Words: #CountryCyclist Ian Macleod
I’ve never had anything like a strict training plan. A jog here, a ride there, perhaps a game of squash in the evening has been my approach. Working with FitTrack and Kim Rose-Gershow has been a revelation.
Kim began her career as a personal trainer and found her way into road cycling largely by accident. She is a former provincial and national age-group champ and won a time trial bronze medal at the 2012 World Masters Champs. Kim also coaches some of South Africa’s top female riders, in the European Lotto Belisol team. Now comes what may conspire to be her greatest challenge yet: helping me get from Joburg to Scottburgh in nine days and on two wheels.
FitTrack is Kim’s tool of choice to whip me into shape. Expertly managed, it’s a simple system that can be applied to anyone from a casual jogger to a title contender. Given my age, size and goal, Kim developed a training plan to get me into the best shape possible on 25 April, and keep me there until at least the joBerg2C finish line on 3 May. All I need to do is follow the plan and upload data from each ride from my Garmin GPS.
FitTrack uses the intensity, duration and frequency of my workouts to calculate a fitness score. The graph that plots this against the level Kim reckons I should be at at any stage is hugely useful. Without this sort of tool, we’re always guessing at how fit we are. That could mean overconfidence after a good day out, unnecessary worry after a tough day and general uncertainly about levels of readiness. Despite lagging a tad behind my ideal fitness score at the moment, I’ve never been as comfortable I’m on target to achieve my goal.
Several weeks into my programme, I bounced a few of my main questions off Kim.
1. In his tell-all cycling and doping book, The Secret Race, Tyler Hamilton also describes how top cyclists are constantly avoiding standing up. Their legs are always tired, so they want to be either training, sitting down or sleeping. I’ve had sore legs since starting this journey. Will that ease nearer the event?
KRG: As a cyclist, get used to having pretty sore legs all the time. The reason is that the fitter you get the harder you tend to push yourself, so even though you are gaining fitness, you are constantly putting your leg muscles under strain and pushing harder than you previously were. But yes, when you taper the idea is to ‘freshen up’ totally, so we decrease both volume and intensity anything from a week to 10 days prior to your event.
2. I found some pain in muscles I’ve never noticed before in the weeks following my first use of cleats. Is that normal? Can I expect those to be strong enough by the time the race arrives?
KRG: The reason for this is that your cleats help you to utilise all the muscles of your legs. They allow you to not only push but also to pull upwards. This means use of not only your quadriceps but now also your hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors and calf muscles, hence more leg pain, but that means way better pedalling efficiency and power output!
3. My primary concern about joBerg2C is the cumulative effect of six-hour-days in the saddle. I mimic that to some degree with one-to-two hour days, but should I aim at any big weekends where I hit six hours on Saturday and Sunday?
KRG: You do not need to do an actual full dress rehearsal of Joberg2c before the event. You cumulative weekly hours and intensity will prepare you physiologically for the challenge. Obviously the more time you have to train and the bigger the build-up to your event, the better. We might give you a miniature camp to do in March – any time in April is far too close to the event. That said, the intervals I give you go a long way to preparing you physiologically for the endurance required, even though they look very different to the sort of riding you’ll do on joBerg2C.
4. We haven’t mentioned warming up and cooling down at all. I’ve just assumed that happens naturally with a slowish start. I also imagine cycling is very different to sports like tennis and rugby, where sharp movements and changes of direction are the main causes of pulled muscles. Am I right, or should I do more?
KRG: You are right. In fact the shorter the event, the more warm up and cool down required as the intensity is that much greater over a shorter period. The longer the event, the less you need to warm up. You’re spending plenty hours in the saddle anyway, so there’s no need to add to that by warming up or cooling down.
5. I’ve been averaging about 18km/h. While I know what speeds mean to me when running (eg 5min/km is mediocre), I don’t have that sort of gauge with my cycling. Do you think I should be aiming to up that speed?
KRG: No, don’t even worry about your speed (although 18kph on mountain bike is good!); worry only about getting into the best possible shape YOU can achieve. The speed will vary due to external factors such as terrain, weather (head wind, tailwind, rain, heat) hugely. It’s your overall fitness and power output that we’re working on. The speed is merely a result of that. A good gauge is your fitness score on FitTrack.
6. I did a run yesterday instead of the cycle. It felt good. Can I incorporate a bit more running into the programme? I ask largely because I enjoy running and like the variation.
KRG: Yes, absolutely. I would never substitute your time in the saddle for running, but would definitely supplement with running. In a stage race like you’re building to, you will have to get off and carry your bike for spells, so it all helps.