Thursday, February 8, 2018

VO2max Workout

If you're training for a Spring race, it's best to incorporate High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) as part of your training schedule.  You want to incorporate at least (1) Sweet Spot training interval and (1) VO2max interval per week.  That's in addition to a long (3 hr.) 'spirited' ride on the weekend.  When I say 'spirited' I'm talking about a ride where you're riding in or near your Sweet Spot training zone.  If you're not in that Zone, you're just logging a lot of 'grey' (trash) miles that's not too beneficial for racing.  As working adults, we're all 'time-crunched'.  We don't have the time like Professional Cyclists to log tons of base miles in the Tempo range during the off-season.  So, when we do train, we should train hard.  You want to be tired after your training intervals or long weekend ride.  Also, if you're new to racing, you want to get used to riding in fast groups during your weekend rides.  So, look for those fast 'spirited' weekend group rides.  They're around.  If you don't know where to find one, go to your local bike shop (LBS) and ask.  Most LBSs will have a group ride leaving from the shop on the weekends.  There are also local clubs/groups that host weekend rides.  I belong to the Central Bucks Bike Club (CBBC) and they have weekend A/B rides for me to ride in.  I used to ride in the A group, but now that I'm nearing 60 I feel more comfortable in the B group.  There are more old farts like me in the B group so it's a bit more social for me.  Not that I need socialization..ha.  Instead of talking about booze and women, like I did when I was single riding in the A group, I talk about vacations, retirement, good restaurants, etc. in the B group.

Here's a good VO2max workout I like to do.  It doesn't take much time and it won't 'kill' you or make you feel like you want to puke afterwards.  I like to start VO2max workouts at the bottom of my VO2max training zone.  Each week, I'll move up in that Zone until I'm at the peak of the Zone.  Once I'm able to complete the intervals (at the peak), I'll increase my FTP value and train at a higher wattage.

This particular VO2max workout is a 5x4 @ L4/L5 3RI.  That means there are 5 four minute intervals at the bottom of the VO2max training zone, with 3 minute rest intervals in-between.  I normally have a 10 minute warmup and 5 minute cooldown with all my workouts.  I think anything more than that is just a waste of time.  Remember, we're all time-crunched.  This is a 47 minute workout.  That's the other nice thing about it, it's hard and it's quick.  Check it out:

What's important when doing these intervals is to make sure that the power level of the first interval is the same as the power interval of the last one.  That is, there is no drop in power.  If you have to drop your power on the last interval, you're training at too high a power.  If you're not feeling tired during the last interval, then you're power is too low.  You need to crank it up.  The objective of any workout is to be able to complete it (barely) and have no drop in power across all intervals.  You can see that my power levels remained consistent (at 220w) across all five intervals.  I can tell I was working in my VO2max training zone because my heart rate is usually around the 175 bpm mark- which it was during this workout.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Monday, January 29, 2018

Training for your first Spring ride/race

It's Ground Hog day in a couple days.  Wonder what Punxsutawney Phil will predict for 2018?  Legend has it, if Phil sees his shadow and returns to his hole, there will be six more weeks of Winter-like weather.  If he doesn't see his shadow, we'll have an early spring.  Regardless of what Phil predicts, will you be ready for your first early Spring ride/race in March or early April?  If you just started training, I hope you're not planning on peaking until mid-May..because that's about how long it will take.  For those of you that started training the end of December or beginning of January, you're in better shape.

So, how do you prep for your first ride/race?  Do you do any indoor interval workouts?  Are they High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) indoor workouts?  Are your rides long Tempo rides outdoors on the weekend?

