Power Training Zones 101

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

Elevation and Racing

Riding at elevation is always a challenge. Hunter shares some tips and advice about how to adjust your training for higher riding.

Four Workouts to Make You Faster

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

Power Up: Increasing Repeatability and Peak Power

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

Pre-Race Nutrition

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How to Recognize Heart Disease as an Athlete

Peaks Coaching Group how to recognize heart disease in athletes

Most athletes, especially endurance athletes, are by the nature of the sport very fit, and as a result we tend to also think of ourselves as healthy. This is not always the case, however, as I learned firsthand last year.

I have been training and racing bikes for forty-two years, all the while eating healthfully, maintaining a good weight, and considering myself fit and healthy. With the exception of marginally high cholesterol, every medical indication was excellent. But then breathing pains last season led to a series of tests (I thought initially it was bronchitis) and resulted in a stress test, which resulted in an angiogram, which resulted in finding a 90% blockage in one of my coronary arteries, which resulted in the placement of a stent. Fortunately there was no damage to my heart and I was back to training and racing four months after my procedure.

Endurance sports require a strong and efficient heart to keep up with the aerobic and anaerobic demands, especially at a competitive level; therefore athletes are not only fitter but also typically healthier than the average person. While a strong cardiovascular system is certainly a good thing, it doesn’t preclude us from falling victim to cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease (CAD). In my situation, needless to say, I was as shocked and surprised as were my doctors. But it demonstrates that none of us are guaranteed clear arteries, despite our great cardiovascular fitness.

In retrospect, I can see several indicators of heart-related issues, but I failed to acknowledge them, partly because I assumed I was too fit to have heart disease. The first indicator was pain in my chest area. Although my doctor said it wasn’t typical angina symptoms, I now know that heart issues can express themselves in a number of ways and radiate in different areas of the chest and arms. The second symptom was noticing my performance had dropped over the past couple of years. I attributed this to my age (I’m 56) and a lack of usual training due to a busy life. I now know my performance was dropping faster than my age was increasing. It was getting harder to keep up on team training rides, and I was getting dropped on hills I never used to get dropped on. My threshold power had also dropped during the past two years. Interestingly, my heart rate did not decrease, maintaining a threshold heart rate of 184 and a maximum well into the 190s despite my condition. Also interestingly, I never experienced a shortness of breath, which is a common symptom for CAD. I attribute this to the fact that I frequently trained in the anaerobic range and I am used to breathing hard so didn’t notice anything unusual.

I would like to use my own experience to provide some points for athletes to consider regarding awareness of heart issues. As athletes we tend to be very in tune with our bodies; we notice every new little twinge, sore muscle, and joint ache. Sometimes we're overly concerned (even obsessed) with these pains when there is really nothing wrong. Most of the time the discomfort goes away with rest and recovery.

Conversely, at the same time we tend to think of ourselves as invincible and above having any serious health issues. We also have a tendency to push ourselves through pain that we should pay attention to. We like to believe we're too fit to have heart disease. I certainly did.

So here are a few things you can do to avoid finding yourself in the same situation I did.

1. Get an annual checkup. We athletes put our bodies through a lot of stress during the season, so we want to make sure everything is working well. But be aware that a typical physical exam will not catch everything. It would not have caught my condition (my EKG was perfect). You might want to ask your doctor whether you should have a stress test done, especially if you're male, middle-aged, and/or have any risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Be sure to explain to your doctor just how hard you work and that you push yourself much harder than a typical patient. You might even bring in a heart rate graph showing how high and how long your heart rate is elevated. Get your cholesterol checked and under control. Mine was "borderline high," which turned out to be too high.

2. Don’t be afraid to keep asking your doctor if you can’t get answers to your satisfaction or find cause of your malady. Go to a different doctor if necessary. After all, no one is more interested in your health than you.

3. Pay close attention to any pain in the chest area. While it could be caused by several things, you should always rule out heart problems.

4. Listen to your coach, friends, and spouse when they suggest you get something checked out. They often look at your situation from a more objective, less biased position than you do yourself.

5. Don’t assume, just because you're a fit athlete, that you're immune from heart disease or other serious ailments. Always check things out when they don’t feel right.

