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.

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.

Nutrition Questions and Answers for the Recreational Female Athlete

Nutrition can be tricky, especially when you first begin to increase your level of training. Nutritionist Namrita Kumar answers some important questions for active women.

Stretch for Better Bike Performance

Coach Leslee shares her expert tips on how to get the most out of yoga/mobility moves and then translate those benefits to good form on the bike (or in any sport).

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 / Shutterstock.com

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 peakscoachinggroup.com or info@peakscoachinggroup.com.

Photo: PCG Elite Coach Kathy Watts in Mallorca, Spain

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Recipe: Chopped Thai Chicken Salad

from the kitchen of Namrita Kumar, PCG nutritionist

Chopped Thai Chicken Salad

Serves 4

Salad Ingredients

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 small head green or white cabbage (2 cups shredded)
  • 1 large carrot (1½ cups shredded)
  • 1 green papaya (1½ cups shredded)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice   

Dressing Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced hot pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tamari or coconut aminos
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup water


Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the chicken breasts, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes. When the chicken is done, remove from heat, drain water, let cool, and shred with two forks.

Chop the cabbage into very thin pieces, like for coleslaw (I did this by rolling up several leaves together, making thin vertical slices across the roll, and then chopping them once horizontally). Peel and grate the carrots. Cut off the skin of the papaya, remove the seeds, and grate. Roughly chop the cilantro and green onions. Toss the chicken and vegetables in a large bowl and keep chilled.

Mince the garlic and chili peppers. Place garlic and peppers in a small mixing bowl with the tamari, vinegar, sugar, lime juice, oil, and fish sauce. Whisk until smooth. Add the peanut butter and water and whisk again until smooth and creamy.

Toss the salad with the dressing. Add the crushed peanuts. Serve each serving chilled over ½ cup rice. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to one day. For best results, keep the leftover salad and dressing separate until ready to serve.

Nutrition information: 511 kcal, 24.5 grams fat, 52.5 grams carbohydrates, 27 grams protein

This recipe is from Namrita's e-book, Carbs are King: The Importance of Post-Workout Recovery.Click here to get your copy

Photo credit: hercheyk.blogspot.com

Namrita's racing background is primarily in endurance mountain biking and, more recently, some XC distance racing and XTERRA off-road triathlon. She works with triathletes, ultra-endurance mountain bike racers, self-supported ultra racers, marathon runners, and more. She is an active member of the American College of Sports Medicine, Professionals in Nutrition for Exercise & Sport (PINES), and the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) Honorary Board, and she is a founding member of the Georgia High School Cycling League. Namrita can be contacted directly through Peaks Coaching Group.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Parents and Podiums: How to chase your training goals as a busy mom or dad

All parents know that things change very quickly when a child is born. Time shrinks, laundry grows, priorities shift, and each day’s schedule revolves around diaper changes and naptime. Taking care of your health becomes even more important, even as life’s demands increase exponentially, and as you invest more and more into your family it often gets more and more challenging to find the energy and ability to pursue your own passions.

As most athletes understand, though, a challenge can be fun! The bigger your challenge, the bigger your opportunity. Is it possible to maintain your fitness, move toward your goals, and be a good parent at the same time? We say yes! We’ve gathered a panel of some of our coaches who are also parents, and here is their best advice.

Meet the contributors to this article:
Bill McLaughlin
Father of 2
Christian Sheridan
Father of 1
Karen Mackin
Mother of 2
Kathy Watts
Mother of 1
Nick Stanko
Father of 1
Stacey McMickens
Mother of 2

Be flexible.

Christian: Your child will get sick. Your child will get you sick. And all your carefully laid out plans will be thrown off. Be ready to improvise while still moving toward your goals. (Having an experienced coach really pays off here!) If you’re familiar with TrainingPeaks and/or WKO, use the performance manager chart (PMC) and your training stress balance (TSB) to judge whether you really need a recovery week when scheduled. Since you’ll probably have a lot of unscheduled rest with illnesses and other family-related issues, you may not need to take a recovery week every fourth week. Keep track of your TSB and see if you can get in another week of training while you can.

