Jenny Copnall's Early Season Training Tips

5 x National MTB Champ and supremo road coach, Jenny Copnall, imparts her wisdom and experience to Cyclefit News readers

Posted by Philip Cavell

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The ultimate polished and focussed competitor

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Jenny Copnall receives recognition for her long contribution to front-line competition

The People's Champion

We have huge admiration for Jenny, not only because she was an utterly professional and focussed athlete, who gave her sponsors and fans 100% conviction without fail over her long career. But because her innate modesty and intelligence led her to make a conscious decision to disappear from public view when she retired. It was a singularly gracious and humble act. We have known Jenny for a long time - we sponsored her a couple of decades ago - and also worked with her as Cyclefitters (pictured below). She was one of the most thoughtful and inspiring bike-racers that we have ever worked with.

A World of Experience

Jenny is now one of our favourite coaches and is always working with a few of our clients at any one time. Not easy because she is incredibly popular and will never commit beyond her capacity. If you are lucky enough to become one of her clients, you will feel immersed in a nurturing world of experience and pragmatism, accompanied by a complete lack of ego. Very very rare. Jenny has generously scribed her top seven early-season training tips - a few hundred words of real-world gold-dust wrapped up in common-sense language and attitude. Keep an eye on Jenny's seven-point training constitution and will not go far wrong for the 2019 season!

Jenny Copnall Website

"Try to make sessions as enjoyable and fun as possible. Most of us have enough drudgery in our lives to not need to make gaining fitness another one"

Jenny Copnall
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The early days of Cyclefit - Jenny with Phil 2002

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Jenny at Newnham Park in our colours - we know not what year!

"Ditch the tech sometimes - getting too tied up with figures can sap the joy from the purity of exercise"

Jenny Copnall

Jenny's N.Y. Tips for Fitness and Performance

1. Consistency and Realism

Training for an endurance sport such as cycling is all about consistency, and the basis of this is realistic planning. Consider what time you really have for riding your bike each week, and go from there. For most, with work and family commitments, they end up loading the weekend, but in reality you may need the weekend for other things, and all important down time with your family. So perhaps work on a 4 week pattern where you ride for, say, 2hrs the first Sunday, 3hrs the next, 4hrs the next and then have a day off or 1hr ride on the fourth weekend.



2. Working Backwards

Decide what you are aiming for and work back from that event / goal. For anyone with a summer goal, January is just about starting to lay down the foundations towards that goal. That often means splitting out the components of cycling that make up the whole.



3. Think about Strength

The older we get the more this becomes a limiting factor. On bike strength work can have a huge effect on climbing ability. It is also easy to include in, say, a commute. Just be sure to spin an easy gear briskly between efforts.


4. Core is Fun

A good core / gym session once or twice a week is extremely worthwhile. The buzz word is “stability” these days. Gone is the boredom of weights machines, now we have balance boards, swings, Swiss balls and the like to perform our squats on. So find a good S&C coach and see whether they can devise you a plan that feels more like playing than working out.


5. Ditch the Tech - Occasionally

I regularly witness riders completely obsessed with the figures – watts, TSS, CTL, aerobic decoupling etc. These can all be useful for me as a coach, but getting too tied up with figures can also sap the joy from the purity of exercise. We all know when we feel good on a bike and when we don’t, when we are riding easy and when we are riding hard, regardless of a piece of kit confirming that. Work on developing innate faith in RPE (rate of perceived exertion) and use the rest selectively and with caution.

6. Something in The Tank

Always end a session with a little left in the tank – a feeling that you could have done another set, another hour etc. Working to 80% of what you could do allows the body and mind to recover more quickly, allowing greater frequency of sessions, and greater enthusiasm and enjoyment of those sessions. The whole “no pain, no gain” ethos is, IMHO, a load of old tripe.

7. Remember - It's Meant to be FUN!

Try to make sessions as enjoyable and fun as possible. Most of us have enough drudgery in our lives to not need to make gaining fitness another one. In terms of sustainability, I’d rather a client of mine be enjoying their sessions even if that comes at the slight cost of progress.


Jenny Copnall


"The whole “no pain, no gain” ethos is, IMHO, a load of old tripe."

Jenny Copnall

About the author

Philip Cavell, Co-founder

Co-founder, bike fitter and bike designer. Phil rides a Seven titanium disc bike. He likes dogs and fine wine.

View other posts by Philip Cavell

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