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.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Kettlebell Max™: Dynamic Strength Training for Cyclists

By PCG Elite Coach Charles Gary Hoffman

In 2006, I hired my first cycling coach, a former collegiate and professional champion, who lived in my hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. In my first prescribed training cycle, I noticed strength training was on my schedule every Monday. I didn't belong to a gym, didn't have any weights at home, and the idea of strength training for cyclists seemed ridiculous to me. I had been road cycling and racing for over 25 years; how could a road cyclist improve his or her performance by lifting weights? It didn't seem to make sense.

Around that same time, I attended a cycling webinar conducted by a well-known and respected cyclist, researcher, and scientist. It was of his opinion that strength was irrelevant for endurance cyclists(!). That didn't make any sense either.

I listened to my coach, joined a gym, and began to follow a consistent pattern of strength training, once a week during the racing season, more in the off-season. Later that same year, I won my state Masters Championship 60-mile road race, handily winning the field Sprint.

After I became a power based cycling coach in 2007 with Hunter Allen, and later an NASM certified personal trainer, I became fascinated with the concept of strength training for cyclists and in particular for aging cyclists, which I define as anyone over age 35 to 40.

NASM defines strength as “the body's ability to provide internal tension and exert force against external resistance.” In the NASM OPT model, there are various forms and phases of strength development: 1) stabilization strength, 2) strength endurance, 3) maximal strength, 4) speed strength, and 5) power (i.e. explosive power). Muscular strength adaptation requires training using different exercise parameters to adapt progressively and ultimately to the specificity of the event or sport. In the physics of power, Power = force X speed, therefore force (the ability to apply tension to the pedals at speed) is an integral component of power. Our Kettlebell Max™ training system is designed to develop strength dynamically targeting the NASM phase 5, so that the cyclist will increase strength, but more importantly, explosive power on the bike.

Here are some discoveries that I made in my own personal training and working with my coached athletes over the last 5 years:

  1. Sarcopenia is the degenerative loss of muscle (mass, quality, and strength) associated with aging. Many studies cite muscle loss beginning over age 30 at a rate of 0.5% to 3.0% and at a substantially accelerating rate over age 50. This is true not only for sedentary adults but athletes as well. If you don't believe this, check out the podium shots of Masters cycling athletes at age 50, 60 and above. 
  2. Traditional strength training can offset muscle loss and in fact lead to muscle gain regardless of age. Strength training (and specific strength training on the bike) combined with nutritional timing post exercise and especially daily protein targets (of between 80% – 90% PRO grams/lbs. body weight), can help feed, nourish, and grow the muscles of cycling athletes. 
  3. There is a progression of strength training exercises which are more dynamic, and include more muscle groups and require more stabilization (which in turn burns more calories): a. Strength training machines, generally speaking, isolate only one muscle group. b. Free weights are much better and recruit more muscle groups than machines. c. While barbells are most often used in the 3 primary strength exercises ─ squats, deadlifts, and bench press ─ dumbbells require even more stabilization. d. Kettlebells require the most stabilization of any strength training exercises using weights.Because the primary weight of the bell is in the bell, outside of where the hand grips the bell handle, when swinging or moving a bell the weight and its relationship to the body is constantly and rapidly changing. This change requires maximum muscle recruitment (and maximum calorie burn ) across the entire body, but particularly the core, legs, and posterior chain, in order to stabilize during each exercise movement. 
  4. Strength training in a dynamic and explosive fashion can help to develop explosive strength on the bike while recruiting fast twitch type II muscle fibers, which in turn improves the ability to generate explosive power. This is especially true utilizing Kettlebells. In our Kettlebell Max™ training system, we use over 200 movements executed explosively, rotating through primary body parts in a HIIT or high-intensity interval training format. In addition to developing explosive strength, the system due to its format, naturally recruits testosterone and human growth hormone, and burns a maximum amount of calories in a minimal time frame (similar to HIIT hill intervals done on a bike). 
  5. In addition to leg strength, Kettlebell training will lead to dynamic strengthening of the core, upper back, and arms, and improve body composition, i.e. reduce the dangerous belly fat that is difficult for many amateur cyclists to remove. 

Since I introduced KB training in 2012, all of my coached athletes have seen significant improvements in: core strength, upper body strength, sprinting speed, acceleration, improving muscular strength, and body composition.

