By Aiden Watson (@aidenwatson89)
I’m really excited to be training for my first big race — the Tour of Britain. Like so many amateur cyclists, I found the Tour de France hugely inspiring and a great boost for my training plan.
I took up cycling last year after deciding to truly get fit. I’d maintained a fairly average level of fitness in recent years, but had never truly enjoyed working out in the gym. Cycling was the activity I loved most as a kid, and getting back on to my bike felt truly liberating. Since then, I’ve massively improved my cardiovascular fitness and strength. I started with a steady-state training programme of long and slow rides, and then gradually incorporated high-intensity training and speed work, with weekly hill drills and a distance ride at weekends.
As well as the training regime, I’ve been working hard to eat well, cutting down on simple carbohydrates and increasing my protein intake. Increased hydration has also been a focus, along with ‘clever’ caffeine consumption — such as before a fast ride. I’m eating between 5 and 10 portions of fruits and vegetables a day to ensure I get a full spectrum of micronutrients and eating quality fats such as olive oil and avocado too.
So what has been the hardest bit about getting race-ready? Well, the first few months of training were exhilarating, but they did leave my muscles sore and aching — something remedied with regular Epsom-salts baths and plenty of rest. A clean diet was also hard to maintain at social events and weekends, so I followed the ’80/20′ principle and focused on maintaining a good nutritious diet for the vast majority of the time and not worrying about the odd lapse. After all, if I can’t enjoy the odd pizza and glass of red with all this training, then it’s just not worth it.
I’ve stuck to a structured training programme put together by race experts and have practised on terrain that mirrors the course and which is best suitable for Orbea road bikes such as mine. I’ve also invested in good-quality kit — a lightweight cycle helmet, moisture-wicking cycling clothes with excellent reflection, sunglasses with excellent UV protection and the right training shoes. I also cycle with a streamlined training bag which contains energy bars and liquid energy sachets, and I attach a water bottle to my bike.
I did have a period of over-training which led to muscle strain and pain and which kept me off my bike for several weeks. That was an important learning curve and taught me to listen to my body. I’ve also treated myself to regular sports massages since then and have supported my troubled knee with rock tape on occasion. The RICE method is also hugely beneficial, and I try to always have an ice pack in the freezer in case.
The finishing time for the race is likely to be between 3pm and 4pm, and I’m viewing it as a baseline for future races. In terms of advice for beginners, I’d say just get your bike and get outside. The hardest part is beginning, but you’ll rapidly find a hugely supportive and helpful community of cyclists who are all to willing to help you in your journey towards becoming a competitive cyclist.