Time for Reflection

It is only 2 weeks into my new two-month programme and I am questioning the goals I have set myself. There is always a balance to strike between training and rest and over the past few weeks I have recovered more slowly than I was expecting/hoping. This has delayed my current programme so much so that it begs the question as to whether or not it is just unrealistic? I also wonder if the programme is weighted too much towards endurance rides at the expense of other areas. Perhaps I should be a little smarter in the targets I set?

My thoughts at the moment are to be more specific in my training – concentrating on quality rather than quantity. Now, ordinarily, programme focus kicks in following a long period of accumulating miles, that is, volume or quantity. I am at the point now where I am questioning my ability to complete the volume side of my training and wondering whether or not I would be better served by doing more focused work. Perhaps my focus should be on building my strength and increasing my lactate threshold. In this way I could concentrate on addressing my limiters such as climbing, bridging gaps, sprinting, etc. Perhaps, this kind of programme would be more realistic. At this stage of the current programme I just don’t feel I have a realistic chance of reaching my targets because I just don’t think my body is ready for it. Perhaps I should use this year to build strength and elevate my lactate threshold.

My performance on club rides varies. Generally, I am on an upward curve and I am getting fitter and stronger but there is variation within this. Some rides I feel strong and on others I feel less so – on some rides I feel I am struggling to keep up with the group. There are a lot of good riders and many of them race regularly and have been training for years. It is crazy to think I can get to their level in just a few months, however, my goal is to get to their level so I think I need to get back to the drawing board and examine how I can make changes to my training programme to accelerate my progress. I think the key will be to focus on improving my lactate threshold and building strength. My lactate threshold is currently 163 – I could set myself a goal of getting it to 170 by September which is a 1 point increase each month. If I achieve this goal I could reward myself with a power meter so that I can start training using watts as opposed to heart rate.

So, what would a programme focussed on increasing my lactate threshold look like:

  1. More interval work to build LT
  2. More weight training
  3. More hill climbing
  4. More strength work on the bike
  5. More stationary bike work
  6. More speed/cadence work
  7. More core strengthening

How could this be translated to a weekly programme:

  • Monday: rest during day, weight training evening, intervals above/below threshold, core work 90 minutes
  • Tuesday: long endurance ride 3-4 hours
  • Wednesday:  weight training evening 60 minutes
  • Thursday: hill repeats morning 90 minutes
  • Friday: weight training evening, intervals above/below threshold, core work 90 minutes
  • Saturday: endurance ride 2 hours
  • Sunday: club ride 3 hours

The above programme would be completed for 2 weeks followed by a week of recovery. The recovery week would contain all the weights work and 2 or 3 easy recovery/endurance rides. The total riding hours would be about 35 hours per month whilst the weight training hours would be about 3 hours – total training hours = 38 hours

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Goal in Sight

If I take a step back for a moment, I can reflect a little more wisely on the progress I have made since committing to improve my physical well-being at the start of November last year. My goal remains to be in the best shape ever by the time I am 50 (end of July). The best place to start is on the improvements:

  1. I have definitely got rid of body fat – it was hard going to begin with but once I switched to calorie counting, the excess fat started to come off. It was the discipline I applied to both exercise and diet that finally resulted in body fat reductions. Mentally, this was a good moment because for the first time in a very long time I felt I had reasserted some control over my body shape. Knowing that I had done this gave me a boost and I realised that maintaining this discipline I would be able to improve my body shape.
  2. I certainly feel a lot fitter. Doing a 50 mile ride at a reasonable pace is well within my capability now and I am not completely shattered at the end of the ride. In the 3rd week of March I did close to 250 bike miles and this included a 70 mile ride. I am now able to hold my own with the Exeter Wheelers club rides, another indication my fitness is improving. One of the more experienced riders commented on my improved fitness, which kind of validates my own view. Always good to hear!
  3. My diet has definitely improved. I do watch what I eat with an emphasis on low fat, high protein, natural and organic foods. I do not take a load of food with me on rides like I used to.
  4. My lactate threshold has increased – it is now 163. This means I can maintain a higher heart rate and therefore pace for a longer period.
  5. My body is better able to burn its fat resources – this is borne out on longer rides where I bonk-out a lot less. My body is better able to tap into the fat reserves which decreases the dependency on blood sugar and muscle glycogen. The key in utilising fat reserves is to maintain a lower HR
  6. My power output has improved at the lower HR range. I can now go much faster at the lower HR rage than I used to be able to.
  7. My climbing has definitely got better. I used to very quickly slow down on climbs. I can now maintain a higher pace for a longer time and I am moving up the front of the pack in terms of climbing ability
  8. Lower back pain as all but disappeared and I am now able to touch my toes with both hands when my legs are fully extended. Neck pains have all but disappeared too.
  9. Gain in muscle mass – I am not sure what the starting point was for my muscle mass, however, I am convinced that it has increased mainly because my weight remained fairly static for a few months whilst I was losing body fat. The lack of weight loss could be explained by an increase in muscle mass.

