From-0-to-1000km: three training-hacks to fast track your cycling results

From-0-to-1000km: three training-hacks to fast track your cycling results

nutrition hacks and tips for cyclingSo, 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:

  1. Increasing kilometres and riding frequency by commuting
  2. Increasing fatigue resistance through improved strength
  3. 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!

Do you use your World Gym?

Do you use your World Gym?

For many of us I am sure we associate exercise with a certain location or facility such as the gym, netball court, footy oval, usual running or walking loop, or community pool. We develop a relationship in our mind between exercise and the need to go to a particular place for certain amount of time in order to for it to be worth our while.
I worked with a client last year who was seeing me regularly for exercise sessions. She suffered from multiple sclerosis and found general day to day life challenging however she was determined to maintain her function to the best of her ability. Each time she would leave the gym after her sessions she would say ‘goodbye, I am going to my world gym now’. It always made me think of how true it was that for her, negotiating the terrain of the Adelaide landscape, roads, curbs, stairs, uneven surfaces, was the best possible way for her to challenge her abilities and maintain her function and fitness. She had a gym at her fingertips all day long, and the fact is, so do the rest of us!
Although I am the first one to vouch for the importance of supervised tailored exercise, stories like this make me wonder how many of us are neglecting the opportunities we have day to day in our usual routine of work, home life and leisure time to challenge ourselves and work towards our goals.
Take a look at your ‘World Gym’ today and see what opportunities you might be missing. Can you be inventive?
Should you include sit-ups and crunches in your training?

Should you include sit-ups and crunches in your training?

These exercises have been a mainstay of physical conditioning routines for as long as physical conditioning has been around. We all know that one person that starts their day off with a hundred (or other arbitrary number) sit-ups or crunches. We’ve been told for countless years that the best way to train your ‘abs’ is to do sit-ups or crunches in any number of different varieties…. but is it really that simple?
Let’s look at the exercises themselves. At their heart, sit-ups and crunches are built around the action of flexion of the spine. When we lay supine (facing up), we are using gravity to provide resistance against this flexion action. This places load on our rectus abdominis (commonly referred to as the ‘abs’) and to a lesser degree, the obliques (1). With this in mind, we can correctly draw the conclusion that these exercises can be used to strengthen or condition the ‘abs’ (dependant on rep ranges etc), and even cause hypertrophy (increased muscle size) of the ‘abs’ if the load is appropriate. So far so good, right? But is repeated flexion necessary, or even healthy?
For a number of years now, a large number of trainers, strength coaches, and physiotherapists have been moving away from prescribing or recommending these exercises to clients. The driving reason behind this change is the research conducted by spine biomechanist Dr Stuart McGill and his team at the University of Waterloo, Canada, who used in vitro testing of pig spines (which are very similar to human spines) to demonstrate that repeated flexion of the spine is highly likely to lead to disc pathologies (1). McGill’s findings were that high numbers of flexion movements in the spine ultimately lead to disc injuries such as herniation.
Not all health and fitness trainers have subscribed to McGill’s findings. His major opponents consider his use of porcine cervical spines with no active muscular attachments as not being representative of the moving spine in a living human. One of the major threats to disc health during movements, is the compressive force created by the contraction of muscles acting on the spine. As the muscles pull the spine in various directions, the compression on the intervertebral discs shifts, and becomes uneven which can lead to disc herniation. Biomechanical modelling predicts that up to 18% of this compressive force can be offset by the presence of intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) during spinal flexion (2).
These arguments are for the most part theoretical however, with no conclusive clinical evidence to support them – leading us to the conclusion that right now, the best research we have on the effects of repetitive flexion of the spine is Stuart McGill’s. Factoring in McGill’s research, alongside the correlation of genetics and spinal degeneration (3), it’s difficult to justify the prescription of crunch type exercises when lower risk, more practical training approaches exist.
Some organisations (such as the ADF, Police Departments etc) have a requirement for members to perform sit-ups or crunches in workplace fitness assessments. Our advice in this situation would be to only program the required number of sit-ups/crunches required to get you through your fitness test, and ensure you have prescribed exercises to train your spinal extensors to balance out the number of flexions you are performing (deadlift variations are a great way to do this).
As always, having an experienced professional to develop your training programs is the best way to ensure you are keeping a balance in your exercise prescriptions, and performing the safest possible exercises to address your needs.
(1) McGill SM. Low Back Disorders. Champagne, IL: Human Kinetics, 2002
(2) Stokes IA, Gardner-Morse MG, and Henry SM. Intra-abdominal pressure and abdominal wall muscular function: Spinal unloading mechanism. Clin Biotech (Bristol, Avon) 2010
(3) Battie ́ MC and Videman T. Lumbar disc degeneration: Epidemiology and genetics. J Bone Joint Surg Am 88(Suppl 2), 2006 
Move Well to Move More to better Health! The genius is in the order!

