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Monday, 20 May 2013

Helena's Big Adventure. Chapter 4 - Learning How To Put It All Together

On the Easter Saturday I was lucky to take part in a free triathlon training session provided by Tri Together ( This was an amazing opportunity.
As everybody was just starting I was overwhelmed by the information available, but the thing that made me the most nervous was – HOW TO PUT IT ALL TOGETHER?! Slowly learning swimming, running and improving my bike, that was all clear. Just go and do. But the transition form one to another was a big mystery.
The session benefited me in three ways – swim coaching and feedback, transition coaching, race rules.
The swim session was amazing! We spent about an hour in the pool. I had a lane to myself and did all the splashing I could! My biggest success of the day was learning how to do the tumble turn (still need a lot of practice). It took me few attempts and they had some funny outcomes. For one I ended up still facing the wall after all the tumbling I'd done. I know I will not use it in my life much, but it was fun to learn. I learned few drills and got some good tips on the ones I was doing already. Learned that in my last length in the pool I should really kick my legs as much as possible. That would help me when I get out and go to my first transition. It makes blood circulate more and therefore the dizziness will not so bad after the swim. I really like the fact somebody actually looked at the way I swim. I think everybody should get a swim buddy or join a swimming group. After learning all this and practicing for a while, I am now able to do 100 meters in just over 2 minutes that is getting close to a half of what I did when I just started.
Transition coaching was fun! It started to rain and snow and we were standing there in our socks and short sleeve tops listening to instructions. I now know how to set up my transition. I would have never thought of putting a towel down on the ground to wipe my feet after the swim. We were told some funny stories about people pinning their race numbers on their tops while not wearing them. Outcome – back and front of the shirt pinned together! I have now bought a race belt to avoid this mistake.
Everybody can practice in the way we did it because it was easy and simple and you should be able to find enough space in your local park or even front of your house. Find a place to rack or just put down your bike. Next to it lay out all you need – towel, top with number or race belt, shoes, socks, helmet etc. Put some cones or other marks out further away – one to mark the “out of transition” one to mark “in the transition”. Pretend you run out of swim, run to your bike, put on helmet etc. Take your bike, run to “out of transition” then cycle for few meters to “in the transition”. Get off, rack the bike, change shoes and repeat the circle with running. This will get your familiar with the process so no stress on the day.
Lastly, but very important, is rules! We did not go through all of them, but I now know important things. No nudity! Mainly applies to guys, as they are not so shy about taking their tops off, but there should be no unnecessary flesh showing. So no changing your clothes at every point. Tri suit is a good option, as you can leave it on for the all three parts of the event and wear it under wetsuit too. Then – do not touch your bike before your helmet is buckled up and do not take your helmet off before your bike is back on the rack! And no rude language towards anyone, especially referees! There are other rules, but I remember those most of all.
Just the last tip – you might be in hurry and forget to take your helmet off. But think twice, do you really need it for the run!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Ben's Adventure In Mallorca

Stood on the start line I thought “Aren’t you supposed to be getting nervous right about now?” The strange thing was, despite this being my first triathlon, despite this being the first time I had swam with other people around me, despite me ending up far too close to the front of my wave with the prospect of have 300+ people swim over me, despite me never having swum more than 1400m (I had to do 1900m), despite me never running more than 12km (I had to do 21km); I wasn’t nervous, I was excited. And then the gun fired and I started the Mallorca 70.3.

The first part of the swim was a lot of pushing and barging. That’s fine, I was expecting that. I managed to not get kicked in the face and just doggy paddled when I had nowhere to go. Finally after 300m, I found some space and got into my rhythm. The conditions were perfect. The sea was flat as a pancake for the first 500m and even after that the waves weren’t too bad. I lost count of the buoys and just started taking them one at a time. Sighting where I was going wasn’t too hard (though I probably did this more often than I needed to). Before I knew it, we were pushing and barging our way round the turn buoys and heading for home. It was amazing how many people around me couldn’t swim in a straight line. One particular person was like a torpedo with no rudder. He would blast past my nose, kicking like crazy with bubbles everywhere. He’d then stop, breast stroke (taking up twice the room of everyone else), sight the buoy, over correct and the torpedo back past my nose again. Another person decided he needed a rest 300m out, flopped onto his back and started floating; I nearly swam into his crotch. The beach started to creep closer and I started to get excited that I might actually get through this. I’d been told to start kicking towards the end to get the blood back into them. When I tried this, my calves instantly cramped up so I just continued to drag myself in with my arms. The bottom started to come into sight and then finally my hand hit the sand. I had made it! The guy next to me must have felt the same way because he slapped me on the back as he cheered. I had no idea what time I had swum in. I would have been very happy with a mid-40 minute something. I was ecstatic to later find out that I’d done it in 36:03.

