Four Workouts to Make You Faster

We need all our training zones to be ready for the first races of the season! Hunter shares four workouts to make that happen.

Power Up: Increasing Repeatability and Peak Power

Cycling is an endurance event. Long races, always another hill, mental stamina a must, thousands of miles needed in our legs. Plus we need to be able to put out high wattages in a single instance.

Put Some Training in Your Training Races

Spring is here, and training races are beginning. Are these events the same as any other event on your calendar? Coach BJ suggests we use our training races as an extension of our normal training program.

Pre-Race Nutrition

The week before a race can be stressful as we try to avoid illness or injury. Nutritionist Jen encourages us to focus on something constructive instead: proper nutrition and adequate rest!

One Watt of Motivation

Is hiring a coach enough to get you on the podium of your dreams? No. Coach Tim explains why we need to find a deeper source of motivation in order to achieve our goals.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Elevation and Racing

Peaks Coaching Group Cycling Racing Elevation Altitude

Riding at elevation is always a challenge, regardless of whether you live there and deal with it every day or whether you’re a sea-level rider who gets the privilege of higher riding only once in a while. It requires adjustments to our training, including the types of intervals and rest periods we use, and we may have to change our racing and pacing strategies to compensate for the lack of partial pressure of oxygen. The wattage we’re able to produce reduces dramatically based on our acclimatization, time at elevation, and height above sea level.

For those of us not accustomed to a higher elevation, it can be quite a shock to the system as our watts plummet, our breathing rate shoots through the roof, and our heart just can’t seem to beat fast enough to keep up with the demands we put on it. As we climb higher, it just gets worse and worse. An FTP of 300 watts at sea level is soon reduced to 250 watts and suffering a thousand deaths. Even if you’re already acclimatized to a higher elevation, riding even higher is still difficult and lowers your watts, though it’s a little easier for you and the suffering is less.

The impact of high elevation varies with each individual; no standard measurement of its effects can be exactly applied to all cyclists. One rider might be highly impacted as he approaches 7000 feet, while another won’t really begin to feel the effects until 9500 feet. It’s very tough to figure out ahead of time how you’ll respond; really the only way is to just get out there and do some riding at various elevations. There are quite a few good studies that go in depth on this topic alone and propose elevation adjustment schedules based on detailed research. Check out the study by Bassett, Kyle, et al., and a very good one by Fulco, et al. These give us some insight into just how difficult it is to predict the effects of elevation on cyclists; while they get to within 5% accuracy in their elevation correction tables, 5% is a very large number when considering wattage output; it could be the difference between trying to hold 300 watts and 285 watts! So we must be careful to adopt a wide range of power output when considering a specific pacing schedule at elevation.

The next consideration we must make and understand while at elevation is that it’s the aerobic component of fitness that is affected by a higher and higher elevation. This means that our power output will still be the same for short, intense anaerobic and neuromuscular power efforts lasting from 5 seconds to 1 minute. Since these efforts don’t rely as much on producing energy through using oxygen, we should be able to knock out almost the same wattages as we would at sea level. The critical consideration when doing such intervals, though, is that we have to increase the rest period between the efforts. Recovery from high-intensity exercise is heavily dependent on the aerobic system (even for super short efforts), and I suggest lengthening recovery periods between intervals to three times the normal length. For example, instead of doing 10 x 1-minute at 150% of FTP with two minutes of rest between each, we should increase that rest period to six minutes. Yes, that dramatically lengthens the time of a ride, but it also allows us to still achieve the maximum training stimulus for our anaerobic and neuromuscular power efforts.

