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.

How to Get Started Training with Power

Just purchased your first power meter? Congratulations! Coach James tells us what do on our first rides with power.

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).

How to Interpret Power Data and What to Do With It

A power meter is an incredible tool and one of the most important purchases a cyclist or triathlete can make. But it won't do you any good unless you know how to use the information it gathers.

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:

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

Bars:
  • 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.

Solution:

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

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions

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.

How to Get Started Training with Power


So you’ve made the commitment and purchased a power meter. Congratulations! Now it’s time to suit up for the weather and head out for your first ride.

During your first ride with your power meter, and even your first several rides, try not to look at the head unit at all. Your power meter is much more responsive to changes in input than your heart rate monitor or your speedometer, so just ride. Besides, until you know what you are looking at, the watts readout on your head unit will be almost meaningless. Power is not like speed. Your watts will fluctuate much more than you expect, and this is normal.

Take a couple days or a week to go on several rides that target different levels of perceived effort, otherwise known as rate of perceived exertion (RPE). Ride a long endurance ride. Find a hill that takes you 5-8 minutes to ride and hit it as hard as you can, or do a few hard sprints to the mailbox at the end of the road.

Then find a long stretch of uninterrupted road to do a hard 20-minute effort. This 20-minute effort is the standard effort to determine your functional threshold power (FTP).  Make sure you get a good warm-up, then crank out twenty minutes as hard as you can go. Calculate 95% of the average power for this effort: this is a reliable estimate of your FTP. Click here for a more complete description of functional threshold power and the testing process.

Hint: Make sure you hit the lap function on your head unit so you can easily find your efforts when you look at your data in an analysis software package. WKO+ and its online companion, TrainingPeaks, are two good options for analysis tools.

The next step is to determine your power zones, which will add structure and efficiency to your training. You can use the chart below to establish your zones.


Now you’ve got the basics to start riding with power. But this is only the beginning! You’ll enjoy ride analysis, targeted training data for you and your coach, event planning, and immediate feedback from your head unit. You’ll soon understand why training with a power meter is far superior to working with any other training tool.

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


Peaks Coaching Group James Schaefer
James Schaefer is a USA Cycling Level 2 and a PCG elite coach. He and his fellow PCG coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. James can be contacted directly through PeaksCoachingGroup.com or info@peakscoachinggroup.com.

Photo: PCG Elite/Master Coach Brig Brandt rides at a PCG cycling camp in Mallorca, Spain

Photo credit: Kathy Watts

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Using Power-Based Metrics in an Annual Training Plan

PCG athlete Lefteris Bokas wins the Parnis Race
Since the advent of periodization over fifty years ago, coaches have sought to quantify the amount of training their athletes perform as part of developing training plans that ensure peak performance at key events. Traditionally, training load has been measured two ways—total distance and/or total hours ridden. While these measures provide some indication of training load, they lack the specificity required to assist the athlete in achieving peak fitness and minimizing the risks of over-training.

Using training zones in workouts adds some specificity to simple measures of time or distance. However, training zones indicate only the quality of the training performed and are too broad to provide an accurate indication of overall training load. For example, consider the difference in intensity between riding one hour at 60% of threshold power versus one hour at 70%. Both would fall within the endurance training zone, yet clearly the second ride is going to produce more training stimulus, possibly as much as 36% more, a significant difference when trying to plan a steady, safe progression in fitness.

Adding Power-Based Metrics

With the introduction of power meters, coaches had a new metric at their disposal: the kilojoule, a measure of the actual work performed by the athlete. The kilojoule provides a more specific measure of training volume than do total hours or distance. If we take the same two rides mentioned above but set a goal in terms of kilojoules achieved rather than time or distance, the ride at 60% would simply be extended to 70 minutes in order to equal the amount of work performed in the one-hour ride at 70%.

The use of kilojoules works very well for rides at lower levels of intensity, but because the power-work relationship is linear, it still fails to adequately represent the true training stimulus produced by harder efforts, such as intervals. The muscular fatigue and recovery requirements following an hour workout in which an athlete does six five-minute efforts at VO2Max are much higher than riding one hour steadily at 75% of threshold power, yet the two rides require the same number of kilojoules of work.

