Whilst this page might be slightly older, its messages are still very much current, so I thought I would leave it as is!
It was a pleasure to have been able both to ride with and offer training advice to Queenstown’s most extensive cycling group, the Pedallers, whilst I lived in the Wakatipu.
Do take a moment to read through the collection of Training Tips that accumulated from doing so, as there may be something in here that might help you on your next adventure whether it be on or off a bicycle!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – CHANGE
They say that a change is as good as a rest or a holiday! Sometimes, we don’t need a change of scene to feel refreshed, revitalised and inspired, as all it can take is a simple change or addition to one’s routine. The brain constantly needs to be stimulated, just like the body, so over winter, why not try something new, whether it be sporting related or not! You may be surprised at how the added perspective even translates to your cycling ability! Good luck and have fun 🙂
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – TRY THIS QUICK ASYMMETRY TEST
As I’ve mentioned before, most of us aren’t skilled or fortunate enough to be ambidextrous or 100% symmetrical. Nevertheless, the more we strive for symmetry and perfection, the more efficient we become and ultimately the less niggles or injuries we end up developing.
To gauge where you currently sit along the spectrum, try this quick test at home. Stand on one leg and time yourself, then attempt the same on the other leg and compare the two results. If you struggle with both, or one or the other, then identify this weakness and keep practising! (2/06/2017)
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – DON’T BE AFRAID TO TAKE A NAP!
After a long ride or morning spent on the road or trails, it is perfectly normal to return home feeling invigorated, yet tired at the same time! This is often combined with a relaxing sense of satisfaction at what we have achieved. If you do feel tired later in the day, don’t be afraid to acknowledge what you have done earlier in the day and simply allow the body to rest and recover by taking a nap. You might feel a little sluggish initially when you wake up, but over the next couple of days your body will thank you for the extra sleep and time you have given it to repair!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – INCLUDE SOME SHORTER RIDES
When we find something we enjoy, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that more is always better! For instance, we may start to convince ourselves that on every ride, we should be aiming to cover more distance or be out for longer. However, it has been shown that extensive endurance training decreases longevity and therefore as one gets older, what can be far more beneficial in the long term, is to add some shorter sharper rides to your schedule. Add the odd amicable sprint or surge into some of your rides and keep the overall distance less than 90 minutes. Over time you will reap the rewards of increased mental and physical clarity and alacrity, as well as hopefully increased longevity!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – DON’T GET STUCK SITTING!
They say the average person is stuck in an inactive seated position for 8-10 hours per day. Assuming we all get around 8 hours sleep each night, this only leaves 6-8 hours of actual movement during the day. One of the problems when seated, whether it be at a desk or simply on the sofa, is that we tend not to vary our position much, whereas when standing or out and about we are constantly moving our bodies in different ways and making use of different muscle groups.
If you are required to spend some of your day sitting, make sure you change position often, stand and stretch or simply walk a few steps every 20-30 minutes and it should be enough to maintain good blood flow, energy levels and mental clarity!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – SURROUND YOURSELF BY THOSE WHO INSPIRE YOU
One of the many refreshing and enjoyable aspects of cycling or any other sport is that it provides an opportunity for people from all ages and walks of life to unite and share the experience of riding or training together. When we set out and all face the elements or inclines together, a fantastic forum for learning and developing is created. Allow yourself to be inspired by the people around you and you will soak up so much knowledge that both body and mind will end up relishing each ride! Have fun!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – PRACTISE DEEP BREATHING
The lungs and diaphragm are just like the rest of the body, the more you use them, they better they function! By taking a few moments each day or every couple of days to focus on the art of breathing itself, you can really learn to appreciate the full capacity of your lungs. This can then be translated into day to day life and you will probably notice a contrast between this type of breathing and the short, shallow breaths that we sometimes take. Better still, you will also most likely improve your posture and increase your aerobic efficiency, both of which will benefit you on the bike!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – WALK UP STAIRS!
It is easy to avoid using stairs entirely these days, with predominantly single storey housing and lifts or escalators available 9 times out of 10! However, the muscles recruited when climbing stairs are by and large the same as those required on the bike. Climbing stairs will help you effectively engage and activate the glutes, hamstrings, quads and abdominals, so use them to your advantage and reincorporate them into daily life again!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – PRACTISE THE ODD SPRINT!
As you get older, your endurance naturally increases and raw speed tends to decrease, due to our muscle fibres changing. If you are putting in the time and miles on the bike, you will no doubt already have a solid foundation and level of base fitness. On top of this, if you can include the odd amicable sprint within your ride, you will help your body stay sharp and maintain some of its strength and speed. (14/04/2017)
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – FUEL UP FOR COLDER RIDES!
