We all know that cycling is great for a myriad of things, but the bike keeps your body in a fixed position, sometimes for hours on end. This can wreak havoc on the neck, middle back, hip, and lower extremity muscles causing them to become shortened, painful, and lose their ability to produce power. This, of course, is unacceptable and the exact opposite effect we want after spending time training outdoors, or in the pain cave! So, do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes stretching your legs out after you beat them up, your body will thank you, and it will give you some precious time to think about life (i.e. more cycling) for a while.
The following stretching routine is designed for athletes who are time-crunched and need to really maximize any time dedicated to their fitness.
Ideal best time to stretch statically is POST WORKOUT. Bacurau et al. (1) found static stretching actually impairs lower limb force production, which is obviously not ideal before a ride. Instead, a dynamic stretching routine should be performed, like this one to help promote neuromuscular activation.
Stretches should be held for 30 seconds minimum for best results (2). It takes your muscle sarcomere time to relax enough to make static stretching beneficial and allow the muscle to lengthen. If you have the time to hold them for longer, go for it!
Stretches should be performed in a comfortable range of motion, so no crying because it hurts so much, but you also want to feel like you are doing something too.
Alternate each side with each consecutive stretch, so as 1 side is resting, the other side is being stretched.
Perform the stretches 2-3 times each.
The “Couch” Stretch
Set up in front of a couch / chair / bench, with one foot on the couch and the other knee on the floor in a half kneeling position. From here, bring your hips forward and lean your body backwards until you feel a comfortable stretch in the front of your hip as well as thigh. Repeat on the other side.
Hamstring + Chest Stretch
Bring your feet wider than shoulder width apart and lace your fingers behind your back. Then, lean your body forward and reach your arms backwards until a comfortable stretch is felt in the hamstrings, as well as chest / front of the shoulders.
Inner Thigh + Middle Back Stretch
From a sitting position – bend your knees, place your feet together, and let your legs fall out to the side until a comfortable stretch is felt in your inner thighs. While holding this position, lace your fingers together, bring your arms up, then reach forward trying to open your shoulder blades, and drop your head down until a comfortable stretch is felt in between the shoulder blades and the back of your neck.
The Pigeon Pose
Start off in quadriped position. From here, thread one leg under you, then sit back until a deep, but comfortable, stretch is felt in the glutes. Repeat on the other side.
Bacurau, R. F., Monteiro, G. A., Ugrinowitsch, C., Tricoli, V., Cabral, L. F., & Aoki, M. S. (2009). Acute Effect of a Ballistic and a Static Stretching Exercise Bout on Flexibility and Maximal Strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,23(1), 304-308. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e3181874d55
Bandy, W. D., & Irion, J. M. (1994). The Effect of Time on Static Stretch on the Flexibility of the Hamstring Muscles. Physical Therapy,74(9), 845-850. doi:10.1093/ptj/74.9.845
From swimming sprints to 90-minute football matches, the maximum aerobic capacity (VO2max) is the single most important performance metric that needs to be looked at.
As often misunderstood, VO2max is not restricted by only raw physical talent, but it can be trained to unknown maximums. VO2max is also a metric that responds quickly to training, so it needs to be monitored regularly.
When you start a training program with GC Coaching , we will test your VO2max and we will plan a coaching plan tailored to increase it, but not only that. Through our performance software we will also be able to:
Compare the effect of high-intensity trainings and endurance workouts on VO2max.
Evaluate the impact of specialized nutrition regimes to further increase VO2max.
Understand the impact of VO2max on fat oxidation and carbohydrate combustion.
VLAmax // Elite Coaches secret weapon disclosed
VLAmax can be looked at from two different sides. From one side, a low VLamax would increase your anaerobic threshold, your fat combustion, and it would shorten your recovery time from hard efforts.
On the other hand, a high VLamax increases the power available for attacks, sprints, and short efforts. The anaerobic capacity can actually make the difference between winning and losing a race: the final lap, the final sprint, the final push – they are all decided by your glycolytic power.
Vlamax is the most important metric you should focus on and train according to. You may have never heard of it because up until last year it was used only by pro teams and national federations. But now its benefits are opened to everyone and you can finally start connecting all the dots that compose your performances: metrics, training adaptations, race predictions …
Don’t waste your time training the wrong way. Get tested with us, we know your VLamax – and tailor your training according to it.
Here is what Dan Lorang, coach of IRONMAN world champion Jan Frodeno says about VLamax
“You really know what to work on if you know the VLamax”
— DAN LORANG – HIGH PERFORMANCE COACH OF IRONMAN WORLD CHAMPION JAN FRODENO
We can help you to create a training program tailored to improve this precious performance metric, to optimize:
Anaerobic Threshold (FTP Power)
Ability to recover from hard efforts
It is commonly known and accepted that there is a critical intensity (or power) as the highest intensity that allows for a “steady state” in your metabolism. People call this the anaerobic threshold, critical power, or velocity. Everybody knows it exists and everybody wants to increase it.