Karen: At first I found it frustrating that I couldn't carve out a big enough block of time to get in what I considered a decent workout (i.e., at least one hour). I realized I needed to reset my thinking; any duration of workout is a good workout. Even if you can only do twenty minutes, it’s far better than doing nothing at all. Get your head around shorter, more frequent, higher intensity workouts. For example, you might do two thirty-minute workouts in a day, one doing short, high-intensity intervals and the other banging out a steady sweet spot.

Nick: Schedule a rest day that works with your family schedule. If Mondays and the start of the week are the most stressful in your home, take Mondays off. If Saturdays are filled with kids and their sports, take Saturday off.

Be consistent.

Christian: Consistency is key. You're not always going to have time to get the full scheduled workout in, but some ride is better than none, and being on the bike five to six days every week will really help cement the habit in place.

Nick: Block out time each day for training, even if it means getting up early to train in the morning before the kids get up. Build your training time into your daily schedule. If you’ve got a coach, tell your coach what time you’ve set aside for your training, and he or she will help you make the most of that time.

Stacey: Be realistic with the time you have available to train. Your week-in-week-out consistency is more important than high volume for time-crunched athletes. Be patient and be consistent with the time you have.

Train indoors.

Bill: Invest in a good indoor trainer that is as quiet as possible (I recommend a CompuTrainer or the CycleOps Fluid 2). When my children were small, my wife worked nights while I worked days, so I bought a CompuTrainer and trained after I put the kids to bed. You also need a good solid training plan and goals so you don’t waste the time. There were times I could only fit in an hour, so having a good training plan will keep you on track. Having a coach in these situations really helps, also.

Christian: The indoor trainer is your new best friend. Even if you live in a place where you can ride outdoors, still consider doing workouts on the trainer. The more controlled environment and ability to totally focus can be a more efficient use of your time than outdoor training.

Stacey: With an indoor trainer you can achieve a high quality workout in a short amount of time, such as before the family wakes up or while they’re napping.

Bring the kiddos along.

Bill: Plan some of your events (whether races or recreational rides) around your family. The kids love to cheer for Mom and Dad (especially when they’re little), and we love it too! When I had a race we all went to as a family, I also planned a family outing afterward in the same area; maybe just hanging out at the park, going for lunch, or a local attraction. I only brought the kids to a few events each season so as to not overdo it, but this helps ensure they don’t all hate attending your events but instead actually enjoy them and look forward to them.

Karen: Try a baby jogger or trailer bike. I do recommend that you borrow one from a friend to test out before purchasing it, though; some kids like them, but others just don't. If you have kids who don't, it can make for a pretty miserable workout! You could also find a fitness center that has childcare, or take your kids for swim lessons while you get in a thirty-minute swim.

Kathy: Put a helmet on your little ones right from the first time you strap them in the infant seat or sit them on the trailer bike; if the helmet is just part of the experience, they’ll accept it much quicker. And make your bike rides fun! Ride toward a destination (such as the ice cream shop). Once your kids are old enough to ride beside you themselves, invite their friends along so it’s a party instead of just working out.

Get help.

Bill: Trade weekend days with your spouse when you need to get in long training rides or train with a group. Remember, your spouse has a life too, and it may not be cycling, so give and take is important. Be creative with your training: when your spouse is away, train short and sweet indoors or plan a mini block training week in advance with recovery scheduled for the days he or she is away.

Karen: One of the best things I did when my kids were really little was to find other like-minded moms who need workout time themselves (this is easier if you live in a more populated area). One friend had children about the same age, and we’d tag team a two- to three-hour play date: one of us would watch over the kids’ playtime while the other got outside for a run or bike, and then we’d swap! The kids had fun together and we both got in a workout. I used to do a similar thing in the morning with my husband; he'd do the really early morning workout before the kids got up, and then I’d go out afterward while he got breakfast for the kids.

Nick: If you’re a single parent without help from a partner, figure out a way to get that support elsewhere. Can you train during your lunch break from work? How about right after work before you pick up the kids from daycare or school?

Stacey: Train smarter, not harder! Hire a coach who can optimize the precious hours you have to train.

Enjoy it.

Our last tip, and perhaps the most important, comes from Stacey:

Despite the challenges of finding time to train as a parent, don’t let yourself get stressed out over it. Enjoy every moment with your kids, and enjoy every moment of the process of transforming your fitness. This is not an instant makeover. The athletes who embrace their small accomplishments are the ones who usually see results faster.