With winter approaching and cooler mornings creeping upon us, it is important to help our bodies adjust to the added training stress that comes with the cold. It is not only by dressing up that we can do this, but also by fuelling up! As most of you are no doubt aware, the body requires extra energy for thermoregulation in extreme temperatures and as a consequence you may need to take extra fluid and food on board while you are out riding. So be prepared and top up your jersey pockets and drink bottles for your next ride! (7/04/2017)
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – WRITE DOWN THE MEMORABLE RIDES
Have you ever had a ride when you just feel extraordinarily fresh and full of energy, seemingly invincible physically and mentally? I’m sure most of you will have had the pleasure of this feeling of surprise at your own body and what it is capable of.
Equally, I’m sure at other times, we have all experienced the opposite, when the legs just don’t want to work on a particular day and we can even end up questioning our ability to ride a bike!
When either of these occasions occur, it is important to embrace them and afterwards take note of them. Just a few words should suffice, but include how you felt (physically and mentally) and just as importantly, what you did, ate and how you slept the day before. Once you have accumulated a few experiences, you can start to put the dots together and establish what is optimal for you.
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – KNOW YOURSELF
There is simply no one training strategy that is guaranteed to work for everyone. We were all made differently so will respond differently to different training stimuli. However, what we can do, is build our level of self awareness sufficiently to be able to read our body and understand what we will and won’t benefit from. This may simple, but we often get too distracted by what others are or aren’t doing! Once you are really in tune with what you personally need to do to achieve any given goal, there is nothing that can prevent you from doing so! Good luck!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – HOW SLOW CAN YOU GO?
We all want to ride faster for longer, so naturally assume we need to practise riding fast during training to build up our overall fitness and speed. However, it is ironically the case that by practising riding slowly we can also then end up achieving both outcomes! Riding slowly requires a lot more control and skill than riding fast, when we can make use of momentum to keep us smooth and stable.
Next time you are out riding, see how slow you can go and assess your level of control. Then every now and then practise riding as slowly as possible and try to improve your skills so that you can ride safer, smoother and faster at the same time! (18/03/2017)
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – ARE YOU SUFFERING FROM A SORE NECK?
Many cyclists complain of a sore neck from riding, which is understandable as we require a certain amount of upper body and core strength to keep us stable. If this is lacking, often the shoulder and neck muscles can take over.
If you are suffering from a sore neck, first take a look at your bike position and consider shortening your reach, then assess your core strength and last but not least, make sure you stretch your neck regularly!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – FIND TRAINING PARTNERS WHO SHARE A SENSE OF HUMOUR!
Having a sense of humour, on so many occasions in life, can often be the difference between what makes or breaks us! This is especially applicable to our experiences when out riding or undertaking training of any sort.
We all know what it feels like to hit a wall, it is quite awful at the time, but afterwards, if we can look back fondly and laugh at the situation, we know we have moved onwards and upwards.
If you can find training companions who lift you by making you laugh, you can often help each other improve far more than by purely pushing each other physically!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – JUST TURN UP!
Do you ever have days when you would rather stay inside and drink coffee or sip a cup of tea than head out on your bike? One of the huge advantages of training with a group is that is makes you accountable. If you promise one of the others you will see them at any scheduled time, you make a commitment and are far less likely to talk yourself out of what usually ends up being an extremely enjoyable outing!
If tiredness, whether it be mental or physical, is what is reducing your enthusiasm, then still turn up, but sit in the bunch. Don’t get carried away attempting to take reckless turns, simply allow yourself to be carried along and you will no doubt benefit from the psychological as well as physiological lift.
Often just turning up is the hardest part of a session or ride, once you are there it is ironically easy! (10/02/2017)
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – TEST YOUR CORE
In last week’s tip, I emphasised the importance of having a strong core. This week, here are a couple of exercises so that you can test yours out!
For the first 2 exercises, attempt to hold for up to 2 minutes. For the third, aim for 15 repetitions on each leg. I’d love to hear how you get on, if you would like to share your results! Simply follow the pictures and be cautious if you have any injuries or niggles that might be exacerbated by attempting any of the exercises.
1. Glute Bridge
3. Single Leg Squats
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE
It’s not just your legs that do the work when you are riding, your core is what provides a stable base in order for the legs to function optimally and most efficiently. A common indication of a rider with a weaker core is that their upper body moves from side to side when they ride. The core also supports the lower back and upper body, so a strong core will reduce the risk of lower back or neck injuries, which can be a problem for many cyclists. Just imagine the extra power you will be able to generate when standing out of the saddle if your upper body is nice and still and easily able to manoeuvre the bike beneath you!
So as with anything, start off slow and build over a period of time. Start by including a Pilates class or some basic core exercises in your routine. If you need any suggestions, don’t hesitate to ask! More on this next week…
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – OLD WIVES’ TALE OR CURE FOR CRAMP?
So many athletes suffer from cramps, some of which can be debilitating. There are multiple theories about the causes of cramp and there is much speculation surrounding the subject, but very little evidence to support any argument one way or another.
