Training: How to Prepare Your Body for a World Cycle Tour

World Cycle Tour TrainingMany a cyclist has set off on a long term bicycle tour without meeting any special physical schedule to train their muscles, tendons, or buttocks, on the basis that the tour is the preparation. It’s reasonable to expect that a slow careful start, building up the miles gradually, would over time cause the body to become fitter and stronger. The danger is that it’s always too late to undo overexertion and the added challenges related to living on the road do not lend themselves to the aid of speedy recovery.

It would seem more sensible to physically prepare for a world cycle tour and taking a holistic view of the body, making sure all muscle groups and tendons are put through their paces, will produce a foundation ready to take whatever the road has to throw at you.

There are some fantastic resources available on the topic of physical fitness and nutrition and as one of my favourite topics I have absorbed quite a few over the years. It’s also a science that continues to evolve and the simplistic approach to improving your fitness by working harder, for longer, more often, is usually counter productive.  If you are to buy only one book on the subject, this is the one: The 4-Hour Body: An uncommon guide to rapid fat-loss, incredible sex and becoming superhumanby Timothy Ferriss, this book is a fitness and nutrition bible.

If your into endurance sports then Power, Speed, Endurance: A Skill Based Approach to Endurance Trainingby Brian MacKenzie turns the historical protocol of enduring hours of long distance cardio to prepare for distance events like marathons or triathlons, on its head. For most, exchanging big miles for higher intensity intervals and cross training, resulting in fewer hours of training to achieve the same outcome, has obvious appeal.

For something less result oriented then Body, Mind, and Sport: The Mind-body Guide to Lifelong Health, Fitness, and Your Personal Bestby Jon Douillard focuses on improving your performance by reducing effort by 50%, enjoying the process, and not focusing on the results. A counter intuitive approach which improves results because focusing on the process allows you to access your greatest level of skill for the task at hand, in turn, increasing your level of enjoyment. It becomes a self fulfilling cycle of focusing, processing, improving and enjoying.

Anything Is Better Than Nothing

I take satisfaction from making the process of exercising more efficient, combining the approaches from above of; higher intensity workouts and focusing on enjoying the process, my aim is to exercise all muscle groups and be able to cover ground quickly with less effort.

Ultimately you’ll need to find your own way to enjoy training, I like to keep workouts to less than 30 minutes for two reasons;

  1. It’s easy to become absorbed in shorter more intense workouts
  2. There is always time for a 30 minute workout.

Both reasons have nothing to do with the physical benefits the training will bring, the benefits are irrelevant if you can’t get yourself to workout out in the first place. Exercising every other day, or a minimum of two or three times per week to maintain momentum, is more important than exercising for longer, less frequently. The gaps between training days tend to get longer if you don’t commit to a weekly schedule of some description.

Most people dislike the idea of exercising when getting home from work or at the weekend, by committing to certain days, or a minimum number of times per week, you should find it much easier to just do it. If you’re struggling with motivation, commit to just putting your kit on, then just warming up and before you know it you’ll have completed your workout.

According to the Nike running app user statistics the magic number is five, if someone new to running uses the app to record their run on five separate occasions they are then more likely to continue running, the habit is formed.

Combining Strength and Cardio for Fitness and Fat Loss

Alternating cardio and strength sessions allows you to exercise regularly and maintain momentum with short, regular sessions. A typical week looks like this:

  • Monday – Strength fast – cardio anaerobic
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – Run – 3.7 miles – fast
  • Thursday – Rest
  • Friday – Strength slow – muscle building
  • Saturday – Rest/ run – 3.7 miles – intervals
  • Sunday – Cycle 20 – 30 miles

The strength and running sessions are completed within 30 minutes, I like to cycle for longer on a Sundays for pleasure.

Strength Fast – Cardio Anaerobic Session

The following pieces of equipment are used during strength workouts all of which can be purchased from Amazon:

I have developed this cardio anaerobic workout to exercise different muscle groups consecutively, you can increase your heart rate, create a cardio load and increase strength at the same time.  It’s fairly brutal, but over quickly – like being mauled by a silverback.

The following list of exercises is completed one after the other without stopping. Each repetition should be completed at a moderately quick pace, 2 – 3 seconds to complete a press up for example:

Exercise Reps Sets
Star jumps

40

1

Wide arm pull ups

10

1

Squat thrust pressup into star jump

20

1

Squats with 20kg kettle bell

40

1

Chest fly with resistance bands

15

1

Lunges with 20kg kettle bell alternating hands

40

1

Row with resistance bands

20

1

Alternating Superman pose

40

1

Kettle bell swings (20kg)

100

1

Sit ups with alternating leg crunch

40

1

Spiderman press ups

20

1

Abdominal wheel extensions

25

1

Reverse abdominal lift cat stylie

10

1

Close hand pull ups

10

1

Strength Slow – Muscle Building Session

I based this workout on an experiment Tim Ferriss conducted in The Four Hour Body, which he aptly named “From Geek to Freak How I Gained 34 lbs of Muscle in 4 Weeks“.