Overall, there a great many improvements. They key is to maintain this progress without overdoing it – that means I need to play close attention to R&R. I started training properly at the beginning of November and I aim to complete the programme by the end of July, a total of 9 months. Therefore, I am now over half way and I have shown some impressive results. With four months left I need to remain focused on reducing body fat through continued endurance training and dietary discipline. On this well established base I will now start to commit many more hours to building upper body muscle mass and musculature.

Opportunities to improve

  1. Climbing
  2. Hamstring strength
  3. Core strength, especially lower back
  4. Upper body musculature
  5. Bum and hand discomfort
  6. Number of activities per week
  7. Recovery time between training sessions
  8. Lactic threshold
  9. Cadence and sprinting
  10. Endurance speed
  11. Body posture

April & May Targets

Bike: 85.5 hours

Gym: 27 hours

Power breathe: complete 30 day session

Core & stretching: 15 minutes every day

Body fat %: 10%

Weight: 73.5kg

Muscle mass: 66kg

For April and May I aim to complete my Base Training by riding a total of 85.5 hours, by doing 27 hours of gym work. Over this period I aim to reduce my weight by 2kg to 73.5kg and reduce my body fat by 2 points to under 10% of my body mass. I will also commence breathing training using the Powerbreathe for the month of April. I’ll monitor progress using my Garmin, Body Composition Scales, and Measuring Tape. I won’t be using RunKeeper to analyse miles ridden – it is now about endurance hours. I will do a FTHR test at the end of April and May.

Coping with Illness & Loss of Motivation

Through February and March I was averaging 3.5 activities per week – over the past 2 weeks this has reduced to 1 activity. Over the past 2 weeks I have managed just one activity each week. The first of these 2 weeks was a recovery week, however, this should have included some rides. The fact that it didn’t was due to feeling ‘under the weather’ – not having a full-blown cold necessarily but just feeling a little below par. The HRV readings were also generally depressed so I held back from any training. Whether as a result of this or perhaps because of other factors I have also felt a lot less enthusiastic and motivated towards getting out on my bike. Therefore, it does the beg the question as to why I feel like this – do I feel less motivated because of the illness or would I have felt like this anyway, a kind of mental tiredness almost.

I am well aware of the need to give the body sufficient rest in order for it  to get stronger. I am aware that the big danger is over-training. Getting the balance right between training and rest is a key challenge. So, over the past two weeks I have wanted to go out on my bike but I have also been listening very closely to my body. If I feel run-down and I have a little, then it is best to rest a little more. That has been my philosophy. I am also aware that they key to training and fitness is consistency so I don’t want to sit back completely. I also wonder if I am using the need to rest as an excuse not to go out – this is where I start to question my motivation and wonder whether or not I am also mentally fatigued. OK, so what to do about it? Get the programme for April and May sorted out. I have already spelled it out in a previous post, however, I think it needs revisiting for the following reasons:

  1. I think the total mileage is unrealistic. I am aware of the need to focus on building the aerobic base through long endurance rides but I have a feeling that the total number of hours is a tad unrealistic – will probably need revising down.
  2. I think a key target must be to increase the number of activities I do each week. I’d like to fit in a minimum 2 gym sessions per week but 3 would be better if I want to start focussing on building upper body muscle mass. I’ve been doing an average of 3.5 bike rides per week so a reasonable target would be to increase this to 4 rides per week (2 longish rides and 2 shortish rides – total around 10 hours)
  3. I also need to be doing short (10/15 minute) core sessions at home most days. I can link this with stretching exercises. Basically, I need to be doing something at home every day. This will help adjust my body to increased activity.
  4. I need to remain focused on my key goals – losing weight and improving my body shape