Therefore, instead of looking for the cause and then attempting to determine a cure, it might be better if you do experience cramp, simply to attempt to alleviate your symptoms by trial an error. Many of us tend to ignore the efforts of our ancestors to cure common ailments, yet often even though their remedies may seem obscure or inexplicable, they sometimes work!
So next time to get cramp, test out whether eating a teaspoon or two of yellow mustard is simply an old wives’ tale or not!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – TOP UP YOUR MAGNESIUM LEVELS
Whether or not you are a competitive or recreational athlete or simply an active individual, it is a good idea to top up your magnesium levels. You can either take a supplement or make sure you are including plenty of magnesium rich foods in your diet.
Magnesium is found in dark leafy greens such as spinach, as well as yoghurt, avocado, pumpkin and most other seeds as well as dark chocolate, you may be pleased to hear! By increasing your magnesium levels, you will benefit from improved sleep, more energy and less muscle fatigue, so there’s no reason no to!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – TO MAKE OR NOT TO MAKE A NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION?
For many people, the new year presents an opportunity to embark on new projects or make changes to existing habits. However, we don’t have to completely overhaul our life in order to make improvements. More often than not, it is a case of consolidating existing habits or interests that we enjoy and feel better for. Remember, consistency is key, so if something is going well, don’t change anything, just keep doing it!
Happy New Year, see you in 2017!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – RELAX AND REFLECT
Christmas is such a big date in the calendar, which often seems to come and go like a whirlwind! Whatever your plans are over this period, try to take a moment to relax, make time stop for a few minutes and have a quick think back to where you were this time last year. No doubt a lot will have happened since then! Try this simple task and see how you get on, you may surprise yourself with what you come up with!
Grab a piece of paper and a pen and list 10 things you’ve made progress with or improved on over the past year. It doesn’t matter whether they be directly related to training or not as everything is interrelated and any changes you make in the mental arena will no doubt have a bearing on the physical and vice versa! And last of all…once you’ve made your list, acknowledge and appreciate what you have done 🙂
Have a fantastic Christmas!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – ALWAYS CARRY A MULTITOOL!
I’m sure most of you know never to head out on a ride without a spare tube or a basic puncture repair kit. However, it is probably more likely that you will suffer from a mechanical issue out on your ride than a puncture! Many simple adjustments can be fixed with the most basic of multitools and you can find some really light, minimalistic ones out there – you won’t even notice you are carrying one, until it saves you from hitch hiking a lift home!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – HOLIDAY RIDING?
Over the holidays, especially around Christmas and New Year, it can be particularly hard to maintain a normal training routine as more often than not, travel plans, social engagements or hosting guests often throw a spanner in the works. I’m sure all of you have experienced your more sedentary friends and relatives attempting to lure you away from the bike and instead to the bar!
For some, the break or potential interruption is simply embraced. However, others may worry that their fitness, training, or waistline will take a hit over the holidays! The the best thing you can do if in the latter category, is to avoid getting too stressed about it!
Don’t try to fit in everything over Christmas, simply aim to find a balance in order to enjoy both resting and riding!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!
We’ve all heard the saying ‘practice makes perfect’, nevertheless, if we don’t practise with correct form or technique, then we merely ingrain imperfect habits!
Therefore, be conscientious with your training and riding, always aim to perfect technique and build up good habits, so that they become automatic, instead of focusing on speed as this will evidently follow! Your easier, recovery rides are the ideal time to work on technique, so use these as opportunities to be aware and more mindful of your form.
If you are able to ride hard and at the same time make it appear easy or effortless, then chances are you are on the right track!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – TAKE A COLD SHOWER AFTER TRAINING!
Now this may not seem like the most enticing idea, but if you have ever experienced the benefits of taking an ice bath, this option will provide an easier alternative with similar physiological effects.
As you probably know, cold water and ice help reduce inflammation, so if you are experiencing any aches, pains, or muscle soreness from riding or any other activity, it might be worth experimenting and seeing how your body responds to a cold shower, without having to go to the extreme of preparing an full ice bath, even if it is only for a minute or so each time!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – EAT BEETROOT!
If you weren’t previously aware of the performance enhancing effects of beetroot, you might be interested to know that they are definitely worth adding to the shopping list!
In a nutshell, the naturally occurring nitrates in beetroot help improve blood flow, simply by increasing levels of nitric oxide, which causes the blood vessels to expand and consequently the supply of oxygen to be carried more efficiently through the body. For the same reasons, beetroot is a great aid in lowering blood pressure!
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to absorb the benefits (and avoid a shock when you go to the bathroom!), Rebel Food have just introduced a new flavour of NutriBomb – beetroot and Himalayan salt! Take a look here for more info and give them a go…
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – REMEMBER THE BIGGER PICTURE
Often when putting in the hours of training I know most of you do, we can begin to expect to see instant results and can almost expect or become eager for improvements from one ride to the next! However, we must bear in mind that this rate of improvement is not necessarily sustainable and that often is it more beneficial to take one step backwards and two steps forwards, rather than forcing ourselves beyond the body’s capacity to adapt. If you can look back to 6 months or a year ago and feel you have made progress since then, you know you are heading in the right direction!