One athlete, Adam C., was preparing well for his 35+ national Masters Track competition, but was temporarily set back by a serious inflammation of asthma. For 30 days he wasn't able to train normally. Since he was training for about a year using our Kettlebell Max™ training system, I advised that he continue with that dynamic strength training, yet take longer breaks between his 4 minute sets. That, in addition to easy rides on his bike doing high-speed bursts of up to 150 RPMs, was all that he was able to do for 30 days prior to his championship events. He went on to win 3 national championships (!) in the sprint/speed events, which were his first national championship wins ever.

In July of 2015, one day after winning my Virginia state Masters criterium championship, I slid out on some loose gravel driving my moped, badly breaking my tibia and fibula in my right leg. Before my surgery, I told my doctor about my athletic goals and that I wanted to recover completely as soon as possible. He encouraged me to get back on my bike (trainer) as soon as possible and that in fact I could continue with my Kettlebell training if seated and on one leg (!). After surgery, which required a 12-inch titanium rod to be hammered into my tibia and a metal plate to my ankle bone, at 4 weeks of recovery my right leg wasn't strong enough to even pull my body weight up one stair step. However, after 6 weeks of rehab and physical therapy, and almost daily Kettlebell exercises (combined with fine tuning my diet), even though the muscle mass was greatly reduced in my right leg, my overall body fat composition was lowered to 7%; this was a figure I hadn’t seen since high school! Going forward, I became even more diligent about my strength training doing Kettlebells 3 – 4 times per week as a supplement to training on the bike. In May of 2016, 10 months after my surgery, I was able to win the field Sprint for 3rd in my 65+ USA Masters national 60-mile road race in North Carolina, taking 1 second out of the field from 200 meters.

In addition to performance on the bike, most amateurs have as a priority their overall fitness and losing weight (body composition). It's healthy to have muscle and to look and feel good. As a rule of thumb, most track cyclists spend almost as much time in the gym as on the bike. One argument that cyclists have is that if you have muscle in your upper body (or too much muscle in your legs), that's extra weight that you have to carry uphill and it slows you down. But if you could have more muscle and reduce fat (i.e. improve your body composition) while reaching a lower weight, how is it that that wouldn't be better? As cyclists we strive to have a greater power to weight ratio.

We need upper body strength to sprint, accelerate, and climb out of the saddle, and significant core strength to impact our ability to apply force onto the pedals. In addition to all that, why not look good, get rid of your paunch, improve your sprint, improve your ability to accelerate, generally get faster on the bike, and possibly even gain a six-pack in return?

At Peaks Coaching Group, we plan on launching the Kettlebell Max™ dynamic training system for cyclists in the fall of 2016. If you're interested, please comment below.

Charles Gary Hoffman,

CFNS™ USA Cycling and PCG Elite Cycling Coach

[1] Kettlebells: Twice the Results in Half the Time, American Council on Exercise, ACE Fitness Matters, Jan/Fed 2010. In the results of this study, researchers found an average 20 calorie per minute burn, equivalent only to “cross country skiing uphill at a fast pace”.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Youth Cyclists - Coaching and Training

By PCG Elite Coach Axel Santiago

A coach is a very important element in the development of a young cyclist.  For parents, it is an important and sometimes difficult task to select the right coach for their child.  The right coach must have sufficient knowledge of the sport and training, enough experience working with young athletes, proper teaching skills, a good philosophy and style, and the ability to relate well with others.

When working with youth cyclists, all of the work and effort should be directed to the following important aspects: 
  1. building their character
  2. teaching them honest and fair competition
  3. developing teamwork skills
  4. teaching them self-respect and respect for others, and 
  5. teaching them how to win and how to lose.  

Youth training is not simply training an adult on a smaller scale.

I will not discuss structured physical training for youth cyclists because at this age the most important aspects are the ones listed above.  Physical training will come naturally while learning and enjoying the sport of cycling.  Riding their bike with coach guidance, they will spend time on pedaling skills, maneuverability, and learning the importance of keeping well hydrated, eating well, and getting enough sleep.  A good example would be: A young mountain biker must devote much of their training to balance skills and the ability to bypass obstacles, while they enjoy biking up the mountain.  In addition, at the ages of 14 or 15, one of our goals for these young cyclists should be to assure that their desire for training and competing stays at the same level over the years.

When it comes to their tools, such as the bicycle, shoes, helmet, etc., my recommendation is not to invest in very expensive items since children often grow very quickly, and within a year a cyclist may outgrow their tools and need a larger size.  Cycling can be a very expensive sport so we must be reserved with these types of expenses.  Where you should invest is in training measuring devices, such as cycle computers, heart rate monitors, power meters, etc.  The young athlete should begin to relate to them, learn to manage them, and begin to understand the importance, and the immeasurable value, of the data that they can provide.

