5 Easy Changes To Make This Off-Season Great!

December tends to start the “next” season for roadies, triathletes, mountain bikers, and basically anyone besides a cyclocross racer (because those people are weird anyways! 😉).  So, what you do now, and over the next few months, will really make a difference in how well you perform next year…and you want to surpass this season, right!? 

1) Get Structured

Nothing will make a bigger difference in your progression (aside from having a coach of course) than making your  training more structured.  Eliminating the “junk” miles and the “just riding” workouts will not only result in improved adaptations, but will get you there faster and with less training time invested.  I have also seen structured workouts keep an athlete motivated and focused over the Winter as you have a plan, know what is coming next, and if you stick with it you know you will become stronger.  Plus, Winter riding usually means trainer riding, and interval sessions go WAY faster compared to steady state stuff.

This is also the only time of year when you can “train to train”, i.e. you don’t have a race or event on the horizon and can instead focus on improving aspects that make a good athlete a great one!

1a) Structure Your Recovery

Structure doesn’t apply to training only, of course…You need to overload the body to create an adaptation, but how quickly and how well your body adapts comes down to how well you sleep and how clean you eat.  Training and recovery go hand in hand, and one side must be balanced to reap the benefits of the other side (imagine a see-saw).  So, you can also use this Winter to work on creating better sleep habits, and cleaning up your diet.  Little changes in these areas can make a massive difference in others!

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2) Get Consistent

Fitness = Consistency over Time (F = C/T) ain’t GC Coaching’s motto for nothin’, consistency is crucial to see improvements.  Without a constant and progressive training stimulus, the body has no reason to adapt and become fitter, and you just keep on repeating last year’s fitness peak (which isn’t why you’re reading this now).  So this Winter, get your butt in gear more often, become more compliant with adhering to a plan, or even better, DO BOTH!  Also, remember the body usually adapts better to multiple shorter rides per week as opposed to 1 or 2 really long rides per week (in my experience).

3) Get Together

Training with a partner or group always yields greater consistency, and therefore results!  Embarking on a common goal with people is great because there are days when you just aren’t going to want to get out of bed.  Guess what?  If you have a good training partner, they will either motivate you to get up and go, or guilt you into it!  Either way, your workout for the day is going to get done and you will be a stronger person (both mentally and physically) because of it.  So, this Winter sign up for a group training class, join a Zwift group, or simply make a pact with your friends to make next year YOUR YEAR.

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4) Get Motivated

Find some new music, read an inspiring book, watch a documentary about your big race or goal event for next year…Just do something to “wet your whistle” (so to speak) and keep your interest and focus on the goal over the long Winter doldrums.  I like to come up with, or find, a new motto at the beginning of every season and repeat it like a mantra when the going gets tough.  This year mine is:

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard! -Tim Notke

5) Get Going!

Above all else, just do it!  Yes, this is easy to say and want to do, but no one is going to get you there, except YOU.   The first 2 weeks of anything are the hardest, but after you do something consistently for 2 weeks it gets easier to keep up (I promise!).  After a little more time elapses, you are going to actually look forward to the exercise and miss it if you have to miss a day here and there (I promise that too!). 

So, this Winter, set a goal for riding and recovering in a more structured way; doing it consistently; finding someone or a group to take the journey with; keep yourself motivated by finding a motto, book, person, or movie when the fire wanes (which it will sometimes); and most importantly just get going!

What do YOU want next season to bring?

The Winter makes your Summer!  -Shayne Gaffney

Staying Fit After Kids

I have been a father for a little over a year now, and holding that little baby in my arms for the first time was the best (and also scariest) thing I have yet to experience.  Having kids doesn’t mean everything needs to be put on hold athletically, you just need to re-learn where the balance point of your life is, modify your priorities, and most importantly maximize all of your training time you have available.  Children bring a myriad of changes and new stressors to your life…Don’t get me wrong, the majority of these changes are positive and I would not want it any other way, but since this is an athlete-based blog, let’s get down to brass tacks and talk about what I needed to do in order to preserve fitness and maintain good exercise habits.

Find Time

This may seem obvious, but guess what?  That cushy 9, 10, 11 AM ride start time isn’t going to happen much anymore.  Also, those 2, 3, and 4 hour rides are going to be few and far between, so the first thing that needs to happen is finding, or creating time to train.  For me, this has been before my Son wakes up, during his nap time, or after he goes to bed.  Rarely, I will get out for a longer ride over the weekend, but this is a “when the stars align” scenario as opposed to a sure thing.  This may mean sacrificing watching your favorite television show, reading that book, taking a nap, and perhaps losing a little bit of sleep (let’s be honest though, sleeping doesn’t really happen after kids anyway!), but you need to prioritize your time for fitness as opposed to leisure even more after kids.  Your leisure time is best (and most enjoyed) with them I would argue anyways 😊.

