Cyclocross: Get Your Cowbell On!

CX has to be one of the hardest forms of bicycle racing out there, requiring some specialized training to ensure success. Coach Tim tells us all about it!

An Overview of the New Metrics in WKO4

WKO4 has introduced exciting new metrics to help coaches and athletes answer important questions about training and data analysis. Tim walks us through an explanation of some of these metrics.

How to Prepare for When the SHTF

Unpredictability is a given in cycling. It creates excitement at races, but it can also wreak some havoc in the process. Hunter gives us his tips on how to prepare for the unpredictable.

Five Key Attributes of Winning Athletes

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

Power Training Zones 101

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Five Key Attributes of Winning Athletes

Five Attributes of Winning Athletes - Peaks Coaching Group

Winners think differently. There are many books about winners: why they are different, what they think, and why they think it. Winners are constantly focused on moving forward, getting things done, taking action, and improving. Whether it’s on the bicycle, in the pool, on the soccer field, or in the office, winners strive to be the best they can be. They aren’t afraid of hard work. As a matter of fact, they love it, crave it, absorb it, and become better from it.

I believe winners are made and not born. Each one of us has winning qualities and the ability to win; we just have to put these things together in order to achieve greatness.

From my experience working with some of the best athletes in the world, here are five key attributes of winning athletes.

1. Winners set goals.

Most winners are highly goal-oriented. Winners have long-term goals, short-term goals, and weekly and daily goals. When winners want something, they really want it. They want it more than the rest of their competitors. I’ve heard it said many times before, and believe it’s true, that the rider who wins the race is the rider who wanted it more than anyone else.

Sit down today or this weekend and write out your goals for the year, then review them each week. Your goals will change throughout the year, and you’ll want to revise them and update them as needed. Continually reviewing your goals will help you stay focused!

2. Winners make good decisions.

This one is a bit obtuse and obvious at the same time. What is a good decision vs. a bad decision? If you don’t know the difference, how will you know which one to make? Instead of eating that hamburger and fries, a winner eats a healthy lean steak, baked potato, and salad. Instead of going for a five-hour bike ride with his teammates on a day when “something just doesn’t feel right,” he’ll honor that feeling and either take a rest day or ride a shorter ride.

Winners don’t lie around and wait for success to come to them (except on rest days!); they take action to move toward it every day. Instead of thinking about whether to go with an attack or not, winners will have already planned their strategy and won’t have to think about it. They will know if that attack fits into their strategy and if the riders attacking are good enough to win, and they’ll react accordingly without hesitation.

3. Winners plan to win.

This seems like a simple one, and to tell you the truth, it is. However, you would be amazed at how many people reading this right now don’t have a plan to get that next raise in their job, peak exactly at the right time for their “A” race, go above and beyond on that big project at the office, or take their company to the next level. Sit down, plan out your season, figure out which races you want to ride well in, and refer to number two above in aligning your own specific strengths and weaknesses with the race demands.

4. Winners visualize success.

Visualization is an incredible tool in helping to align the universe to bring all the necessary situations and opportunities to you so that you can capitalize and win. Visualization is more important than most people think. When you visualize vividly enough to create emotion in the vision, your mind doesn’t know the difference between that and the real thing. One key aspect of visualization is picturing the things that happen after you have achieved a goal. For me, I’ve been focused on creating a great camp in Mallorca in March this year, so I have been picturing myself at the little Spanish store on the top of the Lluc climb in Mallorca, drinking a great coffee and eating a chocolate croissant with happy campers all laughing and enjoying themselves. I have been imagining riding up the climbs and seeing 320 watts on my power meter and feeling comfortable and strong!

Visualization is critical for your success this season. If you want to win a race this year, see your name at the top of the results sheet, feel the elation as all your teammates congratulate your win, see that podium pic on your Facebook page. Visualizing the things that occur after your goal has been realized is an incredibly powerful way to make it a reality.

5. Winners constantly learn and ask questions.

Winners are confident, but never so confident to think they know it all. They always seek the advice of experts, look for an advantage, seek the latest knowledge in their field, and do everything they can to improve. Companies that never innovate or improve their product are destined for failure. Athletes who stop reading about the latest in training advances or nutrition or mental training are destined for failure. Keep up your zest for learning. Get a new book on winners, cycling, or mental training for athletes. Learn about the latest in nutrition and diet and find the right balance for your life. Seek out the advice of an expert and listen wholeheartedly, then implement the advice.

Winning is easier when you’re winning, that’s for sure. Success is an upward spiral. It’s much easier when you’re in that upward spiral, but trust me, winners go in downward spirals too. The difference between the winners and losers is that winners know how to pull up and get back in that winning, upward spiral.

You’ll have setbacks, challenges, and failures along the way. That is part of the process and completely natural. All winners have to deal with all of that. If winning was easy, it wouldn’t be as satisfying! Keep that in mind, no matter how bad things look or how long it’s been since your last win. Don’t lose hope! The winners are still winning.

Would you like more expert winning advice and support to get you there? Contact us to find out how we can help you win your goals! 

Article first published on

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 via or through

Photo credit: USA Cycling: Kelly Catlin, Women's U23 National Champion

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Get Your Cowbell On!

Can you hear the cowbells in the distance? Sounds like cyclocross season is on the horizon! Cyclocross has to be one of the hardest forms of bicycle racing out there, and because of its short but uber intense race style, it requires some specialized training to ensure success. Over the years I’ve identified a few myths riders often believe about both training and performance. Thankfully they are easy to correct!

