People often ask us how fit you need to be to take part in MizMal. It's a hard question to answer! Let’s just say there are very few people who can jump on their bike tomorrow and cycle an average of 50 or 85 miles for seven or 12 days in a row. MizMal-ers are often leisure cyclists rather than racers. Many of us struggle to keep the balls sufficiently in the air to get one or two half decent weekend runs. Perhaps the question should be "how fit do I need to become?".
You don't need to aspire to athlete status. The key thing is to stay as injury free as possible. Everyone is different, however if you can ride 50 to 70 miles once or twice at the weekend then over a two to three month period you should be okay for the MizMal 7 Day event. Of course there are other factors, like your age, general health conditions, injuries, available training time, etc.. If you start there you will have a good idea how much effort YOU need to invest. Here are a few rough principles:
Know you’re starting point. You’ll avoid injury if you steadily increase the training load, allowing your body to adapt each time you step it up. Make your rides challenging and push yourself - if you extend yourself, and push your limits, the training is much more effective.
Start early. 12 to 16 weeks is a good run-in period for MizMal - but make the plan achievable, and factor in fun and rest time.
Try to fit your training into your regular riding habits... add a few more miles at the end, or a few more hills. Build it up gradually. You can vary your training rides along the line below:
1. Long ride
The bulk of your training. Though you’ll most likely do the long ride on a weekend, it can be done any day of the week, so long as you do it. Start with a couple of hours’ riding, or more if you’re fitter, and build up by 5-10 miles each week, to around 85 miles if you are training for the 7 day event and 45 if training for the 12 day event. Do these rides at a steady pace / moderate effort - somewhere between where you can hold a conversation and the point at which you can only manage shorter sentences.
2. Steady ride
This shorter weekday spin will help you beef up your weekly mileage gradually and get you used to riding faster, for increasingly longer periods of time. Start with an hour or so’s ride, and increase by 15 minutes each week until two weeks before the event, when you’ll start to taper. This type of training is one of the most effective in building endurance fitness.
3. Speed ride
A weekly speed ride will increase your lactate threshold, i.e. the point at which your muscles start screaming to stop, so you can ride faster without it hurting. Start from an hour’s fast ride, build up to an hour and a half in 15 minute increments, then taper down by 15 minutes in each of the two weeks before the event. Spinning (static cycling) is a good way of building in a speed ride. Spinning is the cycling equivalent of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), a series of short, maximal or near-maximal efforts of 30-90 seconds, interspersed with brief rest periods of roughly double that time.
Tighten up on diet. You will notice a difference if you shed 5 kilos! Especially on the climbs.
If time is tight then just ride your bike instead of frantically trying to visit the gym.
If you have time to spend off the bike, then it's good to work on Core Strengthening. There are all sorts of exercises that will help. A Google search is a good place to start. Mix it up a bit. A Kettle Bell is very versatile - great for core work and cheap to buy too. Build in some 'planks' and some 'crunches' and you'll be flyin'!
If that still leaves you with time and motivation, then work on muscle development. Squats will strengthen the gluts... often ignored, and great for cycling. Take the stairs two at a time.
Rest. Training is placing your body under stress, and resting allows it to adapt. The increase in exercise will make you tired, and while this is also a sign you’re pushing yourself and getting fitter, listen to your body; if you need to back off, it will tell you.
Most of all, don't risk injury and practise a positive mindset in everything. Like all things in life don't underestimate the impact of a positive outlook on the body. Have fun!