It’s also important to consider our initial pacing of longer, more aerobic intervals when we train and race at a higher elevation. Any time we do intervals longer than three minutes, we should consider taking it a bit easier in the first three minutes to “ramp” into the effort. A normal, super-hard attack from the start of the timer will be a mistake; we can’t even come close to maintaining sea-level intensity for longer, more aerobic efforts. We should start strong on intervals but “sneak up” on our wattage goals for each interval, and possibly lengthen the interval at least 20% so we appropriately stress the correct energy system. For example, we would normally do VO2Max intervals between 106-120% of FTP and for 3-8 minutes. When doing a 5-minute interval at sea level, targeting 115% of FTP would be a great goal and certainly achievable, but when we’re at higher elevation, we should extend the time of this interval to 7 minutes and target 110% of FTP only in the last 4 minutes of the interval, using the first 3 minutes of the interval to ramp up to that wattage carefully so that instead of “blowing up,” we’ll be able to maintain that 110% for the full final four minutes, which should be long enough to create an appropriate training stress to improve the VO2Max system. This also applies for longer FTP-type intervals, as well as pacing in an attack off the front of the peloton or starting out in a time trial at elevation. Time trialing is especially problematic from a pacing perspective, since at sea level we should always hold back at the start to allow our perceived exertion to catch up with our actual exertion; when at elevation, however, we need to hold back even more and for a little bit longer so we can, again, ramp up to FTP.

A final thought: When analyzing power data after a training session or race, it can be difficult to account for the effects of elevation. It is clearly nonsensical to simply apply a generic correction equation to adjust power outputs across the board (i.e., at both lower and higher intensities). As mentioned above, not only do the effects of elevation vary between individuals, but also the different energy systems (i.e., aerobic and non-aerobic) are impacted to varying degrees. Ignoring these critical aspects (as some do) often leads to significant under- or over-correction of the raw data and thus incorrect values for TSS.

Enjoy the view! For more reading, Dr. Randy Wilber's excellent book, Altitude Training and Athletic Performance.

Want more coaching and training tips? Request information about our coaching packages or schedule a consulting session with one of our expert coaches. With power training, we get powerful results.  

Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of Training 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

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The All-Business Racer

Peaks Coaching Group Business Cyclist Athlete Racer

Are you the all-business racer whose business isn't racing? You probably work beyond the 9-5, and you have work travel, a family, and a host of other commitments to juggle to as you shoe-horn training and racing into the mix. But come race day, you are a bike racer, period.

So how do we make it all happen and pull off success at the races? Here are a few tips from experience.

Maintain life balance.

Try to find the balance between your career goals and your race goals that won’t leave you frustrated in one or the other, or both. Be honest with yourself about the time you have to commit to each, and be sure to leave unscheduled time too. That’s a tough one: to leave time for nothing. No plan, just time. Sometimes it can just be a weekend off from racing or a weekend with shorter training time to allow time to just be. That down time can do wonders for both your motivation and performance.

Be adaptable.

We like training plans, and we like having a schedule to work toward our goals. Sometimes, though, life just happens and our plans get upset. Moving a key workout to another day or having a more flexible workout schedule can help. I've taken very busy athletes and basically said, “I want you to do this type of workout twice this week, and this type once or twice if you can. Put an easy day between the high intensity days.” This may not be the most optimal strategy from a planning standpoint, but it gives you the ability to adapt and thereby make cycling NOT another stress in your life but a stress relief instead. Aim for the spirit of the block of training in these cases.

Be creative.

If you travel, you might not always have a bike, and no gym, either. What to do? Bring cross training or running shoes and run stairwell laps in a two- or three-story building. Time the laps and use them to make intervals of faster circuits. You can also do plyometrics in your hotel room; these jumps are great for building power and can translate over to the bike once you get back home.

You can also use cycling as a break from work, even if you have more work to do after your workout. I went to grad school while working full time, and training became my mental break. The key is to ride for time, not miles. If you plan a twenty-mile ride, you’re tempted to ride hard to get back sooner and get more work done. If you ride by time, you can’t hurry it up, and it eliminates stress. You’ll probably also find that the break leaves you more refreshed and that you can accomplish more once you've gotten out and trained hard. One of my athletes had some long work days, so we set a cut-off later in the day to get out and train for ninety minutes before returning to work. We also set another cut-off that would ensure he went to bed early enough to get enough rest to be productive the following day. Rest is training, but it is also a key to being better both professionally and athletically.

