Specific Goals 27/6/14

There are certain areas of my health and fitness that need specific attention as follows:

  1. Improve strength of glutes. 60% of pedalling power emanates from this muscle group
  2. Improve strength of back muscles – many years of sat at a desk have weakened these muscles. Strengthening them will improve my power when cycling but also improve my posture
  3. Strengthen core muscles, especially lower abdomen which is connected to power output when cycling
  4. Strengthen hamstrings – as with above these have been weakened by many years of sitting down
  5. Build strength of shoulders, arms, chest and arms. Not specifically related to cycling but needed to improve overall body shape
  6. Increase overall muscle mass from 63 to 65kg
  7. Reduce total body fat to 5% (3-4kg), target weight 69kg
  8. Do 2 training activity sessions in one day – eg., one cycling session in the morning and weights session in the evening

As far as cycling strengths and weaknesses:

  1. Improve power weight ratio to 4.25 (Gold Standard) or average power output 20 minutes of 310 watts
  2. Improve climbing – achieve top 20 strava position on 5 local climbs
  3. Increase power output – this needs to be established
  4. Increase HR Lactic Threshold to 170 bpm
  5. 10 mile TT’s, first target 25 minutes, second target 22 1/2 minutes
  6. Improve sprint speed – need to establish measure
  7. Endurance – 100 miles @ 18mph riding alone
  8. Endurance – 3 consecutive days x 100 miles
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Nutrition & Performance

On a number of occasions I have noted the positive impact on my performance when I have eaten a meat-rich meal the day before a ride. Yesterday, I recorded my fastest ever time on the Woodbury Rockbeare course coming in at just over 19mph. The day before I had eaten about 400g bbq beef & lamb. On the ride I felt very strong and there was little evidence of fatigue as I ramped up the speed and effort. I also remember from last years Ride London that I had eaten a meat-rich Ethiopian meal with friends. The following day I went on to record a time of 5:30 and an average speed of 18mph for 100 miles. I am beginning to believe there is a link.

Over the past few months I have been reflecting on why it has proven so difficult to shift my excess fat. My conclusion, recorded in a recent post was that the body is self-regulating and no amount of will-power will override what has taken millions of years to evolve. Therefore, I have to work with my body and not against it. I have spent more time reading about paleo diets, that is, diets more associated with our hunter-gatherer ancestors. If we accept that farmed products appeared in our diets only 5,000 years ago (a very short time when one considers that our evolved history is represented by a few millions years) then it follows that we must look more closely at what our diets used to look like as these are more likely to fit better with our bodies needs as they have evolved together over a longer period of time than farmed products and evolution have. My conclusions to date are as follows:

  1. Our ancestors would have spend extended periods of time hunting prey. They would have spent days and probably covered many miles to hunt down prey. Given the structure of the human body it is highly probable that our ancestors ran quite substantial distances after their prey. So, how would our ancestors have prepared themselves for such a task? It is highly probable that they would have consumed a rich protein-dense meal before a hunt. On the hunt itself they would have taken foods that they could quickly consume so as not to delay pursuit of their prey. Following capture of their prey they would then have enjoyed a protein-rich meal. My conclusion is that the body is wired to recognise the signs of 1) preparation for a hunt, 2) the demands of the hunt itself, and 3) the reward of the hunt, that is, protein-rich food. If the hunt was successful then the body was rewarded – it would be well-nourished, it would be able to repair the damage to the body caused by the demands of the hunt, and most importantly it would be stronger and healthier for the next hunt or for procreation. With plentiful food, our ancestors would no doubt rest and eat for a few days. If we accept this argument then we need to prepare our bodies with protein-rich nutrition the day before training, we need to eat quickly digestible food whilst we are training and then we need to eat a protein-rich meal after the training to reward the body for the work it has done and also provide an opportunity to rest.
  2. Carbohydrate-dense foodstuffs would have been in short supply for our ancestors. No doubt they would have taken every opportunity to eat foods as they went about their daily business. Roots, leaves, fruits, seeds, etc would have been gathered and eaten throughout the day. Richer protein foods would have been eaten as a group as they represented a higher value foodstuff, a food so highly valued that it was worth coming together as a group to celebrate and enjoy.
  3. Fats would have been highly prized. They would have been the most delicious of food groups as they would have offered the most calories per gramme, over double that of protein and carbohydrates. The body has evolved to recognise and value fats for its rich nutritional content. Eating a fat-laden meal may also have signalled to the body that it was being prepared for a hunt.

Review of Targets 23/6/14

My targets for June were to ride 600 miles including two 100-milers and get my weight down to 71kg and to do two gym sessions per week. My weight is currently 71.5kg, I have ridden two 100-milers, I have been going to the gym twice a week and I have so far ridden 480 miles with one week left so I am on course to achieve my June targets which is great news.

