Over the last fortnight I’ve enjoyed two of the very best cycling weeks I’ve ever had. With a great dry spell I’ve been able to get out every day bar two. One of these was when a storm blew in and the other was yesterday as I went back to work.
In two weeks I’ve managed to cycle slightly over 600km. To put that in context my target to hit 6,000km for the year is 500km per month.
Apart from my “31 Days of Biking” Challenge in August last year, which was mostly short daily rides I have to go back to the “Every Day in May” Challenge in 2017 to get consistent high mileage like this. That month included one week of 517km which had my first ever Audax event (205km) followed the next day by a 106km Club spin that nearly killed me!
This consistent cycling has also had a significant impact on my fitness. I can feel it in my legs but it’s measurable according to Strava. A score of 79 is probably a lot lower than many other people but my highest score for the last two years (limit of Strava’s charts) was a very brief 81 in October. This time last year it was approximately 30, two years ago it was 12!
The challenge now is to maintain my great start to the month. These two weeks have put me back on track for my yearly target but this weather won’t last much longer and now that I’m working again I’ll have to be more organised. I have a plan that gets me to 170km per week across 4 days using two mornings before work and my two days off. I also want to start some much needed strength and conditioning training while keeping up with the walking. All of that is in the plan too which starts tomorrow morning.
Many cycling blogs and online articles extol the virtues of cross training. The obvious focus is on running, swimming and pilates/yoga but walking is often overlooked.
The benefits of walking are many and the starting point is low. You need little to no specialised equipment. Most people will have a comfortable pair of shoes or trainers, a waterproof jacket, hat and gloves already. After that it’s just layers, depending on the weather. The other advantage of walking is that you can mix it up to a high degree. You can vary the terrain from roads to forest tracks to hiking off trail. You can mix in flat roads with hills or even hill repeats if you want. You can vary your speed from slow to fast, walk a variety of distances and carry a weighted pack to increase the effort.
The big benefit I’ve found over the last week is that bad weather still allows the opportunity for walking. Storms aren’t much fun to walk in but decent waterproof clothes and shoes mean it’s still possible. High winds, ice or snow make running and cycling difficult, if not impossible, but even the heavy snow this last week hasn’t stopped me from walking every day.
Walking has been a great way to recover from Covid and rebuild my fitness. Post isolation I started by taking short, easy walks, gradually extending the distance and speed before mixing in cycling. This allowed me to increase the effort gently, identify any impact on my lungs and steadily build my stamina again. I’ve walked almost every day since, sometimes twice a day. My biggest day was 12.5km over two walks and my longest was 9.2km. I’ve now also started walking with a 3kg weighted backpack to increase the effort required and build a bit of upper body stamina also. Apparently this is called “rucking“!
My total distance for the month so far is almost 106km. 90km of that has been done since the 14th when I came out of isolation. So far this month I’ve only managed 104km on the bike due to the snow and ice of the last week so I’ve walked further than I’ve cycled.
Finally one of the greatest benefits of walking is the positive impact on mental health. Getting out in the fresh air every day has lifted me mentally as well as physically. It has been my daily release. Similar to cycling walking is mindless, requiring very little focus or concentration allowing the mind to wander and release any stress.
One of my favourite blogs is Tempo Cyclist. He writes about lots of things, mostly cycling related. This morning he shared a great tip that I was unaware of and think is worth sharing.
Rather than try to rehash what TC has already eloquently described head over to his blog and read what he has to say. While there I’d recommend having a look at his older posts and giving him a follow if you don’t already 👍
For anyone that follows me on Strava it’ll come as no surprise that I like to use challenges to motivate me and keep me active.
Strava are without a doubt the king of challenges and the whole concept is part of their DNA. Users can create and compete on segments to earn the KOM (King of the Mountain) or QOM (Queen of the Mountain) crown for the fastest time. Strava also give you trophies for your top 3 times on segments and give you table positions based on age and weight and in comparison to members of any Strava clubs you belong to. They’ve also recently released a new concept called Local Legend on some segments for riding a segment multiple times.
Each month Strava also host regular challenges. For both cycling and running they have cumulative distance and elevation challenges as well as one-off distance challenges such as the monthly 100km Gran Fondo for cycling and 5K, 10K and Half Marathon for running. Most months they will also have partner challenges that more activities count for.
Although the regular challenges are mostly based around running or cycling they seem to be making their walking challenge a regular one.
This year I’ve been working on a Metric Century challenge to ride a minimum of one 100km spin each month for 12 months. This was originally inspired by a post of Tempo Cyclist but prompted this year by Paul of 36×25 who coined the term Resolution Ride. I’ve missed at least one month this year due to Covid lockdowns but have made it up with an extra ride the following month. So far I only have one ride left to give me 12 for the year.
Part of what attracted me to Audax was the challenges they also run. As if long distance cycling wasn’t challenge enough they have a number of streak and cumulative challenges. In 2018 I completed the Four Provinces Challenge. I’ve also started the RRTY challenge a few times including this year. I’ve decided to put my current attempt on hold as the multiple lockdowns are playing havoc with Audax Ireland having to pause and resume a number of times during 2020. I’d rather wait and make sure I can get a clean run at 12 in a row, ideally starting and finishing in late Spring or early Summer.
The ultimate Audax challenge is the Super Randonneur, completing a 200, 300, 400 and 600km event during the Audax calendar year. I don’t know if I’ll ever be capable of that but it is one I aspire to.
As far as mini adventures go though this looks like the ultimate one….