Myth 1: CX is all about anaerobic capacity.

One of the most confusing aspects of cyclocross training is that the nature of the event convinces us that anaerobic capacity (the number of “matches” we can burn) becomes the limiter to performance. This often leads riders to plan a ton of high-intensity workouts into their weekly schedule in an effort to expand their ability to burn matches. However, while this type of intensity is a major factor, it typically is not the key limiter. If you’re training and racing with power, take a look at the last race you “cracked” in and start reviewing backward. I’ll bet that at first you’ll see that yes, the time period before burned some heavy matches and effort, with too short of a recovery. And it would appear that a lack of anaerobic capacity is to blame, right? But take a closer look at the normalized power of the effort (note: normalized power isn’t always fully accurate under 20 minutes, but it’s a good guide). You will likely notice two things. First, the average of the efforts will be at about 105-110% of your FTP, and second, it will be in the time range of about 12-18 minutes before you cracked. Don’t get me wrong, the match burning hurt, but the limiter was more than likely your FTP. 

In cyclocross we need to keep a focus on FTP and not neglect our ability to maintain sustained power. Of course we need short, hard training efforts for success, but at the end of the day we need to keep FTP high if we’re going to hang with the pack during an extended period of hard attacks and counters. This means putting two or three FTP-building workouts a week into our cyclocross base and maintaining at least one per week during the race season.

FTP Workouts

On your local course, park, or fields, add these two workouts to your strategy of increasing and maintaining your FTP.

WORKOUT 1: SST Over/Under

WU: 15-20 minutes working at endurance (Level 2 watts, endurance heart rate) with 2 x 1-minute fast pedals to wake up your legs

MS1: Complete 2 x 20-minute intervals at 89-92% of FTP (Level 3/4 watts, high tempo heart rate), then every 2 minutes pop it up to 120% of FTP (Level 6 watts, anaerobic capacity heart rate) for 30 seconds (this 30 seconds can also be a dismount and hard run), then recover back to 89-92%, but nothing below 85%! Rest 5 minutes between sets.

CD: 15 Minutes

WORKOUT 2: Micro Intervals

WU: Warm up for 15 minutes, building to endurance zone. Complete 3 x 1-minute fast pedals as part of warm-up.

MS: Microbursts help build leg strength and FTP! Using your local cyclocross training course, complete 3 x 10-minute microburst intervals with 5 minutes rest between sets, with one burst being 15 seconds ON (150% of threshold power) and 15 seconds OFF (50% of threshold power). Repeat continually for 10 minutes.

CD: 10 Minutes easy pedaling

Myth 2: I really don’t need to run much to be good at CX.

This is actually partially correct, but what people often underestimate is the effect of transition running. Part of why cyclocross is so drool-on-your-handlebars hard is the transition of ride, get off, run, get on, and ride again. These transitions engage different muscles and efforts, often increasing the demand on the cardiovascular system in response. To endure cyclocross we have to practice transitional running and prepare our bodies for the associated increased demand. You won’t need a ton of running, just some built into your workouts to prepare your body for the demand.

I build running into a lot of workouts for my athletes. In the base building block I typically add two to three days of running to the mix.

Running Workouts

On your local course, park, or fields, add these two workouts to your strategy to build running into both your high-intensity workouts and FTP-building efforts.

WORKOUT 1: 30-30-30-30

WU: 15 minute warm-up in endurance zone with a solid 5-minute tempo+ effort to open up the legs

MS1: Cyclocross hurts, and so do the workouts that matter! On your local course (or create a course at your local school or park) complete 2 x 12 minutes of 30-30-30-30. This means 30 seconds riding as hard as you can, 30 seconds coasting and not pedaling, 30 seconds dismounted and running fast, 30 seconds coasting and not pedaling. Continue this process for 12 minutes to complete the interval, then ride 10 minutes easy and go to MS2.

MS2: Complete 4 x 2 minutes all out (anaerobic capacity work). Push hard and fast. Rest 2 minutes after each.

CD: 15 minutes

WORKOUT 2: Wind Up and Run

WU: Warm up for 10-15 minutes, ranging from zone 1 to zone 2. Add 2 or 3 1-minute fast pedals to wake up your legs.

MS: Let’s build some leg strength! On your cyclocross bike, ride to a flat or slightly uphill open field and complete 12 53:13 start wind-ups and runs. To do this, simply mark a starting point, drop into your bigger gear riding about 2 mph, hit the line, and attempt to get to 90 rpm as quickly as possible. Really use your arms and core to help you get on top of the gear. As soon as you hit 90 rpm, dismount and sprint hard for 20 seconds, then remount and coast it out to complete the interval.

CD: 10 minutes easy riding

Myth 3: I should focus on fitness and ignore efficiency.

A great cyclocross racer is not only fit but also smooth and efficient. Skilled bike handling, smooth transitions, and efficient barrier management all translate directly to faster race performance, but riders typically spend less than 10% of their training time building these skills. Cyclocross is a skill cycling sport, and we need to dedicate more time to improving our skills and efficiency as part of the quest for better performance. Find time for skills in your cyclocross training. It will pay off in the long run.

Skill-Building Workouts

On your local course, park, or fields, add these two workouts to build your skills.

WORKOUT: Endurance Drills and Skills

WU: 15 minutes warming up into endurance zone (Level 2 watts). Include 2 x 1-minute fast pedals and a 2-minute effort at FTP to open up.