Next was my first ever transition, but first I had to run off the beach. This was very weird as there was no blood in my legs and they felt like jelly. I found my bag quite easily thanks to Ben Webeck’s trick of hanging it by all four strings rather than the two that everyone else did. Into the tent and the wetsuit came off quite quickly. I had decided to put some socks and my cycling shoes on here as I only had road shoes and couldn’t put them on while riding the bike. This however meant that I had to run what seemed like the worlds’ longest transition in my cycling shoes. Trust me, half a kilometre takes a long time in clogs with cleats. I had a little bit of messing around to do with my helmet but then I was out and into my familiar territory. I was 280th in my age category out of the swim….. time for some pay back.

It was an interesting feeling having the blood drain back down to my legs. But within a few kilometres, my legs came on line and I was pinging past people. I’d forgotten how rapid Barry’s Trek Speed Concept 9 Series feels, it’s easily the quickest time trial bike I’ve ever ridden. The Enve 65s also felt quick and stable in the cross winds heading up the coast. Man was there a lot of very expensive equipment going very very slowly. Our race numbers had our first name and country flag on them so that people can cheer you on while you’re running. It’s also handy to be able to know which language to try and shout “on the left” in when you’re hammering up to people. If that failed, being able to yell “Carlos, get out the way” usually did the trick. I span my way up the climb at 90-95rpm holding myself at the threshold set from my test with Dr Garry Palmer and reached the top feeling very comfortable. The descent was fast, technical and fun but I took it relatively steady and eat a couple of bars while I wasn’t breathing too hard. The rest of the ride was flat but into a headwind. This was perfect for me as I just tucked up small and tried to make myself as aero as possible. I was really enjoying the shorter 170mm cranks as they allowed me to duck right down into the position while keeping my hips angle nice and open (you can read more on my short crank theory’s here). I made sure I ate and drank round the whole course and went through 3 gels, two packs of shot bloks, 2 bars and about 1200ml of Torq energy drink. I knocked the pace off a little in the last 10km to “save my legs for the run” but still finished the bike leg in 2:28:39. The only person that past me was Antonio Colom who won a stage of the 2009 Paris Nice before failing a dope test. He flew past me on the way to a 2:09 (sticking 6 minutes into the fastest pro triathlete). My ride gave me the 6th fastest bike split in my age category and 50th overall. I had ridden myself from 280th to 26th in my age category and was on for a really good result………. If only I could run.

T2 went very well. Again, the four string hanging technique meant I found my bag very quickly, my running shoes slipped on without a problem and I was off. This is where things started to fall apart. Between injury and illness, the run was the discipline I felt least prepared for. While I had tried to do most of my running after riding my bike, I hadn’t yet run more than 12km and never after such a big effort. I had also never run with a stomach full of gels and fluid before so my stomach’s first reaction was to try and get rid of it and I spent the first 500m fighting the urge to throw up. Then my legs just stopped working; my knees hurt, mu hips ached and my quads started threatening to cramp with every step. I quickly decided that discretion was definitely the better part of valour. Targeting “just finishing” became my goal and if I could get through the run without walking, I would still get round in a reasonable time. So I plodded around watching everyone fly past me again. I discovered that trying to run and drink is rather tricky and choked on a glass of water twice. Cardiovascularly, I was barely trying (I spent a couple of km’s chatting to an older lady from Namibia who was the only one going at my pace) but every time I tried to up the pace, my legs reported “no go” and I was back to plodding. So I just set about taking in the spectacle and enjoying myself. I spotted the legend that is Shane Sutton, one of my old GB coaches, on the side of the road stopped briefly to say hello. “Ben!!!” he says as I shake his hand “What the $#@! Are you stopping for, get going!” in his thick Aussie accent. As I went through the 12km mark, I entered virgin territory and I started to smile….. I might actually get through this. In the last 3kms, my legs started to pack up completely and my pace slowly started to drop off but I pushed on through and rounded the final turn. Crossing the line was a great experience; a final 100m up the beach with a large crowd cheering you in. I crossed the line with my legs in ribbons in a time of 1:56:24. I had hoped to under 5 hours for the whole thing but given how bad I felt in the run, I was quite chuffed to finish my first half Ironman in 5:09:12.