As a busy professional you have many life stresses. You need life balance. Be adaptable and creative, and find ways to keep cycling fun and a stress relief. Work with your coach to help set realistic goals, both professionally and in cycling, to achieve life balance and ultimately enjoy both more and reach new levels in all.

Want more coaching and training tips? Request information about our coaching packages or schedule a consulting session with one of our expert coaches. With power training, we get powerful results.  

Todd Scheske is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach, a category 1 cyclist, and a Peaks Coaching Group elite/master coach. He has won several masters national medals, state road championships, and regional victories. Over the past twenty years he founded four different elite cycling teams and served as their program director and team director, while also promoting bike safety and healthy lifestyles to youth in community programs. He runs a successful junior program and produces a USA Cycling Talent ID camp. Todd can be contacted directly through

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review: Pinarello Dogma F8

The Peaks Coaching Group team was able to spend some time in Mallorca this March testing out our new team bikes, the Pinarello Dogma F8. Yeah, yeah, we know: tough job. The really cool thing is that we’d already been riding the 2014 Dogma Think 2, and we were able to compare the two; now we can hopefully give some insight into the upgrade.

I have to note one thing right up front: the moment we built the bikes and did the “pick-up test” (you know, when you get it together and pick it up and mentally calibrate the weight, measuring instantly against all historical bikes and future perceptions of what a bike should weigh), we knew this F8 was going to be something special. It feels considerably lighter than its predecessors.

Next we have to get the aero question out of the way. Pinarello makes lots of claims in its marketing of increased aerodynamics compared to the Think 2 and other bikes. We have no scientific method of testing this; we’re going by our feeling and perceptions on the bike (I know someone will comment about any thoughts we have in this area about aerodynamics, so I’m getting the disclaimer out of the way right here).

I’m going to start this review backwards and start with the final key point. The Pinarello Dogma F8 is faster. Period. Read my note above on aerodynamics, but I can tell you that the feel of the F8 compared to the Think 2 or any other bike we tested is that this is one fast bike.

What do we mean by fast? Great question! Thanks for asking. Let’s break it down into three fields: acceleration, handling, and feel.


The F8 is stiffer, crisper, and lighter than the Think 2. Don’t get me wrong; the Think 2 had a great feel of blended comfort and snap. But the F8 is sharp, with a stiff and responsive answer to any power applied to the pedals. The decreased weight makes the bike feel livelier, while the improved bottom bracket and head tube stiffness really allow you to wind this bike up quickly. The Think 2 has an amazing “feel” as a bike, but the F8 ups the ante by giving it the snappy response.


The F8 is a weapon! The bike has an incredible handling feeling when pushing hard through turns. It seems to capture the best of both worlds. The Think 2 was the most rock-solid turn/downhill handling bike we have ever ridden, but it could be a touch sluggish in setting up turns, though once in it would hold lines like it had Velcro tires. The F8 is fast into any turn, and it sticks. The new fork and head tube setup really allows you to push this bike into cornering at speeds that make those hairs on the back of your hands stand up, but then it delivers a smooth handling feel that gives you confidence that you can go through that turn that fast. One of the hard-to-explain feelings it delivers is how well the whole bike tracks. I’ve commented on this before: some bikes out there are stiff up front and soft in the bottom bracket area (or the reverse), which gives them a strange feeling in handling hard cornering and descending. The F8 literally feels like it “snaps” through a turn, with the rear end smartly aligning to all pressure applied up front. Again, this is a confidence builder. It’s almost as if in a deep corner you feel the rear end “hook up” and you’re shot out of the turn, just like a fine race car would do. Just a note: the Think 2 has the same feeling, but the lighter, more agile F8 really brings it to life.


