We’ve decided to follow along this year as Zach, a web merchant here at our home office, works hard to get in shape for Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo this fall. Like many of you out there, Zach has been juggling work and family as he tries to make time to meet his fitness and training goals. Read on below to see how his plan has been coming along, and let us know if you’ve got any tips in the comments below.
Wow, the last month has been so busy! I’ll start with a quick update on everything. In the last month I turned 31, my wife and I had our one year anniversary, I’ve been setting personal records on my Strava hill climb segments just about every time I go out, I placed 7th in one of the local races I usually do terrible at, I dropped a pant size, and I’ve started the search for the perfect bicycle to ride for the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo!
Unfortunately though, I’ve only lost one freaking pound! One pound over an entire month! Totally frustrating when the goal is to lose another 20 lbs by September. Fortunately my Strava segments have been keeping me motivated, so I’m feeling happy with my results so far. But I’ve got to find a way to drop that weight!
As I mentioned in my first post, riding bikes has helped me out quite a bit in the weight loss department over the last few years (76ish pounds dropped so far), but now I can’t seem to lose weight from riding bikes alone. I’m not very good at planning out training routines to provide structure on a daily and weekly basis, but my buddy Ken is a cyclist, crossfit coach, personal trainer, and an all around good guy. He’s really good at working with people as a trainer, and a few months ago he decided to help me train for the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo. He‘s created a weekly plan for me that’s structured, but is still a bit flexible, and leaves some space for conflicts that arise throughout the week.
My training plan for the Gran Fondo is pretty straight forward – here’s a little insight into what I’ve been working on (this is just my plan – always consult a training pro for advice for you):
Intervals ramp up the metabolism like crazy, rapidly increase VO2 Max, help your heart rate drop faster after hard efforts, and increase lactic acid threshold. They also will help you develop endurance, a huge kick and do not have the muscle wasting effect of long slow distance riding. I do 2 hard intervals per week, mixing in Tabata sprints, hill repeats, ¼ mile x 10, 1 mile x 4, or other variations.
TIME TRIAL AND TEMPO RIDES:
I try to get in 2 tempo or time trial rides per week, more if time permits. Group rides serve well for this, as tempo rides should be your easiest pace rides.
I’ve been doing 1 heavy weight training session per week, switching up weight and rep schemes. Some days I do high weight/low rep and other days I do low weight/high rep. Some folks stay away from weights, but I’ve found that it works for me.
TRY NEW SPORTS AND EXERCISES:
Again, some coaches will tell you to just ride, but I like to keep it fun and new. An occasional run, game of tennis, swimming, soccer or flag football helps shake things up for me.
This is a tricky one for me, as I like to eat. Basically I’ve been trying to keep things fresh and simple, not drink any calories (just lots of water), and throw in a cheat meal once a week. If my weight’s not coming down, I change it up and try something new.
On top of my day-to-day plan, I’ve also scheduled some trips to the mountains of Western North Carolina this summer. There are many routes out there that are similar to the Alpine Loop (well, at least I hope so), which will be great warm ups for my big ride.
I’ve been on my plan for several weeks now, and it’s been going pretty good for the most part. I’m definitely getting faster on the hills and starting to hang with some of the faster group rides. The riding part is easy – the hard part has been eating really well, and sticking to the intervals, hill repeats, and other hard workouts! I’ve been doing exercises called “Bulgarian split squats,” and “Romanian dead lifts.” Oh yeah running too! I hate running. 202 lbs is a lot to throw on your knees and ankles while trudging down the road in a half-hearted gallop/trot/jog excuse of a run!
The weight loss is the biggest issue and is directly related to my love of good food and drink. I’ve been doing a lot better with my caloric intake, but I’ll be honest, it’s hard to pass up delicious tasty chips dipped in ranch dressing and complimented with a chilly cold brew! My brother had the best quote ever. We went on a long hot mountain bike ride and after he bonked pretty hard, cramped up, walked it out, and got back to the house, he said “It’s just a man’s instinct to want to eat a delicious juicy burger after a long hard ride!” Agreed!
But at the end of the day, these structured workouts and diet restrictions are seriously paying off. I am getting faster, I am dropping inches, and I am building muscle. Of course the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo is going to be harder than anything I’ve ever done so far, and I’ve got to keep up the training plan, as this is just the beginning.
I was listening to an interview with Jeremiah Bishop the other day and he was talking about the Gran Fondo in his own words. From what he said, he got the idea for the ride in the middle of one of his training rides. At the top of one of the climbs in a remote area of the West Virginia wilderness, he was looking out and felt like he was in the Alps, hidden away from cell phone towers, power lines, and civilization as a whole. But then he mentioned that the fastest he had ever done that climb was 45 minutes at full-on diesel race pace – 45 minutes for JB will probably be more like two hours for me! But what goes up also gets to bomb down, and the views from the top of the long climbs will be worth every burning pedal stroke!
So there are three months to go. Time to get serious and get this training dialed in. I’m excited to share my experiences about the bicycles I’ve been testing while in search of the perfect Grand Fondo bike, as well as the rest of journey along the way!