Here's how I approach my first ride/race.  Since my first Gran Fondo type ride (I don't race anymore) is April 7, I count back from that day to today's date.  This tells me how much time I have left to train.  So, I have 67 days or a little over 9 weeks of training left.  The ride is an 80 mile ride with 6000' of climbing.  So, it's going to be a hilly ride.  And, since I anticipate riding at an average speed of 16 mph (including rest stops for something to eat/drink and to go to the bathroom), that means I'm going to be 5 hrs. in the saddle.  That's a long ride for early Spring since it's hard to get long rides in over the Winter.  (Normally, I don't do any century rides until Summer.)  Then, I look at the elevation profile of the ride (see below):

It looks like there are 13 distinct climbs over 200 ft. of elevation gain each.  And, the percent grade on some of the climbs is close to 15% (which is pretty steep).  The good thing is that most are short climbs between 1-2 miles long (which should only take 3-5 minutes to climb).  Those climbs will be in the L4/L5 power ranges which is Threshold/VO2max.  You'll need to generate that much power on 15% grades just to climb at 6-8 mph.  It looks like there's at least 5 minutes in-between climbs too, even though it looks like it's one climb after another on the elevation profile.  So, right away I'm thinking L4/L5 intervals with 5-10 minutes of rest in-between intervals.  In weeks 1-2 of training I'm looking at two interval workouts during the week: 1) a sweet spot interval workout like 2x10s or 2x12s and 2) an L4/L5 interval workout like 4x3 or 5x3.  On the weekends I'm going to ride a minimum 2 hr. Tempo ride with plenty of hills.  In weeks 3-4, I'm going to do the same interval workouts: a sweetspot and an L4/L5 workout.  This time I'm going to increase the duration to say a 2x15 sweetspot workout and a 7x3 L4/L5 workout.  And, I'll up my time in the saddle on the weekend Tempo ride from 2 hrs. to 2.5 hrs.  In weeks 5-6 I'll continue to increase the progression of all workouts.  I'll do this up to the 7th week.  Then, I'll decrease the duration and increase the intensity of the interval workouts.  Here's where I'll start the HIIT intervals (add some Tabata intervals).  Week 8 is sort of a taper of the volume (time)..where I'm not going very hard either.  I'm just going to maintain my fitness and form and be ready for the ride in week 9.  There it is, easy peasy.  You can follow the same training protocol if your 'ride' is a 'race' instead.  My rides like this are not beach cruiser rides.  I ride hard trying to maintain a specific average speed or power.  Not sure what my goal will be for this ride yet.  I'll make that determination the closer I get to the ride. Good Luck with your training.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Winter Tires

I've been riding my bike every weekend throughout the Winter (weather permitting).  Weather permitting means unless it's raining or snowing or below 32F- I'm riding.  In addition to the salt on the road there is an over-abundance of gravel.  I'm sure there is some glass mixed in with that gravel too.  Just like your car should have all-season tires in the Winter (as a minimum), so should your bike.  I ride with Continental Grand Prix 4-Season tires and I love them.  They're constructed with Duraskin and a double Vectran puncture-resistant belt and reinforced sidewalls that stand up to brutal conditions.  They're also made with a rubber composition that performs well in cold temperature.  It's a great Winter/early-Spring tire.  I take them off when I ride in the Summer/Fall.

It's also a great tire for riding dirt/gravel roads like the Hell of Hunterdon bike ride in March (in my area).  In the Spring/Summer, I swap the Continental 4 Season tires for the Continental Grand Prix 4000 II tires.  They're not as stiff, they're lighter and they have great wet weather traction.  They're made in Germany where they know a little bit about automotive products (BMW, Mercedes Benz, Porsche, Audio automobiles not to mention Michelin and Continental tires).

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Tire size

I'll bet if you ask 90% of amateur bicycle riders what size tires they ride on, they'll give you the 'deer in the headlights' look.  They'll have no clue.  They probably don't care either- unless you told them if they chose a wider tire they'd probably ride faster with more comfort.  Really?  Yep.  Wider tires require less pressure to support the same weight.  Thus, wider tires can be inflated at lower pressures than narrower tires which yields more comfort.  What about speed?  Wider tires don't have any more total surface contact than narrower tires.  But, the fact that wider tires are not as tall as narrower tires means there is less deflection (up/down) yielding less tire rolling resistance.  Less rolling resistance equates to faster speed.  See Chart below:

If you've ever owned a high performance car with low-profile tires you'll know that the ride is not as comfortable as say a regular sedan with narrower tires.  That's because the low-profile tires are built for performance/handling- not comfort.  Same thing with bike tires.