A journal is another tool which the coach should start teaching how to use and how important it will be to young cyclists.  Weight, pulse, amount and color of urine, menstrual cycle, etc., are just a few of the metrics that they must learn to document.  Currently, there are online diaries to document this type of data.  One such program is included in TrainingPeaks.  With this tool, the rider learns to know himself/herself better, which is the whole purpose of journaling these metrics.  A cyclist who knows his/her body, even without the advantage of training, still has a great advantage over the competition.

We should not ignore those young cyclists who are not starting out as stars.  Not all children develop at the same age, rate, or learn the same way.  All young cyclists should feel welcomed and appreciated for their efforts.  An athlete, who at fourteen years old may be a little behind or seems to be lazy, can become a surprisingly good athlete in a few short years.  At this young age, because of their rapid growth, they often experience joint pains, mainly in their knees, ankles, and lower back.  This limits them from exercising at full capacity.  Therefore, if you do any work with strength training, my recommendation is to use only the weight of their own body.  Have patience with them and listen to them. 

Finally, it is of greatest importance that parents give their support and attention to these young cyclists at all times.  Sports training includes discussions about their bodies and how they are changing as they progress.  Tracking metrics as mentioned above, amount and color of urine, menstrual cycle, etc., can be embarrassing and can lead to misunderstandings.  It is important that the athlete feel comfortable discussing these topics with their coach and their parents.  The parents should monitor and ensure that their children are developing and training in a safe environment, where they are protected from negligence, and from any type of abuse whether it be of a sexual or emotional nature.  Keep the lines of communication open with the child and the coach.  Have the conversations necessary to keep everyone on the same page and working together. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Beauty of Women’s Cycling

By PCG Elite Coach Julie McKenzie 

Descending a Georgia mountain. The road is wet. Flashback to two days prior. Anxiously watching Mara Abbott descend from the defining climb of the Rio Olympics Road Race on slick roads, with thoughts of the best male descenders in the world flying off the same road in dry conditions the day before. “Keep it upright, Mara, be safe!” I’m hollering to the big screen T.V. in an empty room. Announcers saying she’s “not a great descender.” Understood in context but I’m pretty darn impressed!

Cut to Netherlands race leader Annemiek van Vleuten up ahead, locked up wheels, horrible crash, lying motionless. Now I’m scared. Riding without confidence, which is exactly what I tell my athletes is the most likely reason to crash. Switch it! Visual imagery of Mara nailing the correct speed and lines into the corners, perfect apices, providing me confidence to find the outside-inside line and counter-steer Pretty2 like she’s in a criterium race. Wheeee! I’m down, that was so much fun, I’m going again!

Women inspire Women to be Fearless! 

Mara is one of the best female climbers in the world; by definition, she’s not as strong in a flat time trial for the last 10k to Gold, let alone a solo time trial against the 3 amazing women working together to chase her down: Anna van der Breggen of Netherlands, Emma Johansson of Sweden, and Elisa Longo Borghini of Italy. “We saw Annemiek lie there and it did not look good,” said Van der Breggen in a team statement. “It took a while before I could switch [back to racing]. Only when Emma Johansson (who ended up winning Silver) said, ‘Let’s do it for Annemiek’, I was able to turn the switch.” Van der Breggen won it for her teammate.

Women care about the Fate of Women! 

In my skills clinics, I encounter many women who are afraid to draft in group rides or attempt to race. When I ask “What are you most nervous about?”, invariably the answer is, “I don’t want to hurt someone or make them crash”.

Women don’t want to cause bad things to happen to Women! 

Some of my best race memories are from when I was a Cat 4, off the back, with a small group of women of similar strength. As soon as it was clear we were dropped, names were exchanged. When we caught another singlet, we’d holler “jump on!”. We would make our own race of it, encouraging each other through the tougher parts of the course with the better climbers soft-pedaling a touch over the top to allow the group to reform. We all achieved our goals and made new friends in the process.

Women nurture Women! 

I love riding with the boys, no doubt they make me strong and tougher, but riding with the gals additionally warms my heart! Have you experienced the Beauty of Women’s Cycling?

Share your story!

