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Welcome to the second of our five-month series of articles supporting you in your training and preparation for the 2018 Etape du Tour.
Over the past few weeks you should hopefully kicked off your training (although for UK residents the weather has definitely been against us!) and had your bike checked out to ensure it’s up to the challenge ahead. If you have not yet done so then it’s time to get cracking! Hopefully you should now have an established training routine that works around your family and work life, and pencilled in some build up events and/or you’ve already been on a warm weather training week.
A reminder of what we are training for.
At 169km long the Etape involves four tough climbs; As with other continental rides, the climbs you will face are nothing like you will find in the UK so to ensure you are not caught out and end up in the broom wagon by missing the cut offs we need to make sure you are fully prepared. We will therefore start to think about your nutrition, your threshold power and strength. All of which will help lay the foundations to improve your climbing speed come the big event and see you flying!
It’s now March, after getting yourself in good order for the training ahead it’s now time to start getting serious. The weekend rides are still focused on building basic endurance, with the mid-week sessions keeping your neural pathways firing on the indoor trainer and building strength so you can cope with the stresses to come when the weather warms up and the days get longer. The cadence drills are to work on your pedaling efficiency, and the fartlek session is to build your pace control.
1) Clean up your diet.
2) Pace control and your FTP.
3) Strength training in the gym.
1) Clean up your diet
You need to be fuelling effectively for the training and the recovery. We will work to optimise your ‘race-weight’ closer to the time, for now you just need to start by analysing your current diet before trying to implement any significant changes if required.
For an endurance events such as the Gran Fondos and Sportives, fat needs to be your main fuel source and you need to train your body to use fat preferentially over carbohydrates. There has been a lot of media attention recently regarding our sugar addiction and over the subsequent articles we will start to make further changes to your diet in order to maximise your performance, as well as your overall health. For those who always have a high carbohydrate/sugar based breakfast before your long rides try a higher fat and protein breakfast instead and see if you get the same fade towards the end of your rides. The baked omelette recipe at the end of the article is a good example of a different start to your day. But for now we’ll focus on 3 basic rules:
A lack of calories (calorie deficit) will result in your body having to break down tissues such as muscle in order to get the nutrients to supply the essential organs and functions (brain/ heart/ etc). This break down, known as catabolism, severely compromises your ability to repair tissue damage from the workouts and thus slows your recovery, or could lead to breakdown and injury. You do not need to obsessively count calories (the whole notion of a calorie as an accurate unit of measurement has been shown to be flawed anyway so don’t bother), instead you want to monitor your workout performance and body weight.
When you are not eating enough the first indicator is a decline in your performance. In a prolonged catabolic state your body weight will decline while your body fat percentage remains the same, indicating you are losing muscle not fat. Think about where your protein is coming from and ensure each meal is built around a protein source, then add the carbohydrates from a vegetable base rather than purely quick acting carbs such as processed grains. On the bike start to experiment with different ways of fuelling yourself. For some this will be the traditional gels and bars, for others it will be dried fruit, fig rolls, boiled potatoes, or even jam butties! Use this time to try different foods and get in the habit of eating on your longer rides.
Fat is essential for healthy cell function, and some fats help regulate the inflammatory process. Therefore by including healthy fats in your diet you will prevent small injuries / inflammations (some of which is normal after a hard workout) from turning into a full blown injury. Include oils, nuts and seeds to get your good fats.
Thirst is a well developed mechanism to tell you when you need to drink, listen to it. Always have a bottle of water with you so you can keep yourself topped up during the day. There are no fixed rules as to how much you should drink, forcing yourself to drink more than you require will in some people have disastrous consequences. On the bike get in good habits of regularly taking a drink, but quantity is based on thirst. For those who don’t like drinking plain water during the day, try flavouring it with lemon or lime wedges, mint leaves or another form of natural flavouring.
If you fancy a bit of further reading, there is a great library of articles here: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/knowledge/nutrition
2) Pace Control and FTP
Learning about pace control is essential to prevent you going too hard early on and blowing up, or not achieving your potential by going too easy either! A good training session to learn pacing and changes of pace is the fartlek sessions. I’ve included both time and distance as the measure of work in the example training plan, you can use either to regulate the changes of pace, see which you prefer. It is important to understand the feel of different paces, but if you can also record your heart rate or power output to place some ceilings on different intensities.