This is a simple one. The F8 feels fast, damn fast, I will crush you fast! We have ridden and tested aero bikes before, and we can say the F8 nails the feeling you want. It feels like a standard road bike while delivering the aero advantage. Everything just feels (and is) faster on this bike. Wednesday night worlds? Faster! Hard interval session? Faster! Recovery ride? Faster! (Careful….)

This one is a keeper! We love everything about the new F8 and honestly struggle to find any negative. Our only comment of caution is to use a torque wrench when adjusting the set post.

And go faster!

Peaks Coaching Group Tim Cusick
Tim Cusick is a USA Cycling Level 3 coach, the president of Peaks Coaching Group, and a PCG elite/master coach. He and our other coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. Tim can be contacted directly through or

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Recipe: Kartoffel Apfel Rosti (Apple Potato Cakes)

Peaks Coaching Group Recipe Kartoffel Apfel Rosti
We athletes are often limited on time and are always trying to find new ways to eat healthy quickly and cheaply. I'd like to share with you a simple German dish I learned to prepare while racing in Europe. It's a great healthy dinner after a long workout, particularly a brick workout.

Kartoffel Apfel Rosti

Serves 2.


  • 2 large apples (the sweeter the better)
  • 2 large white potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of flour (adjust as necessary; a little more flour will make the cakes thicker; a little less will make them a little softer)
  • Pinch of salt and pepper (or use brown sugar instead if you're like sweeter cakes)
Shred the apples and potatoes, placing in separate bowls. Squeeze the shredded apples to eliminate the apple juice (if you don't do this, you'll end up with apple-potato soup). Mix the apples and potatoes together in a bowl; add the flour and mix well. Shape the mixture into four to six palm-sized patties (very similar in size to a hamburger patty). Heat a few droplets of olive oil in a skillet over medium to high heat and sear the patties for 4-5 minutes on each side.


Peaks Coaching Group Chris Myers
Chris Myers is a USA Cycling Level 2 coach, a USA Triathlon Level 1 coach, a USA Swimming Level 2 coach, a certified nutritionist, and a Peaks Coaching Group elite coach. He and his fellow PCG coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. He can be contacted directly through or

Photo credit:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Pre- and Post-Ride Mobility

Peaks Coaching Group Before and After Ride Mobility Stretches Yoga

It is important for all athletes (and anyone who stays active) to keep two key areas of the body open, flexible, and balanced: the hamstrings and the hip flexors (mainly the psoas). Both of these are primary causes of low back crankiness, especially for cyclists and runners, as well as reduced efficiency, power, and speed in pedal stroke or running gait.

I've got some must-do yoga movements to target these two critical areas. The pre-ride/run sequences can even be done with your cleats or running shoes on. Regularity is key! Try to do these consistently for great results.

Pre-Ride/Run Sequence

Muscle research proves that it is important and better to do dynamic stretching before training in order to move the muscles and build some heat and blood flow. The sequence below targets the psoas and hips; do it up to three times each side before your ride or run. Make sure to follow the breath instructions for optimal results to prep your body and focus your mind.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Going Bananas for Bananas

The poor banana. It gets so much bad press. High carb! High sugar! Many diets shun the banana. So I get that it’s not the most exotic or exciting fruit. It might even be considered a little boring, especially with all the pomegranate, acai, and mangosteen madness the past few years. I've always been against labeling foods as “super foods,” however, and I don’t put bananas lower on the nutrition totem pole than any other fruit (anyway, does anyone really eat mangosteen?). I admit I tend to root for the underdog, but the banana really does have a lot going for it. It may not be an especially glamorous fruit, but there is still so much to love.

I forgot about the banana once. I’m still not sure why, but I probably went several years without buying a single one! It wasn't on purpose; I was just distracted by other, more thrilling fruits, I guess. I came back to the banana, though. I was trying to up my fruit and veggie intake and was on the lookout for new, easily digested foods to integrate into my pre-workout meals and snacks. The banana was the perfect solution, and I've been buying them weekly ever since.

