Balance: An Introduction to Left/Right Power Data

Hunter explains the concepts, analysis, and benefits of data collected with a power meter that measures each leg's power output separately from total power.

Annual Periodized Planning, Part 2

It has been said that if you fail to plan, you may as well plan to fail. If you want to get the most out of your training program, you need a plan. Click to read more!

Periodizing Your Transition Period

The days are getting shorter, the big events have passed, and our attention is turning to preparation for next season. Tim explains how the proper design and execution of this off-season phase pays big dividends later.

Five Key Attributes of Winning Athletes

Winners think differently. They are constantly focused on moving forward, getting things done, taking action, and improving. Click through for more about why winners win!

Power Training Zones 101

Determining our power zones is one of the most basic elements of power training. Click through to read more about each zone and how they work together.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

5 Training Secrets - David Ertl

by Coach David Ertl

I am going to let you in on a little secret.  My secrets of coaching.  Shhh.  Don’t tell anyone. But here they are.
1. Ride consistently.  There is no better way to get better riding a bike than to ride frequently. Every day is great if you can manage it, but 4 days a week is better than 3, which is better than 2.  The idea is to get your body used to riding and by doing it almost every day, your body will respond and reward you by feeling stronger and more comfortable on the bike.  Even if all you can manage is 15 minutes, that is better than an hour on the couch. Get out there and do it.
2. Ride far. Cycling is an aerobic and endurance activity.  To get fit for cycling you first and foremost have to have aerobic, or cardiovascular, fitness so that you can pump blood to your lungs and working muscles efficiently.  The best and first way you should do that is by getting out and riding, lots. It doesn’t have to be fast. Time in the saddle and distance are the most important metrics here. Especially for a ride like RAGBRAI, the ability to ride for a long time is preeminent.
3. Ride fast. Intervals aren’t just for racers anymore. If you want to ride faster, you need to ride faster than you normally ride.  Makes sense, right?  But like eating right, it’s harder to do than say. Riding fast is hard, and uncomfortable and some people don’t think it’s very fun.  So you have a choice. Be happy riding the pace you ride now, which is perfectly acceptable for RAGBRAI as long as you are able to ride 10 mph or so. But, if you would like to be faster, then build some speed work into your training.  This can be done in a number of ways but here are a couple.  From time to time on rides, just increase the pace by 2-3 mph and hold that for 30 seconds or a minute and then go back to your normal cruising speed.  You can do these at regular intervals (hence the name ‘intervals’) or just stick them in randomly during a ride.  Or you can find a house with a mean dog that chases you and ride by it several times.
4. Rest is training too. Many people I coach think that they have to keep doing more, more, more, when in fact what they might need most is doing less. If you do 1-3 above and do them a lot, you may be reaching a point where you are doing a lot of training (damage to your muscles) without giving them enough time to heal.  Remember an important rule of training:  Training breaks your body down, recovery is what makes it stronger.  If you feel tired or your muscles are sore the day after a hard ride, take it easy or take the day completely off (couch, anyone?).  As long as you are putting the training in, it’s okay to be lazy the rest of the time. You can tell your spouse I said so.
5. Cycling is a great exercise, but not perfect. Sorry to tell you, but if you want to have well-rounded fitness, you should add in some other exercises into your exercise program.  Consider some weight training to build muscles other than your legs.  Make sure you are working your core muscles – no sit-ups but things like planks and Pilates are great. Do some cross training like running, hiking, rowing to work your muscles differently and to work different muscles.  It’s also good for your mental health to add variety to your routine.  Running away from the refrigerator before bed is another good exercise.
6. Okay, I lied, I just thought of another one.  Eating is fueling.  Eating isn’t just for recreation anymore (really!). Your body needs energy from food to move. When exercising the body burns fat and carbohydrate (sugar, starch).  The harder you ride, the more carbohydrate you need.  Therefore to have energy for a good ride, be sure to include good quality carbohydrates in your diet, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans.  You don’t need to increase the amount of fat you eat, even though you are burning fat while you ride.  I’ve heard that the average human has enough stored body fat to ride from New York to Utah.  That’s farther than RAGBRAI by the way.  You should also get in adequate but not excessive protein.  Lean meats, fish, non-fat dairy, beans, nuts are all good choices.
There you have it, (almost) all you need to know about training.
David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 Coach. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team, JDRF Ride To Cure Diabetes and individual cyclists through the Peaks Coaching Group. He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: http://www.CyclesportCoaching.com . He can be contacted at coach@cyclesportcoaching.com.

Virginia's Ben King Wins Tour Of California Stage Two

Stage 2 Tour of California Race File analysis!
By Hunter Allen

Virginia boy shows good…..AGAIN!

Ben King won stage 2 of the Tour of California in great style.  Ben is known for success in his long breakaways, as he won his first big race, the Pro National Championships in a long break and just recently this past fall, he was in a 90 mile breakaway at the World Championships in Richmond, Va.  True to his successful pattern, Ben was aggressive on the first climb of the day, where his best 20 minutes of the race occurred at 411 watts up the initial climb to Angeles Crest Highway. He and Evan Huff battled for both KOM’s with Ben getting second on each, however their aggressiveness in going for the KOM points is what created the separation for the breakaway.  At the very top KOM, Ben sprinted with some of the biggest watts I have seen him ever do, averaging 1182W for 13 seconds, and a max of 1408W!




