By ExpeditionPlus! veteran, Mary Gantz
Mary Gantz doesn’t let living in pancake-flat Florida inhibit her cycling success. She road Coast to Coast across Chile and Argentina in 2006; from St Petersburg to Istanbul in 2007; pedaled across the High Andes in South America in 2009; and did, what some consider our most physically challenging Expedition so far, the Italia 150 in 2011. She seems eminently qualified to offer advice on how to train for an ExpeditionPlus! type tour – here are her thoughts on how she pulled these trips off.
Since I am a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, Pilates instructor and body tone coach, I have a lot of valuable experience to draw from. In training, I always set a goal. I did the 2011 Italia 150 and my goal in training was to be one of the first riders to finish every day and still have lots of energy at the end of the day. I definitely would not have been able to achieve that goal had I not worked on nutrition and physical training equally. Since I was addicted to chocolate candy I decided to cut that out completely because those are all “empty calories.” In other words, I could eat a whole bag of chocolates and still feel as hungry as I did before I started eating. I noticed when I replaced the chocolate with protein shakes I felt full after every shake. Also, the shakes are high in calories so I was extra careful not to pile high calorie candy on top of the good protein calories.
As far as the physical part of the training I did NOT just bike even though this was a bike trip. You cannot successfully train your body without including strength, cardio, balance and flexibility. This makes it sound as though you would have to spend many hours training but that is a common misconception. I tell my students to take all the “props” out of their lives. That means balancing to get dressed as opposed to sitting down, doing calf raises while waiting in the super market line, using your body’s strength exclusively when exiting and entering a car or when getting up off a couch or chair. You will be surprised how much you depend on “props” in almost everything you do! Getting rid of them will improve your strength and balance.
Core strength is the most important part of training because these muscles are key to supporting the muscles in our limbs. People strain, sprain and pull muscles in their arms and legs because they are not using their core muscles to generate the initial power. When doing strength exercises, always try to visualize the point where the muscles attach to each organ and focus on what they are doing to move the body parts you can see. This is definitely a situation where if you don’t use it you will lose it. People who are strong in the core never stoop as they walk, never round their shoulders, never shuffle their feet and never, ever feel like they must sit instead of stand.
Remember if you are training for a long bike ride with lots of miles and lots of climbs the first step is to choose your goal. One YOU are comfortable with. If you want to be first in, this is going to take a lot more training time on the bike or other cardio workouts. For me this meant a 100 mile, and two to three 30 to 50 mile rides a week starting a month before the trip. If you are doing the trip to enjoy the scenery, meet the locals and/or take lots of photos but still want to finish every mile, you can get by with 50 miles one day a week and 20 on two others a month before your trip but don’t forget the rest of the training! If you are doing the trip with the knowledge that you will be happy to do what you can and not hesitate to take a ride in the van when it feels tough or you are out late because of enjoying other things besides just biking, you still need to train – but make it fun! Everyone should incorporate training into their everyday lives. Make it fun, enjoy new confidence, and revel in the positive reactions to how fit you are. If you feel the age it says you are on your driver’s license, you are not training hard enough!