Our coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes balancing all different walks of life. Contact us to find out how we can help you achieve your goals!

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Power Up: Increasing Repeatability and Peak Power

Peaks Coaching Group Power Up Increase Repeatability and Peak Power

A cyclist’s ability to push through multiple hill repeats, multiple attacks, tons of sprints, and an almost unending amount of accelerations is key to riding at the front of the peloton. Races and group rides may present multiple challenges that force us into the red zone many times each lap, and the rider that masters each challenge without fatiguing is the one with the best chance at success.

As we all know, cycling is an endurance event in every meaning of the word. The races are long, there's always another hill, mental endurance is crucial to keep going, and you need thousands upon thousands of miles in your legs. Even shorter efforts like a long finishing sprint require endurance.

However, your ability to put out high wattages in a single instance is just as important. In many cases a race or group ride has one big obvious challenge, and if you can put out the highest watts on that obstacle at just the right time, you might be able to create a gap that leads to a top finish.

The ability to turn on the afterburners is a skill that must be trained, just like endurance, in order to create a winning move. How do you train for these two different demands in cycling? Which should you train first, and how do you weave the training into your program most effectively?

Peak power and repeatability require different types of training, and the order in which you train them is also critical. Peak power should be developed first, as it will allow you to transition to repeatability later in the week, month, or season. Once you have those peak numbers, repeatability will be a little easier to deal with, and you’ll have higher power numbers to begin with.

Peak Power Training

Before trying to increase your peak power, you must be rested and ready so that you can put out a maximum effort in each interval and strive for the highest wattage in each. This is different from repeatability because you will complete fewer intervals, but each interval will have a higher average wattage. The length of the rest period between intervals is also much longer; you need to recover completely from the previous interval before cracking out the highest number of watts possible for the next one and the next.

One of the goals of this exercise is to recruit as many muscles as you can during the interval in order to create those maximum wattage numbers, so make sure you stomp harder than you have before. Push yourself and give it all you’ve got in each effort.

We all know of racers or riders who seem to launch themselves as if shot from missile silos, instantly creating a big gap from everyone else. That is the peak power ability you want, if even just for one monster effort. Many times that one monster effort is all it takes to create a winning situation; your first attack will be your best and hardest, since you’ll be the most fresh and your anaerobic work capacity most likely won’t be exhausted yet, and this is your best chance for success. With only one big missile in your silo, you’ll want to use it very carefully and time it perfectly. The second, third, and fourth efforts won’t be as powerful, even if you have plenty of recovery time between each.

Before you hit the road and start hammering up a bunch of local hills, consider your upcoming events. What is the key obstacle in each one? Base your peak power efforts on those requirements. For example, if there’s a two-minute hill in an upcoming race, start doing some two-minute hill repeats. Make your training as specific to your racing as you can. If you can find a hill with the same gradient and road surface than the hill in your race, practice there.

The workout itself must be done when you are rested and ready for absolute max efforts, so be sure to give yourself a couple days of easy riding before the workout. During the workout, ride easy with some basic warm-up drills (such as one-minute fast pedaling drills and short bursts) but nothing long or near your threshold. You want to preserve as much of your freshness as you can. Once you begin the intervals, give them all you have and really push it to the finish of each one in order to completely exhaust yourself. The rest period between each one is absolutely critical; make sure you rest long enough between each. If the intervals are two minutes each, the rest period should be five to six minutes long for complete recovery. The reason for this recovery, again, is that you want to be able to hit those max numbers again and again for as long as you can. It is peak power output that makes the difference here, so you are aiming for the largest wattage output you can create in each effort. Consequently, as you fatigue you’ll want to lengthen the recovery intervals, as well, so that you can fully recover and hit those max wattages again.

Repeatability Training

The ability to repeat efforts at a similar wattage over and over again takes practice. Lots of practice: lots of intervals, lots of sweat, lots of hard work. A good way to do it is by executing intervals to exhaustion (ITE). This means continuing to do interval repeats until you can no longer produce enough watts to elicit the proper training response in the targeted physiological system. ITE is based on your average watts in the third interval in your session, and you will typically stop the interval session when your power drops off about 5-12% (depending on the length of the interval) from the average watts in that third interval. (See the table below for a guideline on when to stop doing intervals.) Check out the book I wrote with Dr. Andy Coggan, Training and Racing with a Power Meter, for a more detailed discussion on ITE.

