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Plan First, Pedal Second

by JoE Silva

If you came lurching out of the holiday season weighed down (literally) by the remorse of what you consumed while you were busy being festive, you're not alone. And with all the news and photos fluttering in from the pro rider training camps, many of us wish we had access to a similarly structured way to peel off unwanted pounds, reboot our fitness, and prepare to meet our personal goals for the cycling year. First off, however, you need to devise a strategy.

"I start with a training plan and really try to work with someone over the course of a season as their training changes and evolves." says Monique Ryan, author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes. "I like to see what their current diet is like and how it matches up with their goals. Then maybe set up a nutrition plan that's really specific to their more challenging rides and some of their regular training rides as well. Hopefully, what they'll see is good workouts and better recovery, , and then that will improve their confidence for training."

Ryan, who is also the sports dietitian for Team Type 1, reckons that specificity is key to success no matter what level you're at on the bike. Being aware of how you need to approach training has to line up with where you are situated on your own fitness map.

"You just have to realize that you have different kinds of requirements for different kinds of days and that's a big part of it. (It's about) what's your priority at this stage of training and this is what you can do nutritionally to meet that kind of goal."

And you should always attempt to be realistic when it comes to the subject of weight loss. Ryan believes that there are practical and safe weight loss ranges that you should keep in mind when planning a fitness/training plan.

"I think a pound a week for women is about right, and maybe between a pound and a half to two pounds for men. It would probably depend though on how much weight they wanted to lose and when they wanted to lose it. If they just want to do a century in the summer and lose some weight and get more fit (towards that goal), I think this is a good time of year to be more aggressive with the weight loss. But I think you can really tailor it to where they are in their training plan and what their goals are."

According to Ryan, planning is a large part of success when it comes to sharpening the sword of fitness. Success doesn't necessarily have to be a 24/7 obsessive pursuit.

"Some days you can cut back more than others depending on what kind of ride you're doing. I really try to get very specific for different days and different kinds of training in terms of what they need to do. You can have higher rates of weight loss during certain times of the season, and then do more of a build phase."

As far as keeping motivated goes, Ryan suggests that even having someone like a trainer or nutritionist to check in with periodically can go a long way to staying on track.

"I think having regular appointments or even just tracking what a person eats can be helpful. They can also check their weight regularly and measure their body composition at ongoing intervals. Just having that accountability can really help a lot by working with someone one on one."