For the next two hours, Ben was in the breakaway with three companions and Ben averaged 330W normalized power for the entire time, so needless to say, he was working hard in the break!  The break gained over 7 minutes at one point and they needed every bit of that gap in order to make it to the finish.  There were two additional Sprint points and two more KOM’s in the stage as well, and Ben won both of the sprint points, while Evan took the KOM’s.  Normally, you would expect the riders in the race to pedal only about 85% of the time, spending the remaining 15% coasting and resting for the finish, however Ben only spent 9 minutes NOT pedaling in the 2 hour and 5 minute breakaway or .07% of the time!  Clearly he was doing his share of the load.



In the finish, Ben and Evan were able to drop the other two companions and that was largely because they both drilled it hard over the remaining hill, averaging 444W for over 3 minutes.  This really put the hurt on his breakaway companions.   In the final sprint, it was just Evan and Ben battling it out for the win and Ben was able to rest his legs averaging only 136W for 46 seconds, before the final sprint of 16 seconds where he killed it with a max power of 1302watts and averaging 1152W for the win!



Many thanks to Ben King for sharing his file!!  Way to go Ben!!



Image Credit: Cycling News - Read More about Ben King

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Chris Myers - Pre-season Testing and Training


Chris Myers, Coach, Peaks Coaching Group; USAC Level 2 Coach; Sports Nutritionist; CISSN
Chris joined the cycling team at the United States Military Academy as a sophomore in 2002. He started as a men’s Croad racer, and by his senior year in 2004, he became a men’s Aroad racer and team cocaptain. Upon graduation and two deployments to Iraq, Chris began racing on the military and German professional road and mountain bike circuits with many podium finishes. 

Chris is a doctoral candidate in exercise physiology at Florida State University and is a researcher at the Navy Experimental Dive Unit in Panama City Beach, FL.

COACHING PHILOSOPHY STATEMENT
training is not all about numbers. They are a good indicator of your training performance, but you must look at every other aspect of your program, including your schedules, stress, nutrition, sleep, and most importantly, family. A good coach recognizes this and helps you balance all these factors. I learned these lessons the hard way. I want to pass on my knowledge of training, racing tactics, preparation, and all other aspects of being a holistic athlete in order to assist you in reaching your goals and getting to the next level. Your training program is yours; it is not mine. I firmly believe I am simply a tool to help you improve and achieve your objectives. I will listen and work hard to assist you to achieve your goals.

PC: Talk about your definition of the preseason

CM: It is the training period before competition. More cyclists have an “event," an “A” race that they want to peak for. It could be the national/state road race, a sportif, or competitive club even; part of it depends on when they occur during the year and how many events they want to do within their "competition” season. Preseason is also when some base training would normally occur from November or December through March or April, depending on where you live. But this is driven by when the peak event occurs. I have clients in the Middle East where it is so hot in the summer, that the period between May and July is their preseason.

PC: Let's assume there is a recovery period right after the season. The
next step is base training to higher intensity. How does all that work?

CM: It all depends on duration and intensity, but there are two approaches to base training. The old school of thought is that you do a low, slow distance and keep it at moderate intensity. I am a proponent of the new way of thinking, which we use at Peaks Coaching. It is often refered to as "sweet spot base." The athlete does 20% high intensity and 80% sub-thresholdtype/ endurance training. The time duration is not as long as the old school thought. However, you increase the intensity a little bit while still working in the upper aerobic intensities. This method works well with those who have time constraints and do not have the ability to ride 20 hours a week. A lot of research produced by Dr. Andrew Coggan has substantiated the validity of this type of training. If you have the time, we have a period called “pre-competition,” where you still play on the two variables of duration and intensity. You do more work at threshold with high intensity and maybe some moderate Zone 6 work. As you move from base to pre-competition if you do the periodization correctly—the intensity increases and the duration shortens a bit. This is the period you can start to focus on higher intensity areas such as supra-threshold efforts and speed. Yet, the typical main focus is usually threshold and some Zone 5/VOMax work. Remember, the client’s strengths, weaknesses, limiters, and goals determine the focus. I tend to make client’s limiters the primary focus followed by a secondary focus that will drive training towards the client’s goal. For example, I may have great sprint abilities with a high 10 second output, but my 20 minute output is not so good. The goal is to do well in a road race, so I must work on my 20 minute power output to increase my time at threshold. Knowing your client’s strengths, limitations, and weakness helps the coach to determine the type of work that needs to be performed during the competition build and this is why it is so important to know your client.

PC: Are there tests you do to measure these parameters?

CM: Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.” The same holds true with data. In the context, we are talking about power. One still needs to consider heart rate, but it is a little different. Hopefully you have some past power data on the client to create a profile to analyze. You can build the power profile, but you also need to test it. I start from ground zero with testing. Most coaches(including me) have a systematic approach. I test 4 areas that can be broken down to aerobic and anaerobic realms. Anaerobically, we test the 10 second and 1 minute power with a couple of sprint protocols. On the aerobic side, we do the 5 minute and 20 minute power. The 20 minute power is especially important because it measures FTP, which determines the 6 different training zones that we use to design a program. Andy Coggan’s research reinforces the 20 minute test as being the most valid. Take the normalized power, multiply by 95% to get FTP, and from there we calculate the 6 different training zones. The entire test is 70 minutes in length with warm-up and recovery. The warm-up consists of 20 minutes with some spin efforts. The first portion is the 1 minute test. This can be done on a trainer or a flat piece of road with a 13% gradient. From a rolling start, they go as hard as they can for 1 minute, recover for 510 minutes, and do it again. They recover for 1015 minutes and then go into the 10 second sprint efforts. This can also be done on a trainer or the flat surface that the 1 minute test was done on. They do 3 x 10 second sprint efforts. They go hard for 10 seconds, relax, recover to around Zone 2 for 4 minutes and repeat twice again. The aerobic 5 and 20 minute tests are done at a different training session. We start with a 20 minute warm-up And do the 5 minute test to determine VO2 max. Recover for 10-15 minutes then go into the 20 minute test. In exercise physiology, you do the all out efforts first. You can do it in more than 2 sessions for the new athlete, but we try to get it done in two. We then retest after a training block as part of a periodization model.