The commonly used methods to determine the anaerobic threshold are based on empirical findings within a certain population. But this has led to a lot of misunderstanding around anaerobic threshold and has restricted its assessment to some non-specific protocols. The most significant shortfall on the empirical determination of anaerobic threshold is that it doesn’t provide any insight on the reasons why the anaerobic threshold is what it is.
By testing your AT with us, you’ll get it tested according to its main definition: the maximum intensity at which lactate combustion equals lactate production. These tests will benefit you with an improved understanding of your own performances and how they’re composed. More precisely, you’ll then get to:
Know the influence of physiological metrics on your anaerobic threshold.
Reduce the standard error of determination of the anaerobic threshold to < 3%.
Calculate the enhancement of anaerobic threshold by improving a single performance metric.
Lactate accumulation & recovery
In disciplines with a random interval-type work demand, such as cycling or football, repeated high-intensity efforts are unavoidable.
Every bout of sprinting and attacking may result in lactate accumulation. The duration and intensity that an athlete can recover from these efforts are absolutely crucial.
The ability to use lactate as a fuel and to actually use it to optimize your performance is absolutely crucial in high intensity sports. These kind of abilities are highly trainable and with ME/US you can start training them for real and see the real benefits in a very short time.
Economy // Decrypting the speed hack
We’re sure you have heard of economy. Running economy, cycling economy, swimming economy… the word is used across all disciplines. But very few actually understand it, forget about measuring it.
So, what economy really is?
Economy relates to the conversion of energy into speed or power (depending on what you measure).
Understanding economy means understanding how much energy is needed to move at a certain speed or produce a certain power.
The amount of energy available is a matter of physical ability, but how fast an athlete moves with that energy is a whole different story.
Decrypt the key to go fast
Economy is the single most important parameter in free motion sports such as running and swimming. Obtaining insight on you economy will become a competitive advantage.
Assess the impact of a prescribed training regime on changes in economy.
Monitor economy on a regular basis and tune it to your training programs.
The software we use to evaluate your is a high-precision tool that allows you to capture the effect of different equipment such as running shoes or wetsuits and their energy cost at various speeds.
Fat combustion is the bottleneck of endurance performance in sports like running and triathlon. We are also able to to measure and track this metric through our performance software – so you can create strategies to increase your energy expenditure from fat and thereby enhance your performance.
Fat combustion rates are highly individual metrics.
Accurately understanding fat combustion in is crucial in endurance sports.
Significant differences are observed both between different athletes, and between different states of training in the same athletes at different times.
Knowing the FatMax Zone allows you to train fat combustion most efficiently.
It is also crucial to understand precisely how much carbohydrates you burn during exercise. With this understanding, you can find the perfect level of fueling for your trainings and races, and which level will actually fatigue or enhance your performance.
Fuel to perform
Focus on carbohydrate combustion and get tailored nutrition plans.
Perfecting intake of carbohydrates is trainable, but needs to be practiced.
Adjust pacing and plan a fueling strategy to avoid running out of fuel.
Conventional assessment of carbohydrate combustion based on gas analyses has significant limitations. Not only they are lab-based test only, but they also get affected by nutrition status. Scientific research has shown that neglecting lactate measurements when assessing carbohydrate combustion from gas exchange is misleading.
Through the use of our performance software you can finally compare your lactate production and compare it to the carbohydrate combustion one. The only way to produce lactate is by breaking down carbohydrates, thus lactate production is directly linked to carbohydrate combustion.
Measure where these metrics where it matters: on the track, on the climb, and on the field.
Interested in gaining more insight about your performance? Reach out and get tested with GC Coaching!
After over 5 years of education, training, proving, and testing, GC Coaching’s owner and head Coach, Shayne Gaffney, has become 1 of 4 coaches in New England and 1 of less than 40 coaches in the United States to be a dual USA Cycling Level 1 (expert level) coach, and USA Cycling Power Based Training Certified. In order to achieve USA Cycling’s highest level of coaching certification, a coach must be a Level 2 coach, in good standing, for 5 consecutive years and attend a Level 1 Clinic, accumulate 200 CEU’s following completion of the Level 2 Clinic and attend a Level 1 Clinic. After qualification is achieved, the coach must pass the Level 1 exam, as well as submit a case study. This certification aligns with GC Coaching’s goal to utilize quality coaching techniques with evidence-based data analysis and will benefit all of the athletes coach Shayne works with.
Welcome, and thank you for your interest in the Build Me Up Flexible Training Plan! This plan is 10-12 weeks in length and utilizes a 3 phase approach. Each phase is 4 weeks long. Weeks 1 through 3 are progressive in TSS, and week 4 acts as a regeneration week to allow for supercompensation and an increase in your FTP!