Training and being fit are both wonderful things you've got going for you. If you ever do develop an illness, you'll be better prepared to fight it and will probably return to fitness more quickly because of your physical fitness.

Want professional help staying healthy and fit? Find out more about our coaching or schedule a consulting session with one of our expert coaches. With power training, we get powerful results.

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Recipe: Pina Colada Smoothie

When I'm carb loading for a ride, it's always best to follow my own advice! The nutritionist can never bonk on a ride. I don’t have that luxury. So what’s on my carb loading menu? Here’s my favorite item, the pina colada smoothie!

Pina Colada Smoothie


2 cups pineapple juice
3/4 scoop whey protein (I love North Coast Naturals vanilla)
1 frozen banana (freezing the banana makes the smoothie cold and thick)
1/4 cup light coconut milk


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

Nutritional information:

Calories: 500
Carbs: 100g
Protein: 20g
Fat: 4g

Peaks Coaching Group Anne Guzman
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 atnutritionsolutionsanneguzman.com/blog/.

Image Credit: A Whisk and Two Wands

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Post-Race Recovery Nutrition

No matter how full your event schedule is this season, it is important to properly recover from all of your races and training workouts. This means good post-exercise nutrition, proper stretching (something I’m not always good about), and rest days (but not too many).

Here’s a plan I developed one year for my first race of the season (note: this is based on both science and my personal experience):

Post-race nutrition recommendations

Within thirty minutes of finishing, consume:

  • Carbs (1-1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight)
  • Protein (10-20 grams)
  • Fluids (16-24 fluid ounces for every pound lost)
  • Electrolytes, particularly sodium (1 pound of sweat loss contains about 100 mg potassium and 400-700 mg sodium depending on whether you’re a salty sweater, which I think I am)
My real world plan

Since the particular race I did was only an eight-mile race, I went with the lower end of the carbohydrate recommendation, which for me is about 62 grams of carbohydrate. Since I didn’t weigh myself before and after the race to determine exactly how much water weight I lost (and I haven’t bothered to do training runs where I calculate my sweat rate), I had to estimate. I drank one packet of Generation UCAN chocolate protein shake (33 grams carb, 13 grams protein, 140 mg potassium, 240 mg sodium) made with 12 ounces soymilk (15 grams carb, 9 grams protein, 150 mg sodium, 450 mg potassium) and 20 ounces of G2 (12 grams carb, 75 mg potassium, 270 mg sodium).

Grand total: 60 grams carbohydrate, 22 grams protein, 660 mg sodium, 665 mg potassium, and 32 ounces of fluid (plus I probably drank another 8 or so ounces of plain water as well). I was a little high on the potassium (who knew soymilk was such a good source?!), but otherwise I was pretty spot on.

Post-race recovery

Cool down: To burn as much lactate from your legs as possible (and lessen soreness), it’s recommended to go for a short slow jog or walk after a running race. I’m not hard core enough to go for a run after a run, but I made an effort to walk around after the race. Any movement helps. Definitely don’t jump straight into a car; you’ll regret it later!

Stretching: Stretch after cooling down to help keep your muscles as loose as possible. I’m not always good about stretching, but I spent at least a few minutes stretching all of the muscles in my legs, butt, and hips. I didn’t have my foam roller on me after the race, but I used it later in the day.

Rest days: I once heard an exercise physiology professor say that an athlete’s rest days are actually the most important training days; they’re when our bodies really heal and recover, allowing them to work harder in the future and get stronger. I went for a bike ride the day after this race to keep my legs loose, took the next day completely off, then resumed with an easy run the day after that. Then back on to full on training for my next events!

So that was my plan. Take what you find helpful and tweak it for yourself. Good luck!

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

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

Photo: PCG athlete Ben Strine takes 6th at the Men’s Cat 3 Turkey Hill Country Classic

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Power Training Zones 101

Peaks Coaching Group Power Zones 101

Understanding power zones can unlock the impressive potential of your power meter and ensure your training is targeted to take you to the next level of performance. Not all coaches use the same description of training zones; the names, values, and even labels vary among the different systems. Here at Peaks Coaching Group we use the seven zones developed by Dr. Andy Coggan for training with power. Each of these zones is expressed as a percentage of functional threshold power (FTP). The time you can sustain a continuous effort in the power zone (“burn time”) decreases as the wattage for the zone increases. Keep in mind, however, that these changes take place on a continuum and are not represented by “bright line” points.

