The actions you take in the week leading up to a sportive could spark the difference between ‘Gold’ and ‘Just Got Round’. Get your training right by tapering like a pro.
1. Flush out Fatigue
The week before a big sportive is all about flushing out the residual fatigue brought on by weeks of volume training and endurance riding.
Last weekend was your last long ride. It should have consisted of a shorter ride and completed at a steadier pace. That doesn’t mean it's time to ditch the bike until event day…
2. Activation Efforts
The goal of a taper before a sportive is to lose fatigue, freshen up and deliver yourself to the start line at your fittest. Spend the whole week off the bike and you’ll potentially turn up feeling sluggish and slow.
Instead, swap your midweek turbos, club run, chain gang or hill reps for shorter, steadier spins. As part of your ride, introduce short activation efforts of around 20-30 seconds. These short efforts aren’t enough to fatigue you, but the change of pace is perfect for activating muscles and keeping your top-end tuned into event day.
Top Tip: Don't use a big gear! Keep your cadence high as a way of raising your heart rate while avoiding muscle fatigue.
3. Glass Crank Ride
The day before the sportive should be your 'Glass Crank Ride': a super-slow spin requiring minimal effort to turn the pedals. You can add in a few activation efforts if you’re feeling sluggish or have spent time in the car driving to the event.
4. Sit - Even Lie
As the old saying goes: “Why stand when you can sit. Why sit when you can lie.”
Don’t spend unnecessary time on your feet. Avoid walking about - especially the day before the event; no visits to the supermarket or digging up the garden. Stick your feet up on the sofa and relax. Rest is best!
5. Carb Right
There’s arguments for and against carb loading in the lead up to a big event. The muscles can't store an unlimited number of carbs as fuel. The remainder is soon turned into fat. From personal experiences at Struggle HQ, carb loading only leaves us feeling heavy and sluggish on the start line.
Instead, ensure you eat well all week. Don't cut carbs, don't skip meals and don't change your diet now. Keep your glycogen stores topped up the day before with breakfast, lunch and snacks. Then ensure you carb up the night before with a bowl of pasta for example.
6. Never Get Thirsty
Never let yourself get hungry - or thirsty in the lead up to a big event. Snack often and keep sipping water.
Top Tip: Avoid sipping just plain water in order to avoid hyponatremia (low sodium blood concentration). Add an electrolyte tab to your drink bottle to top up your minerals to ward off cramp.