Not coming from a strong cycling background, Michael Harvey joins us on this edition of The Kona Edge to talk about some of the incredible gains he has made on his Ironman bike. Michael also reveals how he incorporates hill training into his regime.
BRAD BROWN: Welcome back, I’m Brad Brown, you’re listening to The Kona Edge, thanks so much for joining us today and we head back to Melbourne, Australia where Michael Harvey joins us now. Michael, welcome back, thanks for joining us.
MICHAEL HARVEY: Thanks for having me again Brad.
BRAD BROWN: Michael, I’ve been looking forward to this chat because out of the three disciplines, the bike is your weakest, self-confessed weakness. It’s something you’ve had to work particularly hard on, but like you said in your first chat with us, often it’s the things that you find more difficult or where things don’t go the way you want them to go is where the biggest lessons are to be learnt and I’ve got a funny feeling that’s the way it’s been with you for the bike?
Overcoming the difficulties of your weakest discipline
MICHAEL HARVEY: Absolutely Brad, like we talked about with the swimming, what people feel in swimming, I felt with the bike. It was one of those ones where I could run quite well, I could swim quite well, but the bike just wasn’t there and I used to get very frustrated with it, for sure.
BRAD BROWN: As you said in the chat we had about the swim, is it just time in the water for you, has it just been about time in the saddle? Especially when you first started?
MICHAEL HARVEY: Yeah, I think there’s definitely, you can’t take that part out, the time in the saddle and just to get that body used to doing it. Particularly I find also, your body evolves with the different positions. You can’t just go and jump straight into a really aggressive set up on a bike, there’s that evolution.
But I think one of the things I see is underrated, particularly in the Ironman scenes, again, like the swimming, it’s the strength. I went through a patch leading into my first Kona and I did huge K’s. I think I did 8 weeks consecutively of 600km a week on the bike and I was incredibly fit. I actually ended up running a 10km PB in the end of that bulk of training.
But what I found was I was so fit, but I didn’t have any leg strength to actually push the pedals. Really adapting the cycling and not neglecting that strength because it might be that you can ride all day, but if you’re trying to ride fast, if you’re trying to push a certain gear, you need to have the strength in the legs to be able to do that.
BRAD BROWN: What have you done in that area to get stronger?
Do the strength work and get the legs stronger on your Ironman bike
MICHAEL HARVEY: Definitely doing hill work and doing the hill work in your time trial position. Again, making the mistakes. I’ve made a lot of them. But when I first started, I’d go out on my time trial bike, I’m a big advocate of, if you’re going to race on your time trial bike, that you train on that as well. Some people go, you go on a ride on your road bike for the hills and stuff. For me, it’s about getting strong, patterning the muscle in a certain way and so by doing that on your time trial bike, that’s going to be what you’re training for.
Then going riding those hills and doing it in your time trial position. Unless you’re going to fall off your bike, I’d try and get myself or my athletes, they’re riding up those hills. Then they’re recruiting all the muscles that they’re going to be doing, even if it’s on a flat race. They’re recruiting those muscles as if they’re going to be in the race, not just sitting up because you don’t really sit up, we don’t want to be sitting up more in the race. Doing the hills and wind trainer sessions, doing specific wind trainer sessions is strength work to really get the legs going.
BRAD BROWN: You’ve made some massive improvements on the bike over your Ironman career. If you could put it down to one thing, what’s the one thing you’ve done that’s given you the biggest gains? If someone can only change one thing, what would you advise them to do?
MICHAEL HARVEY: Big gear work. Literally going and riding in a big gear, where your cadence is quite low and you’re recruiting a lot of muscle fiber in your legs to get that going around and actually getting strong. If I was going to say for the biggest bang for your buck, it’s a hard one to say that, cause there’s that consistency I say as well, but if you can get strong, that’s really what it is. Most people get off the bike and can’t run in an Ironman. It’s not because they’re not good runners, cause they just haven’t done enough work to stop the bike taking too much out of them.
BRAD BROWN: Let’s touch on your favourite bike workout. What do you love doing on the bike?
MICHAEL HARVEY: I am a big fan of the long ride. I do like just going and turning the legs over, but if it was going to be a specific session, I like the old minute on, minute off with the big gear. Chucking it in the biggest gear that you’ve got and going hard for a minute and then backing it off. It starts off all right, but once you get to about 10-15 reps, it starts to keep you honest that way. It’s just enough to motivate you because it’s only a minute, so that would be the favourite session.
BRAD BROWN: Awesome stuff. Michael, we’re going to get you on next time around to talk about your run, but thanks for sharing your bike secrets today, much appreciated.
MICHAEL HARVEY: Not a problem Brad, thank you.