In my last post I excitedly declared Project 450! The idea was to train to a target of 450w for the National Hill Climb in October. Since then it has become clear this approach doesn’t work for me. So myself and Transition Cycle Coaching have since tweaked our plan to stop me beating myself up and coming back from every ride depressed.
A key thing to learn about training – especially when pushing yourself beyond your current limits – is you’re going to fail. And it sucks.
From the time we decided Project 450 was GO I didn’t hit a single overall session target. I have this bad habit of beating myself up over not hitting numbers and this approach just wasn’t working for me. I chose some poor roads to train on, and the targets were ambitious in the first place. The combination was no good for my head and I turned to mush. I stopped believing I could achieve 450w and spiralled downwards mentally.
Who knows? If I had chosen better training roads in the first place Project 450 could still be well and truly on track. Like I said already – training is as much about finding what works for you right now as it is setting goals and hitting targets.
So what did I do about it? Something I haven’t done for well over a year. I rode and trained without a power meter or heart rate monitor
I haven’t looked at – or ridden to – any power date for two weeks now. I continue to record it and upload my rides to Training Peaks for my coach to track any progress and analyse my training load.
I’ve done a lot of travelling recently, having just started a new role at a Swedish company. It means working out of Stockholm occasionally. A beautiful city, and very well equipped to cater for a cycling enthusiast such as myself. This however means a firm structure of interval training is difficult to plan for.
To adapt to my new lifestyle we’ve temporarily taken a slightly less rigid approach and introduced a lot of Fartlek training (which appropriately enough is Swedish for Speedplay). This is a training method that blends endurance with interval training. It’s simple: You ride how you feel. With periods of hard or fast efforts intermixed with periods at an easier pace. These are done at random and it does a great job at simulating a race or event.
It’s been exhilarating riding without a power meter, and possibly worth a post of its own. I’ll try and condense my thoughts into a bullet point list but I should point out though that I didn’t just take the power meter off my bike. I still believe it’s the most useful tool a serious cyclist can own. However, there’s a lot of negatives I can point out about owning one. Especially the cheaper left-side only brands.
There are many positives so I’ll just focus on a few negatives people don’t often talk about;
- It’s easy to train to numbers you know you can hit. Which can become a mental barrier when you try and progress.
- Left side only models will probably force you to subconsciously adapt your pedalling style and you’ll be thinking about that left leg a lot!
- And if you’re right-side dominant that means you’re only as strong as your weakest leg from now on…
- Failing to hit target numbers constantly is depressing.
- It’s very difficult to actually use a power meter to pace an effort.
- Getting hung up on numbers regardless of if you’re hitting targets can take the fun out of cycling. It’s a hobby (for most of us) and is there to be enjoyed!
And guess what? Without the power meter I’ve done some of my fastest solo rides ever over thirty miles. And I’ve also matched or bettered a few shorter efforts too. All ridden purely on feel. I think I’ll continue this for a while, it’s a nice mental break, and I know my performance isn’t suffering for it. It’s back to basics, good old fashion, cycling fun.
Watch out Strava! It might mean I come after a few segments I’ve been losing this year.
My goal now is to show up at the National Hill Climb fit, lean, and ready to enjoy myself. I believe I’ll get there with an ability to put out 7wkg for the effort but I’m just going to see what happens on the day.
I’m also looking at replacing my Stages power meter with a set of Garmin Vector 2’s. There are a number of reasons but I’ve found during the time I’ve not worried about what my left leg is doing my pedalling is a lot smoother and well balanced. I also believe the Stages to under-read and be somewhat inaccurate. Especially on longer efforts.
Getting Lean – Carb Backloading
One area of my training I’m extremely happy with the results of is my diet. We’ve taken a completely different approach to nutrition recently and turned my diet on its head. The theory is Carb Backloading and it seems to be working out great.
There are a few caveats to point out however, as it’s not for everyone and I wouldn’t recommend it for all types of training.
An effective way to get lean without losing muscle.
What is Carb Backloading?
It’s a way of encouraging your body to use fat as fuel by only eating protein and fats before training. Then recovering by replenishing your exhausted muscles with all the lovely carbs it’s screaming out for post-workout.
- You exercise for no more than 90 minutes (about the amount of glycogen you can store in the muscles) and in the evening.
- After which you’re free (within reason) to eat all the carbs you like. Even ‘bad’ carbs such as pizza (but I wouldn’t necessarily advise it). The point is by this point your tank is empty and your body won’t even consider storing the carbs as fat.
- During the day you eat only protein and fat. Eggs, nuts, green veg, chicken, and fish will become your best friends.
It goes without saying to only eat until satisfied but with the exception of my list above there really aren’t any rules. It’s not a diet, it’s just a very specific way of eating!
Using this method in just two weeks I’ve gone from about 58kg to 56.4kg. Most importantly I’ve done this in a healthy way. I haven’t felt tired, my training hasn’t suffered, and I’ve burned the fat and kept the muscle. Something I’ve struggled to do in the past. Often turning up to hill climb or TT events feeling under-fed and weak.
A mix of deliciously healthy pre and post ride meals I’ve cooked up this week!