MS: Ride one hour of endurance to your local course for the following drills:

2 x 10 barrier runs. Set up 2 barriers about 10 meters apart and practice your dismount, carrier, barrier hop, and remount. Focus on smoothness. Do these in a back-and-forth pattern; out and back counts as one. Do these at race speed.

1 x 10 bike carry hill. Find a small hill about 10 meters long and practice riding hard to the hill (30-second sprint), dismounting, shouldering your bike, and sprinting to the top. Remount and practice riding back down fast.

1 x 5 grasser. Find a soccer field or a large open field about 40 meters long and mark your start and finish line (a soccer field end line and mid court work well). Choose a mid-range gear like 50/21, stop your bike at your start line, put one foot down, and get ready to go! Practice exploding off the line to your midpoint line, grab the brakes hard at the midpoint, turn the bike as quickly as you can, and accelerate back to the start line.

CD: 15-minute spin home

Now put this all together in a weekly schedule. Here’s a sample training week for both your base cycle and racing cycle.

Base Building Race Week
Monday: Rest or easy spin Monday: Rest from racing
Tuesday: Hard FTP efforts such as microbursts or 30-30-30-30 work Tuesday: High intensity work blended with some running. If you're not recovered from racing, rest again.
Wednesday: SST efforts like the SST Over-Under (in CX you tend to race two days in a row, so train that way) Wednesday: Based on fitness, either hard FTP efforts or shorter, high intensity work.
Thursday: Easy endurance and skills day, add some running efforts Thursday: Easy endurance/active recovery and skills day, add some running efforts
Friday: Rest or easy spin; good day to do a 10- to 15-minute run after a short spin Friday: Rest or easy spin; good day to do a 10- to 15-minute run after a short spin
Saturday: Short, high intensity training, sprints, AC work, and more Saturday: Race or race simulation workout
Sunday: Longer endurance with skills building Sunday: Race or race simulation workout

Cyclocross season is a favorite! Training is shorter, but it takes more focus to get the results you want. Incorporating some of these ideas or some of the key elements will hopefully help you stay in competitive form throughout the season.

Article originally featured on Pez Cycling News

Would you like to have your CX training designed by an expert specifically for you? Contact us to find out how we can help you crush your goals this year!

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 or

Original photo credit: Roberto Zilli /

Friday, August 14, 2015

Alcohol and Exercise

Alcohol and Exercise - Peaks Coaching Group

There’s something so refreshing about a cold beer after a hard ride or a long day of hiking. Every now and then we hear about studies that find health benefits from moderate drinking. Free beers are often included at post race festivities. But do you ever wonder if that post-workout brew is hindering your sports performance? While a beer (equivalent to a 5-ounce glass of wine or 1 ounce of hard alcohol) here and there won’t hurt your workouts, if you’re doing it regularly and excessively, there are some potential negative effects.

Here are some things to consider:

Alcohol provides empty calories.

At 7 calories per gram of alcohol, it’s easy for the calories to add up. A typical beer has anywhere from 100-150 calories per 12 ounces, while some mixed drinks can clock in close to 500 calories (sorry, margarita lovers)! These are empty calories; they provide virtually no nutrients.

Alcohol is a diuretic.

It’s no coincidence that you have to visit the bathroom more when imbibing. Alcohol is a strong diuretic, meaning it causes your body to lose water. Dehydration will definitely affect your sports performance, so be sure to drink water whenever you drink alcohol to help cut your losses.

Alcohol suppresses fat use as a fuel during exercise.

If you’re an endurance athlete, you need to be able to use fat efficiently, and being unable to tap into those stores effectively could affect your performance.

Alcohol disrupts your sleep.

Sleep is an important part of an athlete’s training because a lot of muscle repair occurs during sleep. Most athletes need more sleep than the average person, and alcohol can interrupt your deep sleep cycles, making recovery more difficult.

Alcohol increases the release of cortisol and decreases release of testosterone.

This may affect protein synthesis and muscle repair.

Besides the potential negative effects on performance, it goes without saying that drinking the night before a hard workout or during intense training cycles is going to make the workouts feel awful, which could also affect your performance.

And don’t forget the general alcohol consumption recommendations for everyone: no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.

Bottom line? I’m a big believer in balance and moderation. Sure, maybe a beer isn’t the most effective post-workout beverage, but life is short; if you like beer, go ahead and enjoy it in moderation. So if you just finished a hard race on a hot day and there’s a free beer coupon hanging from your race bib, go for it! Just make sure to drink plenty of water and properly refuel (read: eat carbs and protein) before indulging.

Want expert help with 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.

Peaks Coaching Group Jen Sommer
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. Jen can be contacted through Peaks Coaching Group or at

Post Photo Credit:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Recipe: Simple Green Smoothie

Our nutritionist Jen Sommer is a fan of green smoothies because they're a simple and delicious way to get in lots of nutrition. Here's one of her favorite smoothie recipes!

Peaks Coaching Group Green Smoothie Recipe

Simple Green Smoothie

Makes 16 ounces


1 cup coconut milk (or other milk if preferred)
1-2 handfuls spinach
1/2 cucumber, cubed (and preferably frozen)
1 green apple, cubed
1 banana, sliced and frozen
1/4 avocado


Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

An Overview of New Metrics in WKO4

WKO4 New Metrics - Peaks Coaching Group

Much of coaching and training comes down to measuring changes to find the answers to important questions. Does one training strategy work better than another? Do workouts with one version of intensity create better results than another version? Does focusing on longer intervals instead of shorter ones help achieve the goal of training?

