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Six weeks to fitness – week 5

Time for some final leg strength work, with a few sprint efforts in there to keep things interesting

We're into the last two weeks of our fitness series that we've been bringing you in association with Cycle Surgery. We asked the training experts at Trainsharp to come up with a six week plan to give your riding a boost ahead of a summer of sportives, racing or whatever else you have your heart set on. You can start it at any time, but we've been working through it over the last month and now we're getting to a couple of difficult weeks at the end, starting with some final leg strength work.

How did our guinea pigs get on?

Chris Hayes

London, UK
Age: 50

I'm just over 100kgs, but I've been very fit in my past (I played rugby and squash at a fairly high level). My riding comprises getting on the bike and going for a ride and, predictably, my performance has plateaued. I was thinking about employing an online trainer, but will take this opportunity to see how much I could improve with a programme rather than just getting out on the bike.

Chris Hayes: I found these sessions easier than last week, especially now I've got my HR monitoring sorted out. Turns out that I max out at 149-150 on the bike and as this was done on York's Hill ( I don't think I can go higher. That puts the rest of the work I've been doing over the past few weeks in context.

The S2 tempo/threshold training started to get hard at the end of the intervals, as expected. Not sure whether it's getting easier because of the training or the sessions! I'm off on a 3hr ride through Kent today - at my own pace - as a treat!

Goran Huljenic

Bremen, Germany
Age: 29

In past I've been a strong cyclist but at the moment I work 52 hours a week. I'm really fed up with my current unfit state, and my dream for 2017 is to ride Torino-Nice. It sounds like a long shot, but I believe that if I give my best in next 7 months it is possible. I have to dream big!

Goran Huljenic: I must admit that I wasn’t very obedient guinea pig this week. I reserved session number two for Saturday, carefully planned the destination (National Park Harz) to be able to do the ride on hills, and even completely cleaned the bike. As I discovered on the ride, one small thing was not planned so brilliantly - the route was not on road, it was 60% on gravel roads! It was enormous fun and maybe one one of the most beautiful rides ever, but I didn’t really do hill reps. At the end of the day it was 72 km with 1400 m of climbing, so I think that I have done enough vertical meters to be given an excuse that I didn’t do hill reps. I even had to push my bike through over-ankle deep snow - adventure cycling at its best. I am very happy to report that I felt good and strong on climbs and enjoyed the whole route without fatigue, which is a really nice sign of training paying off.

Week 5: Final leg strength

We're into the last third of the training plan now, and week 5 is designed to work on that leg strength just a little bit more. There's some of the low-cadence work that you'll have encountered in some of the previous sessions, but also something new: sprint efforts.

Session 1: low cadence steps

Designed again to help you deliver power through torque, session 1 is a series of low-cadence efforts at a medium intensity. The efforts start at 8 minutes long and work up to 12 minutes before dropping back down again. You get a 3-minute recovery between each of the steps.

This session is designed to work on your leg strength, so make sure that it's your legs that are doing the work. Keep your upper body solid and try not to rack from side to side. A strong core is essential for delivering power but it's not something that it's easy to work on the bike. Concentrate on engaging your core muscles and keeping yourself steady in the saddle.

Session 2: road sprint efforts and low cadence

This is a long session that's better completed out of doors. There are three sets of intervals, The first two are maximum sprint efforts, the first for 10 seconds at a time and the second for 20 seconds. You'll be working really hard at this point in the session, so make sure that you're on roads that you know, and that there are no junctions, lights or other dangers. It's much better to stop an effort early than to take any risks.

After the two sets of sprint efforts it's a long spin to recover, followed by some lower-intensity, low-cadence efforts. It's best to do these on a hill or a false flat soe you have something to work against. They're shorter than session 1, with a longer recovery, but you'll have 12 full-effort sprints in your legs: it won't be easy.

Optional session: split zone 2/3

This is the same workout as the first session in week 2: you get a half-hour block of low-intensity, high-cadence effort before upping the workrate and splitting your effort between high and low cadences. It's designed to get you delivering the power no matter what speed your legs are going.

Ride fuel

Jelly Belly Sport Beans: Jelly beans! For sport! Read the review on

SiS Go Energy + caffeine: Palatable gel with a caffeine pick-me-up. Read the review on

Clif Bar: Great taste; good mixed source of energy, especially for longer and steadier rides Read the review on

Bounce Energy Ball: Good mix of energy from premium quality ingredients


Eating during your ride

When you're working hard on the bike you're using energy; eating, especially on longer rides, is a part of your strategy. If you're riding one of your goal events for the year, then the last thing you want to do is experience the dreaded bonk, where you run out of energy because you didn't eat enough. And conversely you don't want to find yourself doubled up by the side of the road with stomach cramps (or worse, searching desperately for the loo) because something you did eat didn't agree with you.

A key event in your calendar isn't the place to be trying out new foods: do that during your training and general riding, when it doesn't matter so much if something doesn't work. But what should you choose? Well, the first requirement is that it should be something you can eat with no problems: you need to be able to trust that any food won't upset your stomach. But there are other considerations too.

Gels, bars and chews

Most of the nutrition products on the market fall into one of these three categories. Gels are easy to open and consume, and gels designed to be taken during exercise mostly contain a mix of carbohydrates; some also include caffeine. They're useful for on-the-bike use as they're easy to carry and eat, and a caffeine gel can be good for giving you a kick at the end of a long ride.

Chews normally contain a similar carbohydrate mix to gels but they're solid rather than liquid. That means you can eat them on the go but you don't have to have them all at once. They're a more complex mix of carbs than the service station fall-back option – jelly babies – but they're similarly easy and pleasant to eat.

The range of bars is a lot more varied than gels or chews, and they tend to give you more of a mix of energy sources: carbohydrate, protein and fat. It's more like eating real food, too, although when you're working hard it can be more difficult to consume them on the go. It's good to experiment with a few different types to see what works for you.

Do it yourself

Plenty of riders prefer the DIY option, whether it's jam sandwiches, home-made flapjacks, a pork pie or just a banana shoved in the jersey pocket. The longer and lower-intensity the ride, the more likely you'll begin to crave real food, and often you'll long for something savoury to counter the sweet stuff. It's worth remembering that on a sportive, for example: you may be able to get your fill of gels, cakes and biscuits at the feed stations, and you can carry a few extras with you to satiate your cravings. If you are relying on sportive food stations for your ride nutrition, make sure what they're offering will work for you: if it's going to be a certain type of energy gel, for example, try them out on a ride beforehand to make sure they agree with your stomach. You don't want to be finding that out on the day.

Next week: the final week!

We'll be back next week to have a look at week 6: final preparations. We'll also be looking at power: why do people use it, and what options are there for measuring it? See you then!

Disclaimer: We strongly recommend that you consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. You should be in good physical condition and be able to participate in the exercise. is not a licensed medical care provider and represents that it has no expertise in diagnosing, examining, or treating medical conditions of any kind, or in determining the effect of any specific exercise on any medical condition. You should understand that when participating in any exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in any part of this exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release and discharge from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown.

Dave is a founding father of, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.

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