PC: How do you consider the 5minute test a VO2 test?

CM: This test equates to the Zone 5 power in the short term. There is a correlation of doing these efforts in a lab setting. An athlete’s VOMax can only be truly test in a lab setting with a metabolic cart.

PC: What do you consider to be a successful preseason when?

CM: This is a subjective question; look at performance measures. In the annual training plan, work backwards from the “A” race to establish performance marks. For example, you set a goal of increasing your FTP by 2% or being able to hold and SST interval for 30 min. Another goal could be an increase of 35% in FTP by the end of the first competition build or holding FTP intervals for upwards to 20 minutes. During the preseason/base training , we know we are increasing the aerobic capacity, but we are also working on muscular endurance with the sub-threshold efforts. I consider a successful preseason/base training to be success if the client can hold a 2x20 min SST effort by the end of the base training block. However, it is not uncommon to see slight increases in FTP (such as a 12% increase in FTP) during the base training block. Another thing to examine is how the athlete performs in group rides or competitive settings. Do they hang on or excel? Its not all about the numbers; performance is the best measure of success I want to emphasize that every coach has their own approach. Most of us follow the same periodized theory, but there are different ways to train. I may work traditionally with one athlete, but train another a completely different manner. Sometimes you take an “outside-the-box” approach, so testing and knowing the client is crucial.

More info about Chris Myers click here

Article Re-posted with Permission

Original found in the Performance Cycling Conditioning Newsletter Volume 21 Number 3

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sync TrainingPeaks to Garmin Connect

Tired of syncing your workouts into multiple sites post workout?

Linking your Strava account to Garmin connect can take one step out of you post-workout activity.

Take it one step further and link your TrainingPeaks account to your Garmin connect account for painless activity uploads and syncing. 

Click Here to read a step by step guide 



Monday, March 28, 2016

Traveling With Your Bike - Options

You have this epic vacation planned. A place that will have world class rides and you have the time to ride. But how do you get your bike along safely?

We had some questions come in on this topic and we asked our coaches what they use. 


Here are the results:


Coach Len Pettyjohn:

I’ve easily used more than a dozen different bike carriers over the years with teams as well as solo trips. A few years ago I purchased the Bike Box Alan and now have the most versatile and secure carrier ever. A lot of thought went into the design and Alan took all the best features from the options out there and built them into his box. It’s only available online from the UK, but fortunately the dollar is strong so it’s a relatively good value.

Here are a couple of links, one of which rates it as a 10 (pretty much what you will find from all the reviewers.


Coach Julie McKenzie: 
Concur; especially with TSA not understanding how to repack a case, bikeboxalan has been awesome. There maybe be trouble with the clamshell shutting perfectly to re-clasp; per Bike Box Alan, ensure you store the case properly clasped to encourage the mold and works well!

Coach Todd Scheske: 
Gavilan BFF. No airline charge. Great bag. 
I've used it at least 6 times last year and never paid a bike free. Easy to use too!


Hunter Allen says:
“SCION” all the way.  All you have to remove are the wheels and pedals.
This soft case has traveled with him around the world.  Use extra packing materials just to be safe.


Happy and safe travels

Thursday, March 24, 2016

PCG Coach James Schaefer Reviews ErgVideo

So are you suffering from the trainer blues? No motivation to once again climb aboard and watch a stale video of other guys ride in the warm weather? Yup, that's me too!  Until a month ago I was riding a fluid trainer and watching old Tour of Battenkill videos. That has all changed!! Three months ago I made the best winter investment I could have, next to a snow blower… I got a CompuTrainer. What a great way to ride indoors. Until last week I thought indoor training couldn’t get any better, then I got a set of 3 ErgVideos, and that changed everything about indoor trainer riding… TrainerTainment! (Thanks to Tim Cusick for the new expression).



My first ride up L'Alpe d'Huez – yup, an hour and a half of climbing with a couple of pros. 

What makes this so different from any other trainer ride I have ever done is the "ERG" in the ErgVideo. When you start an ErgVideo you input your FTP into the program and your computer and CompuTrainer do the rest. You don't change gears, you ride at the same percentage of FTP as the guys on the screen. So if their FTP is 350 and yours is 250 the program creates enough resistance for you to ride at 250watts. At first this just didn't sound right… how do you change your cadence to pedal slower if you want to stand up… we are not changing gears, right? You just slow your cadence and the resistance is adjusted and you are still generating 250 watts. Yes, it’s that easy, and it feels as close to riding on the road as I have ever done on a trainer. The scenery is spectacular. You see every landmark that you see on the Tour. About 15 minutes from the end you climb into the clouds and just as you enter the Village of Huez the sun comes back out… just like in the Tour.

The next day I tried a different ErgVideo, microbursts and a tempo ride. I thought, "How is this going to work?" Climbing is one thing, but a workout on rolling terrain that has three by ten minute efforts that are 30-seconds at VOand 20-seconds at endurance, then a 30-minute tempo ride in a rotating paceline? Yes,this workout christened the pain cave - it is a hard workout. Remember,changing gears does nothing. The program sets the power output you need to produce. If you miss the beginning of the 30-second VO2 effort you really struggle to get the cadence back up before the end of 30 seconds. Well, there is a way to give yourself a little relief from these really hard efforts. You have the ability to adjust your FTP with the CompuTrainer handlebar controller. That is what I had to do near the end of this sufferfest.


