How to Build a Training Plan Using Your Power Meter

The number one question we get at seminars is: How do I get started with a training plan? There's no simple answer (except hire a coach), but Hunter shares some basics to cover.

I Don't Care if I'm Getting Old; I Wanna Go Fast!

Coach Tim Cusick is 48 years old, and he wants to go faster! Luckily he's into cycling, one of the few sports that offer the opportunity to improve even at such a “mature” age (and way beyond). Click through for his tips.

Off Season Homework for Triathletes

While "off season" sounds so vacation-like, most of us know it's anything but. It's the crucial time to get in your homework for next year's season, especially if you're aiming for the next level of success.

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.

Variations on a Theme: Threshold Work for Cyclocross

If you've been racing all summer, your power at threshold has declined as you focus on racing and recovering. Click through to read Coach Christian's suggestions to increase your FTP for the CX season.

Friday, October 17, 2014

How to Build a Training Plan Using Your Power Meter

Peaks Coaching Group How to Build a Training Plan

It's the number one question at every seminar I teach: How do I get started with a training plan? There is no simple answer to that question, which is why so many people ask it. However, there are some basic steps you have to follow with your power meter before you build a training plan. Let’s review those steps first and then dig into how to build a training plan.

When Dr. Coggan and I decided to write our book, Training and Racing with a Power Meter, we wanted our readers to be able to finish the book knowing the basic steps of using their power meter effectively. Since those steps are in the book, I won’t go into detail here about each one, but a quick review of them will be helpful.

The first step in effectively using your power meter is an easy one; all you need to do is ride your bike and collect data. Don’t change the way you ride; just collect your data for a couple of weeks in order to get a good understanding of how many watts you do up a hard hill, on a long climb, in a breakaway, etc. Once you’ve collected two or three weeks of data, you’ll need to do some testing. I recommend testing four different time periods representative of the four main training zones: your best five-second, one-minute, five-minute, and twenty-minute efforts (your neuromuscular, anaerobic capacity, VO2Max, and threshold power, respectively). Choose a nice day, get in a good warm-up, and choose a flat or steady climbing road with no stop signs and low traffic.

The twenty-minute effort is one of the most important tests to do. Take your average watts from that test and subtract 5% from it; use that as your functional threshold power (FTP). A normal FTP test is sixty minutes long, but the twenty-minute test can be substituted for it as long as you subtract at least 5% off the final value. FTP testing is important because it’s the next step in the process: setting up your training zones (our book contains detailed descriptions of each training zone and what they mean).

After setting your FTP and establishing your power zones, determine your strengths and weaknesses relative to your peers. Dr. Coggan and I developed a chart called the power profile, which takes wattages from representative athletes all over the world and lists each category in a table so you can compare yourself to others. The main benefit of this is that it allows you to see which of your physiological energy systems is stronger or weaker than riders of similar caliber and then begin formulating a training plan to address these systems.

Just like anything else in life, the only way to improve an aspect of your training is to recognize you need to improve (test), understand what can be done better (power profile), set some goals, and develop a plan to improve. We can take the findings from our testing data, look at our season-long goals or even upcoming goals, and begin to focus on the steps needed to accomplish those goals.

So for the purpose of this article we need some goals so we can begin to develop a training plan. This is the final step before creating a training plan. Goals are the blueprints a homebuilder creates to make sure he builds the house just the way the owners envision it. Can you imagine buying a load of lumber and some nails, starting to hammer away, and building a house without a blueprint or plan? There’s no telling what you might end up with! Before any training plan can begin, goals must be set and decided upon.

Let’s look at a fictional athlete named Tommy Torque. Tommy wants to peak in mid-July to win the Masters Nationals road race, and he also wants to compete and podium in the time trial. Tommy isn’t concerned with any other races in the year; he only wants to do them to have fun, keep his mind and racing legs sharp, and gain the training effect. This is a great yet scary scenario for a coach to build a training plan for; it means building a plan up to one big peak of fitness in mid-July, which means his training can steadily ramp up higher and higher before a taper period, but it’s also scary because all the eggs are in one basket. This is bike racing, after all, and lots of things can and will happen. The airline might lose your bike. You might get a flat tire in the first mile of the race. You might miss your water bottle hand-up on that critical lap in the feed zone. Those risks, however, are Tommy’s. His coach needs to focus on coming up with the best training plan to put him in the right spot at the right time.