Overall, the whole experience has been great. I have a new appreciation of how difficult it is to be competent at three sports. The bug has definitely bitten but I have a lot of work to do to become competent, especially spending a lot more time conditioning my legs to run. I’ve been surprised how much I’ve enjoyed the swimming, both in training and in the competition. I had an absolute ball on the bike and it was great to feel like a good cyclist again.

There were three things I noticed while I was riding:
Firstly, the amount of triathletes that grind along at very low cadences. It must be hard to go from leg pressing round at 65-70rpm on the bike to running with a nice quick cadence on the run.
Secondly, many riders need to practice drinking and eating while pedalling. I flew past many people that were freewheeling along off their tri bars while I was not only staying aero while drinking, I was barely coming off the power.
Lastly, the level of bike handling left a lot to be desired and not just on the descent. I caught a lot of people on the exit of turn in the towns because they had come to almost a complete stop for even the smallest turn.

I’d like to say a number of thank yous. Firstly to Barry for lending me his wet suit and bike and encouraging me to do a triathlon. Next to Sean from Audiofuel for talking me into doing a half Ironman rather than the Olympic I had originally thought I’d do. To Ray from Swim Canary Wharf for teaching me the basics that made swimming enjoyable. To Justin from Saddleback for loaning me the Enve 65s and Scicon bike box. And finally to Ben Webeck and Cat Benger from ABCPure Triathlon Coaching for showing me the ropes, getting me through my first open water swim and imparting so much knowledge to me in such a short time (if you’re looking for a tri coach, these guys are great).

As I said, I most certainly have the bug now and will be planning my next adventure soon…….. once I can walk without looking like an OAP.    

Friday, 10 May 2013

Ben's Last Day as a Virgin

“Enjoy your last day as a triathlon virgin” said Ben Webeck of ABCPure coaching.

I feel like a character from Game of Thrones or a cold war spy that’s about to defect. For years I have taken the mickey out of triathletes, shunned them for their poor bike handling skills and slight self-righteousness. I have got the same weird look from all of my cycling friends when I have told them that I am doing a triathlon; a dirty look that says “why would you want to do that”? Yet here I stand, on the brink of betraying my kin and becoming one of “them”. And I know that once I have taken this step, there’s no turning back.

It is a strange and foreign world to me though. For a start, these guys seem to never stop training. The place is full of triathletes running up and down the roads, sweat dripping down their faces, or wetsuit round their waists heading for yet another swim. Does tapering not exist in the world of triathlon? I thought the idea was to get to the line fresh and ready to go? I took my bike for a gentle shake down yesterday (never came out of the little ring) and there were guys hammering past me in full aero helmets in 27 degree heat!!!! While the most I intend to do on the day before is a quick ride up and down the street to make sure my Di2 battery charged properly, some of these guys are going to swim, bike and run!!!!!!!

