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Sportive Blog - Abby Holder: Following the plan

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Published 29 January 2014
Report: Abby Holder
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Our blogger Abby has taken up our beginner training plans in preparation for her first ever sportive in May. Let’s see how she is finding them so far...

The first thing I notice when I sit down to study the British Cycling beginners training plan I have committed to, is that this is not going to be possible without acquiring a gadget. 

A brick. This was not the gadget that was required.

It’s all about ‘cadence’ and ‘heart rate zones’. Baffled by the array of devices for measuring these things, I turn to an Insight Zone expert for some help.  Can I follow the plan without a gadget and just put the miles in? I enquire hopefully. You’d be doing yourself a disservice, comes the reply. Monitoring heart rate and cadence means your training is as time-efficient and effective as possible. I like the sound of time-efficient and effective.  The alternative, described as a “non-effective no mans’ land” of training is less appealing. It seems if I’m going to do this, I’m going to have to do it properly.

The carefully chosen gadget arrives and it’s clear it’s going to take me a while to get to grips with all the things it can do. Luckily, my live-in soigneur is on hand to get me started.

Despite a diet of turbo sessions in the week, Abby still loves to hit the road at the weekend.

I do my first session on a turbo trainer in the spare bedroom. Once my bike is on the turbo, I can see that the front wheel is lower than the rear. Hmm. That doesn’t look right. What’s needed here is a series of complex geometrical calculations to identify a solution. Or I could just stick a brick under it.

My first session is an hour. Used to riding outdoors, I’m initially concerned this will be dull, but I can honestly say it isn’t. And now I’ve got a gadget which tells me how fast I’m going, I realise I’m a speed demon. Or maybe it’s just considerably easier without a headwind.

Initially with the plan, there’s quite a lot to take in.... 15 minutes in heart rate zone 1-2, followed by 1 minute at 90rpm, focus on smooth pedalling, keep your upper body still....  I find myself leaning precariously off the bike on more than one occasion to grab the plan and check what I should be doing next. But after a couple of weeks I’ve got the hang of how the sessions work. And once I’ve mastered the gadget, I should be able to programme the sessions in.

Within the first two weeks of the plan, I have to complete the Functional Threshold Test to calculate my heart rate training zones. The test involves riding for 30 minutes at the highest physical intensity I can sustain. Having never tried to ride as hard as I can for half an hour, I have no idea what effort to set off at. I warm up in a Wiggo mask for inspiration (we all do that though, right?) and then shift through the gears trying to find something that feels hard enough. At the end of the test I’m tired, but was that really the highest physical intensity I could have sustained? I didn’t puke, so probably not. But I get to do it all again in week nine so that’s something to aim for.

                      An inspirational Wiggo mask - not included with training plans.

Weekends are the chance to get off the turbo and out onto the roads. The turbo is great and I couldn’t follow the plan in winter without it, but with Northumberland on the doorstep, I’d rather be riding outdoors.  I ride for longer than I’m supposed to, so a 1.25 hour ride turns into 3.25 hours (excluding cake stop), but other than that I’m pretty faithful to the plan. So far so good.

Has Abby has inspired you to take a challenge and enter a sportive? Found out more here.

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