areUfit 2 Ride? - Part One

by Robin Akers

Want to get fitter? First ask your yourself "why do I want to get fitter?" Apart from improving your general health, getting fitter will allow you to enjoy your mountain biking even more. You will be able to ride further & see more as a result. You may want to compete but this feature is not about racing or competing but helping you get more out of your leisure activity. At the same time you will be doing your body a big favour by reducing blood pressure at rest and during sub-maximal exercise. And as all the research into heart disease shows this will improve your quality and length of life. Research also shows that exercise has positive benefits on how we feel about ourselves and that means we are likely to be far more positive and enthusiastic generally. Terry Orlick sums this up very nicely in his book "Embracing Your Potential":

"Life consists of two zones, the green zone and the gold zone.
The gold zone is our life at work and in performance domains, whereas the green zone is the rest of life.
The secret to excelling in the green and gold zones of life is to free our mind, body, and spirit to enter the right zone at the right time.
Green without gold doesn't let us reach our individual performance potentials. Gold without green doesn't let us reach our human potential. We need both.
When you step over the line into the gold part, you must become absolutely resolute in your focus and relentless in your pursuit. Then when you step over the line back into the green part, you can be the warm human being that you are in the rest of your life.
That way you will be the best performer you can be in the gold zone on the bike - and the best human being you can be in the green zone off the bike.
Gold represents the pursuit of excellence and the highest quality performance. Green represents harmony, simplicity, purity, nature, and balance, all of which are linked to joyfulness and the highest quality of living".

One step at a time

You are not going to improve your overall fitness in a week or two weeks. This new monthly feature aims to help you improve your fitness using the following Principles of Training:

To get you started don't worry about any of the technicalities of being fit. Next month I will talk about how you can monitor your fitness but assuming you do not have a heart disease or on drugs that deliberately slow the heart rate, a good tracking indicator is your resting heart rate (RHR). It might be useful to find out what yours is therefore before we go much further. This is best ascertained first thing in the morning and is checked as follows:

After waking (gently), urinate then lie back down for a couple of minutes. Count your pulse rate at the wrist or neck (or you could use a HR monitor) for one minute, (or 30 secs and double it). Most untrained riders will have a RHR of 60-70bpm. The fitter you become the lower the RHR, typically 40-50bpm. Checking it once a week will provide you with an indication on your progress.

So, having discovered a fitness indicator the first thing you should be doing in your quest to get fit is to improve your basic level of aerobic endurance. In other words - ride. Sounds simple and it is, until you start that is. It will help if you try and stick with the following:

The routeThink about where you are going to ride and in which direction. If you can, ride with the wind behind you or at least not against you in the final third of your ride. If you are a beginner or just starting the seasons training avoid the hills! If you are advanced, seek the hills and use them for slightly harder efforts.
Start easyA lot of riders make the mistake of not warming up properly, spin easy gears for at least 10mins to get everything moving freely.
Measure your effort On a scale of 1-10 your effort overall should feel equal to 3 or 4, even on the hills. Use the gears to ease the effort. (If you use a HR monitor and know your maximum heart rate than stay within a range of 60-75% of your maximum). Avoid hard gears. Spin at about 80-90 rpm rather than struggle with too big a gear ratio.
How often?If you can, ride at least three times a week. The weekends are favourites obviously but you could also ride to work or from work to home a couple of times a week. Quite often its dead time anyway. I used to take the bike to work on the train and then ride home.
How far?Rather than have a distance in mind ride by time. Build up the length of time you ride and importantly, ride non-stop if you can. To start with maybe only an hour, especially if you are riding off road, but over a month or so gradually increase this to 2 hours.
Cool downImportantly use the last 10mins of any ride to ease off and ride gently to a finish.
After the rideStretch & have something with a high glycemic index (i.e cornflakes, some raisins or toast & jam). This will help replenish the fuel you have burnt off and aid recovery - in preparation for the next ride!
What now?

Try and record the details of the ride's you have done and if you have a HR monitor make a note of the information it provides. Make a note of the conditions and how you felt & after during the ride. Over the weeks and months this will build into a riding log and will provide a useful reference point in the future.

Robin Akers is a qualified British Cycling Coach. If you have any questions about training or fitness generally, Robin can be contacted via www.areUfit.co.uk or by email robin.akers@virgin.net