Spoiler alert: professional athletes do not have a secret set of exercises or training sessions that we can share to bring you up to their level (although if they did there’s absolutely no way we would share them).
What they do have, which you probably don’t, is the time to focus solely on training. For most of us, training has to be juggled with a job and other responsibilities; once you accept that difference, there’s a lot to be learned from the way pros approach training and races and it can all help you outperform your expectations. It’s something we discovered when speaking to a coach about how to train like an Olympian – and the lessons can be applied to marathon training, or training for a 100-mile sportive, or whatever challenge you’ve set yourself.
That’s why when cycle brand Hammerhead (opens in new tab), which makes the Karoo 2 cycle computer, offered to share advice from pro cyclist Brodie Chapman (opens in new tab) (who is an ambassador for the the brand), we jumped at the chance.
Here’s some great advice from Chapman about what us normals can take from how she trains.
1. “Listen to experts – sports dietitians, sports scientists, qualified coaches– and not TikTok or Instagram athletes. Avoid comparing yourself to others and their body types or training regimes. This is one of the most unhelpful habits an athlete can have. Try to beat them in a race, that is all.”
2. “Fuel for the work required. You can’t trick your body for long by undereating, overtraining, or binge drinking, and then thinking an electrolyte tablet will reverse it.”
3. “Eat like a normal, healthy human but add some more. ADD carbs, ADD protein for recovery, ADD more calories when you are training than when you are sitting still. There is this old-school way of thinking that athletes for some reason need to eat less or be more restrictive with their diet than a normal healthy person. You actually have to ensure you eat enough, especially during exercise. Current science is unanimous that taking on calories on the bike means you can complete harder sessions, recover better and prevent illness.”
4. “Enjoy what you do. That looks different for everyone. For me, training is social a lot of the time. It is varied – mountain biking, gravel riding, hiking – and training in new locations excites me and keeps me engaged. For some people, training or racing indoors on a virtual platform is fun and keeps them motivated; for others it’s the solo rides where you nail every interval and obsess over an aesthetically pleasing training graph afterwards. If you really don’t like it, then you won’t really do it well for long.”
5. “Recover. I might have butchered this quote, but it’s something like ‘The only training you benefit from is the training you recover from’. The training creates the stress; the rest creates the adaptation required to get stronger. Recovery also doesn’t mean ‘recovery’ gym day, ‘recovery’ runs, ‘recover’ walk around the shopping mall all day… it means park up and rest!”
Jonathan Shannon has been the editor of the Coach website since 2016, developing a wide-ranging experience of health and fitness. Jonathan took up running while editing Coach and has run a sub-40min 10K and 1hr 28min half marathon. His next ambition is to complete a marathon. He’s an advocate of cycling to work and is Coach’s e-bike reviewer, and not just because he lives up a bit of a hill. He also reviews fitness trackers and other workout gear.
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