A New Method for New Data

With the development of more capable cycle computers and robust analysis software, coaches and athletes now have numerous power-based metrics at their disposal to quantify training stimulus and fitness much more accurately. It is now possible for coaches to design and implement an annual training plan that utilizes these power-based metrics instead of the more traditional miles or hours ridden. Most software programs designed to analyze power data provide the three metrics needed to design an annual plan:
  1. The relative intensity of the workout (adjusted by an algorithm to account for the higher impact of super-threshold efforts)
  2. The training stimulus for the workout (a number of points based on relative intensity and workout duration)
  3. The athlete's current level of fitness (a number of points based on the cumulative effects of several weeks of workouts)
A plan that uses power-based metrics still uses many of the core principles found in more traditional training plans. The macrocycle will be composed of several mesocycles designed first to develop the athlete's aerobic fitness and then to work on more specific energy systems in preparation for the racing peak (I’ll discuss some variations to this more traditional approach later in the article). Maintaining a familiar overall structure to the annual plan makes it easier for an athlete to adapt to a new way of thinking about training and provides the coach with a familiar methodology from which to adjust to this different approach.

After determining the athlete's current level of fitness (either through the analysis of past workout files or through an approximation of average daily training load), the coach plans the athlete's progression by entering future values for weekly training stimulus, taking into consideration recovery, planned breaks from training, and other events that may affect training. For example, if an athlete currently has 60 fitness “points” and the goal is to build that up to 100 in eight weeks, the coach plans a weekly training load that allows the athlete to reach this score of 100 at an average of 5 points per week. These weekly training load goals, in combination with a graphical representation of their impact on athlete fitness (as in the chart below), can be a useful means to help an athlete visualize the annual plan and how it will prepare them for goal events.

A graphical representation of athlete fitness can help athletes see the big picture.

Next, the coach plans each microcycle, ensuring that the workouts meet the specific training needs of the athlete and also elicit the weekly training stimulus desired based on the annual plan. Factors such as available hours to train and the athlete's daily schedule are considered during this step. As the athlete completes the microcycles, actual values for weekly training stimuli are entered, and fitness progression is adjusted up or down based on the actual training load.

Providing Data-Driven Feedback to the Athlete

In addition to the fitness progression graph shown above, creating graphs that compare actual versus planned progress can be an excellent way to present the athlete a quick picture of his weekly performance in relation to his goals and evidence of his overall fitness progression. They also motivate the athlete beyond just completing each individual workout by providing both medium and long-term feedback about the athlete's progress.

Graphs representing actual (dashed red line) vs. planned (solid blue line)
weekly stimulus (left) and overall fitness (right)

The coach makes modifications to the weekly goals as needed to suit the athlete's situation. This will occur frequently when first developing the plan, as both the coach and athlete will still be learning how much training stimulus the athlete can perform each week and how the athlete handles the overall training load across each mesocycle. With time, however, both coach and athlete will be able to tailor the workload and recovery periods to suit the athlete's needs and abilities. Since the plan is power-based, increases in the athlete's threshold power are automatically factored in to the calculations of training stimulus, as long as the coach and athlete make the appropriate changes in the program they’re using.

Special Considerations and Potential Pitfalls

Naturally, each athlete is an individual, and this approach to developing an annual plan requires attention to that fact. Since power-based metrics are derived from both intensity and duration, an athlete can derive the same number of stimulus “points” riding long duration at low intensity as they would doing intervals at aerobic capacity for a short duration, yet the physiological benefits they would receive are quite different. Therefore, the coach must ensure that the prescribed training focuses on targeting the energy systems specific to the athlete's stage of development and the demands of his goal events, not merely the achievement of some arbitrary number of training stimulus points.

In addition, special attention must be paid to the overall fitness ramp rate: the rate at which an athlete increases his fitness level each week. Depending upon the software one uses, there is typically a range of points that is considered an acceptable rate of weekly increase, beyond which the athlete runs greater risk of over-training. Additional factors such as athlete age, prior injuries, and overall resilience can affect the range of points that will be most productive. Utilizing a graphical representation of an athlete's weekly ramp rate can be a very effective means of ensuring that the athlete is able to steadily progress.

Charting the fitness “ramp rate.” The colored lines indicate the range of rates appropriate for the athlete.

