Category Archives: Training


That Wake-Up Call – Any Progress?

A little over a month ago I wrote this blog entry about a bit of a wake-up call I had shortly after we arrived in Sydney.  It wasn’t a pleasant realisation, but I wasn’t particularly down about the situation either – particularly with the ‘30 Days Of Biking‘ challenge ahead of me.

As it turns out I didn’t actually complete the 30 Days, but I did ride on something like 19 consecutive days, and I think 24 or 25 in total.  Prior to this I don’t think I’ve ever even managed more than 7 consecutive days, and that’s even with training camps involved.

Did anything change?  Quite simply, yes.  The 30 Days Of Biking helped massively with my motivation to ride.  Granted, some days I really didn’t feel like riding, and a good few days were just ‘tick-in-the-box’ rides where I swung a leg over the bike and did twenty minutes out and back in my jeans and a t-shirt.  Some days even less where I just did a coffee run – I think the shortest of them was 2km.  Most days though were purposeful rides, and with the hills out here it’s easy to put together a fairly lumpy ride even if you’re only doing 30 or 40km.

The impact of that is that riding here now is a habit.  On days that I don’t ride I know I haven’t ridden and it bugs me, making me really want or need to ride the next day.  I consider this to be a good thing as it’s given me the hunger again – something I’d struggled to achieve before we left London.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t properly weighed myself – it’s not something I want to obsess over and I know it will drop the more I ride.  Wendy says I’m looking better though, and some of my clothes already feel better on me.  Those 34″ jeans still feel a bit too snug, but I’m confident that will change too.

Importantly, my legs are beginning to look and feel like cyclists legs again – helped in part by a return to regular, rather than sporadic, shaving.  Sure, they’re nothing on Sir Chris Hoy’s guns, but they’re a damn site better than they were!

The one thing I’m still yet to do is any properly ‘big’ rides.  The longest to date has been 100km.  Throughout May I’m keen to do at least one big ride a week – I’m hoping for 150km+ each time.  My overall target is to break the 1000km mark for the month, which is a big target as I’ve not done that since May last year.  I think it’s achievable though, and the key is in not going too big too soon.

The other thing I want to get into the habit of is early morning rides.  They’re ‘de rigueur’ out here, and if I get into the habit now I should still be able to keep it up when I’m eventually able to work – which will be critical in maintaining fitness, weight loss and sanity!  Being up at 5am will sting, but it’s true that it’s the best part of the day for riding – particularly with Sydney traffic…

Onwards and upwards then.  My school report would probably read: “could do better” - but equally I think it’s been “so far so good”.


Wake-up Call

  • Wandering around feeling body parts moving that really shouldn’t be
  • Wearing clothes that disguise my current shape
  • Walking up a large flight of stairs to cross a bridge and still not having fully recovered by the time I’d crossed the bridge
  • Noticing it’s a struggle to hold my belly in

Not a nice list really, but these are all things I’ve realised about myself lately – not good.  Not good at all.

The move to Sydney has been a time consuming, all-encompassing experience.  So far (as I write it’s mid-afternoon on day 2) it’s been a smooth move – yesterday’s unwelcome rain aside.  We’re  yet to get the keys to our apartment or have any news of our air freight that’s due to arrive in the next couple of days, but I have no reason to suspect either event will be troublesome.

The problem with it having been such an exhaustive process is that I actually cannot remember the last time I exercised, and I think I’ve only ridden my bike in anything barely approaching anger or vigour once in the last six or eight weeks.  Couple this with all the leaving parties, essential eating out (essential because we had no means to do anything else having shipped all of our possessions) and the associated drinking – plus inevitable cake consumption – of all of this and you could say I’m not quite at my prime right now.

That list up there are the things that have combined over the last week to serve as a slap to the face, a kick in the teeth – a wake-up call.  It’s time to take action.

The good thing is I’ve got time on my side to sort it.

I had planned to do my first Sydney group ride on Saturday, but in reality I might just take it easy with a solo run out to see where I’m at.  I wasn’t planning to ride before Saturday either, but I might get the bike together later today (Thurs) and head out for a solo spin or short ride with Wendy some time tomorrow.

