Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

What's working, what's not...

Normally I knock out a blog-post each month, reviewing how everything is going.  I'm doing it a little differently this year.

I've basically split the year into four quarters.  The first quarter (which we are almost halfway through) is all about doing as many kilometres as I can.  No real structure, just mixing it up as I feel to keep it interesting. The over-arching theme is very much about as much time on the bike as possible.

The second quarter is my key racing season.  The Metropolitan Championships road race and the Avanti Classic handicap are raced late in this quarter.  So training will become more about how to improve my weaknesses, and more focused sessions.

The third quarter will be about hitting some new road races, races like the Toowoomba Open, the Cunningham Classic, and the Charles Coin Memorial.  Depending on how I've gone so far, training and riding will probably be a mix of mileage and specifics.  I won't worry about how to manage that until July comes around.

The final quarter will be all about criterium racing.  So hopefully a great year of riding will mean I have plenty of kilometres in the legs, and I can focus on developing as much criterium-specific speed as possible.  Depending on where I have to be for the kids' sport, I'll be racing as many weekends as I can during this 3-month period.

So no more monthly reviews, I'll be reporting after each quarter instead - thinking about what worked and what didn't, and what/how things will change for the next quarter.

The current quarter

Things started off a bit slowly for me in January.  I mentioned in a previous blog-post how I wanted to shift away from my cycle-commutes (1-hr each way) as the backbone of my cycling mileage, and do more longer bunch rides instead.  Well, that hasn't really worked out.

I've found it really difficult to meld together the earlier morning starts to reach the bunch rides, and my family commitments of a morning. The end result was I ended up doing much less riding overall!!

So rather than fight it, I decided to just go with what I already know works for now.  I've recommitted to cycle-commuting as regularly as possible, and my mileage is once again hitting much more consistent and meaningful levels.  Bunch rides are now weekend affairs (for now at least).

Improved recovery

About 2 weeks ago, I started doing 4 new things aimed at improving my recovery post-ride.  For some reason, my recovery throughout January was really very poor, and it was starting to seriously impact my motivation and enjoyment on the bike.

1. Stretching, both pre and post ride
2. Taking an iron supplement 5 days/week (it sits on my desk at work) - "Swisse Iron Ultiboost"
3. Taking a B-Complex vitamin supplement every day - "Blackmores Executive B Stress"
4. Having a recovery drink (200 calories, 15g protein) after any morning rides - "Up'n'Go Energize"

This has had almost an immediate and significant effect on my recovery - the improvement has been remarkable.  Of course, starting all 4 things at once means I have no idea which one of those is having the most significant effect (or if they only work in combination with each other).  The scientist inside of me is horrified - but the bottom line is things are much better, which is far more important than worrying too much about analysis of why and how.

What's next?

More mileage, more often!  As I said earlier, this quarter is all about riding as much as possible.  I'm missing racing, so I'll start doing a few club crits soon as well for a bit of variety.  If things keep tracking as they are, I'll finish at the end of March with plenty of kilometres in my legs, ready to start a concerted build towards my big A race for the year in mid-June.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

On Stretching...

Sometimes it's good to be reminded of some recovery basics - like the benefits of some simple stretching pre & post exercise.

I was out having dinner with a few old school mates last week.  One is currently into CrossFit - he's a great athlete, always has been. He was even a contestant on "Gladiators" many years ago, and won his way through a few rounds.  Another is also a good athlete, mainly doing running and weights these days.

Over a steak and a beer, I was whinging about how I've been struggling to recover from my bike rides, and backing up on back-to-back days was killing me...

They both laughed and said almost at the same time - "You're not stretching or warming up or down, are you?" 

"Ummm, noooo..." I said.

"You've always hated warming up and down! Even 30 years ago when we were in primary school, you tried to skip the warm ups at footy training..." They gleefully reminded me...

Anyway, after a bit of nostalgic banter and backchat, they both implored me to do a few basic warm-up and warm-down stretches around my rides, especially the harder and longer sessions.  I promised them I'd give it a crack for a few days.

The next morning, before I rode out of the garage for my commute to work, I spent 5-minutes stretching my quads and glutes.  Nothing fancy, just basic stretches. I knocked out a few hard intervals on the way, and then made sure I did a similar stretching warm-down when I hit the locker room post-ride at work.

During the day, I was surprised at how much better and 'looser' my legs felt.  Definitely much less of the tightness and soreness that had characterised the last few months.  I followed the same routine for the ride home, which was much more enjoyable and pleasant than recent weeks.

I've kept up the pre and post ride stretching routine for the past week or so.  The benefits have been unmistakable - I feel much better on the bike, and as a consequence I am enjoying my riding much more.

Stretching is such a simple thing that everyone knows about.  But it's also an easy thing to overlook (as I have been doing).  I owe my mates a beer at the next catch-up for this one, it has made a huge difference...