WKO4 and its new Power Duration Model have supplied coaches and athletes with some exciting new metrics to expand and deepen data analysis allowing a coach or athlete greater insight into these questions through the ability to view training results more specifically and view micro changes in these specific types of fitness.

WKO4 New Metrics - Peaks Coaching Group
Pmax and Functional Reserve Capacity are related but separate measurements
of capabilities and fitness that can give us insights into performance.


Pmax is the maximum amount of power that can be generated for a very short period of time (at least a full pedal revolution with both legs). Units are watts (W) or watts per kilogram (W/kg).

Pmax Standards

Pmax typically ranges between 676 and 1299 watts for women, and 939 and 1483 watts for men, with an average of 988 and 1211, respectively.

WKO4 New Metrics - Peaks Coaching Group

Pmax over Max Power

Pmax is more stable and a bit less prone to measurement error than Max Power since the model utilizes all data. This provides a “cleaner” metric when compared to Max Power, while giving us better insight into a true maximal effort than MeanMax five-second power.
  • Pmax vs. Max Power. Pmax is derived from at least one full pedal stroke, measuring the contribution of both legs (both released and absorbed). This gives us a cleaner look at maximal power as we effectively apply it to the bike, as it is less subject to erroneous data.
  • Pmax vs. MeanMax Five Seconds. Because Pmax is model derived, it is a truer determination of maximal power when compared to five-second max, as it reduces the effect of fatigue.

How we use Pmax

  • To measure the increase or decrease in maximal power outputs over the course of training (or de-training)
  • To determine the maximum rate of FRC consumption (more below)
  • To develop and implement race strategies

Functional Reserve Capacity (FRC)

FRC is the total amount of work that can be done during continuous exercise above Functional Threshold Power (FTP) before fatigue occurs. Units are kilojoules (kJ) or kilojoules per kilogram (kJ/kg). This effort is related to your ATP-PC energy system, but other energy contributions need to be considered.

The simplest explanation is to think of it as your anaerobic battery. If you have a low FRC, you have a smaller battery, and if you have a high FRC, you have a big battery. However, we also have to think about FRC in relationship to Pmax, maybe like this:

High Pmax / High FRC: Great long sprinter or lead-out rider
High Pmax / Lower FRC: Great short sprinter but needs support to the line
Lower Pmax / Higher FRC: Long attacker, punchy short climbs, good pursuer
Lower Pmax / Lower FRC: Good stage racer

FRC Standards

FRC typically ranges between 6 and 24 kilojoules for women and 9 and 35 kilojoules for men, with an average of 13.2 and 18.2 kJ, respectively.

WKO4 New Metrics - Peaks Coaching Group

FRC Converted to Watts

A kilojoule is simply a thousand joules, and a joule is equal to watts multiplied by seconds (J = W x s). So when you do 400 watts for 5 seconds, you’ve used 2,000 joules, or roughly 2 kJ.

An Example of FRC

Let’s say you have a Pmax of 1,000 watts (just to keep the math simple) and an FRC of 11kj. If you sprint at Pmax, you’ll burn 1,000 joules per second (J = W x s) for 11 seconds before you run out of fuel.

How we use FRC

  • To measure the increase or decrease in the amount of continuous work an athlete can do over modeled Functional Threshold Power (mFTP, defined below)
  • To improve understanding of an athlete’s abilities
  • To understand an athlete’s burn rate
It’s easy to figure out burn rate at Pmax; we just do the math. Below that it gets tricky, since other systems do contribute, but we can use the Power Duration Curve to help make that determination.

WKO4 New Metrics - Peaks Coaching Group
Tracking micro changes in Pmax and FRC gives us faster insight into training
effectiveness and helps adjust training and performance strategies.

Modeled Functional Threshold Power (mFTP)

mFTP is the model-derived highest power a rider can maintain in a quasi-steady-state without fatiguing. When power exceeds FTP, fatigue will occur much sooner; if power is just below FTP, it can be maintained much longer. FTP is the single most important physiological determinant of performance in events ranging from as short as a 3-kilometer pursuit to as long as a 3-week stage race.

You can read up on Functional Threshold Power here to better understand the concept.

How we use mFTP

  • To measure the increase or decrease in FTP as based on modeled estimates, giving better insight into training effectiveness or ineffectiveness
  • mFTP can support the accuracy of your FTP management system (testing, predicting…) and allow you to set zones based on percentages of FTP.
  • mFTP can be used as the basis for numerous analytics in WKO4 to better help diagnose and prescribe workouts.
Analytics can supply answers. The focus of WKO4 and the new Power Duration Model is to supply coaches and athletes with new metrics and robust analytics to better determine training strategies and to better (and more quickly) measure their effectiveness.

Want to give it a try? Download the fully functional 14-day free trial here:

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 or

Contributions and standards by Dr. Andrew Coggan  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How to Prepare for When the SHTF

Peaks Coaching Group Preparing for Race Difficulties

It’s the unpredictability of bicycle racing that can create such excitement, both for fans and riders alike, but most of us try to limit the unpredictability and surprise in our lives because we want to guarantee the outcomes we want instead of taking the chance with random events wreaking havoc around us. We can actually plan for unpredictability in our sport, though, so we don’t have to find ourselves surprised and scrambling for Plan B or C or D. And planning for unpredictability actually makes cycling more predictable! How? Preparing for all the unknowns gives you more control over them so that when they occur, they really weren’t unknown at all.

