Tips for cycling longevity from 50-time Ironman finisher Belinda Granger.
Seasoned triathlon veteran Belinda Granger completed her 50th iron-distance event at Challenge Taiwan. Granger shares her insight as to what’s made her a cycling powerhouse after more than 20 years in the saddle.
MAKING IT LAST: Granger attributes two key factors to her sustained cycling success—her training background and her pure passion for the bike.
“When I first started triathlon I was taught to ride properly by professional cyclists. I rode in a cycling group every week, three times a week, for years. I was taught to ride rollers, so that helped a lot, and I was put on a fixed gear for quite a long time when I was first starting out. Also I did gymnastics from age 10 until 18, and when I finished competing I continued doing a lot of tumbling. You get a lot of speed and power doing that. It crossed over to cycling quite well.
“Once I retire from professional racing I will continue to cycle for the rest of my life. Training and hurting myself on the bike has never been a chore—I absolutely love it.”
CH-CH-CHANGES: Granger recounts some of the changes in training techniques she’s made over time.
“I trained with Brett Sutton for years, and he gave us a huge amount of big-gear work. There were lots of hill reps down in the aero bars grinding a huge gear, then short time-trial sessions and also double bike rides. I think my cycling jumped up almost twofold. It got me so strong and fit, and it was the key to me winning at least eight of my 14 Ironman-distance titles. I got to the point where I almost felt invincible! But it wasn’t efficient. I’d get off the bike in an Ironman and my average cadence would be around 72. It was insane! So even though that type of training was good at the time it taught me bad habits. Since I’ve been back on my own I’ve been riding a lot with cyclists again, trying to learn to pedal efficiently again.
“I’ve changed my bike position quite a lot over the years. When I was younger and more flexible my position was a lot more extreme, whereas now, as I’m tighter in the hamstrings I’m not as far forward as I used to be and I’m certainly not as low in the front end. My position now might not necessarily be the fastest, but it’s the most comfortable for me.
“Back in the day I pretty much cycled six days a week. Now I ride around four times a week, and I try to make sure that with every session, I enjoy it and I make it count. I rarely just go out and ride.”
RACE READY: Granger shares her race-week fine-tuning prep.
“I like to do a session with short intervals. For example, I’ll go out and do some five-minute hits in the aero bars at race pace—nothing over race pace. I don’t go crazy because at my age the recovery is not as good as it used to be. I might go out for an hour and a half and somewhere in the middle I’ll throw in three sets of five minutes on and five minutes off. It’s just enough to wake the body up, get used to that feeling, open up the lungs and open up the legs, but not long enough or sustained enough to cause any damage or get tired. Normally I’ll do one session like that on the bike, one in the swim and one on the run.”
RECOVERY: Active recovery keeps Granger in good form year after year.
“A lot of people take the day off after a race. I think that’s the worst thing you can do because it leaves everything in the legs. Even that same afternoon, if it’s not a full Ironman race, I might do a little bit of a swim to help flush the system. The day after the race I’ll go for an easy spin on the bike. But with a recovery session I make sure I’m spinning—I don’t even get in the big chainring. My average wattage is probably under 100, so we’re talking cruise.”