The following list of exercises is completed at a slow rate until failure, for example a press up should be completed taking 10 seconds; 5 seconds down, 5 seconds up and repeated until you are unable to continue. Please click the link above to view the article on Tim’s blog for full details of how to build muscle with this technique.

As always, I do is an adaptation that works for me; work through the exercises in order, completing the first set of reps, allow 1 minute recovery, then the second set before moving on to the next exercise on the list e.g. 40 star jumps, 1 min rest, 40 star jumps, 1 min rest,  then on to wide arm pull ups until failure, 1 min rest etc…:

Exercise

Reps

Sets

Star   jumps

40

2

Wide arm   pull ups

Until failure

2

Squats   with 20kg kettle bell

30

2

Chest fly   with resistance bands

Until failure

2

Lunges   with 20kg kettle bell alternating hands

30

2

Row with   resistance bands

Until failure

2

Sit ups   with alternating leg crunch

Until failure

2

Spiderman   press ups

Until failure

2

Close   hand pull ups

Until failure

2

Run – 3.7 miles – fast

Why 3.7 miles? It just happens to be the length of a convenient circuit near where I live, I have several of varying distances, this one is the shortest. Aim for a distance that will take you between 25 and 30 minutes to complete.

The key is to maintain the same pace throughout the run and run as fast as possible. This is a process of trial and error and will vary depending on; what time of the day you exercise, before or after food, your energy level and mental state. You can buy various electronic gadgets and I’m sure there are apps available on smart phones to help with pacing your runs. Or you could keep it simple and focus on the process of running efficiently and listen to what your body tells you, I prefer the later.

Run – 3.7 miles – intervals

Following the same route, half way round I add interval sprints as follows:

– Sprint for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds

Repeat ten sprint/ rest cycles then run out the remaining distance.

Side Note on Running

Running (or walking) has probably the lowest barriers to entry of all potential exercise regimes; all you need is suitable clothes, footwear and the great outdoors.

Although one of the most natural and accessible activities it does sometimes get a bad wrap for being harsh on the body, so there are a couple of resources I have found very useful which will improve your technique and safe guard against injury.

After suffering from a reoccurring knee injury my research into the possible causes and solutions led me to investigate the benefits of “barefoot” running (Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seenby Christopher McDougall is a fantastic read if you are interested in the topic). I switched to running in Vibram Five Fingers which are minimalist running shoes that assist running more naturally, landing on the front or mid sole, the load is absorbed through the feet and legs utilising centuries of evolution.

It sounds counterintuitive to remove padding and protection from your feet to safeguard against injury and it does take time to adjust your running style to run with a minimal amount of cushioning. The Pose Method of Running was developed by Russian Olympic coach Dr Romanov and is a comprehensive guide on how to run faster for longer and avoid injury and advocates the use of shoes with minimal cushioning.

Cycle – 20/ 30 miles

Cycling is a great way to stay fit and is easier on the body than running no matter how efficiently you run.  Cycling uses the same and complimentary muscle groups as used when running, after introducing cycling to my training schedule, I found that my running became more efficient and faster.

It’s a great way to exercise the day after a long run or strength session, it increase blood flow, flushes lactates out of the muscles and helps soothe muscle stiffness. All of which leads to a faster recovery. Pedalling requires a smooth, consistent cadence to deliver steady forward motion; this is also true of running, the best marathon runners have a leg turnover of around 180 steps per minute. Cycling will help improve your rhythm when running.

An early Sunday morning cycle is a great way to wind down and start your “day of rest” with a good helping of oxygen and endorphins. Maintain a good pace, keep your heart rate up, and anything goes for breakfast.

If you are preparing for your first bicycle tour, make sure you test ride the bike fully loaded before you depart, as the handling characteristic are likely to alter considerably. Not to mention the extra effort that will be required to get the bike moving.

In Summary

Well, this has turned into a monster of a post, I hope you find it useful.

Staying fit and healthy is a lifestyle choice whether you’re planning on cycling around the world or not. The best way to ensure you stay fit and healthy is to take regular exercise, and the best way to make exercise regular, is to make it a habit. Beware of guru’s promising shortcuts, habits form through consistent repetition.

Find an exercise you enjoy, or find a way to enjoy an exercise, and repeat it often.

Feel free to leave your comments below about your own fitness regime or to ask questions about mine.

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4 Responses to Training: How to Prepare Your Body for a World Cycle Tour

  1. Jimmy July 13, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    Another good read mate, now time to START exercising.

    • Fraser July 13, 2013 at 10:34 am #

      Thanks Jimmy, three weeks today my friend you’ll be sweating your way through fifty odd miles on route to Bedford, there’s never been a better time to START!!!

  2. Simon January 6, 2014 at 10:31 pm #

    Mate – great read…….. I now need to START doing it….

    Great detail – esecially the colour of the kit you purchased….I can now visualise you sweating in your spandex…

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Fraser January 7, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

      Cheers Simione!

      Good luck with the marathon training, I’m sure you’ll kill it.

      Fraser

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