So let’s take a few moments to think of the crazy things that can happen in a bicycle race and come up with some practical ways (power-based intervals) to make sure you can adjust when the SHTF (shit hits the fan) without letting it ruin your race.

1. The Crash

Crashes happen in local, regional, and national races just like in the bigger ones. Sometimes you won’t be able to continue the race, depending on the type of crash, but most of the time you’ll have to get up, shake yourself off, and get back in the race.


In a criterium, getting back to the pit in order to get a free lap is your first priority. This doesn’t mean you have to drill it back to the pit, but get there before the peloton arrives (or get out of the way and let it get by again). Once back in the pit, get yourself looked over to make sure you’re all right and then rejoin the peloton as quickly as possible. This means you’ll need to step on the gas immediately to get up to speed and integrate back into the peloton. You may have to chase a little on the tail end of the race, though sometimes you can match the speed of the peloton easily and regain your place in the group without too much worry.  

How to Prepare: To make sure you can handle the quick ramping of speed necessary to rejoin the peloton, do VO2Max efforts from a relatively slow speed. Start out at 5 mph in your big chain ring and take off sprinting for 15 seconds to get up to speed. You should hit 300% of your FTP (functional threshold power) in this acceleration and maintain 200%. After 15 seconds, look at your power meter and settle in at 115% of your FTP. Drill it here for the next 3 minutes, then rest for 5 minutes and repeat at least 6 more times in one session.

Road Race

A road race is a little different from a criterium because you don’t have the luxury of waiting around to catch your breath. Pick yourself up, make sure your bike is all right, and get back in the race! You’ll want to get back up to speed as quickly as possible, but I suggest tempering your effort a little from the criterium sprint above. In a road race you don’t know if you’ll chase for 3 minutes or 30 minutes, and you can’t afford to kill it for 3 minutes only to not make it back on and then blow up, which would pretty much guarantee that you don’t make it back.

How to Prepare: VO2Max intervals are best way to simulate these efforts as well. Spend 15 seconds getting in a sprint up to 200% of your FTP and then settle in at 115% of your FTP for the next 3 minutes. If you don’t catch on in 3 minutes, you’ll need to keep trying, but your power will need to reduce to 105-110% of FTP now. So for training purposes do a few where you end the interval at 3 minutes and a few where you end at 6 minutes, but in minutes 3-6 reduce your power to 105-110% of FTP. Be sure to rest for at least 5 minutes between each of these efforts and strive for 5 intervals in one session.

Riding in Caravan

In a road race you might get the opportunity to use the caravan to pace yourself back up to the peloton. This takes some skill and is not for the faint of heart. Your first trip through the caravan can sometimes be the most exciting part of the road race! Riding the caravan means drafting closely on the back of a car, looking far ahead of the car to anticipate changes in speed, ready at any time to abandon the shelter of the car to move ahead to the next car or farther, and bridging the final gap to the back of the peloton, which involves a sprint and most likely a 30-second hard anaerobic effort after your sprint.

How to Prepare: Ride at your sweet spot power (88-93% of FTP) for 5 minutes. Continue to ride at sweet spot for 10 more minutes, and every 1 minute do short, 5-second sprints out of the saddle to reach 300% of your FTP; then sit back down in the saddle at your sweet spot power again. At the end of the 10 minutes, do one massive sprint and hard effort for 45 seconds, riding out of the saddle for 15 seconds and then killing it at 150% of your FTP for the next 30 seconds. Rest for 10 minutes and then repeat 2 more times.

2. The Flat Tire

A flat tire very similar to the crash scenario above, but in the road race is that now you have more distance to bridge, quite possibly on a wheel that doesn’t exactly mesh with your drivetrain. When you flat in a road race, don’t just stop immediately, especially if you’re under control and can ride it for a little while. Wait till you get the wheel truck up close to you, then pull over. This will make the wheel change much faster, and you’ll have less distance to bridge. It’s important to tell the mechanic changing your wheel that you’d like him to help you get back to the peloton. These guys often just speed off, even though there’s usually no hurry, and gaining their help a little longer is always a good thing.

How to Prepare:
Slow down to 5 mph, then do a short sprint to get up to speed (nothing crazy, but at least 200% of your FTP), and settle into just above your FTP (105%) for 5 minutes. At the end of 5 minutes, drop your pace down to FTP (100%) and ride there for 5 minutes to complete a solid 10:30 interval. Rest for 5 minutes and repeat.

3. Missed Feed/Bottle and the Corresponding Bonk

This scenario shouldn’t come as a surprise, but sometimes it does happen, and you have to be prepared for it. There are no intervals to do in preparation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare. Practice with your feeder a few times before a race to make sure you know how to get your feed and your feeder knows how to properly display your feed. The feeder needs to hold the tip of the water bottle and let you take it from him instead of trying to drop it at the exact moment you grab it. Don’t worry; it’s not going to break your feeder’s wrist if you pull it out of his fingers when you grab it at 20 mph! It’s helpful if you and your feeder can decide the specific spot he’ll be in the feed zone. Sometimes it’s easiest if a feeder is always near the end of the feed zone, and other times it’s better if he’s close to the front, but the important thing is to agree on the location so you can expect it.

