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TA Countdown 7: Training Wheels

29 October 2021

By Ollie Whalley, Anja McDonald, Tristan Rawlence & Scott Emmens

If you reckon on pinning it to Bluff in 10 days, you'll no doubt already have a sophisticated training schedule in place. Most riders however will adopt a mixture of some long distance/multi-day training rides with a 'slow-start' strategy - gaining fitness, speed and distance as you progress down the country. Irrespective of how juiced you want to be on the start line, here are some considerations for preparing your body to ride the length of New Zealand.

Tristan 'cross' training to break up the winter routine. Photo: Digby Shaw

Under Cooked

Don't over-do it. Start your regime early and build gradually into longer days. To borrow terminology from the kitchen - roast yourself slowly, take out of the oven early and allow to rest before serving yourself up at Cape Reinga. 

Condition your Bum

More than strength and aerobic capacity, it's vital to toughen your bum and condition your hands. Saddle sores, bruising and nerve damage are all potential show stoppers for your TA. 

  • Choose saddle and bike shorts. Test them. Fine tune your bike setup. And then (only) train with that configuration to condition your bum nicely. Remember to include your preferred chamois cream in the mix.
  • Ride your bike fully-laden with what you plan to pack on the TA. The extra weight has radically different impacts on your body. Obviously that will be more if you're with a tent; less if you're motel hopping.
  • You'll also gain familiarity with the bike's handling and fine tune bike baggage attachment points. Practise off-road to hone your technical skills on a heavier-than-usual rig.
  • Work up to longer multi-day rides - issues often don't present until a few days in.
Go Heavy

A few tricks can be deployed to intensify your training. If you take this approach then pay particular heed to the 'don't over-do it' advice. 

  • Overload your bike - with a little extra gear as ballast in your frame bag. Or punch out miles with wide, heavy, knobbly and therefore slow tyres.
  • Select a harder gear than normal to build strength.
  • Check into the gym for resistance and fitness training to supplement your on-the-bike efforts.
Think About It

Be mindful of good cycle and other techniques.

  • Practise smooth (efficient) pedalling and a relaxed upper body - especially at the start and end of the day.
  • Eat, and drink (lots), while riding. It's tricky.
  • Spend time packing and unpacking your bike baggage until it's second nature. Likewise pitching and packing away your tent if that's your accomodation choice.

Setting good habits in place during training really helps when you're knackered and need to be on autopilot.

Day Job

For those whose job keeps them inside, moving from desk and to saddle stretches and challenges your body.

  • Work on your core strength to help compensate for all that time stretched out over the top tube and the resultant curved back. Washboard abs are a pleasant byproduct.
  • Cycling develops a lot of power without full flexion or extension of your muscles. Your calves in particular will enjoy pre and post ride stretches. A few choice yoga poses are useful tools.
  • As humbling as it is, some time will be spent pushing your fully-laden bike up hills that are too steep for your tired body to ride. It's hard on your calves and archilles tendons, another good reason for a considered stretching regime, and even deliberately pushing your bike for short sections during training rides.
Mind Over Matter

Mental resilience is important preparation for endurance events. Some ideas to toss around...

  • Practise visualisation techniques - capturing positive images and vibes; power animals and any number of other tricks borrowed from the spiritual realm.
  • Assume things will go wrong. When they do, it's then 'all part of the plan' rather than pure panic.
  • Distract yourself with podcasts, audio books, tunes and karaoke.
  • If it all turns to custard, or when decisions seem complicated, return to basics and remember why you're doing this - hopefully to have a good time.