I am a lady who likes a plan. A good, well thought through plan. With steps that can be checked off one by one. I find it motivates me. Keeps my eyes on the prize so to speak.
So it's only natural that when a challenge of the 'Mega' variety rears its head, my initial reaction is to grab a pen and paper and pull together a bullet proof plan!
To make a good plan, however, you need to know how far you need to go, and what you need to do to get to that final destination. There are various elements I’ll need to consider; what gear to use, what bike to use, what training I’ll need to do to get my riding skills up to scratch, to name but a few.
One of the biggest parts of the plan is going to be getting myself fit enough to handle such a full-on, crazy, physical challenge. I need to know how fit I am now, and what I should do to get ready.
Luckily, my sort-of-local bike shop BW Cycling has a useful set up. As well as the usual bikes, repairs, and bike fitting they also do coaching and physiotherapy. It’s kind of a one-stop-shop for everything bike related – rider included.
Andy Wadsworth is the man to talk to about training here. He’s currently coaching top level pro-racers Katy Curd and Danny Hart for the upcoming World Cup Downhill race series. He also coaches mere mortals such as myself, and (happy dance) he said he’d help me get myself ready for the Mega.
I’m quite relieved about this, as I’ve never really known what I’m doing when it comes to fitness. Since I took up cycling, I’ve generally been fairly healthy, and I do go to the gym a bit. Although if I’m honest, by ‘a bit’ I mean I go avidly 3 times a week for 2 weeks, then just a couple of times over the next few weeks, until guilt over paying for a gym I’m not using catches up with me again and I’m there every day. It’s a regular cycle, 'scuse the pun.
I’m also not very focused when I am there; I have my fave stretches and moves, and just tend to stick to them, ignoring the things that seem like too much effort – which are probably the things I should actually be doing.
So I popped along to see Andy on a Friday evening, with some trepidation, to find out exactly how much work I’m going to have to do to get Mega Fit (as I now like to term it).
I was expecting to spend most of the session using various bits of equipment and attempting different moves. Instead, I had a long chat with Andy about what exercise I currently do, how much time I have, where I think my strengths and weaknesses lie, and any injuries I have.
Andy’s a friendly chap, and I think picked up on the fact that I was actually pretty nervous about the whole thing because he was very reassuring. As he explained it, there were two main things I’d need to focus on; increasing my core strength, and increasing my overall endurance fitness.
For the latter, I would be coming back for a full-on fitness test, complete with masks and tubes and all sorts of gubbins, at a later date. This will, apparently, tell me about how efficient I am at using my energy currently, so I'll have a better idea of what sort of exercise to focus on to get good for the Mega.
But first, my poor little core.
Andy got me to do few stretches and moves, including an embarrassing attempt at a one-legged squat where I looked like a crazed raver. There were arms and legs flailing all over the place.
The verdict was essentially that I had a lazy ass. Literally.
My bum muscles were basically doing very little when I exercised, leaving the hard work of keeping my hips stable when cycling to my already hard working leg muscles. This was not the purpose for which those leg muscles had evolved, and they were objecting – hence my achy knees and stiff hips.
Straight off, I was prescribed two stretches and two exercises that looked deceptively simple, but were surprisingly hard to do right.
Slow and steady was the key; Andy explained that getting my ‘form’ right and making sure I was doing the exercise properly was absolutely critical to their success.
Maybe I’m the last person to pick up on this, but the word training also means learning or teaching – and I guess that’s what this is going to be all about. I’ll be teaching my muscles to work in different ways. In particular, I’ll be attempting to encourage my bum muscles that they should be doing something other than providing cushioning when I ride.
Bring on the bumcercise!