Dame Sarah Storey re-focuses training for postponed Tokyo 2020

Dame Sarah Storey re-focuses training for postponed Tokyo 2020

In an exclusive blog for Verve Cycling, Dame Sarah Storey talks about the postponement of Tokyo 2020 and how she is adapting her training. 

Dame Sarah Storey will need to wait another year to compete in her eighth Paralympic Games, however she remains focused and motivated.

Sarah and her family are staying safe at home, but she’s still finding ways to keep up her training so she’s ready for the postponed Tokyo 2020.

In an exclusive blog for Verve Cycling, Sarah talks about the postponement and how she is adapting her training.

On 1st March, I returned to the UK after my first big road camp of the final build up to Tokyo. The track worlds at the end of January had gone to plan and in my pursuit final I made the catch at half distance well under world record pace.

It’s amazing how so much can change in a month and now the whole world has much more important things than sport to win a battle against. The acceleration of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe has seen major changes to the way we are all living and with much of the sporting calendar cancelled or postponed for the next three months, it was inevitable that Tokyo 2020 would need a plan B too.

I was lucky to get one race under my belt before the cancellations and lucky again that here in the UK taking one form of exercise a day is still a permitted reason to leave the house. Whilst my plan for this block of training had been to develop my power in the short time trials, I have made some significant adjustments to ensure my health and immunity are prioritised.

At the end of next year I’ll celebrate my 30th anniversary as an international athlete and there have been some significant challenges during my career. What’s different this time is that the challenge affects every athlete across the world and recalibration is now required to ensure optimal performance of our current Paralympic cycle which now occurs 12 months later than planned.

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I’m quite used to training to a moving target and an unknown end point is something other Athlete Mums can probably identify with too. Throughout my pregnancies I didn’t know exactly when my first race back might be and I was training with the focus of maximising health and minimising the chance of complications. I’ve always trained to power data alongside my own ‘feel’ as an athlete. I think they are powerful tools that complement each other well, so I’m adopting the same approach now.

My road rides are around a couple of hours each day or if the weather is bad I’ll be on the turbo. Apart from picking up an illness, now isn’t the time to risk sliding off in the wet. I’m definitely riding slower on descents too and making sure I’m very careful to not take unnecessary risks.

Whatever the date that is published for the postponed 2020 Games, I’ll be ready and raring to try and get selected. Tokyo could be my eighth Paralympic Games and as a family we have been building towards the culmination of another brilliant four years since Rio. The fact it’s now going to be a year later just adds to my motivation to make it happen. My motivation is borne out of a desire to find the very best performances I can, the buzz of building up to a race day, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle gradually fitting together, as the journey progresses. Of course we are still missing a few pieces right now, but the uncertainty of dates and new qualification criteria is out of my hands. I’m fortunate to have an incredibly supportive family and strong team around me and will always rise to follow the Storey Racing motto #BestVersionOfYou.

 

Is a Power Meter worth the investment?

Is a Power Meter worth the investment?

To increase your speed and enjoyment on the bike, a power meter is probably the only thing you should be considering investing in.

At times it seems there is a never-ending stream of equipment being sold with the promise of helping you go further and faster.  In pursuit of this goal it can be tempting to invest money in new lightweight wheels, a lightweight carbon frame, or a lighter and more efficient drivetrain.

Given the variety of kit available, is a power meter worth the investment?  Maybe you compare costs and believe some lighter componentry will serve you better.  Maybe you see the pros using them and rule yourself out. As we’ll see below, the truth is that for increasing your speed and enjoyment on the bike, a power meter is probably the only thing you should be considering investing in.

IMG_6129To show why a power meter offers most bang for your buck, it’s worth briefly touching on what really makes a difference to a cyclist’s performance.  The key metric used by professional cyclists to measure performance is called the power to weight ratio.  This metric is also commonly used in motorsport and in the case of cycling is denoted by the amount of power (measured in Watts) a cyclist can generate for a given bodyweight (measured in Kilograms).  The unit for this measurement is Watts/Kg where either an increase in power or a reduction in bodyweight will typically show an improvement in performance.

Is a Power Meter worth the investment? 1

Most endurance based professional cyclists tend to be operating toward the upper end of their power to weight ratio, where they have found their particular physiological sweet-spot between their ability to produce power consistently with the lowest associated bodyweight.  This is somewhat of a balancing act and is what really gets Froome over the Col du Tourmalet first.  The lightweight deep-section wheels and lightweight carbon frame may give him a small edge over anyone who happens to be able to stay with him, but all things being equal the rider with the highest power to weight ratio will summit the quickest.

