Lots of tips and two 10 week training plans for the beginners and those already active.

10 week plan

Amazing news, Lap The Lough 2016 is farther & hillier. Squeeze extra $$ for your good cause by stressing how far you have to go compared to all the previous versions and spend a little more time training.

Strava Club

If you have a smartphone/GPS device and a Strava account then why not join the LTL Strava Club - you can keep track of your weekly miles and stay motivated throughout your 10 week training plan.

Extra advice

If you're starting out on a new exercise and nutritional regime it's always a smart thing to contact your GP before hand. Go for a quick chat a few weeks before training begins.

Bike Set up

It’s very common for those relatively new to cycling to have their saddles too low. This places strain on your knees and increases the energy cost of riding. If your saddle is too high, your pelvis will rotate from side to side which increases saddle discomfort, can cause injury and rob you of some power

  • Method 1: set your saddle level - pointing it up or down is the route to wonky cycling and discomfort. Sit on the bike and place your heel on the pedal when it’s at its lowest point. Raise or lower the saddle until your leg is completely straight. Now with the ball of your foot on the pedal there should be a slight bend in your leg – this is close to ideal.
  • Method 2: measure your inside leg. Now multiply this by 1.09 and set the top of the saddle that distance from the pedal when it’s at the lowest point. So if your inside leg is 80 cm, the distance from the saddle to the pedal should be 87.2 cm.

Handlebar Height
Set your handlebars level or just below the saddle height. Too high will force an upright position which is slow and places pressure on the saddle area. Too low and you could get low-back and wrist pain. Don’t copy the pro riders' low, stretched out position – they have adapted to this extreme position through years of riding and additional exercises. Remember that a good local bike shop will help you set up your basic bike position correctly and you could buy some things in return.

More miles and hills means more fuel is required this years – OR you can become more efficient and therefore need less fuel to get you round. Here’s the skinny on LTL nutrition. And we’re not talking a mouthful of Lough flies.
Food is often seen purely from a fuel point of view, but it’s also essential for recovering from training. A normal varied diet is enough to get you through the training and event. You don’t need supplements, sports nutrition or ‘special’ food. The problem is that many people aren’t get ‘normal’ right in the day to day nutrition.

  • Choose food that doesn’t have a list of ingredients. Plenty of veg, some fruit, nuts, fish, meat and avoid processed food made by a robot in a factory.
  • If you wish to lose some weight during your training for the event, try riding in the morning before breakfast. Drink water during training, you don’t need a sports drink, though for longer rides over an hour they may help.

  • If you’re going to be riding for more than an hour and a half it’s useful to bring a snack along for energy and eat it an hour or so into the ride. Half a banana, a muesli bar, some jelly babies are fine, something to trickle energy to the muscles for fuel as you ride.
  • During the event aim to have a bit of food every 45 minutes, and don’t forget to keep fluids topped up, drinking as you go. When you think you’re about 45 minutes from the finish, have something to eat to help you up the last hill, a bit of caffeine too will help. In fact a wee can of Coke could save the day!

The clothing you use for training has to keep you warm enough, dry enough and prevent discomfort. There is a very good reason why cyclists wear padded lycra shorts. They are by far the best solution for anyone seeking comfort for a few hours on a bike seat. By all means wear something baggy over them if you don’t like the lycra look.

  • What you may not know is that cyclists also put what’s called ‘chamois cream’ on the padded part of the shorts to prevent rubbing. Plenty of cream may initially feel like you’re wearing a full nappy, but in a few moments the feeling goes and you’re much less likely to suffer in the under-carriage area.
  • Dress in layers so you can add or remove as conditions demand. Take a waterproof layer, preferably one that will pack into a pocket.

  • Cycling jerseys have pockets in the back to prevent things sagging onto your legs as you pedal – practice removing things as you ride, it saves much time to be able to grab some food from a pocket as you go, rather than stopping.
  • Gloves will keep hands warm and skin intact should you take a tumble.
  • Helmets are compulsory on Lap the Lough and a traditional cycling cap under your helmet is great for keeping either sun or rain from your eyes, and often both at the same time.
  • Sports glasses take on a new role at Lap the Lough as you may be unfortunate to encounter ‘one or two’ flies!

Lap the Lough could have to be almost been in Holland it’s that flat. But now…. jeepers there are a few wee drags on the Western shore that catch riders out every year as they head for the finish and that’s before you make your way to the Hill of O’Neill. So, in your training don’t avoid hills. Grow to love them by riding up and over them. If you know of any short drags around 50-80 meters long, ride hard towards them, then as hard as you can up them, turn around and repeat 4 or 5 times. When that’s wee buns, find a 3-4 minute hill and do the same. 2-3 times is fine. Then continue on your ride.


Many new cyclists are confused by gears – how to use them, when to shift gear, how fast to pedal. The simple way to look at it is that you should aim to pedal at the same speed all the time, and then use the gears to allow that whether going up or down hills. Aim for 80-90 revs per minute, get used to that pedal speed and shift the gears to ensure you are working at a constant effort depending on terrain. So, if you’re on a flat road, you’d be in a moderate gear at 85rpm, as a hill approaches, start to change into lower and lower gears, but maintaining the same pedal speed – this may feel odd at first, but it’s the key to efficient cycling. Obviously on some steep hills your pedal speed will drop way down – it happens to us all!


During your training and the event you’re sure to encounter headwinds. This is normal as it’s just air moving around. So relax, select an easier gear and enjoy the additional resistance, knowing it will enhance your fitness. Crouch a little lower over the handlebars, keep your pedalling speed as high as usual, and before you know it you’ll be somewhere else.