Each phase will also progress in overall duration and intensity to continually overload your systems, with the end result of attaining those positive adaptations we’re after. So, expect this to be a challenge, but it should be at times!
Workouts during the week are 60 minutes or less, and weekends feature longer and more challenging workouts of 90 minutes up to 2 hours! The plan is structured in a way that everyone will have the best chances of maintaining consistency and compliance to it, no matter how busy they may be.
With Flexible Training Plans, you have a specific window of time to complete each workout – you’re not locked down to a specific day. Whenever you finish a session, the plan automatically adjusts so you stay on track. Accidentally skip one? Is your body craving a rest day? It’s all good. We’ll make sure you hit the most important workout of the week, so you don’t lose momentum. -Zwift
Week 1 begins Phase 1 which is based mostly on sub-FTP efforts. Week 1 is all about establishing accurate power training zones via the Pre-Training Plan workout, and getting your feet wet if you are new to structured training. The easiest week of the plan 🙂
Week 2: 43 TSS/D |5 hours |307 TSS | 4 workouts
Week 2 exposes you to longer intervals at close to FTP as well as more difficult over/unders during the weekend to really stress that aerobic system. Expect to notice the increase of training stress from the first week!
Week 3: 47 TSS/D |5 hours and 15 mins |329 TSS | 4 workouts
Week 3 stabilizes the TSS and volume from Week 2 to slow the ramp rate and cumulative fatigue for those who are new to structured work. If you are still feeling pretty good this week though, feel free to include an additional workout, just aim to keep it around 60-80 TSS (SST Short is perfect!).
Week 4: 27 TSS/D |3 hours and 15 mins | 192 TSS | 3 workouts
Week 4 is our first regeneration week. As such, expect the workout length and intensity to fall way off during the week, BUT don’t get too excited as you have the dreaded Purple Unicorn to get through over the weekend!
Week 5: 39 TSS/D |5 hours |274 TSS | 4 workouts
Week 5 begins Phase 2 and is where we begin our supra-FTP work, focusing mostly in Zone 5. Get ready to steadily increase the time at which you can sustain that high of a power output throughout this phase, as well as your ability to recover after a hard effort!
Week 6: 44 TSS/D |5 hours and 30 mins |314 TSS | 5 workouts
Week 6 is where things start feeling serious. We increase the workout frequency to 5 days a week with 3 workouts during the week, and 2 over the weekend. Also be prepared to feel some residual fatigue being carried over now as each week’s TSS total will be higher than any other week so far.
Week 7: 54 TSS/D | 6 hours |384 TSS | 5 workouts
Week 7 is the first true overload week featuring a big increase of TSS from last week as well as the longest week yet in terms of duration. Back to back 90 minute workouts above a .85 IF this weekend, make sure you are staying on top of your sleep and fueling this week!
Week 8 is our second regeneration week. As such, expect the workout length and intensity to fall way off to allow for supercompensation. Continue to focus on getting quality sleep this week and give yourself the rest you earned!
Week 9 begins Phase 3…Prepare yourself to WORK these next 3 weeks! We take our supra-FTP efforts one step further this phase and start working far above FTP with very short rests between to really stimulate that aerobic system. Enjoy that extra rest day this week…You won’t be getting that again the next 2 weeks!
Week 10: 57 TSS/D | 6 hours |399 TSS | 5 workouts
Week 10…Ouch. Prepare to lengthen those supra-FTP efforts and shorten those rest breaks even more. We also now place a moderate workout BETWEEN 2 very intense workouts. Be prepared to feel pretty fatigued entering next week…
Week 11: 75 TSS/D |7 hours |464 TSS | 5 workouts
Ah, week 11, the things that nightmares are made of…Seriously though, I hope you are ready to BRING IT this week, my friend. The longest, most intense, and challenging workouts lie ahead over the next 7 days…Make it through this week, work hard, and earn that higher FTP next week!
We made it! Week 12, the easiest week of them all! This week is all about letting that fatigue plummet, maintaining your fitness, and allowing that training stress balance to come up positive for Sunday’s FTP test. Good luck during your test!
“Sweet Spot” based workouts:
Devedeset = 90 in Croation
Halvfems = 90 in Danish
Novanta = 90 in Italian
All of the intervals in these workouts are based at 90% FTP and are also alphabetically ordered in terms of easiest to hardest.
“Unicorn” workouts are based off of the visual spectrum (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet (purple)) with the same order of easiest to hardest. So, Red Unicorn features the least TSS, Orange Unicorn the second, etc.
“VO2” based workouts are all about oxygen so,
#8 = Atomic number of oxygen
15.9 = Atomic mass of oxygen
LOX = Liquid oxygen used in rocket boosters which is how your legs will feel after that workout – Rockets!
Multi-zone workouts feature a “mixture” of interval lengths, intensities, etc. so, Mishmash, Amalgam, Bricolage, Melange, Potpourri, Mosiac.