  The majority of bikes sold pre-2016 were sold with stock 700x23c bike tires mounted on 15mm rims.  The 700 tire number is the diameter of the tire in mm, the 23 tire number is the tire width in mm (un-inflated).  So, based on what I said earlier, why doesn't everyone just go out and buy wider tires for their current bikes?  The problem with that is when you put a wider tire on a narrower rim you create turbulence from the wind which negates any of the rolling resistance advantage.  When wind hits the front (or slightly from the side) of the wheel, you want it to hug both the tire and the rim (as shown on the bottom right view).  You can see that with the wider tire and narrower rim below (on the bottom left) the wind separates from the rim causing turbulence.

That's why the trend these days is towards wider rims and wider tires.  So, if I have a 700x23c tire mounted on a 15mm rim, is there anything I can do to reduce the deflection and decrease rolling resistance making me go faster?  Yes, there is, you can slightly reduce the amount of pressure in your tires.  When I first started riding 15 yrs. ago (and using 700x23c tires) everyone pumped their tires up to 120 psi right before their ride.  The belief was the harder the tire the less tire to road surface area contact and the lower the rolling resistance.  Today we're smarter, we know that by lowering the tire pressure (down 5-10 psi) we can reduce the amount of deflection, decreasing rolling resistance and making us go faster.  Here is a chart from Michelin with recommended tire pressure based on wheel/tire size and rider weight.  You can see that the wider tires allows the tire pressure to be lowered almost 15 psi for the same rider weight:

The benefit of lowering the tire pressure is increased comfort.  You may not notice that comfort increase on a 20-30 mile ride or in a short race, but you'll definitely notice it for a century ride or longer race.  Instead of pumping my tires up to 120 psi, like I used to, I keep them between 105-110 psi (I weigh 160 lbs.).  I definitely notice more comfort.  I'm not sure I notice any more speed from decreased rolling resistance.  But, I'm not supposed to because when we talk about going faster, we're talking only seconds in a 40k TT.

Also, with the wider tires (that have shorter sidewalls) comes better bike handling, just like an high performance car with low-profile tires.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

How to choose the right bike frame size

There are plenty of ways to size a bike frame to yourself.  Notice I said 'size a bike frame to you', not the other way around.  When you purchase a bike, the bike should be custom fitted to you, not the other way around.  One of the best websites I've seen on how to fit a bike frame to you, is the Fit Calculator on Competitive Cyclist website: 

You'll need a tape measure, stool, a bubble level and someone to take the measurements.
You'll need to take 8 measurements.  What's nice about the Competitive Cyclist Fit Calculator is that is shows you how to correctly take the measurements with both a photo and a video.  It doesn't get any easier/better than that.  You can take your measurements in either inches or centimeters.  I'd take it in inches since most tape measures are in inches. 

Here are the 8 measurements you need to take (I've included my measurements):

Inseam- 32"
Trunk- 24"
Forearm- 13"
Arm- 27"
Thigh- 23"
Lower Leg- 23"
Sternal Notch- 58"
Total Height- 71"

After taking my measurements, I entered them into Competitive Cyclists Fit Calculator.  Competitive Cyclist gave me 3 different results (for 3 different fits): a Competitive Fit (for aggressive riders or racers looking for speed over comfort), an Eddy Fit (less saddle to handlebar drop for more comfort), and the French Fit (puts you in a more upright riding position for maximum comfort and the largest frame).  Out of curiosity, I included the measurements from my Trek Madone 5.2 road bike (which is the same bike Lance Armstrong used to ride- so it's a race bike).  I was dumbfounded by the results.  It seems like my Trek Madone is a combination of all 3 fits..ha.  (see yellow highlights)  Go figure.

