Kick Start Your Training
So you were one of the lucky ones to gain a
slot for the 2013 Absa Cape Epic, the auspicious 10th edition? A
week of gorgeous scenery, tight camaraderie and superb mountain biking lies
ahead. But let’s not kid ourselves, it’s also going to be hard, especially if
it’s your first time.
Signing up for the Absa Cape Epic is a big
commitment and apart from that bike you’ve just rushed out and bought, your
most precious asset is time. Starting your preparation now is the best
investment you can make in ensuring you enjoy every metre of the 800km, 8-day route
around the Western Cape. But according to the experts, there’s no need to put
your entire life on hold while you get ready for the challenge.
Riders During the 2012 Absa Cape Epic
Dr Jeroen Swart, head of performance
cycling at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, is a former
South African elite cross-country series champion and Epic finisher. “Preparing
the body for the physiological stresses it will encounter is more important
than just spending time in the saddle. Yes, doing 20 hours each week will
probably ensure that you are able to finish. However, it will also cause undue
stress and pressure on your family, social and work commitments," he says.
A structured training program will ensure
there are no ‘junk miles’ in your workout routines and that every session
counts towards earning that finisher’s medal. Dr Swart says, “Following a
structured training plan will lead to far greater improvements in performance
than doing the same rides week in and week out. The human body adapts to
stresses that fall beyond its current capacity. A well-planned training program
will progressively ramp up the intensity and reduce the training time in the
lead up to the event.”
With such a daunting task looming, it’s
easy to throw yourself headlong into it all. Time and time again, athletes’
performances either plateau or they burn out long before the event, forcing
them to take an unproductive lay-off with illness or demotivation. Planning in
intensity peaks and active rest periods help reduce the risk of this and keep
it interesting. “The biggest mistake people make is doing too much medium
intensity work. When they are supposed to go slow they go too fast which means
that when they are supposed to go fast they can't, and end up going too slow."
The Payoff of Training
Peter Figg, representing Polar, has a more
colourful approach when addressing newbies. “I want to scare you witless,” he
is often heard saying at rider information evenings. These are worth attending,
for in-the-trenches advice from those who’ve been through it all before, and
learned the hard way. “There are no shortcuts,” Figg insists, “do your
His “classic training model” revolves
around a 16-week plan, working on a 3-week micro-cycle, with the 14th week
being a rider’s toughest. “The body grows stronger when recovering from intense
exercise, so riders MUST vary the intensity levels of their training.” A rider
that follows a structured conditioning plan, ensuring he is primed and ready
for race day, with no fatigue from training.
80% of a rider’s training is likely to take
place on the road. Consider buying a second set of wheels for your mountain
bike, fitted with slick tyres for street use. Also, invest in a home trainer for
quality (shorter, high intensity) sessions in a controlled environment, or for
when it’s dark.
Supplement your workouts with plyometrics
and core work (beginners should attend a few classes initially) and possibly
join a yoga group. This gives you something to do if the weather is bad or it’s
dark. Be sure to factor this into your training plan.
If you aren't sure how to design a structured
schedule, enlist the help of a coach. “It also helps a lot to have someone to
monitor your response to training and ensure that you don't over do things.
They can also take the doubt out of the equation by making sure you are
following the right plan. That way you can just focus on doing the training and
leave the worrying to someone else,” explains Dr Swart.
Sooner or later, you’re going to lose that
unbridled enthusiasm you’re experiencing right now. A varied training program
will help keep you inspired. Dr Swart says, “Also, get a training partner that
has the same schedule (even if it’s not your partner). Doing it with a buddy is
Riding in 2013? Be sure to check out the Polar and Daisyway training programs featured on our website.