C.A. = Cadence Adjustment
HWBTWTDWH = Hard Work Beats Talent When Talent Doesn’t Work Hard – Always found inspiration in that quote.
The hardest workouts are meant to really push the athlete and test them physically and mentally: Aspire, Exigent, Tenacity, Malevolent
Ham Sandwich = Hard intervals “sandwiched” between 30/30s. aka the “Rapp Star” special 😉
Sneaky = The kind of workout that “sneaks” up on you, especially that last interval.
Tine = Intervals that gradually come to a “sharp point”.
Escalation = Intervals that “escalate” in difficulty as the workout goes on.
Method = Features lots of pedaling drills and lots of cadence work and changes to improve your pedaling “method”.
Uphill Battle = Another one of those workouts that gets harder as it goes on, making it feel like you are in an “uphill battle”.
Attack = Working on your ability to “attack” the group / peloton and hang on afterwards.
Spaded Sweetie = Starts off what a “spaded” interval set (looked like a spade shovel to me) and finishes with “sweet spot” based intervals. “Spaded Sweetie” was the cute way to say it, I thought 🙂
Kirizuma = Intervals shaped like the famous Japanese roofs.
Cucumber = Improves your ability to deal with lactate and stay cool under pressure, aka “Cool as a cucumber“.
Hang Ten = Intervals that look like a wave. Surfs up, “Hang ten, brotha!”
Circus = Micros that are seemingly random in terms of intensity. Mostly named for this definition: “a public scene of frenetic and noisily intrusive activity”, I thought that was well fitting.
Baffling Beau = I came up with this one around Valentine’s Day, and it is a very tough workout, almost baffling at times.
Serrated = Intervals that come up to a very sharp point, looking like a serrated knife upon post-workout review.
Breakfast Returns = 30/30s that an athlete once told me (who worked out early in the morning and usually right after breakfast) always caused his “breakfast to return”, lol.
Thew = A hard workout that requires a lot of “strength” both physically and mentally to accomplish.
Renewal = Active recovery based workout meant to “renew” the body and mind.
Alpha = Leg openers, who’s the “Alpha” after those past 10-12 weeks of training now? YOU!
WOOT WOOT! Memorial Day is finally here which is the unofficial “start” of the Summer for us in the Northern Hemisphere. Most businesses are closed on the Monday Holiday, which gives athletes a great opportunity to fit in a 3 day mini-training camp. So, use the weekend to get FASTER, but of course enjoy your time with friends and family too 🙂
The following 3 day plan starts off with high-intensity on Saturday (Zone 6), moderate-intensity on Sunday (Zone 3/4), and lower-intensity on Monday (Zone 3). Working this way will allow you to hit the highest intensity and quality workout 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 (muhahaha).
Saturday’s Workout: Hickory Corners+
Duration // 90 minutes
IF // .89
TSS // 119
-13 minutes warm up, progressing from Z1 (50% FTP) to Z3 (85% FTP).
-2 minutes easy.
—4x (90 seconds @Z6 (122% FTP) @100-110 RPM + 60 seconds @Z1 (55% FTP) @80-90 RPM.
—After the 4th, 90 second interval, settle into 10 minutes @Z3 (85% FTP) @80-90 RPM.
—4 minutes rest between sets.
-3 minutes easy.
Sunday’s Workout: Decreasing Azle
Duration // 90 minutes
IF // .84
TSS // 107
-13 minutes gradually progressing from Z1 (40% FTP) to Z3 (85% FTP) .
-2 minutes easy
-Lots of sustained power today close to FTP on tap for today’s workout!.
-We start with 7x (1 minute @Z3 (75% FTP) + 2 minutes @Z4 (95% FTP) @comfortable cadence throughout the interval.
-For each successive interval, we decrease 1 rep. So, 7, 6, 5, and finally 4.
-2 minutes rest between sets here.
-3 minutes easy.
Monday’s Workout: Break Out!
Duration // 90 minutes
IF // .76
TSS // 86
-9 minutes gradually progressing from Z1 (40% FTP) to Z3 (85% FTP) .
-2 minutes easy.
The century ride, or 100 miles for the uninitiated, is a true test of endurance for cyclists. Completing one becomes a bucket list entry quickly after a cyclist swings their leg over the top tube for the first time and begins seeing just how far they can push their body. I know whenever I see my cycling computer tick over from “99” to 💯 miles, I accomplished something fantastic that day (or night on a few occasions). I have thrived during a century ride, and other times barely finished dragging my tired, dehydrated, and sun-burnt body across the mark. This blog post will serve to help you NOT make the myriad of mistakes I have made in preparing my body for a century ride.
A century ride can take anywhere from 4 hours to well over 10+ depending on the terrain, elevation, and your current fitness to name just a few factors. So, being realistic about what you are getting yourself into is paramount for preparing properly.
