contributes 11.4 kms and about 140m of elevation. Over the week, this is 57km and 700m of elevation! That’s a decent enough ride if you were to do it in one go, and contributes a solid base to the rest of my weekly distances! Not too bad at all!
Other than the kilometres on the saddle, I think commuting can provide a number of benefits:
- Easy roll of the legs – You know that heavy leg feeling you get the day after a big ride? I find that my morning commute works wonders to get the system moving again, increase blood flow to those heavy muscles, increasing delivery of nutrients, healing agents, etc, and clearing up the inflammatory waste products!
- Frequency of rolling the legs, including multiple rides in a day! As a flow-on from the point above, as we are increasing the kilometres, and especially when preparing for a multi-day event such as the Melbourne-to-Adelaide ‘Ride as One’, the capacity to back up ride after ride is very important! While the commuting distances may be short, they help to getting used to getting on the saddle and turning the legs after shorter than usual recovery periods.
- Specific training outcomes there are days when I’m pretty exhausted from the overall load of my regular riding + work, etc, so the commute home is an ‘easy’ ride. There are days when I want to hit some higher intensities, especially after some shorter but steeper hills, so I’ll take a little detour on my way home, and really the heart rate and lactate production up, to teach my system to deal with those stresses better; or it may be practicing some acceleration and faster work on flatter stretches of road… whatever it may be, knowing that you are not in the middle of a 3 hour ride, and that home is not too far away, may encourage you to open things up a bit more than you may normally do!
- Improved productivity at work! – There’s nothing better than getting to work wide awake, having gotten your heart and breathing rates up a bit, and benefiting from the physiological and hormonal benefits that this brings! There is strong research showing that a short bout of aerobic exercise increases your cognitive capacity (creativity, capacity to learn, etc) by up to 20%.
- Switch off from work before getting home to the family – one thing I have learnt, is that when I get home, my beautiful wife and kids don’t necessarily want me to be ‘there’, they want me to be ‘present’. My ride home gives me 10-15 mins of time to transition from work mode to family mode… hopefully making me a better husband and dad!
So there you have it friends. Don’t under value those short kms between home and work!
There are so many memes and cliches floating around about ageing, and how we are supposed to feel as we age, and what’s normal – about the aches and pains we should just expect because we are getting older.
Well let me add one more in there for you, that I think you might want to pay more selective attention to:
Ageing is just an accumulation of behaviours!
At the end of our last trail run, Nathan and I met this wonderful couple who were travelling around in their van, doing a Mountain Biking tour of Australia. They were very fit looking, lean, and full of life. Now, if you hadn’t seen the photo, I wonder what image would have come into your mind? A couple of 20-something Swedish backpacker types?
Well, these two were somewhere in their late 50’s to early 60’s, and wow did they inspire me! The smiles on their faces, the spring in their step, the strength in their bodies, and their excitement about tackling some new trails on their bikes where magnetic!
In our chatter they described how lucky they felt, as so many friends their age were full of aches and pains, in bad health, and some even worse… no longer around.
I question how much of it is luck… there’s no denying some luck will be involved, like the parents that life gave us, and making inadvertent choices along the way that may preserve our health and safety. But I think a lot of it is a true return on investment. Make good choices along the way, and you get a compounded return! In fact, these two looked healthier than a lot of people I know who are half their age!
Now, of course ageing has inevitable physiological consequences, and life throws us some curve balls, but I am sure that the choices we make along the way have an incredible impact on the quality of our ageing, and our capacity to make the most out of life. So believe me when I tell you that “ageing is an accumulation of those behaviours”! and if you don’t believe me, believe the two in the picture!!
Couple stretching in Park – Moving well to Move more!
If I could wave a magic wand, and make exercise feel easy for you; if you knew you were going to feel light, agile, nimble – would you want to do more of it??
60% of our population (an average figure across many ‘western’ countries) is inactive… I don’t think that this is because people intrinsically dislike movement! I think we lose our joy of movement at some stage, maybe it’s not a clearly defined line in the sand, but that change certainly happens… after all, we can all see the faces of kids when they are in the full blown joy of movement, right? when they are running after a ball, or jumping into a pool… so what happens? why do we stop to enjoy that movement, that used to give us so much happiness once upon a time?
I think the answer is that it has become hard to move.
One way or the other, it just doesn’t flow anymore does it?! There’s less time for it; it just seems like hard work. Maybe there’s fear of pain, or fear of an injury. Perhaps it’s as simple as the fact that we may stink after sweating (!) and the process of being ‘presentable’ again is too hard…
We all know the benefits of exercise right? So information is not the answer either… so can I challenge you to explore the FUN you used to have when you allowed your body to gain full flight?
I strongly believe that one of the keys to wanting to move more is being able to move better! It’s about putting it in the right order. Think about it for a sec… if you move well, then movement is all of a sudden easier. Things ‘connect better’. There’s less pain; less effort. There’s more power! More strength! More agility! More CAPACITY.
The key to moving more, what ever your motivation, is to move better. From there we can start to set new goals! Such as being able to re-join that sporting club you loved; being able to run around with the (grand)kids without fear of not being able to move tomorrow! or perhaps you want to run your first marathon, or climb a high peak… Or do a tumble turn again!! what ever that goal, let us help you put things in the right order, set up the right process for you to move better – so you can move more!!