To accurately gauge your different effort levels you need to understand about your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). In an ideal world you will have a power meter to measure this, but heart rate and even ‘rate of perceived exertion’ can be used to guide you. FTP is defined as the maximum average power a cyclist can sustain for 1 hour. By knowing what your FTP is you can ensure you don’t repeatedly go over this on the climbs and blow up before the end. A power meter is a very valuable tool for training and taking part in events.
For an introduction to power meters and how to use them, read these articles:
To find your FTP the pure test is to warm up, then ride as hard as you can for 1 hour with the resulting average power being your FTP.
However, a 1 hour test is both mentally and physically tough to do, therefore a shorter 20min threshold effort, known as a critical power (CP) 20, is often a better way of testing yourself. Again warm up for 20mins then do 4x 1min hard efforts to get the legs working, take 3mins as an easy spin. Then ride hard for 20mins, build gradually over the first 5mins, hang on for the next 10 and finally bury yourself for the final 5mins. Your FTP is then 95% of this average power (or simply the average heartrate for the 20mins), as you are able to work harder for 20mins than you can for 60. The higher your FTP the harder you can push on the endurance rides and especially the climbs.
So this month find out what your starting FTP is and we will re-test this before the main event to help guide your pacing on the day.
Instead of buying a power meter or Smart Trainer, search out your local gym or training centre with a Wattbike. It’s an easy way to do an FTP.
3) Strength training
By including strength training in your program you can reduce your risk of sports injuries by up to a 1/3 and overuse injuries by half (Lauersen et al. 2013). We’ll add over-gearing and hill reps on the bike in due course, but while the weather is against us it is a great time to hit the gym. While performance gains from weight training for endurance events such as the Gran Fondos and sportives are questionable, the reduction in injury risk is worth its inclusion to ensure you are able to keep putting the miles in the bank. Also, if you are an older athlete (over the age of 50) then strength training certainly needs to be part of your overall program to slow the natural loss of strength and power as part of the aging process. A personalised program from a strength and conditioning coach is ideal, but the following is a good all-round gym program.
Make sure you warm up and build the weight slowly.
Resistance day 1:
Goblet squat (DB/ kettlebell) | 3-4x 10 Reps | 60 Secs
1b) Inverted Row | 3 x 8 Reps | 60 Secs
2a) split squat (90-90) | 3 x 8 Reps | 60 Secs
2b) Push ups | 3 x 8 | 60 Secs
3a) Single leg Deadlift | 3 x 8 | 30 Secs
3b) Gym ball ab’ roll outs | 3 x 8 | 60 Secs
Resistance day 2:
1a) Deadlift 3 -4 x 10 | 60 Secs
1b) Pull ups/ lat pull downs | 3 x 8 | 60 Secs
2a) Body weight step ups/downs | 3-4 x 10 | 60 Sec
2b) Dumbbell bench press | 3-4 x 10 | 60 Sec
3a) Hamstring curls on a gym ball | 3 x 12 | 30 Sec
3b) Front plank | 3 x 30-60 Sec | 60 Sec
Recover: 10min easy spin on the bike
FTP test set
Warm up: 20 mins (gradually build intensity), 4x 1min HARDish, 1min easy, 3mins easy recovery
Test: 20mins max effort (start steady for 5mins, build for 10mins then bury yourself for the final 5mins). Record average HR, distance, power.
Cool down: 5mins easy spin
rides- easy 30-60mins
Resistance day 1 (see above)
Warm Up – 5mins easy
Session: Start with 2mins at each cadence, add 1min each week.
Cool Dowm – 5mins easy
Resistance Day 2 (see above)
Alternate time / distance
Warm Up then Time 6 mins easy – 4 mins moderate – 2 mins hard = 12 mins x 6
Warm Up then Distance 6 miles easy – 4 miles moderate – 2 mile hard = 12 miles x 2
(Optional) Easy- 2hrs Max
Long for 3hrs. Try a negative split (you travel further in the 2nd half of the ride than the first or do the first half faster. This is difficult if you are adding hills, however consider doing a couple of laps, which is a trick of the pros.
Make sure you are adding warm up and cool down for at least 10-15mins.
Recipe of the month
Breakfast Baked omlette – per person.
Handful of Ground almonds
1-2 tbsp Dessicated coconut / coconut flour
½ tsp bicarb
1 mashed banana
raisins / other dried fruit, honey, maple syrup, yogurt – why not experiment!
Mix together then place on greaseproof paper in a baking tin and bake for 15-20mins at 190degrees.
Serve with fresh fruit as below
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