Difficulty is subjective and hard to quantify, BUT riding a flat century is going to be far “easier” compared to one that includes 10,000 feet of elevation gain, and an athlete training for the latter must adjust their ride duration, intensity, and overall training volume accordingly. Therefore, before you even start preparing for a century, make a conscious effort when selecting one that will be a slight overreach, but not impossible to complete.
Far too many times I have seen an athlete sign up for something way over their head, fail at it, and then blame themselves as a result. This is obviously not ideal and can easily be avoided if you take smaller bites before going after the “big one”…Be like the gentleman above and sit and contemplate your event before pulling the trigger, gazing off into the distance can really help here too 😜
Designing a Training Plan
Okay great! You’ve picked a century that is going to be a challenge, scares you a little, but you are confident in yourself and know you can complete it with some hard work, dedication, and consistency…Now what? Time to get your body (and mind) ready!
It could look something like this…
PART I // Base phase // Goals:
⬆️ aerobic fitness (the ability to transport and utilize oxygen) and ⬆️ endurance (being able to perform more “work” without fatiguing). Traditionally, this was done via progressive training loads with time mainly spent at Zone 2. However, I always argue that you need a lot of training time available to reap the benefits of Zone 2 training. Most everyone I work with currently has a full time job, a family, other hobbies, etc. that all take valuable training time away. As your training availability reduces, your overall workout intensity needs to increase accordingly to see improvements – Hence, sweet spot training.
⬆️ the amount of force you can apply to those pedals. This can be done in the gym as well as on the bike with things like force reps and muscle tension efforts. Remember, Power = FORCE x Velocity
Maintain the VELOCITY component of the equation with some pedaling drills thrown in here and there, especially at the beginning of the build phase.
⬆️ muscular endurance: This is typically accomplished by extensive (10-30 minutes) and moderately intense (Z3/Z4) intervals. I also like to add in some over/under type workouts towards the middle to end of the build phase to improve the athlete’s lactate (pain) tolerance.
Specificity is key: If you know you will be climbing some big ole mountains during your event, mimicking the duration, and goal intensity, of said climb/s is a key muscular endurance goal for you. If your longest Z3/Z4 interval is only 10 mins long in training, and you know the longest climb of your race is going to take ~60 minutes to summit, you’re not going to enjoy the day very much…
⬆️ anaerobic endurance: Think short (30 seconds to 3 minutes) and sharp (Z5/Z6) intervals. These intervals should REALLY not feel good and labored breathing is a must here. DO THE WORK!
“A rising tide lifts all boats” is something I subscribe to with the athletes I coach. A typical century ride is going to feature VERY little Z6 (anaerobic) work, BUT that doesn’t mean it’s not important for you to focus on. Having a greater anaerobic capacity will help to improve your FTP (which is the bottom line here), and will also enable you to power over the shorter and steeper climbs, close gaps in a paceline, have some fun over a Strava segment, sprint to the finish, etc.
⬆️ aerobic endurance: There are 2 ways I have found to best accomplish this…
1) Perform intervals in the 4-6 minute range at Z5 (VO2 Max) with the rest intervals decreasing as you become more fit. So, you may start off with a 1:1 ratio, and eventually achieve a 2:1, or even 3:1 ratio.
2) Steadily increase the duration of your long rides, keeping the focus on a steady effort between Z2/Z3. With specificity being key here, a great goal would be able to ride at this intensity range for as long as your event is going to take you in DURATION not MILES.
Don’t forget about recovery: Typically, the build phase comes alongside the warm weather and group riding season. This can be great for motivation, but not so great for allowing the body to regenerate and supercompensate for all the training stress featured in the build phase. Listen to what your body is telling you, and even better utilize a service like TrainingPeaks to accurately track TSS, fatigue, fitness, and form, etc.
PART III // Taper phase // Goals:
Maintain fitness while letting fatigue decrease, allowing form to rise. The amount of training depends on the length of the taper, so if you are feeling pretty darn tired take a longer taper period, and vice-versa. (1)
Week 1: ⬇️ Volume by 30% ⬇️ Frequency by 25% ⬆️ Intensity: 40/20s | 30/30s
Week 2: ⬇️ Volume by 50% ⬇️ Frequency by 33% ⬆️ Intensity: Microbursts (15/15)
Week 3: ⬇️ Volume by 70% ⬇️ Frequency by 50% ⬆️ Intensity: Tabatas (20/10)
Training for a century ride doesn’t have to be overly-complicated if you break down the aspects into manageable pieces, and dedicate time to developing each one. Of course, what works for one athlete may not work for another, so experiment, try new training approaches, mix up the intervals, etc. Just be sure to keep your training consistent, enjoy the journey, and strive to get to the ride stronger than ever before! And, if you feel like your wheels are spinning, but you’re not really going anywhere, GC Coaching is here to help 🙂
(1) Mcneely, E., & Sandler, D. (2007). Tapering for Endurance Athletes. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 29(5), 18. doi:10.1519/1533-4295(2007)29[18:tfea]2.0.co;2
Growing up Kurt was a jack of all trades, focusing mostly on fun; local BMX racing, some old school mountain biking on fully rigid steel frames getting lost in the woods, some local road biking, windsurfing all around New England, skiing, and mixed in, there was the competitive outlet of fencing through high school and college. Upon graduation from college, Kurt got back into mountain biking mostly on the North Shore of MA or along some coastal haunts in CT, just for fun. In 2000, Kurt was convinced to do his first triathlon, a sprint distance race that took place every Thursday night in Nahant. He was immediately hooked! And from there, the rest is history, with races of every distance from sprint to Ironman under his competitive belt!