L1: Active Recovery (AR)

Active recovery zone intervals occur when you maintain power below 55% of your FTP. It isn't time limited; theoretically you could ride steadily in the active recovery zone without running out of energy (as long as you’re refueling, hydrating, etc.). The key word in the label is recovery! This is probably the most difficult zone to ride in consistently; most athletes tend to ramp it up a bit when the terrain, conditions, or fellow riders create an opportunity.

One of my athletes has become very capable at riding true active recovery, and he describes the sensations in his legs while riding active recovery as “letting the weight of the shoe move the pedal.” He actually selects his routes to make it easier to stay in his active recovery zone; not surprisingly, he has developed faster and to a higher watts-per-kilogram than any other high-level cyclist I've seen.

L2: Endurance

Intervals in the endurance zone occur when power is maintained between 56% and 75% of your FTP. A well-trained athlete can maintain a continuous endurance zone effort for a very long time; as Dr. Andy Coggan suggests, we can ride endurance zone “between two and a half hours to two weeks. Cyclists who ride a lot spend a lot of time in their endurance zone. The ability to do this is not especially helpful when doing criteriums or road races, but Ironman triathletes and racers doing epic rides (such as the Race Across America) live in this zone.

One athlete I worked with loved riding in this zone so much that he routinely added three or four hours to his workouts, with the extra time almost always spent in his endurance zone. Eventually, perhaps in part due to his love for this zone, he decided to transition from local road racing to long distance events like the Race Across America.

L3: Tempo

When you ride in your tempo zone, you’re maintaining power between 76% and 90% of your FTP. Efforts in this power zone can be maintained for durations between two and a half and eight hours. Long course triathletes (half and full Ironman events) may spend a great deal of their bike leg riding time in this zone, but full Ironman bike legs (followed by a full marathon run!) should not be targeted in this zone, as the burn time for tempo efforts would guarantee the triathlete runs out of energy before running out of race.

This is kind of the in-between zone. Structured intervals are rarely designed to work in the tempo zone in training situations, though I will include a fair amount of work in this zone as race season approaches. Intervals targeting a tempo training effect must generally be about two and a half hours. Athletes who do a large number of group rides may find that much of their ride time occurs in this zone. This is predictable due to the burn time for the efforts in the zones above tempo. As a coach I often discuss the need to avoid large amounts of riding in the tempo zone for athletes working to improve their TT or criterium efforts, since time spent in tempo isn’t doing much to improve performances in those type of events.

L4: Threshold

The threshold zone is extremely important to you as a developing cyclist. You are training in this zone when your wattage is between 91% and 105% of your FTP. By definition, you should be able to maintain an effort in this zone for sixty minutes. In order to trigger a threshold training effect, intervals in this zone should be at least ten minutes long. Many of the structured workouts I design target this zone, because FTP is so important to your overall training levels, and it is crucial to increase your FTP in order to improve your performance in zones 1-4.

L5: VO2Max

Intervals targeting your VO2Max have a wattage goal of 106% to 120% of your FTP and must be approximately three minutes long to have a VO2Max training effect. Most mortal cyclists can maintain efforts in the VO2Max zone for no more than eight minutes of burn time. Intervals at this level are very intense and must be approached with care; when an athlete does VO2Max efforts it is important to closely monitor training stress, in terms of both intensity and volume, to guard against overtraining. Improvement in VO2Max is hard to come by, and when it does occur it never comes in large amounts. Doing VO2Max intervals will create a high level of fatigue and often legs that literally hurt after workouts and for days afterward. To be effective, VO2Max intervals should only be attempted following effective periods of recovery.

L6: Anaerobic Capacity (AC)

Anaerobic capacity intervals are done in the wattage range of 121% to 150% of FTP. The burn time” for AC intervals is approximately two minutes, but it is a rare athlete who can maintain this level for that long. The floor duration to trigger an AC training effect is about thirty seconds. These are high intensity, hard intervals, and workouts focused on this training zone are generally dreaded by athletes.

