Five rules for cramming for your big ride

Months and months ago you signed up for a big ride or Gran Fondo or maybe it was the two–day Sydney2CAMberra ride for families touched by stillbirth and SIDS. When you signed up there was plenty of time and you felt sure that you would get the training done over the coming months. In a few months’ time you would be a lean mean cycling machine!

After the highs of the first few weeks solid training you missed a ride or two and then life just happened and now you find yourself with just three or four weeks to your big-ride and severely lacking in training. Maybe you are not sure you can make the distance, maybe you are not sure you can ride with the planned group. Perhaps you are still 5 or even 10kg over your planned ride-weight?

The self-doubt is creeping in. Before you do anything silly read-on…

So what can you do between now and then to get the job done? What are the short-cuts you can safely pull-off to at least get the job done? How can you hack months of training into just a few short weeks?

Rule 1 – Sleep more

This may not sound like the secret tonic or the training smash-fest you had in mind, but rest and sleep is scientifically proven to have a direct effect on physical performance. Tear yourself away from Netflix and head to bed an hour early, pre-midnight sleep is better for you. Over several weeks the extra hour will add up to a better performance on the day.

To get the most from your available sleep time remove or limit alcohol, especially before bed. Even a glass of wine or a few beers will have a negative impact on your sleep and limit the benefits. Not only will you feel better come the event day/s you will enjoy the post event celebrations that much more.

Rule 2 – Drink more water

A mere 1% drop in your body’s hydration levels will have a huge impact on you performance on the day. Most folks will know to drink more in the few days before the event however, building up your body’s ability to hydrate should be done over several weeks. Your body has two types of hydration – intercellular and extracellular. What we are after is intracellular hydration which needs to be done slowly over a period of weeks.

Start drinking a glass or two more each day or so. Then keep at it for the next few weeks. When you start peeing lots just drop the intake back a little, but keep drinking, your body will learn to handle the extra water over several days and weeks. You will need to increase your electrolyte intake at the same time. An extra helping of your favourite veggies or an extra piece of fruit will help top up your electrolytes. Magnesium powder at night will help with your hydration and a better night’s sleep is an added bonus (see Rule 1 above).

Muscles used during pedal stroke

Rule 3 – Strengthen you core &

Rule 4 – Fire your glutes & posterior chain

Yeh, yeh, you have heard it all before – a strong core helps you avoid injuries and will improve your cycling. What you may not know is that your posterior chain, which runs from the back of your neck down your back to the back of your ankles, is a powerhouse of strength and stability. In good technique your glutes and calves produce more power than your quads.

Calf raise

You may also not be aware that you can train both core and posterior chain every day and in small amounts. Twenty minutes or even five minutes each day will make a difference come the big day.

Challenge yourself to do core strength for 15 minutes every second morning finishing with a plank hold longer than your previous best. On alternate mornings you can do body weight exercises like reverse lunge, glute bridge, and calf raises to strengthen your posterior chain. If mornings are not your thing then you can challenge yourself to exercise every commercial break while watching tv at night.

These exercises and more are demonstrated here.

Rule 5 – Four breakthrough rides

OK, here is what you have been waiting for. The tough stuff!

In the last three weeks aim for 4 breakthrough rides. Each ride should be separated by at least two days (which means two weekday rides) and the last ride should be a minimum of nine days before your event. The last two rides will be shorter in duration than the first two giving your body the opportunity to absorb your earlier training.

If your first breakthrough ride is on a Saturday or Sunday then ride two will be Wednesday give or take a day. The same the following week. You will then have the next weekend and the following week to recover and peak.

Old school cycling 1950's

The first breakthrough ride will ideally be your longest ride. This ride should be a five hour ride, but only if your past training has got you to a place where you can confidently jump to a five hour ride. Five hours should be all that’s required even if you plan to ride longer on the day. Plan for three stops, but keep them short. Chances are you will have a tyre change as well. Keep the pace relatively easy, Z2 heart rate or conversation pace. Keep the first hour especially easy, with a high cadence. Start hydration and nutrition inside the first hour.

The second ride will be midweek. If you can arrange a day off work, the next two Wednesdays would be ideal however, a late start will suffice. This ride should be 3-4 hours over a hilly terrain. Indoor training is a great option here and if a Kickr is available try some 5-7minute low cadence strength efforts. Same as above keep your cadence high and start your nutrition in the first hour. If you have to go to work immediately after this ride try and find time at lunch or afternoon to stretch and work on your mobility.

The third ride should be long again. If you didn’t get five hours done the first weekend today is a second chance. Otherwise 4-4:30 hours will work perfectly. The first hour should be Z2, conversation pace. In the next three hours try 4 times 20 minute efforts in the work zone of Z3, 20 minute recovery.

The fourth and final breakthrough ride is simple enough, 2:30-3:30 hours. An hour easy followed by six times 10 minutes hard with 5 minutes recovery. Hard should be about 90% of your FTP or about how hard you can ride for your best hours effort. This is the second Wednesday or weekday ride. Spend time during the day to eat well and rehydrate.

All other riding during this three week period should be easy. The focus is on good cadence, efficient technique and getting used to eating and drinking regularly.

Spend your effort on the controllable such as the above five rules. Don’t let the work you haven’t done occupy your head. Focus on the challenge, the fun, the comradery and of course the cause.

I’m looking forward to seeing you out there. Goodluck!

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