In just a few weeks time Miranda Larbi is cycling from Hackney to Hove - the longest she’s ever peddled. Struggling to develop a training plan for this mammoth ride, can a fitness watch help get her from city to beach?
I’m cycling to Brighton - a rash decision made on one hot and sweaty lockdown afternoon when a mid-summer cycle from Hackney to Hove seemed eminently reasonable.
So here I am, training for an 85km ride having never really cycled more than a couple of hours before. I’ve run an ultra-marathon, but it’s not the same sport.
Like all runners, I’m obsessed with tracking. We want to know our splits, our miles per month, our hours per year. If you haven’t tracked your miles, did you even run?
Cycling for me has always been a mode of transport; I cycle about 30 miles a week at the moment but never track a ride.
Which is why I’m hoping that by wearing a fitness watch that’s linked to my Strava account, I’ll be able to set a benchmark for speed and mileage. My watch of choice? The Garmin Venu - which does basically everything for you while looking good. This is how my first week went…
Day 1: Tuning in
I cycle out of necessity and because I live in Social Siberia (read: London zone 4), that often involves riding decent distances to get anywhere. Today saw me running 6.5km to pick up my bike from a friend’s house after sustaining a puncture the day before, walking 5k to the bike shop and then cycling 12k home.
As I set off on my run, my phone was firmly in my backpack but my Venu watch meant I could swipe through song choices while running - the dream!
Normally, I have to accept whatever rubbish my playlist throws up but from now on, I’m going to listen to Fleetwood Mac as many times as I damn well like.
I also love the fact that I no longer need to start Strava on my phone - I can press the button on my watch, it saves the run/cycle and once synched, automatically uploads onto the app.
And with such an easy set up I’m on my way in no time.
Day 2: Walking the walk
Three times a week, I do a strength workout at home.
I became a different runner the moment I started strength training and I’m sure that it helps with cycling too so I’m upping my lower body workouts to help power my pedalling.
As good as my watch is at tracking distances and speeds, it also has its own pre-loaded workouts that you can do whenever you feel like. It shows you the moves on screen and then buzzes on your wrist when it’s time to switch to the next set.
I did an abs and glutes workout which had me shaking like a leaf. I’ve never tracked a non-cardio workout so it was really interesting to see my stats.
On top of that, I try to walk 10,000 steps every day.
Walking is such an underrated activity; runners think of walking as something you only do when you’re injured. When you’re tracking your walk properly, however, it instantly becomes a more serious part of your training. I set my watch and headed out for a 5.4km power walk around my area.
Day 3: Putting on my OOA (out of action)
Disaster has struck.
On my morning jog, I got my foot stuck in some foliage while on a narrow trail and sprained my ankle. As I lay swearing into the damp ground, my watch buzzed at the 3K mark, reminding me to stop tracking which seemed fitting.
I managed to severely sprain the same ankle back in February and it’s taken three months to get back up to full strength - it’s galling to think about going through it again.
However, the doctors in A&E assured me that this time, the injury was less serious.
I now need to commit to my rehab - RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) so my cycling and running is going to need a backseat.
Thankfully that doesn’t mean my Garmin is obsolete. I’ll be using the breath work part of my watch to really get my recovery and lung capacity working efficiently - the backbone of cardio success.
In addition to that, the Garmin Connect app which tracks stuff like your elevation gain, pace, heart rate and minutes spent doing high intensity bursts also offers a ‘create your own courses’ feature that allows you to plan training routes - perfect for playing with now and for my training once I’m back on my saddle.
Day 4: The road to recovery
Mercifully, my ankle doesn’t feel quite as bad as it did back in February but it’s still painful.
So today I started with an upper body circuit from my watch (press-ups, bicep curls, Russian twists etc) and ended with a dreamy 40-minute deep and stretchy yin yoga class.
Yin is all about staying in positions for longer, becoming at ease with the discomfort and slowing down the mind and breath - exactly what I needed.
You can work out seven days a week, running all the miles and smashing out all the HIIT but if you don’t schedule in time for the body to stop and grow, it’ll never get stronger.
I also dig into a lentil pudding I’ve been loving recently (originally from Runner’s World). It’s high in fibre and plant protein meaning that it’s perfect for post-yoga desserts.
I like to serve it with cacao nibs and crunchy peanut butter.
Day 5: Breathing easy
Richie Norton is the king of mobility and I’ve been doing his flows religiously throughout lockdown; it’s amazing how stiff you get doing very little!
This morning, I cat-cowed my way through a 25-minute flow that opened up my shoulders like nobody’s business.
Injuries can be depressing, especially if exercise is your main form of stress-relief. To keep anxieties at bay, the breathing part of my Garmin has been saving me.
The ‘box breathing’ method gets you to breathe in for four seconds, hold for four, breath out for four and hold for four; the short version goes on for five minutes.
Breathing exercises help me manage anxiety by making the body feel like it does when you’re genuinely relaxed. Researchers have even suggested that having these kinds of techniques in your arsenal can alter the way in which the body reacts to stress in the future by changing how certain genes are switched on. So, I’m all in.
Day 6: Keeping track
After three days of RICE, I’m finally back up and walking - getting 10,000 steps in the bag before dinnertime.
Being able to track everything I do when I can’t run has been a big psychological boost; I’m grateful that I can track these walks.
Before heading out at lunchtime for a careful chomp over my local green space, I set myself a four-minute timer on my watch to complete 100 squats. I’ve decided to set myself a challenge of 100 squats every morning for the rest of June to keep those glutes, quads and hammies firing right so that getting back on the bike doesn’t feel like a huge shock.
Day 7: Taking learnings
Sundays are usually my long run or cycle days.
I love getting up early, having a cafetière of coffee in bed with a bowl of overnight oats and then heading out for a couple of hours - podcast on the go.
Alas, that won’t be happening for the foreseeable but I’m hoping that I’ll be on my bike ASAP.
After a day of playing with my three-year-old niece (Garmin really needs to add a babysitting setting to their built-in activity profiles - kids are exhausting), I got in my 100 squats before sitting on my mat with a YouTube tutorial on ankle rehab.
This week hasn’t gone according to plan, but that’s sport for you.
They say that the hardest part of training is getting to the start line and that’s so true; injuries are part and parcel of the training process.
Spraining my ankle has given me an opportunity to concentrate on other parts of my regime. I’ve used the breathing section of the watch every day and have loved being able to track my yoga and mobility flows.
Walking is a crucial part of my lockdown life and is going to continue to play a vital role for as long as I can’t run, so it’s invaluable to be able to track those walks.
I’m definitely guilty of being a data snob; I don’t like people being able to see my crap runs or slow moments. But the fact that my Garmin adds walks to my timeline helps me to focus on using the platform as a realistic gauge of how my training is going - it’s not there for anyone else’s judgement.
Having the access to all my tools and data via my watch all the time and not having to post it anywhere has meant that I’ve focussed more on my own health journey and can plan better for my recovery.
For watch thats as fashionable as it is functional, try the Garmin Venu.
Made to help you manage your health and wellbeing holistically, it’s lightweight stainless steel bezel and silicone strap are perfect for whatever you get up to - and with a battery life of five days and 200 hours of data memory, it won’t let you down.