I’m not particularly down about it, which I consider to be a good thing – I just need to make sure I do actually take action rather than just talking about it.  Another positive is that Sydney is fairly lumpy so anywhere I ride will involve a decent amount of work.  And then of course there’s the motivation on offer from having signed up to 30 days of biking which starts on Sunday.  I’m determined to stick with it and ride every day throughout April, even if some of those might be on our balcony on the rollers (which they will be if yesterday’s rain is anything to go by!).

Today I’m not far off 90kg and my 34″ jeans are a squeeze.  If I make the most of the time ahead of me I should be able to change both of those facts by the end of April.

Here’s hoping…

Tabata Pro

The ‘T’ Word.

No, not the one that we use as slang for female appendages – I mean “Training”… *shudders*

It’s not a word that sits well with me, but is one that gets banded about all over the shop at this ‘pre-season’ time of year.  Talk of intervals, pyramids and tabatas is rife, and I can feel my motivation cowering in the corner looking like the school bullies are about to descend on him (or is it an ‘it’?).

Late on in 2011 I harped on about my plan – one that barely even made it through the first week before going utterly, well, that other t-word, up.

It’s fair to say that for me I should never consider it as ‘training’, but more as ‘drilling myself into the ground by riding hard indoors’ – something that in recent weeks I’ve actually been enjoying a little more. So what’s changed?  Tools.  Another t-word, but much cleaner this time.

You see, whilst I like the videos on offer from The Sufferfest, after two or three sessions I know what’s coming and that means I’m less motivated to use them until the next one becomes available – which can be weeks or months, depending on how busy their creator, David, is in his real day job.  The beauty of a new video from The Sufferfest is that once you’ve done that two or three times you can re-visit the earlier ones and forget what’s coming.  It’s still nice to mix it up though, and I’ve often thrown in the odd tabata session to bring a change of workout style and to save me a bit of time (not only is the workout shorter, but I don’t have to set anything up to do a tabata).

In recent weeks I’ve found three useful tools which, when combined with using Sufferfest videos, means I now have four options (all of which have options within themselves) to help me get through my traini… sorry, my ‘drilling myself into the ground by riding hard indoors on an un-natural torture device’ (I hate it so I added an extra bit).

  1. 3LC Videos - Ignoring the Cav link, there’s a bit of chatting going on and some instructional information and detail to help you know what you should be doing and when – although I have to say they’re not the greatest of the options, and I hate the fact that you can constantly see a count-down timer that shows you how long you have left!
  2. AudioFuel ‘Ride Harder’ series – a set of three MP3 files that have Chrissie Wellington talking you through a workout with encouragement and music set to the RPM you should be working at.
  3. Tabata Pro app – an iPhone and iPad app that times you through a tabata session with different settings to include countdown beeps, vibrations and a flashing screen if you want them.

The latter of these is my newest addition, and given that on a good week (not often, but they are out there) I’ll do two tabatas it’s good to have something that means I can totally take my mind off of watching the time and really focus on working hard through the session.  For me, what I really liked about this was that I didn’t even need to look at the screen – I’ve programmed my tabata workout and it will give me a 3-buzz vibration, countdown pips and a “work” instruction to do my 20s ‘on’, followed by 3-buzz vibration, countdown pips and a “rest” instruction for my 10s ‘off’.  You can set it to play music from your iPod playlists whilst you work, and you can change the number of on-off cycles you go through and how long each one is.  You can also set your warm-up time, and if you want to you can link it to a TV to display the timer *REALLY* big!

So now that I have these tools will I become a dedicated, focused rider who trains (*bleurgh*) on a regular basis?  Highly unlikely.  But at least when I do decide I’m intent on ‘drilling myself into the ground by riding hard indoors on an un-natural torture device that I would really prefer to throw out the window’ (I added some more) at least I now know I have some things to get me through – and frankly, that alone seems to already be giving me more motivation to get on with it.