BTW, Trek recommends frame sizing from height alone.  According to the Trek sizing chart, I could ride either a 56cm or a 58cm size frame.  Since I'm 5'11" tall, I'm in the middle.  Too bad they don't sell a 57cm size frame.  I believe I opted for the 58cm size frame.  Perhaps that's why my bike measurements span all three of Competitive Cyclists Fits.  Now I'm wondering if my seat/saddle height is a little too low (BB Saddle position).  That would definitely put me in a more aero position when I'm in the drops.  Also seems like I can move my seat up a tad, which would decrease my saddle setback.  I'm not doing anything right now, because I'm comfortable when I ride and seem to be producing optimum power...for an old guy.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Sweet Spot Training

What is Sweet Spot Training (SST)?  Before I define SST, I thought it best to explain why it's so important to perform this kind of training- if you want to get stronger on the bike.

When you train or workout, there are six or seven (depends who you talk to) training zones that you can workout in.  They are as follows:

Zone 1- Endurance or Active Recovery
Zone 2- Aerobic Capacity
Zone 3- Tempo
Zone 4- Threshold
Zone 5- VO2max
Zone 6-7- Anaerobic Capacity

Each one of these training zones has a different physiological effect that your body adapts to.  This chart best describes the adaptations:

You can see that the Zone between Zones 3 and Zones 4, called the "Sweet Spot" zone, (highlighted in orange) offers the most physiological adaptations.  i.e. the best bang for the buck.  This zone looks like Zone 3.5 (below the Threshold zone).  

So, why is it called the SST zone?  The term or nickname 'Sweet Spot Training' was coined by Frank Overton and Dr. Andy Coggan.  The underlying principle of sweet spot training is a balanced amount of intensity and volume that produces a maximal increase in an athlete’s functional threshold power (FTP). In the figure below, the “sweet spot” occurs between a high level/zone 2 and level/zone 4. It is within these ranges that you will build your base the most and simultaneously increase your power at threshold. More bang for your buck, and thus the nickname, “sweet spot”.

As a time crunched athlete, of which I believe 90% of amateur riders are, at least one interval workout per week should be devoted to SST.  BTW, I designate an SST workout as an L3/L4 workout.  Another interval workout should be a Threshold workout like a 2x10 or 2x15@L4.  As you get closer to your racing season, you'll want to add in a VO2max workout such as a 5x4@L5.  That is, if you want to increase your FTP and get stronger on the bike.  As I said before, these (SST) workouts are the best bang for the buck, and they're not as hard/painful as pure Threshold or VO2max workouts.  I don't believe time crunched athletes should do any specific Tempo L3 workouts.  Your long ride on the weekends (which you should be riding 3-4 hrs.) incorporates plenty of L3 Tempo miles.

There are plenty of SST workouts on the internet to choose from, just Google Sweet Spot Training Workouts.  If you're a Zwift member or ErgVideo user, there are plenty of SST workouts to choose from.  My favorite are the Over/Under SST workouts where you're bouncing back/forth between the upper and lower bounds of the SST range.  You're really not in L4 Zone long enough to be considered a Threshold workout but you're getting all the physiological effects/adaptations.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Virtual Reality Cycling

When I started indoor training (years ago), Racermate software (that came with my Computrainer) was as good as it got.  It was the closest thing to virtual reality software, with an avatar of bike rider on the screen with sub par graphics.  Then along came Erg Video virtual reality cycling software.  Erg Videos were provided (or rather sold) on DVDs.  They were real HD videos shot from a car/van and/or a rider from the back of a pack.  Each DVD cost $45.  You could buy Erg Videos of most of the Tour de France mountain climbs.  You could also buy a video of Lake Placid (one of my favorite bike rides) and a video of Threshold workouts...all in High Definition (HD).  I bought six of them for $270.  So, how do they work?  Once loaded on my PC and synced to my Computrainer, I was able to follow a pack of 5-6 riders from some riding club in Canada (forget their name).  As they would ascend a climb, the resistance in my Computrainer would automatically increase, thus virtual reality cycling.  It also allowed multi-rider cycling.  It was pretty cool I guess, but you get bored of the same old rides, which is why I bought six different DVDs.  Plus, the view doesn't change, you're staring at the asses of male riders in front of you the entire ride- bleh.  Today, Erg Videos (just like everything else) can be downloaded so you don't have to bother with DVDs.  ErgVideo software just released version 5- for free.  The latest with ErgVideo 5 is offering free training plans (the bait) that can be synced to your Videos (the catch).

