Cycling with Catriona Forrest

Cycling and training in London is easier than you think.

Getting out on the bike to do some proper training is inevitably more difficult in a city than in the countryside; but, all is not lost – especially when you live in London.

In amongst the built up streets and hustle and bustle of the city are some beautiful parks that afford London cyclists a little reprise from the bus dodging and traffic light ridden commutes. Two in particular, Richmond Park and Regents Park, are brilliant spots for getting in some solid sessions and will enable cyclists of all abilities to improve quickly.

Cat Forrest.001City cycling requires a little bit more planning of type of training you’ll be doing in order to get real benefit. Unlike in the countryside where you can endlessly pedal along tree lined lanes and take the hills as they come, in the city you’re restricted to specific distances and a fixed level of elevation. As a result, many people fall into the trap of riding ‘junk miles’ and not seeing many improvements despite covering a lot of kilometres each week.

By putting a little bit of planning into the time and terrain you have, you can start to cram a hell of a lot of benefit into the 40km spin you can slot in before/after work.

I am by no means a coach or holder of vast training knowledge, but for me personally interval training is far and away the best type of session for the city. Not only is there a huge variety of sessions that can be done to tailor to your needs (boosting speed, building endurance, developing power), but they can be done solo as they’re based on your individual body and level of fitness. They also make cycling round a park (which often becomes monotonous by lap 20) a lot more interesting!

Oh, and let’s not forget the hill reps that can be done in various locations across the city. They work in the same way as intervals – big efforts up the hill, recovery down the hill. Swain’s Lane near Hampstead has fast become a favourite among the London cycling community.

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For the Virgin Strive Challenge, endurance sessions are more important to me than speed sessions, so when I can’t get out to the Surrey Hills or off on a 100km+ ride, the below are a couple of example sessions I can be found doing round Regents Park pre or post work:

Building Endurance

  • 10min warm up in a low gear.
  • Increase the gear so that you’re at an effort level of around 7 out of 10. Stay here for 15mins, aiming not to let the pace or cadence diminish
  • Recover for 7mins – don’t stop, just reduce the gear and spin the legs more freely
  • Repeat the 15min effort
  • 10min cool down

You can do more reps of this, but the effort levels should never drop in the 15mins, so only do as many as you’re able to hold at that level. If you feel you can do lots more, you’re not really at 7 out of 10!

Increasing Lactate Threshold

This is probably my favourite interval session, but it burns!

  • 10min warm up in a low gear.
  • 3 x 8min intervals with 4 mins recovery between.
  • The 8min efforts should be held at 8-9 out of 10 for the entire 8mins, so learn to pace yourself!

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As you feel yourself getting stronger you can increase the duration of the intervals, just keep the recovery time balanced too! And, as you start getting more scientific about your training, you’ll find you want to apply things like HR or power zones to the above rather than basing it off a perceived effort level, however as a way to break the habit and start feeling a difference in your ability, the above will really help!

So now you have no excuse for not getting out on your bike, because city or country there’s training for all!

You can support Cat in her quest to conquer Italy by bike and STRIVE for Big Change by visiting her Virgin Money Giving Page and donating