If you miss your feed, be prepared for the possible resulting bonk and dehydration. You should always, always carry one more gel in your back pocket than you think you’ll need. I suggest a package of jello blocks, as well. You should come back from every ride and every race with some food in your pocket, which will indicate you had plenty of food and didn’t lack for energy. If you get a “surprise” bonk all of a sudden, you’ll be ready to ward it off with quick sugar. If you’re in the peloton and find yourself rapidly going backwards, make sure to tell a teammate what’s happening; the teammate might be able to help you stay in the peloton by giving you some food or sharing a bottle.

4. The Wrong Turn

The hardest part about this scenario is not panicking. If you panic, you lose for sure. Maintain your calm and make sure you get back on course as quickly as possible, then time trial back into the lead (hopefully) or chase back to the peloton cursing the officials, race director, and everyone involved in the race.

How to Prepare: We want to try to simulate the stress of having to get back in training while remaining calm. You should have been at FTP before you went off course, so getting back to that intensity should be relatively easy. That’s the intensity you have to hold, though, because if you dig too deep you might not be able to recover from that effort. Get back to FTP as soon as you can, and if you’re behind the peloton now, you might have to up the intensity to your VO2Max to catch on.

Try these intervals to help you prepare for this unfortunate circumstance: Ride at your FTP for 10 minutes and then slow down, do a U-turn, accelerate up to speed again, and settle back in at FTP for another 10 minutes. At the end of that 10 minutes, do a hard jump for 15 seconds and then drill it for 2 minutes at 115% of FTP. Recover for 5 minutes and repeat 1 more time.

5. Broken Derailleur Cable or Dead Battery in Electronic Shifter

This will eventually happen to you if you race/ride long enough, and it will happen at the most inopportune time. I had a rear derailleur cable break in a criterium with a nice 200m 10% hill in it, in the rain, of course. Fortunately I was already in the breakaway, so I was able to mitigate the effect of it. On the uphill I was in the 39:12 and the downhill and flat in the 53:12, so it wasn’t too bad, but definitely not ideal. I got 4th in the break of 5 because I couldn’t jump hard enough in the big ring and the sprint was relatively short. One of our PCG athletes had his front derailleur cable break in a time trial and had to choose between the big ring and the small ring; the time trial was the Elite Nationals in Pennsylvania, and the course was incredibly hilly, so he chose the small ring and rode to 5th place on the podium! Dealing with these opposing situations requires proper training so that you can produce power using either low cadence and high force (at the loss of a rear derailleur cable) or high cadence and low force (at the loss of a front derailleur cable).

How to Prepare

Big-gear intervals
Do 60 minutes at tempo/sweet spot power (76-93%; not race pace but doable, though a notch below uncomfortable). Within this 60 minutes, do 15 big-gear interval bursts. Slow down to 10 mph, put it in the 53:13, and (staying seated with hands on drops of handlebars) grunt and push that gear till you reach 90 rpm. At 90 rpm shift to an easier gear and resume riding at tempo pace.

Fast pedaling drills
Do 10 1-minute fast pedaling intervals with cadence at 115-120 rpm. Don’t worry about wattage; just focus on spinning fast and smooth in the saddle. Rest for 1 minute between each at 80-90 rpm. Then do 2 x 15 minutes at 100-105 rpm, just below your threshold at sweet spot (88-93%). Ride easy for 5 minutes between each.

6. Arriving at a Race Late/No Warmup

This is another one that will happen despite your best planning efforts. Sometimes it seems the universe is against you getting to the race on time. I’ve been stuck in traffic jams, gotten waylaid with car trouble, caught rides with very disorganized/late teammates, and everything else you can think of that could happen on the way to a race. You end up in a near panic as you suit up and get to the start line with someone pinning a number on your back at the start. The adrenalin coursing through your veins gives you an advantage that can help you start quickly, but it could also cause you to start too hard and blow up.

How to Prepare: Here’s a great workout to simulate this uncomfortable experience and prepare you for when it happens for real. Without warming up, walk out your door, hop on your bike, and drill it at your FTP right from the driveway for the next 20 minutes. Jump out of every turn, stop light, and stop sign, really digging deep and pushing yourself for the full 20 minutes. Recover for 10 minutes and then begin the rest of your workout. This will help acclimate you to having to start hard without a warm-up. Remember, if you start too hard (like you might if you’re late to a time trial) you’ll blow up, so knowing your FTP and how to pace yourself in those first five minutes is critical: ride at 100-110% of your FTP in the first five minutes, not at 150%!

There are more calamities that could occur, of course, but if you’re ready for these six common ones, you’ll be much better prepared to deal with any surprises that come your way. Remember, there’s no such thing as luck; there is only preparation meeting opportunity and good timing. Prepare smart, recognize the opportunity, and time it right!

If you'd like expert advice about how to succeed in your races this year or next, plus professional support while you do so, contact us today! Your success is our goal; it's the reason we do what we do. 

Article originally published in Road Magazine

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 via or through

Photo credit: Cris Solak, Peaks Coaching Group Brasil

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Your Ten-Minute Yoga Mobility Practice

Peaks Coaching Group Yoga

Welcome to “commercial break yoga.” Short, dedicated spurts of movement and breathing. No excuses. Breathe mindfully. Focus on each movement. Listen to your body; stretch to resistance but never pain. Do these in the order given. Smile. Repeat.

