2014 is an exciting year for UK cycling. The legendary Tour de France begins in Leeds on July 5th and will continue here to the third stage finish in the very centre of London. What more inspiration could anyone need to get on their bike?
Training for a specific event is a great way to motivate yourself. With most events running for charity you can get fit, have some fun and do some good all at the same time. Don’t worry if you are not competitive – there is a new style of event where the emphasis is on participation. The achievement is to reach the finish, not to beat a time.
To whet your appetite, here are three of the cycle events on offer this summer. These are challenges, not races – the organisers set a maximum expected time but they stress that the objective is to finish safely. The events are also held on roads which are mostly open to traffic, so cyclists need to be confident in these conditions.
The logistics of a big cycle trip can be very difficult to organise on your own. An event will deal with all this for you and is worth the entry fee for that alone. A well-organised event includes items such as transport back to the start, food and water stops, toilets and first aid cover. Check out these details when you are choosing your day.
How to Get Training
Once you’ve registered for the event and given your bike a service, how do you start to structure your training?
These are long rides by anyone’s standards. Even if you cycle regularly to work or for leisure, you need to take things more seriously to survive these rides, let alone enjoy them.
You definitely need to plan ahead. A structured training plan is essential to keep you on track. There are plenty available on-line, so choose one to match both your current fitness level and your target. As a guide, one training plan for events such as those above covers a continuous twelve-week period, and requires 70 hours of exercise.
Vary your cycling – you may not be racing, but you need to keep up. So you need to work on speed, endurance and hill-climbing. Also make sure you understand the techniques for safe descending.
The plans will show you that there is more to the training than cycling – you need to do other forms of exercise. Consider training for flexibility with workouts such as Pilates, as well as strength training with weights. As cycling is not a weight-bearing exercise, add some hill walking or running to strengthen bones while training muscles.
Rest Days are built into training plans and are essential. Your muscles need time to recover and to strengthen. Use these days to catch up on ‘real life’, maybe for a gentle stroll – but stay off the bike and out of the gym. (Now there is some unusual training advice!)
Food is fuel for cyclists. There will be feeding stations on most organised rides, but what is on offer may not work for you. As part of your training, test out the energy bars, gels, bananas and other items to see what suits you best. That way you can carry only the extras that you need.
Inspired? Time to check the calendar and fill out the form! Oh, and get to the gym to start practising!
by Jessica Ward
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