Stephen Covey, one of my favorite authors and speakers, says, “Begin with the end in mind.” That’s exactly where we start when we build a training plan: at the end. We have to work backward to develop the build and rest cycles in the training plan, since we only have so much time between now and Nationals. Working backward, we can build a plan with the traditional three weeks of work followed by one week of rest and include two weeks before Masters Nationals for the rest and taper weeks. I highly recommend doing this in an online training program like TrainingPeaks’ ATP planner, in an excel spreadsheet, or even on a dry erase calendar pinned to your wall. Work backward on your calendar to develop the different training micro-cycles (3:1 work and rest weeks), which will bring you back to your current week. Once there, you can begin to decide which phase of training you need to do in each 3:1 cycle. Not everyone needs or responds to a 3:1 training cycle (I’ve had athletes on a 1:1 or 5:1, etc.), but if you haven’t done a semi-organized training plan like this, a 3:1 ratio is a good place to start.

Once you’ve decided on your work-rest ratio, I recommend thinking about the training by addressing your weaknesses first and then working on the main necessary energy systems necessary for cycling. Tommy Torque has a moderate sprint (five-second best effort), a fair anaerobic capacity (his one-minute best is low), a very good VO2Max (five-minute best effort), and a very good FTP (his twenty-minute best is high), which bodes well for success in the time trial but might not help him as much in the road race as much. Since the Masters Nationals road race course is comprised of short hills, anaerobic capacity is a key determiner of success, along with FTP. Tommy’s FTP will keep him in the race near the front, but AC is the thing that puts him into position to win. With that in mind, he needs to spend at least one day a week working on this weakness, from now until eight weeks out from Nationals. At that point we’ll make sure he begins doing twice-a-week workouts with anaerobic capacity efforts intertwined with other time trial-specific workouts and FTP work. From March to May, it’s imperative that Tommy spends plenty of time working on his FTP, raising it as high as he can.

Since Tommy’s goal is a peak in mid-July, he shouldn’t be doing a tremendously hard early spring training plan, but May will be a key training month. Always think in eight-week blocks of training, since many training adaptations occur in eight-week cycles, so thinking backward from July really emphasizes the importance of a very strong May training block. FTP will be the main emphasis, as the aerobic system takes quite some time to improve and a big push in this area will provide great benefits in July.

With this rough sketch of a training plan for Tommy, all that’s left to do is filling in the blanks with the appropriate workouts each day. The daily workouts should be planned about three weeks in advance, since it’s hard to predict exactly what life will throw at Tommy throughout the season. If you plan out the daily workouts too far ahead, you’ll probably end up rewriting them later as life happens.

The contents of the actual workouts are far beyond the scope of this article, so I won’t go into that, but the composition of those workouts is very important. It’s key that you design your workouts to address correct training zones and do your best to adhere to them. Use the power training zones chart above to make sure you’re doing the correct wattages on your training rides. Focus on your efforts and make them count. It’s always the last couple of repetitions in an interval set that make the difference, so don’t give up!

Building a year-long training plan is no easy feat. Many books and articles have been written about doing it well, and I hope this article has given you some insight into the basic design of a training plan. A power meter will help you define your training dose much more easily and allow you to control that dose. Be sure to build up each week and keep the rate of training stress climbing, but not too fast. Nothing has really changed since the invention of new technology for training; we still have to use all the same periodization training principles that have been around for since Dr. Tudor Bompa wrote about them in 1968, but a power meter now quantifies that training stress.

As you review your goals, strengths, and weaknesses, make a plan to succeed and achieve those goals, however lofty or modest they may be. Your best season is right around the corner!

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  

Article originally published in Road Magazine.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dryside Training for Swimmers: Using Ropes to Increase Muscular Endurance

Peaks Coaching Group Dryside Training for Swimmers

Balancing dryside and wetside training for swimmers can be a challenge. USA Swimming defines dryside training as “any training a swimmer performs outside the pool” (Frost, 1999); many of us think of weight lifting and calisthenics. Wetside training, as you might imagine, is any training a swimmer performs in the pool.

The problem with wetside resistance training is that it builds muscular strength, not endurance. Specifically referring to the front crawl stroke, Vliet, Carol & Toussaint found that weight resistance training can lead to small improvements in sprint performance with little to no improvement in endurance. This outcome is not surprising due to the muscle types being trained; typical weight resistance does not train endurance muscles. However, if you add some battle rope training to your regime, it can provide the necessary resistance training to increase your endurance strength.