As with all annual plans, unforeseen disruptions will prevent the athlete from completing both prescribed workouts within a microcycle or even entire microcycles within a mesocycle. When this occurs, traditionally the athlete either writes the missed work off entirely or attempts to make up the missed work by suddenly increasing training volume. With a power-metric training plan, the coach and athlete can collaborate to determine how much, if any, additional training load can be applied across several weeks while still keeping the athlete's ramp rate within the appropriate range. This collaboration is most productive when combined with a graphical representation of how the lost training stimulus and the resulting alterations to the upcoming weeks will get the athlete back on track, since it allows the athlete to see how short-term setbacks in training self-correct over time.

The charting of athlete fitness helps the athlete see the impact of missed training (sudden dip in dashed line)
and adapt the training plan to regain lost fitness without risking over-training.

Variations to the Plan

Using power-based metrics presents several opportunities for modification of the annual plan to suit the needs of the athlete. A few possible variations include:
  • Athletes engaged in a weight-loss phase during the post- or pre-season can include the number of kilojoules burned along with the training stimulus metrics to ensure that they consume enough calories to lose weight without losing power.
  • Athletes desiring to maintain a higher level of fitness during the post-season can adjust their weekly training to minimize or eliminate the drop in fitness that normally occurs during the transition period.
  • Athletes can tailor the frequency of rest weeks to suit their physical and mental fortitude. Some athletes may be able to handle a decrease in the frequency of rest weeks during the base cycle, and a few may even have the resilience to eliminate rest weeks entirely. Other athletes may determine that more frequent rest helps prevent bigger setbacks such as illness and injury.
The use of power-based metrics to develop annual training plans still requires the same level of attention to detail and to the “art” of coaching that is required of any other training plan method, and the metrics used are certainly not flawless indicators of an athlete's fitness or perfect predictors of an athlete's performance in races. However, they do provide a more effective means of gauging athlete development and managing an athlete's preparation for key events than more traditional methods such as total time and total distance. As power meters become more ubiquitous, not only among professional and amateur racers but also among serious recreational riders, using power-based metrics has become a viable and effective method of training plan development and deserves a place in every coach's repertoire.

Want to learn more about annual training plans and how to make yours the best for you? Click here to contact us, ask questions, or inquire about coaching assistance. 


Coach Jordan Whiley Peaks Coaching Group
Jordan Whiley has been a competitive cyclist and educator for more than fifteen years and has been training and racing with power meters since 2005. He is an elite coach with Peaks Coaching Group, and he also teaches high school mathematics and science. Jordan can be contacted directly at info@peakscoachinggroup.com or through PeaksCoachingGroup.com.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Recipe: Leek and Potato Soup

Peaks Coaching Group Leek Potato Soup

Get in out of the cold and warm up with this simple leek and potato soup! Potatoes are a wonderful whole food option, excellent for both athletes and non. Be sure to clean the leeks well before using, and add a dollop of yogurt on top for decor if you like.

To make this recipe dairy-free, you can try milk alternatives like rice, almond, or soy, though it may alter the flavor slightly.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 6 leeks, chopped (use the white parts and just a little bit of the green)
  • 1 teaspoon salt and pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • scallions for garnish
  • dollop of yogurt for garnish (optional)

Instructions

Heat oil in a large pot and saute onion and potato for five minutes. Add the stock, leeks, salt, and pepper and simmer for thirty minutes. Pour mixture into a blender and blend until smooth, then return to the pot and add the milk. Serve with scallions and yogurt, if desired.

Enjoy!

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.


Anne Guzman is a nutritionist with Peaks Coaching Group. She is a certified kinesiologist, a registered holistic nutritionist, an AFPA-certified sports nutrition consultant, and a former professional cyclist. Anne can be reached directly through www.peakscoachinggroup.com or info@peakscoachinggroup.com, and you can find more nutrition tips and recipes on her blog at nutritionsolutionsanneguzman.com/blog/.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Eating Protein and Fighting Aging

Peaks Coaching Group Eating Protein and Fighting Aging
Protein gets way less bad press than fats or carbs. Sometimes I think it gets too much good press, actually, like with the super high protein diets that are promoted for weight loss. The truth is that protein is very important since it supplies the building blocks for just about every tissue in your body. It also helps with recovery after workouts and satiation after meals, helping you to stave off hunger until the next meal or snack. However, loading up on excess amounts (beyond what your body actually needs) isn’t going to help out your health or fitness. I think people forget that excess protein can be stored as fat, just like excess carbs or dietary fat.