Is a Power Meter worth the investment? 2

So if what matters most for going faster and further is maximising your own personal power to weight ratio then what is the most effective way of doing this?  Well, clearly you must either become lighter, or stronger, or both.  Becoming lighter is possible one of three ways – either your bike loses weight, you lose weight, or you both lose weight.  Buying lighter wheels will make your bike lighter, it will make the union of you and your bike lighter, but it won’t make you lighter. This isn’t a consideration if you are already your optimum weight, but if not then simply adjusting your diet may be a more cost effective way of improving your power to weight ratio.

The alternative to becoming lighter is of course increasing your power.  Power is essentially the amount of work you do in a given time and is something that can be trained for and improved significantly in all but the most highly trained cyclists. As already noted, there is an interplay between bodyweight and power, with those cyclists being the most powerful also typically being the heaviest, as in the case of track-cycling sprinters for instance.  But for non-elite riders even modest increases in power accompanied with modest reductions in bodyweight will manifest as potentially more than modest increases in performance.

If you are looking to increase your power, then by far the quickest and most effective way of doing this is with a power meter.  We have other articles on exactly how this can be achieved but suffice to say that with considered application and focus, power can be steadily and surely increased, but more importantly such gains can be built upon over the long term.  You can purchase a power meter for roughly the same as a pair of mid-range deep section road wheels or maybe good value carbon frameset.  And whilst the latter the purchases might give you an immediate gain, the gain is in a sense a one-off, because becoming a better cyclist isn’t just about going further and faster now, it’s about going further and faster now and also maximising the chances of going even further and faster in the future.

So in summary, the answer to the question is a power meter worth the investment has to be a resounding yes! The outlay probably isn’t as much as you think it is and unlike any improvement with lighter kit being fixed (you get it once and never again), with a power meter you enable yourself to improve your performance in compound fashion over the long term.  These gains can take longer than ordering some kit online, but when they come they are all real and all yours.

For any cyclist looking to go further and faster a power meter is indispensable.  The Verve InfoCrank is the most accurate and repeatable power meter available on the market today and is used by numerous top athletes and teams, including the UCI, British Cycling, and Hawaii Ironman winner Anne Haug.

The Advantages of Indoor Training

The Advantages of Indoor Training

There was once a time when cyclists had one choice when it came to training sessions, put some air in their tyres, lubricate their chains, check their brakes and head out onto the road.  Come rain or shine, wind or hail, light or dark, hot or cold, it was miles on the road that mattered and there was no alternative.

Nowadays cyclists are spoilt for choice when it comes to the variety of training options available.  There are indoor spin sessions, community cycling apps and online stationary bike sessions to name a few. 

Whilst staying indoors might mean you don’t get the satisfaction and contentment experienced after completing a long ride outdoors in the fresh air, there are a lot of benefits to indoor training.

One great aspect of indoor training is that you are not subject to the forces of the outdoors over which you have little or no control.  Such forces can range from the unpredictability of motorists, the pollution, the weather, or even the vicissitudes of the seasons.  Depending on where you live none or only some of these factors may be an issue, but the reality for most cyclists is that at one point all of the aforementioned will determine how enjoyable and effective your training and riding actually is.

Another fantastic aspect of training indoors is convenience.  No matter the time of day if your indoor set-up is ready to go you can throw on your jersey and bib-shorts and put in a 30-minute hard session.  You can squeeze this in in the morning before your shower, midway through the day if you are working from home or straight after you’ve put your little, or not so little ones down for sleep.  There really are no limitations and with indoor cycling Apps such as Zwift you have no reason to sacrifice that buzz you get from riding with your group. 

 

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Training indoors also means that any training efforts can be way more consistent and measured as there are no traffic lights, roundabouts (for you UK cyclists), bends, road junctions or other obstacles to working through a specific session.  You also never need to worry about getting the ‘knock’ due to inadequate or poor nutrition.  Being with no food and 40 miles from the end of your ride when you have hit the wall can be quite a gruelling experience, and as any cyclist who has experienced this will tell you, having a fully stocked larder only 6-feet away can certainly lessen the blow.

All in all, indoor training sessions offer high levels of consistency, convenience and safety, and can also go a long way to ensuring specificity in your efforts. On balance then training indoors has a great deal going for it.  Assuming you have the space to hand and have invested in a good set-up then it can be of real utility.

