I’ve been doing a couple of things differently this winter. For the first time I’ve gone into the winter with a plan that continues from last summer. Last year I needed to shift some timber in preparation for cycling in the Alps, which I did. I carried that on and combined it with a structured training plan.
The Secret to Weight Loss!
I’ve had a number of comments about my weight loss. Generally people ask what the secret is. They want to know what I’m doing to lose weight and how they can do it too. Often they add that they’ve tried everything and nothing works. So let’s be blunt about this. Let’s cut to the chase and stop kidding ourselves.
For 99%+ of the population, if you are overweight it’s because you’ve consumed more energy* than you’ve expended. So the magic secret is…
Expend more energy than you consume!
Now you have three ways of doing this. You can consume less energy. You can expend more energy. Or you can try to do both.
That’s it. Really. Lots of people try to make it more complicated than that, but it isn’t. It really isn’t. The hard part, the part you have to work at, is the willpower aspect of this. For me personally it has taken 14 months to go from 79kg to 65kg – which is around 1kg per month.
*by this I mean food that gets converted to energy
The Training Plan
I talked somewhat briefly about energy from glycogen stores and energy from fat in this post here, with information provided by Rob Harris, in the lead-up to my lejog ride in 2010. It turns out, through my testing at the Endurance Coach that my body is pretty efficient at burning fat rather than carbohydrate, and consequently that makes me well-suited to endurance riding. What I’m not so well-suited to are faster events such as races or time-trials (TTs). And as a big part of my season this year will be focussing on TTs that seemed to me to be a problem.
Last year, I treated TTs as a bit of fun. So I didn’t do anything in winter other than ride my bike normally. I certainly had no training plan, and I avoided the turbo trainer at all costs! This year, I’ve been on the turbo at least 3 times a week, in conjunction with weekend rides, with a specific focus to get me ready for TTs whilst maintaining my ability to complete endurance rides.
The focus of my training is as follows. Firstly, there is an aerobic element to it. People talk about base miles incessantly these days but I think there is too much focus on it. If you have ridden several thousand miles socially then you essentially have a base already. Doing more will just make you more efficient at that speed, which does not instantly translate to being efficient at higher speeds. For that you need to train at higher intensity levels. Secondly there is training at a level at or just below the level (threshold) at which your anaerobic system kicks in to support the energy requirements of your body when your aerobic system cannot cope. By training at this level you become able to hold that intensity for longer, and you “train” your mind and body to deal with the lactic acid response you get from working at anaerobic levels. Third, there is aerobic power – the ability to generate significant aerobic energy over short periods – such as a TT. Finally, my training includes efforts around force production and tolerance, to improve the ability to quickly generate force for short periods. These periods could be for climbing hills or for sprints, but the energy largely comes anaerobically and this training helps develop that capability and the ability to handle and process the lactic acid produced as a by-product.
So my training programme has included elements of all of the above – aerobic conditioning intervals (lower level, higher duration), threshold intervals (higher level, shorter duration), aerobic power intervals (low cadence, high power, short duration) and force tolerance intervals (very short “shock” intervals in a big gear). On top of this, I have spent the winter riding a very heavy bike with big, fat, sticky tyres in as big a gear as possible – with the aim of developing my leg strength.
Now whilst I have followed (and am still following) what has been a 16 week programme, I have to say that I am a very poor trainer on the turbo. I struggle to get my HR into the right zones and I get bored/disillusioned very easily. So I’m not completely sure that I’ve done the programme total justice. I am, however, much more prepared than I was this time last year – so that must surely be worth something. My realistic target now is to complete the training programme and to use March and April TTs as effective warm-ups. During May, June and July my aim is to beat the targets I set myself here.
Finally, all of the information and design of this training programme was given to me by the Endurance Coach. If you want to take things up a level, or are just interested in knowing a bit more about you and your limits, then I highly recommend you visit them.