One way to consciously apply the system above is to mentally approach two weeks of riding as being harder when you can allow yourself to let the competitive side of you take over. Then ease back for the third week both mentally and physically, allowing yourself to adapt and come back stronger over the next two weeks! Think of the one week easy as being the step backwards needed in order to be able to take the two steps forwards in the following two weeks!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – STAY WARM AFTER RIDING
After a ride or any other training session, it is really important to keep the body warm in order to help it recover. In most climates, body temperature will be significantly higher than the surrounding air temperature, so when we stop moving you can imagine how much of a shock to the muscles this can be, often causing them to seize up!
By staying warm, our circulation is improved and the body can pump blood to the muscles more easily in order to repair them and clear out any lactic acid. So you will have the added benefit of avoiding not being able to walk down the stairs the next day!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – JUMP ON THE FOAM ROLLER!
Foam rollers appear to be daunting pieces of apparatus for some, however, they need not be. Once you have experienced the benefits of consistent, but low intensity rolling, your appreciation of the roller will be transformed!
The foam roller is essentially used for myofascial release, which, in English, means that it is used to release tension in the sheath that surrounds the muscle. This in turn allows the muscles themselves to relax and it also enables improved circulation as well as lymphatic flow, which help flush out any toxins within the body. It is a great tool for recovery when used regularly and in small doses – always start off slowly and build up over time.
Here are a few areas you can target and remember when starting something new, in order for it to be sustainable…less is more!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – BE AWARE OF YOUR POSTURE
Cyclists have a tendency to develop a tight neck and upper back due to their position bent over on the bike. This results in tightness in the chest muscles, which in turn also reduces lung capacity and performance when out riding!
By stretching the muscles in your chest, pulling your shoulder blades back and opening up the chest, you will benefit not only from the reduced probability of developing back niggles, but also from the increased oxygen you are able to draw in on every breath!
Looking forward to seeing everyone back home soon!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – EAT WHAT IS IN SEASON!Seasons and plants grow at a particular time for a particular reason. All the vegetables and fruits that grow in different environments and as part of different ecosystems have survived and evolved as a result of the requirements of whatever is higher up in the food chain at that time. The nutrients and vitamins provided will be the perfect combination to fend off any viruses or immune deficiencies that we are more prone to at the time – it is quite astounding how nature has a reason for everything!
In summary – if you eat according to what is naturally available at any given period during the year, you can’t go wrong!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – FEND OFF A COLD, EAT GARLIC
Garlic is well known for its strong smell and taste, but also for its strong impact on the immune system! It has anti fungal and anti viral properties, so can help keep infections and common viruses either at bay or it can reduce their symptoms. In addition, it also helps reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure!
Build up your immunity by incorporating one clove per day into your diet and if you like the taste, what better excuse to keep eating more?
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – REBALANCE YOUR ELECTROLYTES!
I have emphasised before the importance of rehydrating both during and after training. However, it is important that we re-establish the correct electrolyte balance within the body. Even in cold climates we perspire without it being overly apparent, so can easily forget to replace the lost fluid. In dry climates (such as in Queenstown!) it is all the more important to drink due to the lack of moisture in the air. The alpine air will also contain less salts than in any seaside location, so you need to work harder to obtain the correct balance within the body.
Here are a couple of easy suggestions to help you with this:
1. Try adding a small amount of salt to your water.
2. If you like coconut water, you may be interested to know that it is the natural liquid closest in structure to blood plasma. It was even used in times of war instead of plasma when supplies were low!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – PRACTISE DOING THE OPPOSITE!
This week’s Tip is a continuation on last week’s theme of evening out any dominant forces within the body in order to make it run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Last week I gave you the challenge of riding single legged and being aware of any differences you noticed between the two sides.
This week’s challenge can be done off the bike as well as on it! Take a few daily tasks or familiar movements and attempt to use the opposite side to the body that you are used to. Take standing, do you tend to put more weight through one leg? Try the other one. Do you brush your teeth or drink your coffee right-handed? Use the left. And do you always start riding with the same foot on the pedal? Try starting with the other one.
By attempting these simple tasks the other way round you will not only benefit from improved co-ordination, but also the increased brain stimulation, which is what will keep you sharp mentally as well as physically!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – PRACTISE RIDING WITH ONE LEG!
Most of us aren’t blessed with ambidextrous skills, so more likely than not, we will have one side of the body that is more dominant than the other. In order to ride as smoothly as possible, we want both legs and both sides of the body to function in the same way.
However, the first stage to achieving this, is to work out how each leg differs! Next time you are out riding and are looking for a challenge on a quiet stretch of road, try unclipping one foot and riding single legged, then alternate and compare the ability of the two sides. You may be surprised at how easy one side is compared to the other!