It’s been great to bump into so many Bespoke customers while I’ve been out here. According to the event program, over 25% of the field is British….. a fact I must remember if I feel the urge to curse at people for getting in my way on the bike leg. It’s also the first Ironman run event for 36% of the competitors….. though how many of this 36% are also complete triathlon virgins I have no idea. Seeing as there are 3500 people doing this, we got registered nice and early. I got my first “Ironman” rucksack (which was the first time I realised I was officially “one of them” now) and my pack with transition bags and numbers. HOW MANY NUMBERS!!!! They seem to go everywhere, there’s 3 on the helmet alone!!!!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Ben and Cat from ABCPure coaching for taking me under their wing and showing me the ropes. On the first day they took me down to the beach for my first ever open water swim. The water by the beach is so calm you can almost see your reflection in it. After a quick intro into how to get a wetsuit on, we were into the water and away. I was surprised at how much I liked it. Not having a wall to hit meant I could concentrate on my stroke. I even swam in a straight line….. sort of. And sighting the buoys was reasonably easy too. I hadn’t planned to swim too far but before I knew it I was 400m out but I’m glad I did because that’s where the waves started. These weren’t too bad and it was good to experience them.  At 500m I said goodbye from Ben and Cat and cut across to the other side. This is when I looked back to the shore….. damn it looked a long way away. But I realised that it was very easy to float for a bit and take a rest before heading back. All told, I finished and felt good and I no longer fear the dreaded swim.

So, all that’s left is to rack my bike, hang my transition bags and eat my body weight in pasta. Then it’s a sleepless night and it’s all systems go. Weather report looks thankfully favourable for a ginger person (but it won’t stop me bathing in factor 50+). As you’ll see from the pictures, I’m bib number 1033 and start at 8:30am CET. Follow my progress at

The bike is racked, the race bags are hung.

Ben Hallam the cyclist is dead; long live triathlete Ben.

Thursday, 9 May 2013


Bespoke’s resident massage therapist and acupuncturist, Ade Robson, talks about the importance of posture and the relationship it has to your cycling performance.

Posture. How many of us pay real attention to what this means and the clear and marked impact it has on our musculoskeletal, physiological, mental and physical states?

Perfect posture is by default very difficult to get right. We are all perhaps a little out of kilter in some way but what's important is that we have a good range of motion, which is pain free.

We all have habits and patterns in our daily lives, which contribute to wear and tear on our body. So we need to think about getting into good habits or regular patterns of keeping check on our posture.

We all know how important subtle shifts and little tweaks are when trying to establish, maintain and improve optimal efficiency and comfort where you and your bike meet. There are of course parallels to the biomechanics of how we interact with our world on a daily basis and the biomechanics of how we interact with our bike.

This is all about realising your true potential and using your energy in the most efficient way. When we look at the biomechanics of cycling we are incorporating joints, muscles, point of contact, angles, equipment as well load factors. For example, saddle height can affect the body's use of air, which in turn affects the energy produced by muscular contractions, which affects the energy on the pedal.

Postural problems are a biggy before we get on our bike. For example, many of us typically sit at a desk all day. It's very difficult to maintain correct posture all day with work stress and gravity bearing down on us. Our shoulders can become rounded, hitched towards our ears, heads held or dropping forwards which manifests as weakness and poor posture,

These patterns sneak up on us, insidiously. Soon our chests become tight and contracted which affects our breathing and we don't even realise. Getting enough air in our lungs and using our lungs to their full capacity in everyday life is crucial.  Think about how crucial your lungs are in cycling and performing to your true potential.

Try and think about your body's own daily performance and routines or little patterns. Think about the little tweaks, adjustments and awareness we can bring to our body on a daily basis before we even jump on our bikes?

Therefore, in time, when it comes to getting on your bike your system and body structures will be better placed, more responsive and more attuned helping you get the most from what you enjoy doing the most!

Ade is available at Bespoke Cycling on Wednesdays 2.00-6.00pm. If you'd like further information or to book yourself a sports massage to sort out some tightness then please call 020 7837 0647

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Mallorca Here I Come

It sounded like such a good idea back in October when I decided to do the Mallorca 70.3 as my first triathlon. Man has it come round quickly. Since my first few blogs (Part 1 and Part 2),  I haven’t been blogging about this much because A) things have been moving forward at the shop at such a rapid rate of knots and B) my training hasn’t been going perfectly. If there’s one thing that I’ve taken from this experience it is how hard it is to be even mediocre at three sports. I still haven’t run the full distance and have no idea if my body will hold up to the impact of running a half marathon and I still feel like a fish out of water...... when I'm in the water. But thanks to some last minute panic training, I at least feel reasonably fit and ready for the off.

