From the Coaches: What it means to be fit

Failing to plan means planning to Fail. We’ve all heard this before and as a result, we set goals around our training such as ‘get fit’, ‘lose weight’, ‘complete a challenge’, ‘compete in an event’, ‘improve 4DP numbers’… But sometimes you may have just accomplished a big milestone and are looking to ease back slightly either in the short term and/or in the long term.

This shift in gears towards an alternative goal doesn’t always come naturally especially if you have been going all out and building up to a pinnacle in your training. But taking time to reflect on the body as a whole is vital for overall progression.

Health related fitness can be broken down into five main components and it is important to make sure we are not neglecting any of these:

  • Cardiovascular Fitness
  • Muscular Strength
  • Muscular Endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Body Composition

We try to help you keep your training comprehensive by offering Yoga, Strength and Mental Toughness within our training plans on top of cycling and running. Fitness can be defined in many ways but I like to think of it as ‘a state of well-being that provides optimal performances’. This means that no component gets left behind and forgotten about during training.

It is also important to remember that these different components will mean different things for different people and can be affected by many external actors such as age, gender, body type and stress levels. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link so making little progressive steps all around can generate much stronger results than putting all your eggs in one basket and focusing on a single aspect.

Cardiovascular Fitness:
An elevated heart rate is the easiest way to feel like your body is exercising in the moment. How much time a week are you finding at the moment to elevate your HR?

Muscular Strength:
Is your body strong? Do you enjoy short sharp bursts of high intensity? Muscular strength is an excellent way to fire up your muscles to their highest potential and brush away the cobwebs.
NM and AC spring to mind but do you do this type of training of the bike and in your conditioning workouts?

Muscular Endurance:
How long can your muscles keep ticking over at a steady state? It isn’t always about going flat out, it’s about the journey and reaching that destination. By working your muscles for longer at a consistent intensity your body will increase its production of mitochondria which serve as a the powerhouses to produce energy within cells

Flexibility:
How mobile is your body? Can you touch your toes? Yeah, we’ve all had that moment doing a yoga video with Abi and looking up wondering ‘how on earth can she do that?’ but practice is key, keeping your body flexible helps your body overall to keep your muscles balanced and a good posture allowing maximum efficiency.

Body Composition:
‘You are what you eat’…Well the couchlandrians are anyways :stuck_out_tongue:
Apart from the obvious vital organs in your body and bones to keep your shape, the main components you are left to battle it out with are muscle mass and body fat. More of one means less of the other as an overall percentage and this is definitely a game of two halves. Suffering hard on one side allows us to have short intermittent breaks in Couchlandria.

As we go through a change in seasons, have you taken time to reflect on your fitness state? (and that doesn’t only have to be by completing Full Frontal or Half Monty). 2020 has been an extraordinary year in many ways, as the northern hemisphere heads into winter and the southern hemisphere into summer, make sure that by the end of the year you come out on top when it comes to your physical fitness, but also your mental fitness!

On a scale of 1-5 (excellent), how would you personally rank each of these 5 components in relation to yourself and which one do you need to spend some more time focusing on?

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Thank you for this very nice reminder, Rupert.

Funny, I was actually trying to come up with a reply for several minutes. The answer is not as easy for me as I thought it should be.

This year I am noticing a big change in my perception of what fitness really means (to me) - and your explanation is absolutely spot on.

My own ranking (relative to myself) looks like this:

1 - Cardiovascular Fitness: ***** (5 Stars)
2 - Flexibility: *** (3 Stars)
3 - Body Composition: **** (4 Stars)
4 - Muscular Strength: *** (3 Stars)
5 - Muscular Endurance: **** (4 Stars)

Over the next couple of month I want to shift my main focus to flexibility and muscular strength.

And in my opinion, there is even one more component. Maybe the one I have to work on the hardest:

1(b) - Mental health: ** (2 Stars)

I realize more and more how important my state of mind is during the whole process. It needs exercise / work as much as the other components do.

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Are these numbers 1-5 relative to ourselves, in the same way that 4DP numbers are, or are they more absolute where 1 is rank amateur and 5 is pro?

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Our replies, our rules.
Just be relative and give yourself a few 5 star ratings. Feels good. :slight_smile:
I don’t want to give myself only 1 star and compare myself to an unknown pro standard.