To increase your repeatability, you have to push yourself further in your interval repeat sessions. Should you do six repeats? Ten repeats? Four? If you have a power meter, it’s simple to determine the optimal number of repeats needed for maximum training adaptation, because the power meter allows you to quantify your effort in each interval and determine how quickly you fatigue from interval to interval. A power meter also equips you to execute the perfect number of intervals in each workout, thereby maximizing your training time.

The keys to working the repeatability side of the equation are to do intervals within your pacing ability while still making sure the wattage is intense enough to train the appropriate energy system and keep the recovery period short, not allowing your body a full recovery from the previous interval. This is a key differentiator from attempting to improve your peak power.

When to stop interval repeats
based on watts achieved in third effort
Interval Avg. Drop in Power*
20 minutes 3-5%
10 minutes 4-6%
5 minutes 5-7%
3 minutes 8-9%
2 minutes 10-12%
1 minute 10-12%
30 seconds 12-15%
15 seconds When peak power
drops 15-20%, or
when avg. power for
the interval drops 10-15%
*The percentage drop in average watts is based on the number of watts achieved in the third effort. For example, with 5-minute intervals a rider is ready for rest when his/her average watts for an interval are 5-7% lower than they were in the third interval.


When do you train these two types of intervals? How do you plan this into your training? As I’ve mentioned, the peak wattage efforts must be done when you are most rested, and I would expect that to be on Tuesday or Wednesday. Repeatability can be targeted later in the week; perhaps Thursday is the best day for this kind of work.

When during the season do you put this into action? The peak power efforts should be focused on first, so I recommend a solid six workouts (one per week) of the peak efforts before you start on repeatability. After you've done six weeks of peak power work, add in the repeatability intervals so that you do both things during the week. If you don’t have that much time, I suggest four of the peak power workouts in three weeks, then moving to repeatability for a minimum of four weeks. By periodizing the training in this order, you’ll see greater gains in your peak power and notice greater repeatability when you get to this phase.

All in all, you’ll be faster than ever!

If you'd like expert advice about how to improve your repeatability and peak power, plus professional support while you do so, contact us today! Your success is our goal; it's the reason we do what we do.

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 PeaksCoachingGroup.com.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Thursday, February 26, 2015

One Watt of Motivation

Life sometimes gives us moments to reflect on who we are and why we do some things. Some time ago I decided to revamp my training and really start adding some longer, harder efforts in a move to raise my FTP. The reason? None that was apparent. I had no big event, no A race, no gran fondo; just a desire to see what it would take to push things to the next level.

Before I started, I spent some time talking to Hunter about what it would take, and one of the longer workouts he challenged me to do was one he called the “kitchen sink.” The kitchen sink workout is just plain mean: a five-hour-plus ride with specific systems workouts in each hour. Basically the first hour has 8-10 power-building sprints, the second hour has FTP-raising 2 x 20-minute at the sweet spot, the third is 4-5 VO2Max-building intervals, the fourth focuses on 4-6 very painful anaerobic capacity power intervals, and finally the fifth hour is a nice tempo ride home to “brush up” on your muscular endurance.

The challenge was on. To add to the pain, I chose a nice 107-mile loop to make to make sure I had time to do all the work.

On ride day, everything came together great. My power was good, I was feeling great, and I was hitting all my zone targets for each workout segment in the first three hours. During hour four (the anaerobic intervals), the fatigue really started setting in, but I was able to push through and hit the numbers. Hour five (+) got a little rougher. As I pointed my bike home with about 20-25 miles to go and a prescribed tempo session of 45 minutes, I knew it would be tough. As I was about to start my tempo work, I noticed my average power was 194 watts. At 150 pounds, this is a pretty solid number for an endurance ride, but with all the intervals, I was pretty happy to see it that high.