This is my ride data for the microbursts and tempo. Check out the last 30 minutes at tempo.  The ErgVideo recreates a rotating paceline and the undulating terrain of Bedford, Virginia. You feel every pull you take and every change of road grade.  


Last but not least was the two by 20 minute under/over. This has a nice set of fast pedaling at the end to work on your efficiency. After the first two days of riding I was really intrigued as to how the fast pedal section was going to work. This is another really cool feature of this set-up. The power is kept low so you can really spin up. You see the guys in the video accelerate and there is just enough resistance so your knees don't hit you in the head at 180 RPMs.

You can get all these videos at http://ergvideo.com/, the Hunter Allen PowerPack. All of the ErgVideos run on PC but according to Paul Smeulders can run on a Mac with the proper Windows interface software.

Looking for some more motivation to get through those tough trainer sessions? Take a picture of yourself and give it the #onmytrainer, and see how everyone else is suffering along with you. Just think, some of the most significant snowfalls on the East Coast have occurred in March. So far the rodent was right!!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Using Nervousness To Win

By Hunter Allen, PCG CEO/Founder and Master Coach

 peaks coaching group hunter allen

There it is again, your old pal. It always shows up right before that big presentation at work, before you ask for that raise, and before each and every important race that you do. Nervousness. Are you nervous? Do you feel that old queasy feeling before your race? How do you deal with it? Do you get upset? Do you let it get to you? Or do you revel in the feeling and let its energy flow through your body?

If after all these years of training, and racing you still get those feelings, you’re probably in one of three camps: (1) you hate it and feel it’s the worst part of being a competitive athlete, (2) you’ve learned to deal with it and accept it as part of the experience, or (3) you’ve realized that it’s an essential part of you and your race (or project, etc.). Those in the third camp have recognized that feeling excited before a race is actually a great thing and something to look forward to. They realize that it’s just their bodies telling them their muscles are strong and ready for a peak performance. 

If you’re not in that third camp, I’d like to encourage you to recognize the inherent positive in the energy of “nervousness.” In fact, let’s stop calling it that. I think the word nervousness itself can bring on bad connotations, so I refer to the feeling as excitement instead. At some point in my career I decided to change the way I viewed excitement. I decided that instead of fighting the feeling and using essential race energy to fight it off, I would instead just let it run through my body and be used for a better performance. I’ve coached many athletes since then, and it’s interesting to see how each has a different way of dealing with this subject. 





The true professionals, Olympians, etc. are all in the third camp I mentioned above; they use the energy and make it work toward their advantage. Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Summer Sanders, and even the great one, Wayne Gretsky -- they all get excited. You just can’t tell it from watching them on TV. These top athletes have recognized the feeling of excitement as good, and they use it to raise their performance to even higher levels.

Have you ever been at a concert or gone dancing when a loud band was playing? You’re up there close to the stage, the music is good, the company is great, and you’re really enjoying yourself. It’s loud, but the rhythm is great and you can literally feel the music running through your body: the deep thump of the bass, the smooth rhythm of the guitar, the steady beat of the drums. What you’re feeling is the vibration of the music and energy coming from the instruments and the musicians themselves. You don’t resist this feeling; you just enjoy it and let it flow through your body. Bingo! You made a decision. Whether or not it was conscious, you allowed yourself to become part of the energy created by the band. 

Now, how does this relate to athletics and pre-event excitement? Well, it’s similar because when you get excited before a presentation or race, your body naturally creates energy that moves throughout your body. It’s a powerful force, so strong that many people aren’t comfortable with it at all. Many of us learned incorrectly somewhere in our past (maybe in the fifth grade) that it’s bad. Let’s say a kid is really excited before a school play because of holding a major role, only to have his belt come unbuckled during the play and his pants fall down, causing all of the kids to laugh at him. Boom, his brain now begins to associate excitement with embarrassment and failure. For the rest of his life, every time he gets excited he feels those impending signs of doom.

Your job is to change your thinking and your paradigm and to allow your mind to relax and enjoy the feeling that your body-mind connection is creating. Change the false beliefs about yourself and your body’s energy. Here’s the key: pay attention, allow yourself to let the feelings flow through you, and decide to enjoy them. Feel the energy flowing into your arms and hands and legs, through your chest, into your back, and up and down your spine. The next time you get excited, take a minute to sit back and really feel that energy. Once you’ve done that, compare it with the energy you felt when excited about a great success, maybe your wedding, your first race win, the birth of a child, a great training run, or a big promotion or raise. How does it compare? It’s the same feeling, right? It’s the same exact feeling as when you’re excited. They’re one and the same. It’s just our incorrect thought patterns and false beliefs that create a difference between the two supposedly different feelings.

The energy of your excitement is of great benefit to you in your everyday life and races; it opens you up, allows you to perform at your maximum, and gets you focused and ready for the effort. You must use it and realize how important it is to have those feelings. They’re good! Allow your body to flow with the energy. The next time you feel that excitement, you’ll know it means you’re ready for a peak performance in the office, in your training, or in your event. Recognize it, allow it, accept it as good and important, and then put it to good use.

Make it a healthy day!


 Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor ofTraining and Racing with a Power Meter and Cutting-Edge Cycling, co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. Hunter can be contacted directly through PeaksCoachingGroup.com

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Training And Racing In The Rain

by Marianne Holt, PCG elite coach
Peaks Coaching Group Racing and Riding in the Rain

“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.”
- Bob Dylan

Whether you love rainy days or hate them, it’s very likely that you will find yourself riding in the rain at some point; probably racing in it, as well. And rain changes things. As you watch the weather report, here are a few things to keep in mind when faced with the drips.