Let’s take a look at the front crawl stroke. Many muscles in our bodies are utilized in this stroke, and the pulling stroke of the front crawl creates almost 90% of our propulsion (Funk, 2009). The upper body front crawl stroke can be broken into six phases: entry, catch, downsweep, insweep, upsweep, and overwater recovery (Char, 1991).
Funk, 2009

Our range of motion comes from the shoulder, flexion of the elbow, and rotation of the forearm. The shoulder girdle is comprised of three bones, and several tendons, ligaments, and muscle groups allow us to move the shoulder in the 360-degree motion that is the essence of the front crawl stroke (Ho, 2010).
All the deltoids, lats, pecs, and biceps are the prime working muscles in producing the motion of this stroke, and the muscles of the shoulder girdle and forearm also assist in the stroke. Each one of these muscle groups contains endurance muscle fibers, and a great way to train these muscles to improve endurance is to use battle ropes.

A battle rope is typically 1.5-2 inches in diameter and ranges from 30 to 100 feet in length and from 50 to 75 pounds in weight. We can use these ropes to perform strength or endurance training exercises that train the same muscles used in the front crawl stroke. A battle rope forces us to use more stabilizer muscles in addition to the prime mover muscles, unlike in standard weight training; because the rope has unstable characteristics depending on the exercise being performed, our stabilizer muscles have to kick in to keep the rope moving in the proper direction.

Battle Rope Drills

1. Alternating Waves

This endurance exercise trains the endurance muscle fibers of the upper back and upper arm. The muscles of the shoulder girdle must also assist in stabilizing the rope.

To perform the drill, take the end of a rope in each hand and move your arms up and down. Keep your arm strokes small, which results in smaller and faster arm movements. The upper part of the stroke should end at shoulder level, while the lower level should end at your waistline. The resulting alternating strokes cause the rope to produce alternating vertical waves.

2. Double Waves

This exercise is very similar to the alternating waves above; just hold both ropes together with both hands and make the same up and down arm motion. Since the rope ends are held together and the arms are near the centerline of the body, different muscles are trained: the shoulder girdle muscles, biceps, triceps, and muscles of the forearm. The main difference between the two exercises is that you need to keep your abdominal muscles tight in order to maintain good control of the rope.

3. Side-to-Side Waves

Hold one end of the rope in each hand as in the alternating waves drill and lift the rope to waist level. Twist and swing your arms from side to side, creating a horizontal double wave with the rope. Creating this motion will use much of your upper body muscles, including the deltoids and rhomboids of your upper back, your lats, and your abdominal obliques.

4. Thumbs Up Double Waves

Hold each end of the rope with your thumbs pointing upward and move your arms up and down as you did in the alternating waves exercise. The change in hand position allows for additional muscle groups to be exercised; you’ll work your lats, triceps, and upper muscles of the shoulder girdle, and your lower abdominals are activated to stabilize your body during the drill.

5. Double Circles Waves

Hold one end of the rope in each hand as in the alternating waves drill. Swing each end of the rope in a circular motion, similar to a double-dutch jumping rope exercise. This exercise works the same muscles described in the side-to-side waves drill.

Sample Dryside Training Regimen Using Battle Rope Drills

The following sample of battle rope drills can be used as part of any dryside training plan to assist in developing muscular endurance. The purpose of these drills is to train and develop your type 1 muscle fibers that are involved in the six phases of the front crawl pulling stroke.

1.    Alternating waves 3 x 1 minute, with 30 seconds of rest between repetitions.
2.    Side-to-side waves 3 x 1 minute, with 30 seconds of rest between repetitions.
3.    Double waves 3 x 1 minute, with 30 seconds of rest between repetitions.
4.    Double circles 3 x 1 minute, with 30 seconds of rest between repetitions.
5.    Thumbs up double waves 3 x 1 minute, with 30 seconds of rest between repetitions.
6.    Double circles 3 x 1 minute, with 30 seconds of rest between repetitions.

Keep in mind that the above regimen is merely a suggestion. The key principle is to train your musculature for endurance, and the longer you perform the exercises, the more type 1 muscle fibers get trained. The number of repetitions and time can be tailored to each swimmer’s skill level and age.