That’s when I started having the crazy thoughts. If I can nail my tempo work, I can bring this ride in over 200 watts for around six hours, which would be a pretty big accomplishment for me! With newfound motivation, I set off on my tempo work to hit the goal. And then it got ugly. I punched it to tempo pace, but there seemed to be no response. I could just hear Scotty yelling to Kirk, “I am giving it all she’s got, Captain,” but coming from my legs. I was drilling it, but the power meter (or, in this case, usuckometer) was only reading about 225, and I didn’t think this would be enough to hit the magical 200-watt goal. It wasn’t. When I completed my interval, I was about five miles from home and stuck at 198 watts.

I decide to throw in five more minutes of tempo in the effort to achieve, but that left me at 199 watts with about two miles to go, and ladies and gentlemen, I was cooked. The desire to lie down on the side of the road was overwhelming. Each pedal stroke was a total battle of willpower. In the last two miles home there was a small climb, about 400 feet elevation gain. I got to the bottom still holding 199 watts but not moving it forward. Halfway up I was at a suffering point I’m not sure I have ever been at before, but I got out of the saddle and gave an all-out “sprint” (only a sprint in the fact it was a full effort), and about 100 meters before the turnoff into my neighborhood, the beautiful number 200 appeared on my power meter!

I gave another little push to make sure it would stick, turned onto my road, and hit the start/stop button on my Garmin. I had done it! As I slow pedaled around my house, working hard not to vomit gel cubes and sports drink, I began to really ask myself why. Why did I kill myself for one watt?

That is the question, isn’t it? As a coach, I often get asked by potential clients how I motivate my athletes. You can’t motivate people; you can only create the perfect environment for them to motivate themselves. The role of a coach as motivator is to understand what self-motivates the athlete and find challenging ways to help that self-motivation find its way to the surface and get expressed in results.

I know there will be people who read this and protest, “But a coach should be a motivator. A coach should help me want to do the tough workouts and drive for success, help me get my butt of the coach and do the work.” My answer is no. A coach cannot stop you from choosing to not do the work. A coach cannot make you get off the couch and on the bike unless you first choose to do so. A coach needs to learn about you and what motivates you towards success in order to help nurture and mature that in an effort to allow you to become more motivated. Why? I cannot stop my athletes from deciding that today’s workout was too hard and skipping it, or that working in the break to win the race was just a little too fast so they dropped back.

Self-motivation is the key to success. You have got to want to work hard toward your goals, whether your goal is a national championship or the completion of your first century. You have to find your one watt of motivation inside of you.

What is your one watt? If you’re new to riding, target slightly longer and longer rides. Challenge yourself to reach for one more mile on your long rides. If you’re a Cat 4 rider looking to move to Cat 3, challenge yourself to stay in the break one more minute and work hard for one more place. If you’re aiming to complete your first century, push yourself to find one more training day a week.

And keep at it!

If you'd like to know about the strong support and extra motivation a coach can provide, or if you're interested in our pre-made training plans, contact us today! Your success is our goal; it's the reason we do what we do.

Tim Cusick is a USA Cycling Level 3 coach and the president of Peaks Coaching Group. He and our other coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. Tim can be contacted directly through PeaksCoachingGroup.com or info@peakscoachinggroup.com

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Nutrition Questions and Answers for the Recreational Female Athlete

Nutrition can be a complicated art, especially when you first begin to increase your level of activity and physical training. PCG nutritionist Namrita Kumar answers some important questions for active women.

How much protein do I really need and what's the best way to get it?

You should get 1.0 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day OR 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. For example, if you weigh 130 pounds, you need 65 to 104 grams of protein each day. For the best maintenance of your lean body mass, take 20 grams of protein at a time, especially when you’re in a negative energy balance (meaning you burn more calories than you consume, also called a hypocaloric diet). An easy way to do this would be to take 20 grams in the morning, 20 grams after your workout, and 20 grams with your evening meal.

Be sure to choose high quality proteins. Good animal sources for protein are grass-fed beef, wild salmon, organic poultry, tuna, eggs, shellfish, and Greek yogurt.