If you don’t feel confident enough to completely unclip (it is probably best to err on the side of caution during this test!), then just imagine you have a dead leg and can only pedal with the other one. Direct all your attention to just using the one ‘living’ leg and then imagine the opposite, you will still be able to feel the difference if there is one.
Keep practising this drill and you will gradually be able to even out the imbalances as you become more confident and more aware.
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!
You’ve no doubt heard the above saying before, but think of the body like a car, you’ve got to keep putting fuel in it to keep it running! Don’t just put any old fuel in either, otherwise you will only shorten it’s lifespan and you’ll end up needing to replace or fix the parts.
The human body is more expensive to fix than a car, however, and can’t be replaced completely, so make sure you do your best to look after it and remember, what you put in, you can expect to get out!
Furthermore….bear in mind that the human body will never be fined for speeding, so look after yourself and be able to make the most of that fact!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – DON’T BE AFRAID TO FAIL
As we grow older, we tend to become more and more fearful and can often be limited by our fears. Compare children, who are less cautious but as a result end up learning much quicker than adults in many situations. This is because they lack the caution that we develop and they simply ooze curiosity, which we more often than not begin to lose as we grow up and become seemingly more sophisticated!
The next time you are faced with a situation which inspires nerves or fearfulness, embrace it and use it as an opportunity to test or surprise yourself. Be curious to see how you can handle it, rather than shying away from it, and never forget the fact that regardless of the particulars of any given situation, you only fail if you fail to learn from the experience!
So start by embracing the small fears and then you’ll find yourself tackling the bigger ones head on! (26/08/2016)
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – RELAX YOUR BREATHING
When things get tough, we tend to tense the body and ironically shorten our breath at a time when our muscles need oxygen the most!
Next time when you’re riding uphill or are hanging on trying to hold the wheel in front, or even just testing out the legs of the riders behind if you’re taking a turn, take a moment to reflect on your breathing. Is it short and shallow or is it deep and relaxed? Aim for the latter, bring the breathing under control and intentionally lower your heart rate, while also increasing your efficiency – you will find you are suddenly able to get more out of your legs! (19/08/2016)
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – NO ‘GARBAGE YARDS’!
While out here training in the Gold Coast, I have learnt a lot, primarily in the pool…One valuable saying I particularly like was said by our swimming coach – don’t swim any ‘garbage yards’!
Exactly the same applies on the bike – don’t waste time filling up your legs with ‘garbage yards’ or empty miles. If you are looking to achieve more specific results, whether they be competitive, fitness or weight related, or even just the sheer thrill of being able to descend at over 80kph, make sure you focus on the steps necessary to achieve these goals. If you would like any advice or suggestions, feel free to get in touch!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – AIM FOR SYMMETRY!
We are all made differently and have different shaped and sized bodies, purely as a result of genetics. Therefore, we don’t need to attempt to look like the person next to us, have the same physiological strengths, same levels of flexibility or same style of riding as they do.
However, we can attempt to make both sides of our own body identical and as symmetrical as possible in the way they function. If you are equally strong and equally supple on both sides (note the two go hand in hand!), then you will not only reduce the chances of injury or surrounding compensation, but you will also be significantly more efficient and therefore faster!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – STRETCH BEFORE BED!
Lots of people tend to need to stretch first thing in the morning to get stiff joints and muscles moving that have seized up overnight. However, I always recommend stretching before going to bed, so that you increase your chances of waking up in a better state! If you go to bed with tight muscles, you will simply wake up with an exaggerated version in the morning, but if you go to sleep nice and supple, you’ll wake up more mobile and relaxed, not to mention the fact that you’ll also have had a better nights’ sleep!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – WATCH OUT FOR PARKED CARS!
Now it’s not just the drivers of moving cars that cause accidents, but also both the passengers and drivers of stationary ones! When riding past parked vehicles of any sort, it always pays to give them roughly a metre’s distance between you and them. It is surprising how few people look behind them, as well as just looking sideways before opening their car doors. It is also surprising how few people know how fast us cyclists can ride!
As you can imagine, the combination of these two factors, a super speedy cyclist and an opening car door, could be a recipe for disaster, so make sure you give them plenty of space even if it means coming further out into the road itself.
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – DON’T TAKE RISKS IN TRAINING
I’m sure that I am not the only Pedaller who has been avidly following Le Tour! I am also sure I am not the only one who has been shocked at the number of crashes that have unfortunately taken place.
Obviously, if you don’t do anything, you don’t get hurt, so there is always the chance of accidents happening on the bike, we know this when we walk out the door. However, we can still do everything within our control to minimise this eventuality.
