Category Archives for Biking

Making the Most out of Your Bike Trainer

Most people are well aware of the benefits of riding a trainer in the off season. The key for the best results is to make sure your rides are targeted. Check out this audio for 3 tips.



Great Sport Specific Strength Workout

If you are guilty of just riding or only doing high intensity bike rides, then you’ll definitely want to give this workout a try.  The purpose of this workout is to develop on this bike strength.  The intensity is not so much a cardio pump, but you should feel it more in your leg muscles.  This is perfect for the beginning of you r season and as you build into the first race, you can modify this strength session to work its way closer to a race specific focus by increasing the cadence a bit.  Give this workout a try and let me know how your legs feel….the next day.

 

W/U 10-20 easy spin @ 85 – 95rpm @ Z-2 effort with some efforts in Z3 and Z4.  The purpose of the warm up is to prime your body for what’s ahead.

Main Set:
5 x 5 min @ 50-60RPM @ low Z-3
with 3-5min recovery spin between sets at a high cadence – 90 RPM +.
.
W/D with left over time @ 90RPM+ in Z-2

Remember,  you should feel it in the leg muscles more than anything else.

 

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Not All Triathletes Should Learn How to Spin

If you have a power meter and are aware of your functional threshold power (FTP), then you also know what cadence you typically ride at to produce that power.  Athletes can reach their FTP through a lower cadence (80-85) and some hit their FTP at a higher cadence(96-99).  This cadence is your “go to” comfort cadence.   When you try to elevate your FTP, it would be wise to focus on the easiest gains.  

For example, if I normally spin at 98 RPM to reach my FTP, then my bike training can really benefit from some lower cadence riding.  A high cadence rider usually has a well develop neuromuscular firing pattern and a strong cardio system to help them achieve their power, but what is missing with some of these high cadence athletes is the ability to apply large amounts of force to the pedals.  I would call this a “gap” in their ability.  Focusing on bridging this gap is the quickest way to realize power gains.

An grinder or low cadence rider has the force, but is perhaps lacking in the neuromuscular department.  I would have this athlete focus on some fast cadence drills to help improve their overall power.  Once their ability to apply large amounts of force to the pedals meets the newly developed neuromuscular firing patters, then we have a nice combination.

Applying drills such as low cadence/big gear work and spinning drills needs to have a purpose and a goal.  Assigning tons of spin drills to an athlete who is already a great spinner, is not the wisest use of training time.  Look at your “gaps” and figure out what drills will help you to bridge these gaps.

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Follow Up to – Why Long Rides Don’t Make You Faster

A few weeks ago I posted a write up about Why Long Rides Don’t Make you Faster and I had a number of follow up questions about this so I thought I’d take a minute to clarify a few points about high intensity intervals within your bike training.

First, let me start by saying that if you have any sort of injury or unusual tightness in your legs or glutes, then I would save the higher intensity intervals until you are 100%. Secondly, I’m also assuming you have been through a proper bike fit.  A poor bike fit + high intensity intervals = a good chance of injury.  

Beginner Triathletes– If you are new to riding, then just about every ride you do will contribute to improving your fitness and speed.  Your tendons, ligaments and muscles have not quite adjusted to the cycling specific motion and when placed under load, you have the potential to overdo it.  When first starting out, keep hard intervals to a minimum, if at all.

If you are beyond the beginner stage, keep on reading.

Who can benefit?  If you have been riding consistently for more than a year, these higher intensity intervals will definitely boost your performance. Start by adding short amounts of Threshold intervals.  If you are new to intervals, I would keep this to about 40- 50 minutes for the entire week and never more than 30 minutes in a single session.  Break up the interval in to small manageable chunks of time.  Five to twelve minutes work well for most newbies.  Allow anywhere from 2 minutes up to 5 minutes of recovery.  Complete these early in your rides when you are fresh, both mentally and physically.  Once they are done, continue on with your ride.  Over time your body will adjust and your cruising pace will put your riding buddies in a world of hurt.

Who can REALLY benefit?  If you have been riding for 3 or more years , and the thought of a 90 mile ride doesn’t leave you paralyzed with fear, your Ironman  and half ironman bike times have been relatively stagnant for the last few years, and you are not a stranger to hard work, then these higher intensity intervals will rock your world.  The first thing you need to do is shift your focus and accept that the training load of a ride is equal to both volume and intensity (Training Load = Volume + Intensity).  Altering either of these variables can define how much work  you are doing.  Most people default to volume to define the meaning of a tough ride.  The problem  with placing too much emphasis on volume is that you are often caught in between a really hard effort and a moderate effort.  Sending too much time in this dead zone for a long ride means extended recovery on top of the fact that your hard effort wasn’t really hard enough to bring about the changes you are looking for.  