Here's why I like bananas and hope you will too!
  • Bananas are portable and easy to eat. There are no messy seeds or juices, and no utensils are needed, making it a great on-the-go snack. They're also easy to shove in a bike jersey pocket! (Tip: consider pre-peeling the banana if your bike handling skills aren't impeccable).
  • Bananas are easily digested and are a good source of carbohydrate, making them a great food to consume immediately before and during exercise. They're a great alternative to gels, bars, and chews for athletes who prefer to use real food instead of (or in addition to) sport nutrition products. One medium banana provides about 30 grams of carbs, which is comparable to one gel.
  • Bananas are high in nutrition. They're commonly known for being high in potassium, but they're also great sources of vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese, and fiber! 
  • Bananas are cost effective. They typically cost less than $1 per pound even for the organic kind, so they aren’t gonna break the bank. It’s also nice that you can buy just a few at a time so you don’t have to worry about them going bad before you get around to eating them. 
  • Bananas may help with weight management. They're high in resistant starch, which is a type of fiber that isn't easily digested and is thought to promote feeling satiated and to improve glycemic control (in other words, stabilize blood sugars). Some studies have linked diets high in resistant starch to lower body weight, but the jury is still out, so don’t overdo it with your banana intake. Eat them uncooked to get the full benefits of resistant starch.
On top of all those reasons, bananas are super versatile and make an awesome addition to all sorts of meals and snacks, such as the following:
  • Breakfast: Slice up a banana and add it to your morning cereal or oatmeal.
  • Snacks: Add sliced bananas to Greek yogurt or cottage cheese. Or top a slice of whole wheat toast with banana and your favorite nut butter. This is one of my go-to pre-race breakfasts!
  • Lunch: Make a wrap with one whole wheat wrap, peanut or almond butter, sliced banana, and a drizzle of honey for the perfect on-the-go lunch.
  • Dinner: Spice up a traditional Hawaiian pizza by adding sliced banana.
  • Post-workout: Make a recovery smoothie by blending 8 ounces of low-fat chocolate milk with 1 frozen banana.
  • Dessert: Slice a banana down the middle and fill the inside with a tablespoon or two of chocolate chips or bits of dark chocolate. Pop in the oven until the chocolate melts. Bonus points if you have  a campfire to make this over!
Bananas really are an athlete’s best friend. Eat up!

Want assistance in developing your nutrition? Click here to find out how we can help! You can also check out our pre-made meal plans and our eBook on post-workout recovery nutrition.

Jen Sommer is a registered dietitian, a certified specialist in sports dietetics, a former NASM certified personal trainer, and a self-appointed mountain girl. As a cyclist, skier, hiker, and runner (among other things), she knows firsthand the importance of proper nutrition and training. She offers nutrition coaching and consulting through Peaks Coaching Group. Find more great tips, recipes, and articles at Jen's blog, Mountain Girl Nutrition and Fitness

Photo Credit:

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Four Workouts to Make You Faster

Peaks Coaching Group Four Workouts to Make You Faster

The first races of the season are always a little tougher, simply because we haven’t gotten into the race rhythm yet. All the cyclists who pushed themselves throughout the winter are eager to show off their hard-won fitness; if you're one of those few, spring races are lots of fun for you and filled with success. If you’re a little behind on your fitness or are planning on peaking in the summer, 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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Importance of Saddle Choice in Bike Fitting

The Importance of Saddle Choice in Bike Fitting

As a bike fitter, I work with cyclists who vary wildly in experience and ambitions, but the objective goal of fitting is the same for each and every client: a position that balances comfort, power, and control. And no other single component has as much effect on each of these factors as the saddle. In fact, I prefer to start every fit by making certain that the client is on the correct saddle before making any assumptions or adjustments.

