Off Season Learning and Winter Training

Claire Martin on Rollers

Off Season Learning and Winter Training

It has now been around 13 weeks since the Ras finished and my learning journey has continued, both on and off the bike. The pain that I had during and immediately after the Ras in my hip/pelvis has gone, but from time to time, my knee is still sore. So back to my physio. George checked over my glutes, hamstrings and quads. Whilst the spinal injury I had has gone completely and I’m much stronger, I effectively have no glutes, and the strength of my quads to hamstrings is 60% to 40% (that at least is an improvement as I was 100% quad dominant before!). No glutes basically means my ITB has slipped slightly, giving me knee pain when I’m on the drops and working hard. Its funny because I have no pain in my ITB when I foam roller every day. To strengthen my hamstrings and glutes I have yet more physio exercises to do (I think I must spend at least 45mins a day doing my physio exercises now to put it into context!). To say these exercises are hilly Claire Martintorture is an under statement – one hamstring rep is enough to make my hammys burn like I’ve just done 1 million lunges. My hammys shake during the exercises and its a real test of my mental strength to do more than 1! I’m now up to 5 x 10 and can hardly walk after them. Reminding my glutes that they need to fire is a lot less painful, although mildly frustrating. And actually, seeing it on paper like this has made me realise I did well to finish the Ras, never mind anything else, especially given the virus I had going into it.

So I’ve learnt a lot about my body. My core strength had gradually been slipping away throughout the season and it took the Ras – which was far more stressful on my body than a single RR – to highlight this, resulting in injury. It was hugely noticeable on the rollers – when I returned from the Ras, I was so unstable on the rollers and hated it. This is coming from the girl who loves the rollers and taught herself to ride no handed on them before being able to ride no handed outside! Fast forward 10 weeks of (nearly) blood, sweat and tears and I can now stand up out of the saddle on the rollers again. Massive progress. I’m happy that I can feel my hamstrings working when I ride now (even if they hurt when doing so!), and I’m determined that the imbalance will be fixed by the start of next season. Not only will I be injury free, I’ll be a stronger and more efficient rider – and just think of the impact that could have on my season!

I’m about to finish the 3nd block of winter training. It’s going well and I’m very happy with the progress I’ve made. I’m surprised at how fast I can go in z2. Uphill is amusing, especially on steep hills – I think my slowest was 5kph up a 10% gradient in z2! Any slower and I’d probably fall off. This winter, my coach and I are doing things differently from last year although certain things still stay the same – like 3 weeks on, 1 week off (to my dismay, the easy week is only 5 hours, mostly inside! I say dismay because its not that I dislike resting, it’s just that I love riding my bike – it’s my method of transport, it’s my way of unwinding from work, it’s freedom and escapisim), zone 2 aerobic rides etc. I’m in the gym, but the focus isn’t on a power block this year. And of course, there’s my core and physio exercises which are like a second full time job!

As last winter, I’m eating clean. Today marks 6 weeks of eating clean, and no refined sugar or chocolate. Every winter I eat clean to give my system a break from the energy products I use over summer time. Last winter I lost 2kg by doing this, and so far this winter, I’ve lost another 1kg, along with the bulk of my tummy fat. My energy bars and gels have been replaced with proper home made food, and during training is the only time I allow myself something sweet – usually gone in my bars to make them stick together.  I’m still eating fruit, but as I’m dairy and gluten free, along with not eating homemade energymeat, I feel it’s important to keep it in. So many people ask me what I eat when I say I don’t eat meat, dariy or gluten. My answer is loads! 2 or 3 portions of different veg is eaten at lunch and dinner time. Rice, quiona, butternut squash, lentils, beans, potatoes and sweet potatoes are my starchy carbs if I need them. I eat eggs and fish every day, take hemp protein twice a day, whey protein once a day, coconut milk yoghurt, peanut butter, smoked salmon and avocados for healthy fats. Chai seeds, flaxseeds, goji berries also feature every day. So you see, lots!