There are also many great vegetarian sources of protein. Here are some of the best:
  • Apricots (dried)
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Buckwheat
  • Cashews
  • Cottage cheese
  • Feta cheese
  • Greek yogurt
  • Hemp seed
  • Lentils
  • Milk
  • Navy beans
  • Nut butter
  • Oats (whole, rolled, old fashioned, steel cut)
  • Pasta (whole wheat or egg noodles)
  • PB2 or PBFit peanut butter powder
  • Peaches (dried)
  • Peas
  • Pistachios
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Quinoa
  • Rice (long grain brown)
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Soy milk
  • Spinach
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Tempeh
  • Tofu
  • Veggie burgers

If you’re looking for protein supplements, here are a few I recommend:

  • Whey protein isolate
  • Vega sport (or other brand that has a blend of hemp, rice, and pea protein)

  • Core Warrior Meal Replacement Bar
  • Organic Food Protein Bar
  • ProBar Core Protein Bar
  • Rise Protein Bar
  • Clif Builder Bar
  • PowerBar Protein Plus 20-gram Bar
  • ProMax Low-sugar Protein Bar

People tell me to eat fewer carbs, but am I compromising my workouts?

The answer to this question depends on the purpose of your workouts. If your goal is to burn fat or lose weight, you should have 0-25 grams of carbohydrates per hour during exercise that lasts longer than one hour. Overall you probably need 2-3 grams of carbs per kilogram (.9-1.4 grams per pound) of body weight per day, and mostly from low-GI (glycemic index) sources. So the 130-pound athlete mentioned above would need 117-182 grams of carbs each day if she is exercising to burn fat.

If your exercise goal is to increase your performance, speed, and power, you need 30-60 grams of carbs per hour during exercise, and 3-4 grams per kilogram (1.4-1.8 grams per pound) of body weight per day, again mostly from low-GI sources. This means that our 130-pound woman exercising to increase performance should get 182-234 grams of carbs per day.

Why don't I lose weight when I train for an endurance event?

There are several possible problems that could explain why you’re not losing weight when training for an endurance event. Let’s look at them one at a time.

Possible problem 1: You’re not getting enough protein.

Solution: Make sure you’re getting between 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound per day. Whenever possible, get this protein in 20-gram portions throughout the day.

Possible problem 2: You’re getting too many calories.

Solution: Keep an honest, detailed log of what you eat and drink on a typical day and determine your total calorie intake. To calculate the recommended average calorie intake for a recreationally active female, multiply your body weight in pounds by 10 and then multiply that by 1.5. Our 130-pound active female’s ideal average calorie intake would be 1,950 calories (130 x 10 x 1.5 = 1,950).

Possible problem 3: You’re not getting the right breakdown of calories.

Solution: Once you know your ideal calorie intake (calculated in problem 2 above), you can break it down into the types of calories you need. Your calorie intake each day should generally consist of:

21% protein (100 grams for our 130-pound athlete, or 400 calories)
48% carbohydrates (235 grams for our 130-pound athlete, or 940 calories)
31% fat (68 grams for our 130-pound athlete, or 612 calories)

Note: Typical fat intake is usually around 1 gram of fat per kilogram of body weight.

Possible problem 4: You’re not getting calories at the right time.


1. Eat breakfast.
2. Eat higher carbs before and during workouts.
3. Eat protein and carbs after workouts.
4. Eat protein, low-glycemic index carbs (veggies!), and fat the rest of the day.
5. Choose the least processed foods possible.
6. Follow the guidelines above for energy intake during exercise.

Possible problem 5: You’re too sedentary outside of your workouts.

Solution: Get up often and move around: walk, stretch, climb stairs, ride your bike, walk to work. Use a pedometer to keep you honest!

How do I eat clean and find balance?

1. Focus on being active instead of too restrictive.

2. Match your energy intake to your energy output. And be honest with yourself. Track your intake and expenditure if needed.

3. Get your required nutrients first. Think of food as fuel for exercise and recovery, and focus on hitting your protein and carbohydrate targets first before adding “extra” calories.

4. Be mindful of alcohol calories and fat calories (especially in nuts, trail mix, bars, nut butters), as well as sugars that can be consumed quickly and mindlessly. These calories add up fast, even when you get them in very small amounts over the course of the day.

5. Always lean toward real foods that are minimally processed. Use dressings and sauces sparingly; use spices for flavor.

6. Don’t be hyper-focused on specific foods or elimination of specific foods. Don’t diet; instead, change how you think about food and pay attention to the way the foods you eat (and when you eat them) make you feel.