Multitasking is also of ultra importance with finding time.  During my steady state and endurance based rides (read: when I can actually focus on something else besides the acid in my legs!), I like to listen to a podcast, read-up on some new research/studies, download a book and have it set to auto-scroll, watch a television show/movie, etc.  Essentially, if I can do it while riding, that will save me an hour somewhere else during the day and I can “kill 2 birds with 1 stone”, win-win!

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Image: Boroktimes.com

Get Structured

Finding time is important, but what you do with that time is more important than anything.  By cutting out the “junk” rides and actually getting yourself on a structured training plan (or hiring a coach 💪) you can further maximize your return on training time invested.  I am always amazed at how much improvement can be made with only 6-8 hours of training time per week when it is utilized properly, even for the super time-crunched athlete.

Adding structure to “how” you workout makes a big difference too.  Using a turbo trainer is a huge benefit for parents since all you need to do is throw your kit on, fill your bottles, and swing your leg over the top tube.  Even better, set your bike up on it on Sunday after your ride and leave it there for the week, that way if you need to squeeze in a ride during a nap time or early/late in the day, everything is ready and waiting for you.  If you are really fortunate, you can have 1 bike on the trainer at all times, and your other bike’s tires pumped up for your outdoor rides (n+1, right?).

Prioritize

This goes along with points 1 and 2, but prioritizing and really figuring out what is important to YOU is crucial after kids.  For myself, I knew I had to continue to workout (albeit for less time) because I needed that stress-relieving outlet primarily, but cycling and staying competitive is a huge part of my being.  With that being said, my young family is by far and away priority #1 (as it should be for everyone, I would argue), but if I don’t take care of myself and my needs, I won’t be able to give them my all.  However, if staying competitive really isn’t your bag, that’s okay!  You can still cycle for enjoyment, maintain a healthy stress-outlet, and even cycle as a family (which is so awesome!), just do something to keep a smile on your face and avoid burning yourself out.

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Image: Ted.com

Find Motivation

With increased stress, decreased sleep, and your world basically changed and flipped upside down (Fresh Prince, anyone?), keeping the flame burning to train can be harder than ever.  However, there are ways to keep yourself going, and I am even more motivated to train now than I ever was before!

  • Find a support system: This can be family, friends, riding acquaintances, etc.  Someone or something (social media groups) to hold you accountable and a place where you can ask for help if needed.  Raising kids is a massive undertaking and challenge, having a safe place to turn to can make all the difference for keeping your motivation up.
    • Similar to that, ride with a group (actual or virtual).  Having other cyclists who are expecting you to be there makes it a lot easier to get yourself up and out of bed, especially after those rough nights with a fussy baby!
  • Don’t let your kids down: This is something I have used a lot when the going gets tough.  I have had plenty of days when I don’t want to ride, finish the interval, etc.  But thinking about the example I want to set for my kids keeps me going.  Do you want your “campfire stories” to be about your failures, or your successes?
  • Set challenging, but attainable goals, and track your progress: This can be as simple as losing a few pounds, increasing your FTP, riding for “x” miles per week, or as specific as completing “x” event next year.  Whatever it is, setting a goal (and maybe finding others with the same goal) is a great way to keep you moving forward.

Above all else though, enjoy and maximize your time with your new family.  Fitness will come and go, but your loved ones are always there!

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Don’t Forget The Skills

Every style of athletic performance has a different set of skills involved, but today we are here to talk about cyclocross (CX) and not CX at the professional level, but at the aspiring athlete level.  To be successful at any level of CX you need to be able to pedal a bike really hard, but also temper that pure speed with some skill.  Those skills, i.e. corners, starts, barriers, logs, run-ups, descents, take time to master, and race day isn’t the time.

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Why Are CX Skills Important?

I raced this weekend and watched the course change throughout the entire day due to weather.  I did a first inspection lap before it started raining.  I did a second inspection lap just before the heaviest of the rain.  I then raced two races immediately after the rain and one after it started drying out, so I saw a lot of changing conditions from dry and fast to wet and greasy and then back to a whole mix of conditions.  Every lap was different, but the time during inspection really pointed to some critical points on the course. There were several features that invited riders to “test” their skills, but two really stood out to me; a log hop up and over a sand pile and a 3 log “run up”.  Each lap I watched riders stumble, trip, or crash as they tried in the middle of a race to master these features by trying to ride them.  They were rideable; however, as conditions changed, the skill it took to ride them also changed and risk/benefit also changed.  For the time gained “practicing” during the race, if they made it, maybe it was 1-2 seconds faster than running them, but if they missed, it was 5-10 seconds each time or worse; injury and DNF.