With any luck I might even have some semblance of fitness by the time we fly to Sydney…


AudioFuel – ‘Ride Harder 1′ Reviewed

So intrigue got the better of me, and after visiting Bespoke to see what the AudioFuel fuss was about I decided to have a crack at one of the workouts – strapping the bike to my LeMond trainer, I cracked out ‘Ride Harder 1‘…


Ride Harder 1 is a fairly short (40min) pyramid session. All the way through you have Chrissie Wellington explaining what you should be doing and when; urging encouragement through the hard sessions and making sure you rest properly in the recovery periods – and all the while the music playing is set to the correct BPM to match the RPM you should be using.

As someone who isn’t particularly committed to ‘training’ it’s difficult to convince myself to do indoor trainer sessions, yet I still feel the need to do them and often prefer the concentrated effort to playing with traffic.  I really like VeloBeats, but it’s just music so I struggle to both do a workout of decent length and do anything vaguely specific.  Being talked through a session of a pre-determined length without having to watch a clock or see how long there is remaining is key – so far so good then.

But what of the effectiveness of the actual workout?  Well, it’s the first indoor trainer workout I’ve done in recent times where I’ve worked hard enough to cramp, and afterwards I grabbed the first bottle of water I could find (which unfortunately happened to be a two-day old water bottle from my commute bike, eurgh) having blasted through what I’d taken with me on the bike.  As someone who usually uses Sufferfest videos, not having to watch the screen all the time for instructions was a welcome change.

Overall it’s hard to fault.

As I mentioned after my first brief listen, these Ride Harder MP3s seem ideal for those who don’t necessarily focus on the bike or are new to indoor training as Chrissie gives rough guidance on what kind of gear she thinks you should use – Wendy is always asking me what she should be doing on that front so whilst I didn’t need to focus so much on that, for some it will be ideal.

The Good:

  • No mention of how long is left of the overall workout
  • Clear and concise instructions
  • Guidance on gears
  • Encouragement to go harder and dig deeper
  • Lots of ‘make it count’ motivation
  • The music is always at a BPM that you should match with your RPM

The Not-So-Good:

  • Occasionally cheesy messages mixed into the music might wear thin (I don’t mean Chrissie’s voice, just to be clear!)
  • The music won’t suit all tastes (but then it never can)
  • Chrissie isn’t particularly ‘hard’, but many (me included) will be fine with that

AudioFuel advertise themselves as ‘running workouts’. This ride workout proves that they can and should broaden their reach as these ride workouts definitely stand up on their own as a genuine cycle training alternative to the likes of The Sufferfest and VeloBeats – the latter of which I have always felt was good, but suffered (no pun intended) from a lack of instructional guidance.

When Wendy walked in afterwards she looked at me with a rather sarcastically sympathetic expression and said: “oh dear, was Chrissie not nice to you?” - if that doesn’t tell you how tough I found it…

Chrissie’s parting shot is: “your next session should be an easy one”. I should coco!


Oh Yeah, That Plan…

…I’ve sacked it off.

My motivation is through the floor at the moment – choosing to ride has been hard work, and even the 10km commute to the shop has been binned lately.

I think it’s a combination of the sudden cold, the consequent risk of ice and a lack of ride company that’s done the worst of the damage, but my shoulder pain returning a little while back was the main instigator – fear of that becoming bad again has been seriously demotivating.

Aside from that there’s been too much else going on.  There’s changes afoot…


The Plan – Week 4. Better?

No, not really.  No excuses this week though – just plain stupid and lazy.

On Monday I actually did a session on my LeMond trainer.  After last Sunday’s weights session I needed it to loosen my legs off.  On Tuesday it all went wrong though – meeting old work mates for a bit of a Christmas knees-up always had the potential to be a little boozy, but when I staggered through the door at gone 1am I knew my day off the following day would be a struggle…

Total write-off is probably more apt.  I was a mess.  I didn’t even start recovering until around 6pm.  A ride was the furthest thing from my mind.  Unfortunately in my hungover state I had neglected to prepare my bike and kit to ride to work on Thursday too, although given how damn cold it was (the first ice of the year would have put me off anyway) I was kind of glad.

