Category Archives: Health and Fitness

10 things that I learnt from riding my bike early morning every day for 40 days

This year for Lent I gave up 90 minutes of time spent in bed and got up at 5am every day (even at the weekend). Instead of wasting this time, I used it constructively by heading out of the house and getting in some riding time, on my Brompton, of course.
So what did I learn from my 40 consecutive days of cycling?

1st – It confirmed that I still love the sport, hobby, activity as much as I did when I took it up all those years ago.

Riding my bike
Looking pretty stylish on my bike in 1976

2nd – Early morning is where it is at for me. I love the tranquillity and the pre-dawn chill, and the treat of seeing the sky brighten in the east as dawn approached. #bestpartoftheday

The pre-dawn glow in the East.

3rd – Knowing that I was getting up at 5am, my evening routine was more focused and structured. No messing, faffing, watching pointless TV, surfing the net. Post supper chores were a breeze.

4th – Preparation is everything. Each evening, before going to bed, I’d prepare everything for the next morning so that I could get up, get dressed and get out without disturbing the rest of the family.

5th – The early start meant that there was minimum disruption to family life. I replaced my morning tea making duties with a Teas Maid (one of those machines that makes your partner’s tea and were very popular in the 1970s. They are still available today). I was usually back for the normal morning routine before I was even missed.

6th – Riding early meant that some days I even got to ride twice, which in my book is an added bonus.

Ride number two of the day. Out with the big wheels.

7th – Once I got into work, I felt good that I had already run some oxygen through the lungs. I love my exercise and sometimes get a bit grumpy if events take over and prevent me from doing some. Exercising early in the morning meant that this could never happen and it was always within my control.

8th – Good nutrition helps massively to ensure that the body recovers and adapts to what you throw at it.

Banana powered.

9th – Ride a bike that it low maintenance and makes you smile – that’s why I ride my Brompton.

Low maintenance and lots of fun – the Brompton really can do it all.

10th – Just do it. I used to check the forecast and find the nicest part of the day to ride. Not anymore. 5.15 was departure time, whatever the weather. No procrastinating, no waiting for the rain to ease, the wind to drop, the rush hour to finish. Taking the procrastination option out of the equation make it so easy. I’m sure that I can learn more from that point alone.

Volume vs Intensity – The endurance athlete’s conundrum

volume vs intensity

I think that if you are an endurance athlete of any type, to become good at it you need to do it a lot. Someone once told me that you should train as much as you can without doing any the following:

– breaking down
– burning out
– losing your job
– losing your spouse

Most of the science points to the fact that the sheer amount of time you train has a stronger effect on your performance than any other factor. And according to Matt Fitzgerald, in his very good book called “Racing Weight“, the reason has to do with efficiency. He says that a low-volume, high-intensity approach to training will increase your aerobic capacity (VO2 Max), as much as a high-volume, low intensity program. On a high-intensity programme, however, you stop improving as soon as your VO2 Max hits a genetically defined ceiling, which doesn’t take long (hence the success of time crunched, high intensity programmes, seeing quick gains). But, he argues, with a high-volume programme, you become more and more efficient the longer you keep doing it, and so your race performances keep improving too.

The reason the high volume yields ongoing efficiency gains is that each time you take a stride, or turn the pedals, it is an opportunity to practice that movement. The more you repeat it, the more practice you get. This gives your neuromuscular system chance to find more ways to trim waste from the movement pattern.

So I would conclude that efficiency is what we are striving for.  And that comes from practice, and more practice.

Thanks for reading.  If you would like to get in touch, please follow me on Twitter and contact me via this social media channel.  If I am mentioned in your Tweet, I will always get back to you.  Thank you for taking time out to read my post.


Follow me on
Strava

My Rules for 2016

I like to make up my own rules, so from this day onwards I am going to commit to the new fitandforty.org rules:

Exercise 5 days a week

Mountain summit

 

Take rest and recovery seriously

The 3rd Pillar of Health

 

Eat as healthy as possible, most of the time

Nutrition - the first pillar of health

 

Always spend less than I earn

Spend less than I earn.

Easy, how simple was that!

Have a great 2016.

If you would like to get in touch, please follow me on Twitter and contact me via this social media channel.  If I am mentioned in your Tweet, I will always get back to you.  Thank you.

