By Rebecca Charlton
With less than six months to go until Dragon Ride 2024 you may have been diligently chipping away over Christmas, you could be looking to top up the fitness you once had, or you could be starting from scratch. Wherever your bike form is at, six months is plenty of time to get to exactly where you need to be for the demands of Dragon Ride and now is about easing into an enjoyable routine. A nice way to look at it is that any work you put in now will make you so much more comfortable on the big day, and even if you have setbacks along the way, the more you invest in your fitness now the more you’ll have that in the bank when you need it.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been considering left-over Chocolate Orange a viable breakfast choice and so the first time you go training in the new year you’ll want to hit it hard. However, we all know deep down that it’s far better to enjoy that first ride back rather than needing a week to recover afterwards. Plan some sessions that motivate you, excite you and that you know you’ll enjoy getting done, that will allow you to build the consistency over the coming months. That could be an out-and-back to your favourite café, an indoor session or getting off-road for some fun in the mud. Getting started is the key here.
Accept where you are right now, it’s your starting point
Try to avoid scrolling the social media accounts of other riders and comparing yourself. Not only are a lot of people curating their content to make it all look effortless and glossy but not everyone will have the same rate of progress or starting point as you. If you’re a lover of the ‘gram, choose accounts that motivate, inspire and encourage, rather than leaving you utterly deflated because someone else looks as it they’ve completed 200km before breakfast. Your progress is entirely unique to you and your personal goals, so remember that throughout your preparation for Dragon Ride this year.
It feels like it’s been raining for an eternity where I’m based and I find the benefits of indoor training to be endless at this time of year, often saving your morale and washing machine in the process. If you have access to a turbo trainer, Wattbike, Peloton or similar you might find these tools can transform your training. Things are entirely different to my racing days when you had to whack a heart rate monitor on and stare at the wall for hours on end. Thankfully the technology available to riders has come a very long way since then and things are a lot more entertaining, than the feeling of watching paint dry. I’m a self-confessed Zwift addict and love the merits of their structured sessions and the ability to ride with others online. You can test your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) or input a guesstimate and Zwift will do the rest, offering you sessions to build your fitness, endurance and power to weight. I always think the efficiency the turbo trainer offers to the time-stretched rider is huge, no waiting at traffic lights, no stopping and starting, just fun and effective from start to finish.
Make your life easier
When you’re starting a new routine, with a big goal ahead, it can be the little things that curb motivation or make it difficult to get out the door so a bit of organisation goes a long way. I always find that the first time you plan a session, you expect to get underway at a certain time but so often have underestimated the initial ‘faff’ of establishing that new routine. Searching for your spare tubes, those overshoes you tucked away last year, perhaps your lights need charging, that puncture you forgot about hasn’t been sorted… Similarly indoors, check for Zwift updates in advance of your session and make sure you have everything plugged in or charged up, music available, drink bottle prepped, fan, a towel. The last thing you want is your time and motivation evaporating while your iPad slogs through an update.
Track your progress
Tracking your progress doesn’t necessarily mean forking out for the latest power meter and every accessory under the sun. It could be riding with a local group and progressing your ability within that group, also immensely useful for building or sharpening your bunch skills. You may find the average pace is too much at first or that you’re just about hanging in and as the months go on you can test yourself to take more turns on the front, for example.
You have plenty of time to refine the tougher elements of your training plan, as well as your event-day nutrition for Dragon Ride 2024, so my biggest advice would be to start getting into a routine of getting out, fuel your rides well rather than dramatically increasing mileage and dropping your calorie intake simultaneously and leaving yourself in too much of a deficit to reap the rewards. Building motivation, routine and implementing small, sustainable changes is the focus this January.
Rebecca Charlton is part of our Dragon Ride Cycling Experts. You can find more articles written by Rebecca on our Expert Team page here.