Julie Mckenzie is a PCG Elite Coach

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Three Great MTB Specific Workouts

By PCG Elite / Master Coach Brig Brandt
Very often, mountain bike racers train nearly exclusively on the road, performing intervals that simulate the demands of road racing, while neglecting some of most important characteristics of mountain bike specific training. I’m not suggesting mountain bike racers train exclusively on the trail (far from it), only that some of the physiological demands of mountain bike racing can be very different and hard to simulate on the road. Generally speaking, mountain bike racers tend to race at lower cadences, the opportunity cost of having below average handling skills is larger, and the racing tends to be decided over the course of the entire race (as opposed to at a decisive moment or key terrain feature). With these differences in mind, here are three mountain bike workouts you can add to your program to better simulate the demands of racing in the dirt:

MTB circuit (2.25 hours and ~125 TSS) -  Pick a short loop that takes ~20 minutes to ride at tempo pace. Ride the circuit at just sub race pace for approximately 60 minutes. Begin this workout with a 45 minute warm up and finish with 30 minutes light pedaling. Recovery drink ASAP.

Why? The goal of this workout is to improve handling skills at race speed, improve pacing (review lap times), and maintain high power outputs across a wide range of RPM's- especially at lower cadences. This workout is also a great way to test new tires, equipment, or suspension set up at speed before race day. Power for this workout will be variable, however, normalized power for the 60 minutes should be 85-95% of functional threshold power. Remember to stay focused and maintain speed on the descents as well as the climbs. Done correctly you will “learn” the track and times will decrease even if power is stable.
When? When to perform this workout depends on the terrain and the energy system you are wanting to target. If the loop is a sustained climb with a short descent it will be more of a threshold workout. If the terrain is especially technical or punchy it will target the anaerobic system.

Sweet Spot 2x40 minute (2.6 hours and ~165 TSS) - WARM UP: 30 minutes zone 2, ~65-70% of FTP. MAIN SET: 2X40 minutes at ~90% FTP with 30 minutes easy between each effort. COOL DOWN: 20 minutes light pedaling.

Why? The purpose of this workout is to increase functional threshold power. These are longer FTP efforts so make sure to stay fueled during the efforts. Try to consume 60-90 grams of carbohydrates per hour (after warm up). This is a classic threshold workout. Road, MTB, and CX racers should have this workout in their quiver.  However, for MTB specialists, I’d suggest doing this on the MTB on steep terrain to better simulate the cadence and force demands of mountain bike racing. This workout is especially applicable to MTB racers doing marathon style races in the western US, where MTB racers tend to have long sustained climbs.

When? More advanced riders might perform this workout in the winter and summer during threshold training blocks. Other riders might want to wait until summer (perhaps between a spring and late summer racing campaign) to do this workout. This is a great workout for anyone preparing for races that involve long sustained climbs (Leadville, Downieville, Whiskey 50, etc.)

LT Build 1 w/ VO2 3x15 (2 hours, ~120 TSS) - This workout has 3 functions: It develops VO2 and threshold power, and mimics the first 3 minutes of a cyclocross and MTB race. It can also simulate a race winning move in many road races. Warm up: 30 minutes zone 2 (~65-70% of FTP) and make sure to include 3 to 5 minutes at FTP to open the legs. Main Set: 3 minutes at 110% FTP followed by 12 minutes at 85-95% of FTP. Recover for 7-10 minutes easy between efforts. Repeat twice more (3 efforts total). Cool Down: 20 minutes zone 2 light pedaling.

Why? Very often in training we build into efforts (which is usually good) but most mountain bike races have fast starts and then settle into a sub threshold pace. This workout attempts to simulate that. Some riders may want to start each effort with a foot on the ground to practice clipping in and accelerating as fast possible. This is a challenging workout and some riders might want to start with only 2 efforts.

When? This workout is best performed after graduating from more traditional threshold work (i.e., 2x20 sweet spot).

A final word - Most of these workout can be done using heart rate. However, having a power meter on your MTB will allow you to more accurately perform the workouts, track your progress and training load, and review the demands of your key events and better prepare for it next year.

Brig Brandt is a Peaks Coaching Group, USA Cycling level 1 coach who has worked with athletes of all abilities - beginner to National Champions. He competes and coaches in road, cyclocross, and MTB events.

Friday, August 5, 2016

5 Secrets to Successful Coaching

By PCG Elite Coach Bill McLaughlin

Great coaches strive to do right by their athletes - treat them well, motivate them to succeed, and provide support and guidance to meet their individual needs. This is very often easier said than done because coaching takes time, skill, and careful planning.

While I don’t presume to have a fool proof plan since there are always new challenges to face, I have developed a series of techniques that have proven beneficial to me as I continue to work to bring out the best in my athletes.