My target for July is to get my weight down to 70kg and ride 500 miles. I’ll be away for the first couple of weeks of July so it may be better to revise this target down to 300 miles. Looking ahead to Ride London I am now treating it as a training ride as opposed to a challenge. It is 100 miles with just 4,000 feet of climbing. I’m not going for any special times as I am riding with a team of 3 other riders and I am sure they will want to soak up the atmosphere so this year I am going to do the same. Would be good to go for 600 miles in August which works out at about 150 miles per week.

I need to restructure my training:

  1. Maintain longer training rides every weekend but increase the elevation
  2. Build strength and muscle mass – each session to focus on a separate major muscle group alongside a minor muscle group and to use barbells, possibly three times per week (legs & arms, chest & shoulders, back & abs)
  3. Use a power meter for my cycle training and set power targets

Overall, there are three key objectives to my training:

  1. Better physique
  2. Building strength
  3. Improving endurance
  • Better Physique – my aim is to lose excess body fat, build muscle mass on my arms, shoulders, back and legs and have a more upright posture
  • Build strength in my legs by increasing muscle mass. Can be accurately quantified for my legs using a power meter and can be done for other parts of the body by recording maximum weight lifts
  • Improve endurance so that I can cycle for longer and faster

In order to achieve the above I need to split my training:

  1. Lactate threshold training – increase LT from HR 163 to 168
  2. Long endurance rides
  3. Speed & technique
  4. Hill climbing
  5. Weight resistance

My average total training time per week over the past few years is as follows:

  • 2011 – 1 hour per week
  • 2012 – 3 hours per week
  • 2013 – 5 3/4 hours per week
  • 2014 – 8 3/4 hours per week over the past three months

I am recovering more quickly and therefore better able to take on more training. Therefore, based on my planned training laid out above I will need to dedicate the following amount of time to each training area:

  • Long endurance rides: 5-6 hours
  • Weight resistance; three sessions of approx 45 minutes = 2 1/2 hours
  • Lactate threshold training: 1-2 hours per week
  • Other specific training: 1-2 hours per week
  • Total projected training hours per week = 9 1/2 to 12 1/2 hours per week

As consistency is the key with any training programme I prefer to spread the activities across the week limiting rests to one day per week, therefore, the weekly schedule would work out something like this:

  • Monday: rest day
  • Tuesday: weights resistance back & abs
  • Wednesday: bike lactate threshold
  • Thursday: weights legs & arms
  • Friday: bike climbing
  • Saturday: weights chest & shoulders
  • Sunday: long endurance ride

Recovery would be scheduled every third week and this would maintain the weights programme but reduce the intensity of bike work to the recovery zone.

Dartmoor Classic 2014 Grande

Very pleased with completing 107 miles and 11,000 feet of climbing yesterday in about 7 hours or 7 hours 23 minutes when the two stops were included. The Gold qualification time was 6 hours 56 minutes so I was awarded a silver medal which is pretty good for my first Classic. Can I do a gold time next year? Course I can and I will do.

A ride of 3 parts, all conveniently separated by the checkpoint/feedstation at Princetown. Started off strong, probably a bit too strong. Flying up the climbs and maintaining a good pace generally, however, the price for this was a higher HR, probably operating in tempo to anaerobic zones and a subsequent buildup of lactic in the legs. Feeling a bit jaded on the moor approach to Princetown and the first stop at 34 miles. Was considering switching to the Medio but decided to plough on and complete the Grande. The next section I decided to ride in my endurance zone and managed to recuperate pretty well. After calling in at the feed station for a second time at 74 miles, I felt strong and completed the final part of the ride in my endurance and tempo zones. I was encouraged by my strength in the final third. Spent a total of 23 minutes in the feed stations, a bit longer than I’d originally planned. Did the ride by myself and didn’t get much in the way of drafting from other riders. I was definitely stronger than most riders on the climbs but gave up time on the flatter sections.