Kurt has competed and trained athletes in all distances of triathlon from sprint to Ironman, has raced on the road for about 10 years, but his passion for dirt has never wavered. As a triathlete competing in Xterra races, mountain biking and cyclocross, that’s where he is most at home. Currently a Cat 2 XC mountain bike racer and a Cat 3 Master’s cyclocross racer, you can usually recognize him by the dirty smile on his face at the end of every race. In addition to racing, Kurt has actively managed and developed Comprehensive Racing, a multisport, running and cycling team, since 2001.
Kurt holds a BS in Biomedical Engineering with a concentration in Biomechanics from Boston University and is a USAC Certified Level 3 coach and is USA Olympic Committee Safe Sport Certified.
For my first blog post, I will be writing about something that is foremost in my mind in regards to training at the moment: anxiety Firstly, a little bit about myself. From a young age, I was always shy and nervous. It took many years of unsubstantiated panic attacks and general discomfort in social situations to finally think, “maybe I should see a doctor.” I was diagnosed with generalized and social anxiety disorder. At the time I was quite alarmed and worried, but as of now it all makes sense and I’ve learned to manage it day-to-day. Similarly at a young age, I fell in love with cycling because of the speed the pros could go, but when I started to immerse myself more, I found the solitary nature of riding to be so freeing from all the stress and anxiety that I didn’t even realize I had, not to mention the myriad of benefits that exercise gives for the psyche. When I started working with Shayne, the organization that coaching gave to my life was a frankly immeasurable benefit. Coaching and cycling got me through one of the lowest points of my life. So long as there was an email from TrainingPeaks in the morning telling me what I’d be doing to improve myself, it could have been raining fire outside and I’d be okay. As a result, it was very easy to get comfortably complacent and watch the training days and months roll by. Of course, with that kind of consistency, you’re gonna see results. And that’s what we all want, right? Well somewhat unfortunately for me, all those results have propelled me to the elite ranks of track cycling. Prior to races, I’ve been experiencing panic attacks so bad that I’ve considered not racing. Couple this with all the work and sacrifices I’ve made over the years along with a burning desire to have all that effort culminate into good results, and competition is becoming very stressful. So stressful that I’m wondering if the initial benefit of day-to-day anxiety reduction still balances out the amount of stress I feel before and during competition, as well as the frustration I feel afterwards. Even my training is beginning to suffer as I have thoughts of, “What’s the point?” And, “Who made this so damn difficult for me?”
* I should say at this point as a disclaimer that I am not a mental health professional and that this post is not meant to serve as a proper treatment for anyone’s health. It is merely meant to serve as an anecdotal, first-hand account of my attempts to improve my performance and serve as a set of suggestions or as a potential guideline, should you feel that my situation applies to yours. We’re all different athletes, and results may vary 🙂 *
So my treatment needs to be two-pronged: The first needs to deal with the day-to-day stress of training, and the second needs to deal with staying calm in the moments surrounding and during a track race.
A quick search of articles regarding overcoming performance anxiety reveals several consistent actions to take:
–Accepting anxiety: They are real fears, but not allowing them to control you. I’m going to try to say things like “Man, I’m nervous!” or “This must be really important!” in a sarcastic way. This will allow me not only to express my emotions, but also accept them and frame them in a way that doesn’t let them take control. It’ll also inject a sense of humor into the event. The last time I was nervous was at what was basically a training series. It wasn’t Olympic trials, it wasn’t National Championships. And even if it was, let’s all keep in mind that riding bikes is fun, and we have to make sure that happens at any level of competition.
–Meditation/Visualization: Do the mental work to make sure you’re focusing on positive outcomes. Those who have wrestled with depression or anxiety before are undoubtedly familiar with that little voice inside your head telling you that you’re going to fail, or that something bad is going to happen so you shouldn’t try. It can be easy to let those thoughts wash over you and put you in a downward spiral. It takes real work and self-awareness to break that cycle and to think things like, “I’m going to finish in the top ten” or “I’m going to focus on saving my energy and use it for a good result”. It takes effort to do that, but it’s possible.
