Thursday, 28 June 2012

Cycling Performance Analysis

I appear to have been slacking a bit with keeping the blog up to date and didn't realise how long it had been since I last provided an update. So I expect updates will be like buses for a few days............

In an earlier update I mentioned that I was going to try and arrange a session to fit me to the bike to make sure that it was set up properly and to avoid any waste of energy through poor set up. Having done some more research into where such a session could be conducted and also some research into finding a cycling/sports coach and nutritionist I have managed to find somebody that can provide both services and who is only about an hour and a half away in the car - Happy Days :)

The person in question is Simon Vincent who runs Total Cycling Performance ( ) over in South Wales.

Having had a couple of conversations and exchanged e mails with Simon I was confident that Simon's outlook on training and nutrition was exactly what I was looking for and a date was agreed for me to go over for a day and take part in some performance testing.

The performance testing programme that Simon has agreed to undertake include the following elements;

Electronic body composition scan, nutrition intake analysis and weight management plan

  • 7 day client food diary analysis in respect of macro and micronutrient intake
  • Bodystat 1500™ Electronic Body Composition Metabolic Analysis Scan to ascertain body fat, muscle, hydration levels along with BMR (the amount of kcal your body uses during rest over 24 hours)
  • Waste to hip ratio and body fat spot measurements
  • Full consultation to dispel myths and evaluate goals
  • Detailed nutrition plan and recommendations in line with clients goals                                                     

Laser line bike fit and detailed pedalling efficiency/power analysis – incorporating use of an official Wattbike™

  • Bike fitting incorporating Wattbike**
  • Pedalling efficiency/flat spot analysis across range of riding positions
  • True maximum heart rate test/HR training zones    
  • Maximum minute power output test
  • Electronic Peak Lung Flow Capacity                              
  • Functional Threshold Power Test (20 min)
  • Tri-leve alatic power (sprint) test                                                                                       
  • Optimum bike set up

Cycling specific strength and conditioning/power to weight ratio assessment

  • Upper and lower body strength                                                 
  • Upper and lower body endurance
  • Coronal strength ratios                                                             
  • Bilateral grip strength
  • Core muscle strength and stability                                             
  • Total flexibility and mobility
  • Hip functionality                                                                                   
  • Balance and proprioception                  
  • Written report of results

This performance testing programme is normally undertaken over two days but Simon has kindly agreed to complete the programme in one day and that day is tomorrow 29th June. 

To be honest, I'm quite nervous about the prospect of undertaking a days testing as up until now I have been entirely in control of what fitness training and exercise I have undertaken. Doing what somebody else is telling me to do is something I haven't experienced in relation to sport for probably over ten years! 

The other thing I have been reflecting on over the last few days is that it was only six months ago that I was 17 stone in weight and could not have imagined that I would be contemplating commissioning somebody to act as my sports and nutrition coach with a view to coaching me to the completion of a bona fide sports endurance event. For the first time I have over the last few days allowed myself to feel ever so slightly proud of what I have achieved this year and do you know what? It feels good to be 12 stone something in weight and fit enough to commit to Simons performance testing programme. 

I will provide an update on how the day has gone in the next few days (once I have recovered!) 

Once again thanks for taking the time to visit and read my blog. 

Hope to see you back here soon


Saturday, 16 June 2012

Galibier (Video of what VP needs to train for)

Wet and windy day today so I have elected to take a rest day and spend some time surfing YouTube for videos of l'etape and the climbs that could be included in the 2013 l'etape.

There are quite a lot of video's on YouTube and over the coming days I will be creating a dedicated page on the blog to showcase some of my favourites. In the meantime I thought I would share a couple that portray the what is involved in completing the l'etape du tour.

The first is a Rapha promotional video which mixes old Tour de France footage and scenes from the famous Galibier climb that has featured on previous editions of l'etape. This one is relatively short and has some stunning footage of both the famous names that have competed in the Tour de France and one of the most famous mountain climbs that could be included in a future l'etape.  

The second video is a video from the official l'etape du tour web site and is a video featuring some of the highlights of last years "act 1" of l'etape. This is a longer video but it is worth watching all the way through as it really captures what l'etape is all about and gives an idea of the challenge that faces VP.

 As always, thanks for taking the time to visit VP's blog and I hope you can find the time to come back again and share in Velo Pixies journey to l'etape 2013.

