I have no idea what to do
Sound familiar? That horrible feeling of knowing you need to improve your diet & fitness but not having a clue of what you need to do in order to get yourself there. Honestly, this whole fitness world is a totally baffling place when you are first starting out on your journey & in full honesty, it is a big reason I become a coach & personal trainer. when I speak to prospective clients this is most definitely the biggest struggle riders face.
I couldn't find the answers I was looking for online so decided to educate myself on how to get the results I wanted. I was that girl who sat on Google or Instagram searching foods to eat to get abs, best foods to eat to lose 5kg, how to strengthen your arms without gaining muscle. So I know how confusing it can be especially as females, there is a huge amount of information out there that can be hugely contradictory & just end up leaving feeling you more confused than when you started.
So if you are stuck in this camp of having that feeling of not having a clue what to do to help your riding then I am going to help you out by sharing my top 3 fitness & nutrition tips to focus on.
1-Focus on building strength through compound bodyweight movements
Don't overcomplicate it-there is a reason the best athletes in the world use these compound exercises. They hit multiple muscle groups & work through various joints whilst requiring a large degree of core stability & skill. They are your bang for your buck exercises such as your squats. They relate to your riding building your stability & strength in your lower body which then transfers directly into the strength required in the saddle. As you are freestanding these movements replicate riding as you are trying to control your entire bodyweight & use your core muscles to stabilize yourself. Before you try any whacky movements or add a Bosu ball in you need to get proficient at these compound big movements & these are what will build your balance & strength
2-Aim to hit all of your movement patterns in your week of training
Hitting your key movement patterns is essential to make sure you work your body through all planes & types of movement to build the strongest & most balanced you. If you neglect a movement pattern then you will be creating an imbalance & as riders, we want to work on being as symmetrical as we possibly can! Squat, hip hinge, lunge, push, pull, carry & core are what you want to be covering through your week of training. To avoid excessive soreness or overworking muscle groups I would suggest picking one of each movement from upper & lower & doing on alternate days for example;
Squat-Lunge-H Push-V Pull-Core (anti-extension)
Hip hinge-lunge-V Push-H Pull-Carry
3-Include some sort of aerobic training 1-2 per week
Aerobic fitness is just as important as strength training. Riders heart rates when going cross country have been shown to reach 185 bpm which classes riding as a highly demanding sport on your aerobic capacity. Training to build up your aerobic capacity is key so focus on doing some sort of aerobic fitness work alongside your other training. Work on improving your steady state fitness rather than blasting yourself through HIIT if you don't enjoy it! Running, cycling & swimming are all great options for aerobic fitness & target similar muscle groups to those you use when riding so win win.
1- Base your diet around the 3 main macronutrient food groups
Design your diet based around the main macronutrient groups; protein, carbohydrates & fats. Try to include a source of each food group in each meal & aim to eat 1g x kg per BW of protein to begin with, protein is key for retaining muscle mass & helping your muscles to build & recover post workout. Aim to include a serving of protein with each meal & try to eat complex carbohydrates that will fill you with goodness & help to give you long lasting energy to support your training & riding. Remember no food group is bad & our body needs the micronutrients from each group to function optimally, focus on picking nutritious sources of foods from these groups & eat controlled portions.
2-Aim to eat healthy, nutritious foods 80% of the time & foods you enjoy 20% of the time
Try to focus on eating well the majority of the time packing out your diet & plate with lots of colour & foods that fill you with goodness & all the nutrients you need. Your fruit & veg are your golden eggs for providing you with the nutrients needed so be sure to include plenty with meals & for snacks. If you eat well 80% of the time then you have room to have that flexibility & include the foods you like & enjoy the rest of the time that maybe are on the higher calorie or more refined side of things. Including this flexibility within your diet is key for long term adherence & maintaining your body composition results. The problem with most FAD diets is that they require a huge amount of restriction so you are unable to adhere to them long term as they just encourage that constant binge & restrict cycle which causes unhealthy mindset towards food. Balance is healthy & if you are looking for a diet that you can stick to long term then you must find this balance!
3-If you are aiming to lose or gain weight then track your calories
When it comes down to body composition changes whether the goal is weight loss or gain your results come down to calories only difference is for fat loss you want to focus on being in a deficit & weight gain you need to be in a caloric surplus. If you want to maintain then you must eat your mainteance calories. Using an app such as MyFitnessPal is the best way to track your food intake. If you're serious about results & educating yourself then tracking is the most accurate & fastest method to get you to your result. It can be really educational & eye opening to show you what foods contain what macronutrients & may change your attitude towards certain foods & their "health status" based on societal trends. Tracking isn't something you need to do forever but it is a really handy tool to get you to your goals & help you to learn about food.
Hopefully this helps you to gain some clarity & have some good ideas of where to focus your energy when you are first starting your fitness journey! Remember it is easy to overcomplicate things but try not to re-invent the wheel, simple works.