-Arriving early is arriving on time: Nothing like showing up to an event late and not just warmed up, but exhausted because you’ve been stressed the whole way there. Take necessary time to prepare for a punctual arrival to an event. Pack your car and food the night before, have breakfast made, check the traffic before you leave. I always tell myself, “Do everything you can the night before”
-Training how you race: At GC Coaching, we try to make sure that your workouts prior to your season or event are tailored to how you will be performing and what sort of athlete you are. Muscle Tension Efforts if you’re going to be climbing, or crit specific efforts if you’re going to be racing short, sweet races. While performing these specific efforts, it can be useful to visualize yourself using these efforts during a race. If you’re knocking out 1 minute efforts, imagine them being the last-minute before the final lap. Beyond that, if you are lucky enough to have a winter bike and a racing bike, once the weather is starting to break, maybe pull out the race rig to remind yourself how it handles.
-Have a plan, basic or complex: As mentioned above, visualizing positive outcomes is an important technique. Sometimes putting together a plan can help you put those positive thoughts into actions. Be aware that having an overly complex plan might be difficult to execute and add to your anxiety, though it could be something to focus on that will take you out of the moment. For myself, my plans are always very simple and usually are something like the above such as, “Just find a good wheel to follow and stick tight to it”
-Focus on the task rather than the outcome: Those plans can also help you focus more on the process of competition, rather than the goal. This can help take your attention off of the nerve-wracking desire to succeed and place it on more important matters, like staying close to a good wheel.
-Forcing positivity: Grab a breath and crack a joke to the guy next to you! Unless you’re breaking away solo, of course. Again, riding bikes is fun, so force yourself to focus on that. Or try to smile. If you’re moving along in a fast pack, think of how quick you’re moving and just how awesome that is. Injecting humor and positivity into the situation can help distract you from your anxiety.
-Focus on breathing: This will hitch up well with your meditation, during which you should focus on your breathing and pushing away negative thoughts. While this may be hard to do when you’re on the rivet pushing hard, the rhythm of your breathing can be a consistent pattern in the maelstrom of racing.
It can be hard to not be biased against yourself, especially if you’re struggling with anxiety. If you’ve been practicing pulling yourself out of that negative cycle before competition, use that skill to pull yourself out of chastising yourself after a race, regardless of the outcome. As athletes, we should all be pretty well used to listening to what our bodies are telling us. Try to remember areas of the competition in which you felt good. Maybe you were bridging up to a breakaway, or maybe your CX skills work has been paying off and you’re hopping barriers left and right. Realize your strengths and use them to your advantage during your next competition.
Accept your mistakes but don’t dwell on them. Realize what you could do better next time and move on. This can be tough if you’re tough on yourself. Don’t let that downward spiral of negativity happen and realize that you can always do better.
Some sources also suggest that analyzing the source of fear or anxiety yields limited success; exploring your fears can validate them. For example: realizing that at the start line you maybe had a bad winter and think that your perceived lack of fitness may result in getting dropped. You may start to focus on all the things that happened over the winter that prevented you from training consistently and rather than focusing on the race itself and using the fitness you have available, you’ll feel negative thoughts that will distract you from the moment
As far as day-to-day stress, we are all no doubt aware that the joy of improving at a sport we love and competing can bring significant stress as well. Work stress affecting our training, not having enough time to train, poor nutrition, the list goes on. As an example, I live in an apartment with two tenants living on the two floors above. Recently they both complained to the landlord about noises coming from the plumbing or furnace or something. We soon put two and two together and realized that the noise was my trainer and rollers. In order to keep everyone happy, I moved my training equipment to a nearby friend’s place. At the time, I was very upset that yet another obstacle was put in my way. Some of these techniques can be used to help mitigate that frustration. Meditation will likely be a useful tool for me. I’ve had it suggested to me in the past by therapists to help ease my anxiety before I raced.
And also focusing on the process rather than the outcome. When climbing a mountain, don’t focus how big it is, just focus on getting to the next switchback. Similarly, if training seems like this huge mountain, and obstacle after obstacle keeps stacking up, making it higher, just focus on throwing your leg over the bike, rather than the hours you have to put in, or the drive you have to make and so on.
My next competition is considered something of a season opener for east coast track cyclists, the Lucarelli and Castaldi Six Days of Kissena, in Queens, New York. The first race is tomorrow! That means I will unfortunately not be able to enact some of the longer-term solutions such as meditation, but I will be trying out these techniques prior to and during my races and I will report back with how it went. Wish me luck!
