No Pain No Gain
I remember the first time I got back onto a road bike since school days. It was only 10 miles but I distinctly recall walking down my stairs at home the day after feeling my thigh muscles cry out in pain.
Like anything, if you suddenly subject your body to some new exercise then it certainly feels pretty tough.
But guess what? Building up that exercise slowly and gradually builds strength in the muscles that previously didn't get such a good workout.
So if you're considering riding LEJOG (or any other long-distance cycle ride) it's important to have a training schedule.
Your plan should always incorporate these important training principles:
- Adaptation: Training your body to get used to physical and mental aspects of challenge.
- Specificity: Most of your training needs to be cycling specific if it's a cycle ride you're tackling;
- Progression: Gradually build up your training so that, week by week, you become fitter.
- Variation: Undertaking exactly the same kind of training routine repeatedly won't reflect the actual circumstances of your journey.You therefore need to make sure your training plan incorporates different types of activities and at different intensities. This also helps overcome boredom!!
- Overload: To improve, you need to push your body beyond its current limits. This process of overload is closely linked to progression and adaptation
- Recovery: After any intense activity you need to give your body time to recover and build to a higher level of fitness.
Developing A Plan
I built my 12 week training plan around one long ride at the weekend and two or three varied midweek sessions.
The midweek sessions were at different levels: 'Steady' touring pace @ 11-14 mph), 'intervals/hills' and 'brisk' (shorter rides @ 3-4mph faster than touring pace).
This was designed to allow for gradual progression, with no more than a 10% increase in miles each week.
I started at 75 miles in Week 1 with plan of building up to 150 miles in Week 11, followed by a more relaxed 100 miles to conserve energy in the final week.
On top of that, every four weeks was a 'rest week', where the mileage halved compared to the previous week then increased back up again for the next week.
There is no hiding from the fact that training will eat up a lot of your spare time in the evenings and weekends
In short, life got in the way. I worked full time, have a family, and had other commitments (including weekends away, a family holiday and 2 week overseas work trip) during the 12-weeks.
This meant I only met or exceeded the planned weekly mileage in two of the twelve weeks.
I severely under-estimated the amount of time that cycling up to 150 miles in a week would take. Although if your cycling to work (which I was not) its considerably easier to achieve higher mileage.
Over the 12 weeks I ended up cycling 750 miles and only cycled my average daily mileage (75 miles) once.
Did it matter that my actual training miles were erratic?
Did it matter that I swapped training days for rest days?
Did it matter that my rest weeks didn't occur at regular intervals?
Did it matter that I didn't cycle more than 75 miles in one day?
Not in the least!
What Did I Do Right?
Ride regularly, starting with intensive sessions on the exercise bike in the winter evenings then moving on to longer weekend rides outdoors and then evening rides once the daylight grew longer after Easter.
I kept at it, varying my rides to get good experience of all types of terrain. I had a 'menu' of routes of varying lengths that I cycled and this stopped me from getting bored.
This all built up to a 50 mile ride on consecutive days. It important to do this, not just from a 'can my body cope', but critically it provided a psychological boost that I could manage the demands of riding high miles day after day.
Remember, you are not alone. Many people who complete LEJOG myself included, start with concerns about the lack of training miles achieved when they arrive at the start.
The clear message is that with a good base of fitness, sufficient stamina to keep pedalling and the strength to climb hills - You can do it.
Success Requires More Than Just Physical Training
I think it's also important to remember that training is only one part (albeit a vitally important part) of feeling that a long-distance cycle ride will be a pleasure rather than an endurance test.
Don't neglect the 'Ride Management' techniques that will help you succeed:
Taking appropriate gear: You'll not perform at your best if you're too cold, too wet, too thirsty or too overladen. You must take lightweight gear but make sure it's up to the conditions you're likely to face.
Preparing yourself mentally: Be positive, you have put in the hours training, you can and you will do it.
Breaking down the challenge: The thought of a 1,000 mile ride, for example, can be daunting. It's important to think about splitting it into 14 day-long rides, and then each of those days sub-divided into a couple of hours in the morning, a brew stop, another couple of hours, a lunch stop and so on. When things get tough, just focus on the next town, the next ten miles and sit on the wheel in front.
Treating yourself: If a nice evening meal, a bigger than normal slice of cake or a few beers is going to lift your mood, then why not. These boosts help to keep momentum going when things get tough..
Pedal Britain, With Our Support Anyone Can.
Life, weather, injuries will all get in the way, everyones training schedule is different which is why we do not issue a 'standard' you must do this before attempting LEJOG.
Everyone has different starting points for one in addition to the time constraints. However please do contact us as we can provide you with some guidance.
As a rough guide if you are cycling 100 miles per week (what ever that consists of) in the 12 weeks prior to your tour then you will be comfortable in completing Land's End to John O'Groats. Anything above that you achieve will make the experience even more enjoyable.
Just be prepared to be flexible and change those carefully worked-out plans. What might have seemed right when you planned your schedule months ago might not be do-able in reality.
Plans can change. Your new plans might even work out better!!
It's All in the Mind
Equally important is being prepared mentally for the challenge. Alot of people beat themselves before they even reach the start point. You will be amazed what the human body can achieve with the right preparation and positive outlook.
Being nervous is natural, just channel that into focusing on the goal opposed to negative thinking which drains the body of energy.
Once on the tour Pedal Britain guides are on hand to encourage, motivate and advise to the end.
However we are here from before you even sign up to talk through anything that might be preventing you from undertaking the cycling adventure of a lifetime.
Please just get in touch and we will happily discuss training and any other aspects with you. Looking forward to seeing on a tour soon!!