I once read a statement in SCAN’s "PULSE" newsletter that caught me off guard. The comment was regarding protein intake after exercise as it relates to muscle repair, which it said “could make a meaningful difference over the course of a year, particularly for athletes over 30 years old who slowly lose muscle as a normal part of the aging process.” Well, crap. I feel I handled my thirtieth birthday relatively well, mostly by ignoring the fact that I'd entered this decade in life. I’ve always said age is just a number anyway. But this comment bothered me. Whether I tell myself I have the fitness of a 22-year-old or not, the reality is that my body is over 30, and apparently that means I’m losing muscle mass. Another joy of aging! So I’ll do my best to fight it.

Here’s my plan and how you can do it too: getting enough total daily protein, incorporating optimal amounts of protein post workout, and strength training regularly.

Post-Workout Protein Recommendations

According to the article (and many others on the same topic), eating optimal amounts of protein shortly following a workout can help speed recovery and prevent muscle loss, since post exercise not only do the muscles need protein but they're primed and ready to utilize it. There isn’t a lot of good data that suggests that one protein type is significantly better than another (i.e. whey, casein, soy) so pick the one you like best. If you like it, you’ll be more likely to be consistent with consuming it. Generally it’s recommended to consume 10-20 grams of protein in the recovery window (within 30-60 minutes post workout).

Daily Protein Recommendations

Another key point the article (which was based on a recent study) suggested was that the optimal amount of protein at meals for athletes is about 30 grams. Beyond this amount there are no additional health benefits, and you run the risk of storing the excess protein as fat. Fall significantly short of this number and your muscles may not be getting as much protein as they need, which means you could lose muscle mass. The 30-grams-per-meal recommendation actually equates to a higher daily protein intake than what typical recommendations have called for (depending on body weight), which this study did not factor in.

According to traditional guidelines, the minimum amount of protein necessary to prevent deficiency is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day (0.36 grams per pound of body weight). That equals 49 grams for a 135-pound person. However, that’s the minimum to prevent problems; if you're an athlete you definitely need more. The typical recommendation for endurance athletes is to consume 1.2-1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (0.54-0.64 grams per pound). A 135-pound runner, for example, would need about 73-86 grams of protein a day, slightly less than 30 grams x 3 meals. Strength athletes need more: 1.4-1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight per day (0.64-.77 grams per pound).

Whether you go with the body weight recommendation or the 30 grams X 2 meals, these protein levels are not difficult to obtain if you are a meat eater. The key is to space your protein intake more evenly throughout the day, as it’s likely that your breakfast falls short. An egg, for example, has 6 grams of protein, while a 6-ounce steak has about 42. Vegetarians will have to work harder to make sure they meet their protein needs. It’s okay to add a protein powder or bars as a supplement if you aren't getting enough protein from food alone, but aim to meet your needs from food first, supplements second. Some good sources of protein are lean meats, chicken, fish, eggs, soy, dairy, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and beans.

So there it is: my plan to fight the aging process. Obviously it’s more complicated than this, but it’s a start. Wish me luck!

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.  

Original photo credit: TheActiveTimes.com.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Power of Big Data

Peaks Coaching Group Power of Big Data

One of my favorite magazines is Wired, which is all about technology. Almost every issue contains some sort of article on human performance, which makes sense when you think about it; after all, pretty much all technology in the world exists to improve human performance in one way or another. From your cell phone to a CAT scan machine to the voice-activated GPS in your car, technology helps us improve ourselves, our effectiveness, and our productivity.

Several years ago Wired published a story by Chris Anderson entitled, “The Power of Big Data” with the subtitle “The End of Science.” The introduction read, “The quest for knowledge used to begin with grand theories. Now it begins with massive amounts of data. Welcome to the petabyte age.” Anderson welcomed us into the age where a massive amount of data thrown at any problem will eventually lead to meaningful and significant answers, the age where computers crunch more numbers than ever and algorithms applied to any large enough data set give us the correlations and patterns that science cannot. It’s this sheer quantity of data and the ability to process it that Anderson argued is the reason for the end of the traditional scientific method of hypothesize, model, and test.

This article really hit home for me, since the amount of power meter data we collect grows with each ride, each month of rides, and each year of rides. The power of big data really makes a difference for a power meter user. When taken alone as a few data points here and there, your watts or cadence data cannot provide you with any new insight. When you start to capture data every second of every ride, ranges of time become more and more interesting. A whole record of your workout starts to become recognizable as you point out the hills you went over, the attacks you made, or the intervals you did. You can compare sections within a workout to help determine whether you should have done five or six intervals or held a higher cadence, etc.