The following “tips” are my ‘not-so-secret’ 5 secrets to successful coaching.

1.    Successfully develop a relationship with your athletes. Learn their goals. Learn what they feel their strengths and limitations are. You need to know how experienced a rider/ racer they are. Discuss their life outside of cycling, and where cycling training fits in. It's important to know other stresses: job, family commitments, and when do they have down time to relax. Ask questions, listen and guide the goal setting. I also try and relate with personal stories, and I praise ALL achievements.

2.    Cycling workouts are really just one facet of training. As a coach, you need to be ready to refer them to other specialists that can also help them reach their goals. I won’t hesitate to suggest a sports nutritionist to specialize their diet, to improve weight management, or proper fueling to optimize their training. I will recommend a good bike fitting as well.

3.    Athlete input when scheduling training is necessary. I prefer to have a block of workouts built up in advance to allow for them to review. We discuss changes due to life events (travel, work, family.) I know consistency is key, but things happen, and as a coach, you need to be able to adjust the plan to keep them on the best track to meet their goals. You need to be flexible, and be willing to work with your athlete, when making any modifications to the plan.

4.    Keep reading! A coach has to keep learning and stay up to date with all advances in coaching. Read coaching advice and techniques from successful coaches, and not just in cycling. Learning about what is happening in other fields and sports helps me bring a fresh approach to the work I am doing for my athletes.

5.    Remember YOU are an expert in your field, surrounded by other experts! The great advantage of working with Peaks Coaching Group is in the network of coaches. There are 50+ coaches that you can reach out to and bounce ideas off of. Our athletes have the benefit of not only us as their individual coach, but also a vast coaching knowledge base, second to none, with the common goal of helping them succeed!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Optimal Calories While Competing

By PCG Nutritionist Namrita Kumar

Energy to fuel endurance exercise mainly comes from carbohydrate and fat sources.  As intensity increases during endurance exercise, fuel oxidation crosses over from predominantly fat oxidation to a higher percentage of carbohydrate oxidation. 

By implementing sound training and nutrition practices, physiological adaptations over time should result in higher fat oxidation at a higher percentage of maximal aerobic capacity; BUT, carbohydrate remains an essential and important energy source when the goal is to complete a distance as quickly as possible, (e.g. in a bike race)!

Stored glycogen (endogenous carbohydrate) and carbohydrate supplements (exogenous carbohydrate) are the primary source for carbohydrate oxidation to sustain higher intensity performance during a competition. If glycogen stores are relatively full going into a race and the event is < 60 minutes long, little to no carbohydrate intake is required during the event itself. There is evidence that even rinsing carbohydrate in the mouth (without ingesting) may improve performance when the body does not have to rely on exogenous carbohydrate supplementation to meet the demands of the race.

If the event is between 1-2 hours in duration, it's a good idea to supplement with ~30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour (120-240 calories per hour). When approaching ingestion rates of ~60 grams carbohydrate per hour, it's best to use a blend of carbohydrate sources such as glucose-fructose or maltodextrin-fructose to reduce the likelihood of GI distress during the race. Also, include plenty of training sessions to adapt the GI tract to ingesting this rate of carbohydrate intake at race intensity.

If the event is longer than 2.5 to 3 hours, carbohydrate blends of ~90-110 grams per hour (360-440 calories per hour) can be beneficial to performance. A carbohydrate blend is essential at this high rate of intake, as is training the GI tract to process the rate of carbohydrate ingestion at race intensity. 

The longer the race and the lower the intensity of race pace, the more solid food (low-fat, low-fiber) may be introduced into a race fueling plan.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

10 Tips for Junior Racers

10 Tips for Junior Racers

By PCG Elite Coach Mark Orton

Racing as a junior can be very rewarding, but it can also be very stressful. Here are some quick tips that will help aspiring junior racers keep enjoying the sport, and keep from burning out. 

   Take school stress into account. Don't plan any big race events within a week on either side of finals, midterms, prom, homecoming, or anything else that may stress you out. Don't have a tough training week on any of those weeks either. If you can work it into your schedule, make those weeks your rest and recovery weeks. 

   Try all kinds of disciplines. Give cyclocross, track, trials, bmx, mountain bike, road, or gravel a try. Different disciplines allow different strengths to shine. I’ve seen racers struggle to be an XC racer, then transition to Enduro and Downhill and excel! You’ll never know if you missed your calling if you haven't tried them all.

   Have fun and don't take things too seriously. If you get too serious, and specialize in one thing too early, you will burn out. We ride bikes because it's fun, don't forget that! Even if you’re on a serious training plan with a dedicated coach, be sure to work social and fun rides into your plan. 