A late finish at work that night further cemented that not riding wasn’t actually the worst idea I’d ever had as howling winds brought in heavy rain and hideous conditions – suddenly I was satisfied with not having ridden.  That late finish did prevent a workout when I got home too though.  Not so satisfying.

Friday I forced myself to ride, but the commute was all I managed.  Better than nothing, but it was followed up with nothing done on Saturday.  Making matters worse was an awful nights sleep last night and the resultant late start this morning, meaning I missed my group ride option at 8am.  Christmas duties got in the way of any other plans for riding today, and that was that really.  Another pathetic week of riding with no valid reason!

It’s just gone 6pm on Sunday now and I do still have grand plans to do a Sufferfest tonight.  Thankfully there’s no real plans for the week that should disrupt my riding, meaning my only valid excuse would be injury – given that I’ve not really ridden much of late I have no idea how my shoulder is behaving at present (it’s only riding that aggravates it) I can’t play that card either.  Time to MTFU and get on with it*.

And I need to – at this rate I’ll get dropped by the 4th Cat racers when I do my first race next year!


*CAVEAT:  If it’s icy I’m staying indoors!  There’s no need for broken bikes or broken bones right now…


The Plan – Week 3. Nothing Short Of…

…completely f?&king useless.

After a no-so-great week last week my ‘Monday rest day’ was looking like it needed to turn into a workout.  Except something disagreed with me at some point during the day, and by the evening I was rough as old boots (trust me, you *do not* need details).

Tuesday was a total write-off.  I woke up feeling like I’d be hit by a steam train at full tilt.  I didn’t even make it to work.  Wednesday was my day off, but I was still not feeling great and didn’t want to risk making things worse, so another day of nothing.  In fact although I was back in work on Thursday I still felt like I was recovering so I didn’t ride again then either.

On Friday I was just plain lazy – no commute, no training.  No excuses, no sympathy.  Saturday I worked, but again, no commute.  Not the end of the world, but my school report would have said: “could do better”.

Today was better – I’ve been to the gym to do some leg weights and have a swim.  Ok so the swim was more of a token gesture (I forgot my goggles and the pool was chlorine-tastic), but the leg weights really was a decent effort, and my legs now feel like jelly.

This coming week simply must be better.

After doing weights today I’ll probably need to turn my legs over tomorrow, and given how bad the last two weeks have been I’m not sure I can justify another Monday rest day.  As for the rest of the week, with Wendy busy for most of it and my day off switching to a day that better suits a long steady ride I really have no excuses.

So, will next week’s update be a virtual pat on the back, or more akin a virtual beating?…


The Plan – Week 2

Oh dear.

  • Monday – Rest day.  Rested.  So far so good…
  • Tuesday – Tabata Tuesday.  Jarred back walking home, spent evening whincing & mincing around the house
  • Wednesday – Chaingang / Sufferfest / weights.  Nope, nada.  And with no excuse either
  • Thursday – Tempo ride, perhaps with hill work.  Sort of.  A painful, slow, solo 90km.  Shoulder pain returned to spoil my mood too
  • Friday – Rest or run, commute only.  Still reeling from the return of my shoulder pain, I rested.  Didn’t even commute by bike
  • Saturday – 2.5hrs hills /tempo (work dependent).  Lay in, cafe breakfast, rugby (watching, not playing), pub dinner, vegging in front of the TV.  Not quite then
  • Sunday – Flat steady ride, Sufferfest run or weights.  Well, I commuted in to work, and thought I might do a couple of laps of the park on the way home if the wind died down… I didn’t.  And we ended up back in he same pub as yesterday for a Sunday roast too.  Oops.

Pretty awful all told really.  Utter shit, in fact.

To be honest the return of my shoulder pain has really knocked me.  The prospect of time off the bike again to get it sorted does not fill me with glee – the only positive being that at least it’s winter now and not right in the prime of the season like it was when it happened last year.