All the best for now



Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Turbo Time

Well this summer seems to be shaping up to be much like last year (and the year before, and the year before etc) and the number of wet days recently has outnumbered the number of dry days. It was never my intention to be a fair weather cyclist, however it is currently summer and to be honest when it's wet I don't feel especially inclined to go out on the bike.

Wet weather and my own stubborn aversion to going out in the wet has been having an impact on the amount of time spent "in the saddle" so a solution needed to be found. Enter the latest instrument of torture to contribute to the long road to l'etappe 2013, the Elite Super Crono Elastogel Turbo Trainer (that name just rolls off of the tongue doesn't it!)

Turbo trainers are designed to allow a rider to in effect ride indoors whilst trying to replicate the kind of resistance and feel experienced when out on the road. The manufacturers own advertising for the Super Crono says "A high level trainer for competitive riders which introduces the improved performance of Inertial resistance. Inertial resistance unit is super-smooth and ultra-quiet offering a natural 'flowing' feel to your pedal stroke"

"natural "flowing" feel to your pedal stroke"? Well I'm sure an experienced or professional cyclist may well achieve a smooth flowing pedal stroke as soon as they get on this contraption, but as I shall show you in a minute Velo Pixie has some work to do before he achieves this!

After a couple of one hour torture sessions I can report that it is more difficult than it looks, takes far more effort than it looks like in the videos on YouTube and an awful lot of sweating takes place.

The riders of old had a phrase to describe the very best smooth flowing peddle actions, they called it "la suplesse" and one of the very best exponents was Hugo Koblet who it is said would often take a comb out of his pocket whilst riding up a steep hill and run it through his hair whilst continuing to ride effortlessly up the hill. This was said to have the effect of demoralising his opponents. I'm hoping that some time spent on the turbo over the coming months will allow me to develop my own pedalling action, but I suspect I won't be trying this particular trick when I do l'etappe (haven't got enough hair to use a comb!) 

I said earlier that I would show you how much work Velo Pixie has got to do before he achieves that natural flowing peddle stroke or "la suplesse. The following video of VP on the turbo (the first moving pictures of VP on a cycle seen anywhere in the world) was taken earlier today prior to embarking on an hour long session on the turbo torture tool


Now compare VP's style and panache on the bike with this bunch of professional cyclists from HTC Highroad cycling team. At the moment I will concede that this bunch may just have a better style on the bike than myself!

 On a slightly more serious note, initial impressions are that this is a well made piece of kit that I am sure will prove to be a real asset over the next 12 months when the British weather prevents me from putting road miles in on the bike.

Other news is that I think I have found a cycling coach and sports nutritionist to help me with my training and nutritional plan over the next twelve months, but more on that in a future post.

As always thanks for taking the time to visit my blog and I hope you are able to come back again soon.

All the best for now


Saturday, 9 June 2012

Unconcious Eating

The weather this week has been very poor (wet and windy) and as a result time on the bike has been limited. One of the results of not getting out on the bike has been that exercise has focused on the rowing machine which gives a good work out but does not match the bike in terms of calories burnt for the amount of time spent exercising. Also it's not quite as enjoyable to spend 1-2 hours on a rowing machine indoors, as it is on the bike. 

Less overall time spent exercising and less calories being burnt each day has meant that I have had to refocus on the food I am eating at meal times to ensure my meals provide the nutrition I need and try to minimise "calorie wastage" through empty or non beneficial carbs such as those found in many "low fat" meals. The other thing I have had to do this week because I haven't had a huge surplus of calories to use on treats is avoid eating snacks between meals that don't contribute any beneficial nutrition e.g . chocolate, crisps etc.

Because I have been a bit more focused on nutrition and the way in which food is actually consumed I was reminded of the need to be aware of "Unconscious eating".

Weight loss experts frequently explain that addressing the habit of unconscious eating is one of the best ways to lose weight without having that feeling of "doing without" that often leads to diets failing. Unconscious eating, as the name suggests, is what happens when we treat food or meals as a means to an end or simply as a function of daily life.    

Here are some of the things I've learnt about overcoming unconscious eating over the last five months.

Don’t wait until you’re starving. When you’re really hungry, you eat too fast, ignoring the signs that tell you that you that your stomach taken in enough food and that it doesn't NEED anymore. Therefore, you’re much less likely to notice when you’re full. 

