|Sort your core fitness out to get faster|
In June, I'll be riding London to Paris in three days and I've been thinking about my weight, my stamina and my core strength, prior to the ride. I spend a lot of time on my rear. I drive to work, spend all day in meetings or at my desk, sit down in the restaurant for lunch, I'm regularly on trains, planes or sat at my home PC blogging. When I'm not doing that I'm sat in a saddle on a bike, see what I mean?
Although I've done some reasonable miles, I don't seem to be getting any faster and my ride averages have stayed pretty much the same. My weight has bottomed out, so despite riding 100 miles or so a week, it isn't impacting on my weight. I know my cardiac fitness is good from my last BUPA test, however my body fat had increased.
Total Cycling Performance
A little while back I was contacted by Simon Vincent of Total Cycling Performance in South Wales and invited down for a full assessment of my composition and body conditioning. I don't get to South Wales much on business, so taking advantage of a recent trip down, I called in to see Simon at his home studio.
I love people like Simon - a new business, going less than a year - he's one of those people that has given up a successful career to do something he loves, sports science driven body conditioning and assessment. In many ways, he reminded me of Craig Middleton at Onix Bikes who did the same thing (following his passion).
Simons set up is in his back garden. A large studio full of gym equipment and gizmos for measuring, assessing and training his clients. I have to be honest, I was a little nervous as - apart from the bike - I don't do anything else for fitness and I've never been a strongman. I knew my core strength needed improving, but I had no idea what my base was.
After a pre-assessment of my diet, exercise and lifestyle it was on to the physical bit. Leg presses, extensions, arm presses, grip strength, lat pulldowns, flexibility measurements, lung capacity, body fat make up, hydration, wattbike pedalling analysis, maximum heart rate and core muscle tests to name but a few, Simon gave his assessment - basically, my core strength is really poor. The only saving grace was an above average lung capacity, pedal stroke was OK (but still with room for improvement) and my back strength was higher than average. In all other elements, it was lower quartile - ouch.
Get off the bike
Simon gave me some initial feedback and followed that up with a 20 page report with all of his findings, but more importantly his recommendations. A complete change to my diet, my hydration, my time in the saddle and my fitness regime, including joining a gym, fundamentally, riding a lot less.
Explaining the science behind the metabollism, it quickly dawned on me that there were some big changes needed. By increasing my core strength and losing some weight through effective management of diet and time in the gym, I can make the progress I need to nail London to Paris.
I love data. It takes the guesswork out of it and makes it factual. Simon collects data as he conducts his tests and then presents it back to you, comparing against what you should be capable of. Here's a few of the statistics: -
Leg Press. You should be able to press x3.5 your bodyweight. I could do x2.1.
The Plank (see picture). You should be able to hold about 90 seconds. I held about 20 seconds (now up to 45 with some more practice).
Leg Extension. You should be able to do 0.45 x your bodyweight. My target should be around 43kg. I could do 25kg.
Making the Change
The big changes I have to make are to drink a lot more water, upping intake to 3L a day and eating a lot more natural protein in my diet through nuts, lean meat and fish. Milk has to be switched to full fat, bread only after a training session and in limited amounts, 9-12 portions of fruit and vegetables leading to a re-balancing of my body make-up. More stretching is needed to increase my suppleness, dynamic stretching sessions make a frequent appearance in the 12 week plan.
Simon’s unique approach to nutrition also advocates the use of absolutely no synthetic protein shakes, vitamin supplements, or other man made versions of nutrients that as he put it “can all get provided by Mother Nature given a little planning and organisation”.
My aim is to look to lose around 1kg a week of fat through steady and consistent management of my diet, exercise and to also gain a significant amount of additional cycling strength and power, through a structured and targeted strength training regime of just 2 sessions per week. By doing this, I should radically improve my base strength and power to weight ratio, resulting in better miles on the bike - we'll see.
I'm about four days in and I've never drunk so much water, been to the loo so much or consumed so much white meat. It's had some immediate impacts in that I'm not snacking, reaching for sugary things like biscuits around 4pm, I've given up sugar in coffee too. The scales seem to like it as my body seems to already be adjusting to the new diet and dipping in to my fat reserves.
I'll keep reporting back on progress, it's good to have a plan to follow, something personal to you as an individual, written around your body, your lifestyle and your areas requiring improvement specific to improving your total cycling performance.
A session with Simon in South Wales to assess your all round cycling ability, but perhaps most importantly the full physiological weaknesses within your current training and nutrition practices preventing you becoming a more efficient, faster and stronger cyclist starts from £75.00. I think that’s money very well spent as you can then focus your future training on smarter rather than longer sessions, in order to get a lot closer to realising your true cycling potential.
If you're really brave, you can book in the local hotel and then go and ride some Welsh mountains afterwards. Erm, anyone seen my car keys?