January 2016

The Great Athletes’ Bake Off

Hands up those of you who opened this blog hoping for a list of cakes that are good for the athletes?, you lot go and stand in the corner. This isn’t even a nutrition blog. The title just refers to an analogy I find myself using time and time again – ‘Don’t worry about the icing until you have baked the cake’. In a nutshell, don’t over complicate things until you are sure you have the basics nailed down.

When I started cycling back in the late 80’s (after watching Greg Lemond beat Laurent Fignon in the tour by 8 seconds), training advice was limited to an occasional article by Peter Keen in Cycling Weekly and advice handed down by the elders on club runs on what works for them. Coaches were just for the professionals in those days, so most of us found our way by trial and error.

Fausto Coppi when asked what it takes to become a great champion is famously quoted as saying :–





These days we have a world of information in our pocket via the internet. Cyclists are a million times more informed about training than we were back in the day. With forums and social media, any and every new training and nutritional idea is shared and devoured instantly. However this can be detrimental to the self-coached athlete who is constantly looking for those ‘marginal gains’.

An effective training program can be quite repetitive by its very nature. It should address the basics and then work on them consistently and progressively to build a platform for the athlete reach their greatest potential. The problems arise when we read an article touting a new way to ‘get fit with just 3 minutes high intensity training per week’, or how your ‘performance will be transformed this season if you cut carbohydrate from your diet’. Then next week you read a different article and decide to try that way instead. When you lose sight of the basics and lose consistency, you lose progress. When a mate tells you all about a new interval session he’s been doing, there’s no point just copying the session unless it is within the context of a structured program. What following blindly will achieve is at best, inconsistent form and at worst, no form at all on race days when you want to be fully fit and fresh.

The problem with most self-coached athletes is they also tend to concentrate on the aspects of their fitness that they are already good at or enjoy. So if you hate climbing hills, it’s probably because you have a lot of room for improvement in that area. If you break into a sweat at the mere thought of endurance intervals, you probably need to do them. There’s nothing wrong with racing to your strengths but you still need to address the gaps.

So for me, what are the basics? Well assuming that you’re giving yourself enough recovery and not overtraining, then the basics are:

1, Build the biggest Aerobic engine that you can.

2, Make yourself stronger and more resilient with resistance work and corrective exercises.

3, Pay attention to your nutrition.

The Engine. I seem to use the word engine a lot, but it’s the fundamental basis for building a winning performance. Have you ever been in a break where all the other riders are obviously stronger than you? You are out of your depth. That’s usually because they are cruising along with in a 3.0 litre BMW and you are trying to match them revving the balls off your Nissan Micra. The bigger the engine, the more Oxygen you are utilising, and the faster and more efficient you will be. Just as the powerful BMW can consume much more fuel than the puny Micra, so the elite cyclist can process a lot more Oxygen than your average club rider.

Strength. Whatever your sport or activity a stronger more resilient body will make you more efficient and injury resistant. Get in the gym and do some appropriate strength work at least once a week. If you are carrying a niggle or injury, don’t ignore it. Is it caused by over use, poor alignment on the bike or weak postural muscles? Whatever is causing it, get it sorted before it gets worse.

Nutrition. Get your nutrition right for your objective. This is probably the area where there is the most conflicting advice. Good nutrition should help optimise your body composition, fuel your performance, repair damaged muscles and most of all keep you healthy. Different objectives require different nutritional strategies whether it’s to lose some weight before the season starts or putting the finishing touches to your fitness in the final block before a target race. Get this right and you’ll see results.

So get the basics sorted and be consistent via a structured, progressive training program. When that is done, then you can put the icing on the cake. (BTW There’s nothing wrong with a nice piece of cake now and again.)





Scousers’ Guide to Bike Racing


IMG (Me in my first ever Time Trial)

Apologies if the title is a bit misleading. This isn’t a guide to racing like a Scouser – although legend has it, that back in the 80’s there was a local rider who would get into a break in a Road Race and then sit on the back for a free ride to the finish. When ‘asked politely’ to contribute to the pace, he would shrug and retort that he couldn’t do any work as they would stop his dole !!

The title is purely geographical.

So any one thinking of having a go at racing this year but a bit confused by all the different types of racing, federations, age groups etc? Here’s a rough guide.