 

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) – part of my daily ritual

So for the last few years I have been using a pretty neat App, called Ithlete. Each morning I strap on my Heart Rate strap, connect it to my phone via Bluetooth and do about a minute of breathing in an out in time with the directions from the app. At the end of the monitoring, it gives me a Heart Rate Variability reading and more importantly a colour. I will be totally honest with you here, I run my training schedule based on these colours:

Green = Go to go. Can do hard session, intervals, smashfest etc.
Amber = Lower intensity, aerobic exercise, maybe a recovery ride, or some endurance miles, but nothing too taxing.
Red = Recovery day, very light intensity or rest, so maybe a gentle session on the rollers, or some stretching.

What I love about it is the simplicity. I am lucky that I can be fairly flexible in my approach to training. But if you accept that each week you are probably going to want to do a hard session or two, and a couple of easy rides, then I just do the hard stuff when I have a Green morning reading and save the easier stuff for Amber days.

Heart Rate Variability is a great way of determining your level of fatigue. It basically measures how much time there is between each of your heat beats. If you are fatigued, you will have a low HRV and the length of time between heartbeats is consistent (and will give a Red reading). When you are less fatigued, you will have a variation in time between heartbeats because the body is able to rapidly adjust to requirements for oxygen (high number and a Green reading). So by monitoring my HRV each morning, I am able to train accordingly.

I wonder if Ed Stafford would approve – is it crazy enough?

Ed and Jerry
Ed and Jerry

As I am about to embark on my crazy ride around this year’s Tour de France route with the Tour de Force, I wonder if my old buddy, Ed Stafford would deem it suitably crazy?

He and I served together a long time ago, before he became a famous explorer.  I think that I will draw comfort from the fact that my little adventure will take 23 days compared to Ed’s 860 days, where he walked the entire length of the Amazon from its source to the sea.  Makes my trip sound like a micro adventure!  I will remind myself of that when I am feeling sluggish or tired and my mantra will be “Ed would eat this for breakfast”.

I, like Ed, am also doing my adventure to raise money for an awesome charity.  If you would like to donate, please follow this link to my donation page.  Thanks.

 

Tapering – Time to Reflect on my Tour de Force Preparation

The last few days or weeks before an event are always the hardest. You are trying to get to the start line, rested, relaxed and as adapted to the demands of the event as possible. However, during these few days, known as the taper, the mind starts messing with you, and the switch from ‘training I’m going to do’ to ‘training I wish I’d done’ clicks in and taper madness follows!

Not for me though.  I have had a plan for my training and taper since I signed up to the Tour de Force all those months ago (eight to be precise) and am sticking to it.  The reduced volume of bike time has allowed me to get my bike and kit ready for my three week trip around the Netherlands, Belgium and France.  With all this extra time I have even had the opportunity to do write some blog posts!

It has also given me a chance to reflect on my training.  It has all gone to plan, and I am where I want to be with just a few days remaining until the start line in Utrecht.  So what are the highlights for me?  In no particular order, they are:

1.  Completing the Rapha 500 Challenge.  Basically you had to ride 500 km in the week between Christmas and New Year.  The distance was not a challenge, but the icy roads were.  A picture from one of my Rapha 500 Challenge epic rides is below.

An Epic Rapha 500 day

2.  Raising money for the fantastic William Wates Memorial Trust.  This trust really does make a difference for some young, disadvantaged kids in the United Kingdom.  I also went back to my roots (my first ever job was as a bike mechanic in The North West Mountain Bike Centre – thanks Andrew Kyffin for teaching me everything I know about bikes) and did some bike maintenance for friends and colleagues, who then donated money for my time.  If you would like to help raise even more money, please visit my Charity page.

3.  I’ve tried some new types of cycling.  I even did an Audax in February.  I did also attempt to enter a Time Trial, but unfortunately the event was cancelled to a road traffic accident on the course.

4.  I have ridden my bike pretty consistently and have been very committed to training for the Tour de Force.

5.  I have completed at least one solo centuries each month since November.  Some months I have done more.  At the end of May I did my Benchmark Ride, which was to crack a solo century in sub 5 hours.

6.  I have ridden  the distance of the longest stage of this year’s Tour on my own to give myself a bit of confidence  (Stage 4 Seraing to Cambrai is 221km long).

7.  I have done some interval training and mastered the art of riding on rollers.

8.  I have handed out some pain to my riding buddies.  This little YouTube clip is me dishing out some hurt on one of them on my local hills.

9.  I have bought lots of extra kit.  The Garmin Virb footage above is just one example!

10.  And I have made some new friends along the way.  A week of riding with the Tenby Aces springs to mind as a particular highlight.

So for me, tapering rocks.  Roll on Utrecht.

