CANCER SURVIVOR TO RIDER COMEBACK SENSATION - SMASHING NEW RECORDS & GETTING PB’S 

ACHIEVEMENT HIGHLIGHTS

IMPROVED FTP SCORE

Improved an incredible 66 watts from 174w to 240w in just 18 months.

POWER TO WEIGHT

Increase from 2.46 to 3.59w/kg. An increase of 46% in less than 18 months

RIDE LONDON 100 MILES

Completed first 100 miles in July 2019 in a time of 7hr and 47mins.

THE NJINGA COLLECTIVE

Within 1 season had progressed from riding at an average of 12mph to 15 mph

A NOVICE RIDER'S JOURNEY WITH NJINGA AND BATTLE OVER CANCER TO COME BACK STRONGER AND FITTER.

BEFORE NJINGA

Before I met Njinga, I’d started taking on the London Triathlons. My first two races, 2016 and 2017, were much the same as one another: I thought the most challenging component would be the open-water swim, so this is where I focused all my training.

The cycling component? Easy. What’s difficult about riding a bike?

Both years I proved myself wrong: any time I gained in the swim, I lost in the cycle, so by the time I got around to the run (my strongest area of fitness, being a runner already), I was nowhere in the field.

I decided to enter Ride London 2018 to challenge myself to improve my cycling. But how was I going to train for it? Though I wouldn’t say I was a beginner cyclist, I was obviously missing what more experienced cyclists had under wraps. What were these things, how would I learn them and how was I going to go from struggling to complete 20 miles in the London Triathlon cycle component to smashing 100 miles in Ride London?

"NJINGA EQUIPPED ME WITH EVERYTHING I COULD HAVE EVER POSSIBLY NEEDED AND MORE."


ENTER NJINGA

Njinga had been on my radar for a while, having driven past their Hampton Wick cycle lab countless times. I approached them thinking they might help me prepare for the big race. And while they helped me do just that, the events that took place from the first day I stepped foot into the Njinga lab over the next 18 months and until the present day have been beyond my wildest dreams and expectations, made all the more difficult by a devastating cancer diagnosis.



I owe Njinga so much.

Despite the fact that my first indoor Wattbike session at Njinga left me a little lost (Rate Perceived Exertion? Power zones? Pedal technique? What, what and what?), there were four things that immediately struck me about Njinga:

  1. The coaching expertise and energy of Njinga’s co-founder and head coach, Togo Keynes;
  2. The friendliness and encouragement from my fellow training mates;
  3. Unlike regular spin classes, Njinga’s indoor training sessions are based on power zones and to get my unique power zones, I would need to do an FTP test; and
  4. I was, quite frankly, hooked.

An FTP test: what is it? Well, my friends, I will tell you what it is not: it is not a 20-minute interval on a stationary bike during which you pedal as hard as possible. And if this is what you think, you’re like me, because it was with this staggering amount of naivety that I began and finished my first-ever FTP test (though 5 minutes into the test, I never thought the end would come), registering a 174 (watts) FTP score. 


These three numbers gave me my unique power zones and the foundation on which to build and approach the rest of my smart training with Njinga 
(Train Smart being a pillar of Njinga’s philosophy).

Shortly after my first FTP test and just before Christmas, I hit my first and biggest pothole in the road: I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It’s a strange feeling being diagnosed with cancer: at the time I didn’t feel unwell; in fact, I felt fitter than ever thanks to my training at Njinga over the last two months.

I am incredibly thankful to have had Njinga in my life at that time. 

They were brilliant, both as a distraction and a motivator for me to make sure that, on the other side of my treatment plan, I was able to recover as quickly as possible.

Within three months, I was back at the lab. Unsurprisingly slower but back nonetheless.


The motivational, supportive, and nurturing environment of the Njinga lab and community was exactly what I needed to start healing both physically and mentally and begin training towards the goal I had come to Njinga with: Ride London.

To help me restart my preparations, I signed up for Njinga’s eight-week Ride London group indoor training programme which consisted of 2 x 60 minute evening training sessions per week with a British Cycling coach; meal planners; Fuel Smart strategies (the second pillar of Njinga’s three-part philosophy); tips with which to approach the big day; a mental strengthening toolkit; and so much more. There was also an FTP test at the beginning and end of the programme: 

My score improved 11 watts over 8 weeks, which was already 41 watts more than my first-ever FTP test score back in November 2018, prior to being diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer.