For example, if I want to do a 2x20 threshold workout, from a free training plan, Erg Video will check my library of ErgVideos to see if any of the rides does a similar workout.  If it does, it will list which Videos in my library has an applicable workout.  ErgVideo calls this "Training Objective Equivalent" or TOE.  (C'mon man, you couldn't come up with a better acronym than that?)  Once I choose the TOE ride, I'm able to do a 2x20 workout staring at the asses of the same guys I followed all too many times before.  If I don't have a TOE video/ride, I can either do the workout in "free mode"- which means you just see a screen on your computer or display monitor with the power profile on it (like the old Racermater software days) or buy an Erg Video that does.  That is, for another $45. Remember the catch?  Once the workout is completed, the data can automatically be uploaded into Strava, Garmin Connect, Training Peaks, etc. for post-ride analysis- which is nice.  I never had a choice before with ErgVideo 3.  It was either upload to Training Peaks WKO or nothing.  I don't do Peaks WKO anymore, I ditched it, since they wanted another $179 for a new version.   Now, I use Golden Cheetah software instead.  Golden Cheetah is open source (free) software, and it does everything that Training Peaks WKO does and more.

So, there you go.  In a nutshell, that's the new release of ErgVideo5- offering free training plan workouts and the ability to tie into your ErgVideo library with a TOE video/ride.  Do I think ErgVideo virtual reality cycling software is as good as the Zwift experience?  Not even close.  Zwift does so much more: training rides, workouts, races, fun rides, etc.  And, you're riding against real people from all over the world.  And, you can change don't have to stare at the ass or back wheel of the rider in front of you like ErgVideo. 

I'll do a comparison blog in the future of ErgVideo vs. Zwift.  What I do like about ErgVideo is if you always wanted to say ride the Alpe D'Huez, and you know you'll never get to France, it's the next best thing to being there.  Like I said, the videos are HD videos of the real deal.  Also, if you're a Triathlete and you're going to be doing IM Lake Placid, I highly recommend you buy their IMLP Ergvideo.  It's the next best thing to being there and it will help you train for your event- provided you have a smart trainer.  I think that's where ErgVideo really shines.

Power ON! Coach Rob

Friday, January 19, 2018

Zwift Workout Editor/Creator

Zwift virtual reality software continues to impress me.  If you don't like the FREE workouts offered in Zwift at you can create your own, or edit an existing workout using this program  It's a really cool program created by Matt McNeil.  It's simple to use.  Matt has instructions on on how to use his program.  And, it too is FREE.  See below.  Once you're done editing or creating a new workout, you can save it to a My Workouts folder for downloading at a later time.  When you want to do the workout, you just go to your 'My Workouts' folder and upload your workout file into Zwift's document folder on your PC that runs Zwift.  That folder can be found at: Documents\Zwift\Workouts.  When you open up Zwift software and get ready to ride, you just go to Custom Workouts and your new file should be waiting for you.  

I created a 2x10@L4 workout using Matt's software and it couldn't have been easier.  I think it took me a whopping 5 minutes to create.  Thank you Matt for the easy to use software.  As the Brit's would say: Brilliant!

Now I know why I've been getting emails from ErgVideo lately offering me FREE training plans.   (ErgVideo probably sees Zwift just dominating the indoor cycling training market and they want to continue being a market leader themselves.)  ErgVideo has a new ErgVideo 5 software that is FREE.  ErgVideo 5 is tying their FREE training plans together with their ErgVideos.  That way, I can choose a FREE training plan and have it sync with one of my ErgVideos to get a real life workout.  Pretty cool since I have a nice library of about 7 ErgVideo CDs.  Sounds like a future blog.  For now though, I'm super happy with Zwift and all the developers like Matt McNeil who are making it easier and more fun to use and workout.

Power ON!  Coach Rob