Winter Blues Will Make You Lose

What an incredibly demoralising January its been. Dark mornings and dark nights, raining nearly all day and everyday. Not a nice month for training at all! 

There is a huge ‘mind over matter’ battle that continues to break down our will power, and all of a sudden wanting to train 5 days a week turns in to ‘well, I did a bit of a run last Wednesday’. This is when we can turn to indoor training, and as far as cycling goes, this part of the year is all about speed, strength and power. 

It is best to think about cycling training as decorating. Stay with me… You need to sand down the wall, apply the under coat, then maybe another under coat, then you put on the nice colour you wanted. With cycling it is a case of starting the winter training around October/November and simply riding really easy. Then you can start to build a good mileage base, long boring hours on the road in the dark. Once you have this, you can apply the good stuff you wanted like speed, strength and power.

Ideally we would prefer to be out on the roads, but if the weather is against you and you can’t bring yourself to putting all that kit on…. then here are a few good indoor sessions under 45 mins that will help you get to where you want to be.

Strength: This is all about keep a hard resistance but a low cadence around 60-70rpm (using a metronome on your smartphone will help with your cadence). The speed of your legs should be slow but should be able to sustain a high level of tension in the muscle throughout the revolutions. After a warm up of 10 minutes that includes two 30 second bursts of high resistance and low cadence, incorporate the following:

– 2 sets of (5 x 1 min @ 60rpm – high resistance – 1 min easy spin) 3 mins recovery between sets

– 3 x 2 mins @ 70 rpm – high resistance – 1 min easy spin. 3 minutes recovery. 3 x 2 mins 60 rpm – high resistance – 1 min easy spin

– 4 x 4 mins (1st 60rpm, 2nd at 65, 3rd at 70, 4th at 75) Alter the resistance to suit that cadence. (2 mins recovery between intervals)

Speed: A big area to work on is leg speed. We are looking for the opposite of strength here, so a very low resistance and a very big cadence ranging from 110-150rpm. You need to focus on making the legs spin as fast a possible without any body or hip shifting on the saddle. Stay in control. Again, after a 10 minute warm up that includes two 30 second bursts, but this time make them at a low resistance and a cadence of 120rpm. (Get that metronome out again)

– 6 x 1:30 mins at 110rpm (1 mins easy spins between intervals)

– 2 sets (1st, 3 x 1 min at 120rpm with 1 min easy – 2nd, 4 x 30 sec at 130 with 1 min easy spin)

– 3 sets (1st, 4 x 1 min at 110rpm with 1 min easy – 2nd, 4 x 6 sec at 150rpm with 1 min easy – 3rd, 3 x 1 at 120rpm then go at 150rpm for the last 6 secs with 1 min easy between intervals)

Power: Here we combine strength and speed and create power. The ability to hold solid tension in the muscle but with a good leg speed for a longer duration. Some timetriallers have been known to race with a cadence of 90 or below, others prefer to race at 95+, it really is each to their own. After a 10 min warm up that holds two 1 minute bursts with a good resistance at 95rpm. For these intervals it is best to go with your most natural cadence. Your effort should be just enough to last each interval, too hard or fast and you won’t complete the set, so pace your effort accordingly.

– 5 x 3 minutes working at 8/10 effort – 2 mins recovery

– 4 x 5 minutes working at 8/10 effort – 2 mins recovery

– 3 x 8 minutes working at 8/10 effort – 3 mins recovery

– 2 x 10 minutes working at 7/10 effort – 3 mins recovery


All the above sessions are sessions that I have used in my time as a race cyclist, and, as your training program progresses, you can simply adapt and add an interval, or make the intervals longer, or make the rest periods shorter. Only up the progression to suit your fitness gains, and only progress a little at a time.

It is a long way until summer so make sure you don’t peak to soon.


10 things about Greek yogurt

Many athletes train a significant amount of time during the week. But I have a hunch that the last 20 minutes of a work out, or even the entire duration of a workout, is spent thinking about what to eat once your done training. The thought process for me starts healthy. A lovely piece of turkey and salad that you left in the fridge is quickly turned into a flavour exploding stir fry or curry. My brain tends to start this way also, but turkey and salad tends to be seen as protein and carbs. Then without knowing where the time has gone, I’m making fish and chips :-/

Ever since the moment my auntie gave me a chocolate button at 2 months old, I have had a sweet tooth. And I thank my auntie for that. Yet, when in training staying away from sugar at dessert time is a tough thing to do. Hello Greek Yogurt…

1. Greek yogurt was originally made in Greece, clearly…Made from milk, it goes through a process that reduces the excess fluid which gives Greek yogurt its stiff texture.

2. Due the processes used, Greek yogurt tends to be lower in lactose and carbohydrates, but manages to hold on to a good level of protein.

3. Greek yogurt is not only good to use as a dessert with berries and nuts, it is able to hold its texture in hot dishes without curdling and ruining your food.