If you are training for an Ironman, I would suggest making  your key ride for the week a 3-3.5 hour ride. Keep in mind, these are not just “go out and ride” kind of workouts.  Every 4th or 5th weekend, you can mix in a longer distance ride at or just below your Ironman race pace.  As you get close to your event, these focused rides will start to extend into the 4 hour range. After 4 hours most athletes start to lose steam.  You can also really reap big gains by  adding a second, less intense,  ride the next day. Keep this to under 2 hours. For first time Ironman athletes, I would add more long rides.  This is more for the psychological/mental benefit more than anything else.  Most new Ironman athletes would flip if I only had them complete one or two really long rides in prep for their Ironman.

The purpose of this post is to expose you to the idea that your training doesn’t have to be all about volume. A little purposeful intensity goes a long way. This approach to training shapes our coaching philosophy as well as our how we write up our programs.  We take your unique training background and combine it with a specific plan of attack to bring about the most gains for YOU.

 

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Using TSS and IF Scores

Using the TSS  and IF scores provided by Training Peaks  can be valuable in your training. In order to calculate your TSS score, Training Peaks needs to know your Threshold pace for running and your threshold power for biking.  TSS then takes into account the time you spent below, above and at this threshold intensity.  The Intensity Factor (IF) rating is a percentage of your actual power or pace in relation to your threshold power or pace.  All of these scores are dependent upon the accuracy of your threshold pace and power logged into Training Peaks.

THRESHOLD

Using heart rate TSS (hrTSS ) is not as reliable unless you are riding at a very steady effort.  Intervals with spikes in heart rate and intensity will not translate well to an accurate hrTSS or IF.

Monitoring TSS

The best way to use TSS and IF is when you compare workouts; specifically, your harder sessions.  For example, let’s say I am coaching an athlete who’s TSS score is dropping on consecutive weekends.  Assuming they are doing the same volume or more from week to week,  then they are not recovering from their workouts and I will immediately cut their intensity and volume. Using IF is a great way to compare the intensity of workouts assuming they are the same volume.  

Using Hr TSS to monitor training is another metric to analyze performance, but I would not depend on it entirely. TSS generated by the use of a power meter is very precise and reliable.  rTSS is a close second to power TSS,  assuming  you have the correct Threshold pace identified.  rTSS allows you to accurately compare scores from multiple runs.

Racing by TSS and IF

This is completely an individual factor so to throw out targets for a race would be a generalization.  Personally, I do well when I race at a TSS score of a 285 and an IF of .75 for my Ironman.  For my half Ironman, my magic number is a TSS of 185 and IF of .83.  This allows me to run to my potential.  It’s important to note than in a race situation, I have the ability to go harder, but when I do it starts to cut into my run time.

Using HrTSS for racing is not nearly as predictable.

For much more information about TSS and IF, check out –http://support.trainingpeaks.com/athlete-edition/training-stress-scores.aspx#hrTSS

 

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Why Going Long Doesn’t Make You Faster

Assuming you have some experience racing, the biggest obstacle to a faster bike split is your ability to ride at a higher intensity and NOT your ability to ride for a longer distance.  It’s a mistake to assume that if you want to ride fast for your next Ironman, then you should practice riding the distance.  As you increase your distance it’s necessary to also dial down your intensity and this backing off of intensity compromises your speed. The more volume you log, the more your body needs to back off to make this happen and the end result is that your body becomes accustomed to riding at a lower intensity.  Sure this will allow you to complete the race, but you are robbing yourself of speed. 

You also have the problem of recovery and adaptation.  Logging mega rides every weekend places a big load on your body and the time it takes to recover and adapt can often take more than a few days.  If this time is spent trying to get in other training such as swimming and running, then your body heads into a survival mode and the subsequent training is often low quality. If you notice your power is dropping week after week, then it’s time to ditch the long rides.

How short?  There are two things you need to consider when creating a workout – volume and intensity.  Together, these determine the training stress of a ride.  If you are using a power meter (you should have one if you are beyond your second year of racing), then Garmin or Training Peaks will have a Training Stress Score (TSS) for each ride.  On your long rides, make it your goal to ride close to the TSS you plan to race at.  For example, my Ironman bike TSS is usually in the 215 -240 range.  I can create this score by riding hard intervals for about 3 hours and 30 minutes.  If I were to ride at my ironman pace for 3:30, then my score would be much lower. By adjusting my intensity, I can achieve the same TSS as a 5:30 ride would give me.   My wife and kids love these shorter rides!!