I want to say a big thanks to big boss man Barry for lending me his wetsuit. My swimming is definitely my weakest discipline but I’ve been constantly hearing about what a big difference a wetsuit makes. I had a quick go with it in the pool and WOW!!!! I jumped in pencil style and felt like I came back up like a fishing float. The added buoyancy does make a massive difference to your speed through the water. I’m also told that the salt water makes you float too so I’m at least I’m no longer worried about drowning. I’ve never swam in open water before so the first thing I’m going to go and have some practice on Wednesday afternoon with Ben and Cat from ABC Pure who are out in Mallorca already. My last swimming session went very well and I’m starting feel that all those drills that Ray from Swim CanaryWharf got me to do have really helped.

I also want to say thanks to Barry for letting me use his Trek 9 Series Speed Concept. While the bike course does have a 15km climb in it, the rest is pan flat where I can make up a lot more time on a TT bike. I’ll be looking good in my new Castelli Free Tri Distance Suit which is amazing quality.

 A huge thank to Justin from Saddleback for lending me a set of ENVE 65 clinchers as well. I could probably have got away with taking Barry’s 808 and disc as the climb isn’t that steep. But I’m only able to take one set of wheels and if the wind gets up, I don’t want to be stuck being blown all over the road. I also don’t want to take a chance on tubs because if I get a puncture early on, I don’t want to be throwing myself down the decent on a tub that is newly stuck on. Justin has also been kind enough to lend me his Scicon bike box. These are great bits of kit for anyone that is travelling regularly with their bike.

So, all that’s left is to get on a plane and head towards the sun. I’m crossing my fingers that it doesn't get too hot but, touch wood, the projected temperatures aren’t quite past the melting point of a ginger person. I’m heading out there by myself (much to annoyance of my girlfriend) so if you’re going to be out there, drop me a line with some contact details at It would be good to see some friendly faces. I’m staying in Alcudia Garden Apartments in Port d’Alcudia. You can follow my progress on the day on the Ironman Live website which will update every time I go through a section.

I'll leave you with my two favorite pre-race videos that get me up and ready to rock:

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Maxing Out with Dr Garry Palmer

Through my cycling career, I have done more VO2 tests than I can remember. I’ve experienced lots of different protocols; some have step the wattage up in chunks and wait for your heart rate to stabilize  some have forced you to hold a certain cadence, I’ve had pin pricks in my fingers and one I had to max my body with an IV needle in my arm (which was rather off putting).

Ahead of my half ironman in Mallorca I wanted to know how hard I could push on the bike as I need to hold myself back to have enough left for the run. So Dr Garry Palmer from Sportstest, our in house physiologic tester, kindly offered to test me. First up were the dreaded fat calipers  everyone’s worst nightmare. I was pleasantly surprised that I was running my body fat down at 7.9% despite not actively watching my weight (being the wrong side of thirty now, I know this isn’t going to last forever). Garry explained the results from this analysis and made some suggestions of ways I could healthy control and lower this if I wanted to. After a quick interview to analyse my history and goals we calibrated the gas analyzer and KingCycle before starting the test.

What I like about Garry’s protocol is that firstly, it is done on your own bike so your biomechanics are exactly the same as you use on the road. Secondly, after two five minute efforts to gauge the best starting point, Garry uses a smooth ramp protocol where the load is increased 1 Watts every 3 seconds rather than stepping up in big chunks. Mentally I prefer this protocol as mentally you can convince yourself that you won’t be able to do the next step and can give up earlier than you normally would. Lastly, Garry’s protocol allows you to self-select your cadence. This is important for me as an ex-track rider because I trained myself to be very efficient at a high cadence (I used to pursuit at 118rpm). I find that I struggle with protocols that force you to hold 90rpm as I want to sit at around 100rpm.

I haven’t done a test for 7 years and forgot the glorious feeling of lactic slowly building and mentally accepting that you’re going to drive yourself as close to death as you possibly can. Getting the most out of yourself in a ramp tests is purely mental. If you aren’t looking for a bin to be sick into at the end, you haven’t pushed yourself hard enough. Halfway through Garry turned off the screen showing the current wattage and heart rate which I needed. If you can see these, you can convince yourself that “I’ll just get to X watts and then I’ll stop”. I finished and felt like I’d got everything out of myself.