Now let’s look at the number of turns on the course, some were super slippery, others were still tacky and fast.  Conservatively, let’s say there were 20 turns around a single lap of the course. If I were to lose 0.5 to 1.0 second per turn, that’s 10-20 seconds per lap, which is a tough gap to make up if you consider the longest straight section of the course was only 10-15 seconds long, making it very difficult for a pure power rider to recover lost ground from cornering.  If you are losing ground to the rider in front of you in a corner, time to practice turning!

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Learning New Skills

So now, if you consider that combination of questionable decision making about features and not understanding how to corner, it’s possible that an athlete could lose 30 seconds a lap, in sections where you aren’t even pedaling at your maximum effort!   That’s a lot of “free time” left on the course that could be recovered with some skills training!  A few recommendations I always give people when it comes to learning skills:

  1. Practice with a group.  Practicing solo invites you to work on your strengths, not your weaknesses.
  2. Laps.  And laps.  And laps…  Get to a race with time to do at least one lap slowly and one lap where you can test features at race pace and if you screw up a section, try it again!  if you screw it up during a race, try it again after the race during other warm-up times.
  3. Watch everything!!!!  Become a sponge, watch and learn from every rider on the course, both good and bad.  Watch the pros, watch the beginners, watch the kids…  You can learn from everyone.
  4. Ask questions!  CX is still one of the most welcoming disciplines to new people.  If you ask a better rider than you to give you an idea of a better way through a corner or the trick to getting over an obstacle, I am almost certain that they would oblige and probably give you more info than you ever thought you could learn about a “simple” corner.
  5. Have your coach give you specific cornering drills or get them to take you out on a course and talk you through it!

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If you have a coach, chances are, they have you doing “drills” to improve everything from your bike handling to your pedaling efficiency, but beyond that take a few minutes to learn about how course degradation, changing weather conditions, course make-up, tire pressure, wind, etc, will all have an effect on your day.  Sometimes the fastest rider is the one that is the most adaptable to changing conditions.

Finally, if you take nothing else away from this post, remember the following:

  1. If you haven’t tried it during practice, don’t try it on race day.
  2. The fastest way through a feature may not be on the bike… always remember that running is a safe option!  Better to be on foot than laying on the ground!
  3. Be adaptable and plan ahead on race day.
  4. Be a sponge, absorb everything… There is a wealth of knowledge out there when it comes to CX, but knowing when to apply it is the key to success.

See you at the races!

Why Does Cadence Matter?

Cadence is an important aspect of cycling that needs to be understood better by coaches and athletes alike.  How fast or how slow your legs spin makes a massive difference in metabolic demand as well as muscle fatigue rates over the course of a race or workout.  This post will serve to educate you on what the current literature says  in regards to why utilizing different cadences for each cycling discipline is important, how metabolic and muscular demand is effected by leg speed, and what this all means to you!  First though, let’s define what cadence means to a cyclist:

Cadence is a measure of how many revolutions per minute (RPM) a cyclist is producing whilst pedaling.  This is measured by how many times the cranks turn.

What is “Normal” Cadence?

“Normal” cadence is very subjective, but for a trained athlete you can assume they will adopt a cadence of ~90 RPM over flat to rolling terrain (1).  In my experience, most beginner level cyclists will adopt a much lower cadence of ~70 RPM due to not having the neuromuscular pathways developed that allows for rapid contraction and relaxation of muscle fibers that comes with hours and hours of pedaling.  Beginner cyclists may also utilize a lower cadence due to metabolic inefficiencies (which I will get to later).

“Normal” cadence can also differ by what discipline the athlete is competing in, and especially the terrain they are riding over.  Lucia et, al. (1) found well trained cyclists will pedal ~90 RPM during a flat to rolling stage of a race, ~95 RPM during a time trial, and ~70 RPM over a high mountain pass.

Why the Differences?

Muscles have a finite ability to contract and relax, with this ability becoming less the more intense your ride is and the longer you ride for (cramps anyone?).  So, being able to delay muscle fatigue is paramount to every cyclist.  Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to improve this, but for the sake of this blog post, we will discuss how  different cadences can effect muscle fatigue rates.

~70 RPMs

This RPM has been established to be more demanding on the muscular system, but less demanding metabolically, i.e. you can save energy spinning slower, with the caveat of possibly fatiguing your muscles quicker (3).  Perceived exertion also tends to be relatively higher at this cadence (2).  Nielsen et al. (4) also found this lower cadence leading to improved endurance in well trained cyclists, at low intensities (think RAAM).

