Rest Periods

14 11 2008

Here in Australia we’re lucky enough to be able to cycle all year round.  The winter here is road season and the summer is track and crit season.  What more could you ask for???

The downside of this is that if you’re motivated enough to jump from season to season of never ending cycling heaven, burnout can easily creep up on you.  You can prevent this by setting some rest periods throughout the year before burnout occurs .   The temptation is that sometimes you’ll be riding really well and feeling fit and you won’t want to stop.  This is the trap and this is exactly what will happen.

There are three of different types of rest periods that I try to stick to:

1. Schedule a rest week after every 4 weeks of training.  This rest week doesn’t necessarily mean no riding.  It means that your ride 2 or 3 times that week and don’t kill yourself doing it.  Your body needs this break even if you are feeling good.

2. Schedule a rest week after the second 4 week period of training (i.e. do a 4 week period, rest week as above, another 4 week period).  At this stage I will usually take the week completely off the bike.  I’ll try to change things up a bit by doing a bit of surfing, running or swimming. Don’t worry – you’re not going to loose any fitness in this time. This rest week can come in handy to  get caught up in work or personal things that you’ve been neglecting.

3. After about 4-6 months of continuous training (along with those breaks mentioned) take 3-4 weeks off the bike.  Missing this rest period is often where the fine line of progression and overtraining is crossed.  Since we’re not forced to get off the bike because of foul weather here in Australia, I have been guilty of continuing on through this time fearing that I’ll loose all that I’ve worked so hard to gain.  I’ve gotten caught into the trap of riding harder and longer because I feel like my performance is diminishing.  This is classic overtraining.    You probably will lose some fitness in this time off but you’ll be better for it in the long run.  Sometimes you need to take one step back in order to get two steps forward. This is a good time to take that yearly vacation with your wife and do something that she likes to do.  Cycling can be a selfish sport and this is a great time to give back and show her how great of a guy you are!

Creating a training plan with these rest periods scheduled far in advance while you’re thinking objectively is extremely important.  When creating this plan you can see a macro view of your racing/training year and you’ll know exactly when your important events are and when you should take a break.  Overtraining is an easy trap to fall into and it’s difficult to see for yourself if you don’t have a coach.

On that note, I’m off for a two week vacation in New Zealand.  I’ll try posting tips while away but they may not be every day (and they may not be about cycling either!).


Our Friend Lactic Acid

11 11 2008

j120px-lactic-acid-3d-ballsLactic acid has gotten a bad rap.  We’re always cursing it when we put in too big of an effort and then blame all our pain and suffering on it.  You know what?  It is actually our friend. Lactic acid is a fuel, not a caustic waste product.  It’s responsible for helping create more ATP (ATP transports chemical energy within cells for metabolism) and is more efficient at traveling between muscle tissue than glucose (the sugar ATP is made from.)

Every time you move lactic acid is produced.  It  is constantly produced in and reabsorbed into our muscles all day long. However, when we engage in very intense exercise, also known as anaerobic activity, lactate is produced faster than the ability of the tissues to remove it and the concentration begins to rise.

During the process of our bodies breaking down glucose as fuel for our muscles, the glucose gets broken down to lactate and hydrogen ions are released. You know what though?   It’s actually the hydrogen that causes problems! The hydrogen ions causes pH to fall and creates a state of acidosis, which then leads to the pain and discomfort you always blame on the “lactic acid”.  BUT, the lactic acid then tirelessly works in our favor again by helping to carry the hydrogen ions away where it gets removed in the liver which then converts the lactic acid back to glucose. A thankless job…

I’ve missed quite a few important details in the whole process in the intrest of keeping it short and sweet. You can find those details here

The best thing you can do to raise your tolerence is train yourself to increase your lactate threshold. By performing regularly at levels with the increased amount of lactic acid, your body will adapt and be able to handle the load. This is best done through interval training, and maintaining sub-threshold intensities for extended periods of time (8-20 minutes) and typically 85-90% of your maximum heart rate. As an example, maintaining 80-85% of your max. HR for 8 minutes helps to gently and efficiently ‘push’ your lactate threshold up to higher levels.

I’ll write about an easy method to test your lactate threshold HR or power output in a future post.