There are several forms of racing available to club riders – Road racing, Circuit racing (Criteriums), Time Trialling, Track, Cyclocross, Mountain biking etc.

In a Time Trial you are riding on your own against the clock usually at minute intervals from the next rider, although there are 2-up TT’s and Team Time Trials where you share the work on the front. The most common starting point for most club riders when they dip their toe into racing is the club 10. These are informal races but are still held under Cycling Time Trials (CTT) regulations. There is no need to enter in advance, just turn up, pay a couple of quid and pin a number on. There are club 10’s held monthly on the Hale circuit  or on the faster Rainford bypass course organised by Phoenix & St Helens on Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s through the summer, and occasionally they have a 25 mile TT when the evenings are light enough.

Once you have done a few club 10’s and have caught the bug, you may want to enter an open Time Trial. These are organised by clubs all over the country at varying distances and times from 10, 25, 50 & 100 miles right through to 12 & 24 hours. You need to enter an open Time Trial at least 3-4 weeks before the event as there is no entry on the day, although some events on the faster courses get well over subscribed and the riders with the fastest times for that distance will get preference.

Once you have completed a TT, your time for that distance is your personal best (PB) and the idea is to beat that time and set a new PB. Some clubs also have medals for beating standard times and there are also club records for each distance. (Men & Women). There is also a Merseyside Best All Rounder competition for all local affiliated clubs, ranking riders according to their average speed over a variety of distances.

Courses have code numbers and when looking to enter a local race, look for courses with the prefix D (Liverpool), J (Manchester), or L (Lancashire). Club members don’t have to join CTT individually as the club is affiliated. Most TT’s are £8-£10 entry fee.

You may also want try Road Racing. This is where you race in a bunch and first one over the line wins. There are no set distances for RR’s but some are held on long undulating or hilly courses, others are on small circuits such as Pimbo, Litherland or Oulton Park. Most RR’s start as a bunch but sometimes there are handicaps where bunches have time advantages over different age groups or categories. There are also multiple day Stage races which will usually comprise of a number of races (stages) over a  variety of courses and even a Time Trial.  A RR may be organised under British Cycling (BC), The League International (TLI) or League of Veteran Racing (LVRC – over 40’s)

For BC you will need Membership and a Racing licence. You can rise through the categories from 4th to Elite as you accrue points from race results. Most BC races can be entered online and can cost between £15-£25 to enter. Local races fill up very early so if you find a race on the calendar that you want to do, get it entered as soon as possible.

TLI are a cheaper alternative. You can turn up and ‘enter on the line’ at some events but you are better off becoming a member and entering races in advance. Most races are categorised by age instead of ability or category.

LVRC is the Vets racing league. Categories begin at 40 but there are still riders in their 70’s competing. This is no easy option however as there are many ex Professionals still racing at this level.

So if you feel like you would like to have a go at racing in 2016, get your racing jersey ordered and get training!!

Any questions?? Just ask.

Here are some useful links :

If you would like coaching to help you train and get into racing, get in touch.



Get Better

It’s the time of year for setting goals. Whether it’s to lose 10kg or complete a 5k Park Run in under 25 minutes anything less than achievement will not do. Most coaches or teachers will tell you that your goal needs to be SMART ie:


It’s true that if your sport is your job, and your job is to win a Gold Medal at Rio, then failure to achieve this means you haven’t reached your goal.

But what does it mean for the rest of us if we don’t reach your goal? Does this means that you’ve failed? I would say not, as long as there is improvement. Did you get better? If so I would call that improvement. As long as there is some aspect that is quantifiable & you can measure progress, then moving in the right direction is not failure.

Think of your goals as points to work towards, but with improvement as the objective. If your current 10 mile Time Trial PB is 23:30 and your goal this year is 22:00, then achieving 22:30 is a hell of an improvement, continue improving at the same rate and you’ll be doing 21’s next season. If you set a goal of 10kgs weight loss in 6 months, would 8kgs be a fail ??

The Japanese have a word – Kaizen, which roughly translates as continuous improvement or development. This makes goals merely milestones along the journey, not the destination.

Scroobius Pip puts it much better than me in this video from Crossfit Liverpool here

If you need help and support  in ‘getting better’ in 2016, get in touch.

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