Pose 1: Cow/Cat (or spinal waves)

Promotes fluidity in the spine. Be sure to sync your movements with your breath cycles.
Peaks Coaching Group Yoga Cat Cow
1. Get on your hands and knees, your hands stacked under your shoulders, your fingers spread wide, and your knees directly under your hips.

2. With a slow inhale, drive your chest toward the “window” of your arms and lift your tailbone toward the ceiling.

3. With a slow exhale, move to lift your spine upward, pushing the floor away. Relax the back of your neck and tuck your tailbone.

Move with your breath, always inhaling into the cow and exhaling into the cat. Take your time, observing your hips, shoulders, side body, neck, and spine.

Pose 2: Down Dog

Strengthens shoulders, arms, and wrists. Lengthens tight hamstrings. You can also try a modification with your knees bent.
Peaks Coaching Group Yoga Down Dog
1. On your hands and knees, you knees should be directly below your hips and your hands a few inches in front of your shoulders. Press down evenly through the four corners of both hands, spreading your fingers evenly.

2. Tuck your toes and, on an exhale, lift your knees away from the ground, keeping them slightly bent (or very bent; see the picture above and at pose six below).

3. Gently lift your sit bones toward the ceiling.

4. Slowly lengthen your legs, moving into your hips.

5. Move your awareness to your shoulders; make them firm and broaden them away from each other.

6. Notice which side or part of your body feels tighter and breathe into that side.

MODIFICATION: Keep your knees bent to release your low back, especially if you have particularly tight hamstrings. Hold for at least ten breaths and work up to holding for two minutes.

Pose 3: Lateral Hip Reach

Gets at the hard-to-stretch TFL at the front of the hip and the top of the IT band, as well as your quad. Opens side body; promotes bigger breaths.
Peaks Coaching Group Yoga Hip Reach
1. Kneel with your left foot behind you and your right foot flat on the floor in lunge position. Keep your left hip directly over your left knee (90-degree angle).

2. This is critical: tuck your tailbone/pelvis under (like a scolded dog). This will help you feel a stronger stretch to the top of the thigh.

3. Put your right hand on your right hip or thigh and reach your left arm overhead, away from the leg that is being stretched.

4. Hold for three breaths, then release and switch sides.

Pose 4: Thread the Needle

Superb outer hip opener.
Peaks Coaching Group Yoga Thread the Needle
1. Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your thighs parallel and hip-distance apart.

2. Cross your left ankle over your right thigh, making sure that your anklebone clears your thigh. Actively flex your front foot by pulling your toes back so that the center of your foot will line up with your kneecap rather than curving into a sickle shape, which can stress the ligaments of the ankle and knee.

3. Maintaining this alignment, pull your right knee in toward your chest, thread your left arm through the triangle between your legs, and interlace your fingers around the back of your right leg or right shin (not the back of your knee). If you can hold in front of your shin without lifting your shoulders off the floor or rounding your upper back, do so; otherwise, keep your hands clasped around your hamstring or use a strap. (The goal is to avoid creating tension in your neck and shoulders as you open your hips, so choose a position that keeps your upper body relaxed.)

4.  As you draw your right leg in (making sure to aim it toward your right shoulder, not the center of your chest), simultaneously press your left knee away from you.

5. Hold for ten breaths or longer; switch sides.

Pose 5: Bridge

A beginning backbend that strengthens legs and hips, massages the spine, and opens the heart. Counterbalances compressed chest.
Peaks Coaching Group Yoga Bridge Pose
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat, parallel to each other, and hip distance apart 10-12 inches from your pelvis. Your ankles should be directly under your knees.

2. Rest your hands near yours hips with your palms up. This helps open the front of your shoulders and collarbones.

3. Rock gently to roll and slip your shoulder blades under, tucking them toward your hips, creating space between your ears and shoulders.

4. Push up through your feet to bring your hips off the floor.

5. Clasp your hands underneath you to help ground your shoulders and roll open your chest. Your clasped hands should continue to push toward your ankles while engaging your legs; continue to open your chest in backbend.

6. Do NOT tuck your chin; keep your throat open and bring your front ribs toward your face.

7. Hold for five breaths. Release to the floor and rest. Repeat two times.

Pose 6: Straight Leg Reclined Twist

Breaks the lateral plane of everything we do. Regains some range of motion in the spine and “detoxes” or “squeezes + soaks” the organs. Also a nice outer hip release.
Peaks Coaching Group Yoga Bridge Straight Leg Twist

1. Lie flat on your back with your arms out to the side.

2. Bring your left leg straight out to the left side. Stack your right leg on top of your left leg, keeping both straight.

3. Play with how high you bring your feet toward your left hand. (The higher your legs go, the higher the twist goes up your spine. Adjust as comfortable for you and where you feel you need a deeper stretch. Proceed with caution and listen to your body! It will be different on any given day.)

4. Look over toward your right hand, trying to keep your right shoulder grounded into the floor/mat.

5. Relax and release into the twist; let go for up to five breaths. Switch sides.

There you have it! Now keep it up; regularity is key. Make time for it. You’ll be glad you did.

Leslee Trzcinski is a certified yoga instructor, a former professional cyclist, and a PCG associate coach. She and her fellow PCG coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. Leslee can be contacted directly through or

Photo credits:,, Gaiam,,

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Recipe: Amazing Asian Chicken Burger

Asian Chicken Burgers - Peaks Coaching Group

Every summer evening the air is filled with the wafting fragrance of grills all over town. Burgers are such a delicious staple of our cuisine, and there's no end to the varieties to be enjoyed! PCG nutritionist Anne Guzman shares one of her favorites. Let us know what you think!