When we push ourselves to the absolute limit, into what we call the red zone, we tend to take more risks or may just lose control for a fraction of a second. In training, there is no physiological benefit in pushing ourselves to that extent and also risking injury, so make sure you save your efforts for when they counts, such as in race scenarios, when your body is rested and your mind is sharp and ready to focus 100% on the task at hand.
In short…don’t race training, save it for race day!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – STAND UP SMOOTHLY!
When going from seated to standing, we have a tendency to push the bike backwards with our bodyweight. However, this not only seems unwise as we want to be moving forwards, but it also puts the riders behind us at risk, when they are suddenly having to avoid riding into your back wheel.
The key to this is to control your weight and stand up smoothly, engaging your core and being light on the pedals, pulling up rather than simply collapsing down on them. It may seem hard when going up a steep hill and you’re driving all your force through the pedals, but believe me, it will be easier if you think of leaping forwards rather than pushing yourself backwards or downhill!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – WEAR GOOD WALKING SHOES
Many of us walk around in flimsy or unsupportive shoes during daily life. We may think we’re not exercising or doing anything particularly strenuous so it shouldn’t matter too much what we are wearing, but actually these day to day activities comprise the majority of our time!
Look for shoes that have good ankle and arch support if you require it, as what happens lower down in the body at the feet sets off a chain reaction up through the rest of the body…Poor shoes can contribute to knee, hip, back, shoulder and even neck issues!
So look after yourself off the bike just as much as you would on it!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – EAT TUMERIC!
Too often we turn to artificial anti-inflammatories for muscular or joint pain. However, when taken in excess, these may contribute to damage of the stomach lining and in turn malabsorption of many nutrients that are ironically essential for tissue repair!
Therefore, instead of the above, adopt a more natural approach and make the most of what nature has to offer. Fresh tumeric is an excellent anti-inflammatory, which can easily and inoffensively be added to cooking or simply to your smoothie recipe, so give it a go!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – FIND A GOOD PHYSIO OR SPORTS DOCTOR!
Whatever our age, we put the body through a lot while training. We may be healthier and fitter than the average person, but we are also more vulnerable to picking up injuries, niggles or sickness. This is because we are constantly testing ourselves and putting our bodies on the line, even if it’s just pushing ourselves to get to the top of the hill first!
It simply goes back to the old saying…’If you don’t do anything, you don’t get hurt!’
So as we’re far from couch potatoes, we need our bodies to function the best they can in order to enjoy and make the most out of our sport, whether it be recreational or competitive.
An essential ingredient to maintaining this state is to find a good physiotherapist or sports doctor, who we visit for regular check ups and maintenance. Think of it like servicing a car or even your bike! PREVENTION RATHER THAN CURE.
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – KEEP YOUR LUNGS WARM!
In these low temperatures, the body is having to work extra hard just to stay warm on top of the usual exertion of the ride. Furthermore, the lungs are contracted in the cold, which decreases their capacity and therefore oxygen intake and supply to the muscles. This is why you may feel quite breathless in comparison to normal or you may observe your heart rate as being slightly higher.
Therefore, do everything within your control to make it easier for yourself, remember, the best cyclists are the most tactical (or laziest!) in many respects… In this situation, be wise and make sure your chest is kept warm with multiple layers and that your neck is covered. In really cold weather, consider also covering your mouth with a thin, but breathable layer.
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – HYDRATION OVER WINTER
Have you noticed that you feel less inclined to drink water during this colder weather? Does the thought of a cold glass of water when it’s minus 4 outside really seem that refreshing? Probably not!
As a result, even though it is winter and we are probably sweating less than in the summer months, we are equally in danger of being dehydrated due to the fact that we don’t feel like drinking water as much! In addition, the heating indoors dries out our airways, so for both of these reasons, we need to make sure we hydrate.
If you don’t feel like a cold drink, then top up on hot drinks such as herbal teas!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – DON’T STOP OVER WINTER!
It may be the end of the warmer weather and competition season, with less events to aim for in the calendar over the upcoming months, but this doesn’t mean we should stop training as well! In fact, now is the most important time of year to focus on building your base fitness, which will enable you to tackle anything you choose head on in 6 months’ time!
So if you can brave the cold, head out on your MTB, or if you can’t handle it (I confess to be in this category!) then jump on the wind trainer or to an RPM class, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how fit you are when you get back on the bike again! (20/05/16)
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – STOCK UP ON KIWI FRUIT!
You may have noticed that kiwi fruit are lining the shelves of the supermarkets right now, so here’s 3 excellent incentives for you to make the most of the abundance…
1. Fend off a cold – Kiwis have more Vitamin C than oranges.
2. Help your muscles recover & replace electrolytes – Kiwis contain more potassium than bananas.
3. Look after your digestive system – Kiwis are also a great source of fibre, which is often missing in our diets.
So stock up your fruit bowl while they are in season! (13/05/16)
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – EAT ON LONGER RIDES!
