When six-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy speaks, the cycling world listens.
So get your pen and pad at the ready, as one of the worlds greatest ever cyclists gives you his top training tips and tells you what he’s learnt over the years – and throws in some valuable words of caution.
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1. Write down your programme
I’ve read somewhere that you’re eight or nine times more likely to actually carry something out if you have written it down rather than just have it in your head.
2. Plan ahead, no matter what
For example, if you are going to have a gym session, make sure you have your kit bag with everything you need in it before you start, so you’re not running around last minute and forgetting stuff. Make sure you have the appropriate kit and avoid rushing and panicking. Planning ahead massively helps you focus solely on your session.
Whatever your goal, make sure you have structure. Set smaller stepping- stones: short, medium and long-term goals, in order to keep you going in the right direction.
4. Clear aims
Before your session have a clear idea of what it is you want to achieve.
5. Look one week ahead
Think what you are going to do, and set out a strategy to achieve it. You don’t want to be playing catch-up and worrying about insignificant things on the day – matters as simple as transport, how to get to the gym or event on time. These small things can have a big impact.
6. Nutritional golden window
After training, you have a window of opportunity to refuel to get all the nutrients back into the body. If you wait until you have driven back and got home from your ride, or you’re even waiting until lunchtime to have your big meal, you’ve missed that window.
The body is like a sponge when you finish training or exercise. You want to be absorbing nutrients as quickly as possible. For me personally, it’s about having a protein shake in my bag, ready to go, such as SiS Rego Rapid. These types of shakes are easier to absorb than a full-on meal or anything else. It gets in faster, and reduces the likelihood of feeling bloated.
As soon as you get the chance to eat real food, it’s important to do so. It’s really important you start the recovery process as soon as possible once you have stopped exercising.
7. Listen to the experts
Take advice and emulate those who are better than you. These are the guys you are aspiring to be like, so speak to them and gain knowledge.
Even if it’s just someone in your club who’s a little faster than you or simply better on the bike, such as their pedalling technique or general ability. Speak to them about it; just get advice from people who know more than you do.
There is a lot of expertise out there, and you don’t necessarily need a coach to become better. Whether you’re a sportive rider, a club racer or a pro, there is always someone who will know more, and you can learn a lot from them. Don’t be afraid of asking them; 95 per cent of them will be happy to help. They will probably be flattered you asked them.
8. Block out distractions
Psychology plays a massive part in cycling. When you get down to the crunch time – for me, at the Olympic Games, where I’ve been working and training for four years to get to this point, so much is down to the psychology.
That moment is about blocking everything else out and focusing on performance, not thinking about the ‘what ifs’, the potential success or the potential for failure.
It’s about having an image in your head of what you need to do to execute that ideal performance. If you focus on that, you can block out the distractions.
9. Have fun!
You have to enjoy it. I wouldn’t be riding a bike at this level if I weren’t enjoying it. You have to focus and be committed, but ultimately you have to enjoy it, otherwise you won’t stick at it.
I don’t enjoy the pain of the training, but I enjoy the feeling at the end of a training session, having given everything; it feels like I have ticked a box and taken a small step towards my overall goal.
10. What can you control?
The one thing you have to remember is to control the controllables. Don’t worry about the things that are out of your control. CW readers need to understand that. If you worry about things that are out of your control, you get stressed and it will have a detrimental effect on your performance.
11. Keep it simple
Modern gadgets are one thing I would tell cyclists to be wary of. If you’re just starting out, then keep it simple. There’s no need to overcomplicate things.
Once you progress and your cycling becomes more in-depth and you’re looking for bigger gains, and want to get the most out of your training, then you can start looking at these gadgets.
The biggest thing to avoid is doing too much too soon. That’s why you need plans. Don’t go out and do crazy sessions where you ride too many miles or at too hard an intensity straight away.
A lot of people hit it too hard early in the year, and hammer themselves in January and February. By the time spring and summer comes, they’re blown out, exhausted or even injured. It’s all about taking incremental steps that progress slowly forward.
Quick Q & A
CW: Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were starting out in cycling again?
CH: There’s nothing I would change in my career. I’m not saying I haven’t made mistakes, been disappointed, and had moments where I’m frustrated because I’m injured or not winning, but they all help.
You learn from winning and you learn from losing. Disappointment can fuel your motivation.
Perhaps the one thing I’ve learnt is to not beat yourself up too much when you do have setbacks or you’re not improving. Try to realise that this is part of the overall process. You need to have those dips to appreciate the peaks when they come along.
Don’t take it all so seriously, but make sure you are working hard – it’s natural that things will go wrong along the way.
Born on March 23, 1976, Hoy was raised and educated in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital. He rowed and played rugby for his school throughout his teenage years and won a British Championship silver medal in the former. By then, Hoy was also a successful cyclist.
Having been inspired to ride a bike by the 1982 film E.T., he raced BMX as a junior, becoming Scottish champion and ranking second in Britain and ninth in the world.
Believing BMX was “no longer trendy”, Hoy initially switched to mountain biking aged 14 before taking up road racing and time trials. It wasn’t until 1992 that he turned his attention to track racing.
Hoy has been an integral part of the Great Britain cycling team since 1996, winning 11 world titles in that time. His first Olympic medal was silver in the team sprint in 2000, before he took his first gold four years later in the kilo.
Hoy became the first Briton in 100 years to win three gold medals in a single Olympics, at the Beijing Games in 2008, and he won two further golds at London 2012, which made Hoy the most successful British Olympian of all time. He was knighted in the 2009 New Year’s Honours List for services to sport.