Many different forms of battle rope drills are used to train both muscular strength and endurance. The exercises mentioned in this article are only a small sampling of the drills available when using these rope drills. Drills mainly translate to the direct training of the muscles we use in the front crawl stroke. By adding these drills to their dryside training, your athletes will gain muscular endurance that will complement wetside training.

Peaks Coaching Group Chris Myers

Chris Myers is a USA Cycling Level 2 coach, a USA Triathlon Level 1 coach, a USA Swimming Level 2 coach, and a Peaks Coaching Group elite coach.

Peaks Coaching Group Lisa Colvin

Dr. Lisa Colvin is a USA Cycling Level 2 coach, a USA Triathlon Level 1 coach, a USA Track and Field Level 1 coach, and a Peaks Coaching Group elite coach. She holds a B.S. in Health and Physical Education/Biology, a M.S. in Exercise Science/Counseling, and a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology.

Chris, Lisa, and the rest of the Peaks Coaching Group coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. They can be contacted directly through or


Frost, D. (1999). Middle distance swimming. Retrieved from

Funk, L. (2009). Swimmer's shoulder. Biomechanics of Swimming, Retrieved from http://www.

Ho, S. (2010). Emedicine. Biomechanics of Swimming, Retrieved from article/93213-overview.

Vliet, R., Carol, M., & Toussaint, H. (n.d.). Effects of strength on sprint swim performance. Retrieved from of Strength training on Sprint Swim Performance(1).pdf.

Exercise demonstration images retrieved from

Battle rope image retrieved from

Friday, October 10, 2014

Recipe: Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash

Peaks Coaching Group nutrition Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."  - Anne of Green Gables

One of the classic images of October is a browning field of the varied colors and shapes of gourds: small and large, orange and white, bumpy and smooth. Grab a few (dozen) to grace your seasonal decor, of course (if you decorate your bike, send us a picture), but don't forget to carry a few into the kitchen, as they've got more to offer than their good looks! Dig in with this recipe for a delicious acorn squash roasted and filled with quinoa, goat cheese, and cranberries.

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2-3 ounces goat cheese
  • ½ cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut squash in half and scrape out the seeds. Pre-cook by baking both halves in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes.

Cook quinoa in the vegetable broth according to quinoa package directions (usually 15-20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed). Add the goat cheese and cranberries to the quinoa and mix well. Scoop quinoa mixture into squash halves and bake another 15-20 minutes or until squash is tender.


Image credit:

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, October 2, 2014

Coffee: Good or bad for health and sports performance? Or just delicious?

Do you ever wonder if your daily cuppa joe is helping or harming you? Have you heard that caffeine can improve your sports performance? Like so many foods and drinks, coffee gets a fair amount of press for its health implications. Most is positive, but some is negative. Since it’s such a commonly consumed beverage (I myself enjoy a cup almost every morning), I decided to do a bit of sleuthing into the topic. Here’s what I found.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I Don't Care if I'm Getting Old, I Wanna Go Fast!

Peaks Coaching Group Faster Masters Racers

I’m 48 years old, and I wanna go faster! There, I said it. This happens to me every fall; it’s something about the cool night air, changing colors, and Sunday night football. I start thinking about next year and planning ways to get faster. I love it. So few sports give us the opportunity to look for ways to improve even at the “mature” age of 48 (and way beyond).

I train with power, so my performance goals for next season are in watts. Somehow I will find a way to squeeze a few more watts out of these old bones. I don’t care who says I’m too old or past my prime. I know that if I can find ways to improve my training, I might make it happen. Sure, the odds are against me: things don’t work as well anymore, there are a few more aches than last year, and occasionally I wonder how much gas I have left in the tank, but I DON’T CARE! I’m going for it anyway!

So as I sit down and start thinking about my 2015 plans, I figured I’d share a few of my tips.

Limit the loss of Chronic Training Load (CTL).

As a long-time coach, I preach taking a nice long(ish) break in the fall for all my athletes under 35, but for those of us over 40 (yeah, yeah, I know I skipped five years; you can decide which side you are on), I go the other way. See, when you’re young and have some time, you can dump more fitness, rest up your system, start rebuilding again in the late fall/early winter, and regain your fitness, but once we start to age (for argument’s sake I’m talking 40+, but there’s really no hard number) we have to balance the rest more delicately, as building back is harder for us. Typically a young rider can handle a steady ramp rate of fitness growth of 6-7 chronic training load (CTL) points a week and maintain a good balance of fitness and freshness to train hard and realize gains, but once you’re over 40, that number goes down. I typically estimate it more like 4-5 CTL points a week. This limits the speed at which a masters athlete can gain fitness while still building performance.