 

My Benchmark Ride

So I set myself a goal about 7 months about when I signed up to ride this year’s Tour de France route with the Tour de Force. The goal was to ride a sub 5 hour century (100 miles or 161km) on my own prior to the start in Utrecht on 27 June 2015.  I achieved this on 30 May 2015, so was rather pleased with myself and my preparation. I feel ready, both physically and mentally for the challenges that lay ahead. All I need to do now is to stay healthy and fit and the Tour should go well.

My 12 Peaks Challenge – Completed

Well I did my 12 Peaks Challenge yesterday evening.  12 climbs up the Ridgeway.  Total ascent wasn’t quite as much as I had expected, but 1450 metres of climbing over a sub 3 hour ride in Oxfordshire isn’t to be sniffed at.  In fact, my Mount Ventoux climb last year was 1533 metres of climbing, so I only needed another 83 metres and I would have done the same!

The ride details are above, but I basically did two climbs of all of the following:  Foxhill (x 2), Ashbury (x 2), White Horse (x 2), Dragon Hill (x 2), Blowingstone Hill (x 2) and Sparsholt climb (x 2).

It was fun.  It was a beautiful evening to be riding.  And ultimately, I am hoping that it assist in getting me in good condition for my Tour de France ride later this summer.

Looking for inspiration – Beryl Burton

Beryl Burton- Britan's greatest female cyclist?
Beryl Burton- Britan’s greatest female cyclist?

You may or may not of heard of Beryl Burton.  She was a mega cyclist who dominated women’s cycling from the late 1950s to the early 1980s.

To give you an idea of just how good whe was, here are list of time trial times that she set and how long they stood for:

10 miles:  21:25 set in 1973 and stood for 20 years

25 miles:  53:21 set in 1973 and stood for 20 years

50 miles:  1:51:30 set in 1976 and stood for 20 years

100 miles:  3:55:05 set in 1968 and stood for 18 years

12 hour:  277.25 miles set in 1967 and still stands today (Beryl rode at 23 mph / 37kph for 12 hours).

And all these were set in an era befor aero bars and disc wheels became standard time trial equipment.

Her 12 hour record in 1967 was greater than the men’s record at that time.  There is a famous true story of when she caught MikeMcNamara, who himself was on the way to recording a new men’s national 12 hour record (0.73 miles shorter than the figure that Beryl Burton set), she offered him a Liquorice Allsort (a British sweet) as she passed him, which he accepted and ate.

Her training regime was simple, hard manual labour working on a rhubarb farm mixed in with lots of time in the saddle, cycling up to 600 miles a week in the Yorkshire Dales.

And her cycling achievements are phenomenal – seven world titles, 96 national titles and the best British all-rounder for 25 consecutive years.

A truely inspirational women, and one of the cycling greats.  Beryl untimely death happened whilst she was out riding just before her 59th Birthday.  She collapsed and died on the roads near her Yorkshire home.

 

My Secret Power to Weight Ratio Improvements

Hello team car

If you want to raise your Power to Weight Ratio (PWR) as a cyclist (the higher the better), then you can do either of the following:

  • Lower your body weight
  • Raise your average power output
  • Or do a combination of both the above, being careful not to take off too much body weight and reducing your power.

For a simple guy like me, though, who has been training pretty consistently over the winter months, (so unlikely to make any significant increases in power output), and have weighed in at around 67kg forever, I needed a cunning plan to increase my Power to Weight Ratio.

So here is my secret.  I have been riding the heaviest winter hack for the whole of the winter.  I have been carrying two large water bottles on every ride, irrelevant of how short or long, I have been carrying more spare tubes that you could ever need, I have been wearing an old Giro helmet and heavy mountain bike shoes, usually covered over with booties, and I have always had a good stash of food to ensure that I am self sufficient for a 160km ride.

Now that Spring has sprung, and I am 50 days out to the start of my Tour de France ride, I have shaved off the following weight from my equipment that will effectively increase my Power to Weight Ratio without any body weight loss or power increase.

  • Change from winter hack to summer bike 2kg loss
  • Change from 2 x 750ml bidons to 2 x 500ml bidons   400g loss
  • Change from carrying 2 spare tubes to 1 spare tube  100g loss
  • Change from old helmet to new Giro Synthe  75g loss
  • Change from Mtb shoes to Road shoes  240g loss
  • Change from carrying all food to little food  100g
  • Total weight loss = 2915g (almost 3kg).  

I’m going to test out my instant Power to Weight Ratio increase on my 12 Peak Challenge and I’ll let you know how it goes.