7 11 2008

A couple years back when a fellow cyclist in Melbourne got hit by a car there was this campaign to have an “ICE” number programmed into your mobile phone.  ICE means “In Case Of Emergency”.  This is the number for emergency response workers to call from your mobile if you’ve been seriously injured in an accident.  The paramedic can look through your mobile phone address book, if it’s not locked with a password, and notify your nominated contact (spouse, parent, etc).

As usual, these campaigns die off until another tragedy occurs. I haven’t heard anything about ICE in a long while, but this may serve as a good reminder.  Paramedics are trained to look for this number if a mobile phone is found so you should definitely have one.

We never go out in the morning expecting we’ll get in an accident.  They just happen.   We all know someone who’s been hit by a car.  I’ve only been hit once by a car and it was horrifying.   I hope my ICE number never needs to be used, but it is there just in case.

Happy Friday  🙂

Building A Training Plan

6 11 2008
You can train haphazardly and hope to have top form on race day or you can follow an organized training plan building up to your peak event. With a proper training plan your probability of success is far greater. The difference between these two training methods is not motivation or amount of work.  It’s all about hitting your peak form on the week of your big event. Without a coach, designing your own training plan for the entire season can be a little overwhelming. To simplify the process Linda Wallenfals has broken it down into a few easy steps (I’ve changed this slightly to make it shorter).

Set Goals: What do you want to accomplish this season? Be specific with the race date and distance. “Get strong” or “Do well at all crits this season” is not a concrete, time-specific goal. “Win club champs on April 20th” is a perfect example of a goal.  Your goal should be both challenging and realistic. The goal must be one you have passion to achieve. Once you have your goals, you have a focus for your training. Spend time and thought on this step as it establishes the foundation for everything else.

Evaluate Race Demands:
Race demands largely dictate the nature your training should take. The majority of your training plan should reflect the specific demands of your chosen goal event. Endurance events will emphasize aerobic fitness and tactical preparation. Short, fast events will require a larger volume of short, fast training.

Establish Calendar: Using a calendar, mark down your A-priority event.  Count back from that date to figure out how many weeks you have available to train. 8-12 weeks is a reasonable amount of time.  Mark on the calendar all other information you have about your schedule between now and race day such as days or weeks you cannot train and lower priority events.

Periodize: Divide the weeks you have available to train into focused periods. The best way to do this is to work backwards from your A-priority race day. Label the week of your A-priority race “race week.” Label the one to two weeks prior to that “peak week.” Continue working backwards on the calendar and divide the rest of your time up into blocks of 3 or 4 week periods. Ideally you will end up with about 4 3-4 week periods, a couple of peak weeks and a race week. Now you have a basic overview of your season.

Recovery Weeks: Every 3-4 week period should end with a rest and recovery week.  The workouts should be light and short in your recovery week. Training volume should be about half of regular training weeks.

Daily Workouts: Now you’re getting down to the important details about the training you will be doing on a daily basis. Start designing your training week by scheduling two to three key workouts for the week and then fill in the less important sessions as time allows.  This is the most complicated part of the program where paying for some good coaching advice will pay big dividends. See Crowie’s training pyramid

Follow the Plan: The best coach  in the world won’t be successful unless his/her advice is followed. Stick to your plan and you’ll get the results you desire.  Be patient. You don’t need to be flying when everyone else is.  Chances are that they’ll burn out by the time you start to peak.

Keep A Training Diary: Check back on it to make sure you are actually following your plan.  Be accountable to it. It will make you realize how many workouts you actually miss, and how far off the mark they are to the original plan.  Keep watching the data to make sure it is heading in the direction you planned.

Training randomly and doing what you are in the mood for every day can be enjoyable. There should be times of the year that are set aside for this.  If daily enjoyment is your goal then riding based on your mood may be the right plan for you. If you are goal focused and would rather strive to do well during a few parts of the season, then I highly recommend you create a training plan.

Race Conservatively, Train Aggressively

5 11 2008

Success in road racing is all about being ready for brief explosive efforts lasting only a few minutes or seconds. Break-aways, cross winds, sprints, gaps and climbs will determine the race outcome. You have to be ready for these moments by having enough energy left to initiate or respond to the best of your ability. By the time a key move goes up the road you won’t be able to respond if you’re pulling everyone around the course and you are completely spent.

