‘How’s the training going?’
Ulp. That’s my least favourite question at the moment, mostly because the answer right now is ‘not so good.’
Until last month, I’d been doing well. I’d been cycling to work regularly, I’d been going to the gym. I’d probably not been doing quite as much as I should, but I’d been doing a fair bit. And then life got in the way. That, and the fact it turns out my willpower isn’t so strong.
May started with the exciting Women’s Tour road race. It was an historic event, and it was a privilege to be part of it, out on the road, producing race reports and interviews and tweeting live. It also meant either sitting in a car or a hotel lobby all day, and eating out.
This was followed by a week abroad for a family wedding. Well, it would have been rude not to fully join in with the food and festivities, right? Then there was a work trip to the mountains. This at least had some cycling, but it also had great food. And cheese. Cheese is possibly my food-based Achilles heel.
So all of a sudden it’s the start of June, just over one month to go until the Megavalanche, and I’ve done next to no cycling and rather a lot of eating over the past month. I have no regrets about the eating part, but I’m a bit worried about the exercise part. I’m hoping if I’m really focussed now and get back on the wagon, it will be okay.
Training the body
As I’ve mentioned, things had been going really well. I’d got a new range of exercises as part of my training plan to help me get fit for doing the Megavalanche, and I was strangely excited about them.
This is new for me. If you’d told me a few months ago I would be looking forward to doing a sequence of strange motions and positions repetitively in a gym with odd looking equipment, I’d have probably laughed. Ah, how things have changed!
For example, apart from bike kit, my new favourite toy is the Bosu ball, which really reminds me of a toy I had as a kid – the Lolo ball. Anyone remember it?
So what I am I doing? Basically a ton of press-ups in various guises, the plank in various guises, and my favourite move that involves balancing with one foot on the Bosu ball while I move from a one-legged squat to carefully kicking a leg out in front of me. I almost feel quite balletic doing it, once the frantic wobbling stops.
These are all designed to help me improve three things; my balance, my arm strength and my core strength. As I begin to get faster, I’m really noticing that I get achy back and arms after riding for a while. A strong core will help me hold my body stable, and the arms will help with dealing with all that rough terrain I’ll be riding on.
With all these moves, technique is key. If I don’t hold the right position, and do the moves carefully and correctly, I might as well not bother.
Training the mind
I’d also done some work on conquering my fear of steep terrain, which is something I’m pretty likely to encounter at the Mega.
I booked onto the popular Great Rock Alpine Tech skills course taught by the bearded maestro of mountain biking, Ed Oxley. Incidentally, this was also my chance to try the trails around Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, which seems to be one of those legendary mountain biking areas everyone’s always talking about.
It wasn’t a women’s only course, so it was myself and 5 guys, all of whom were lovely. Ed took us down some surprisingly steep and stoney bridle paths, all just outside the picturesque town, and gave great feedback and guidance on technique. Heels down, arms bent and ‘chin up!’ This has now become my mountain biking mantra on the steep stuff, and I’m happy to say I feel much better equipped to deal with that kind of terrain now.
Or at least I was. When the rest of life gets in the way, and I haven’t had the chance to ride for a few weeks, I get worried I’ll take several steps back and forget what I’ve learned.
Three steps forward, two steps back.
But I guess that’s part and parcel with training. Sometimes, you can’t keep it up as much as you’d like to or want to. I’ve just got to get back in the saddle, as it were, and see what I can do from here.
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