This, plus a switch to working most Saturdays from now on might result in a shift of focus depending on what specialists end up saying about my shoulder and what sort of treatment might be involved.  If I’m advised (again) to ride less then I might take up running – which usually results in faster weight loss for me anyway – and focus on doing some weights work to maintain my leg strength.  I’m hoping to see a couple of specialists this coming week so we’ll see.

I have a rest day in the plan for tomorrow – that might have to change given that I haven’t exactly earnt it!


‘The Plan’ – One Week In

How did he do? Let’s have a look…

  • Monday – most likely my rest day, probably the commute at best

Check. I went to the pub remember?!

  • Tuesday – will now be known as ‘Tabata Tuesday’

Check. Really dug deep for this one too – I was quite pleased with this effort.

  • Wednesday – chaingang, Sufferfest or weights (if I do ever join that gym)

Hmmm, sort of. I was a bit pooped so I did a gentle roller session.  That gym membership turned out to be extortionate though so I’ll probably either buy some kettle bells (thanks to the folks who reminded me of their existence) or go to a local gym where I can pay on each visit.

  • Thursday (usually my day off) – decent length tempo ride, possibly with some hill work in the middle

Check. A fairly flat, reasonably paced 70km – no hills, but a solid ride all the same.

  • Friday – rest or run, commute only (probably)

Check. I rested.  How’s that for a no-brainer?

  • Saturday – 2-5hrs hills / tempo (if not working)

Check. I snuck the Baum out on one last pre-hibernation ride for five hours of the Surrey Hills, including six reps of an 18% climb. It hurt. Thankfully I tagged onto a group of mates for a tow back into town!

  • Sunday – flat steady ride, Sufferfest, run or gym (depending on work / weather / colour of my pants)

Fail. I rested. Although I did work, and Wendy & I went for a good 45 minute walk in the afternoon followed by a Boris Bike ride home, which was better than nothing.

Overall, not bad. Could be better, could be worse – but an improvement on how things were. The commute this morning proved my legs are still quite shot from Saturday’s efforts so that can’t be bad!  I am thinking about switching my rest day to Wednesdays, mainly because it makes sense with Thursdays being my regular day off.  That does mean I can’t really then justify a rest on Fridays though…

Still, I feel like I’ve started something and I feel like I’ve got some good momentum. I’ve not weighed myself yet, but I’m not one for fretting too much about that – yes I want to be lighter, but I know if I carry on like this and eat sensibly (I’ve had a slightly healthier week too) then the weight will fall as a consequence.

So here goes noting for more of the same this week…


So, That Plan…

…yes, it’s started.  Monday’s errant (albeit planned) pub visit aside, I was on the trainer last night for a Tabata session – given that I awoke this morning feeling like I’d been hit by a truck, so far so good.

And now that I’ve had a couple of days to formulate a plan I think it’s going to look something like this:

  • Monday – most likely my rest day, probably the commute at best
  • Tuesday – will now be known as ‘Tabata Tuesday’
  • Wednesday – chaingang, Sufferfest or weights (if I do ever join that gym)
  • Thursday (usually my day off) – decent length tempo ride, possibly with some hill work in the middle
  • Friday – rest or run, commute only (probably)
  • Saturday – 2-5hrs hills / tempo (if not working)
  • Sunday – flat steady ride, Sufferfest, run or gym (depending on work / weather / colour of my pants)

Any coaches, armchair coaches or other people who know better might well be reading this cringing and saying to themselves how I’m not going to get anywhere with a training plan like this – and that’s fine.  This isn’t really a ‘training plan’ per se, because that’s a sure fire way of me losing all motivation, getting fed up of riding and doing more harm than good.

No, this is more just giving myself something to work to.  This is giving myself a lifeline to doing more than I have been of late – this is me getting back to what used to work for me before I became a lazy bugger.

Will I do it every week?  Probably not.  Will I do it most weeks?  Hopefully.  And even when I do it might not actually become what I’ve put for that particular day (I might go nuts and do a Tabata on a Wednesday for example, despite the fact ‘Tabata Wednesday’ sounds nowhere near as good).  But do it I shall.

Roller session tonight.  Been a while – hope I don’t fall off…