It's a good life! You’re already making it even better by staying active, and good nutrition habits can add new momentum. For more nutrition tips and support, contact us or check out our coaching and meal plan options.

Namrita Kumar's racing background is primarily in endurance mountain biking and, more recently, some XC distance racing and XTERRA off-road triathlon. She works with triathletes, ultra-endurance mountain bike racers, self-supported ultra racers, marathon runners, and more. She is an active member of the American College of Sports Medicine, Professionals in Nutrition for Exercise & Sport (PINES), and the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) Honorary Board, and she is a founding member of the Georgia High School Cycling League. Namrita can be contacted directly via info@peakscoachinggroup.com or PeaksCoachingGroup.com.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Recipe: Kale Quinoa Bowl with Poached Egg

Our nutritionist Jen Sommer gets bored with the same old dinners, so she's been experimenting. We're sharing her success with you!

Kale Quinoa Bowl with Poached Egg

Serves 4


  • 1 cup quinoa (uncooked) 
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 bunch kale, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, divided
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons shredded coconut, divided (sweetened if you like salty and sweet flavors mixed, unsweetened if not)
  • Salt and pepper (optional)


Prepare quinoa according to package directions (usually you boil 2 cups water with 1 cup quinoa, then simmer for 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed).

While quinoa cooks, saute garlic in olive oil for a couple minutes. Add kale and saute a few minutes more until kale is partially wilted, adding 1/4 cup of almonds during the last minute so that they become slightly toasted. Add the other 1/4 cup of almonds to the cooked quinoa and mix thoroughly.

Poach eggs in boiling water until whites are thoroughly cooked but yolk is still runny.

Divide the cooked quinoa among four bowls and top each serving with a fourth of the kale mixture, one tablespoon of shredded coconut, and one poached egg. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

Want to improve your nutrition? Click here to find out how! 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

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Tractor Pulls and Bicycle Racing

Tractor Pulls and Bicycle Racing

Most of us have seen a tractor pull at one time or another, even if just in a television commercial. The sport was originally just a bunch of competitive farmers proving whose John Deere tractor could pull the most mass over a field, but it has since evolved, now involving insanely high horsepower “dragster” tractors complete with flames shooting out of the exhaust, pulling specialized weights with sliding loads. The basic premise remains the same, though: it’s still about seeing which tractor has the greatest pulling capacity or torque-producing ability.

What does this have to do with cycling, you ask? We cyclists all need a tractor-pull-type burst of torque on occasions; while we normally have very low loads of torque, there are times we need to have this ability to accelerate in a sprint, jump out of a corner, or climb up a very steep hill, or in track racing.

One of the challenges of weight lifting for cyclists is translating that new-found strength into something useful on the bicycle. A NFL linebacker who attended one of my power seminars could squat over 500 pounds, and for the life of him he couldn’t understand why he couldn’t automatically ride with the best cyclists on his Tuesday evening ride. “I am strong!" he said. "I put out 450 watts just when I push down on the pedals. But I can’t stay with the best guys on the bike. I don’t get it!” I explained to him that he had an incredible ability to create force on the pedals, but it wasn’t effective force. He was stretching the crank arms at the bottom of the stroke, but he wasn’t able to effectively use all his strength in a circular motion to create more forward movement. What he could do, though, was accelerate from a near dead stop in a 53:11 though and crush us all for the first 100 meters; after that his cadence became too fast for him to be effective any longer.

We all will have this problem (though probably to a lesser extent) when we try to convert strength gained in the weight room to the bicycle. Increasing our strength in the weight room can be easily done over a winter season, but typically that new strength is only applicable to the specific exercise we do (squats, ham string curls, etc.). The tricky part is taking that strength and making it effective on the bicycle so we go faster! How do we do that? Tractor pulls.

Before we go into the mechanics of “tractor pulls,” let me say more about why we need to do them on the bike and why it’s critical to do them correctly. Lower cadence workouts are great to do in the winter transition period and throughout the winter because they can enhance our muscular strength, which in turn can help us sprint with more peak wattages and push a bigger gear into the wind, in a time trial, or up a steep climb. Muscular strength workouts (tractor pulls) are based around hard but short intervals done in the biggest gear you can manage at a low rpm. 

