Taking on a multi-day long distance cycling event can seem daunting, but we promise you it’s hugely rewarding. The distance and duration of time in the saddle, and backing up day after day will take its toll on you mentally and physically. You need to be as ready as you can before you roll out on day 1.
Committing to ride this event is the first stage, but how do you prepare for an adventure like this?
Building a strong foundation with a focused Preparation Phase in your training program is essential. This phase is key to preparing you mentally and physically for the training load your event requires. As exciting as it is to have a training goal, many athletes ramp too quickly and this can lead to burn out and injury.
Athletes that are new to these distances or type of event will need a longer prep phase to allow their bodies to adapt to the new physiological implications of training. Experienced athletes require a shorter but still focused prep phase to encourage the body back into rhythmic training post ‘off season’ or in transition time between key events.
Planning your preparation phase: what sort of sessions should you be including?
Look at specific technique work for the event and its unique challenges. Do you need to work on your bunch riding skills, your hill climbing? Or back to basics like gear selection and cornering? Work with a coach, use video feedback, attend workshops. Add in key sessions that are purely focused around form. There is no magic pill for this stuff, practice does indeed make permanent!
Strength work is often overlooked by many cyclists. We aren’t talking lifting heavy here (although that certainly has its place in making you a stronger rider), this is specific strength work to increase power and performance on the bike. Executed correctly, strength sessions will help build foundational strength, increase endurance, prevent injury and improve muscle balance and recruitment.
Work on key muscles groups both in focused isolated movements, and also in dynamic functional movement patterns that simulate cycling. Squats are great for strength, but cycling uses alternating legs for power, so look to bring elements that promote this pattern.
Yep, that old chestnut! It just won’t go away will it…and for good reason. We’ve seen athletes improve their performance just by building a greater range of motion into their bodies. Chances are you already know where your tightness and problem areas are, so during this prep phase, take time to pay them all some additional attention.
Stretch every day, working on a different specific area on different days. Make friends with your foam roller! Start to build in a regular stretch routine now so that when you step up training, it’s part of what you do.
Your prep phase is the time to NAIL any existing injuries. We are always surprised at how many athletes up their distance and enter training programmes when they are still nursing injuries from previous races. The load on your body is not going to get any lighter once you start training, so get those niggles addressed during your prep phase. We use one key rule of thumb, ALWAYS treat your injury even when you don’t feel pain. There is a clear imbalance in your body and this can take many years to address. It can rear its head again once you up the training.
Start dialling in your training, adding in sessions at low to moderate intensity and distance. Remember we are getting the body ready to start training, it can take some convincing!
Be patient, don’t go hard or fast too soon as this will risk burn out later down the road. Let go of holding pace, and chasing Strava segments, learn to just feel into each session.
Nutrition & Hydration
Work on getting back into a good rhythm with your food, eating before training when required, during sessions if the duration is sufficient enough, and getting your recovery nutrition and hydration on the go after each workout.
Remember the quality of output from your body is affected by the quality of everything you put into it. That includes not only your physical training, but also the quality food and hydration you refuel with.
So, if you’ve already taken step 1 and committed to riding, consider the Preparation Phase in your training BEFORE you start to layer on too much intensity. Think about this as the important planning phase of a great adventure.