The way to deal with this is to first accept it and then move on to planning accordingly. I start my season plan early and build CTL a little slower to ensure proper over-reaching and growth as I build to a target fitness.

Build some strength.

Just do it! This is a much-debated topic, but I see results time and time again. It’s doubly important for the masters rider. As we age, two key things we lose that hurt us in cycling are VO2max and strength (as a general term). The benefits of strength building are well noted in masters athletes, and you should be doing it. What is “it”? Here’s what I do myself and recommend to build strength:

1.    Start with a functional strength-building program. The traditional definition of functional strength training is the practice of motion against resistance, with an objective of improving your ability to perform a specific athletic activity. A year’s worth of cycling, attached to your handlebars, saddle, and pedals, improves your fitness and performance, but it comes at a price, and your body can develop some imbalances and issues. The best way to begin your annual strength build regime is to start with a short (eight weeks) functional strength-building program. The program should focus on rebuilding and balancing cycling-specific strength by focusing on the motions of cycling while balancing out the support muscles. This phase is important because it’s the ground work of a more intensive strength-building program.

2.    Once I complete my functional program, I move to a more traditional strength resistance program in the gym. This is typically ten to twelve weeks for me and includes a blend of programs. I know everyone fears weight gain, but if you do it correctly, you can minimize the weight gain, and actually lose some. My program is two weeks based on strength endurance (low weight, high reps), two weeks of hypertrophy (heavier weights, 8-12 reps), four weeks of strength building (heavy weights, low reps), and finishing up with two to four weeks of strength endurance building again.

3.    Maintenance. I like to maintain strength once in season, but it’s a real time challenge. Once I complete my basic programs above, I try to stick to a maintenance program one or two days a week, but if time is limited, I choose time on the bike over time in the gym.

This combination seems to get me most prepared for the season, healthy and strong.
Want to learn more about strength training? Join us for a live strength training webinar on October 22 and get our twelve-week winter strength training program free with your registration!

Change it up.

Another thing that gets harder as we get older: change. At 40+ it takes some extra discipline, but each year I challenge myself to introduce something new. Your body gets used to the “same-old-same-old” pretty quickly, so bringing in some new exercises is important. This year my new thing is a fitness course. You know that odd bunch of signs and bars circling your local park? Try reading those little numbered signs, and you’ll see they’re actually a series of progressive workouts, typically focused on body weight. My plan this year is to (carefully) introduce some running into some functional strength building and look to get some gains. I know this is a touch old-school, but I need something new, and a fitness course allows me to run on the grass, add functional strength movements, and actually create some intensity. You could argue that I might get better performance results from spending that time on the bike, but this isn’t performance phase; this is strength building. The change will force my body to adapt instead of being prepared for the same experience.

This will give you a really good start! It’s the simplest advice I have for masters riders who want to go fast: start early, build some strength, and change it up.

Photo: PCG athlete Brad Clemmons

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

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ten Short Rules to Prevent Saddle Sores

Peaks Coaching Group Ten Short Rules Prevent Saddlesores

This may be a rudimentary topic, but it's one we all deal with, and after many years on the bike and a massive quantity of miles in my legs, I have learned by trial and error the importance of the proper cleaning and preservation of our cycling shorts (and the preservation of our buttocks!). Here are my ten “short” tips to prevent those unpleasant saddle sores.

1.    Find padded shorts that are comfortable and fit you well. Don’t settle; try different styles until you find the one that works. (More padding isn't always better.) The old adage holds true here, too: you get what you pay for. Generally the more expensive shorts are more comfortable. If you have shorts that aren't great but you don’t want to toss, read on to rule number 2.

2.    Chamois crème is gold! The more miles you ride, the more it becomes part of your daily routine to add comfort and prevent chafing. My preferred slather is Chamois Butt’r Euro Style (it contains witch hazel and menthol, both of which help fight fungal and bacterial issues). Assos Chamois Crème is another good option.

3.    Get out of your shorts as soon as the ride is over. Sitting around in sweaty shorts is bound to lead to saddle sores and other nasty conditions.