The body can store enough glycogen for up to approximately an hour and a half of exercise, depending on the individual. Therefore, beyond this point, we need to top it up in order to train or race effectively. If you like those longer rides, make sure you take on some form of nutrition. We are all made differently, so experiment and work out what you respond best to and can digest most easily. Usually simple sources of carbohydrate are ideal for most people, such as bananas, energy drinks or gels with electrolytes, dates, or even just a simple jam sandwich!
Remember to always choose something that you actually like the taste of…If you look forward to it, you are far more likely to actually eat it rather than just store it for 3 hours in your jersey pocket, by which time it will seem even less appetizing! (6/05/16)
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – KEEP YOUR KNEES COVERED!
Now that Winter is evidently approaching, if you are planning to head out riding, it is essential that you look after your knees and protect them from the cold! As we all know, the knee joint is a particularly vulnerable one and a common site of injury, so let’s make sure we do everything within our control to take extra care of it…
In lower temperatures, our joints are exposed to increase risk of wear and tear, whilst the surrounding muscles and ligaments are more likely to suffer strains and sprains. While out riding we also experience the added wind chill, so it is all the more important that we get out that pair of tights or leg warmers. Individuals and specific trains of thought may vary by a degree or two, but generally, in anything below 14 degrees you’re best bet is to keep those legs covered!
See you out there…wearing tights!! (29/04/16)
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – VARY YOUR MILEAGE SLIGHTLY EACH WEEK
As I’ve mentioned before, consistency is the key to training well and achieving the results we are looking for. Nevertheless, this needn’t lead us into making the mistake of being overly repetitious and excluding variation. In order to adapt, the body requires change, nothing drastic, but merely enough to stimulate rather than shock.
A good way to keep check on this is to work in 3-4 week cycles – if you’ve had two consecutive weeks of higher mileage or intensity, make sure that the third week is lower in both so that you can build and feel strong over the following couple of weeks.
Think of taking one step backwards to take two steps forwards! (15/04/16)
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – SIT COMFORTABLY!
Sometimes it can be our saddle that prevents us from completing the longest rides, not our legs!
It is vital to get not only the saddle height right, but also its shape and size, as we are all made differently! The minutest difference when it comes to width or even length of saddle can make the world of difference when it comes to comfort, so it is worth getting a proper bike fit done to determine which is the best option for you.
There is such a broad range of saddles on the market now, so even if you experience the mildest discomfort, there will undoubtedly be an easy solution available. (1/04/16)
EASTER TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – EAT CHOCOLATE!
No doubt many of you will be eating chocolate over the Easter period, but there is no need to feel guilty about it. Dark chocolate containing over 70% cocoa has many benefits, some of which you may already be aware of. Nevertheless, I am sure you won’t object to a reminder…
Good quality, dark chocolate can help:
Improve Heart health & Cholesterol Levels
Elevate Serotonin Levels & Mood
Provide a source of Iron
So splash out and enjoy! (25/03/16)
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – WORK ON YOUR WEAKNESSES!
We all have our strengths and weaknesses on the bike, whether they relate to hill climbing, descending, cornering, overall endurance or the ability to blow away the rest of the peloton with shorter, more powerful bursts… It tends to go hand in hand that we love the parts that we are good at and hence get even better at them, whereas we aren’t so enthusiastic about those that we struggle with and consequently are slow to improve on them. So be honest with yourself and have a think about where you can make the most gains, work on these areas and soon they’ll be the strongest and most eagerly anticipated sections of your ride! (18/03/16)
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – SLEEP
Only half the work is done when out on the road or trails, the rest is in your recovery. One of the best times the body is allowed to recover is during sleep. Make sure you get into a good routine and allow yourself the odd lie in! Sleep is not only linked to improved physical performance, but also cognitive function – so definitely don’t cut it short, with more of it you’ll be far more efficient, both on and off the bike! (11/03/16)
CLIMBING TIP FROM NATASHA – TO SIT OR STAND?
How do you know whether to remain seated or come out of the saddle when climbing?
You use approximately 5% more energy when standing during a climb, so although it might seem to be an easier option, it will actually be the more taxing one. I would recommend sitting and spinning an easier gear at a higher cadence for most of the time and only standing for short periods, either at the crest of a longer climb or to accelerate up a short and sharp one. So if in doubt, sit it out! (4/03/16)
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – LET THE LEGS DO THE WORK!
As I’ve mentioned before, cycling is all about efficiency. It is only your leg muscles that should be working hard – any extra movement or tension in the rest of the body is essentially wasted energy and blood flow detracted from the muscles that count.
How often do we spot riders out there with so much upper body movement that they look like they are doing a dance to their favourite rock music?! Let’s try to avoid being one of them. Use your core strength to keep that upper body still and you will not only look better, but ride better! (26/02/16)
TRAINING TIP – CONSISTENCY IS KEY!
Improvements in strength, endurance and overall fitness are simply the result of consistent training! Cycling is all about adding up the kilometres in your legs over a period of time, so be patient and gradually clock up them up by establishing a good routine with your riding each week.
