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Fit in a month!

Roger tries to show his muscles
A month ago, this was not a pretty sight
(the sunburn still isn't!).

Roger Ford finds you can go from slob to fit in one month

To race motorcycles, you need to be fit. The top guys are trained athletes, and need to be, to race for maybe fifty laps of a two mile circuit.

At club level, it's much less onerous - maybe eight laps of a one-mile circuit. But even so, I found myself tiring and slowing after five or six laps.

Until last month, I led a pretty sedentary lifestyle. I always had plans to get fit, by enduros, motocross, and swimming. But for one reason or another, it rarely happened.

So what about a gym? Nah, gyms are for fit people, right?

I went on an induction day at the local gym, and had a fitness assesment. I found five minutes on the exercise bike totally knackering.

But I was determined to persevere. The big problem with any training is finding the time. I made the time, by getting up two hours earlier. Sounds difficult? That's what I had thought. But it's not. The exercise makes you wake up much better and more refreshed in the morning, and you tend to go to bed earlier anyway.

The only danger is of putting on too much weight. On a lightweight bike like my TZ250, every kilo counts. An increase of four kilos (10 lbs) is equivalent to losing one horsepower.

So my training has been biased towards the cardio machines more than the weights. That's lucky - I enjoy them much more.


Yes, I said enjoy. At first, it was damn hard work. But they gave me a schedule to do, and I tried to keep with it, and then improve on it. And soon, I was looking forward to going to the gym, and stayed longer than I meant to each time. The variety of exercises keeps you from the boredom you get with running or swimming. The endorphins give you a real mental and physical buzz.
Weights Machine
Pushing weights, building muscles

I hadn't long to get fit for the new season (this was the beginning of February), so I resolved to go every day for two weeks. I've learnt now that this is not generally wise, it's better to let your muscles recover for a day in between. But making it every day made it more difficult to find excuses.

I soon found the machines much easier. It actually gets easier as time goes on. I never thought I'd do it, but within a few days I could manage half an hour on the bike (with an excellent book to avoid any risk of boredom)

step machines
Step machines in California. Expect less machines
and more queues at your local gym.
Cardio Machines

Cardio Vascular Training

This improves heart and lung efficiency. Better reserves, and improved supply mechanisms gives you aerobic endurance - allowing the muscles to work for longer.

You need to exercise for at least 12 minutes before you burn off significant fat. This is because the body starts off burning glycogen (sugars from carbohydrates) and conserves its fats - a more expensive, long term energy store. But the brain can only burn glycogen, so after a while the body switches to burning fat to conserve glycogen for the brain.

It helps if you haven't eaten before exercising. That way, your reserves of glycogen will be lower, and your body will switch to fats earlier. If exercising before work, always eat breakfast, but after your workout.

AgeMax Heart Rate65%85%
40 180117153

Cardio training works best if you keep your pulse rate, or heart beat, in the optimum range.

This is usually calculated as 65% - 85% of your maximum safe heart rate.
Maximum heartbeat is 220 - your age, e.g. 190 for a 30 year old. The table on the left show ranges for different ages. You should aim for the middle of the range for a sustainable workout, higher for a shorter period.

If Excell was a bit more bloody intuitive I'd have a nice chart to show this off. Fear not, your local gym will have one.

Weights Machine
Pushing weights, building muscles
Muscle Building

weights machines
free weights
cardio machines at high intensity
Bike racers definitely need cardio-vascular efficiency. Racing is a feat of endurance rather than direct strength.

But muscle improvement also helps, making it easier to haul the bike around. Most athletic training is based towards adding muscle mass - in virtually every other sport, more muscles means better performance. But bike racers, and I guess horse racing jockies, need to get their weight as low as possile. My aims are to burn off all excess fat, and add just enough muscle to maintain the needed level of fitness.


Stretching is really important. This maintains muscle flexibility, and prevents it bunching. It increases the suppleness of joints. Suppleness is important when crashing - you're much less likely to injure yourself. When skiing last weekend, I fell several times, but never hurt myself. Before, I've always had aches and bruises. (By the way, if you're a speed freak like me, you'll LOVE skiing. You can go manically fast. Of course, you'll crash a lot, but hey - that's speed)

Muscle Stretch Exercises

You can do these exercises anywhere - you don't need a gym. Do it while you watch TV.

Touch Toes

Hold your feet about 18 inches apart, and reach down to your toes. It doesn't matter if you can't reach them, just stretch down until your calf muscles start to hurt. If you can, try to put your fingers or palms down in front of you. Hold it for as long as is comfortable - 10 seconds is a good start. You will find that after a few seconds, the pain eases and you can stretch a little further.

Lean Forward

A horizontal version of the above.
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front. Try to touch your toes or hook your hands over the top of your feet. Hold the stretch.


Stand with feet together, and reach up to try to touch the ceiling. As a variation, hook your fingers together and push your palms upwards.


Reach out as far as you can with both hands. Try standing between two objects just out of reach. Then stretch your arms back behind you as far as they'll go.


Lie on the floor on your back, just far enough from a wall or door that you can't touch it with your arms behind. Then stretch out until you can reach it, move away half an inch and repeat.


Kneel down with your bum between your legs and stretch backwards as far as you can go to get your head as low as possible. This really pulls the calf muscles, but eventually you'll be able to touch the ground with your head. Once you're used to the feeling of muscle stretch, you can devise your own exercises.


I'm not terribly good at this bit. I tend to eat junk food, so to avoid putting on weight I just eat less of it. A better diet would involve lots of veg and complex carbohydrates like bread, pasta and potatos. If my primary aim was to build muscle, I'd want plenty of protein too. It does seem that since I've been exercising, I've been less inclined to eat greasy food like fish and chips. Whether this is physiological, or psychological because I don't want to undo the good work, I'm not sure.


It's important to drink plenty of fluids, both when training and racing. The body dehydrates easily, and that saps performance. About 2 litres a day of plain water is recommended (I recommend sparkling Caledonian Spring).

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