Try to avoid distractions. Give your food your full attention, or you’re almost certain to eat more than you need to, or even want to. Eat in a calm environment where you can focus on the eating experience with a minimum of distractions.

Avoid eating too many social meals. When we eat with a crowd of people, such as at a business lunch or pub, we are much less able to listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues.

When you can, be part of the preparation process. (Even if that just means emptying a bag of salad into a bowl, making a sandwich, or heating up leftovers.) This gives you time to focus on the anticipation and enjoyment of what you’re about to eat. 

Eat mindfully. Take a deep breath, relax, and remind yourself to eat slowly. Take small bites, and notice the taste in your mouth. Chew each bite thoroughly. Try to focus on one bite at a time, rather than anticipating the next bite while you’re still eating the previous one. Take the time to enjoy your food!!

Quiet racing thoughts. Have you ever sat down to eat a meal, and the next thing you know the meal is finished? Of course the mind wanders – that’s what minds do. But when you get caught up in worrying about or analysing something, you’re bound to get distracted and eat unconsciously.

Give yourself time – and a break. Remind yourself that you’re just taking a few minutes to eat a meal; all the things you need to do can wait a few minutes for your attention. If you’re really anxious or stressed out, stop eating and jot down a to-do list, then set it aside until you’re done eating.

You don't have to clear the plate Listen to your stomach, when you feel full stop eating. In modern western society we tend to put far more food on a plate than we actually need and we feel compelled to clear the plate because we don' want to waste food, forget feeling bad about waste and listen to what your stomach is telling you. 

Still feeling hungry after a meal. You know the feeling, you've finished your food and you are still hungry. When this happens don't reach for more food, be patient and wait for the food you have just eaten to digest. Food takes 20-30 minutes to start to hit the stomach and start to digest, so try and wait at least this amount of time before deciding you need more food.

Of all of the above points, eating mindfully has been the one that has made the most difference for me over the last few months. Meals are an event during the day that are enjoyed rather than something that is done simply because it is "meal time" or I am hungry. Food does taste better when I focus on the meal and I do feel more satisfied with less food when I eat slowly. 

And, as much as I like a bit of ZZ Top, it's probably best not to pay to much attention to the advice the guys are giving out in this video - TV dinners are not the answer! 

Thanks for taking the time to visit and read the blog, hope you can come back soon.


New pictures added to "Images of cycling"

Some new pictures added to the "Images of cycling" page, they depict what happens when a cyclist has an argument with a barbed wire fence and can be found here;

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

May Training Update

Well May turned out to be a good training month and a good month for weight loss.

As of last week I now officially weigh 12 stone something, currently weighing in at 180 pounds. In round numbers, this means that I have lost a fraction over 4 stone (58 pounds) since the beginning of the year which is a result I'm quite pleased with.

I was curious to try and find a visualisation of what 58 pounds would look like and found this photo of a pike that weighed in at 60 pounds when it was caught.
What does 58-60 pounds look like?
Imagine carrying something that big around all the time.
I personally find it quite amazing that I was carrying that the equivalent of that pikes weight around on a daily basis at the beginning of the year. No wonder it was hard work trying to do any form of exercise!!  

The effect of this weight loss is really noticeable when I'm training with longer duration sessions for running, rowing and cycling being much easier to achieve.

May's target for total training was to continue to complete 5 hours a week of mixed training consisting of running, rowing and cycling.    

The second half of May was spent pretty much exclusively on the bike with the aim being to get in 5 or 6 sessions on the bike a week, and to gradually build up the duration of sessions and mileage covered. By the end of May, 20 +mile  sessions were coming pretty easy and the pain in the rear end has become much less of a problem. The goal for June is to be completing 30-35 miles a day regularly, 3-4 times a week and to complete a couple of 50 mile rides. 

The end of May was busy at work with quite a few days spent commuting into London for early morning meetings, which meant that early morning training sessions were difficult to fit in which is why the number of sessions completed peaked mid month (see figures below). This was off set to some extent by the fact that the sessions on the bike have been increasing in duration as the month has progressed.

