Charity events are becoming more and more popular in Britain. Moreover, they increasingly take the form of long-distance feats of endurance. Of these, distance running events like the London Marathon and the Great North Run are famous examples. Those looking to take things a stage further might also look toward long-distance cycling challenges, such as the London to Paris Cycle, in which participants travel on two wheels between the two cities, thereby covering three-hundred miles over the course of just four days.
If you’ve signed yourself up to such an event, then you’ll probably be excited and nervous in equal measure – particularly if you’re never done anything like this before. You might also be wondering exactly how to go about preparing your body for the challenge.
Training sessions come in a few different sorts. In order to make fitness gains you need to stress your body. Your body, however, is quite capable of adjusting to stressors, if it is only exposed to stress of a given intensity.
Variety is therefore key – both inside a given workout and between workouts. You might, for example, alternate rapidly between different intensities within a given half-hour period. You might equally alternate between different forms of exercise on different days and weeks.
In this article we’ll look at some of the different forms of exercise that can help one prepare for a long distance bike ride and how they each help to build your endurance for the big day itself.
Short workouts are done at a constant speed and will help you to build your pace. It should be difficult, but not torturous. Aim for a half-hour spell of rapid cycling.
In order to build your fitness, you should on occasion perform some more intense exercise. This means either hill work or intervals. Unless you are using a stationary exercise bike, the former is somewhat difficult to fit into a consistent regimen. The latter, on the other hand, can be performed anywhere.
Intervals are an excellent way to build up your aerobic capacity (and as a side effect, burn fat) in a short space of time. They work by interspersing high-intensity bouts of exercise with longer periods of rest. For example, you might sprint for thirty seconds and then spend a minute at a rested pace and then repeat. Aim for a given number of repetitions every time. As your fitness grows, you can add more repetitions, increase their length, or increase their intensity. Intervals are an extremely effective means of building fitness and are carried out by almost every athlete there is.
Of course, short-distance planning for a long-distance event is not enough. At least once a week, you should therefore go for a longer bike ride. This will help you to build your endurance and general fitness. Your pace during this exercise will be the same as your pace during the event; it should be at an intensity where you can conduct a conversation as you go. This will allow you to simulate what the event will actually feel like and provide you with a measure of your overall progress. It will also flag up any problem areas you might need to work on.
Of course, you aren’t going to be training for anywhere near the length of time that you’re going to be cycling when the actual event comes and so it is important to become over-confident based on a few successful long trips. Greater challenges await!
Intense exercise should be followed by at least a day of rest. This will allow your body to recuperate and your muscles to rebuild themselves for the next session. Rest, however, need not mean lying prone on the sofa, groaning. You should intersperse your workouts with alternate easier trips, which last for a maximum of 30-40 minutes. Your pace should be markedly lower, here; you should be able to unwind and enjoy yourself as you go. For this reason, this is a rest for your body as well as your mind – cycling, after all, should be fun.
Other sorts of exercise
This sort of training requires a great deal of mental discipline. After all, performing the same activity over and over again is enough to bore even the most hardened enthusiast. In order to save your sanity, it is wise to occasionally go for a different form of exercise – some light jogging, or cross training will be more than suitable. This will help to provide your body with a shock and work muscle groups which cycling does not really touch.