Eating clean also means my recovery is better, my energy levels are stable and I feel strong. This is reflected in my HRV scores, all of which have increased and a new PB of 106 (unlike RHR, the higher the HRV number, the better). When I go for a sports massage I have no niggles – I guess I feel balanced. What’s better is my taste buds have changed – I can taste the sweetness in vegetables now. I now plan to follow this approach into my 2014 season, with a little more emphasis on starchy carbs if I need them.

Team 22 had their first team weekend where we had a ride with the sponsors. It was great to meet the full line up of riders and sponsors. I feel very lucky to be part of this team. I read somewhere on twitter recently a quote that said: “Trust your coach, trust your team, trust yourself” How very true this is. I completely agree with that quote, and let’s face it, as I do this for fun / a hobby (albeit a very time consuming hobby), being part of a team with a great ethos at its heart, an exciting vision for the future and a Team Manager who I have the uttermost respect and trust for is really important to me.

 

The Good Old Off Season, As Confusing And Unsuccessful As Ever…

 

Avoiding the DIY - Image ©Copyright John Steel Photography - www.johnsteelphotography.com

 

So the season is over, the racing bike is back in the shed and the long winter months are upon us, but what happens now? Where do all these riders go to? If you’re a ‘normal’ member of society no doubt this change doesn’t seem a big deal, maybe you will swop your summer stead for the trusty winter machine, find the lights you hung up last year and carry on your daily lives like nothing much has changed, but if you’re a full time cyclist this change is much bigger and more disturbing than you could ever imagine.

The easiest way to describe this is to split it into stages, so here goes I’m going to let you into the unknown world, give you an insight to where everyone of ITV4 fame (sort of?!?) goes.

Stage one is best described as ‘unsuccessful social season’, it’s the same every year, the racing bike goes away, the phone starts beeping and large groups of cyclists gather at charity events or show’s where after a meal and some speeches are taken care of, everyone forgets they haven’t drunk much in the last eight months and gets stuck into a session they really can’t back up. It all gets messy and everyone makes big statements of intent for next season. It’s ridiculous and tends to go on for a good month or so before the realisation that cyclists although capable of putting on a good party are rubbish drinkers! This problem is multiplied if you have to go to a non-cycling related party in which case you try to keep up with people who aren’t built out of nothing like us cyclist’s and can drink you under the table, stay away from these gatherings they are dangerous!

Stage two is a combination of DIY and too much coffee, after the ‘unsuccessful’ drinking season hasn’t gone down with your other half too well, you will promise to fix everything in the house that has broken over the last eight months of the racing season to repair the situation. Although the problem with that is when a cyclist is left at home all day, the majority of that day will be spent thinking about fixing things and not actually fixing them as the permanent state of ‘coffee bonk’ takes hold as the coffee machine takes the full brunt of a day at home, you will end up with an ‘unsuccessful’ DIY season at the end of this stage, much the same as the before mentioned drinking merry go round!

After being caught up in Ian Bibby's & Geraint Thomas's Tumble in The Tour of Britain

Into stage three and by now most cyclist’s will either have started to beat themselves up about been unfit, got bored of destroying the house through DIY or waking up in the morning after having been drunk under the table by a rugby player again. Now they will have begun to think about starting some sort of comeback. The main problem of this stage is that it involves getting the winter bike together and no matter how well you looked after it before you put it in the shed last year it isn’t going to work. My own personal list of problems this year involved a stuck seat pin (that was 2cm to short? Work that one out), and a distinct lack of working brakes. This is the time of year you are most likely to see domestic pro’s in their local bike shops as they attempt to head off on rides but lose bits of the winter stead on route and have to bail into the shops for help, if your after your favourite domestic pro’s autograph this is the best time of year to be creeper and hang around in bike shops.

The light at the end of the tunnel will start to show by now though, the realisation that a comeback to training is required or more that it’s easier hiding out on the bike than having to attempt DIY SOS LIVE at home has hit all cyclist, you will start to see them come out of the stages as you read about where they and their team have taken off on a training camp to get ready for the coming season. These training camps are where the demons of the winter are thrown off and cyclists become cyclists again, back to reality and the safety of the bike!

Important! No cyclists were hurt in the process of this blog!

 

 

Minty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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