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~90 RPMs

~90 RPMs has been established as the “normal” cadence for the trained cyclist.  Think of this as the Goldilocks cadence where the level of metabolic stress and muscle fatigue are relatively equal, and perceived exertion is comfortable (2,3).  This also tends to be a good cadence whilst sitting in a peloton as it allows you to both spin and coast with relatively ease.  However, going from 60 to 90 RPM can mean a 29% metabolic demand increase, so make sure you are fueling properly.

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~100-110 RPMs

Now we are really minimizing muscle demand, but maximizing metabolic demands.  However, you really wouldn’t use this cadence level for anything other than a shorter time trial or mountain top finish where you are really trying to squeeze everything you can out of your legs.  You will also normally be working at your threshold or slightly above in these scenarios, which will cause a massive dump of lactate and subsequent muscle acidosis (burn).  Fortunately, at these higher cadences, the muscles can act as a pump and better flush out the acidosis-causing metabolites which results in being able to go hard for longer (5).

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What Does This Mean for You?

The big takeaway here is your cadence should change based on what your goals or races are, and your build/peak phases of training should reflect it.  If you are a track sprinter, don’t spend much time doing long slow cadence slogs around threshold and if you are participating in hill climbs, minimize the short and sharp high-cadence workouts accordingly.  Remember though, this isn’t true for the general preparation and base phases…Another thing to remember is:

Power = Force x Velocity (cadence)

Force takes a long time to develop whereas velocity can be improved relatively quickly.  If you are not spending time performing cadence-specific workouts, you are literally missing half of the equation!

So, do yourself a favor this Winter and incorporate some pedaling efficiency and cadence drills during your late base and early build phases that are specific to your goals;

  • Track riders / time-trialists / short hill climbers – SPIN THOSE LEGS!
  • Stage race / road racer – Goldilocks spinning mainly, but with a little bit of both high and low cadence work to replicate what you may encounter.
  • Long time-trialists (like RAAM long), long mountain climbers – Make sure you are doing a fair amount of lower cadence work to get your body used to the strength demands and especially at a relatively lower intensity to improve your body’s ability to utilize fat as a fuel source.
References
(1) Lucia, A., Hoyos, J., & Chicharro, J. L. (2001). Preferred pedalling cadence in professional cycling. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33(8), 1361-1366.
(2) Marsh, A. P., & Martin, P. E. (1998). Perceived exertion and the preferred cycling cadence. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 30(6), 942-948.
(3) Peterman, James E., “Energy Expenditure During Passive Cycling: The Effects of Leg Mass, Cadence, and Adaptation” (2011). Integrative Physiology Graduate Theses & Dissertations. Paper 4.
(4) Nielsen, J. S., Hansen, E. A., & Sj Gaard, G. (2004). Pedaling rate affects endurance performance during high-intensity cycling. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 92(1-2),
(5) HAGBERG, J. M., J. P. MULLIN, M. D. GIESE, and E. SPITZNAGEL. Effect of pedalling rate on submaximal exercise responses of competitive cyclists. J. Appl. Physiol. 51:447–451,

GC Coaching’s Labor Day Weekend Training Plan w/ Workout Files

Labor Day is a mixed emotion Holiday for me, on the one hand it signifies the beginning of Fall and cyclocross season (my 2 favorites!), but it is also the “end” of Summer.  Fret not though, there is still plenty of riding time available, and cycling in the Fall can be the best (and prettiest) time of the year to ride.  Just think…apple cider donuts…hot cocoa…pumpkin beer (okay maybe not that one)…crisp cool mornings, and warm sunny afternoons…you get the point here!  Let’s not focus on the negatives, and utilize these next 3 days to become a stronger rider and start the Fall season off right!

The following 3 day plan starts off with high-intensity on Saturday (VO2 Max), mid-intensity on Sunday (Threshold / Sweet Spot), and lower-intensity on Monday (Endurance / Tempo).  Working this way will allow you to hit the highest output when your body is fresh, and as you become fatigued, the intensity drops off accordingly.  So, please don’t change the order of these workouts, there is a method to the madness.

Saturday’s Workout: VO2 5×3 + SST 2×10

VO2 + SST

Time: 1 hour and 22 minutes

Intensity Factor: .87

Training Stress: 102.7

WARM UP:
-10 minutes gradually progressing from Active Recovery zone to Endurance zone.
-3×30 seconds Spin Ups (110+ RPM) @Threshold zone+, 30 seconds easy.
-2 minutes easy
———
MAIN SET:
-5x 3 minutes @VO2 Max Zone (115% FTP) @85-95 RPM, with 3 minutes recovery (55% FTP) between.
-Recover for 5 minutes after the 5th interval.
-Then, 2x 10 minutes @Sweet Spot zone (90% FTP) @95+ RPM, with 5 minutes recovery (55% FTP) between.
———
COOL DOWN:
-10 minutes gradually reducing from Endurance zone to Active Recovery zone

