Okay, so you didn’t make the Team GB cut, maybe you just didn’t start early enough to be considered for the ‘pro life’, but you still have the passion, the talent and the determination to compete with the best of the best.
But the question is, for us non-pros, how do you balance the training and the racing with the day-job? This is not to say professional riders have it easy, because they do have something to prove: their lives revolve around riding a bike, winning races and being our future gold medal winners, and that is a lot of pressure. Pro riders however, do have an advantage: because their lifestyle is geared around riding they do have a more time to rest, eat and train than the average non-professional rider.
So if you’re a semi-pro or an amateur rider, things can undoubtedly be a bit more difficult, but what exactly is it that makes it harder for us?
Sleep is possibly the biggest thing that an amateur or semi-pro misses, correct me if I’m wrong but those early starts to commute into work, and late nights on the turbo to try and keep fit and strong enough are tough. On top of the early and late hours, you then have to come in from work, cook, clean and prepare your kit for the next day; which can be challenging. These hours can require a lot of mental strength day in day out, and can sometimes take its toll on you mentally and physically.
Tip: If you can get one early night once a week, and then get a little lie in on one of the weekend days, then this will make you feel much better.
Of course this is ‘your’ choice at the end of the day (excuse the pun), and noone is going to force you to do it, but if the desire to win races, get in the top ten, or to be part of a semi-pro team is in you, then not training just isn’t an option. The competition is tough out there and everyone is doing all they can to be the best they can, so you need to maximise your strengths and identify weaknesses.
Tips to maximise your gains
The morning and evening commute can be more beneficial than you think, double sessions are of course what the pros do, right? This is a great way of getting and keeping fit, one morning session followed by an evening session can make quite an impact.
Just because it’s a commute doesn’t mean you have to just ride home, try targeting some Strava segments – or if you finish early one day, stick in an extra loop on the way home and target a few hills. Try 30-second sprints over the top of the hills, this will improve strength and work on your sprint, and after about 15 seconds you will start feeling that lactic acid start to creep in. The next 15 seconds will be hell, but it will pay off for those all-important sprint finishes.
Some other quick tips are:
- Enter a Mid-week race – they can help to keep you sharp and can really bring you on in terms of making progress, without having to put in all the hours God sends.
- If you can run, run – a run is great for your cardio, and is a quick and easy fix. 30 mins running will give yourself a really hard work out, just chuck your trainers on and off you go – done and back home in 35 mins!
- Time trial efforts – 2 x 10 minute efforts is a good way to help you get faster for a Time trial, and is easily done to and or from work.
But don’t overdo it, trying to fit too much in can lead to over-training and become a weakness. You should aim to make the sessions you do focused and specific to your goals, don’t try and train if it’s going to make you ill or run down if you are having a hard week at work, design your training around it a little bit.
If you do feel weak or run down, try switching things around on certain days, which can help to keep you sane mentally. Your sessions don’t have to be really long either, sometimes short sharp quality sessions can work wonders for your top-end, which during peak race season is just what you need.
Use your weekends wisely – remember that you have two days of the weekend, so pick and choose your races if you can. Use the weekend’s racing to get fit, which also helps to break down the week into bitesize pieces. Remember, that you do go to work and you race for fun, so enjoy it! Don’t expect it all to come at once and be smashing it at every race, your fitness will build as the year goes on.
Food and fuelling
With the chaos of general life, rushing around here and there, it can be easy to forget a meal, so be sure to prepare food in advance. Unlike the pros who have plenty of time to prepare food as and when, eating healthily every couple of hours, take some time to think ahead and plan. Small little things can make a big difference here, a recovery drink is an easy win, make sure you have some to hand for when you have finished a hard session, as you may not be able to eat as soon as you finish the ride, a recovery supplement will start the recovery process straight away.
For evening rides, it may have been lunch time when you last ate, so make sure you get some carbohydrates in your body before a session. Try not to let yourself get too hungry, or you will be running on empty. To fix this, healthy snacks to keep you going through the day will keep your immune system up and give you the energy to do the double sessions or midweek races. High Carb and low fat foods are ideal, such as bananas, carbohydrate bars, tea cakes, malt loaf, rice krispy cakes, couscous, and dried fruit are good options.
More and more people are now trying to juggle and work, family, and a race career, which I think is great, this makes for some fierce racing and the chance to compete with some of the best riders in the world. Get the balance right and you may just surprise a few of them – including yourself.