Could you be pushing your body too hard this winter?
Thankfully, there’s the perfect fitness strap to help you recover for the 2020 season: WHOOP
For cyclists, winter should be a time of regeneration, a period where we allow our bodies the space to recover from the rigours of a hard summer season and lay the foundations to build them back up to climb the metaphorical – and literal – mountain, all over again.
That’s easier said than done. Modern life is lived on fast forward and it’s easy for this double-speed thinking to seep into our cycling and hurt us as we try to squeeze our training into fewer daylight hours and less hospitable weather.
There’s also the rise of technologically advanced smart trainers and engaging, fun indoor training tools and games, which almost accidentally encourage high intensity through every single workout. We put ourselves at risk of overreaching with our bodies, overtraining or, worst of all, burning them out before the flag has even been dropped on the new season.
And amid the big chill and the faster spread of colds and flu, our lowered immunity increases our chances of getting sick, eating into our capacity for effective training, as does a tendency at this time of year for us to slip-up with our diets.
Sleep, our ultimate regeneration tool, may be impacted, leaving our bodies in a position where an added training load doesn’t take us forwards or even sees us tread water, but instead sends us backwards. There might be a gap between us thinking our bodies are up to the demands of the training we’re asking of it and it actually being capable.
WHOOP can stop overtraining before it takes hold, and allow you to perform to your best through the winter and beyond. The WHOOP Strap 3.0, in tandem with its mobile and desktop app, tracks how hard you’re working and how well you’re recovering, as well as the effectiveness of your sleep. It provides physiological data that tells you of your body’s readiness for action, be it that next hammer session on the turbo or tough interval session on the road.
Based on your resting heart rate, heart rate variability, and the quantity and quality of your sleep, WHOOP gives you a recovery percentage each morning - how ready your body is to take on strain. Broken down as red, yellow or green, it tells you whether you’re in the zone for training adaptation. In the green and you’re ready to don your Lycra and hit the road or turbo, in the red and you’re probably better off cleaning your bike, not riding it.
Wearing your WHOOP Strap 24/7 gives you physiological feedback throughout the day, whether you’re riding, resting or just pottering about the house. It quantifies the cardiovascular exertion all your activities put on your body and recommends how hard you should push yourself in any given training session. It also shows how your body responds to similar intensity workouts over time to avoid injury and overtraining. So you don’t feel up to that three-hour ride in sub-zero temperatures? Perhaps it’s more than just not fancying the cold – your body might be trying to tell you something and the WHOOP Strain Coach has the answer.
Quality sleep is big currency at British Cycling and Team Ineos, who have hired sleep coaches and travelled across Europe to races with their own mattresses. A poor night’s sleep in isolation will affect you more mentally than physically, but consistently poor sleep will begin to hinder performance. Human growth hormone, which is part of the restorative function of sleep, floods your body during deep sleep, so poor sleep can affect its release and stop your muscle fibres from being repaired after the shredding of that last, devilish HIIT session.
Sleep isn’t just about getting the universal rule of thumb ‘eight hours’ – every individual is different and we all should have a personalised plan. Not all amateur cyclists need – or have the capacity for – the 12 hours that tennis legend Roger Federer reportedly disappears into slumber, or have the abundance of free time throughout the day that makes professional cyclists the most prodigious exponents of napping on the planet.
But there is a happy compromise with sleep for every cyclist with a busy work and home life. WHOOP measures not only how long you sleep but also disturbances, and the time spent in each of the four stages of sleep, giving you an efficiency from 0–100% on the quality of shut-eye. It also tracks your circadian rhythm, or how your body functions through a 24-hour period, telling you how much sleep you need (as well as optimal times to go to bed and wake up) in order to meet your performance goals the next day.
After only four months, WHOOP members reported injuries 60% less often, consumed 79% less alcohol before bed and dedicated 41 extra minutes to sleep each night – all of which make your training rides more enjoyable and effective, and set you well on your way to hitting your summer goals.
WHOOP membership, which includes the Strap 3.0, costs from €16 a month (18-month membership) to €25 a month (six months).