Then came the analysis. This is what Garry is really good at. He sits down and talks you through the numbers and what they mean one by one. First thing that I saw was that my maximum heart rate was 10 beats down from when I used to do these as a young man. This is no surprise as your max heart rate slowly comes down as you get older and I haven’t been pushing my heart that hard for a long time. Next Garry explained my efficiency; this is a value of how much of the oxygen that is being breathed in is being converted to power in the legs. While my efficiency was ok at around 20%, this is an area that I can improve. I hit a maximum wattage of 422 Watts and a VO2Max of 5.49 L.min (or 75.72 ml.Kg.min) but what was important was my threshold wattage. This is the point at which you’re able to ride and stay aerobic (e.g. not producing the lactic acid). For me, this was 328 Watts at a heart rate of 177bpm. Garry also talked me through my training zones for recovery rides, working on endurance etc giving me both power and heart rates for each. I was pretty chuffed with this and I think it will stand me in good stead for Mallorca.

Overall, I can’t recommend Garry’s test highly enough. He gives great encouragement through the test and explains all the values very well. If you’re serious about your goals and training correctly, getting a test done should be at the top of your list of things to do. 

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Germain Burton Returns to Bespoke Cycling

After coming in February, this week saw Olympic Development Squad rider Germain Burton come back into Bespoke Cycling to work on his time trial position ahead of the Junior Peace Race, part of the Junior Nations Cup, in the Czech Republic.

Germain's saddle was a little low but the hard part of this fitting was that we were restricted by the UCI regulations which state that the saddle can be no more than 50mm behind the bottom bracket. Germain is quite short and limiting how far forward Germain can sit means that his hip angle was getting too closed over the top of the pedal stroke. If he was a triathlete, I'd push the saddle as far forward as I could to open up the hips but due to the regulations, we needed to utilize a different solution.

I showed Germain the position comparison between Brad and Andy that I did last year. In my opinion, the big difference between the two is that Andy is sitting on his saddle like a road bike (in the middle) while Brad is perched on the end of the nose. While this isn't the most comfortable place to sit, it opens up the hips and allows you to ride with a flatter back.

Above is a comparison of Germain's position after I had raised his saddle and made sure his saddle was smack bang on the 50mm limit. Sitting on the nose of the saddle allowed Germain to have the elbow pads supporting his body weight rather than on his fore arms. It also allowed him to hold the bars further forward and punch a smaller hole through the air. The head is one of the most unaerodynamic parts of the body so I taught Germain to drop his chest towards his bars and duck his head in front of his shoulders. This makes the air part around the head and better flow round the shoulders.

We're pleased to report that Germain had some great performances in the Junior Peace Race. He won the bunch sprint for 7th on stage 1, finished 21st out of 109 riders (and 2nd Brit) in the time trial and won stage 2b. On the last stage, he lead out Chris Lawless from 500m out and still hung on for 10th!!! Congratulations to Germain, he's certainly one to keep an eye on.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Adding Science to the ‘Art of Training’ with Dr Garry Palmer

If you're not already following a training plan with clearly defined goals then now might be the time to start planning your training plan. Here, Dr Garry Palmer of Sportstest Ltd takes us through where to start. 
            Although there is no magic formula to success, I intend to give you a background that should assist with the structure and organisation of training.  In this article I will examine the rudiments of why we cycle and give you a background to build structure into your training. 

            To help visualise the many factors that influence the performance of a cyclist, consider a Formula 1 motor racing car.  Before each race many preparations are made to the car to ensure peak performance is achieved.  The driver is fully rested and psychologically prepared for the gruelling event, the engine is renewed and highly tuned, the fuel tank filled with high performance fuels, the body work adjusted to achieve optimal aerodynamics, and the weight reduced without affecting the many safety features of the car.  All of these are important to aid performance.
            In the same way the athlete is that racing car.  The frequency and duration of training determines the capacity and ability of their engine, the food eaten affects the fuels utilised, and the riding position and bike's maintenance determines aerodynamics and mechanical efficiency.