When indoor sessions are couple with an InfoCrank there is no reason at all why you cannot see significant progress in your fitness.  This of course will require commitment and a structured training programme, but more and more cyclists are turning to indoor training to develop their fitness over the winter months or focus their training in ways that riding outdoors doesn’t always easily allow.

Training Indoors: An interview with Bryan Taylor

Training Indoors: An interview with Bryan Taylor

Verve Cycling’s Founder and CEO, Bryan Taylor, spends extended periods of the year training indoors. Here, he gives an insight into how he adapts when it’s not possible to cycle outside.

Bryan Taylor

Bryan, you train indoors for a period each year – how much of the year do you normally spend training indoors?

I have to train indoors for extended periods depending on the Alpine weather, but generally it would be all indoors from November through to March with partially indoors either side of this.

Is this a time of getting fit, losing fitness or maintaining fitness?

In normal times, it is a matter of maintainance until Christmas – a loss of fitness and form during the break and then a desperate attempt to get fit again before the outdoor season. So it is a real mix and the exercises and duration are designed to meet the circumstances.

What system do you have to get you through such a long time of indoor riding?

System is a good word.  It is not just the set-up – fans and TV screens and trainers – but how I keep myself occupied and interested in doing what has to be done for months on end. I can say from the outset that I prefer to ride outside – I only ride inside because I have to. Having said that, I am quite purposeful in everything I do, and so yes, I have a system.

Training Indoors: An interview with Bryan Taylor 3

The system starts with varied training devices and set-ups. I have two sets of rollers, one set, just mechanical and another set which incorporates a smart system. We also have a smart ‘wheels on’ trainer, but if I am not using the rollers, I normally us an air trainer called a RevBox. We also have a rowing trainer and an exercise mat, but I really don’t do anywhere near as much work on those as I should.

What about the Indoor training systems such as Zwift?  Do you use those?

Yes, I do! I am very particular about my use of these and have now settled on just two programmes; Zwift and Sufferfest. I use Sufferfest for training – specific exercises or intervals to achieve my weekly/monthly targets. I use Zwift for endurance training and usually do that by joining races. Just riding, I find too boring with either programme and only use that mode on recovery rides and my limit is about 30 minutes.

Training Indoors: An interview with Bryan Taylor 4

How much time do you spend training in the indoor season?

My aim is to carry over much of my long term endurance fitness from season to season and I usually give it a kick start early in the year by attending a camp or putting in a heavy week or 10 days.

That means that my indoor is then used to work on my form (how I am pedalling) and on my leg speed and my high speed work, both aerobic and anaerobic. Working like this actually keeps me quite fit, but does not bore or tire me out generally.

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What is the key thing you do that makes a difference?

I use InfoCrank measurement for everything I do. Even when using a smart trainer or the rollers, at most I only use them for the resistance, not for power measurement. Their power measurement is so far off real, it is amazing. I use the InfoCrank so that regardless of what I am doing I can compare in absolute and Wkg terms the whole time. I want to see if I am improving, whether it is just in the mind or just bad measurement. This also allows me to compare directly with my outside power.

How does that work in practice?

As I said earlier, I am very purposeful.  So even when I am doing a race, really I am doing some structured training and just want to achieve certain outcomes.  For instance, I rode an age group race around the Yorkshire course recently, about 70kms. Yes, I knew that I had to start fast, but I only put in a minute or two of hard pace then settled into a group with the view of finishing the 2 1/4 hours strongly. So, I knew what I was capable of in a steady state of riding, but I interpreted it into a race format. So, no attacks, but on each of the major climbs, I rode a very steady high pace in order, firstly not to get dropped and later in the race to stop anyone catching me. But at no time did I go above my pre-set levels – I wanted two hours plus of high level aerobic work. 

So I played the race with those around me, but really I played my game. I was done in by the last 5kms but still passed two group riders in the final to satisfy my racing spirit. That goes down not as a result like the people who do whatever they do to ride for two hours at 4wkg when they are sixty plus years old, but as a proper training ride which means that when I get back out on the road, I will be able to ride as fast as I need to.

I also pick my Sufferfest sessions to ensure that I am getting a good mix of doing the things that are too painful to do by yourself. Extended high power intervals. Sessions with 46 individual high intensity efforts with almost no rest. Everytime, I do them, I aim to do better than in the past. Everytime, measured with InfoCrank so that the results are real and comparable.

Earlier you talked about form as well as fitness?

What I meant by that was my pedalling and strength form. Verve developed an app called VINC which is available from the Google Play Store for free for InfoCrank users. There are two key areas to watch and work on carefully in regard to form.