Road Hazards

There are several places that can become slick as glass even if just mildly wet or damp:
  • Painted lines
  • Railroad tracks (hopefully there aren’t any on the course, but you never know)
  • Manhole covers
  • Intersections where cars stop. These are usually worse when the roads are just damp versus very wet. When cars stop at intersections, oil drips down and accumulates on the asphalt. Combine that oil with just a little bit of water, and it’s crazy slick.
  • Dirt and gravel that might have washed out on the road. Be on the lookout for this, especially in the turns.

Braking

    If the roads are very wet, water will accumulate between your bike’s brake pads and rims, essentially giving you zero slowing and stopping ability. So be sure to feather the brakes frequently to squeeze out the water and keep it out.

    This is so obvious I almost hesitate to include it, but I will: Allow extra room between you and the rider in front of you. Even if you do a great job of keeping the water away from your brake pads, it will still take extra time to stop or slow down on wet or damp roads, so give yourself plenty of room.

    Racing

      Ride at the front of the pack. My athletes get to hear me preach about not riding at the front of the pack, but while that is still my advice in general, at or near the front will for sure be the safest place to be if it’s wet. Personally, if it’s raining, I like to go hard from the gun to try to whittle down the field. You’ll have to use your judgment on this one because you don’t want to burn all your matches from the beginning, but the fewer riders in the field, the better your chances are of staying safe and having a good finish.

      Hands in drops is even more important when it’s wet. It’s easy for wet hands to slide right off the top of the brake hoods. Keep your hands in the drops; you’ll have more control and won’t risk losing your grip.

      Gear and Clothing

        This one is important! If it looks pretty certain the roads will be wet, run a little less pressure in your tires. I usually go 5-7 psi less than I would normally have. Yes, you might increase your risk of a pinch flat, but you’ll get better traction on the wet roads.

        I highly recommend wearing eye wear with yellow lenses, or some other light color. If you go without, you’ll get tons of road spray in your eyes (from the wheel in front of you or your own front wheel) and won’t be able to see well. The lenses will of course get wet and dirty, but I find that a quick swipe with my finger will clear them off enough for me to see the road ahead.

        If you’ve been using the same helmet for a while on these hot, humid days, chances are you’ve accumulated a lot of sweat on the pads and straps. If the pads get very wet and water drips in your eyes, you’ll feel a serious stinging (think salt water in your eyes). So now is a good time to clean your helmet and get that sweat and grim out of the pads and straps.

        It’ll probably be a little cooler in the rain, so don’t forget to pack an extra base layer and maybe arm warmers. A vest is good too, but you’ll need your race number to be visible at all times, so if you plan to race in your vest, be sure to pin your number on it. And I KNOW you all know how to pin on your number!

        Getting it Done

        Remember: rain shouldn't stop you. It simply creates another opportunity to become a better athlete!


        Marianne lives near Charlotte, North Carolina, where she enjoys all types of riding, including criterium races, road races, GFNCS, mountainous centuries, time trials, and the occasional cruise on her mountain bike or cyclocross bike. She is a Category 1 racer with the PainPathways Women’s Team and a USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach. She has extensive road racing experience, including NRC and International Stage Races, UCI races, and elite and masters nationals championship races. She is a former masters nationals time trial champion and has numerous silver and bronze medals from masters nationals criteriums and road races. Marianne can be contacted through info@peakscoachinggroup.com or www.peakscoachinggroup.com.

        Tuesday, February 23, 2016

        A Powerful Foundation of fitness

        I know you have spent a lot of time this winter on the indoor trainer doing workouts watching videos of everything from Rambo to “real-life” cycling videos like the ErgVideos.  

        These are great tools to increase your fitness in the winter, go to the next level and also to maintain your hard won fitness from last season. It’s always a battle in the winter with cross-training exercises, cold weather (for most of us!), indoor riding and just how much intensity to do indoors and outdoors on the good days.  I prescribe a lot of tempo and “sweet-spot” work in the off-season in order to limit the upper intensities. If you ride at the higher levels in the winter, you risk peaking too soon and creating a lull in your fitness in March, right when most of the racing starts in the US.   

        To prevent this from happening, it is important to continue this building of your power foundation.
        I really don’t like the phrase, “Base Training” because it produces images of long, slow distance training where your watts are at 60% of your threshold and you just putter along in your ride.   Too many athletes and coaches believe that an athlete has to do “Base training” first and before any other type of training can be started.  Now, I’ll concede that if you are a Pro cyclist and training for a huge season in Europe in 2014, then yes, you should be doing some serious “Base training”.  Riding your bike for 4-6 hours a day at endurance pace will help continue to develop your aerobic system and also prevent you from peaking in January.   But, everyone else?  Forget it.   

        We don’t have the time to put in 4-6 hours a day at a slow pace, stopping at coffee shops along the way and enjoying the sights. For most of us, we have only 1-2 hours a day to train and we have to make the most of those hours, optimizing our training for the highest ROI.  If we took that 1-2 hours a day and rode at endurance pace, then what would really happen?   We would lose fitness and get slower. For most of us, riding that slow will not be challenging enough to create any training stress and therefore adaptation (improved fitness).   There is a relationship between time and intensity that must be respected and when you ride at lower intensities, then you need to ride longer in order to create enough stress for adaptation.  Therefore, I like to call what most of do in the winter and early spring, your “Power Foundation”.  This is the type of riding that contains more tempo and sweet-spot work, essentially more intensity (but not too much!) than riding around at endurance pace.  Building your power foundation, I believe, is critical for the coming season in improving your FTP, and also preparing for the entire season of racing, so that you are consistent throughout the year.   In the late winter/early spring, you should be finishing the power foundation phase and transitioning from indoor riding to outdoor riding.  This signals the time in which you need to solidify your winter fitness, especially if you have risen up a level (!) and begin adding in more and more work at your threshold and a little above.