I understand it this way.

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Nice self-reflection here @Pierre! Looks like we need to get you on a yoga challenge to work on that flexibility :wink:
Winter is the perfect time to consolidate your core by doing more strength and flexibility which should help you come back stronger next season.

Good point about the mental health also- this does count for a large amount. Keeping positive and thinking about these workouts as ‘fun’ rather than ‘chores’ should keep you moving in the right direction :slight_smile:

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Absolutely relative to you @titanicus, I am just trying to get everyone self reflecting on where they could spend more time on to improve overall.
Consider how far you have come with your training and if you may have neglected any aspects and could spend more time on them?

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This is very timely. I started off doing SUF to try to improve my bike for my next triathlon. But with COVID it was cancelled and now I don’t have any new events scheduled until May 2021. So, then I started just trying to improve my FTP. Once I really got deeper into SUF I realized that my cycling is so much more than my FTP. So first I started with the All-Around plan. After my first HM and my second 4DP, I improved all my numbers except for my FTP. Then I realized that intensity isn’t everything. I started working on the Metric Century plan and my FTP jumped up. Now I’ve completed my first 100km ride, my first 100 mile ride and it’s time to recover, lower the intensity, and work on my base for a while. Sleep is important. Mental health is important. Constantly improving all my numbers can’t always be my goal, otherwise I find that riding becomes less fun.

So now I’m giving myself goals other than simply improving my numbers. I’m backing off the intensity a bit and do no more than 2 intense days in any week. I’m planning to redo the Mental Strength program. I’m going to work on my base and on my endurance. I’m going to work to incorporate more running. And the first stop on that train is SUF knighthood. :smiley:

Constantly adjusting and reviewing my goals. Because at 44-45, being the fastest or the best isn’t the most important thing, anymore.

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@Coach.Rupert.H Great post! When I read the From the Coaches posts I can’t help but think that these posts should be collected, expanded on, and included in an annual Suff magazine / e-magazine. Something! At the very least, the Wahoo Fitness YouTube channel is just calling for a playlist focused on From the Coaches videos from Wahoo Sports Science to compliment the workouts and inspirational based content already on the channel that articulates these ideas and how these ideas underpin Sufferfest. It’s the SUFF difference!

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@Coach.Rupert.H This is a great article and a real thought provoker. I have just finished 2 intermediate road plans and confess to feeling a bit lost and feeling I have plateaued/reached my peak. The 2 plans (together with daily yoga for the last 140+ days) have transformed my riding abilities, and flexibility, outdoors and had a massive impact on my mental health and made me feel fitter than at any other time in my life (52 now).

However, I am now in a bit of a dip: the outdoors season is coming to an end and I am struggling with the thought of following more plans. However, I don;t want to stop training as I feel so fit. So struggling with what to do next but hoping trying out a 4 week speed plan will keep it fresh and maintain fitness.

In terms of rankings:

1 - Cardiovascular Fitness: ***** (5 Stars)
2 - Flexibility: **** (4 Stars)
3 - Body Composition: *** (3 Stars)
4 - Muscular Strength: *** (3 Stars)
5 - Muscular Endurance: **** (4 Stars)

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That is a great success story @emacdoug ! If you need a gap before the Knighthood, checkout the All-In plans which have reduced cycling content and incorporate more of our other categories.
I’ll keep an eye out for you in the Knights castle soon.

Thanks @DancingCyclist , glad you are enjoying our content and great suggestion!

Whoa that’s alot of yoga @washsaint! A 4 week speed plan is a good idea or check out the base building blocks if you want to just consolidate for a while. Based on your star ratings you are in a good place though- the all in could be a good option to do more strength too?

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I’ve come to Sufferfest as adding to my CrossFit training as I don’t have my rides to work anymore. (Home office isn’t so far away!)

This is an interesting view on what fitness is:

https://journal.crossfit.com/article/what-is-fitness

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Great thinking points. I have been trying to decide what to do next, unlike a lot of people I don’t tend to do big events just want to keep fitness high and body weight down, although I have been virtually racing more since lock down. I do yoga everyday (and trying to extend my daily run) and this has been my must have and focus during the CoVid period. I did the e racing plan which worked well as was not travelling so I could focus properly. My big struggle has been strength which I know as a women I need to do more of. I did beginner strength and then did intermediate but did not quite finish so had a break and started again. The strength seemed to really tire me out (Guess also a sign of years ticking by) and as the sessions got longer motivation really dropped off. Which I guess is catch 22. I think trying to find the balance on my own is a bit hard so wIll have to try and save my pennies to get a customised plan again I think!

