Kate Strong: World Record Training

Kate Strong: World Record Training

In 2021, Veloforte ambassador Kate Strong simultaneously took three world records for the furthest distance travelled on a static cycle in 1 hour, 12 hours and 24 hours. Here Kate shares how to maximise your physical training.

Find Kate’s blog on fuelling a World Record attempt here.

Hello fellow Veloforte fans! I’m Kate Strong and in 2021, I broke three world records on a static bike. It was the toughest twenty four hours of my life to date. I had an inclination that it would be hard — that’s why I decided to attempt these records in the first place — but I had no idea just how deep I would have to dig to keep on cycling and cover 433.1 miles.

I’d like to share with you the rollercoaster of the past 16 months, from cancelled attempts to stolen bikes and everything in between!

In three posts I’ll cover the mental, physical and fuelling elements of my preparation for the successful attempt at these world records. You might have zero desire to pedal on a static bike for two hours, let alone 24, but I'm sure there are lessons in my journey that could help you dig a little deeper, push a little harder and move you towards your own goals with a bit more flow and focus.

So here are my five guidelines for achieving great physical performance and delivering consistent results:

Focus on habits first

When I first started training in January 2020, my base fitness level was pretty low. I could hike up a mountain and swim a few laps in the pool, but apart from the occasional commute to visit a local client, my bike was more of a coat hanger than part of my regular routine.

So, for the first month, I focused on getting my bike back into my thoughts as part of my day-to-day life. I committed to cycling three times a week, but rarely went over 30 minutes. "What’s the rush?” I kept reminding myself. I had 12 months (which became 16 months — more on that later) before my record attempt and I focused on embedding the habit of cycling, rather than going hard and risk burning out.

For me, I always invest in creating daily or weekly rituals first and work the muscle of repetition. When the sessions inevitably get longer and tougher, the strength of our relationship with our plan will push us through any inner resistance. Plus, our physical strength and speed will build up over time. Consistent training will have a much greater impact than just ‘going hard’ for a few months.

Follow a four week flow

However hard we might try to fight it, we are creatures of nature. And nature works in cycles with moments to grow and moments to rest. With my coach, we built my training program into four week blocks where weeks 1,2 and 3 increased gradually (no more than 10% increase from the previous week) and the fourth week backed off the effort, allowing me time to spin my legs and for my muscles to heal and recover.

And these four week blocks were also part of a larger cycle of four months. Typically, I’d mirror the seasons, with winter giving me time off (or a lot less on) the bike, although I was slightly out of sync with nature this time because my world record attempt was initially set for January.

I say initially, as a national lockdown was announced on 5 January. My record was set for 7 January and I had no real idea when it would be lifted or when I could reattempt the record. I hoped that it was only a few short months and my current fitness would be maintained, but realistically I felt I needed to play it a little safer and aim for a summer attempt.

So a new date was set for Wednesday 26 May, to start at 3pm. That would allow me to cycle outdoors (still on the static bike) due to the warmer weather. As an added bonus, that evening was set to have a supermoon — the biggest full moon of 2021. I make my own ‘luck’, but I’m happy to stack as much in my favour as possible, so bring on the luna female goddess power!

With a new date, my coach and I could build up my training again and start the four week training cycles leading up to the new 24 hour record attempt date.

You don’t need to cycle 400 miles to cycle 400 miles

Back when I was a runner, I thought I needed to run 26.2 miles in preparation for a marathon. Actually, I used to run an ultra marathon for training, which in hindsight is crazy!

I didn’t want to repeat this pattern for my records, so my coach and I designed training that would simulate 24 hours, but meant that I didn't spend more than 9 hours on the bike in one training session.

In one week, for example, I cycled a total of 20 hours (9 hours + 8 hours + 3 hours), and no more. Increasing my effort to a minimum average of 20–22mph — a full 2mph faster than my 'race' goal, meant that physiologically, I knew my body could cope and there was no build up of pain or potential of injury to my joints.

I had confidence from that training that my body could not only survive but deliver a fair effort for 24 hours.

Don’t change your kit last-minute

The golden rule: pick your key kit a minimum of two months before your race and don’t change it. This especially includes your bike, cycle shorts, and shoes.

I wish I listened to my own advice. My road bike of 23 years had been stolen, my racing time-trial was on her last legs, and I refused to use my single-speed commuter bike (do I need to say why?).

I temporarily used my boyfriend’s bike. The plan was to replace his bike within a few weeks, yet this turned into months and it wasn’t until four days before my world record attempt that I rode my own bike for the first time!

My bike is very special and was definitely worth the wait. Bespoke designed and manufactured in Ghana out of bamboo and hemp, she mirrors my values around sustainable living. Yet, even though she was bespoke built for me, I had no idea how I would feel cycling her for long periods of time. There was a lot riding on her and I getting along.

Any slight alteration of pressure and difference in angles adds up over many hours of static cycling. The first moment of concern happened about nine hours into my world record attempt. Averaging a cadence of over 70rpm and barely changing position, the pressure was mounting up on one point of contact in particular.

Lubrication on its own just wasn’t cutting it, so my performance manager Clare Sinton and I chose to have a physio break and discover the reason for my discomfort. She had the unglamorous task of checking me over and confirmed that my skin had been broken at two points, meaning I was cycling whilst sitting on open wounds.

We knew this could stop me cycling, so she prepared ‘donuts’ of protective dressing that she stuck and taped around the cuts to get me back on the bike. Within 30 minutes, the pain had returned and I squirmed to adjust my position and relieve the pressure. All this did was create yet more cuts and abrasions elsewhere that needed treating.

Unfortunately, another knock-on effect of me adjusting how I sat on the saddle was that I was adding extra duress on my knees and these too, started to groan and ache with every shift of position.

Slowly, my body was breaking down!

I highly doubt that my training on my bike for any longer than I had would have completely avoided any pain or injury, but I believe it would have toughened up the right areas of my body and at least delayed the inevitable, giving me more time before the pain kicked in.

Clare kept a close eye on me throughout the record to ensure there wouldn't be any long-term injury, and in the meantime, I needed to grin and bear it.

Off-the bike is as important as on-the bike

I despise the cold. Having lived in Australia for close to 10 years I grew accustomed to 19°C winters and training in 30°C+  heat, so the thought of an ice bath sends shivers down my back (literally)!

Also, being hyper-flexible, stretching and conditioning work is quite uncomfortable. My joints and limbs bend into abnormal positions and I've learned to cope by locking my knees, hips and elbows in place, rather than relying on my muscles. This rigid response doesn't work for long periods of time, such as cycling for 24 hours, because the stress ricochets around my body, adding extra duress to my joints and lower back.

I know the answer: strengthen the weak areas, and even though I am not motivated to do one-leg squats and core-ball balance, I know that how we care for our body off the bike directly impacts our performance on the bike. Regardless if I want to or not, it's time to suck it up and get into a cold bath after every intense session.

I also learnt to tolerate squeezing in five minutes of conditioning work before I relaxed for a series on Netflix. Both my physio and I believe that these small additions to my daily routine greatly helped in managing and mitigating injury through the attempt itself

These five principles helped me enormously to prepare for and achieve three world records. What I am even more proud of is that within two weeks of cycling 433.1miles (the equivalent of Bristol to Dundee, if you’re wondering), I felt physically fine and even went for a gentle spin around the block and a 1km swim!

Kate’s Picks

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