Week 4: Fitness role models - Mark Cavendish

January 28 2015

It’s the final week of January and chances are you may require an extra push to get you through the last few days of the month. But don’t worry, once again, we have a world-class athlete guaranteed to get you into gear again.

The last athlete to appear in our “Fitness Heroes” series is professional road racing cyclist Mark Cavendish, and his amazing speed and determination is sure to motivate you back on the track to fitness.

Why should I emulate this person?

One of the fastest sprinters of his generation, with a sprint speed of 48.47 MPH, Mark Cavendish has been continuing to defy the boundaries of road and track cycling throughout his career.

Nicknamed the “Manx Missile”, Cavendish currently sits in third place in the all time Tour de France stage victories, behind Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault. He has also been awarded an MBE for services to cycling and received almost half (49%) of the public votes when he was nominated for BBC Sports Personality Of The Year in 2011.

What makes Cavendish so special?

At the time of writing he is currently a member of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team, but has also ridden for Team Sky, helping the team win the yellow jersey in 2012. The year before, in 2011, he became the first ever British cyclist to win the Points Classification at the Tour de France where he won the Green Jersey.

Cavendish was also the first ever cyclist to win the final stage on the Champs Elysees four years in succession. He improved his performance by becoming the UCI Road Race World Champion and winning the prestigious Rainbow Jersey that Britain had been waiting to claim for 46 years.

The sprint finish in Harrogate may have knocked the Manx Missile off his bike during the 2014 Tour de France, but he got straight back on the saddle again and pushed the boundaries of his own physical and mental strength. After suffering the worst crash of his entire career, with serious ligament ruptures, Cavendish jumped into training after just six weeks - half the recommended recovery time. While we are not condoning pushing yourself to train with an injury, even we must admit our admiration for his unrivalled dedication to the sport.

How does he do it?

Mark once told Men’s Health magazine that the key to success is consistent training. Cavendish wouldn’t have got his missile nickname without a great deal of effort and determination. He claims that he makes training his full-time job by putting in 30-40 hours a week on the bike, while dedicating the rest of his time to strength work.

When he isn’t on the bike, Cavendish works on the strength of his core and upper body as he can’t improve this from peddling. Improve your strength like Cavendish by regularly training your core through plank exercises, crunches and jack knives, and build your upper body strength with push-ups, pull-ups and weights.

In order to improve his performance during sprints, Cavendish practises at the end of his usual rides. To keep his speed up to scratch, he performs one or two sprints over a long distance of around 300 metres which is actually longer than competitive sprints. This allows Cavendish to have confidence in his own ability to make it through the required distance at a rapid speed.

Bradley_Wiggins_Mark_Cavendish_-_2012_Tour_de_France

What’s a cyclist’s secret weapon?

The two things that all professional cyclists have in common is endurance and motivation. Cycling is hard work, and when you have been slogging it on the bike for hours you’ll need to be able to keep yourself going. Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins and Marcel Kittel all possess serious physical and mental stamina and are said to use tactics, such as visualising how they are going to win the race, to keep them mentally prepared.

Pro cyclists also need to ensure that they pace themselves throughout a race, while it is natural to want to push yourself hard at the beginning to steer ahead of the competition, your muscles will tire quicker due to lactic acid in your legs. It’s much better to maintain an average pace and increase your speed nearer the end.

Who to watch out for?

Ian Boswell is one of the rising stars of the cycling world, and the 23-year-old American is following Cavendish’s footsteps, as he is in his third season with Team Sky after joining in 2012.

He made a name for himself after coming second in the under-23 category of the 2012 Liege-Bastogne-Liege race before also impressing at the Tours of Utah and l’Avenir. In 2013 during his first year with Team Sky, Boswell helped bring the team to victory at Paris-Nice and the Tour of Norway. With the 2016 Olympics on their way, watch this space.

Winter is still upon us, and instead of risking injuring yourself cycling on the icy roads, why not try a spinning club at DW Fitness Clubs? Spinning is an indoor cycling programme on stationary bikes. It’s an intense workout that guides you through all of the motions of an outdoor ride, including flat roads, hill climbs, sprints and races. You can find out more information about the classes here.