   Play other sports and do other activities at least up until mid-way through high school, if not through college. A well rounded athlete is more attractive to college programs, and has developed a better sense of themselves, resulting in higher overall confidence levels.

   Do well in school, take school seriously. Your biggest supporters are your parents, keep them happy and willing to support your sporting endeavors by keeping your grades up. Most of us won’t make a living on the bike, so keep your options open by keeping your grades up. Plus, cycling is expensive, so when you move out you’ll need a good job to pay for this sport!

   Work with a coach that has experience with juniors and knows the differences between training juniors and training adults. Junior racers are not just small adults. When interviewing prospective coaches, ask questions about their training plans, ensure that they know the differences between coaching masters athletes and junior athletes. 

   Junior females, learn about the female athlete triad. If you are a female racer, you need to know about this. A great place to start is If you are working with a coach, this is something you need to make sure they are aware of as well.

   Enjoy your success, and always strive to get better. Don't assume your success as a junior racer will automatically lead to success as you grow and progress. Differences in development create situations where there are imbalanced race fields. Junior racers each mature at different rates, so someone who may be underdeveloped this season, could have a growth spurt and be the most developed in the field next season.

   Work skills and the fundamentals more than you think you need to. Skills can keep you and other racers safe. Skills can keep you out of trouble. Skills will help you win. No matter the discipline you race, having well rounded skills can pay dividends and get you out of a tricky situation. It can mean the difference between touching wheels and riding away, and touching wheels and causing a pile up in the peleton.

   HAVE FUN!!! I can't say that enough, HAVE FUN!!!

Racing bikes is fun and rewarding. It will keep you in great shape, it teaches you lessons that you can apply to your everyday life, and it helps you develop into a responsible adult. However, if taken too seriously, too early, it can be a recipe for burn out. Using these tips will help you get the most out of your time on the bike, and add enjoyment to your training and racing.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Preparing for the Main Event

Preparing for the Main Event
By PCG Elite Coach Jordan Whiley

Whether it's a national or state championship race, a multi-day epic ride, a grand fondo, or your first century, preparing to peak for your “A race” is a multi-faceted process that can last from 6 months to several years. Here are a five tips that can help you achieve peak performance on that big day!

Know Your Enemy
When I use the word “enemy,” I don't mean just your competition. Your enemy is anything that is an obstacle to you achieving your best, so consider every potential enemy and learn what you can. Pre-ride the course, or at least examine the profile and/or learn about the course from someone who has ridden it. Where could the race be won or lost? What will it take to succeed? Consider the weather and temperature conditions for the event and how that may impact what you wear, eat, and drink. Finally, learn about yourself. Are you your own worst enemy? What choices or mindsets need to be addressed and changed so that you can be at your best?

Set Goals, Objectives, & Benchmarks
Once your obstacles have been identified, you can set up goals, objectives, and benchmarks. Your goals are the general things you want to achieve, but they should be specific and measurable. For example, you might have a goal to “improve watts per kilogram at FTP.” Objectives represent specific accomplishments that help you reach a goal, and typically have completion dates. Using a previous example, you might set up two objectives that help improve w/kg - “lose 5kg by May” and “increase FTP by 20 watts.” Finally, benchmarks are how you measure your progress with your objectives, e.g. weekly weigh-ins and periodic FTP testing.

Specify Your Training
Training plans are essentially the “lessons and activities” you will do to achieve the objectives you have set. Working backwards from your event, plan the training and recovery you will do based on the specific demands of the event. Keep in mind that training isn't just workouts – it includes all aspects of preparing for the event, like strengthening mental skills, managing nutrition, acclimatizing to heat/altitude, or practicing taking a bottle at 25 mph, to name just a few. A good coach or nutritionist can help immensely with this process, since there are so many aspects of preparation to consider.

Include “Fatigue Weeks”
A recent article in Velonews discussed the concept of getting in a fully fatiguing week of training as preparation for an event. This is nothing new - I recall Hunter telling me 10 years ago, when we first met at a PCG training camp, that I would be flying 4 weeks after the camp – and he was right! These “fatigue weeks” consist of about 6-9 days of heavy volume and/or intensity, with a total TSS that is around 120-150% of normal weekly training. I recommend two of these before the main event. The first is 8 weeks prior, consisting primarily of high volume tempo riding, followed by a recovery week and two normal training weeks. The second happens at 4 weeks to go, and includes both volume and intensity. This is followed by a normal training week, and then a 2-week taper.