Many people have long believed the myth that riding for hours in a big gear at a slow rpm will increase their muscular strength and consequently make them more powerful, but in reality this only makes you good at riding in a big gear at a slow rpm! Riding at 50 rpm for hours on end just doesn’t create enough muscular stress to strengthen the muscles.

Consider this analogy: If we want to bench press 200 pounds, we need to start at 150 pounds and build up to 200 with low reps, high sets, and the most weight we can lift. We have to use heavier and heavier weights to stress the muscle so that it adapts. If I lift 100 pounds one million times, I will never adapt to lifting 200 pounds for one rep. Pedaling at 50 rpm for hours on end is just like lifting 100 pounds for a million reps. While 100 pounds (metaphorically speaking) is more than our normal pedaling force of 80 pounds, it’s just not enough stress on the muscles to get them to strengthen. In order to increase our muscular strength on the bike, we need to do hard, short bursts of effort in a big gear.  

The mechanics of the tractor pull are simple but important. First, tractor pulls are usually best to do while in the saddle the entire time of the effort. Second, in order to elicit the most force, we do them on a flat road or false flat upward slope. For example, put your chain in the 53:12 gear and slow down to about 5-8 mph, then (staying seated) tighten your abdominals, grip your handlebars tightly, and with all your force turn that gear over until you reach 85 rpm. Once you’ve reached 85 rpm, the amount of force you’re putting on the cranks has reduced to a point at which it’s just not enough stress to create muscular strength improvements. Plan on doing about twenty of these power bursts in a session to create enough of an overload to achieve some benefits. Take a look at the chart below to understand what this looks like in a power file.

To confirm that tractor pulls are executed correctly, we can look at the Quadrant Analysis scatter plot in the power file. Most if not all the points from a tractor pull session should be in quadrant II, where the high force and low cadence intersect. When we see the dots in QII, it’s a great confirmation that we elicited the right amount of force from the workout. The higher the dots are up in the upper left quadrant, the better we did.

So there’s the secret of how to take your hard work in the weight room and make it effective force on the bike. I suggest that you do at least two of these workouts every week in the months of January and February, always at the beginning of your workout when you’re freshest and have the most strength to apply. Do them at the beginning of workouts that address other energy systems as well, maybe before your sweet spot 2 x 20s or before your FTP 4 x 10 intervals, or even at the beginning of a kitchen sink workout. These are great additions to indoor training, too, and they’re easy to execute correctly; just remember that if you can’t reach 85 rpm in less than thirty seconds, once you reach thirty seconds the interval is over.

Your sprint, your explosive snap, your time trial, and your ability to charge up steep hills will be forever changed for the positive!

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 PeaksCoachingGroup.com.  

Originally published in Road Magazine.
Photo credit: dieselpowermag.com

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Winter Bike Maintenance

Winter Bike Maintenance Peaks Coaching Group

We are smack dab in the middle of winter here in the USA. The roads are snowy and icy in most parts of the country, leaving many of us stuck on trainers, riding indoors. Our bikes haven't seen pavement in weeks. But all is not lost: spring is just a few months away!

During this period of winter training, it's easy to forget to maintain our equipment. But right now is actually a great time for maintenance. If you're a triathlete, your bike is most likely your most important piece of equipment. If you're a cyclist, your bike is your main piece of equipment. Take time now to run through the following list of preventive chores:

  • Clean and lubricate your drivetrain and gears.
  • Replace your brake pads.
  • Clean the rims of your wheels.
  • Check and tighten up the screws and bolts on your bike, and make sure they're all at the proper torque.
  • Check your pedals and shoes. You may want to replace your cleats or at least tighten the screws that hold your cleats to your shoes. You may also want to replace the insoles inside your shoes and any piece of your cycling shoes that's worn out.
  • Replace the batteries in your power meter and, if needed, send in your power meter to get calibrated.

A little bit of winter maintenance will make your winter training a lot easier and set you up for success in your early spring training.

If you do ride outside during these winter months, remember that the salt left on the road often causes corrosion on your bike. Don't forget to clean your bike well after these “salty” winter rides.

Stay warm and safe!

Coach Chris Myers Peaks Coaching Group
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 PeaksCoachingGroup.com or info@peakscoachinggroup.com.