Garmin file here | Zwift file here

Sunday’s Workout: Kitchen Sink

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Time: 2 hours

Intensity Factor: .81

Training Stress: 132.2

WARM UP:
-10 minutes gradually progressing from Active Recovery zone to Endurance zone.
-3×30 seconds Spin Ups (110+ RPM) @Threshold zone+, 30 seconds easy.
-2 minutes easy
——
MAIN SET:
-10 minutes @FTP @100+ RPM
-15 minutes recovery @Endurance zone (65% FTP) @Comfortable cadence
-20 mins @Tempo zone (75% FTP) @80 RPM with a 20 seconds burst @VO2 Max zone (120% FTP) @110+ RPM every 3 minutes
-15 minutes recovery @Endurance zone (65% FTP) @Comfortable cadence
-5x 1 minute @VO2 Max zone (120% FTP) @90-100 RPM, 1 minute recovery (55% FTP) @Comfortable cadence
-15 minutes recovery @Endurance zone (65% FTP) @Comfortable cadence
-10 minutes @FTP @100+ RPM
——
COOL DOWN:
-5 minutes gradually reducing from Endurance zone to Active Recovery zone

Garmin file here | Zwift file here

Monday’s Workout: Endurance / Tempo Ride

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Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes to 5 hours (depending on athlete training availability)

Intensity Factor: .75

Training Stress: 140 to 270 (depending on ride length)

WARM UP:
-10 minutes gradually progressing from Active Recovery zone to Endurance zone.
-3×30 seconds Spin Ups (110+ RPM) @Threshold zone+, 30 seconds easy.
-2 minutes easy
——
MAIN SET:
-Ride for 2 to 4 hours @Endurance/Tempo zone (55%-90% FTP)
-Keep your cadence in a comfortable range and your effort steady
——
COOL DOWN:
-10 minutes gradually reducing from Endurance zone to Active Recovery zone

-Riding at your Endurance/Tempo zone for long periods of time will increase your endurance, increase mitochondrial density, increase glycogen storage, increase plasma volume, and increase your cardiac stroke volume and cardiac output to name a few.
-It is important to stay within these zones for as much time as possible during this ride, so no surges going uphill and try not to coast when going downhill.

Garmin file here | Zwift not recommended for this ride for sanity reasons

Plan Totals

Total Time: 6 hours and 12 minutes to 10+ hours (depending on athlete training time)

Average Intensity Factor: .81

Total Training Stress: 375 to 505 (depending on athlete training time)

Get out there and RIDE!

❤️ GC Coaching

Should you do Running-Specific Workouts for Cyclocross?

This is a question I received from an athlete (be sure to ask us if you have any questions pertaining to cycling also!):

Dear Shayne –

I am getting ready for my first cyclocross race in late September.  How much running should I be doing (if any) to get ready?  I have heard and read many opinions on the topic, but I wanted to get yours also.

Short answer, yes, you need to perform running specific workouts for cross, but with a caveat of keeping them skilled and/or explosive based.

Skill-Based Runs

Since cross involves jumping off and back onto your bike multiple times per lap, steep climbs that are un-rideable, muddy terrain or sand that is impassable by bike, and getting caught behind riders who go down, it is important to be able to quickly transition from riding to running to riding again.  So, the primary component to a cross running skill workout should be the dismount and remount…

Dismounts / Remounts

Workout: Evil 20’s

This workout is VERY intense and needs to be done when well rested to get the most out of it (i.e. do it early in the week).

  1. Go ALL OUT for 20 seconds.
  2. Recover for 20 seconds spinning easy.
  3. Dismount and run alongside the bike up a steep incline or carry the bike on your shoulder up a set of stairs, again going ALL OUT.
  4. Remount and spin easy for 20 seconds.
  5. Repeat starting at step 1 again.

Start off with 2-3 sets based on current fitness level and work up to 8-10 sets.  Focus on keeping the dismounts and remounts as smooth as possible, especially when you become fatigued from the efforts.

Barriers

Barriers, logs, a stray dog on course, etc. all require dismounting, lifting the bike over the obstacle, and remounting again as quickly and efficiently as possible.  Like many things in life, this takes a minute to learn, but a lifetime to master.  So, the more you can practice and mimic the race conditions you are going to encounter, the better!  Practice carrying your bike over barriers that are on flat ground, downhill, uphill, on sand, grass, gravel, mud, etc.  Make it as diverse as possible.