The saddle’s job description

The saddle’s job is to provide stability and support for our pelvis in its natural orientation, without causing contact-point discomfort. Each of us will naturally orient our pelvis as a product of our own functionality, flexibility, body structure, and preference. All in all, it’s a very individual interface. The good news is that there is no shortage of saddle designs, shapes, and configurations on the market. A good fitter will place high priority on helping you find the correct saddle first.


The most obvious impact of saddle choice is the resulting comfort, and it’s important to realize that incorrect saddle choice can result in direct discomfort and/or indirect discomfort. Direct discomfort, as the name implies, refers to the contact interface between your body and the saddle. If the saddle width, shape, or density is not optimal for you, you may experience mild to severe discomfort (chafing, soreness, numbness) at the contact points.

If the saddle is fundamentally incorrect for your pelvic orientation, it may lead to indirect discomfort, or issues that crop up as byproducts. As an example, consider the common scenario of a rider who is functionally optimal when riding with a high degree of anterior (forward) pelvic rotation and a long, neutral spine. If this rider’s bike is fitted with a saddle that doesn’t permit his pelvic orientation, he may experience increased saddle pressure and perineum discomfort. As a result, he may train himself to sit with more posterior (rearward) pelvic tilt to alleviate the pressure/discomfort, and this often leads to more spinal flexion (rounding of the back) and increased tension through the shoulders, neck, and arms. Furthermore, this adopted posterior pelvic rotation may cause an overuse of his hip flexors instead of his powerful gluteal muscles, leading to chronic frontal-chain soreness. As you can gather, full body comfort stems from the correct saddle choice.


As cyclists, we’re often training to get stronger and more powerful on our bikes. Power production is the product of metabolic and biomechanical processes. Metabolic efficiency increases through aerobic training, and while your position does indirectly impact this process, it’s largely a separate topic. Saddle choice does, however, have a direct impact on biomechanical efficiency (the way your body moves and performs). Maximized biomechanical efficiency comes as a product of operating in the unique position that’s best for you; this is different for everyone based on each rider’s skeletal and muscular anatomy and each rider’s neuromuscular recruitment patterns (how many muscle fibers your brain can recruit in action). It’s crucial for power and efficiency to select a saddle that allows you to sit in your natural, preferred orientation. Finding a saddle that supports and provides stability in your preferred orientation will take the load off of your musculature and other resources that would be utilized to “hold” your preferred position on a less supportive, non-optimal saddle. If a saddle is too incorrect, you may not be able to achieve your preferred pelvic rotation at all, significantly reducing your efficiency and power production potential.

There is a lot of research, opinion, and data regarding what pelvic orientation is the most powerful, but at the end of the day, remember that the most powerful orientation is the one where you are most functional. Your orientation may change as you do targeted training, focused work on balancing muscle group strength, and pedaling-efficiency drills, but the concept remains the same.


Your saddle is one of only three contact points on our bikes, and as such, saddle selection has a tremendous impact on our control over our bikes. I like to think of control as a balance of stability and agility, and the main factor that contributes to this balance is your weight distribution relative to the bike’s geometry. How you distribute your weight among your saddle, pedals, and handlebars, and where these loads are applied relative to your bike’s wheels and bottom bracket, will govern the amount of control you have over your machine. Determining your pelvic orientation and selecting a correspondingly correct saddle will allow you to naturally distribute your weight on the bike. Pelvic orientation has a significant impact on weight distribution; if you make a significant change in your posture at the pelvis, you may notice a dramatic impact on the handling of your bike. This may require a change in cockpit length or even frame size to regain the proper balance of stability and agility. 

It’s common for riders to be between off-the-rack frame sizes. If this is you, visit a proper bike fitter for a saddle evaluation when shopping for a new bike. Taking into account pelvic orientation, effective torso length, and weight distribution will often help with making the final decision in frame size. Don’t end up with a sluggish or twitchy new bike as a result of a fit based around the wrong saddle choice!