4. In terms of vitamins Greek yogurt offers a good level of vitamin D. For those of us like to train, vitamin D has a positive effect on the structure and function of skeletal muscle, especially in older athletes as they are more susceptible to muscle degeneration. (Hamilton, 2011: Asian Journal of Sports Medicine)

5. The most common use of this think yogurt is in the making or tzatziki, which is a greek dip or sauce used in many Greek dishes. It is easy to make yourself.

6. Unfortunately the supermarkets will store a range of Greek yogurt varieties. Steer clear of the not as healthy Greek ‘style’ yogurts. These may not use the same processes or milk types that produce the high vitamin D and protein, and the low lactose carbohydrate, yogurt we love so much.

7. You can get yourself 10.3g of protein and only 4g of carbs in a 100g serving of Greek yogurt

8. Greek yogurt is highly recommended for those who are pregnant, simply because of the nutrition one can get from it.

9. Many curry’s or moroccan dishes require the use of natural yogurt, even a number of Italian dishes like to add a bit of ricotta or creamed cheese. STOP! There is nothing wrong with a bit of experimenting in the kitchen using Greek yogurt.

10. Dessert recipe…get yourself your desired dollop of Greek yogurt in a bowl (don’t be too greedy), and add a teaspoon of Nutella. Miss this in well and then add some chopped nuts and sliced banana. Nutella is nutritionally sound and is packed with the good fats that we require. Plus with its powerful hazelnutty flavour, you don’t need too much of it in this dessert dish. Which means the jar of Nutella can last a bit longer. Everyones a winner!!!

There are a few different types of good greek yogurt brands out there. Supermarkets may well do their own version. For me however, I prefer the ‘Fage Total 0%’ Greek yogurt.

If you try one thing in the off-season, it should be Greek yogurt


Winning a race to needing spinal surgery

A few months ago I was struggling with a bit of back pain. The only activities I could comfortably do were cycling and swimming. Running became difficult. So I rested a few weeks, headed out, and gave running a shot. It was safe to say, stick to riding and swimming for a while and see what happens.

Being the ‘competitive type’ that some people are labelled these days, I searched for an open water race close to where I live. A cute little organisation called SleekerSwim were holding a race in Lake Windermere. A small entry found its way across cyber space and then up popped my name on the ‘confirmed entrants’ list. They held two distances, a 2.3km and a 1.65km. Having only really raced and trained for 400m swims predominately associated with sprint triathlons, I favoured the 1.65km race.

A good solid 3 weeks of following a training program was on the cards which I followed religiously. The diet however, started to take a hit as I found my appetite and hunger increased massively. The offers on Nutella at Waitrose never really help either, especially with a recovering chocoholic. My 3 days sober from chocolate did not last long and the 750g tub was polished off in 4 days. Despite this, and a few boozy evenings, one being my Wedding day, I cracked on with the pool training.

Through all this, I had a few visits to the doctor, which turned into a visit or two to the hospital and eventually a spine specialist.  I receive some contradicting pieces of advice, but continue to train as best I can anyway.

Race day arrives and I didn’t really have any nerves because I knew it would be the last race of the season for me. I go through the typical signing on and getting a new swim cap and getting my number drawn on my hand. Back at the car I get my wetsuit on in record time, then walk down for race brief, then get in the surprising warmer than expected water in Windermere Lake. I say warmer than expected, it was still cold enough to take your breath away. One guy even opted out of wearing a wetsuit, nutter!


We get about 2 minutes to acclimatise before the race kicks off, and oh my days, it kicked off. The pace was faster than what I had trained for, so i had to bare in mind that some of these guys were out and out swimmers. It felt like a lifetime untill we reached the first boy and I could feel myself backing off a bit and tried to pace myself through the commotion of everyone. I eventually reached the second boy, which i was told was the midway point for those on the 1.65km race. So I take a tun back an had to double check with the canoeist marshal who reinforced me that I was at the right turning point. The reason I had to ask was because I happened to be at the front (something I’m not that used to).


So naturally I continue, but I began thinking ‘maybe I’m the only one doing the 1.65km’. Now that would be embarrassing, yet to my surprise people were turning at the boy and chasing me down. For whatever reason, I was unable to relax throughout the race. I normally swim bilaterally which means taking a breath after every three strokes. In this race I was breathing every two strokes, but I didn’t want to stop to relax as I had people behind me, so I swam on and put some distance into the 2nd place swimmer. I finished the 1.65km in 20 minutes which some people may think is ok, but I felt I had so much more to give if I was able to relax and find a rhythm. I would like to think, with that time, that I may be able to get 2km in under 30 minutes in order to put me in a good position for some of the olympic distance triathlons I’m planning for next year.

However, with all this swimming, and being unable to run, and having a bad back, I found out that I need spinal surgery. I go under a week Thursday and really unsure what to think or feel 😦

So, I may have to have a longer than expected off-season and a longer and harder than desired pre-season. Nevertheless, people have had worse and gone on to do more, so why not look to do a 70.3 ironman 🙂Image