In the month or so since we’ve started the Performance Project, autumn has truly turned to winter here in Switzerland: the golden hues of the larches have softly faded out, and the mountains are now covered in snow. For the next few months I will be balancing time on the ski slopes with shorter, higher intensity rides indoors on Zwift, working towards my goal to achieve a personal best maximal peak power, and preparing to have some zip in the legs come spring.
It has been a slow start to my journey: I was off the bike completely with the flu in late October and early November, and had to take things easy as I got back into it. It wasn’t quite what I had envisaged as part of a ‘Performance’ project – I was barely exercising, let alone performing! But being unwell did really highlight the importance of health as the basis of performance – something that can be all too easy to overlook when we’re happily training on a daily basis. I was reminded that having a healthy body is critical to be able to perform at my best, and that means what I do day-to-day in terms of nutrition, hydration, rest and other aspects of life like work or travel affects my ability to train, recover and perform.
This understanding is reinforced by the ethos of the teams at Precision Hydration and Supersapiens, whose brands are built around the idea of achieving performance by enabling the natural systems of our bodies to work as well as they possibly can. The downtime gave me space to jump into researching and learning, tracking and understanding my personal physiology, my day-to-day glucose levels, and fueling and hydration requirements. For me it is a process of being observant, looking for patterns rather than answers, and staying in touch with how I feel as well as what the numbers and graphs are saying. I’m mapping what I’m doing in terms of hydration and nutrition against my performance, RPE and menstrual cycle, and starting to build a picture of what is and isn’t working for me.
So far I’ve learnt that my glucose runs a little low compared to the normal level, that my favourite daily breakfast mixture of greek yoghurt, almonds, seeds, and blueberries does a really good job of setting me on a steady glucose track for the day head, and that an after-lunch walk in the vineyards offsets a glucose spike and re-energises me for the afternoon. I’ve started to understand why I always thought I performed better eating a little bit, frequently, rather than having a whole bar in one go, and realised (after a good bonk on my second day on the ski slopes) the importance of fueling for all activities in my life, not just for cycling! There’s something about the fizziness of effervescent tablets that I don’t personally love, so I have been loving keeping my hydration on point with Precision Hydration’s all-natural hydration packets – so much so, that I wish it came in a big tub with a scoop!
Before my unintended ‘off-season’, I spent the summer and early autumn doing a lot of long, steady climbing in the alps, with less distance than I would usually cover, but much more vertical gain. As a result, even after being unwell and feeling like I am at a low point in terms of my fitness, the numbers show that I have maintained a relatively high base endurance level. Now I am starting to re-find my rhythm, building up volume and adding intensity with shorter indoor rides on Zwift. I am enjoying focusing on working with my body to get the best out of myself, and am excited to see where I can push my level up to. But like any good science experiment I am going to keep observing for a little longer before I start making big interventions or changes, and then focus on one thing at a time. I am sure there will be more nitty gritty detail to come in future blog posts!
To the Voxwomen team and sponsors of the project: the support and information available has been immense, from personalised onboarding calls to answering unique questions on a near daily basis, as well as presentations unwrapping the deeper scientific aspects and helping us to understand what we are seeing in practice. It is so motivating to be part of such a knowledgeable, dedicated and honestly interested environment. Thank you all so much!