Explosive-Based Runs

Generating a lot of force quickly is paramount to pretty much every discipline in cycling.  In cross, it happens to be more important than most due to the twisty and tight cornering found in a course and the need to be able to accelerate hard repeatedly out of those corners and after a remount.  If I have an athlete that is struggling with generating power, I will recommend a short block of plyometrics before their cross season starts to help improve this.

Workout: Cross Specific Plyometrics

Be sure you are warmed up before performing these exercises and STOP if you have any joint / muscle pain – aside from muscle fatigue of course 🙂  Perform each of these for 30-90 seconds (based on fitness) and rest for equal time between exercises.  Run through the list 1-3 times each.  Perform them 1-3 times per week.  A Google image search will bring up each of these pictures.

  1. High Knees
  2. Butt Kicks
  3. Squat Jumps
  4. Forward Bounding
  5. Skaters
  6. Box Jumps

So, should you do running-specific workouts in prep for cross?  Yes, BUT they should not involve lacing up your trainers and going out for a steady 5k run.  Your training needs to become more specific the closer your event and race season gets; save the steady runs for your cross-training during the offseason.  Include 1-3 days per week of intense training that involves lots of dismounts, remounts, and riding over varying terrain.  Be sure to include some plyometric training as well if you are not as explosive as you would like to be.

#crossiscoming

What is the Difference Between Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise?

I have received a lot of questions regarding this topic as of late, soooo here comes some sciencey stuff!

Aerobic can be defined as INVOLVING oxygen, whereas anaerobic can be defined as NOT INVOLVING oxygen.  If we remember from a past post regarding cellular energy production, we burn different amounts of pyruvate and lactate depending upon how much oxygen is present in our cells at the time of glycolysis.

Aerobic exercise can be defined as INVOLVING oxygen.  The primary fuel for this type of exercise is pyruvate.

If oxygen is plentiful at the time of glycolysis, our cells will produce high levels of pyruvate and low levels of lactate to be used by the mitochondria for ATP production.  This type of energy production is extremely efficient and can be repeated literally all day long as long as you are fueling properly during exercise, hydrating, and have enough chamois cream :-).  This is aerobic exercise.

Anaerobic exercise can be defined as NOT INVOLVING oxygen.  The primary fuel for this type of exercise is lactate.

If oxygen is not plentiful at the time of glycolysis, our cells will begin to produce increased lactate.  The ratio of lactate to pyruvate produced will continue to change as the intensity becomes higher and/or oxygen levels decrease.  Eventually, you hit your lactate threshold which is the level at which your body cannot process the lactate being produced effectively and it begins to accumulate rapidly in the bloodstream.  As the body tries to utilize more and more lactate, hydrogen is produced as a byproduct.  The issue here is hydrogen lowers the pH of the blood present in the muscle (makes it more acidic) which is why your muscles burn with high intensity exercise (acidosis).  As the pH of the muscle continues to lower and become more acidic, muscular contractions will become less forceful and eventually cease if the muscle pH becomes low enough.  This is anaerobic exercise.

One of the most interesting aspects of cycling is it involves both aerobic and anaerobic efforts at times.  So, when you are training for your goal event or race, be sure to include both long steady efforts to improve aerobic capacity, but also short and hard efforts (with plenty of rest between) to improve anaerobic capacity.

How Do I Deal With Road Rash?

Crashing is an unfortunate aspect of cycling, but is seen as a rite of passage in most circles.  If you do happen to have the misfortune of crashing, losing some skin in the process is almost certain to happen.  The following is what has helped me in my years of crashing heal-up quick, but should never be used in place of medical advice!

Step 1. Clean It!

Crashing on a bike usually means getting a bunch of junk from the road or trail scraped deep into the wound.  If the debris aren’t removed well, it can lead to infection further down the line (which is no bueno), so step 1 is the most important step!

  1. Let the wound bleed for a bit to help carry out some of the debris from deep within the wound.
  2. When you get home, hop into the shower and let the water gently wash the wound out.
  3. If you still see debris in the wound, you are going to need to get it out with either your hands or a brush.  Ensure both are sterile before putting them into the wound, and if the job looks too big to handle, go to the hospital!
  4. After the debris are removed, gently clean the wound with warm soapy water.
  5. Pat the wound dry.

Step 2. Cover It!

Covering the wound is important to not allow foreign objects and bacteria to touch and possibly enter the wound.  How you cover it and what you use to cover it depends on if the wound is weeping (exudate), or not.

Actively “Weeping” Wound

  • Use triple antibiotic cream and cover the wound with a non-stick gauze pad.  Then pack another 1-2 regular pads on top to help absorb the wound exudate.
  • You can then cover this with a large Tegaderm dressing, or wrap some gauze around the area to keep the pads in place, or get that nifty tube compression gauze and look so pro ↓↓↓
elbandage
Source: The Best Bike Blog Ever
  • Change the dressing, clean the wound with warm soapy water, and reapply triple antibiotic ointment every 2-3 hours, or if the pads are leaking (ew!).
  • Do this until the exudate stops, which may take 2-3 days in severe cases.
  • Constantly check for signs of infection over this time as well.