        Before beginning to ride right at your FTP for extended periods of time (longer than 10minutes) I would recommend you to do some final work at your sweet-spot (88-93% of FTP) and then move onto work right at your FTP and above.    This is one of my favorite workouts that I use for many of my athletes regularly in February and March.


        Sweet-Spot with bursts

        Warm-up:

        15minute warm-up with (1) 3 minute effort at 90% of your FTP, then 5minutes easy,

        Main Set: Nail it at 88-93% of your FTP for 60 minutes, with 20 bursts (every 3 minutes!) to 120% of FTP, hold for 15 seconds, and return to previous pace (88-93% of FTP)

        EASY 10 minutes riding at endurance pace 56-75% of FTP

        Then do 30 minutes at 88-93% of FTP and this time do big gear intervals- every two minutes.  Slow down to 12mph, put your chain in the 53:13, stay seated and then use strength to explode on that gear and push it hard for 30seconds or if you reach 90rpm, stop when you reach one of those criteria first and return to 88-93% of FTP.

        In order to start transitioning into race fitness, finish with 5 hard sprints – Start in your 53:16 from 20mph and sprint for 250 meters each, 4-5 minutes rest between each.

        Cool Down: 10 minutes easy spinning at less than 56% of your FTP.

        To remind you of the Coggan power training levels, see figure 1.


        During February and March, along with continuing to ride at sweet-spot, you need to begin incorporating riding right at your functional threshold power and also doing some forays above it to prepare for the higher intensities of racing.  I recommend at least one day a week of training specifically at your FTP and then one day in which you incorporate shorter intensity as well.  I like to incorporate the shorter intensity on the weekend when you are doing a longer ride, by including it in the first two hours and then using the last hour or two to focus on your overall aerobic endurance through tempo and sweet-spot work.

        The one focused day of threshold work needs to be highly focused and designed to just address your FTP and nothing more.  This allows you to dig deep into the “well of courage” and push yourself for maximum training effect.  I recommend doing this workout for improving your FTP.

        FTP “Well of courage”

        Warm-Up: 20 minutes-endurance pace 56-75% of FTP

        MS: 5 x 1minute fast pedal over 120 RPM to get legs opened up with 1 minute rest between each. Ride at 10 minutes easy at 56-75% of FTP after those warm-ups. Now, dig in the well of courage and do (4) x12 minutes at or just above FTP- so 100-108% of FTP - Nail these and push in the last minute up to 110% of FTP!  Do NOT kill it in the first 2 minutes though, so start out and ramp up to your 100-108% of FTP.  REST for 5minutes between each.

        After completing the (4) x 12 FTP intervals, ride for 20-30 minutes endurance pace (56-75% of FTP).Finish with one more 12 minutes at FTP interval to completely bury yourself!  Make sure you push it hard and do your best completing a total of 60minutes at FTP for the day!

        Cool Down: 10 minutes at least than 56% of FTP

        On your weekends, make sure you are getting in at least one day of group riding as this is fun and it will also help to develop your race fitness with short, hard bursts and simulated attacks. 
        I recommend to my clients to do a group for an hour or two and then go longer afterward if they can.  

        This really makes a difference in your endurance and stamina for the upcoming season.   On the other day during the weekend, it would be great to work on your shorter, more intense efforts.  I recommend this workout:

        Weekend: “A bite of it all”

        Warm Up: 15minutes at 56-75% of FTP.

        Main-Set: Do (3) x 1 minute fast pedaling. Then do (4) sprints- BIG RING –Put your chain in the 53:15 and start from 22mph. Only do two gear shifts in these sprints to 14, then to 13. Rest for 3-4 minutes between each and get psyched for the next sprint!
        After you finish your sprints then do (2) x 12 minutes JUST BELOW threshold- so about 88-93% of FTP watts in order to get in a little more sweet-spot/FTP work. Do your best to hold it there!   Rest for 5minutes between each.

        Now, finish the workout with 4 x 2 minutes on a flat section of road. 2 minutes ON, 2 minutes OFF.

        Do your best to hold 130-140% of FTP on the effort.  Lastly, ride at endurance pace for 20 minutes (56-75% of FTP)

        CD: 5 minutes (<56% of FTP)

        Training this early spring should be focused around making sure you have the overall power foundation developed and then building your threshold power on top of that.  It’s critical that as you get closer and closer to race season, that you begin incorporating shorter, more intense intervals that stress your anaerobic capacity(30sec-2min efforts) and neuromuscular power (5-15 sec.).  The transition from winter to spring training is more important than most riders think as the demands of racing are very specific you must be prepared for them along with prepared for the entire season.   One important final note to discuss is the importance of entering the race season with your “battery” 100% charged. This means that you should make sure you rest between hard workouts and keep yourself relatively fresh.  Digging a hole in this transitory time can be a recipe for disaster. I recommend taking a rest/easy day after every 3 hard days of training, as this will guarantee that you are well rested for the next block of training and are not getting fatigued.
        The phrase, “Power Foundation” is how I prefer to talk about winter and pre-season training as it doesn’t conjure up those dreaded thoughts of LSD training, and more focuses one on the ‘power’ side of the equation, since your goal is to increase your power at threshold this season.  Overall aerobic fitness improvement is always something that we all want to accomplish every season as more fitness=more fitness and you will be riding faster than previously.    These workouts are for riders that don’t have 4-6 hours to ride each day and will keep your fitness higher throughout the winter than normal, but that means you don’t have that far to go in order to peak for your key event in the spring.  Give these workouts a shot and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with your new higher threshold this spring!