Taper, Taper, Taper
Based on a review of the available research on tapering[1]1, a 2-week exponential taper has been shown to be the most effective for achieving peak performance. An exponential taper is a progressive decrease in training volume from 100% to 40% over the course of the 2 weeks. While volume is decreased, workout frequency and intensity are maintained. Managing the taper can be one of the most psychologically challenging aspects of your preparation, but it is also one of the most important! Avoid giving in to either the fear that you are de-training or the desire to ride harder or longer because you feel so fresh.

[1]     Bosquet, L., Montpetit, J., Arvisais, D., Mujika, I. Effects of tapering on performance: A meta-analysis. Med Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol 39, No. 8, pp. 1358-1365, 2007.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Crit Racing Tips 102 - Beyond the Basics

Crit Racing Tips 102 (Beyond the Basics)
By PCG Master Coach BJBasham

The Peaks Coaching Group are the leaders in training and racing with power, but even if you have tons of power, if you use it wastefully, you likely won’t get the results you hope for. When it comes to racing criteriums and circuit races, where you have to react quickly, and mistakes can mean the end of your day, being smart with where you use your matches can mean the difference between being in the race, and just fighting to survive.

I wanted to write an article about Criterium racing, and give some tips, but looking around, most of the tips like “get in a good warmup,” “line up early,” “stay up front,” etc. have pretty much been covered.

So I thought about the advice I give my riders beyond the basics

That’s a lot of sprints
Back in the 90s, I went to a race, and a friend of mine and I were sitting in the parking lot before the race. He gave me some great advice which now seems really logical and intuitive. In a race with 4 corners, and 20 laps, that can mean 80 sprints, not counting the sprint to the finish or primes etc.
That’s a lot of sprints.

I watch riders at every event stomping their way out of corners over and over again, until they just can’t do it anymore. But the most successful riders ride their bike like they would drive their car, shifting down going into turns, and then spinning up through the gears as the speed comes back up so they could save more of their matches for trying to win the race.  

The key to saving your matches in a race is to avoid the big peaks in power, and that includes not making huge acceleration out of the corners. Positioning plays a big part in this, but even if you are sitting right up in the top 10 all day, you can still be wasteful or inefficient with how you ride.  
This can take some thought and practice. Looking at the course before the race and even doing a couple of hot laps taking the turns at speed is a useful part of any warmup. But also doing workouts where you practice accelerating quickly on a lighter gear and working your way through the gears as your speed builds, can help you to know not just what it feels like, but might also might highlight parts of the equation such as leg speed, your gearing choices, or even how brake/shift levers are positioned, that might need to be improved or adjusted.

Race your strengths (if you are not a sprinter, don’t wait for the sprint)
Criteriums tend to be thought of as events tailor made for sprinters, but we have all seen crits won in other ways like a late race attack or even a jump from the gun. I once knew a rider who was not a good sprinter at all, but he got many of his upgrade points in criteriums. His trick was to lead out every finishing sprint so that he was at the front and the sprinters would have to get past him if they wanted to win. He knew that there was no way, with his power, he would be able to come around a good sprinter at full speed, but if he led out the sprint, he was likely to at least hold on to a top 10 spot at the finish if not actually win the race.

The point is that any rider can try to win a criterium with tactics that fit their specific strengths and weaknesses. A strong time trial rider might want to go for a long break away. An all-arounder might try to reduce the group that they have to fight it out with at the finish by launching attacks late in the race when the field starts to get tired. Even a strong sprinter might want to approach the finish of a specific race differently based on who they are racing against. Maybe a late attack in the final kilometer that catches faster sprinters off guard.

At your next crit, if you are not chomping at the bit for a bunch sprint, think about how you can go for the win in a way that suits you. If you are not a sprinter, don’t wait for the sprint.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How to come back from injuries as a Masters Athlete

How to come back from injuries as a Masters Athlete

By PCG Elite/Master Coach Gordon Paulson

In cycling, things can change suddenly.  A moment’s inattention, a touch of wheels, and the next thing you know, you’re heading for the ground, and unfortunately sometimes the ER.  It makes no difference whether you ride road bikes, mountain bikes, or a commuter bike.  Accidents aren’t limited to riders who do criteriums.  So far this summer, I’ve seen injury producing accidents in easy rides and hard racing, in road races, mountain bike races, time trials, criteriums, group rides for fun, challenge rides, training rides…and the list can go on and on.  Face it, injuries from accidents can happen to anyone who rides a bike.