Take the first step first

Few things impact a rider’s experience as much as saddle choice. Since it affects power, comfort, and control, the perch you select should be nothing less than optimal. As a bike fitter, I truly emphasize the importance of setting the saddle first, as it is a primary driver of the rest of the bike fitting process. And there’s no excuse to compromise on seat choice; there are hundreds of shapes, styles, and variations on the market today. Find a fitter who respects the impact of the saddle, and you’ll be rewarded with miles of smiles.

Want more expert advice and personalized assistance with saddle choice, bike fit, or riding faster? We'd love to help! Contact us today to find out more.

Joe Hydrick is a USA Cycling Level 2 coach, a Slowtwitch F.I.S.T. certified bike fitter, and a Peaks Coaching Group associate coach. He is also the founder and owner of Hyline Endurance, a power-based indoor training and bike fitting studio in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He and our other coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. Joe can be contacted directly through or

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pre-Race Nutrition

Peaks Coaching Group Pre Race Nutrition

So you've arrived at the week before a race: taper week, with all its perils. You’ve done all the training (in fact, at this point too much training might actually hurt your race), and now you worry about injuries or illness popping up. It can be a frustrating and anxiety-provoking time period, but there are things you can focus on instead of fretting: proper nutrition and adequate rest!

What is the key to pre-race nutrition? Well, nutrition professionals don’t always agree on the specifics about the “right” way to do things, probably because there isn’t one perfect way. However, conventional wisdom calls for carb loading for endurance activities lasting greater than two or three hours, and this is the protocol I typically follow, as it seems to work for me. Some registered dietitians and athletes have experimented with fat loading instead of carb loading and have had success, particularly with ultra endurance events. It’s important to find out what works right for you based on your sport, special nutritional needs, and preferences.

One thing most nutrition professionals will agree upon regardless of where they stand on fat vs. carbs is this: do not try anything new or different the week before the race. This is not the time to check out that new Indian buffet down the street! Continue eating foods your body is familiar with to avoid any GI distress.

If your event will last longer than two or three hours, consider upping your carbohydrate intake for two or three days prior to the event. Avoid the fallacy of the pre-race pasta binge; eating  one giant carb-packed meal the night before the race won’t help you maximize glycogen stores, and it may cause stomach upset. Proper carb loading requires increasing your carb intake to up to 10 grams per kilogram (4.5 grams per pound) of body weight for two to three days leading up to the event. If you carb load correctly, you will gain some water weight, as each gram of carbohydrate (like glycogen) is stored with 3 grams of water. Just make sure to cut back slightly on protein and fat during this phase to avoid exceeding your energy needs and gaining true weight.

The type of carbs you choose to fill up with can vary with preferences. A mixture of whole grain and processed carbs is okay during this time, as too many whole grains may cause GI issues due to the high fiber content, and too much white bread and processed carbs can lead to blood sugar highs and lows (and their accompanying symptoms). My carb loading days include lots of oatmeal (mix in pumpkin for a tasty bonus!), bagels, French toast, pasta, sweet potatoes, fruits, low-fat yogurt, and cereal. It’s fun for a couple of days to splurge on carbs, but if you do it right, you’ll likely be sick of them by day three!

As I mentioned above, your body stores carbohydrates with water, so it’s important to drink adequate fluids during this time, as well (although water is important all the time!). Carbohydrate drinks can be used to meet carb and fluid needs.

For the morning of the race, the guidelines for carbohydrate intake prior to an endurance event are 1-4 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight 1-4 hours before the event. The closer to the event you eat, the less you’ll want to consume (i.e., 1 gram carb per kg body weight if you eat one hour before). How early before the event you eat depends on what time the race is, how early you're willing to get up, and how long it takes for your stomach to feel digested before an intense workout. Most athletes aim for 2-3 hours before the start of the race.

