Updated: Apr 1, 2020
Welcome all to my new website and the first of my weekly blogs.
Something I have been meaning to do for sometime is get back into writing and promoting my business and lets face it, unless you are a key worker then we have all a little bit more time on our hands during these unprecedented times within the lock-down.
Now if you’re like most of my athletes, you are probably rather peeved by the number of races either being cancelled or postponed to later dates, especially like myself who has trained since October to be in peak physical fitness for my ‘’A’’ race in June.
However, as annoying as it is, lets just look at the bigger picture. You have been asked to stay at home, in the grand scheme of things this is nothing in comparison to the fact our older generations were forced to go to war. Or for the others that did not fight, had to stay at home with a bloody gramophone record player and a glimmer of hope of getting some parachute silk. At least you have interactive television, the internet, and far more other things to keep you entertained and informed.
So, based on this, I am going to give you the following advice:
No 1, be realistic
As you are now on lock-down, it is not an idea to train like a professional athlete minus the swim. As a rule of thumb, by Increasing your activity by more than 10% each week increases the chance of injury, and also the chance of contracting an illness, as this also lowers your immune system.
No 2, manage your weight
Now if you’re like me, you should all be following the government’s advice and be socially isolating from one another, but you should also consider socially isolating from the fridge.
Like in winter, we are staying in more. Research has also shown that in the colder months we do not require as many calories as our metabolism slows down with the shorter daylight hours due to the blue light in daylight that triggers the stress hormone cortisol. Try to only allow a weight increase of no more than 8-12%, as it is far harder to get rid of, than putting on. 8-12% does not sound a lot, but to put it in perspective, at my current weight this makes nearly a 5-7 kg allowance or in cycling power terms, between a 32-56 watts lost, based on my current FTP. Basically, after the lock-down, your better off rebuilding fitness, rather than losing the fat you have just put on.
Based on this, put down your bacon sandwich and biscuits and stop browsing those fancy bikes you can’t afford, especially in these times of financial uncertainty.
Some things I often get asked by new athletes is “What is the best bike I can buy to make me faster?” or “What are the best upgrades for my bike that will make me faster?”. Well, my answer to this is: “Why are you looking at something materialistic for marginal gains at a beginner level, when the real, considerable improvements can be made to yourself? Why are you looking to upgrade your bike at a cost of ten grand to save you 22 watts over the bike you already own? When realistically, you can save 25 watts by losing a significant amount of body fat that you’re carrying around?”.
Let me elaborate.
If the starting weight of an athlete is at 84 kg with an FTP of 280 watts, this would equate to 3.33 w/kg, which would be the equivalent to a Cat 4 racer. Whereas, losing 7 kg of weight with the same FTP would give you 3.64 w/kg which would put you in the ballpark of a competitive Cat 3 racer.
In short, the 0.31 watts you have just gained is equivalent to the 25 watts the expensive upgrade you were considering purchasing – and let’s not forget the reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and feeling a damn sight more comfortable in Lycra – a few extra benefits of managing body fat! Topping that off with a structured training plan, and the possibilities are endless – and far cheaper, for that matter.
No 3, look after your local bike shop, and the equipment you already have
Unlike most businesses, cycle shops must stay open as these are classified as necessary. In some cases, they would be financially better off being shut and claiming off the government, rather than now running at a financial loss, and let’s face it, at risk. So yes, if you can afford it then get that 10 grand bike then now is the time to do so, but if you can’t, then do your bit and stock up on some cleaning products or gift vouchers and use you new found time to clean your bikes.
How many of you (and be honest with yourself here) go out on a Sunday ride with a bunch of like-minded individuals to a random cafe in the middle of nowhere, clock up 100 km then get home absolutely starving, or in a rush to do family things, sling your bike in the garage then crack on with life? (oh, those were the times before shutdown wasn’t, they?). Then, come midweek, you get in from work, throw on your Lycra, grab the bike, go and ride some repetitions up a hill for an hour, come home, get a shower, get in bed and leave the bike yet again. Yes, you’re not alone. We have all done it. Yet have you ever thought of what impact this has, not only to your very expensive steed, but also to your performance?
Well, let me tell you, not only will you look like a cycling tramp, you are also wearing down your mechanical's quicker than expected due to all the foreign bodies like sand and grit that grind away at the components.
Here’s the most interesting part: a dirty chain alone will cost at least 8-12 watts of lost energy whilst riding. At 15 miles per hour, a typical cyclist will slow down to 14.5 miles per hour if 12 watts of energy is taken away. This could add up to 90 seconds over a 10-mile ride. On a 4% gradient at 10 mph, wasting 10 watts of energy is like adding the 4.5 kg of fat back on that you chose to lose because your partner said no to the 10-grand bike.
Just think about it like this – all that extra training to gain 12 watts is thrown away by mistreating your whip. Unbelievably, the average wattage loss of a dirty chain is the difference between a standard cycling helmet and an aero-helmet, which comes at the extra cost of £150.00 - £300.00.
So next time you ride, or if your bored, clean your bike, save some energy, improve your performance, but most of all, save some money, and keep yourself occupied.
Yours in health,
Sports Coaching BSc
British Triathlon Level 3