This is exactly why you need to race conservatively. In order to be successful with the moves that you either follow or create, you need all of your energy. You have a limited bucket of energy and you have no idea if the guy next you you has the same size of bucket.

The opposite holds true for training. Train aggressively! When you’re doing your intervals or group rides (when appropriate), you need to try to spend most of your energy doing the types of things that will lead to success in races. Give it all you got! There is no consequence in burning all your matches during a training ride. It will only help your body adapt to those short bursts of effort that will be required during the winning moves of a race.

Hammer Head Syndrome

22 10 2008

The best way to train is by going as hard as you can on every ride you do, right? Even though we’re in the age of HR, power monitoring and training periodization, it remains difficult for many to understand what smart training really means. People think that periodization is great for people who have time to burn, but for those under time restraints the way to get the best bang for your buck is by going hard every chance they get. This type of training results in a sickness called “Hammer Head Syndrome

• Are you exceedingly proud of the average speeds of your rides and do you gauge your training progress by the improvement of your average speed from one ride to another?

• Do you find group rides fairly easy, but in a race you can’t seem to bridge to the winning move, keep with the final acceleration or stay with the group over the steepest part of the climb?

• Do you pride yourself on the fact that no rider has ever passed you on a training ride, even on your recovery days?

• Do you find it impossible to imagine that riding at 130 bpm could possibly be anything other than a waste of time?

• Do you have a maximum heart rate of 185, yet you haven’t seen it go above 170 since the season began?

If you answered yes some of these questions, you might be suffering from Hammer Head Syndrome.

Intensity on every ride with no recovery can result in a endless plateau of middle of the road fitness. Although there is a time and a place for zone 3 (over 85% HR), generally it is not considered hard enough to cause a desired physical adaptation. At the same time, it is too hard to allow for proper recovery. Therefore, you don’t want to be spending the majority of your time there. There’s an old adage that says when you go fast, you should be going REALLY FAST. When you’re going slow, you should be going REALLY SLOW.

Simply put – learn how to ride harder on the hard days, and take time to ride slow and steady on the recovery days.

Damage Control

21 10 2008
Landis Cracks on Stage 16

Landis Cracks on Stage 16

This past weekend proved to be a goldmine for cycling tips. Both introspectively and by observing others.

We can all ride like a pro with our friends on good days but it’s how you handle those inevitable bad days that shows your true character. Haven’t had any bad days? Well either you aren’t human or haven’t been in this sport long enough!

I had a BAD day on the bike this past Sunday. 250km of BAD.  I didn’t eat or drink enough, my legs were heavy, and I wasn’t feeling well (on the verge of a cold). On top of that, my riding mates were all on fire. Not a great day to be riding poorly…

How do you handle those bad days? Here’s what I keep in mind and try to do:

1. FORCE yourself to eat and drink. One probable reason for the poor form on the day is because you aren’t properly fueled. It’s amazing what a can of Coke can do in the short term.

2. Don’t be too proud to sit in and do as little work as possible. Save your energy for getting you home. Let your riding partners know what’s going on and that you’ll be sitting in. They just may have mercy on you.

3. If you’re feeling horrible then listen to your body and don’t fight it. It’s just one bad day. Accept it and keep a positive attitude. This will make the ride easier on you and your riding mates.

4. There can be a massive difference between how you feel when you’re heart rate is at 165bpm vs 160bpm (for example). Ask your mates to slow it up a bit until you’re more comfortable and hopefully you’ll find a pace that will get you home while everyone else still has a good ride.

5. Save your legs, not your gears! Spin, spin, spin. Spinning does a lot less damage to the muscles than big gear riding. Also, every chance you get, stop pedaling, duck down into the slipstream and go for the free ride. Conserve every ounce of energy you have.

6. Break the ride into 30min pieces and don’t think about the rest. Set yourself small goals to reach. The daunting task of dragging yourself 3 more hours can be overwhelming if you’re feeling really bad.

Remember: A bad day’s riding beats a good day’s work…..