How often should you ride long? Long rides do have their place.  While most of my rides are under 3:30, I will extend my distance close to 100 miles every so often just to test out my race day wattage.  The purpose of these long rides is much different than my shorter, higher intensity rides.  My goal is to rehearse my nutrition, hydration and pacing.  I often finish these long rides with a short run to see how my legs hold up. Each athlete is different.  Some of my athletes need to go through this more often because they need the psychological affirmation that they can ride the distance.  Others can get by with 2 of these rides in their build up to Ironman.

Before you start logging mega miles to get you ready for your next Ironman, consider the purpose of each ride.  What is your goal?  Each athlete brings a different background to the sport so there is not a one size fits all approach.  How much intensity, how often, and how much long distance will vary significantly from athlete to athlete.  When you get the balance right between volume and intensity, expect to be blown away at your next race.

 

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Change in Power After Bike Change

I have been riding my road bike for about 2.5 months and I just recently raced it in my last half ironman.  I noticed that my normal power ranges which I can hold on my TT bike were really tough to hit on my road bike -not only in training, but also in this last race.  

I finally got a TT bike and I was anxious to see how my power measured up.  Since May 21st, my weekday repeats have been along the same exact route that I repeat for each interval.  I have three days worth of repeats (6 repeats total) of intervals on my road bike.  The last interval set (2 total) on June 7th was completed on my TT bike.  Oh, the power meter I use is a hub based Power Tap so I was using the same power meter for all these efforts.  Here is what the results showed.

Observations – I had a lot less body movement while maintaining this power.  The steeper seat angle allows me to open up my hip angle and stay low with much more ease. 

Position Changes – On my road bike I ride at a 75 degree seat angle.  Sitting in this angle and maintaining an aero position closes off the hip angle (torso and femur), resulting in a less than ideal position for maintaining continuous power.  On my TT postion, the geometry of my frame allows my to ride closer to an 81 degree seat angle, resulting in a much more open hip angle and an even lower front profile.  I have tight hips and hip flexors so the opening up of the angle really allows me to produce power more efficiently.

NP RESULTS

Improve Your Bike Speed

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Evaluating Your Hill Repeats

Make sure your hill repeats are targeting a specific intensity.  Here’s a look at a session of hill repeats where I share some observations and tips.

 

 

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Meet Osmo – My Hydration and Nutrition Strategy

My nutrition and hydration strategy has significantly evolved since I first started racing Ironman distance over 8 years ago.
OsmoAll of this changed when I discovered Osmo Hydration  back in July of 2012.  Dr. Stacy Sims, the founder and brains behind Osmo, introduced a concept of “food in the pocket and hydration in the bottle”. While the Osmo hydration does contain calories, it is a small amount designed to help with the fluid absorption once it enters the stomach.  Check out the attached video. This small amount of calories is not meant to be a calorie source. That’s where the “food in the pocket” comes into play.   Dr. Stacy Sims encourages the use of real food for  your calorie source, especially when on the bike.  In particular, relying on real food rather than engineered nutrition provides the best results and gives your stomach the best chance of keeping your gut in check.

Here’s a quick look at how I use the Osmo “food in the pocket and hydration in the bottle” principles while racing Ironman and half ironman tritathlons. Below is my Ironman strategy.

I always carry  two bottles when I race. I have a  26 ounce Speedfill aero bottle mounted on my bars which contains the recommended concentration of Osmo Hydration or Skratch Labs (almost the same exact formula as Osmo). I also carry a concentrated solution of Osmo/Skratch which includes  4 -5 servings for a full IM. These servings are calculated based on a 26 ounce bottle.  My concentrated solution in my   down tube bottle is marked  to show 5 equal servings. During the race I  simply add my pre-measured concentrate from my extra bottle into the Speedfill bottle and I refill  the remainder with water at  an aid station.    Depending on the weather, I aim for 23 – 30 ounces of fluid per hour. I stick to the fluid recommendations found on Osmo’s website. I also use the Osmo Pre Load for warmer weather racing.

For my solid calories, I use a homemade bar. Ingredients include oatmeal, small amount of white flour, protein powder, brown rice syrup, a few chocolate chips, some brown sugar.  I also add a some amino acids and sodium citrate.

I would highly recommend the Osmo products or Skratch Labs.  Formulas are similar.

Half Ironman Mental Game

You’re going to battle the demons at some point in the race and chances are it will be during the run.  Here are my suggestions to deal with this .