The actual training numbers for May were as follows;

  • 30/04 - 06/05: 8 training sessions, total of 5 hours 55 minutes
  • 07/05 - 13/05: 8 training sessions, total of 6 hours 44 minutes
  • 14/05 - 20/05: 12 training sessions, total of 9 hours 13 minutes
  • 21/05 - 27/05: 9 training sessions, total of 7 hours 24 minutes
  • 28/05 - 03/06: 7 training sessions, total of 7 hours 53 minutes
All in all, May has been a pretty encouraging month and if my cycling fitness continues to improve throughout the summer at the rate it has improved this month I should stay on course to achieve my target of completing a 100k sportive event by the end of September or early October.

Many thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope you are able to find the time to come back and check the blog out on a regular basis.

All the best



Images of Wiltshire (2)

I came upon this lonely looking soul on the road to Thingley Junction.

There was a larger group of similar horses in a field just a bit further up the road going towards Notton so maybe it would normally have some company.

  And for thos of you who are curious about what else can be found at Thingley? well you will find a lot of fields, a couple of farms, a handful of cottages and the main reason for Thingley Junction........


Just for the train spotters amongst you, this is a view looking north along the single track rail linefrom the road bridge. This line has diverged from the main London-Bristol line at Thingley Junction and joins the Bristol Weymouth line at Bradford South Junction, just north of Trowbridge. For the aviation fans a C-130 Hercules can be seen overhead (just).

I would love to take credit for a picture of a train line but I really didn't want to interupt my training ride so the the above image is a library picture courtesy of Geograph and Phil Williams. 

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Cycling Hydration (1)

Apparently it's really important to stay hydrated when you are out on a ride so over the next few months I will trying out various hydration strategies to see which ones will work best for the big trip up the mountain.

I will of course try and capture images of each potential hydration strategy and share them so that other people can benefit from my extensive and thorough testing.

The biggest flaw with this strategy was the fact that I forgot to take a glass, ice and a slice......................... 

Ever wondered what those big pockets on the
back of a cycling jersey were for?

Cycling Hydration (2)

The second of my experiments with different hydration strategies, this was slightly more successful than the gin and tonic as it didn't require me to try and mix two different drinks whilst on the move.

Difficult to use a cork screw whilst riding a bike though.......

Capturing images of Wiltshire

Earlier this week I decided that on my "rest day" training rides, it might be nice to take the camera out with me and capture some of the scenes that I see while I am out and about on the bike and share them with anybody taking the trouble to read my blog.

The following photo's were taken in and around Lacock which is used quite a lot as a location for filming of television period dramas and feature length films, such as the Harry Potter films. Lacock is a bit of a tourist hot spot, so it was nice to ride tthrough the village first thing in the morning and see it without the usual coach loads of people on day trips cluttering the streets.  


I will try and share the images of the countryside that I am so lucky to have as a backdrop to my training rides on a regular basis and I hope that you enjoy looking at them as much as i enjoy riding in this beutiful part of the UK. 

Thanks for taking the time to look at my blog


Pain in the bum part 2

Well it looks like I may be on the way to resolving the issue of the "pain in the bum" as this weeks training rides have been a lot more comfortable with the pain in the bum only appearing after about one and a half hours in the saddle.

I replaced the original saddle with a Selle Italia Max Flite Gel, which has a little more flex than the original Specialized saddle as well as having gel inserts.

I would love to be able to say that this Italian masterpiece was the cure for my pain in the bum, however whilst it has undoubtedly contributed to more comfort, I suspect the simple truth is that more time in the saddle is making my bum more tolerant of having to support my weight on the instrument of torture that is a cycle saddle. 

I had to play around with the positioning of the saddle for a few days (height, fore and aft position and nose angle) until I found a comfortable position which suited my riding style. I'm not convinced it is absolutely right, but spending time in the saddle is more enjoyable now, so we must be heading in the right direction.

On the subject of adjusting the bike to suit my riding style and my actual physical shape and height, a bit of good old Google research has revealed that their is a bit more to this than simply adjusting the saddle. Specialized offer a "bike fitting" service where trained fitting technicians, using specialist fitting tools, conduct a bike fit assessment process to "ergonomically enhance the fit of the bicycle and equipment". Apparently investing in a bike fitting session will "enable you to ride faster, longer and in greater comfort" which can only be a good thing when in July of next year I will have to ride circa 120 miles up a French mountain. Undoubtedly their is more than a little advertising bull in some of the claims that are made for this service, however the closest Specialized store that is able to perform this service is only 20 miles from home, so I think it I will be investing a little cash and time in having the bike and my shoes properly set up for my riding style. 

Thanks for taking the time to visit and read my blog