Watford FC goalkeeper and renowned ‘nicest guy in football,’ Ben Foster, describes himself as a cyclist first, football player second. After taking up cycling following a knee injury, Ben has been an avid Wattbiker for a number of years.
Now, Wattbike challenges at Watford are the stuff of legend, but it’s not all fun and games. Any professional athlete takes their training seriously and a big interval session is Ben’s forte, so we caught up with him to talk more about his love of cycling, training, and to understand exactly what goes into one of his workouts with a Wattbike Atom indoor smart bike.
HI BEN, CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR FOOTBALLING BACKGROUND?
I am 36 years old, and I’ve been playing football professionally for the best part of 18/19 years. I started off as an apprentice at Stoke City when I was 18 and it took off from there. I eventually managed to get a move to Manchester United which was incredible, so I spent about five years there. After leaving [Manchester] United I joined Birmingham City, where we won the League Cup which was pretty awesome. I spent a further seven years at West Brom after that, and now I’m at Watford. I also played for England about eight or nine times.
THAT’S PRETTY DIFFERENT TO CYCLING! WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO GET ON THE BIKE?
I’ve been unfortunate to have had a lot of knee injuries in my career. Running isn’t an option for me anymore. Being a goalkeeper, I’m 6’4” and95 kilos; it’s just too much impact and my knees will swell. Even if I’m jogging for 10 minutes I can feel a bit of a niggle. Cycling is the best form of exercise I could do. It keeps all the muscles strong: your hamstrings - which is so important - your glute muscles, your calves.
When I was at [Manchester] United I’d injured my right knee for the second time. I started cycling as a way of keeping the weight off during my rehab, and that’s where the love of it started to come from.
AND NOW YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A CYCLIST FIRST, FOOTBALLER AFTER?
Definitely! I’m loving getting out on the bike more right now.
SO WHEN DID YOU FIRST COME ACROSS THE WATTBIKE? WAS THAT DURING YOUR INJURY AT MANCHESTER UNITED?
No, actually I first started on the Wattbike when I was at West Bromwich Albion. We always just had a couple of spin bikes, and they were miserable, so I persuaded the gym to invest in a couple of Wattbikes and that was it really - we never looked back.
We got Wattbikes into the gym and I started realising you can measure your fitness with all the data in front of you. As soon as you’re able to decipher what they mean you’re able to track your fitness and you can start planning your sessions better. That’s something that really interests me, so after every ride I do now I’m straight on the numbers, seeing how many watts I held for how long and so on.
DO YOU KNOW YOUR MAX POWER?
My max power is about 1700 watts. Well, it was 1750w last summer after pumping the leg weights!
YOU HAD A LEADERBOARD AT WATFORD, DIDN’T YOU?
Yeah we had a leaderboard with [Troy] Deeney. I think Troy went and got something like 2100 watts which is just ridiculous - absolutely killed me. I know for a fact I can’t beat him which is an absolute nightmare for me.
THAT’S A LOT OF WATTS THOUGH!
Honestly, his legs are a joke! He goes into the gym and chucks weights around like they're nothing. He’s a brute. But fair play to him, he works out a lot.
DO YOUR WATTBIKE SESSIONS DIFFER FROM THE CLUB TO AT HOME?
No, I’ll always structure my week to work around football and work around when the games are. If we’ve got a Saturday schedule it’s much easier for me to plan. On a Sunday I’ll be a little bit tired after the game, so I’ll just do an hour fat burn or warm down session, probably about 200 watts, for an hour. That’s perfect; not too taxing but gets the blood pumping and aids your recovery nicely.
Monday is normally my day off [from the training ground] so I’ll do a hard session - at least an hour interval session or mixed interval session on the Wattbike. I might do a bit of intervals and a bit of endurance in there too.
Tuesday, again, I’ll be a little bit tired, so it might just be another hour fat burner. Wednesday will be another strong interval session, like my session on theWattbike Hub. Thursday I’ll have to start tapering it down for the game on Saturday, so again another easier, fat burning type session.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WORKOUT?
My favourite one to do by myself is an absolute horror!
30 seconds on at 150% of your FTP
90 seconds at about 70% of your FTP
Repeat for 40 minutes
If you can do 20 sets of that it’s an absolute killer, but I find that boosts my fitness and gets me back ready for the cycling season better than any other session.
HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED ON THE WATTBIKE?
Numbers! I’m so numbers driven. I love seeing just a little bit of improvement. It’s a mental thing. You can usually do more than you think you can do. If I can complete a session I know is hard, the next time I come to do a difficult session I know I can at least do that one again.
Even if I can improve by an extra 1%, that 1% transfers itself into progress and that is what I love to see.
WE’VE NOTICED YOU USE ZWIFT AS WELL. WOULD YOU STILL BE DOING A SET SESSION WHILST YOU’RE DOING THAT OR HAVE YOU STARTED RACING ON THERE?
I use Zwift but I haven’t actually done any racing on it before. It’s something I think I might get into in the next couple of weeks, but I’m waiting on some bad weather to be honest! Normally I’ll just build custom workouts and then go and do that. That’s a good bit of motivation too, having yourself on the screen. It takes your mind off the pain for a few seconds, which is great!
HAVE YOU GOT ANY TOP TIPS FOR GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR WATTBIKE SESSION?
Make sure you’ve got plenty of fluids at hand and try to get a fan! Any sort of fan, or at least a window. Let some air in and keep the temperature down. Otherwise it’s just too hot and you won’t be able to do what you want to do.