4.    Wash your shorts inside out after every ride, the sooner the better! Shorts left in a waterproof bag will blossom with bacteria.

5.    Wash your Lycra shorts with regular detergent (or a specific sports wash) in cold or warm water.  Bacteria is tough to kill, though; detergent doesn’t always do the job, and the water needs to be 140-150 degrees Fahrenheit in order to kill bacteria, which is pretty hot for our expensive shorts. So the trick is in the drying.

6.    Air dry your shorts inside out. Drying them outside in the sun is best, but on overcast days, air drying in a well-ventilated room will do. Occasionally, if the weather has been sunless for a long time, I’ll put mine in the hot dryer just to kill bacteria.

7.    Every once in a while, add half a cup of white vinegar (in addition to the detergent) to the wash cycle with your shorts. This will kill bacteria, and it’s anti-fungal and anti-smell.

8.    Never let your shorts sit in the washing machine for more than sixty minutes (or even thirty minutes), because they can pick up other washing machine bacteria. If they sit longer than an hour, rewash them.

9.    Occasionally run your washing machine through an entire cycle with nothing in it but a cup of bleach. This will get rid of lingering bacteria in the machine itself.

10.    All of the rules above will work with all standard nylon cycling clothes except specialty products like wool, Gore-Tex, and other waterproof, breathable shells. For those materials be sure to follow the manufacturers’ instructions.

Photo: the backsides of Hunter, Tim, Scott, and Brig in Mallorca, Spain

Kathy Watts is a USAC Level 3 cycling coach, a PCG elite coach, and the PCG athlete-coach coordinator. She has been a competitor since her childhood, in many different sports, and was the owner and operator of a successful chain of ourdoor retail shops for twenty-four years. She started bike racing first on a mountain bike, the moved on to road, then cyclocross, then time trialing. She and the rest of the PCG coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. She can be contacted through or

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Off-Season Homework for Triathletes

Peaks Coaching Group Off-Season Homework for Triathletes

So racing season is coming to a close. You can finally kick off those running shoes, fold that lycra, and stash that bike for a few months, right? Wrong! The off season is the crucial time to fit in your “homework” for the upcoming season, especially if you want to move up to the next level or take on a new challenge.

What do I mean by homework? For starters, you should work on the weaknesses that held you back this season, which means you should make a significant enough change to your daily training to allow you to improve your results. Secondly, you should consider increasing the amount of work you do in one of the three sports so you can make a big improvement that will translate to the greatest reduction in your overall finishing time. Lastly, try focusing some of your effort on improving your economy on the bike. All three sports are great places to improve your economy, but many times improving your economy on the bike is the best place to do so, because it often results in the greatest increase in speed while saving you a proportionally larger amount of energy, which can then be used on your run.

Let’s take a look at how you can tackle these three areas of homework.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Recipe: Spiced Sweet Potato Muffins

Peaks Coaching Group Spiced Sweet Potato Muffins Recipe

These are amazing! Their perfect spice and warm flavor makes them the ideal complement for your tea or coffee as an afternoon snack. Plus they're vegan! These would also be a great option for your last pre-workout snack, giving you just the right type of energy to get your legs moving!

Makes 12 190-calorie muffins.


  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (or 2 eggs, making it non vegan)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (if you use gluten-free, just add 1 teaspoon xanthum gum if it's not already in the gluten-free powder mix)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 3/4 cups pure maple syrup plus 1 tablespoon to brush muffin tops
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Chinese five spice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • *Optional: You can add 1 tablespoon chia seeds to the wet mixture and let it sit for five minutes to let them expand while you combine the dry mixture.


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Pierce the sweet potato several times with a fork and bake until soft all the way through. Remove from oven and, when cool enough to handle, remove the skin. Mash the sweet potato in a mixing bowl until smooth.

Add the milk, vanilla, oil, maple syrup, and applesauce (plus chia seeds, if using) to the mashed sweet potato. Combine all dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then fold into wet ingredients until well mixed.

Line a muffin tray with muffin liners or tear bits of parchment paper (they don't have to be perfect circles) and place one in each muffin cup. Pour the muffin butter evenly into twelve muffin cups.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. At the 20-minute mark, take the muffins out of the oven and brush the top of each with a bit of maple syrup. Bake another five minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove from oven, cool, and enjoy!