Non-Weeping Wound

  • Clean the wound with warm soapy water and pat dry.
  • Get a large enough Tegaderm dressing to cover the area, place the dressing directly over top of the wound and leave it there.  Tegaderm dressing can stay in place for days and will heal the wound quickly and effectively and without scabbing.  You can also shower with it in place.
  • If you do notice some wound exudate, simply remove the Tegaderm, clean the wound and reapply a fresh dressing.
  • Again, constantly check for signs of infection.

Step 3. Protect It!

After the wound is healed, your skin is going to need to be kept hydrated (body lotion after you shower), blocked from the suns UV rays as it will burn super easy (SPF anyone?), and protected from repeat crashes as it will tear easier than mature skin (elbow/knee pads) for a few months.

Here’s to staying rubber side down!

THE TIME CRUNCHED ATHLETE | Best style of workout for maximum gains

In the first and second time crunched athlete (TCA) articles, I spoke about what the TCA should focus on to maintain fitness (HINT: Intensity!) and what they can expect to achieve with a lack of training time availability (HINT: adapt!).  In this article, I want to provide some concrete examples of TCA workouts.

3 Main Types of Workout

I suggest the TCA focus on 3 flavors of workout: Threshold, muscular force, and fatigue resistance.

Threshold

Threshold can be defined literally a million different ways by a million different coaches.  To me, and for this article, Threshold is defined as 91-105% of your FTP (If you don’t know what your FTP is, go test it!).  Just like there are a myriad of definitions for Threshold, there are also many ways to improve it.  Since we are referring to the TCA, we are focused primarily on the most efficient way to do so.  I have found this to be a mixture of Sweet Spot and VO2 Max intervals.

Workout #1 Sweet Spot Intervals

This one is not too exciting, but you can get a decent amount of specific TSS, complete it in a short time, and repeat it multiple days a week.

WARM UP:
-10 minutes gradually progressing from Active Recovery zone to Endurance zone.
-3×30 seconds Spin Ups (110+ RPM) @Threshold zone+, 30 seconds easy.
-2 minutes easy
———
MAIN SET:
-3×10 minutes @SST Zone @90+ RPM.
-Rest for 5 minutes between sets.
———
COOL DOWN:
-5 minutes gradually reducing from Endurance zone to Active Recovery zone

Workout #1 VO2 + Sweet Spot

VO2 Max training is my favorite way to train being a TCA and I have seen great fitness improvements with dedicated and consistent time spent in this zone.  VO2 Max Zone is supra-Threshold, I know, but just like a high tide rises all ships, performing supra-Threshold work will pull your FTP to new heights.  This workout combines the benefits of both VO2 Max and Sweet Spot training, while also putting more metabolic stress on the body as the Sweet Spot interval comes at the end.  Win, Win for the TCA!

WARM UP:
-10 minutes gradually progressing from Active Recovery zone to Endurance zone.
-3×30 seconds Spin Ups (110+ RPM) @Threshold zone+, 30 seconds easy.
-2 minutes easy
———
MAIN SET
-5x 3 minutes @VO2 Max Zone @85-95 RPM.
-Rest for 3 minutes between sets.
-Then 10 minutes @SST.
———
COOL DOWN:
-10 minutes gradually reducing from Endurance zone to Active Recovery zone

Muscular Force

Muscular force is how much pressure you can apply to the pedals for short periods of time (less than 10 seconds).  So, think about that initial jump creating a breakaway, the final 200 meters of a sprint, or surging up a short and steep roller.  Muscular force is crucial to improve ligament, tendon, and bone density and allow the body to create more power.  Think of this type of workout as upgrading the hardware in your computer so you can run faster software.

Workout: May the Force be With You

WARM UP:
-10 minutes gradually progressing from Active Recovery zone to Endurance zone.
-3×30 seconds Spin Ups (110+ RPM) @Threshold zone+, 30 seconds easy.
-2 minutes easy
———
MAIN SET:
-Every 4 minutes perform a Force Rep (10 total)
-Force Rep = Get into your largest gear and come almost to a complete stop. Once you are almost at a full stop, grab onto the drops and JUMP as hard and fast as you can and spin the gear up. The effort should be only 10-12 seconds, but should be an ALL OUT effort!
-In between force reps, spin easy at endurance zone
———
COOL DOWN:
-10 minutes gradually reducing from Endurance zone to Active Recovery zone

Fatigue Resistance

Fatigue resistance is being able to finish a ride or race strong and is important to work on so you don’t crumble at the end of a race.  I like to do shorter and more intense intervals with short breaks between to improve this aspect.  Doing this will keep the heart rate and metabolic demands of the workout high, while the short and sharp intervals will stress the muscular system.  I.e. these should hurt so good!