Move Well to Move More to better Health! The genius is in the order!

Senior Couple stretching In Park

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!!

FROM 0 TO 1000KM ‘RIDE AS ONE’ – MULTIPLE DAY BIKE EVENT PREP: Laying a solid foundation

FROM 0 TO 1000KM ‘RIDE AS ONE’ – MULTIPLE DAY BIKE EVENT PREP: Laying a solid foundation

IMG_4282Too much of a good thing is never good.

Well, this also holds true when it comes to training for a specific event. While specificity of training (that is, training specifically for the event one will compete in) is very important, specialising too early, or being too repetitive in training is a sure way to develop injuries down the track. So laying a solid foundation, one that will be the base for the highest possible peak of success, requires well planned variety.


From 0 to 1000km ‘Ride as One’ – Multiple Day bike event prep: Choosing the right team

From 0 to 1000km ‘Ride as One’ – Multiple Day bike event prep: Choosing the right team


Well, the last few weeks have seen me starting to clock up a few kms on the new steed, and I’m absolutely loving it. Having purchased the right bike, and being fit to it properly has made a huge difference to my enjoyment on it.

By the way, do you know what the right number of bikes is to own? Apparently it’s N+1, where N= the current number of bikes you have! On hearing this, my wife, Nina, corrected me by saying it’s actually D-1, where D= the number of bikes purchased leading to Divorce papers being filed…. Oops!

But I digress…!… What I’d like to chat to you about in this post is one of the foundations to successful performance in any field: having the right team around you!


As I alluded to in my last post,  my physical endeavours over the years have led to the accumulation of a few scars, and stiff joints – although luckily never a broken bone! Add to this the fact that I’ve just had my 42nd birthday, so my muscles and connective tissues are not quite as subtle as they used to be! Those of you that know me  will have heard me say that I don’t like it when people use age as their excuse, as after all “age is just an accumulation of behaviours” (there you go, I just quoted myself…). However, I would be going against all physiology textbooks if I didn’t grant the fact that we do lose some ‘pliability’ as we age! Throw in the mix the fact that neither of my parents were Olympic athletes or superheroes, so I have to make do with less than impressive sporting genetics. All this just means that I need all the help I can get to stay in good shape!

A large part of this help comes from a great team of Allied Health professionals, which in my case includes a chiropractor, a couple of physiotherapists (with different areas of expertise), a podiatrist, and the input from my trusted Exercise Physiology team at iNform! Oh, and once in a while, a psychotherapist helps ensure I don’t take my kid-like sporting loves across to other areas of my life! So as you can see, I’ve got all bases covered!!

But this is should not just be the case just  for someone of my age or older trying to tackle all that life has to offer, but also for the younger athlete wanting to maximise their performance. My experience in Strength and Conditioning, and a short stint in coaching runners showed me that a key to long term success is strongly correlated to one’s commitment to being supported by the right people at the right time. Quite simply, the harder you want to push yourself, the more likely it is that little cracks will appear. And these need to be well managed, and managed early, to avoid significant set-backs down the track.

So, moral of today’s story: Get the right team around you… in every area of life. To run a successful business we use business coaches, marketing consultants, financial planners, accountants, etc. So why should your body and active pursuits be any different?? If you want or need more guidance on this, drop me a line, as helping our clients manage these teams is one of the key things we do!


As I mentioned earlier, these last couple of weeks have seen my riding increase a bit! In fact, on Saturday we had our first ride as a group with some of the Ride As One group! It was great to meet some of the people I’ll be sharing these journey with, and we did a nice 60km loop around Adelaide! The downside of the last couple of weeks has been a bit of a dichotomy between having been swooped a few times by magpies who seem to be out in full force at the moment with the coming of spring; but also, a lot of rain which makes it feel like winter is holding on for as long as possible! To help deal with the weather side of things (any advice welcome on how to deal with the magpies! Other than being told to toughen up!) I’ve logged a couple of long mountain bike loops that are looking after the strength in the legs just nicely!!

This is a nice segway to next week’s topic – one of the key principles towards avoiding injury and enhancing training longevity and enjoyment: Variety!

And don’t forget to sponsor the ride at

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