Training Indoors: An interview with Bryan Taylor 6

The first is the actual form you hold when doing exercises or intervals. It is critical for improvement to ride the exercises in such a way that you can ride each one planned and retain your pedalling form and strength right to the end. You will see in the photo taken here that the first interval shown builds gradually and then maintains the nearly 300w throughout – never too high and not sloping off at the end. This was the second last of a number.  I use this VINC page to help me see how steady I am riding as I seek to get the most out of all the exercises.

Training Indoors: An interview with Bryan Taylor 7

The next picture shows what I am looking at (another screen from VINC) when I am doing my high intensity work and watching my pedal stroke.

Here I am riding and watching each of my pedal strokes live and making adjustments as necessary to get the watts out most efficiently. This is really only able to be done indoors and is an important part of the season.

Training Indoors: An interview with Bryan Taylor 8

Training Indoors: An interview with Bryan Taylor 7

What are the results when you first go outdoors?

Really varied. I am often not fit from an Endurance perspective when I go to my first camp or outdoor ride, but I have the leg speed. I also pick up what I am missing really quickly as once again, I work purposefully to gain what I need. The short answer is that most people I am riding with think I am fitter than I am. I don’t usually let on how little I have actually done over the indoor period.

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How to setup your bike for indoor training

How to setup your bike for indoor training

It’s often the times when exercise is least viable that it is most important. Regular and consistent exercise delivers both physical and mental health benefits, so it’s important to have a solution in place when riding outdoors isn’t an option.  

Here’s our guidance on what’s required to make indoor training work for you.

Space

Clearly the first thing you will need to train indoors is adequate space.  This doesn’t have to be a significant amount of room, but unless you live on your own, your indoor setup should be situated somewhere convenient for everyone in the property. There should be enough room to walk comfortably around your equipment in a space where air can reasonably circulate.  If there is a shelf within reach for you to place drinks, sweat towels, display remotes and your favourite snacks then so much the better.

Bike

After the required space, the next most fundamental element required for any indoor training set-up is a bike.  Anyone considering training indoors will likely already have this box ticked, and provided your bike is fully cleaned and well-maintained there should be no issues in bringing it in from the cold. At the barest minimum, clean the tyres, wheels and entire drivetrain properly and get rid of any loose dirt elsewhere. Ensure the chain is spotless without any wet lubricant likely to fly off onto everything within a two metre radius – believe us, it happens.

Training Mat

A training mat will protect the underlying floor from sweat, spilled drinks, dirt, oil and all of those other nasties you would normally leave out on the road.  The mat will also deaden any noise and vibration from your vigorous indoor workouts.  Don’t underestimate the importance of your training mat, and if you don’t have one then use a beach towel or something similar that you are happy to relegate out of use.

Turbo or Smart Trainer

Next include an indoor trainer onto which your bike will be fixed.  There are two options here depending on how interactive you want the experience of indoor training to be.  Until recently, turbo trainers were minimally interactive but still allowed the resistance felt through the rear wheel to be manually modulated.

More recently, a new more sophisticated type of trainer has emerged, which whilst also having adjustable resistance, adjusts itself in conjunction with a virtual representation of your training ride streamed through your PC or Mac.  So-called interactive trainers open up a new world of possibilities and allow you to ride against others on virtual courses via online indoor cycling apps such as Zwift.  This technology has delivered a step-change to indoor cycling and has pushed levels of engagement to never seen before levels.  There are whole online communities to chat to and full online race series to participate in.

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Riser block 

You’ll need a riser block to place under your front wheel.  This will avoid neck strain by compensating for the raised rear wheel by situating the bike in a level plane.

Computer and VDU

For interactive trainers to be useable, you require a PC or Mac, an internet connection and a screen onto which the virtual representation of your ride will be displayed.  Situate the computer somewhere convenient and remain aware of trailing power cables in risky locations around your setup.  Place the screen in a frontal location and at roughly eye level as you are sat on your bike.

Fan

You’re almost there and are eager to get going, but one final essential for indoor training is a fan to keep your body temperature within comfortable limits.  Heat loss through the skin is your body’s primary means of cooling and so creating airflow over your body similar to that which you experience whilst riding outdoors is imperative.  Place the fan in a convenient frontal location and ensure that any moving parts are adequately shielded.