            As sportsmen and women the first question must be: Why do we do it?  Invariably the answer will be to participate for fitness, improved health, or just for enjoyment.  Although this may be true, most athletes ultimately wish to improve their performance (whether it be to just to finish a Sportive, or to look to improve previous performance, or even win an event!).  However, each individual must decide how important achievement is, and integrate sport into their lives accordingly.
            With this in mind, to achieve the maximal benefits of training, organisation and planning is required.  One of the first steps towards organisation of any training program is to identify goals.  These goals should be short, medium and long term, giving direction and focus.  An example of a short term goal could be undertaking regular bicycle maintenance (especially important in these winter months), whilst a long term goal may be to complete the desired event at a certain level.  The goals set must be achievable with effort, and should be reviewed regularly and altered where necessary.
            Another important step towards organisation of training should be to identify and list any weaknesses. At Sportstest we are able to do this accurately through a carefully controlled performance assessment, which also clearly determines heart rate and power training zones.  Once identified, work to reduce any factors limiting performance can begin.  For example, during a low intensity training session an athlete may utilise his/her time more efficiently by working on their ability to descend or corner at speed, or may concentrate on style and position on the bike.  An individual who feels they are weak on climbs may spend an entire session doing hill repetitions to improve their climbing ability.  In this way a simple goal is set for each ride and all training sessions are planned to achieve a medium term goal.
            The conscientious athlete will build a training regimen that plans from day to day.  From this a training routine may be structured to ensure all important sessions are undertaken, whilst still obtaining adequate rest, within a 7, 10 or 14 day period.  In this way an individual will develop a carefully planned training program.
            The next stage for an athlete would be to plan phases in his/her program to build up to an important event.  Again each phase should have a specific goal, for example to build endurance, to enhance base speed, or to recover following a particularly hard period of training.
            Another way to improve training structure and enhance performance is to keep a training diary.  This type of information will be of benefit in the long term.  Many athletes find a diary useful to learn about their training by reviewing its positive and negative aspects, and planning future training accordingly. 
            It is obviously up to the individual what is recorded in their training diary.  However, information of use may include: training duration and intensity; weather; possibly some sort of "feel good" rating; food and drink consumed before and during the ride; resting morning heart rate; and weekly body weight.  In this way a diary may help identify practices (such as feeding) beneficial to performance, or possible act as an early warning to looming problems.
            With some simple planning to utilise these suggestions an athlete should be able to add some structure to enhance their training program and optimise the building and fine tuning required for their "engine".
            In order to gain the maximum benefit from the efforts of training, the conscientious athlete will also pay attention to aerodynamics and mechanical efficiency.  By simply reducing frontal area, and therefore reducing drag, a rider will use less energy to maintain a fixed pace.  The same is true of "drafting".  Thus, by simply paying attention to position, or ill-fitting clothing, aerodynamic benefits may be gained.  Some athletes find a bike fit or video analysis a useful method to check their bicycle set-up and monitor riding position and style.
            Mechanical efficiency is also optimised with correct bike set-up.  However, many athletes lose these benefits with poor bike maintenance.  Common faults are worn tyres that puncture easily, rusted or dirty chains, and "untrue" wheels.  Although tiresome, frequent maintenance of a bike may, in the long run, be both cost effective and help achieve performance goals.
            Finally, safety is an issue that should concern all cyclists.  A dead or injured cyclist is NOT fast.  NEVER OVERLOOK SAFETY ISSUES:  Always wear a secure fitting hard-shell helmet and padded gloves; Wear bright, well-fitting clothes (layers of clothing will reduce grazing following a fall); Always wear reflective clothing and use fully charged lights after dark, and; Always ride with care, caution and courtesy.

            In this article I have looked at a few things that may help you in your training program.  You may think some points are obvious, whilst others may not be.  However, the main aim of this article is to make you think about, and possible challenge, your present training practices.
To book an appointment with Dr Palmer at Bespoke Cycling to improve your performance or for more information please visit our website or call 020 7837 0647