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The road back to fit

Posted on August 16 2017

Sol-Cyclinic Team rider Anna has had some extended time off the bike recently, not because she wanted to but due to illness. Now she's back about her road to fitness below...

When you have been off the bike a few months, it's like the heavens open up and your own little ray of sunshine follows you when you can finally hop back on two wheels. This happened for me last week, as I went for a (very slow) trundle up Nebo/Glorious, perhaps overestimating my fitness and ability as I got to the top and thought "where to now...?".

I was honestly just so happy to be outside riding my bike, that the fact that tiny beetles were climbing faster than me did not matter.

In fact, I was so stoked I went out for a couple more shreds, on my new sled, just emphasising form and skill rather than fitness, as that would have gotten me down.

Well, now, a week later, and I realise i'm pretty impatient. While I am still mega stoked to be out and about on my bike, there is part of me that's thinking "FFS, can I not just be a little quicker up here? This is demoralising!" as I weave my way up one of my many 10min or so climbs that I usually charge up doing threshold reps, this time in my granny puffing like an emphysema patient.

Fitness is a process. regaining fitness is perhaps an even harder process, at least mentally, as you know how fast and fit you can be and just want to be there again, without the slow rides and coming home after three hours with legs of jelly.

I have had some good thoughts about how to maintain focus and motivation when you're on the slow road back. Hey, I had a lot of time to think while I was weaving up those hills in my granny ring.

Here's the highlights of my cognitive drivel:

1. Today may not feel better than yesterday, but next week i'll be fitter than this week, and next month i'll be a freaking machine.

2. Enjoy the time outside. I am still in the phase of transitioning back to training on the bike, I don't have the capacity for threshold reps, VO2 efforts or anything like that right at the moment. The downside of this is feeling like a snail. The upside is being able to enjoy the great outdoors, to stop and take a selfie because your're totally hypoxic at the top of the climb (and stopping to take a selfie is a totally legit way to catch your breath, amirite?!). Check out that awesome bird! Envisage the view from the mountains as it may have been hundreds of years ago. Listen to the bush.

Looking thoroughly unimpressed, as I was, at the top of a local climb.

3. Focus on doing the shit that doesn't require the watts, better. Ride that gnarly D. Too much brake? Ride that gnarly D again, this time with less brake. I would argue that every time I have had to go back to the beginning and regain fitness I have become a better rider, technically, because if you can't smoke the uphills you sure as hell need to make the best of the descent!

4. Set some motherf***ing goals. Get some races or rides sorted, using the SMART goal setting mnemonic, that you can focus your riding on. Then repeat number 1. in your head as you're riding and have faith in your training; you will adapt and become fitter and stronger!

5. Be a little bit sensible. While much of this will be dictated—at least if you've been out for an extended period of time—by the fitness that is lacking, remember that regaining fitness takes time. So you were able to ride for 5 hours and do 3000mts climbing and finish with cripplingly technical singletrack? It may be a couple of months before you can contemplate that. Do what's within your capability, but push the boundaries, which may mean intensity or duration or both, systematically.

Any other hints and tricks or advice for returning to training after an extended break?

Ride safe, AB.

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