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Endurance cyclists and Active Root Ambassadors Toby Willis and Lee Grieve give us their top training tips for going further, faster and longer on your bicycle!
Both are taking part in the inaugural Pan Celtic Race in July, a cycling adventure through Scotland, Ireland and Wales, covering 1440miles and 86,371ft of climb, so they know what they're talking about!
1. Set yourself some goals. These can come in any number of formats. Wether it’s your annual distance total, the amount of hours on the bike or just a target time for a local segment. Having these goals helps you achieve some focus to your training. My goals are always contradictory which keeps things interesting. Trying to balance hill climbing with long distance ultras such as the pan Celtic race is a challenge but I find keeps me a well rounded rider.
2. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Learning from your own experiences is essential to becoming adept at what you do. Once you’ve got the right ingredients, your training can become more focused. Find new roads. Nothing keeps you motivated like discovering a hidden gem of a lane. I always picture what it will be like to ride in the rest of the seasons and that keeps me coming back to see if my imagination was as good as the real thing.
3. Wear a smile. You should enjoy your training. If it’s making you miserable or it’s become a chore then mix it up or change it. You are more likely to train hard consistently if it’s something that makes you happy.
Ride with friends. Nothing keeps you more motivated then following a faster friend, hanging onto their wheel towards the top of the climb allows you to force more out of yourself then you would if you were alone. Swap training tips, recent food discoveries and summer goals... it’s not just intervals which make you a faster rider! I often find when my training gets more intense I do it alone so I make the most out of the social early months.
4. Nutrition. Eat properly and clean. The health benefits and advantages to riding endurance events with a body accustomed to burning fuel efficiently will pay dividends. Again, learn what suits you best. My personal favourite... start your ride fasted. This not only teaches the body to burn fat as a fuel source but replicates ultra endurance situations. I quite often find myself running out of food and water so it’s good to train the body to adapt to these situations. I tend to start eating after the first hour and consume carbs steadily through Active root. And make sure you drink plenty of water. Create good habits for yourself. The sooner you make good habits the sooner you will reap the benefits.
5. Use your time wisely. It’s easy to think that ultra endurance cycling requires you to cycle thousands of miles a month, when in fact I believe I gained more physically from shorter intense training with proper recovery. That means real food and complete hydration after riding, good stretching routine and a decent sleeping pattern. I find the best way to do this is sandwiching my training into my 17 mile commute, It’s free miles that allow me undo the festive feasting.
6. Let your body recover. Use your time wisely. Understand the importance of rest. While it’s important to put as many miles into your training as you can it’s also essential to rest and recover properly. Relaxation and sleep will help you maintain a good mental wellbeing meaning you are less likely to stress over the things that are out of your control. And stretch whenever you can. The best thing for injuries is prevention.
7. Train your mind. I try set myself tasks that I think are impossible so I can train my mind and teach myself new coping strategies. Your mind will always let you down before your body does on ultra endurance events. If you can overcome the mental challenges then you’re already ahead of the competition. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is a key component to success. Push your limits and find out where they are. This will give you an idea of weaknesses or limitations that you can then plan around or improve upon.
8. Don’t compare yourself to others and be confident in your own ability. Everyone has their own plan, their own goals and their own constraints. The only person you need to compare yourself to is your previous self. I look back at my previous year and just try ensure I build upon that performance. Do not worry about what anyone else is doing. Concentrate on yourself. Compete with yourself. Continued improvement is the key. So long as you are the best that you can be then you are safe in the knowledge that you did everything you could and there will be less chance of disappointment. Always remember that ‘Training Tips’ are exactly that. Tips and Hints. What works well for one person might not necessarily work for you. Reading as many of these things as you can will give you an extensive list that you can then work through applying the ones that suit YOU the best.
9. Analyse the data. We all record with Strava now but most of us don’t fully utilise the data it gives us. I tend to look over my rides and see where I can improve. I also keep an eye on the fitness trend graph and distance totals to keep myself motivated on a weekly basis. Breaking down the overall goals into smaller ones keeps me going.
If it’s possible, get a bike fit done. Iron out your position on the bike and ensure all contact points are comfortable for long periods. Over an extended period of time any slight niggles can quite quickly become full blown injuries.