        Hunter Allen has many of his threshold and sweet spot workouts available within the TrainingPeaks.com website store.  Check them out and you can download them for your own use. Hunter is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former Professional Cyclist. He is the co-author of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter, co-developer of TrainingPeaks WKO+ Software, and is the CEO and Founder of the Peaks Coaching Group. He specializes in coaching cyclists with wattage meters and is on the forefront coaching with cycling’s newest tool.   He has online training programs available at www.TrainingPeaks.com/hunter   and you can contact Hunter directly www.PeaksCoachingGroup.com

        Tuesday, February 16, 2016

        Four Great Cycling Workouts To Do Right Now

        Spring is here! The first races of the season are always a little tougher, simply because you haven’t gotten into the race rhythm yet. Spring races are always fun, challenging, and aggressive. All the cyclists who pushed themselves throughout the winter are eager to show off the hard work and hard-won fitness. If you are one of those few, spring races are lots of fun and filled with success. If you’re a little behind on your fitness or planning on peaking in the summer, then spring races are a little tougher to handle.

        The spring has always been my favorite time for training, because I get to start doing some of the things I’m actually good at and really enjoy about riding.  Those of you following a training plan have probably been working on endurance (Level 2), sweet spot (sub-threshold), threshold (Level 4), and training your weaknesses.  Most of you are going to be doing a variety of races over the next couple of months. Most of them won't be “A” races, but you still want to do well in each one, so you’re preparing for long, hilly road races; windy, wet time trials; and maybe an early season crit. You may even be doing them all in one weekend in a stage race.  

        In order to train for these random abuses, you need all your training zones ready to be worked.  Now is the time to start putting it all together, focusing on your strengths, and practicing your sprints. This month’s article is full of workouts for you, to make sure you’re performing at your best. These workouts will help you keep the sword sharpened, or maybe just get it sharp in the first place so you’re competitive.

        These four workouts will make you faster and help you ride with more endurance and overall fitness:

        1. Hill work: doing hills of various lengths with a sprint at the top of one section to simulate an uphill finish.
        2. Time trial: get used to FTP in the aero position, working on form and getting the back, hips, and hamstrings accustomed to being aero while working.
        3. Kitchen sink: putting it all together and ending with sprints.
        4. Team ride: with faster people, learning to suffer and be economical.

        For hill work it’s important to be able to sustain your power through the hill and on different length hills. On shorter and steeper hills, the highest absolute power you produce (500w, 650w, 700w, etc.) will be most important. The longer the hill, the more your power-to-weight (watts-per-kilogram) ratio becomes a part of the equation, and the higher your w/kg is, the better you excel on the climbs. Keeping this in mind, let’s focus on shorter hills in this workout, as you’ll excel in longer hills as the result of specific FTP work.

        Hill Repeat Workout

        Warm-up: It’s important to get in a solid warm-up before your hill repeats, so if possible, ride for 30 minutes to an hour before you get to your favorite hill. The hill should be approximately 1 minute long; a little shorter or longer is fine, but nothing over 2 minutes, since that will become too aerobic. One trick I’ve found helpful for these is a visualization while doing the efforts: in your mind’s eye, picture yourself attacking out of the peloton on the hill and winning the KOM points at the top of the hill with your final sprint.
        Main Set: Do 10 repeats total (build to 20) of a 1-minute hill. (If you don’t have a hill suitable and want to do it on a longer hill, no problem; just make a landmark at about the one-minute distance so you have a goal for each effort.) Glance at your power meter three or four times on the way up to make sure you’re between 130% and 175% of your FTP, with a goal of averaging around 140%. If you have incredible anaerobic capacity, your numbers might be higher. You know you’re doing it right when your legs start to burn after 20 seconds and you have to suffer like crazy to keep the wattage up. Hammer all the way, then get out of the saddle and sprint in the last 30 meters.

        Completely BLOW at the crest of the hill or at the 1-minute mark. REST plenty (3-4 minutes) between each one. As you get more and more tired toward the last repeats, you’ll have to lengthen your recoveries, which is perfectly acceptable. After you’ve completed all the repeats, ride home at your tempo and sweet spot paces to get in some solid aerobic work.

        Cool-down: 10-15 minutes easy riding.

        When you get home, your job becomes recovery and analysis of your hills with your downloaded power meter data. What you’re looking for is how much and how quickly you fatigued from effort to effort. Figure 1 below is a comparison of ten hill repeats. This athlete’s wattage drops from 437 to 418 by the tenth one, which is only a 5% drop in power. What this means is that he could have done more efforts. When you have a 10% drop in power, that’s when it’s time to go home and call it a day. Have a look at your data and find your power drop; that will help you determine how many intervals to do in the next session.

        The next workout you should incorporate into your training regime is the “Time Trial Sim.” This simulation of a time trial is a great opportunity to work on your Vo2 max energy system and get comfortable in that TT position while at full gas, while also building your confidence in time trials. If you have a TT bike, use it, but if you don’t, it’s fine to go Eddy Merckx style. The goal is to put you into a simulated time trial so you can learn how to focus, develop a rhythm, and push your wattage in the Vo2 Max zone(106-120% of FTP).