Half Ironman Mental Game

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Exercising at Altitude

Here’s a good overview of the challenge of altitude.

“Ever wondered why you breathe harder and faster when you’re working out at a higher altitude than that to which you’re accustomed?  In colloquial terms, we often say that at elevation,the air is thin, or that there’s less oxygen in the air.  What does this mean, though, particularly in light of the fact that whether you’re at sea level or on top of Mount Everest, every breath you take is 21% oxygen?”

http://trailandultrarunning.com/the-chemistry-of-high-altitude-running/

Hydration and Nutrition Resources for Ironman Athletes

I am frequently asked about what I recommend for hydration and nutrition.  Nutrition is such an individual consideration, but there are some universal principles that are helpful.  I use many of the recommendations set forth in the articles/links below.    Take some time to review these and then experiment for yourself.

Gels – Why to avoid them
 
Hydration

Fueling

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Gear Order

   Tech Shirts – $15

Available in men’s and women’s styles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   Headsweat Visors – $20

 

 
   

   Polar Fleece Beanie – $10

 

 

 

   Trucker Hat – $10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get the Most Out of Your Indoor Trainer with the Sufferfest Videos

I prefer to ride outdoors, but with less daylight and limited time, indoor rides become a necessity. When paired with a good fluid trainer, you can get so much out of an indoor workout. The last thing you want to do is approach an indoor ride with no plan – it will bore you to tears. Lately, I have been using the The Sufferfest videos to help keep me focused.

These videos are better than any cycling video I have ever used. I highly recommend these as they will help push you. The key to improving your bike speed it to spend time outside of your comfort zone – in the form of intervals. If you watch a movie while you ride, there is a real good chance that you are not working hard enough to get any real benefit out of your ride. Don’t fall into the trap of a lazy ride, especially indoors.

The scale of 1-10 that the videos use pair nicely with your power zones if you train with a power meter.

Level 10 = Anaerobic
Level 9 = VO2 Max
Level 7-8 = Threshold
Level 6 = Tempo
Level 5 = Endurance
Level 4 and below = Recovery

If you use heart rate, you’re better off going by perceived effort as the heart rate response will delayed and most likely off because you are indoors.

These videos are available as downloads and are less expensive than anything out there. You can buy the videos individually or buy the whole package. You will NOT be disappointed with these videos. Check out this sample overview

Use this link below to get your videos.  I like them all, but if you want to try one out I would suggest Local Hero.

Developing Power on the Bike

Bike speed is all about power production.  Power naturally increases as a passive result of training(especially if you are just beginning), but it can also be developed through more active means.  This is the purpose of intervals, higher intensity threshold  work,  and hill repeats (although these also achieve other physiological benefits).

P = F(v)….power equals force times velocity.  The force is the amount of force you exert on the pedals and velocity represents how fast you can turn the pedals over.  You can generate more power by increasing either of these. If you are in a gear and spinning at 89 rpms and you increase your rpms to 95 while in the same gear, then this will result in more power and a faster bike speed.  The cost to you is a higher heart rate, especially if your neuromuscular patterns have not been conditioned to turn the pedals at this rate(independent of a significant load).  Training the neuromuscular firing patterns should be a part of your training.

Of course, training for cadence without addressing power would only have a small impact on your overall speed.   You have to address power as well.  Completing your intervals, hill repeats and big gear work will help your power.  Combining more power with even a small increase in cadence will result in a faster bike split.  Your aerobic base will allow you to comfortably sustain the higher cadence.

Your ability to produce power is cadence specific.  For example, I have a hard time generating “x” watts of power at a lower cadence.  My optimal power generating cadence is 94 – 100.  Each person is different and has natural cadence tendencies, but this is also something that can be trained.  I bring this up to remind you that your training cadence should be the same as your racing cadence.  Specifically, when you complete your intervals, make sure you are doing these at a cadence that you plan to race at.  Anytime you race and spend outside of a cadence that you have not trained at, your run will suffer.  Make sure you address a variety of cadences as you ride, especially if you plan on doing a course with rolling hills.

I am unable to get my heart rate high enough for my VO2 Max intervals on the bike. What should I do?

Question: I am unable to get my heart rate high enough for my VO2 MAx intervals.  What should I do?

Answer: As long as you are going at a pace/intensity that you know you can’t  maintain for more than 3-5 minutes, then you are right where you need to be….when using heart rate.  If you are unable to hit your V02 Max power zones happens while using power as your guide, then you should cut the intervals altogether because your body will be caught in no man’s land and we won’t be developing the system these VO2 Max intervals are designed to target.