I prescribe an AC workout that has become popular with a number of my athletes; it’s done in pairs and involves one rider drafting the other and then the drafting rider “attacking” her partner. The partner must then jump onto the wheel of the attacking rider, and both of them continue a maximum ~150% effort for a total time of thirty seconds. They recover for three minutes and repeat the workout, switching the roles so the attackee becomes the attacker. One of my athletes who had historically disliked AC interval work confided to me that this workout was able to sneak in AC intervals she would normally dread on her own.

L7: Neuromuscular Power (NP)

Training in the neuromuscular power zone is as intense as it gets! This zone isn’t targeted toward specific wattage; you simply go as hard as humanly possible for at least five seconds. The burn time for this type of effort is about 15 seconds. One of my athletes who is an engineer and very much a “numbers type” told me that the reason there’s no power number targeted for NP efforts is that if you’re doing them correctly you can’t see straight to even note what numbers your wattage meter is displaying. Your legs really take a beating when doing NP interval work, and it’s not a good idea to do consecutive days of NP intervals; adequate rest and recovery is an absolute must before repeating intervals at this level.

Things to keep in mind

  • Power training zones are based upon an accurate, current measurement of your FTP. FTP must be rechecked at regular intervals (every four to six weeks) so that your zones can be accurately adjusted.
  • Percentage of heart rate (HR) is not the same as percentage of FTP.
  • These are zones. You’re working on training specific energy systems (e.g. VO2Max, threshold, endurance, etc.) when you train within the power numbers for the zone for an appropriate amount of time.
  • The necessary time in the zone to trigger a training effect varies with each zone and with where your power is relatively within the zone. For example, intervals in your threshold zone should last at least ten minutes to get a threshold training effect, but if you do a threshold interval at the low end of your threshold zone (for example, at 96% of your FTP), you might need to do intervals of at least 12-13 minutes to trigger the same training effect that you get from doing ten-minute intervals at 100% of FTP.

Sweet Spot Intervals

Power zone workouts are usually designed to have you produce wattage at a level in the zone for a specific amount of time, with a specific amount of recovery. The “sweet spot” workout, however, crosses the boundaries between zones to produce a threshold training effect. Compared to threshold level intervals, this type of workout makes it possible for you to do more and longer intervals. That’s what makes it sweet!

To perform a sweet spot interval workout, you should ride for twenty minutes at 88-92% of your FTP. Try to perform two of these intervals with at least five minutes of recovery between intervals. When you can complete two twenty-minute sweet spot intervals in a workout relatively easily, you should add a third. Dr. Coggan created the following chart that graphically shows how the sweet spot can improve threshold while limiting physiological strain to an optimal level (credit goes to Dr. Andy Coggan for the diagram).

Want expert help identifying your training zones? Find out more about our coaching or schedule a consulting session with one of our expert coaches. With power training, we get powerful results.

Peaks Coaching Group Gordon Paulson
Gordon Paulson is a Cat 1 racer, a Level 2 USAC cycling coach, a Peaks Coaching Group elite/master coach, a practicing attorney, and a father of three in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin. He has extensive road racing experience and has set numerous course records in Wisconsin and Minnesota, many of which have now been eclipsed by athletes he has coached. Gordon can be contacted through info@peakscoachinggroup.com or www.peakscoachinggroup.com.

Image: PCG coaches Tim Cusick and Scott Moninger ride at a PCG training camp in Mallorca, Spain.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Elevation and Racing

Peaks Coaching Group Cycling Racing Elevation Altitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of Training and Racing with a Power Meter and Cutting-Edge Cycling, co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. Hunter can be contacted directly through PeaksCoachingGroup.com.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The All-Business Racer

Peaks Coaching Group Business Cyclist Athlete Racer

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

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

Maintain life balance.

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

Be adaptable.

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

Be creative.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review: Pinarello Dogma F8

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

And go faster!

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

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Recipe: Kartoffel Apfel Rosti (Apple Potato Cakes)

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

Kartoffel Apfel Rosti

Serves 2.


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


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

Photo credit: marions-kochbuch.de

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Pre- and Post-Ride Mobility

Peaks Coaching Group Before and After Ride Mobility Stretches Yoga

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

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

Pre-Ride/Run Sequence

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

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Going Bananas for Bananas

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: 7-themes.com