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Cycling fitness tips

How to get fit for your cycling holiday

Cyclist on the road

Even if you’re planning your cycling holiday and haven’t booked yet, it’s never too soon to start improving on your cycling fitness, so you take on the routes and climbs that you want to without succumbing to lack of fitness or injury.

If you’ve not yet reached your peak fitness levels then fear not: there are plenty of ways in which you can get fit and prepared in time. We can provide advice to help you get fit in time, meaning that you will get the most out of your trip without it leading to injury due to pushing yourself too hard.

Here are the main considerations when getting in shape for your next cycling holiday:

Assess your cycling fitness

While many keen cyclists will be out most weekends, for some it just isn’t that easy. A demanding work life, city living or even injury can compromise your ability to get out on the bike as much as you’d like to.

Booking a cycling holiday can help you to jump-start your training with a target to work towards. But before you even get back on your bike, realistically assess your own fitness level. This will help you understand much time you will need to devote to getting to your ideal fitness level.

Some simple ways test your fitness include:

Target Heart Rate

Ideally you want to have a resting heart rate of 70-100 beats per minute, though this can be much lower for professional cyclists: five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurian had a resting heart rate of 28 bpm.

  • To get a rough estimate of your maximum heart rate, the British Heart Foundation suggests that you simply subtract your age from 220 (for example: if you are 30 years old, 220-30=190 bpm).
  • Your target heart rate should be between 50% and 70% of your maximum heart rate (If your maximum heart rate is 190bpm, your target heart rate should be between 80-118bpm)
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) -To calculate your BMI, divide your weight in kilograms by your height in metres. Divide the result by your height again to get your result. An ideal BMI is18.5-24.9.

Muscular Strength

If you regularly visit a gym or do weight training, it’s fairly easy to track your own fitness, using the heaviness of your weights or the time to complete a set of exercises as measures. Try testing your core strength by performing the plank. Over one minute is good, and more than two minutes is excellent.

Endurance

Again, testing your cardiovascular endurance can be as simple as tracking your ability to complete a set running or cycling distance. One of the most well-known ways to test your endurance is the ‘Beep Test’: position cones 20 metres apart and try to make it to each end before the beep (search for ‘Beep Test Audio’ to get an accurate measurement). Above level 9 is good, above level 13 is excellent.

Create a cycle training plan

Once you have established your fitness level, you can create a cycle training plan that will help you get up to your target cycling state.

A good cycling training plan typically spans at least 1-2 months, giving you enough time to build up the pace, frequency and length of your routes. Try to include the following in your cycle training plan:

  • Two days a week in which you ride, increasing to three days as your holiday approaches.
  • Two days a week in which you do a different exercise routine such as cross training, high intensity interval training (HIIT) or swimming
  • Two or three days a week to rest

This kind of staggered training plan will help build up muscle strength as well as stamina, which is ever important in the run up to a cycling holiday.

Make small changes to the distance and speed of your rides: an extra few minutes each week over two months will allow you to build up slowly, without overworking yourself.

It’s important to remember that ultimately, a cycling holiday is exactly that: a holiday. Try not to worry too much about training hard; you simply want to be able to enjoy multiple days of cycling without injuring yourself. You can always train harder for a more challenging future cycling break, so pace yourself!

Have a look at the following Strava training plans for more inspiration.

Healthy Eating

Even a sound training plan can fall short if it is not paired with an appropriate eating plan. Eating well is another key way to prepare your body for multiple days of cycling.

Changing Eating Habits

Generally, you will need to settle into eating little and often, rather than eating three hearty meals a day. This means smaller portions that won’t rest heavily on your stomach while cycling. For the most part, try to choose foods that have slow-release energy in the morning, such as porridge or an omelette.

It is best that you stick to a high carbohydrate diet, including pasta, rice and potatoes, including a high protein intake that may come from meat, lentils, eggs and other sources. Though these are the two main ingredients to a winning cyclists’ diet, you should also factor in a good proportion of fruit and veg (exceeding your five a day, in fact).

Keeping to schedule

If you are on a strict cycling schedule on holiday, your meal times will also be strict. Try to eat larger meals at least 1-2 hours before you start riding to avoid an upset stomach. Not eating regularly may lead to energy dips, so to be on the safe side you should spread your calories across the day.

Recovery

Lastly, it’s important to consider ‘anti-inflammatory’ foods that can help your body to recover after an intensive day of cycling. These types of foods help reduce your susceptibility to an injury that could cut short your cycling holiday. Anti-inflammatory foods include avocado, onions, dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale) and fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel and tuna).

Now you are one step closer to being prepared for your cycling holiday. Cycling holidays can be challenging, yet extremely enjoyable, so train up for a rewarding getaway.

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Sources

1. British Heart Foundation (https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/how-a-healthy-heart-works/your-heart-rate), last accessed in June 2019

2. Cycling Weekly (https://www.cyclingweekly.com/fitness/training/cycling-training-plans-153049), last accessed in June 2019

3. Strava (https://www.strava.com/athlete/training-plans/cycling), last accessed in June 2019

4. Livestrong (https://www.livestrong.com/article/19328-nutrition-tips-cyclists/), last accessed in June 2019

5. Science in Sport (https://www.scienceinsport.com/sports-nutrition/cycling-nutrition-guide/), last accessed in June 2019

6. Bicycling (https://www.bicycling.com/health-nutrition/g20014755/10-anti-inflammatory-foods-to-eat-more-of-and-3-to-avoid/), last accessed in June 2019