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My name is Oliver, I’m 33 years old, I work as a construction health and safety manager and I’m three weeks into a steep learning curve that will hopefully result in me finishing my first sportive in November.
As soon as I was kitted up, it was straight in at the deep end with Cycling Weekly’s Rebecca Charlton getting me out on the road working on my descending, cornering and climbing. Plus I had to master the art of clipping into my pedals – and there was me thinking I’d have a gentle introduction. I’m getting there though, I’ve had a few falls which were pretty embarrassing, but luckily it was only my ego that was bruised.
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With my homework set by the team of experts at CW, I’ve had another trick up my sleeve to keep my motivation up. Literally: The Microsoft Band has tracked my heart rate, sleep patterns and most importantly for this week’s task, how many calories I’m burning, straight from my wrist.
When I first agreed to take on this challenge I mentioned the whippet-like cyclists I was familiar with and that I could never see myself transforming into such a mountain goat.
Well, thanks to this little reminder on my wrist, it turns out I’m burning a lot less than I thought when I’m not exercising, and a lot more when I am, so it may be time to address the diet. I now know the importance of power to weight ratio, and if I can shed some pounds, sensibly, the hills should in theory become easier.
Rebecca asked me to reveal my food diary for the week, and most importantly to be honest. She took it to the fitness team at CW and they came back with some recommendations
Typical Working Day
1 x Slice of Toast
1 x Yogurt
1x Cup of Tea
At weekends then a bacon and egg sandwich or even a cheeky visit to the café for a cooked full English.
If riding then I head out early after a banana and bowl of porridge.
Lunch (when I have time)
Depends where I’m located on a particular day but typically a sandwich or pasta salad, bag of crisps and a diet coke.
Snack on fruit throughout the day.
If training in the evening then won’t have a fizzy drink and tend to drink water throughout the day.
Example of some of my more popular evening meal choices…
Chicken or fish with vegetables
Veg Stir Fry
Roast on Sundays
Fuel on long rides
Firstly they told me that although I’m not doing badly, and I start the day with a great breakfast, I’m not eating enough on the bike. I’ve been heading out for long rides without taking any food with me at all. In fact, I haven’t been doing anything differently from the norm, even if I’m doing a lot of riding.
The golden rule I’ve learned this week is that for any ride that lasts over an hour and a half I need to be taking on around 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. Anything shorter than that and a good breakfast should be fine, but longer than that running on empty and I’m apparently risking something called a ‘bonk’, which I’m told is rather unpleasant. Like hitting the wall in running and when your body has simply run out of fuel. Eat enough and I should avoid that predicament. Phew.
Real foods are good to top up on the bike but I’m also told by the experts that sports nutrition can be easier to get down the hatch and has a lot of information on the packaging to allow me to see where I’m getting my 60 grams from.
Energy bars, gels and drinks are convenient to stick in my pocket, but can vary in nutritional content so I’ve been paying attention to what I’m eating and drinking. I’ve been asked to try out a variety of products so that I’m not using anything new on the day of the sportive. This way I’m avoiding unexpected stomach issues and I’ll have discovered what works best for me in training.
I’ve been researching exactly what type of things I should be buying and saving them to make sure I don’t forget.
I’ve learned that it’s better not to go hungry on the ride and eat less when I’m sat on the sofa at home. I’m definitely not to eat the concentrated caffeine gels at my desk.
Diet clean up
Diet wise it’s been a case of questioning whether I’m really hungry and replacing junk food with something I know will support my body when it comes to the demands of a bike ride, so in this week’s food diary I have already cut down on the fizzy drinks.
Nothing extreme or I’ll crack, according to the experts. It definitely helps that I can see what I’m burning in comparison to what I’m eating via my Microsoft Health dashboard. And with many restaurant and pub menus detailing nutritional content these days, it makes the decision to side step a calorific feast that bit more simple.
It was explained to me that it’s the little changes that can have a big impact and that dehydration can feel a lot like hunger. Water is my new friend and I’ve been letting my colleagues, and the world, know that I am now a cyclist by carrying a cycling water bottle with me everywhere I go. They may get treated to the Lycra next week.
Little and often
The biggest piece of advice didn’t come in the way of complicated sports nutrition, but with the basics. I admitted that I often didn’t have time to eat a proper lunch but it’s been drummed into me that I can’t skip meals while I’m training for the big event ahead. Seeing all the numbers in front of me is incredibly helpful because I can see my recovery, improvements and how consistent I’m being. It’s really keeping me on track.
I’m meeting up with Rebecca next week and I know she’s been keeping an eye on all my data. It’s quite motivating to know the CW team really want me to succeed and so it gives that added incentive to make sure I’m completing all the tasks they set. I’ve still got a lot of questions but I’m learning every day.
– Fuel all training rides that last longer than 1.5 hours. A rule of thumb is to top up with 30-60g carbohydrate each hour.
– Pay special attention to not going hungry after a training ride. Skip lunch and you won’t gain the maximum benefits to your fitness. Your body needs protein in order to start the best recovery process possible. If you’re busy, a glass of semi-skimmed milk and a banana is far better than nothing.
– Keep a food diary. You will be surprised at the patterns you notice and it’s easier to address any over or under eating when you write it down over the course of a week.
– Never use a new sports nutrition product on the day of your event. Try in training for ease of opening and how they sit on your stomach.
– Don’t make extreme changes, you’re far less likely to keep it up. Plus gradual changes will bring much more sustainable benefits to your health and fitness.
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