With our current levels of fitness, Matt and I have a reasonably good foundation to build upon for our cycling tour. However, there is undoubtedly a great deal of work that needs to be done in order to ensure that we are able to cope with the long days, the difficult terrain or simply the consecutive days of significant mileage whilst towing all our gear.With just 15 weeks to go, time isn’t on our side- and although we’re in the process of getting started, it’s moving slowly.
Cycling incorporates the 3 key areas of fitness- cardiovascular, muscular strength/endurance and balance/flexibility. In order to fully prepare ourselves, we need to work on each of these aspects and design a training programme that incorporates all 3 areas and gradually increases the intensity over time. In theory.
What is Cardiovascular Fitness?
Cardiovascular fitness is the foundation for any fitness programme and refers to the efficiency of the heart, lungs, and vascular system in delivering oxygen to the working muscle tissues so that prolonged physical work can be maintained. Our muscles need nutrients and oxygen in order to keep working and the quicker and more efficiently they get these, the quicker they can replace used energy. If we’re looking to cycle for prolonged periods, we need to ensure our cardiovascular or ‘aerobic’ endurance is at it’s peak and our bodies are able to cope with the demands upon them! And so training will focus, first and foremost, on improving this area of fitness.
Cardiovascular (CV) Training
The dictionary definition for CV training is: ‘physical conditioning that exercises the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels’. As cycling is our transport method of choice, we’ll be focusing primarily on this as a means of improving our fitness- aiming simply to get out on our bikes as frequently as we can and gradually increasing our mileage over the upcoming weeks. Our training will include doing some longer trips on the weekends complete with all our gear and ensuring we have the chance to train on consecutive days. RealBuzz.com has this great article on training for a cycling tour, which encourages you to assess your current level of fitness and then determine an exercise programme accordingly. Currently, Matt and I both do CV ‘training’ 3 or more times a week, but we don’t do any resistance training- and so come under category ‘B’. Still some work to be done!!
Here’s a rough idea or plan of what a basic plan should look like… I think…!! Doing a few ‘shorter’ rides during the week and a longer ride on the weekend, and slowly building up the mileage. Bear in mind this is just the first 8 weeks- and we’ll continue building up a bit more in the last 6 weeks also. Our ultimate aim is to cycle around 50-70miles a day whilst on tour, with at least 1 day ‘off’ a week (if not more, depending on how Theo adapts) so I’ve put our end mileage as that.
In practice, these initial weeks haven’t been so disciplined- and unfortunately that’s an inevitability that comes with being a parent and juggling a training programme alongside work or other commitments. But I remember clearly being once told that anything is better than nothing- so even on the days when time runs away from me, I’m doing my best to get out and do something, ANYTHING. And if a day like today occurs- nice weather, no jobs- I seize it. Theo and I managed 13 miles today and really enjoyed it- although I’ll confess, I did have to get off and walk up one particularly steep hill! Pulling the trailer is hard work- and will take some getting used to (although it’s Matt who will be doing the honours during our tour!)
The Importance of Muscular fitness
This is an area I can’t claim to know much about- only that it IS important! The dictionary definition for resistance training is: ‘training designed to increase the body’s strength, power, and muscular endurance through resistance exercise – the most common form of which is weight training’. Building up muscular strength and endurance as well as foundational cardiovascular fitness will ensure we can physically cope with the demands we’re placing on our bodies- give our legs the strength to keep those wheels turning, get up those hills, keep going for long periods of time. Gulp.
And so on top of the cycling, I’m hoping to do some resistance work. We don’t actually own any weights, and can’t be paying out for gym membership as we strive to scrape together every penny possible for this trip. So we’ve opted instead to use bodyweight exercises (using your own body to provide resistance to work muscles) and our trustworthy exercise ball and band.
After some googling around, Matt stumbled across P90X – a home exercise system developed by Tony Horton-and has been giving that a go. His muscles ache intolerably after just one session- which I can only take as a good sign!- but as yet, I haven’t quite plucked up the courage to follow his example. Once I’ve completed a session, I’ll update!
The final area links into the resistance work, in a way.
One thing we seem to hear time and again is the importance of core stability. So what is ‘core stability’? The term itself relates to the bodily region bounded by the abdominal wall, the pelvis, the lower back and the diaphragm and its ability to stabilise the body during movement. A strong core supports your posture and good balance and can help prevent injury- so for a cycle tour I have to say ‘yes, yes and yes!’ to all of the above. As a runner also, ensuring a strong core can only further my efforts in racing- and is an area I will be focusing on in particular. Core exercises can be googled all over the Internet- and an exercise or pilates ball can be particularly useful.
Remembering back to my days in the gym, I’ve collaberated a sequence of both static (e.g., the infamous killer ‘plank’) and dynamic exercises (e.g., crunches) taking about 20-30 minutes, which I’ll be aiming to undertake at least twice to 3 times a week.
Can I be disciplined enough to undertake all that is required of me? Or am I expecting too much from myself?
Only time will tell…