Amazing Asian Chicken Burgers


  • 1 pound ground chicken or turkey
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon tamari sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


Mix all ingredients and form into four patties. Fry or grill. Serve on toasted buns with wasabi ketchup (recipe below).

Wasabi Ketchup

  • 4 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoons wasabi paste
Mix and serve with burgers.

We've got so much more than recipes! Check out our full nutrition department here.

Anne Guzman is a PCG nutritionist, a registered holistic nutritionist, and a sports nutrition consultant with a degree in kinesiology. Her passion lies in sports nutrition for endurance athletes, as well as general health and wellness. Anne raced full time on the women’s professional circuit in North America with some bouts in Europe from 2008 until 2011, and before cycling was a provincial and CIAU champion and national bronze medalist as a Varsity Freestyle Wrestler. Currently Anne works with athletes to help them reach their potential by combining their own training plans with her nutrition plans. Anne believes that many athletes undermine their intense detailed training regimes by not backing them with sound nutrition. Her personal experience as a cyclist and athlete is a great asset to her business as she understands the needs and nuances that come with the sport. Anne can be contacted through or at Read more nutrition advice on her blog.
Image credit:

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What Can You Do in Three Weeks?

All the grand tours are three weeks long. The typical build cycle in training is three weeks long. The life cycle of the cabbage worm is three weeks long. Most women recognize they are pregnant at three weeks. Three weeks, twenty-one days. How much can you improve your fitness in three weeks? If you gave yourself a three-week training camp, how many more watts would you produce at the end of it? How much fitter would you become? How much body fat would you lose? How much could your bike handling skills improve?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How Training with Power is Different From Training with Heart Rate

Heart rate monitors first came on the cycling scene in the 1980s, allowing us for the first time to train scientifically. Prior to that, we had to train solely by perceived exertion. Heart rate allows us to train at more specific levels of exertion, depending on the physiological system (aerobic, threshold, anaerobic) we wanted to emphasize. Pretty soon everyone serious about training and improving was riding the wave and using a heart rate monitor.

Then about ten years ago, power meters became widely available and began to supplement or even replace the use of heart rate monitors. Power meters offer a number of advantages over heart rate monitors, such as being able to monitor actual exertion directly, rather than indirectly as heart rate does. Power data also provides extensive analytics after your training rides to help you assess and monitor your progress.

I strongly recommend the book Training and Racing with a Power Meter by Hunter Allen and Dr. Andrew Coggan to learn about all the metrics that can be used with power data, but in this article I’ll give an example of how training with a power meter is much superior to training with a heart rate monitor.

Before I get into that, though, I want to emphasize that power meters do not completely replace the need for a heart rate monitor. It is still useful to measure your body’s response to training and to compare heart rate with power data.

One of the greatest advantages of training with a power meter is, in my opinion, that a power meter gives you the ability to dial in your desired level of exertion immediately. This is especially true for shorter intervals. The reason is the key difference between power and heart rate: power meters measure the power your body produces, and it can be measured directly and instantaneously, whereas heart rate is an indirect measure and responds to the body’s effort and is thus a delayed measure of exertion. In addition, heart rate can be affected by a number of other factors such as fatigue, dehydration, and temperature. I find that it takes one to two minutes for heart rate to catch up to a steady state power output

Here’s an illustration of the way heart rate lags behind exertion. The chart below is a cyclist’s five-minute interval. While the power (yellow line) is fairly steady, note how the heart rate (red line) increases and doesn’t reach a steady state until two minutes after the start of the interval.

This lag makes it impossible to use heart rate for intervals shorter than two minutes. As you can see, however, the power measurement is up to the targeted level within seconds of the start of the interval.

If you want to do short intervals and use only a heart rate monitor, you’ll have to tackle them by feel, because the interval will be over before your heart rate catches up.

Here’s another great illustration of this phenomenon. The chart below is a workout of 30-second anaerobic capacity intervals. This cyclist used both a power meter and a heart rate monitor.

Note how the heart rate peaks several seconds after the end of the interval. If you tried to do these with a heart rate monitor only, the heart rate wouldn’t be at all useful in guiding your effort. Having power data allows us to target our desired exertion level immediately.

Take a look at the graph of heart rate below. What type of workout do you think this is? Perhaps a time trial with some undulating hills?

Now look at the same workout with power data included.

The workout is actually a series of very hard, short intervals separated by very easy recovery intervals. When doing a series of short intervals of 30 seconds or less, heart rate tends to be fairly constant because of the inherent lag. Just as your heart rate begins to climb, the effort ends and heart rate starts heading back down, just as the next interval starts. The longer these go on, the more the heart rate mimics a steady-state effort despite the alternating very high and low exertion levels of the workout. Not only is heart rate not effective in determining exertion level during these intervals, it also isn’t useful in evaluating the intensity of the workout; as you can see, this was a much more demanding workout than heart rate alone would suggest.

Heart rate tracking is great if it’s getting you out there. When you’re ready for the next level, try a power meter!

Want to try out training with a power meter before investing in one? You can demo a power meter at our cycling training camps. Click here for more information, and review the power meters we recommend here on our store.

David Ertl is a USAC Level 1 coach, the author of four cycling training books, a father of twin sons, and a Peaks Coaching Group associate coach. He and his fellow PCG coaches create custom training plans for endurance athletes of all levels of experience. David can be contacted through or through