It’s just before 5am, I’m standing in the kitchen, I switch the coffee machine on, insert a capsule and whilst it warms up put on some old cycling shorts, my heart rate monitor, my favourite training T shirt and my now very worn black socks replete with winking raven on the ankles. By the time I have done this, the coffee is ready and I grab the cup, pick up the bike computer, the print out of the session I have to do and make my way through the garage to my training room at the back. From waking up to the first turn of the pedals is about 20 minutes. Later on that day, before dinner I’ll be back to do another session.
A question I get asked a lot is how do I manage to get up so early to train, day in and day out. I’d like to believe it was because I am something special, but this simply isn’t the case. I have however found one or two things that have help me keep going.
Learn from the Scouts!
Be prepared! My kit is stored it the same place, it’s easy to find and it’s ready to go. There’s no ‘where did I put my shorts?’ or ‘what happened to my bike computer?’ If I am having to hunt around to find things the time available to train disappears along with my motivation. Think of it as making the process friction free – the more steps you have to go through before you train the less likely you will be to get out there and do your session.
Get into the beat
I love listening to music when I train. Some good meaty thumping beats to take away the pain of the session really helps. In my workshop I have a phone holder next to my bike that links up via bluetooth to the amplifier which in turns pumps out loud sound to two large floor standing speakers! Fortunately the room I use cannot be overheard in the house or by my neighbours. There are some great ‘working out’ playlists on Spotify / Google. I have some headphones for when I need to throw the doors open in the summer or if I am out on the road.
I know what I am going to do the night before. When I get up I know what the session entails and I’m mentally ready for it. If I start a session and I am not sure at the start what I am going to do generally I end up abandoning as it all seems a bit pointless. But if I know I have to do ‘x’ minutes at ‘y’ power then I can get on and do it and more importantly I know when it’s over! It helps hugely having a coach who sets the sessions for me. My interest is maintained throughout because generally the efforts vary throughout, so there is never more than 20 minutes at a particular level of effort. This helps the time pass – especially when training indoors. So have a plan, decide what you are going to do before you start, do it, and the stop when you have done what you set out to do.
Over the last 14 years, I have averaged 16 hours training a week, and in the last few years it’s been closer to 18. I have my training logs going back over the whole of this period. It’s good to occasionally look back and see how I’ve improved. Whether it’s strava or mapmyride or a spreadsheet at home, log what you do and from time to time look back and see what you have achieved, it will give you a buzz. It will also help you spot the signs of overdoing it.
Have a goal
Whether it’s your first 100 or a trip to the Alps a goal helps in so many ways. It provides a focus, something to dream about, motivation and a sense of achievement. it will keep you going through the tough times. Make the goal sufficiently hard to be a stretch but not so ridiculous you don’t stand much chance of success. When I first decided to get fit having lost the plot for a few years, my goal was to run between two lamp posts. These days the goals are attempts on records or ultra distance rides.
I ride a tandem bike with a good friend. I know he too will be up at the crack of dawn training and that motivates me. I know I need to do my sessions in order to do my bit for the team. When I look back over the years, the best training years have always been when I have been training with someone else. It’s good to be able to share how tough some of the sessions have been as well as spur each other on. It’s always great to get an encouraging text just before a particularly hard session. When things are not going so well, a good chat over a coffee helps put things back on an even keel.
I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by supportive and inspiring people. From my daughter who came into the workshop one day and wrote a quote on the whiteboard to help me through a particularly hard turbo session, to my wife who encourages me when things aren’t going as well. And then there are people like John and Ruth from JDTandems, whose enthusiasm, support and encouragement and faith is both humbling and hugely motivating. When we’re riding in the sleet and driving rain, we remind ourselves of this support and without fail it lifts our spirits and our game. Surround yourself with people who inspire you.
The enjoyment is not always the training!
Some sessions are really hard and quite frankly evil to do. I don’t enjoy them, nor do I look forward to them. The buzz comes from having completed them and the reward is a few weeks down the road when the adaptations to all the training come good and speed increases. For the really tough sessions I find I need to focus on the benefits rather than the session – otherwise I’d never do them.
Cut yourself some slack
We all fall off the wagon from time to time and end up missing sessions or having a bad session. getting going again can be hard. I’ve learned that when this happens, even if I just sit there and struggle through half a session, it feels infinitely better than not doing anything. The key seems to be to get back into the habit and once you do, the training will take care of itself.
The reward for all of this? The sheer unadulterated pleasure of riding through beautiful countryside comfortably, fit enough to be able to enjoy the surroundings.