Nutrition Information

Calories: 190
Carbohydrates: 32.5g
Protein: 3g
Fats: 5g
Fiber: 3g

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 or, and you can find more nutrition tips on her blog at

Photo credit: Just Some Salt and Pepper

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Chocolate Milk and Recovery

Peaks Coaching Group Nutrition Chocolate Milk and Recovery

Most of us endurance athletes of any kind have heard long ago about the use of chocolate milk as a post-workout recovery beverage. It started with a study that compared chocolate milk to typical sports drinks such as Gatorade and found that chocolate milk was superior for recovery. Ever since, many cyclists have touted it as the “perfect” post-workout beverage, and magazine ads and commercials promoting chocolate milk are everywhere.

So what’s the big deal? First of all, it’s important to understand the concept of a recovery beverage and why and when it is necessary. Here’s the simple version.

When we exercise we burn a mix of fat and carbohydrate. Lower intensity exercise burns mostly fat, and even the leanest athlete has plenty of that stored up. Higher intensity exercise burns mostly carbohydrates, which the body can only store so much of (in the form of glycogen). On average, a person will burn through all of their body’s glycogen stores during two to three hours of exercise. That’s why we endurance athletes have to consume a carbohydrate source of some kind to keep going during activities of that duration or longer. That is also why it is important to consume carbohydrates as soon as possible (ideally within thirty minutes) after strenuous exercise in order to replenish our bodies’ glycogen stores. It is also recommended to consume some protein post workout to aid in muscle recovery. Fail to do so, and your next workout will probably suck.

So why would chocolate milk be superior? First of all, it’s a good source of carbohydrates. It is also a good source of protein, and it specifically contains a good amount of the branch chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine), which are particularly important for recovery from exercise. Another benefit of chocolate milk is that it’s a liquid. A lot of athletes suffer from GI distress or suppressed appetite after workouts and have a hard time eating solid foods during that all-important recovery window thirty to sixty minutes after exercise. Liquids are often more easily tolerated by these athletes. And a bonus: it’s super affordable.  Sports nutrition supplements can get pricey, but a whole gallon of chocolate milk will set you back only about four bucks.

That being said, not everyone needs to be concerned about a post-workout recovery beverage (or meal). If your workout is one hour or less and at a moderate intensity, you don’t need to worry much about post workout recovery nutrition. Your next meal or snack, as long as it’s well balanced, should provide adequate carbohydrate and protein for your body to recover. Be particularly careful if your workout is less than one hour and your goal is weight loss, as an 8-ounce serving of low-fat chocolate milk still packs in 200 calories. This is why it annoys me to see personal trainers at the gym pushing hefty protein shakes on overweight women who are likely doing less than an hour of exercise; they don’t need it, and it might actually contribute to weight gain, probably in direct opposition to why these women are at the gym!

So what’s my final verdict? Although I don’t personally use it, I think chocolate milk is a quality post workout beverage for those who actually need it. It’s a good source of the nutrients you need, it’s easy to digest, it’s cost effective, and it tastes pretty good (in my opinion). I’m actually not sure why I don’t use it! Maybe I’ll start. However, chocolate milk is by no means the only good post-workout beverage, and I don’t believe that it is necessarily superior to some of the other options out there. If you dislike the flavor, there’s no need to choke it down. There are plenty of other ways to get in the nutrients you need after a workout. If you don’t know what those are, speak to a sports registered dietitian like me!

Before we go, how exactly does chocolate milk stack up?

Here are some good post-exercise nutrition recommendations:
  • Carbs: 1-1.5 grams per kg body weight
  • Protein: 10-20 grams
  • Electrolytes, particularly sodium (1 pound of sweat loss contains about 100 mg potassium and 400-700 mg sodium)
  • Fluids: 16-24 fluid ounces for every pound lost
And here’s how an 8-ounce glass of low-fat chocolate milk measures up, though numbers will vary slightly by brand:

Carbs: 28 grams
Protein: 9 grams
Electrolytes: 154 mg sodium, 422 mg potassium
Fluid: 8 ounces (duh!)

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.

Friday, September 5, 2014

How to Interpret Power Data and What to Do With It

Peaks Coaching Group How to Interpret Power Data

“I just bought a $2,000 power meter, and I'm faster.”

Are you?

One of the single most important purchases for any cyclist who wants to be faster is a power meter. Just as important, however, is knowing how to use it. A power meter can't do you any good if you don’t know how to interpret the information.