“Coming back from injuries is part of being a bike racer, because no matter what level racer you are, you’re virtually guaranteed to get hurt at some point.” ~ Jim Rutberg, Guidelines for Returning to Training After an Injury (TrainingPeaks).
The bad news is that as a Masters athlete we are more likely to have an accident, and when accidents happen to us, more likely to get injured.  Statistically, older athletes are much more likely to injure themselves than younger athletes who are doing the same sport.  When injured, a Masters athlete is more likely to experience a longer recovery time.  “In general terms, a younger person will heal from injury more quickly than an older subject with a similar injury; the recovery rate is directly related to the speed with which the body can grow new cells to repair itself.  Various sports science studies have illustrated that an injured athlete of age 45 and over will recover at a rate of between 15% and 18% slower than a similarly injured 30-year-old person.” ~ Age-Related Response to Injury, (World of Sports Science)

Management and treatment of athletic injury must take the athlete’s age into account.  With odds like these, it’s best to plan ahead.  While training your bike skills to reduce the chance of an accident is essential, you should also prepare a plan in the event you unfortunately get injured from an accident.

Tip 1:  Even before an injury occurs, you can aid your recovery by accepting that injury is possible, and spending time reconciling yourself to this fact.  This frees you up to think through a healthy approach to recovery.

Tip 2:  Following an injury, begin your recovery as if you are lost in the woods.
Step 1: Stop and Think - Take Stock- Hold Your Horses - Settle Down!  Panic doesn’t help.  Don’t dwell on how this is messing up your plans to win the Wednesday Night World Championships.  Rushing in to “Recovery” will only lead to a longer recovery period or, worse yet, an exacerbation of the injury.

Step 2: Take an inventory.  Be honest.  What’s injured, and what’s not injured?  Accept that you will need to step back a bit from your preinjury physical performance capability, and accept that it’s not the ‘end of the world.’  There may be other things you can do that help your overall fitness and help keep you from sliding toward ‘detrained.’  For example, consider following through with that core strength routine that you never seem to have enough time for, or start that nutritionally healthy eating that you always meant to do.

Step 3: Gather information…  Get the facts.  For example, depending on location of fracture, severity of the break, and age and nutritional status, average healing time for bone fractures is 6-8 weeks.  Ligaments in the knee don't take that long to heal.  Minor damage will heal within 7 to 10 days.  More severe damage can take three weeks, and up to six weeks to be fully strong and completely back to normal.  Are there things you can do to maintain fitness using uninjured body parts, for example, swimming?

Step 4: Formulate a Plan.  Find care providers who work with athletes.  Ideally, find folks who share your passion for the sport.  They will appreciate that you place a priority on returning to your sport as quickly as possible.  Plan your recovery as carefully as you would plan training for your “A” Race.  This is where an experienced coach can really make a difference.  A coach may have seen many injuries among athletes, and may have even experienced some his or herself.  A coach’s ability to know what needs to be done, and how long recovery will take, can be reassuring and help you stay on track.

Step 5: Be Patient.  If you were lost in the wilderness, the best advice would be ‘stay put and wait for help to come.’ The post-injury parallel is give the healing process time to work its magic.  Be patient.  Healing takes time.  Time is the most important component of recovery.  Accept that and don’t expect to hurry the process.

Tip 3:  To overcome the likely mental challenges from an injury that disrupts training, focus on the positives.  Establish goals.  Set priorities.  Develop a realistic timeline.  Focus on intermediate goals for recovery.  Set yourself up for some early ‘wins.’  It helps to think about all the other athletes you know, or know of, who have had similar bad luck and have come back even stronger.

Tip 4:  Commit 100% to recovery.  Make recovery your ‘training plan.’  Get organized, follow the plan persistently and diligently.  Dedicate the same level of commitment to recovery that you brought to your performance training.

Tip 5:  Never Quit.  Avoid the ‘slippery slope’ of waiting to get better and, consequently, not taking a proactive role in your recovery.  Trying to force an early recovery can be a bad thing, but equally dangerous is becoming ‘resigned’ to your fate.  Believe in the plan, and have patience. Just as patience is a powerful resource as you train to improve, patience can be indispensable for a full and satisfactory recovery.

Injuries that prevent athletes from training and competing are an unfortunate part of the sport of cycling.  Experiencing an injury does not, however, signal the end of either.  An injury may delay some accomplishments, but they should only be a temporary inconvenience.  As the saying goes, ‘if it doesn’t kill you, it only makes you stronger.’  Get stronger.