As with most things in life, little and often is the best approach, rather than any extreme option. What would be the joy in completing a 200km week if the following one has to be spent recovering on the sofa? So keep riding regularly and within your limits – you will soon find yourself feeling fitter, stronger and faster! (19/02/16)
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – TRAINING SHOULD BE EASY NOT HARD!
It is a common misconception that training should be hard and that you should constantly be pushing yourself to the limit. However, when it comes to endurance sports, you will be pleased to hear, it is much better to train longer and at a lower intensity. Training in this way will build up your cardiovascular fitness without stressing the body to the extent that it cannot recover. On race day, aim to go out there and empty the tank – you will be pleasantly surprised at how fast you are! (5/02/16)
TRAINING TIP – SMILE!
When you are riding hard, whether you are pushing the pace on the flat or taking on a seemingly insurmountable hill, simply SMILE and see what happens!
When we are hurting we tend to increase tension in the rest of the body in addition to the muscles that should be doing the work. This will affect your breathing first and foremost, as your lung capacity is restricted and you resort to taking shorter, shallower breaths. As you can imagine, the whole body becomes less efficient as a result…
Smiling will help release any unnecessary tension and you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes to your legs!! Who would have thought it could be that easy??
TRAINING TIP – KEEP A DIARY!
Have you noticed that on some rides you are flying and your legs feel indestructible, but on others, you feel like you are peddling nowhere and are wondering where all your strength has gone?
We all have good days and bad days on the bike, but my philosophy is that you have to have the bad rides, to be able to experience the good ones! Always take a positive out of each training session as there will always be some benefit, even if it is something as seemingly small as having bombed down Hunter’s Hill without using your brakes for the first time!
It is extremely useful and encouraging to keep a training diary, so that you appreciate the bigger picture and are able to draw links between the good rides and links between the not so good ones. Write down the duration, intensity and how you felt on each ride, then look back in a month or a year and see how much you’ve improved! (15/01/16)
TRAINING TIP – SPIN FASTER!
Cadence is the speed at which you turn your legs while riding. It is measured in RPM (Revolutions Per Minute). When we tire we often slow our cadence or try to grind a bigger gear uphill, but this puts a lot of strain through the knee joints and legs will tire quicker. It is best to use an easier gear and spin faster!
Aim for the following: 90RPM on the flat AND avoid going below 60RPM uphill.
Some bike computers show cadence, but if you don’t have one, there is an easy way to work yours out! Count the number of revolutions of one leg over 15 seconds, then multiply this by four.
Try this out on your next ride and see what yours is!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – SET A GOAL FOR 2016
I must confess, I never make New Year’s resolutions! My rationale being, why wait until the new year to change something or to set a goal?
It is important to set yourself targets when training as well as in the rest of life, however small or large they may be, in order to progress. Imagine yourself on the bike this time next year, where would you like to be? Whether it be keeping up with the fast group, winning your age group in a race, or simply making it up McIntyres, setting that goal is the first stage to getting there!
Happy New Year!
CHRISTMAS TRAINING TIP – DRINK MORE, EAT MORE, RIDE MORE!
Many of us anticipate losing fitness and piling on the pounds over the Christmas period as we envisage ourselves cutting down the training volume and ramping up the volume of food and drink consumed!
Christmas tends to be a time of over-indulgence, but why not extend this enthusiasm to the bike? Use the holiday season as an opportunity to head out on more rides, test out some new routes and drag others out with you who may not usually be able to join you!
TRAINING TIP – KEEP MOVING!
Do you ever experience tightness in your neck or shoulders after or during a ride?
Often, we end up only thinking about our legs, but what about the rest of the body when we’re on the bike?
If we remain stuck in the same position for most of the ride, it’s no wonder the upper body starts to tighten up. Make sure you move your hand position regularly to prevent this, so that you recruit different muscle groups in your arms, neck, back and shoulders. Make full use of the handlebars – ride on the tops, hoods and drops!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – STRETCH!
As we get older (and in theory wiser), we forfeit the flexibility side of things – just compare yourself to a baby!
Ideally for every hour of exercise or activity, you should also do 20 minutes of stretching. So even if you don’t feel like it, just lying with your feet up against the wall for 20 minutes will make a huge difference, especially if you have lower back problems… So start off slow and give it a go after your next ride!
TRAINING TIP FROM NATASHA – HYDRATE!
Whatever the weather, make sure you are replacing fluid lost through sweat. It is recommended that you consume one 750ml bottle of water or electrolyte solution for every hour that you are out riding.
Aim to drink little and often – if you have got to the point where you feel dehydrated, your legs will already be paying for it! (4/12/15)
Copyright © Natasha Poole 2023
WRITER, AUTHOR, EDUCATOR, EDITOR, ENDURANCE ATHLETE, PERSONAL TRAINER