TrainingTraining advice and plans to prepare you to cycle from London to Paris
Training, why it's so important
When training for the London to Paris bike ride one thing is certain, the more you put in, the more you'll get back. It's really that simple – the fitter you are, the more you'll enjoy the ride.
What a disappointment it would be to not be able to complete the challenge (after all the planning and sponsorship money raised if cycling for charity) because you've not taken the time to train.
There's one way to avoid this happening and that is by getting your bike out and taking it for a ride. Read on for some simple tips and training plans submitted by other users who have successfully completed the ride.
The majority of people who look to cycle from London to Paris are not very experienced cyclists. You don't need to be a professional cyclist to complete this challenge (this would certainly help with the 24 hour London to Paris ride), but you do require a certain level of fitness. You may have already started your training, it may be the first time you've done something like this – but whatever your level of fitness or ability, you all need to be doing the same thing and that's training – there's escaping it!
How often should I train?
We all approach training differently and some people will want to train more than others will and some people will simply have more time than others. It's good to remember that there are plenty of exercises you can do throughout the day that will help prepare you for your London to Paris bike ride.
In order to get the most out of the challenge you should really be training around 3 times a week. For the best results, you should space these days evenly. Training for 3 days in a row and then taking 4 days off isn't so great.
If you're new to cycling or you haven't ridden your bike for a long time then it's best to start slowly. Get on your bike a couple of times a week for about half an hour and then after 2 weeks add a third day and then gradually increase the time for each ride. In the early weeks don't worry to much about the distances covered, just try to build up the time you spend cycling.
As you become more comfortable on your bike you should then alter your training approach to be distance focused. As you will need to cycle set distances on each day on your London to Paris bike ride no matter how long it takes you, it's best to concentrate on the length of your rides as soon as possible as this will tell you if you need to pickup your pace. Keep increasing the distance every couple of weeks, allowing your body the chance to get used to the increased demands you are putting on it.
As your London to Paris bike ride approaches, you should plan days out where you cycle for 5 to 6 hours on hilly terrain. If you have the time then it is a good idea to have a couple of weekends where you ride for 4 to 5 hours both days. At this stage it's important that your body gets used to be able to cycle long distances on consecutive days.
For some of you, lack of time is going to be a real hindrance to the amount you can train so why not walk or cycle to work? If you live too far away to do this and get the bus or tube into work, then get off a stop early. For those of you that drive to work, don't use the lift to get to your floor – take the stairs (this helps a lot more than you think). Basically, look at your lifestyle and see if there are opportunities to do things differently that will help improve your fitness – most of us will probably find there is.
Training with a friend
It's a good idea to get yourself a training partner from the start. They don't necessarily have to be someone who is taking part in the London to Paris bike ride, although it would help if they were as they are more likely to be motivated and less likely to miss training sessions.
You'll find that training with a friend you'll push each other to work that little bit harder. Plus, learning to cycle alongside others is a useful part of training and will help you prepare for that eventuality on the ride itself (assuming your not cycling alone from London to Paris that is).
As we've said already, ideally, you want to be training 3 times a week but it is also important to build up gradually. One of the most important things to remember is to warm up and warm down. You could start by running gently for a few minutes and then stretching all your major muscle groups, while keeping warm. After training, make sure that you decrease your activity level gently rather than suddenly and stretch all your muscle groups again.
Listen to what your body is telling you and be honest with yourself. Yes, you want to push yourself in training to gain the maximum benefit from each session; no, you do not want to overdo it and cause yourself harm.
You can train in the gym as well to increase your general fitness level but it is always better to train outside. As stated earlier, it is best to train regularly throughout the week for short rides rather than once a week for a long ride.
As mentioned earlier, everybody is different and therefore it is impossible to write a fitness plan that can be used by all. This is a general outline of things to be thinking about in months preceding the ride and is by no means a comprehensive guide.
Should you have any questions, problems or queries about the fitness regime that you are undertaking, you should contact a relevant specialist such as a gym instructor or local GP.
- Gears: they are the essential thing that will make your life easier, providing you know how to use them properly. Practise changing gears whilst going uphill and try to ensure that you achieve the correct balance with the gears. Lower gears are easier to peddle but you'll have to peddle faster and, with higher gears, you’ll find the opposite.
- Weather: Try to cycle with some wind resistance as this will increase your fitness/strength and will prepare you for the event. Also, there's no escaping the fact that it may rain on your London to Paris ride, any training which involves cycling in the rain is valuable.
- Hydration: Practise drinking from your water bottle whilst cycling. You won't want to keep stopping to drink on your ride.
- Terrain: Practise cycling off roads and up hills as this will help to prepare you for the reality of cycling to Paris.
- Bike setup: Ensure that your saddle is at the right height (your feet should just miss the ground when you are sitting on it). If you find this difficult to begin with, increase the height gradually.
- Kit to take: You will need to carry certain items with you during the ride so you might like to consider how you will do this. You can consult your local bike shop to find out what your options are e.g. rucksack, pannier, handlebar bags etc. Remember that you should always wear a helmet when cycling. It is also a good idea to carry a small first aid kit, a puncture repair kit and a mobile phone.
We've included some training plans which have been submitted by those who have successfully completed the London to paris cycle ride for your reference. As we've said, each of you will have different fitness levels and mixed cycling experience so you will need to adapt these to fit your own particular needs but we hope they are helpful to you with creating your own training plan.
Need a more detailed training guide? Check out these recommended cycle training books for further tips and advice:
- The Complete Book of Long Distance Cycling
- The Cyclist's Training Bible
- Bicycling Magazine's Training Techniques for Cyclists
- Ultimate Guide to Cycle Training
- Training and Racing with a Power Meter
- The Time-Starved Cyclist's Training Formula
Hopefully the above gives you some ideas on ways to start going about training, but by no means is it a comprehensive list. Having read this, you should be more focused and you should now have a clearer idea of what you need to do to get fit and what books to read for more detailed tips and advice. Be honest with yourself, you know your own body and you know how fit you are… or not.
Remember, this may be a challenge, but it's also meant to be fun – so enjoy yourself!