What lessons did I learn:

  1. Pacing is absolutely crucial – it is better to go off more slowly and gradually build up speed rather than bolting off too soon. I’d actually prepared myself to do this but I guess I got carried away and pushed myself too hard early on.
  2. My climbing was pretty strong especially the climb up Manaton in the early stages. I also realised that I was moving ahead of most riders when it came to the climbs.
  3. My speed on the flat or rolling sections was not as quick as many riders and there is scope to improve this.
  4. I had difficulty eating solid foods. I didn’t eat much of the bread/honey I had made relying mainly on my energy mix (4 parts maltodextrin, 2 parts sugar, 1 part sucrose, 0.5 part electrolyte, 0.2 part creatine, 0.01 part caffeine). As it was a hot day this energy solution worked well alongside 4 bananas.
  5. I drank a total of 9 litres. I used three 1L bottles and I refilled them twice.
  6. I got hardly any drafting. If I want a faster time I will have to team up with other riders who are of a similar ability.
  7. I was strong at the end which would suggest I got my nutritional strategy right
  8. My legs were tired but I didn’t suffer any cramps. The tape I used on my left and right achilles and left elbow seemed to do the trick.

Actions

  1. Continue to lose weight. I weighed 71.7kg coming into this event – I believe I can lose another 2 or 3kg before I am at my optimal performance weight
  2. Measure my lactate threshold – the last time I did it (last year) it came in at 163.
  3. Increase my lactate threshold
  4. Increase my power on flat and rolling sections (maybe, I need to buy a power meter and switch to training by power and not HR)
  5. Build my strength, especially leg muscle mass
  6. Regular long training rides across Dartmoor. I can park the car up and take the bike with me or I can ride out from Exeter. Either way I need to start including longer rides with lots more climbing.

Weighing Up The Research & Experience of Reaching a Performance Weight Goal

Attaining my performance weight goal has taken up quite a few of my blogs as I endeavour to attain my perceived ideal weight for performance, health and vanity. I have found and continue to find it a real battle to get my weight down. It is useful to better understand what I am trying to achieve:

  1. I want to look and feel better. I do not want to see fat around my midriff, on my back, on my legs, on my chest, on my arms. I want to lose ALL of my excess fat. Why? Because I owe it to myself to look the best I can.
  2. I want to be healthier – this could be the long-term winner of the reasons why I choose to lose weight; correction, lose excess fat. Not carrying around excess baggage has got to be good for my heart, bones and other body parts.
  3. I want to be fitter and stronger – I want to improve my cycling endurance performance and I want to be physically stronger.

Throughout my entire life I have compromised on how I look and I have pretty much always carried around excess fat. I have never ever dedicated myself to looking the best I can. Why? Because it was so much easier living a less disciplined lifestyle – drink and eat what you like, why don’t you. Well, that ethos has been thrown out of the window, but and it is a very big ‘but’, it is taking a lot longer than I expected and it is far more challenging. Can one simply lose weight through creating a negative calorie balance – that is, consuming less calories than one’s body needs? There doesn’t appear to be any conclusive evidence about the efficacy of calorie reduction in achieving sustainable long-term weight loss. My own experience is that the body controls how much I eat. Is this just an excuse or is there validity in this argument. It does at the very least deserve some further analysis. So, what are the conclusions of my own research?

  • I have managed to lose weight through calorie reduction, however, it has proven very difficult to keep off. Why? My body tells me when to eat and will not leave me alone until I have nourished it. I can put off eating more easily during the day but at nighttime I find it very very difficult and this is because my body appears to lose control over regulating my body temperature. I get ‘fever’ like symptoms, I get hot and cold, I get agitated and I simply cannot switch off. The only cure is to eat and I have to eat the right amount otherwise the fever-like symptoms continue. After I have satiated my appetite I can get off to sleep. So this late ambushing by my body puts paid to any calorie control I have exercised during the day. That is one negative way of looking at my body – the alternate argument is that my body is extremely smart and intuitive and it knows best when I should and shouldn’t eat. The body after all is the ultimate in efficient self-regulating systems. If I accept this as the starting point then I also have to accept that I need to understand the mechanics of how my body works! It is clear that there is no authoritative or conclusive research that links the workings of the body with clearly defined approaches to losing body fat.
  • If one starts from the premise that the body has evolved over millions of years to regulate itself then I need to understand how the body has evolved to handle varying environmental conditions. We now live in an age of plenty and we constantly nourish our bodies. 10,000 years ago, things would have been a lot different. Finding food was a risky business and occupied our attention 24/7. There would have been periods of food scarcity and food plenty – the body would have adapted to these changing environmental conditions.
  • One of the big changes since modern civilisation is the production and consumption of carbohydrates. During our hunter/gatherer period of evolution we would mainly consume proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates would have mainly consisted of fruits, vegetables, tubers and other plant materials. Today our diets are dominated by carbohydrates, which we have managed to produce from farming over the past 10,000 years. Our diets are now dominated by starchy grains which we can mass produce such as wheat, rice and maize. As we consume more of these carbohydrates we lull our bodies into a false sense of security. As we are less active the body deposits the excess calories from carbohydrates as fat, to be used at a later date when food is more scarce, which in this day and age is unlikely.
  • So what happens when the body believes that food is scarce, that is, when we adopt a calorie-reduction diet? The body goes into starvation mode; it lowers the body’s metabolism to minimise the number of calories being used to carry out day to day functions. When the ‘starvation’ period is over, it puts a little more fat away in anticipation of future food scarcity periods.
  • So, how can the body burn more calories and reduce fat sustainably and not put the body into ‘panic’ mode? The opposite of food scarcity is food abundance, a choice of a wide variety of foods. This is the first component of effective fat loss. The second is to exercise more, to become stronger and to increase the body’ metabolism. This exercise and effort combined with abundant food means that the body is optimised for searching out choice sources of nutrition. It means the body is primed for a long chase after some high value protein such as a large animal. This would of course require both endurance for the chase and strength for the kill. All parts of the body are working together to maximum impact. The result is high value food security.

