Commonwealth Games road race champion Lizzie Armitstead shares her top twelve tips for tackling cyclists’ most common training and performance problems.
Even professional cyclists face many of the same troubles as amateur riders – from an early-morning lack of motivation to posttraining aches and race-day nerves. Yorkshire cyclist Lizzie Armitstead, who stormed to a silver medal in the road race at London 2012, and in 2014 won the Commonwealth Games road race and UCI Women’s Road World Cup double, knows what it’s like to get bored of training and suffer on climbs.
But she also knows how to power through those problems in order to get stronger, fitter and faster. Here the 26 year-old pro cyclist reveals how to solve every rider’s training and race-day dilemmas.
The problem: I don’t always feel motivated to train…
Lizzie says: “I get out for a ride every morning at 9am because if you make training a routine or a habit you will always get out the door straight away. If I sit around thinking about it for too long I start to make up excuses. It’s especially true if the weather is not good. It’s better to get up and get out.
It’s also good to have somebody to meet because then you won’t want to let the other person down – even if you’re not feeling up for a ride. I meet my friend, the Australian cyclist Tiffany Cromwell, every morning so we always keep each other on track.”
The problem: I suffer when I hit the hills…
Lizzie says: “In technical terms, climbing is about your power-to-weight ratio so you can look at addressing one of those two components. The better your power-to-weight ratio, the better you will climb. For some, that might mean watching your diet, because even losing a few kilos will really help. I always eat three meals a day and never skip a meal but I’m careful what I eat.
Others can focus on improving their power – try some capacity efforts which are just higher than threshold efforts and involve three, 5-minute bursts at your max. Remember, some riders can be really fit but struggle on climbs if they don’t have the right rhythm in their legs.
You need to climb as often as possible to find your best rhythm – I ride at about 85rpm.”
The problem: I never seem to have the time to ride…
Lizzie says: “When people have got 9-5 jobs it can be difficult to find the time to train, so the important thing is to make the most of the time you do have at weekends and in the summer the evenings. You can improve your fitness in a short hour-long session if you do interval training.
During short rides I do a lot of 30-second max efforts, with minimal recovery (about 30 seconds), and repeat those intervals as often as I can. It’s tough but really good for fitness.
Another good session is to do two, 20-minute threshold efforts at close to your maximum effort. I really struggle with them but I know they make me better.”
The problem: I’m fit but I struggle for endurance…
Lizzie says: “If you are looking for endurance rather than fitness you need to get plenty of long rides in. That doesn’t mean you have to go out for six hours every time. If you can get in three different 2-3 hour rides a week you will progress a lot better.
It gives you the experience of being on the bike for a long time and it trains your body to fuel itself properly for a longer length of time.”
The problem: Whenever I travel to a race I eat rubbish…
Lizzie says: “As a professional cyclist I have to travel all the time to races and I find that it’s best to stay in control of what you eat. I will normally take my own food on a flight or bus journey because the stuff you buy out and about can be sickly and makes me feel bloated.
It’s easy to make a salad or a wrap or some healthy flapjacks. I stick to what I normally eat because that’s what my body is comfortable with.”
The problem: I normally quit halfway through a ride…
Lizzie says: “It can be tempting to go home early, especially if the weather is bad, but it can be quite helpful to do a loop where there aren’t any turn-offs for you to cut the route short. Instead of riding back past your house, do a loop which means you have to do the full distance before you can get home. It stops you getting tempted to quit early.”
The problem: I am never sure what kit to wear…
Lizzie says: “One of the most common mistakes I see amateur cyclists make is to wear too many clothes. You need to wear bright clothing for safety and you should never go out without warm wet-weather gear, but if you wear too many clothes your body overheats, making your training harder. Wearing lots of clothes also means you’re not very aerodynamic.
My clothing is really slim and aero. Just reducing your bulky clothing and narrowing your silhouette can make a huge difference.”
The problem: I always ache after a ride…
Lizzie says: “After a tough ride I always have a recovery shake which has carbohydrate and protein to restore your energy and repair your muscles. It’s good to stretch or have a massage too. I also drink a lot of water which is something that can often be forgotten about after you’ve stopped riding. It keeps you hydrated but it also helps you recover better.
Lizzie Armitstead was speaking on behalf of Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries, a partnership between Yorkshire Bank and Cycle Yorkshire, ybonline.co.uk/bikelibraries