This ability is very enlightening. I’ve mentioned many times that I believe a power meter satisfies two of our primal desires as humans: First, it gives us a way of looking at our workout history and reliving our experiences. We all like to relive the “good old days” and talk about the time Bob attacked up that hill and then the yappy dog jumped out from behind the bush, bit Bob’s tire, and got stuck in the wheel going flop-flop-flop like Wile E. Coyote on Saturday morning cartoons. This reliving of experiences is made even more permanent by having a power meter file of your ride; it’s like having a second-by-second diary of your entire workout or race.

The second desire a power meter helps satisfy is the desire to learn from our experiences. With the power of big data at our fingertips, learning from our rides becomes more and more viable. The more data we have, the better. Even just looking at one individual workout and comparing intervals to each another allows us to learn from them.

The power of big data becomes even more valuable when we put it together over a longer period of time, or when we collect more data, making the data set even larger. An individual ride is great, but a week of rides is better, a month even better than that, a year even more so. Multiple years of data are amazing. I have one client who has used his SRM since 2003 and religiously recorded every single ride he’s done, which makes his data set quite large and highly valuable for analysis purposes. As his coach, I’ve been able to track and direct his progress over the years, learning about his specific responses to his training dose, pinpointing the type of training that brings him into form, and knowing with a high degree of certainty that his current training is correct. This sort of knowledge is priceless, and it’s not something coaches or athletes had been able to ascertain before power meters. Only with big data have we been able to make sense of the hundreds of rides athletes have done over time.

Let’s look at an example. In the screenshot below you can see an athlete’s mean maximal power curve over several years, which is one of my favorite ways to view changes in physiology over a long time period. There are two lines; the solid black line represents the athlete’s best numbers from all his rides in his current year, and the dashed line represents his best numbers from all his rides in the previous year. When TrainingPeaks WKO+ software goes through every workout for the time period, compares it to every other workout, and looks for the very best wattage values for each time period, the power of big data really starts to shine. The shape of the curve in the mean maximal power curve tells us about the athlete’s strengths and weaknesses, and by comparing curves from two time periods we learn how each physiological area has changed.


If you’ll look closely, you’ll see that the solid black line (current year) is above the dashed line in many places, indicating that the wattages were higher during those time periods and proving substantial improvement. When the more recent line is higher than the second line only in certain places, we can see points of specific physiological areas that have improved. Maybe your power at VO2Max improved or your sprint improved or your functional threshold improved. By analyzing lots and lots of data, you can see these trends and review the truth about what is really happening with your fitness.

Let’s look at another example of the power of big data. In this example we’re looking at the mean maximal power periodic chart, which shows your peak watts for specific times that you select. These are then charted over whatever time period you want to see, such as your current and previous seasons. In the chart below we see data for this athlete over a two-year period; by looking at the chart, it’s immediately obvious how much more consistent his wattage numbers are in the current year and how clearly he progressed throughout the season. Especially notice the steady progression of the green line and blue line (his one-minute and five-second bests), which relate to the anaerobic capacity and neuromuscular power systems, respectively. When all of the best wattages are charted for each week over a year or two of data, it’s much easier to see changes to the training regime, incremental improvements, and new personal bests.


The chart below is from the same athlete, but it includes only his data from one month, which is a smaller slice of the data set. We see that it looks like the one-minute (green) line and five-minute (red) lines have decreased, while the five-second (blue) line and sixty-minute (black) lines have increased.


Without a larger view and data set, true increases and decreases in wattage are hard to see. Since fitness changes over a longer period of time than just four weeks, it’s hard to say what’s going on by looking at only these numbers. Referring back to the year comparison allows you to see the bigger picture, the forest above the trees. That’s the power of big data.

When we combine the incredible number-crunching power of personal computers with the ability to record incredible amounts of data, the power of big data really does start make sense for us lowly cyclists. We aren’t curing cancer, calculating satellite orbital trajectories, or creating world peace, but cycling gives us that sense of personal satisfaction that is hard to find in other places in life. Using a power meter to help remember your experiences and learn from them can be deeply satisfying, while the power of big data can help you become even more successful.


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
Image Credit: Shutterstock.com