Oh, the first 2 weeks of January…You are FILLED with social media gym check-ins, diets, cleanses, scales, and other bologna. People love to “make a New Years resolution” and you will often hear “What’s your resolution this year?” in frequent passerby conversation. Well, I have some news for you resolutionists, according to Norcross and Vangarelli (1988-89) “Seventy-seven percent maintained their pledges for 1 week but only 19% for 2 years.” and furthermore, according to Huffpost, only 8% of people actually stick to them. I am also confident you have experienced first hand the failure rate of people around you, and perhaps even yourself. So, instead of repeating the same process and expecting a different result (insanity, anyone?), let’s can the old resolution mindset (I have never liked that word anyways), and instead embrace the positive “life change” mindset. As the former tends to be restrictive and finite, the latter is meant to be incremental, flexible, and indefinite, because guess what? A “30 day fix” doesn’t fix ANYTHING! So, how do we go about fostering positive life changes? I am glad you asked 🙂
Step 1: Set SMALL AND EASILY ATTAINABLE Goals Initially (incremental)
The #1 mistake I see people make is setting ridiculously restrictive and virtually impossible goals off the bat (IMO). “I want to cut all carbs this year”, or “I want to lose 50 pounds”, blah, blah, blah. These goals are a mountain, when you’re not even ready to climb a mole hill yet. So, taking the above examples:
“I want to cut all carbs this year” is better stated “I want to change 1 meal per week and make a less carbohydrate dense choice”.
And, “I want to lose 50 pounds” is better stated “I want to lose 5 pounds”.
Of course, if the end result is the original statements, you can get there, but remember goals needs to be flexible, incremental, and indefinite. So, 1 meal per week can quickly become 4 meals per week over the course of a month, and even more thereafter. Just as 5 pounds of weight loss extrapolated over the course of 8 months can be 50 pounds eventually. Most importantly though, winning all of these small battles over the course of your life change will result in a positive feedback loop which will motivate you even further. Win-win!
As you go further down the road, then your goals can become more challenging.
Step 2: Expect Failure and Resistance (flexible)
The #2 mistake I see is people expecting to make a lifestyle change practically overnight and not foreseeing the resistance and will-power challenges that it takes.
As mentioned above, setting small and attainable goals will hopefully decrease this, but you need to be flexible and expect and embrace failure and resistance. “Everything in moderation” is another great way to think of this concept. If you set a goal of cutting out sugar, give yourself a few times per week to satisfy that craving (be flexible), BUT incrementally reduce the amount you eat over the course of the month or even year. I can guarantee feeding that craving initially will result in greater compliance and better results in the long terms.
Failure IS an option, as long as it’s temporary and you use it as a learning experience and not an implosion.
Step 3: Stick With It! (indefinite)
The #3 mistake is people falling for the trap of an easy solution. The “30 day fix”, or only using certain containers for your foods (I wonder how many Swedish Fish I can cram in my sugar one… 😉 ) and other complete non-sense. STOP FALLING FOR THE TRAPS, PEOPLE! Anything that’s worth doing is a challenge and never easy (at least in my experience) and just like in most everything in life, the more work put in = better results.
I am not saying it’s going to be easy, I am saying it’s going to be WORTH IT!
Make this the year to stop making resolutions and start making positive life changes! Set goals that are incremental, flexible, and indefinite. Start off slow, expect some bumps in the road, and understand it is going to be hard at times, but it is definitely going to be WORTH IT!
GC Coaching Virtual Training is a 3 phase program consisting of 8 weeks of structured and progressive training geared towards cyclists and triathletes of all abilities to get you in the best shape possible coming into Spring. You can easily export all of the workouts to your favorite devices or software to make following your program easy. There is also a closed Facebook group where you can talk directly with your coach and other participating athletes. The best part is you can do these workouts from the comfort of your own home and at any time you want!
HOW DOES IT WORK?
-You can use a smart trainer, or a regular trainer with a power meter / heart rate monitor, and / or just a speed sensor!
-All of the workouts can be found in your personal TrainingPeaks account that you will create. You will receive an e-mail after payment with instructions on how to do this. The workouts can be easily exported to your favorite devices and/or training software from your calendar.
-If you need to shift around the days of the workouts, simply adjust them in your personal TrainingPeaks calendar by dragging and dropping them.
-We recommend connecting your TrainingPeaks account and a Zwift account for the easiest way to train. After you connect your accounts, you will find each workout of the day on Zwift under the “TrainingPeaks Custom Workouts” tab when you login.
-8 weeks of structured training created by a Level 2 USA Cycling power based certified coach.
-5 workouts per week.
-Access to the GC Coaching virtual training closed Facebook group. Here you will have exclusive access to ask questions to your coach and other participating athletes, learn more about nutrition, hydration, and other training topics, and get to know your fellow members. Invitation to the Facebook group will be sent to the e-mail you register with, so please be sure to use the e-mail linked to your Facebook account.
-A TrainingPeaks basic account.
-A weekly Zwift Group Workout on Sunday mornings (8 AM EST).
*The online program starts Monday, January 1st, but because it’s all “online” you have the flexibility to complete the workouts on your own schedule.*