It was during this time that I also joined the 
Njinga Collective, the not-for-profit cycling club that meets up every Saturday during cycle season (most members – though not all – take part in Njinga’s indoor training sessions, too). 


What I liked most about the Njinga Collective was that the groups are based on average speed and have a ‘no drop’ rule: the Peloton will wait for you if you drop off the back. 


I joined the slowest group – ‘Mbizi’ (which means ‘Zebra’ in Chichewa, the Malawian language from which Njinga gets its name) at 12 - 13 mph. The biggest benefit of the Collective was that I was able to improve my riding craft: from bike checks to hand signals to nutrition. Who’d have thought there was so much to riding in a Peloton? And was there anything Njinga didn’t offer that was going to help me prepare for and surpass my goal of 100 miles for Ride London?

The answer is no: Njinga equipped me with everything I could have ever possibly needed and more. 



All the training and preparation I had done with Togo and the Njinga team – before and after my cancer diagnosis and treatment – got me through Ride London’s 100 miles, and I am incredibly proud of the fact that I was able to raise over £1200 for Prostate Cancer UK. Not only did these things happen in my first season of riding, but I also improved my FTP score by 41 watts and increased my average riding speed by 3 mph (moving me from the Njinga Collective’s Mbizi to Mkango – ‘lion’ in Chichewa). Not forgetting the fact that through all of this, I beat prostate cancer.

Today, I am cancer-free and I have never been healthier or fitter.

These results, aspirations, and goals (past, present and future) are all down to the training, motivation, encouragement, and friendships I have found at Njinga. I couldn’t have done it without you guys. Thank you.

"I AM INCREDIBLY THANKFUL TO HAVE HAD NJINGA IN MY LIFE AT THAT TIME. THEY WERE BRILLIANT, BOTH AS A DISTRACTION AND A MOTIVATOR."

WHERE IS MATT NOW?

It’s been six months since I wrote my Njinga Rider Story and two years since I joined Njinga and I'm still as inspired by my training today as I was when I first started.
 
At the end of February, pre-pandemic, I completed Njinga’s Firestarter Programme. Post-pandemic, like so many others, my goals and training had to adapt to the new conditions.
 
Njinga, too, adapted to the new conditions by launching two 30-Day Lockdown Challenges. The first helped me with my core strength and nutrition. The second was more all-encompassing, covering fitness, nutrition and mind. Throughout both challenges, I saw my core strength and overall fitness improve. Not only was I able to do a pushup but I was able to manage 15 in 30 seconds!
 
I also signed up for the Njinga’s Climb Like a Pro in Eight Weeks challenge during which I saw my climbing improve significantly. I achieved over 17,000 metres of climbing, both out on the road and virtually, including a virtual climb of Alpe d’Huez and Mont Ventoux. I also achieved a personal best out on the road…
 
On top of my three Njinga challenges, I also bought an indoor smart trainer ( I consider myself very lucky to be in the position to do so) which I used to join virtual indoor training sessions using platforms like Spivi and Zwift.
 
My next is to maintain my bike and FTP fitness during the winter months so that next year, I can attack my Sportive targets with the same energy and gusto! (Assuming they go ahead).
 
I also hope to finally get to do that cycling trip abroad with Njinga. Holding thumbs!

A NOTE FROM THE COACH:

Its been a remarkable journey for Matt and despite all his setbacks, he never gave up, beat cancer and came back stronger. Matt really made me proud when he came back after cancer and started riding with us again. That was a big step and speaks volumes for his character and determination to overcome such a fatal diagnosis.
 
Since coming back from beating cancer, he has been a different person and his attitude and will excel has magnified. Not only has he smashed new PB’s but he’s riding with more confidence and has truly fallen in love with cycling. So much so that he wants to become a cycling coach to give back and help others.
 
He’s also more recently voted in as a Njinga Collective committee officer and has started racing for Njinga in the National Zwift league.
 
No matter what cards you are dealt with in life, you can still triumph and succeed in life. Success is measured in so many ways and we’re just so proud of Matt. What an inspiration!


- Togo Keynes, Head Performance Coach at Njinga Cycling Academy

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