Sarah Outen is busy getting into a gear for the second leg of her London 2 London Via the World expedition. After kicking a bout of pneumonia into touch Sarah is working hard to bring her fitness back up to speed. She talked us through how she’s getting ready to row and cycle the planet.
Winter training…. for the world
Winter in this country is always such a mixed bag. One afternoon last week I cycled a 12 mile round trip for my shopping under a crisp clear sky of blue, warmed by a gorgeous sun. That morning I had sat at my desk with horizontal rain and hail batting at the window. The last few days have been stormy and wet. And so it goes on.
For me, I like the changing nature of British weather. It keeps me on my toes and provides varied conditions for my training, on and off the water, even if that does mean needing to change plans sometimes. You might call me a sadist but I love the feel of coming home into the warm after a chilly paddle or pedal, face and hands bitten by chilly winds and soaked by rain. It makes me feel alive.
On the other hand, winter training is often some of the hardest to get through, with long nights, chilly weather and colds and flu getting in the way of our best efforts. Here’s a bit about what I’m up to this winter and some of my tricks for getting the most out of it.
I am currently 4 months from starting out on the next leg of my London2London expedition, in which I am attempting to loop the planet using human power. This means that I am rowing, cycling and kayaking across oceans and continents, having started out under Tower Bridge on April 1st 2011. My North Pacific Ocean row took me just over the ‘halfway home’ mark as I crossed the International Date Line, leaving me with around 18 months and less than ten thousand miles left of journeying. The next phase is a 1400 mile kayak through the stunning Aleutian Islands to the nearest road on the Alaskan mainland. It is going to be demanding in so many ways, meaning that I need to be fit and strong, physically and mentally.
Cross-training: bike, boat, circuits, run
My schedule of sponsor commitments, talks and planning and fundraising for the onwards journey means that I often find it hard to schedule a regular pattern of training. Instead the aim is to do something physical every day or double up on days when that allows – be it out on the water paddling, cycling, running or circuit training. The nature of my expedition means that there is no point focusing on the discipline after the imminent one e.g. no point doing cycling-specific training when I am going to spend 3-4 months kayaking. My conditioning training at the moment focuses on the kayaking but around that I like to get fit and strong by cross training, mixing up a bit of everything. Besides the all-round robustness which cross-training achieves, it keeps things interesting too.
Mix it up
Time on the water is key and I spend a few days every month in North Wales training with my paddling partner Justive Curgenven, building my skills in rough water and my paddle fitness. Back home, I get out on my local river as often as I can, generally mixing up some timed intervals and fartlek training. I focus on skills between pieces and use the flow of the river as the turbo.
For biking I get off-road when I can for an hour or more of lung burning fartlek work or I plug out the miles on my expedition bike. I use the bike for local errands and shopping trips when I can – anything to build miles and get my heart rate up. The coldest weather offers a good chance to road-test kit for the journey across Canada and America which awaits me next autumn and winter.
At home we have turned the garage into a gym with some basic kit and have a few different routines that we go through. I find that training with a partner or in a small group is really motivating and a nice contrast to the months of solo journeying ahead.
I schedule sessions into blocks of free time so that I am committed to training and not filling that block with other stuff. If I am feeling de-motivated about it or inclined to wimp out of a cold wintery session I leave my kit by the door in readiness.
Operation Stay Healthy
One of my biggest challenges at the moment is staying healthy. I generally succumb to a few colds during winter, but after a bout of pneumonia and a rather battered immune system during 2013 I seem to be racking them up this season. Hence my training is a bit stop-starty at times and I don’t feel I am quite at full throttle yet… In a bid to stay friends with my immune system I make sure I eat lots of fresh fruit and veg, aim for at least 8 hours sleep each night and top up with a vitamin and mineral supplement. (Turning off screens is a great way to get to bed early) Most of all, I listen to my body. If I feel like I am coming down with something I ease right back on training and exertion and on coming out the other side of said infection I take it easy. Pushing too hard too early makes the recovery longer and I need to be fighting fit by April.
What are you training for?
January’s marking of the fresh year ahead is often a great time to set some goals and make a plan for achieving them. Remember, make the goals realistic and achievable and seek advice to help you meet them if you need it. Mix up the training – go out with mates, join a club and don’t just stick to the bike. All round fitness will serve you well in any discipline. Most of all – be good to yourself in mind and body. So, whatever your goal and whatever your winter training, go well and stick with it.