What an exhilarating weekend of riding August 1st and 2nd proved to be. With thousands of miles of biking since the snow melted (late April!) we felt prepared and ready for the Pan-Mass Challenge. By now, many of you have heard about our weekend with its trials, tribulations and solutions to the problem of the lost cycling shoes. Suffice to say, we figured out how to manage.
The takeaway from a PMC weekend regarding fitness is that if you train well, you’ll achieve your goal, ideally with a minimum of stress and strain to your mind and body. So what are the components of training well?
Consistency – Early morning rides of 22 – 50 miles 3 – 4 times a week prepared us well for the 150 miles we rode over the weekend.
Accountability – Riding buddies made the work easier and more enjoyable. This is proven through many studies that tout the benefits of being accountable to others, even when you’re motivated to reach your goal. I rode with a group of people 3 – 4 days a week. Of course, my most regular training partner was my husband Jeff. How convenient!
Definitive goal including the specific date – We knew exactly what mileage and route we needed to be ready to ride by August 1st. We set our minds to building up to this level of cardiovascular and endurance ability with a slowly ramped up program over 3.5 months.
incremental increase – Whenever I take my first ride of the season, I’m repeatedly surprised at how slowly I start out. I average between 14.5 – 15 miles per hour when we begin in April. Our average for this weekend was 17.5 miles per hour after 3 – 4 months of training. There’s really no way to skip steps.
Attention to body cues – During my training months, on some days, I felt like I was riding through molasses. Other days I felt as if I had wings on my pedals. Our body chemistry, hence our energy, changes from day to day and it’s important to not beat yourself up when you’re having a slower day. If you have many sluggish days in a row, be sure to monitor your nutritional intake, sleep and stress levels. If all of those subjective measures check out, you may want to talk to your doctor.
Rest – There is such a thing as overtraining, caused by not enough rest days or inadequate sleep on consecutive nights. You may become irritable, exhausted and feel weaker despite a strenuous training program. At least 7 hours of decent sleep on most nights is key.
Nutrition – You must fuel your body to maintain and improve performance. There’s no substitute for healthy, whole foods that satisfy the body’s need for carbohydrate, fat and protein. I increase my protein intake during training times, keeping Owen’s Poultry Farm’s egg and chicken production in business! Before my vigorous or long rides, I have a combination of cereal, fruit and almond milk because I digest it quickly. After training, I often have eggs, cheese and a piece of toast or yogurt.
Appropriate gear – Many people tell me they don’t like cycling because it’s arduous and difficult, especially when it comes to climbing hills. These same people own bikes that have not been conditioned in years, and often with brakes that are sticky, tires that are not fully inflated and shifting that is sluggish. When you compare a tuned up bike to one that’s been sitting in the garage for months, the difference is like night and day. Whether it’s new running shoes, wick-away fabric for staying cool in the heat, or a new tennis racquet, using the right gear makes your training much more enjoyable.
So, if you’re training for a 5K, a sprint marathon, or even a strenuous week of traveling, keep the above tips in mind. Your body will perform well and you’ll accomplish your mission!