Alberta Cancer Foundation

Advice and Apps to Help Train for a Race

Illustration by Vicki Nerino

With the arrival of warmer weather, maybe you’ve already registered for one, or several, of the running or cycling events taking place later this season that benefit the Alberta Cancer Foundation. But, before you get too keen, make sure you’re training for that event in a way that will actually help you cross the finish line.

Mark Hlady is the head coach of the University of Calgary Triathlon Club, a sports group open to all, which he founded in 1986. Having coached swimming, biking and running for 31 years to athletes of all ages and abilities, Hlady thinks that registering for a race is a good motivator to get outside and get moving every day. And he says even people in remission shouldn’t be afraid of training for a race.

“If you’re recovering from cancer, the most important thing is to communicate with your physician, but exercise can benefit one’s mental and physical health,” says Hlady. “For someone who is in remission, it’s important to be conscious of your body and maybe adapt the workout.”

Hlady’s expert training tips and advice will help get your spring training off to the right start.

Take the time to build up properly

A common training mistake Hlady sees is athletes rushing into their training program, going too far and pushing too hard in the early weeks of training. Typically, this will leave an athlete feeling defeated. At worst, it can result in injury.

For both running and cycling, Hlady suggests a 16- to 25-week training plan that focuses on consistency rather than volume. “Rather than increasing the number of times you train per week, increase the time you spend per week on your training sessions,” says Hlady. “For example, if you’re training for your first running race, start out running five to 10 minutes in the first week. Then add five minutes to your runs the next week, and five minutes the week after.”

Invest in the right gear

If you’re training for a running event, invest in a good pair of running shoes that works for your running style. Anyone training for a cycling event needs a helmet, but for those training for a long-distance event like the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, which involves 200 kilometres of riding over two days, additional gear is important.

“If you’ll be cycling 100 km or more, invest in padded cycling shorts. Training for a long event like the Ride won’t be fun or comfortable if you’re wearing just a pair of normal shorts,” says Hlady. “You will also want clip-in pedals and good biking shoes, so you can pull up on the pedals and use all the muscles in your legs.”

Mix it up

Even though your training will focus on running or biking, it’s better for your body and its recovery if you cross-train, which is where you complement your runs or bike rides with other sports.

“The advantages of cross-training are that you’re working your cardiovascular system a little differently from what it’s used to doing, and it prevents boredom. It also gives your body a bit of a break,” says Hlady. Adding a low-impact sport like swimming or rowing to your training routine can relieve joint pressure from long runs and rides.

Factor in changeable weather

Springtime weather in Alberta can be unpredictable, and that might mean taking your training session indoors.

“Poor weather isn’t an excuse to miss a workout. If running outdoors isn’t an option, run on a treadmill if you can,” says Hlady. “Be sure to set the treadmill at a minimum of two degrees [incline] — you want it to be similar to running outdoors.”

The same goes for cycling. If heavy rain (or snow) could affect your safety on the road, consider moving your workout indoors to a stationary bicycle.

Safety comes first

For anyone training for a bike race for the first time, road safety is paramount. “While cyclists have the same rights as a car, they also need to be as responsible as a driver,” says Hlady.

Cyclists should always remember to shoulder check, share the road and, if riding in a group, to ride in single file. Being safe on the road also means considering your route ahead of time. Hlady recommends finding roads with a wide shoulder where you’ll have some distance from traffic, although quiet side roads are also good options. And, of course, never get on your bike without wearing a properly fitted helmet and reflective clothing.


 Find a supportive group

Regardless of what race or event you’re aiming to complete, training should be fun. Meeting with a group of friends who have the same goal as you — or joining a running group or cycling club to meet new training partners — can offer an encouraging training environment.


4 Apps to Support your Training Program


This app acts like a pocket personal trainer, encouraging you during your solo bike or run sessions.


Find great local running and cycling routes, and keep track of your pace, distance and calories burned with this free app.


With Strava you can track your riding or running routes using GPS, analyze your training progress and share your races and workout stats with friends.


If you’ve recorded your run or bike ride on an app like Strava, Relive can play your training session back to you on a moving 3D map.

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