On an event like Lap the Lough it can be easy to get carried away at the start and go too fast, maybe blown along by a tailwind and the euphoria. But when you turn to come back down the western shore of the Lough, you may regret the earlier effort. It’s a long ride of between 5 and 10 hours, so pace yourself, allow the ride to make you tired, not your riding. That means that you shouldn’t force the pace early and cause fatigue. Ride at a level that feels comfortable and save energy for later in the day. Similarly on training rides, choose a pace that is challenging but not either too hard, or too easy. If you’re not sure whether you’re riding too hard, that’s probably about right. And if you can just about hold a conversation it’s a good level too.

Mental Skills

In your training or during the event you may reach a point where you think you can’t go on, you’ll never finish and it’s all too much. You’re wrong. Thousands of riders have completed the event, some without training, some carrying numerous extra pounds, some have never been ‘sporty’. This is a challenging event but an achievable one. In the weeks of training you’ll see improvements and things will get easier – if you keep at it. During the event you can stop, take stock, get some energy on board, and start moving again. One pedal rev at a time will get you to the finish – it’s not a race.

Off-bike conditioning

As well as the training on your bike, there are a few exercises that will give you additional fitness to avoid discomfort and add some power. These are easy to do and take up hardly any time at all.

  • Firstly for leg strength stand with your feet shoulder width apart, crouch down so that your thighs are parallel with the floor and then stand up again. That’s it. Now do it again, a total of 0-20 times. Doing this a few times a week will help build leg strength.
  • To help prevent neck ache, you have to induce a bit of neck ache. You can do this by watching TV lying on the floor, resting on your elbows – forcing you to raise your head to see the screen. Do this for a few minutes at a time and you’ll be less likely to develop neck pains when riding.

Interval Training

An extremely effective way to enhance your fitness is to alternate periods of hard effort with active recovery. The following sessions could replace one of your weekly riders and will greatly accelerate (pun intended) your progress.

  • After a 15-20 minute warm-up, where you gradually increase the effort, ride as fast as you can for 20 seconds, then at an easy pace for 40 seconds. Do this 5 times, then ride easy for 5 minutes. Do this 3 times, making a total of 15 hard 20 second efforts. Although you will only have done 5 minutes of hard work, the benefits will be huge, both in terms of fitness gains and calories burned during and after the session.
  • The second session to try, is to ride really hard for 1 minute, then easy for 2 mins – 10 of these in total is more than enough, and don’t do more than two interval sessions in any week unless you’re an experienced cyclist.

Training plans:

This is simply a guide to the type or program that you could follow and is not intended to be perfect for any individual. Ensure that you have clearance from a medical professional before you start an exercise program.

Training Plan 1: Inexperienced and relatively inactive

You might have a few pounds to lose, you’re not into sport or exercise and you’re determined.

week mon tue wed thur fri sat sun
1 30 min flat Off-bike exercise 40 min hilly Off-bike exercise 90 min easy
2 40 min flat Off-bike exercise 45 min flat Off-bike exercise 90 min easy
3 45 min hilly Off-bike exercise 45 min hilly Off-bike exercise 90 min hilly
4 45 min flat Off-bike exercise 1 hr flat Off-bike exercise 2 hr flat
5 1 hr flat Off-bike exercise 1 hr hilly Off-bike exercise 2 hr flat
6 1 hr hilly Off-bike exercise 1 hr hilly 1 hr flat - fast 2 hr hilly
7 1.5 hr flat Off-bike exercise 1 hr hilly - fast Off-bike exercise 3 hr flat
8 1.5 hr hilly Off-bike exercise 1.5 hr hilly 1 hr flat 3 hrs hilly
9 1.5 hr flat & fast Off-bike exercise 1.5 hr hilly 2 hr flat 3 hr hilly
10 45 mins flat & easy Off-bike exercise 30 mins flat & easy lap the lough

Training Plan 2: Already active

You play a bit of squash or hockey, you go to the gym and wouldn’t be afraid of walking up Slieve Donnard. For the hill repeats (5 x up a hill) find a hill you don’t like the look of, ride as fast as you can up it, then back down - recover for twice as long as the uphill bit took, then do it again, and again

week mon tue wed thur fri sat sun
1 45 mins flat Off-bike exercise 1 hr flat Off-bike exercise 5 x up hill 90 mins moderate
2 30 mins fast as you can Off-bike exercise 45 mins hilly Off-bike exercise 5 x up a hill 90 mins moderate
3 1 hr flat Off-bike exercise 45 mins hilly Off-bike exercise 6 x up hill 2 hrs easy
4 1 hr hilly Off-bike exercise 1 hour hilly Off-bike exercise 6 x up a hill 90 mins hilly
5 45 mins fast as you can Off-bike exercise 90 mins hilly Off-bike exercise 1 hr flat 2 hrs hilly
6 90 mins Off-bike exercise 90 mins flat Off-bike exercise 8 x up hill 3 hrs flat
7 90 mins hilly Off-bike exercise 90 mins hilly Off-bike exercise 8 x up hill 3 hrs hilly
8 1 hr easy Off-bike exercise 1 hr flat & fast Off-bike exercise 1 hr flat &fast 3 hrs hilly, hard pace
9 1 hr flat & fast Off-bike exercise 90 mins hilly & hard Off-bike exercise 30 mins hilly hard pace 4 hrs easy pace
10 1 hr easy Off-bike exercise 45 mins easy Off-bike exercise 20 mins easy lap the lough