InfoCrank

Finally, you have your setup complete, and wish to extract maximum benefit from all of your training and race sessions. Whether you have opted for an interactive or non-interactive trainer, an InfoCrank is the best way to assess and nurture your performance gains.  The data produced by the InfoCrank has been shown time and again to be the most accurate and repeatable and is the power meter of choice of all of the pioneering cycling organisations such as British Cycling, the UCI and numerous teams and athletes who desire data that is more than just an approximation.

There’s no doubt that training indoors can be more fun than it’s ever been, and by using modern web-based platforms, smart trainers and your bike coupled with an InfoCrank, there’s no reason why you cannot emerge back into the outdoors with no net loss, and potentially even a gain in overall fitness.

Simple strength training exercises to maintain fitness

Simple strength training exercises to maintain fitness

Nowadays the majority of cyclists will also engage in some form of strength training exercise to supplement their on-bike training. Whether this is weight training in the gym or bodyweight training exercises known as Calisthenics at home, there are plenty of options on hand to build overall strength and fitness and become a more rounded athlete.

Here are some simple exercises for cyclists of all levels to maintain an active physical routine when you cannot get out on your bike. 

As always, consult a physician for advice before adopting a new exercise regime.  And remember to begin with an appropriate stretching and warm-up routine beforehand.  With that in mind, let’s jump in!

Pull Ups

As an all upper body compound exercise, there is not much to beat standard pull ups.  This exercise engages the upper arms and forearms, the shoulders, the back muscles as well as the chest and neck muscles.  It’s a good exercise for anyone looking to develop general upper body strength and co-ordination and requires nothing more than something suitably strong and stable from which to hang by the hands.

As the name of the exercise suggests, the aim is to pull up the entire body and touch the chest to whatever it is that is being gripped, then lower the body and repeat.  Pull Ups can be challenging to begin with but once strength improves they will become increasingly effective and can be altered slightly with all manner of variations on grip width and angle.  Developing high grip and back strength can also be the route into many excellent exercises that target the abdominals, such as hanging leg raises.

Press Ups

Again, as a compound exercise, press ups work all the major muscle groups of the upper body, along with the abdominals and to an extent the glutes.  Like pull ups, press ups are a good exercise for anyone looking to build general upper body strength, with an emphasis on the chest, upper arms and shoulders.  There is no specific apparatus required for press ups, although press up stands can be used to alter hand and grip position whilst taking direct stress off the wrist joints.

The aim of press ups is to press the entire body from the floor starting with lying on your stomach and putting the palms of your hands alongside your shoulders, elbows bent up to the ceiling.  Once the body has been pressed up, you can slowly lower the body back to the floor until the chest touches, and repeat.  The trick is to keep the back straight and the torso tight throughout the entire range of motion.  This is an excellent overall exercise and a strong upper body can help when climbing out the saddle on the road or tackling fast and technical descents whilst off-road.

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Standing squat

The standing squat is one of those exercises that increases balance, strength, flexibility and co-ordination. It’s especially great for cyclists as it targets all of those major muscle groups that are typically used on the bike.  Standing squats engage the hips, quads, hamstrings and glutes and is very simply performed.

Start this exercise with your feet shoulder width apart. Slowly bend your knees and push your glutes towards the floor as if to sit on a chair. Make sure to keep your torso straight and also do not strain your back. Slowly rise, return to starting position and repeat.  Pause for a second at the low point when your quads are parallel with the ground, and feel the burn!

Standing calf raises

Standing calf raises are an excellent way to train your calves for strength and stamina and to further develop that mind-muscle connection that comes with targeted use.  To perform the exercise, stand in a shoulder-width stance with your toes flat on the edge of a step and with your heels and mid-foot hanging off the edge.  In this position you should feel a pronounced stretch in your calf and throughout the exercise you should utilise a wall or a rail as a support.

To begin, raise yourself up on the balls of your feet, pause, then lower yourself back to the starting position being sure to feel, and control, the stretch in your calves.  Always drop your heel at the low point and flex your calves for a second or two at the high point.  This exercise – as well as standing squats – will keep the muscles of the legs well-targeted and should over time build strength and power.

If you are unable to get out on the bike, by engaging in these simple exercises you stand a good chance of retaining muscle strength and muscle tone in preparation for your return to wheels. 

Your InfoCrank will then be able to assist you to train in the most effective and efficient way possible to regain any conditioning temporarily lost due to the riding hiatus. 

There’s no doubt that the best training as a cyclist is time on the bike, but if that’s not always possible, remain ready, retain as much power as possible, and always use your InfoCrank to point the way back to fitness gains.

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