Will have to do some more thinking … thanks for food for thought… my stars I think would be…
1 - Cardiovascular Fitness: *** (3 Stars)
2 - Flexibility: **** (4 Stars)
3 - Body Composition: **** (4 Stars)
4 - Muscular Strength: *** (3 Stars)
5 - Muscular Endurance: ** (2 Stars)

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@washsaint
I’m familiar with the feeling of “well… Now what?”.

Even if you feel like you’ve reached your peak you have to remember that even if the numbers might not change, the duration might. I can’t recall where offhand, but I’ve seen some data on pro tour riders where their ftp may not have really budged all that much, but they were able to hold those numbers for significantly longer. Having such increased capacity to clear lactate goes a long way when it comes to recovering from harder efforts, especially in racing.

These numbers are just a fair bit harder to measure ya know?

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Well, you made me think and this what I ve come up with:

1 - Cardiovascular Fitness: ***** (5 Stars)
2 - Flexibility: *** (3 Stars)
3 - Body Composition: **** (4 Stars)
4 - Muscular Strength: *** (3 Stars)
5 - Muscular Endurance: ***** (5 Stars)

The funny thing is I m really quite content with how fit I am.
Yes, I could do with a little less red wine but I like a glass of excellent red wine from time to time.
Yes, I could be (way) more flexible but I don’t like yoga.
Yes, I could be more muscular ( as my two powerlifting sons never fail to point out ) but spending time in a gym is wasting my time because I d rather be on my bike.

When I m riding outside or flying up Mt Sufferlandria from the difficult side, is when my head clears and afterwards I m thinking:" You did well, you did really well"

Especially during COVID times, it s important to be nice to yourself. I know it helps me, the knowledge
that I m fit.

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Thanks Arno, an excellent point! If what you are doing makes you happy then ultimately that is what we want :sunglasses:

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I have a slightly different take on the subject, I hope that this is the correct thread to ask. As somebody who is in his late 60s, the issue is not only what I think about fitness, but what the science is telling me I need to do to combat aging.

From my reading and listening to talks this appears to be focused in two separate areas

  1. HIT training such as Tabata or Supramax
  2. Strength training such as plyometrics, cross fit, or low reps with heavy weights.

Since I want also to maintain overall fitness as well, just doing training blocks does not seem to be the correct approach. Do I need a customized training plan? I am doing the Fitness Kick-starter plan right now.

Also, how much overlap is there in the strength training program (I am right now doing the beginning level 1-2) with the previously mentioned strength training exercises?

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I 100% agree that it is important to keep using your muscles and incorporating strength training into your routine, @Coach.Spencer.R wrote a great piece about this a few weeks back:


The Kickstarter plan is good, from there i would then go onto the all-purpose plan as you have the option of adding strength to this.
A customised plan can also be beneficial, especially if you want to discuss this in more detail during your 30min consultation call.

I have started with SUF Strength Training Beginning Levels 1-2 during the off days for the Kickstarter plan. That does leave one complete, do-nothing, rest day.

Does doing yoga conflict with having a rest day?

It’s taken me a while to reply to this, but here’s my evaluation of my current fitness level, relative to both where I know I can be and where I would like to be. I agree it’s been an interesting year. For me, the impacts have been: less work travel (a positive - more time at home, less on planes and in hotels), more work from home (a negative from a fitness perspective - too much sitting, not enough moving), less racing (negative, missing motivation), less running groups (also negative). Overall, I’m definitely not where I’d like to be at this time of year.

  1. Cardiovascular Fitness *** (3 stars)
  2. Muscular Strength ** (2 stars)
  3. Muscular Endurance *** (3 stars)
  4. Flexibility ** (2 stars)
  5. Body Composition *** (3 stars)

My current focus is building back into structured training, currently doing the Transition Up plan. Of the five areas, my focus is on Cardiovascular Fitness, and I expect Muscular Endurance and Body Composition to improve at the same time. I’m also doing regular yoga to work on the flexibility part, and SUF Strength to work on that aspect.

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