A sample pre-race nutrition plan tried and true for me (I’m not saying I recommend it for everyone) is the following: about 1.5 hours pre-event I’ll eat a bagel thin with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and 1 tablespoon of honey, half a banana, coffee, and about 4-6 ounces of beet juice. Then 30-45 minutes before the race, I take one packet of Generation UCAN made with 12 ounces water. I’ve tried all these things before, and they seem to work with my digestive system.

To sum it up, good nutrition, lower training volume, hydration, and good sleep will prepare you for a good race!

What's your pre-race nutrition routine?

Want assistance in developing your nutrition? Click here to find out how we can help! You can also check out our pre-made meal plans and our eBook on post-workout recovery nutrition.

Photo Credit: Lilyana Vynogradova /

Jen Sommer is a registered dietitian, a certified specialist in sports dietetics, a former NASM certified personal trainer, and a self-appointed mountain girl. As a cyclist, skier, hiker, and runner (among other things), she knows firsthand the importance of proper nutrition and training. She offers nutrition coaching and consulting through Peaks Coaching Group. Find more great tips, recipes, and articles at Jen's blog, Mountain Girl Nutrition and Fitness

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Put Some Training in Your Training Races

Peaks Coaching Group Put Some Training in your Training Races

The start of the season is finally here, and the early spring training race series are beginning. Many riders see these inexpensive crits and road races as the start of the racing season, and they approach the training races the same as they would any other event in the calendar. This is fine to a point, but training races should ideally act as an extension of your normal training program to help prepare you for the bigger events in the heart of your racing year.

How do you get the most out of a training race? Remember that it’s about training and not so much about racing. The training goals of a training race can be quite varied, depending on your racing experience and capabilities. For some riders, training races are a great place to work on pack-riding skills. For others, they can be used to try out tactics and work on team strategies and techniques. For still others, they're the perfect place to pinpoint the rider's limits, strengths, and weaknesses.

I have only two rules when incorporating training races into an athlete’s program. First, you have to go into each training race with a goal to try something new, work on a weakness, or try some tactics without worrying about if they work or not. Second, I don’t want the training race to totally take the place of training for that day. Most spring training criteriums, and even some road races, aren’t really long enough to get in much of a workout, so it's ideal to augment the training race with extra time on the bike to make it into a full training day that includes the race and then some endurance or skill training.

There are many things we can learn from a training race, especially if we’re racing with a power meter. The most helpful data comes from events where we fail in some way; we can look at what was going on leading up to the problem and then figure out what can be done to avoid the failure the next time around. We might find that we aren’t attacking hard enough to get a gap on the field, or we may find that we’re simply working too much and too hard in the race until eventually we can’t keep up. Training races give us a great opportunity to make mistakes we can learn from and to find out what we need to work on.

So how do you put training in your training races? Establish a goal for each event and remember that it’s more about training and not so much about racing. After the race, think about what happened, both good and bad, and see what you’ve learned. Talk to your coach or teammates about the race and find out if they noticed something you may have missed. Training is about getting stronger, and if you’ve learned something that will help your racing, you will be stronger because of it. 

If you'd like expert advice about how to make the most of your own training races, plus professional support while you do so, contact us today! Your success is our goal; it's the reason we do what we do.

BJ Basham is a USAC Level 1 power certified coach and a PCG master coach. His coaching philosophy is based on flexibility and communications. He believes that every training plan should be written in pencil, as very few people can control everything that may come up in their lives or know exactly how they will respond to a given training load or personal event. He works together with his athletes to do what it takes to help them reach their goals with the time and resources available. BJ’s primary goal is to bring his athletes to the point where they enjoy the time they spend cycling. He teaches the importance of balancing work, training, and rest; how to take care of your equipment; and how to juggle (literally). BJ can be contacted through or

Photo: PCG Elite Coach Kathy Watts in Mallorca, Spain