What can we conclude from the probable way the body is set up to operate?

  1. Don’t starve the body, certainly not for an extended period of time like a few days or more. Constant nourishment is what the body craves and needs if it is to function effectively and efficiently. Calorie-reduction is counter productive. The timing of food consumption is less critical – we eat when food is available. A more regular eating schedule would suggest food abundance and may be preferable to irregular eating schedules.
  2. Eat far less carbohydrates – the body has evolved to consume proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Insulin is produced to allow glucose to pass from the blood into the cells where it is needed. Excess glucose is converted to glycogen and then into fats and is subsequently deposited around the bodies muscles and organs.
  3. Combine a high quality varied diet with regular exercise and the body will believe it is operating in a time of plenty. The body is now in its ideal state and many positive changes will combine to equip it to hunt, gather and procreate. Bags of serotonin will be produced to create a feeling of well-being.

Touching Distance 2nd June 2014

I feel like I am making progress towards my goals, however, I still feel there are some important changes that I need to make if I am to go up to the next level. So, what do I need to do?

1. Diet needs to focus on eating the right foods at the right time. I am veering more towards ‘paleo’ and protein foods and using carbohydrates as a fuel before and during exercise. If I am to lose the last couple of kilos I really need to be more disciplined. In truth, I continue to guess what I should eat. I am using body signals to judge what, when and how much to eat. This is useful in getting better at listening and understanding my body but it is not ideal when trying to make headway towards a weight/body fat goal. My weight is currently hovering around 72kg with body fat roughly 9%. I know I can lose another 2.5kg and unless I use a stricter more disciplined approach I fear that I may drift close to my performance weight but not actually reach it. I will commit to drawing up a ‘performance weight’ meal planner for the next three weeks

2. My training is much more consistent and this needs to be maintained. I have increased volume and I am doing more strength sessions. Ideally, I would like to do a minimum of two strength sessions per week and 2 or 3 rides with one long ride every week. Over the past 2 months I have been averaging just under 9 hours training per week, a combination of strength training and cycling. I am doing more sessions per week compared to earlier this year and last year. My body has adapted well to the increase in frequency and this needs to be maintained. Another option I have is to include ‘mini’ training sessions like doing resistance exercises at home (press-ups, sit ups, etc) and also working on my stretching. In effect, every day there should be some major or mini activity that I complete apart from one day which is set aside exclusively for rest.

3. My body has adapted well to the longer weekly rides. I find that I can now complete 80 miles with the same ease I was previously completing 50 miles. I rode 100 miles hard last weekend at an average speed of 17.5mph, a speed I would typically average on a 50 mile ride. My climbing has improved too. I found myself dehydrated after returning from the 100 mile ride which caught me by surprise. It was a warmer day although I did drink close to 5 litres of energy drink. Therefore, I need to pay closer attention to hydration the day before and morning before longer rides. I also need to do this for my strength sessions as well.

Anticipating Challenges

My holiday in Italy will take up 2 weeks and 3 weekends. I need to plan to use this time as best I can; therefore, I will focus on the following:

  • Plenty of rest & recuperation – long lie-ins, lazy days
  • High quality nutrition – plenty of fish, meat and other proteins as well as fruit & veg
  • Planned exercise – perhaps 3-4 sessions per week at a nearby gym. As much swimming as possible
  • Loads of stretching exercises
  • Long walks

Planned training leading up to Ride London

  • 2/6 10.5 hours
  • 9/6 11.5 hours
  • 16/6 8 hours Recovery
  • 23/6 12 hours incl. Dartmoor Classic (107 miles, 10,500 ft)
  • 30/6 4 hours Holiday
  • 7/7 6 hours Holiday
  • 14/7 12 hours
  • 21/7 11 hours
  • 28/7 10 hours
  • 4/8 10 hours Ride London