        Time Trial Sim Workout

        Warm-up: This is another workout for which your warm-up is important; riding at least 30 minutes is highly recommended. Within the last 10 minutes of your warm-up, complete
        (5) 1-minute fast pedaling efforts with your cadence over 110rpm and rest for 1 minute between each at 80rpm. Don’t worry about your wattage; keep the watts relatively low and focus on the cadence.
        Main Set: Get psyched and ready for some time trial efforts! Do 6 x 6 minutes, starting out hard with your wattage at 120% of FTP for the first minute, dropping your watts to 110% of FTP for the next 4 minutes, and in the final minute pushing your wattage back to 120% of FTP and finishing strong. Rest for 6 minutes between each effort. The beauty of these efforts is that they are miniature time trials, designed to contain the same emotions, intensity, and focus that a longer time trial would have. Make sure to do these at a “self-selected” cadence, which is whatever cadence feels best to you. Really focus on using your gluteal muscles and staying as low as possible with the upper body. The best time trialists work on their flexibility; if you can’t touch your toes easily, you need to start stretching! Finish the ride with 20 minutes of tempo at 80-90% of FTP.

        Cool-down: 15 minutes at your endurance pace (56-75% of FTP).

        Remember, the more you practice something, the better you’ll get at it. To become a good time trialist, you’ll need to do a bunch of time trial sims. When you analyze your power file, look for how your power dropped over the intervals, but you’ll also want to learn how well you adhered to your pacing strategy. Learning to time trial well is accomplished by proper pacing strategy and adherence to that strategy.

        The “Kitchen Sink” is my absolute favorite workout and great for everyone. All your energy systems are worked, you get to go for a big ride, and you come home with that wonderful feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that only cyclists know. The goal of this workout is to address all the different energy systems needed for successful racing. I also want you to come home fatigued and tired, having pushed yourself a little harder and farther than before.

        Kitchen Sink Workout

        Warm-up: 30 minutes at endurance pace (56-76% of your FTP).

        Main set: After you’re warmed up, do 2 x 20 minutes at or just a hair below threshold (93-100% of FTP). It's hard, and you’ll have to push to maintain it. Rest for 10 minutes between each at endurance pace. Next, ride at your endurance pace for 30 minutes and then do 6 sprints, 3 in the small ring for 75m (starting from a slow speed and spinning the gear at 140rpm by the end of the sprint) and 3 in the big ring for 250m (starting from 20mph and getting the 53:13 turning over, but resisting the desire to go into your hardest gear). Ride at endurance pace for 5 minutes between each.

        After completing your sprints, cruise for 30 minutes at endurance pace and then do 5 hill repeats of various hills and lengths along your route, each at your Vo2 max pace (110-120% of FTP), with good solid rests at endurance pace for 5-10 minutes between each. Again, these are done along the way in the ride. If you don’t have any hills, it’s fine to do these as attacks into the wind or pretending you’re attacking on the flats.

        Your final hard effort is another 30 minutes at endurance pace. While riding at endurance pace, add in some bursts (little 8-second ones) every 5 minutes or so to simulate the constant movement of a peloton.

        Stop at a store with an hour to go and get your favorite caffeinated, sugary drink. You’ll want a little boost before the final push home. Finish with 45 minutes of sweet spot (88-93% of FTP) on the ride home. Push it and try to ramp up your pace as you get closer and closer to home. You should finish tired, but feeling satisfied. 

        Cool-down: 5-10 minutes with a recovery drink and STRETCHING.

        When you analyze your power file after this workout, the first thing you should look for is your training stress score. Did you score over 280 TSS? If not, you didn’t go long enough. If you’re closer to the 300-320 TSS range, announce it on Facebook and I’ll “like” it. In all seriousness, the goal is to create some big stress, so a solid TSS will confirm that.

        The second thing to look at is your normalized power for the last 45 minutes. This will give you another confirmation of your endurance. If you were struggling way below your sweet spot and had nothing left, you know where you need to spend some more time. If you were solidly in your sweet spot, mission accomplished.


        Your final mission this spring is to do some group riding. Group rides can be great opportunities to get in some guaranteed intensity when you don’t feel like training or when you’re too fatigued to push yourself but still have more to give. When you do these group rides, approach them with two different mentalities and strategies. For one of the rides, attack with reckless abandon. Don’t attack so much that you get dropped, of course, but come close! Your attitude should be one of pushing yourself to the limit and really digging deep in order to just get in the work.

        The next time you do the group ride, do the exact opposite and try to be as absolutely economical as possible. That means sitting in, riding on wheels, NOT pedaling, saving energy, staying out of the wind and away from the front (until the split comes), and making sure when you do have to ride hard you can easily make the move. Group rides are perfect places for you to learn economy through energy conservation.

        When you analyze your power file after your ride, it’s important to count exactly how many attacks you were able to do before nearly getting dropped. Look at the time each attack lasted and memorize the wattages you averaged in the attacks for later use in races. For the “conservation” group ride, look at your cadence distribution chart and see how much time you spent not pedaling, because that is a great indicator of your ability to conserve energy. 


        These four workouts each address different areas of fitness that are needed for those spring races. You might be really challenged by them and therefore get a great boost of fitness from the accomplishment of each. If you’re already super fit and peaking for the spring races, these workouts will only help you more to push yourself to the next level and ensure success. Plan these into your weekly schedule. You might even do all four of them in the same week, but I wouldn’t recommend it every week. Another plan might be to do the hill repeats two times in one week if you know you really need help improving your anaerobic capacity. Use your best judgment and make sure to give each of them your best. When you crack that 300 TSS for the Kitchen Sink workout, send me a message on Facebook or Twitter, and I’ll be sure to “like” it!

        Hunter has a monthly power newsletter you can subscribe to so that you’ll quickly learn the ins and outs of power training and gain some great insights into the best riders in the world. Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the co-author of Training and Racing with a Power Meter, co-developer of TrainingPeaks WKO+ Software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He has online training programs available at www.TrainingPeaks.com/hunter. You can contact Hunter directly through www.PeaksCoachingGroup.com and follow him on Twitter at “Hunterpeaks.”