Workout: The Baffling Beau

WARM UP:
-10 minutes gradually progressing from Active Recovery zone to Endurance zone.
-3×30 seconds Spin Ups (110+ RPM) @Threshold zone+, 30 seconds easy.
-2 minutes easy
———
MAIN SET:
–Set 1: 10x (40 seconds @Anaerobic @110+ RPM w/ 20 seconds rest.
-Endurance Zone for 5 minutes.
–Set 2: 10x (30 seconds @Anaerobic @110+ RPM w/ 30 seconds rest.
-Endurance Zone for 5 minutes.
–Set 3: 10x (20 seconds @FULL GAS @110+ RPM w/ 40 seconds rest.
———
COOL DOWN:
-5 minutes gradually reducing from Endurance zone to Active Recovery zone

Just because you are short on time doesn’t mean you have to be short on fitness gains!  The above 4 workouts are great examples for the TCA to follow and implement into their program.  If you are looking for a more structured approach, check out our Time Crunches Athlete Training Plan here, or get in touch with us!

 

THE TIME CRUNCHED ATHLETE | Setting your expectations

In the last article, we covered what a time crunched athlete is and what they could do to stop the loss of fitness associated with decreased training time availability.  In this article, I would like to set some realistic expectations for the time crunched athlete as well as give some pointers to avoid common pitfalls associated with this type of training scheme.

How Strong Can I Get?

This is a loaded question as it depends on a few things, mainly: your previous history of training, age, and genetic makeup.  These 3 factors alone and together define how much training stress and intensity you can handle without the risk for burnout / injury.  Thus, how fit you can become.  Once you hit that maximum overload for training availability, your fitness will plateau.  The following is an example of what I mean showcased by a TrainingPeaks PMC chart:

PMC_Chart

As you can see, the blue line (which represents Fitness or CTL) has a nice ramp initially, but gradually starts to level off as the athlete reaches their fitness potential based on training availability.  Once this level-off of fitness occurs, you can try to increase intensity of the workouts further (be cautious with this if you’re already feeling tired), increase your workout frequency, or find time to ride long bi-monthly (as this athlete did, notice the 2 jumps in fitness?) to increase training stress.  However, if these aren’t an option for you, and you are literally at maximum training density, there are a few things you can do to mitigate the drawbacks of being a time crunched athlete:

  • Consistency is KEY!  Missing even 1 workout per week if you are time-crunched can result in fitness losses.  Make sure the time you set aside for your workouts is time that cannot be filled by other things.  I suggest working out first thing in the morning, or last thing in the evening (most find more success with the former).
  • During long rides, pace yourself – If your normal ride is only 1 hour in duration, that hard 3 hour group ride is going to be pretty miserable for the last 2 hours.  Be sure to pace yourself according to how you feel for the long rides, and if you are fatigued mid-ride, take shorter pulls and try to hide in the paceline.
  • Use matches uber-cautiously – One of the first things you lose as a time crunched athlete is your ability to respond to repeated hard surges in pace and micro-accelerations.  So, in a race setting, or hard group ride, try to bring that wheel back slower and more gradually (within reason, you don’t want to get dropped!) instead of jumping on  the pedals and surging back up to it.  You will be able to do this a few times, but after the 4th or 5th time you are going to start regretting it!
  • If you are competitive, pick events that suit your training – Criteriums, time-trials, MTB races, and cyclo-cross races are the best things for the competitive time crunched athlete because the events are short (usually under 1 hour) and mimic the intensity of the workouts performed.  Stage races, road races, and long circuit races aren’t the best thing to shoot for, but can be used for fun or as a way to get some additional training stress in.
  • If the stars align, RIDE!  The kids are at grandmas, your honey-do list is done: the stars have aligned and you have the afternoon free, yippee!  Use this time and RIDE LONG.  I suggest keeping your intensity level at Endurance / Tempo zone, but feel free to throw in some Threshold intervals throughout the ride or go for that KOM you have been eyeing.  Remember from the PMC chart above, these long rides can do wonders for your fitness, so be sure to utilize them!

Being a time-crunched athlete means resetting your expectations, training differently, and racing intelligently.  This doesn’t mean your competitive days are numbered, or you are going to get dropped at your weekly group ride though.  Stay positive, consistent, and embrace your new challenges.  You will be surprised at how much more enjoyable training can be!

Check out our Time Crunched Athlete plan here.