Training Tips with Dr Justin Roberts

The Virgin STRIVE Challenge is going to be an ultra-endurance event like no other, and the training is set to be an adventure in itself. Last week, Core Team Strivers  checked in with Dr Justin Roberts for a Q&A and training catch up. Justin is a Senior Lecturer and researcher at The Cambridge Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences. He is also one of the leading Ironman experts in the world and has trained over 100 Ironman novices from start to finish- a great expert to have on side to help with our training!! Here are some of our favourite Q&A’s and Justin’s top training tips, to help you get ready for STRIVE this year…  


How should I be training in the run up to STRIVE?

There is no ‘text book’ method to training and everyone’s strategy will be different.  It will largely be driven by how much time you can give over to it and which areas you are concerned about. The key thing to remember is to do what you can do, and don’t get bored either. It’s more important to feel confident and know in your head you can do it!

Before the event, you should aim to have covered around  3/4 of the distance of STRIVE, but for many of you with busy schedules, this just won’t be feasible. Instead try scheduling in 3-4, 6 hour cycling days or practice training on repeated days eg, train Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Another top triathlon tip, is to mix it up with some BRICK sessions: cycling with a 5KM run straight afterwards. Training will pay dividends, so it is important not to leave it to the last minute! 


Is it counterproductive to go and smash out a 40km cycle ride?

There will be some benefit from High Intensity Training, because you do get adaptation from HITT sessions. However, you will not be metabolically preparing for STRIVE in the most efficient way, so stop trying to break the Richmond Park record! Instead try focusing on efficient, long and slow training sessions. 

For STRIVE your aim should be to have great fun, without going overboard, but also to set yourself up for the best chance of success. Remember: THIS IS NOT A RACE!


What happens if  I am completely wiped out for days after training?

If you are struggling recovering from a training session, try scheduling in more rest. Resting is a crucial, yet often ignored part of the training schedule. You have to give your body time to repair, to really reap the benefits from all your hard work in your sessions.

You should also consider whether you are fuelling your body properly. Increase the amount of protein you are eating and try to take on more Omega Fats, because they are great for your recovery. It’s also really important to drink enough fluids, both during and after your session.



What should I do if I am feeling pain when I’m training?

If you are struggling with recurring injuries or feeling pain when you are training, now is the best time to fix the problem. Don’t just push yourself through your training, because injuries can get a lot worse very quickly. A common problem amongst ultra-endurance athlete is knee pain, often caused by a tight IT band. If you are suffering with this, take a trip to a good physio or look into trigger point therapy. Physio’s can often sort these things out relatively quickly. Another top tip is to go an get your bike professionally fitted.  You will be spending a lot of time in the saddle, so it’s a great investment to sort out your bike position!


How can I stay hydrated on STRIVE?

Italy is going to be hot, hot, hot!! Dehydration is going to be one of your big problems. Making sure you are drinking enough fluid on the road is going to be an crucial part when participating in STRIVE.  It is really important to make sure you rehydrate yourself during the challenge and on your rest period as well.

To prepare for this in your training sessions,  get a sense of what your weight is before and after cycling sessions to find out how much weight you have lost, and how much you need to replace. You should be consuming anything up to 150% of the fluid you have lost. On the road you can basically drink anything with electrolytes; orange squash, anything with salts, but the trick is little and often. Now is a great to time to work out your stomach tolerance to determine what and how much you need to be drinking.  You don’t want to be starting a new regime when you get to Italy!

How many calories should I be taking in each day?

This is dependent on a number of factors; how hard are you working, your weight, how long you are training for, and external factors such as the temperature.  Cruising on the bike you will be burning 500 calories an hour. On a eight hour day, you need to be consuming around 5,000 calories on average. A typical day might start off with eating a big breakfast (porridge is a great energy source), having a light lunch, snacking whilst you are on the bike and finishing the day with a heavy evening meal (lots of nice Italian pizza and pasta!)


Should I have a nutritional plan for the cycle stages?

Nutrition plans, like your training schedules will be particular to the participant. During your next long training sessions, practice what works for you; find out what you like and train your gut. An example nutrition programme for your next long training ride, could be in the first hour to take on water and then an electrolyte drink. In the next hour take on ½ Cliff  Bar at 20 Mins, at 40 mins have a Sports Drink with electrolytes and at the hour take on the second ½ of the Cliff Bar.


What is your top tip for STRIVERS? 

Team-work!! STRIVE will be amazing team event, because of the people you will be Striving with. Training together will really help you practice working as a unit. On the road in Italy,  constant communication will be crucial. There will be strong and weak members of the team, but you must work as a unit- don’t leave anyone at the back struggling!

Remember you have until Friday 1st July to sign up for the Virgin STRIVE Challenge 2016, and join the STRIVE team on this once in a life time adventure! Found out how to take part in the challenge here.