Sunday, November 30, 2008

Weight Loss- Part II

I've had a bunch of people ask me what they should be eating in the off-season to lose weight. One of the things you can start doing is reducing your Carbohydrate intake, both simple and complex Carbs. As you know, Carbs are essential during long hard summer rides to prevent you from bonking..but in the off-season, when volume and intensity is really don't need as much. And, diets like the Atkins diet are testimony that reducing/eliminating Carbs in your diet will lead to weight loss.

Speaking of Atkins diets..lets talk diets. I am NOT in favor of any kind of diet..because they don't work. Let me say it again: THEY DO NOT WORK! They may work initially, but they're not something you want to adhere to for life..and definitely not for the working athlete. In fact, most people that go on diets end up losing weight initially, only to gain it all back a year or two later..and then some. Trust me..I've seen it. I am however, in favor of one diet...and it's called the ABS Diet. Wait a minute, didn't I just say I'm NOT in favor of any kind of diet? I did, but the ABS Diet is not really a's an eating plan for life. And, it has nothing to do with your Abdomen (Abs) other than, if you follow the plan you may actually discover you have Abs. I'm serious! With the ABS Diet Power eat what you like. All you have to do is include the food items/groups in the acronym: ABSDIETPOWER. A=Almonds/Nuts, B=Beans/Legumes, S=Spinich/Veggies, D=Dairy Products, I=Instant Oatmeal, E=Eggs, T=Turkey/Other Lean Meats, P=Peanut Butter, O=Olive Oil, W=Whole Grain Breads/Cereals, E=Extra-Protein Whey and R=Raspberries/Other berries. That's it, all you have to do is eat two or three of these foods in each of your three major meals and at least one of them in your snacks. If you want to read more about this plan, you can go to Border's or Barnes and Noble and pick up the book: The Abs Diet, by David Zinczenko, editor of Mens Health Magazine. You can't miss the cover, it's bright fluorescent orange. Or, you can mail order it from or buy it online: BTW, if you go to this link you'll find more information on the ABS DIET POWER eating plan.

Does this ABSDIETPOWER plan work? Absolutely, I'm testament to it. In 2004, I used this plan to help me lose 50 lbs. That's right...I went from 222 lbs. down to 172 lbs. Yup, Wubba Rob weighed 222 lbs. (Hey, before you skinny wimps start snickering I could also bench press 285 lbs. back then, something you must dream about..hahaha) But, I can't tell you this..NEVER AGAIN will I let myself get fat/overweight. Since then, I've managed to keep the weight off by sticking to the plan. Currently, I'm 179 lbs. but that's only because I gained 5 lbs. in the Fall from all of the beer/pizza and riding my bike less. (Hey, it's the off-season..give me a break) I'm going to use this plan combined with Weight Training and increased cycling volume to lose an additional 14 lbs. by February. (BTW, did you know that Weight Training is a good fat/calorie burner?) That's right, I'm going to lose 14 lbs. from now until February 4th when I head out to the Desert of Nevada to ride the hills. That's 1.5 lbs. per week. My goal weight is 165 lbs. (Last time I weighed 165 lbs. was a Senior in High School.) And, I'll be eating whatever I want to get to that goal weight..including beer and pizza..just not as much as I did this past Fall..hahaha.

Anybody want to bet me I don't get there? I will. Come Spring time I'll be looking for hills to ride because my power to weight ratio will be the best it's ever been. Remember, Power to weight ratio is your Power (watts) divided by your Weight (kg). The higher this ratio the better the hill climber you'll be. You can increase your Power to Weight Ratio by either a. Increase Power b. Lose Weight, or c. Both a and b. Now you know why all those skinny/wimpy bike riders like to take you for rides in the hills..because that's where they shine. Or, I should say, that's where they get their ego dropping heavier guys like me. You think I'm kidding? I kid you not. But, not this year..even at age 50.

So, get back in the Weight Room, follow the ABS Diet, and keep riding your bike and get in the best shape of your life. I am!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Winter Ride

It always boggled my mind when I read any cycling book, magazine, web article, etc. on Periodization of Training that said that this is the time of year to build a base for the upcoming season. And, that base building should include lots of endurance time/miles on the bike spent at low intensity. Why does it boggle my mind? Because unless you live in FLA, TX or Sunny California...Southeast PA (in Nov-Dec) is NOT where you want to ride outdoors on the road for 2-4 hrs. at a time. It's cold/wet/icy/salty/windy/low-light/etc. And, the last thing I'm going to do is hop on my indoor trainer for anything more than an hour.
But, you don't have to stay in this Winter and ride on your trainer or on the road when you can ride "off-road" outside in the fresh-air. Just dust off an old bike, put some knobby tires on it and head for a place like the canal path between Stockton and Frenchtown, NJ. I'll tell you why I like it:

a. it's slow (averaging 12-15 mph), therefore it's really not that cold.
b. you get a good workout when it's windy and when the temps are in the 40s because the ground is soft/wet and increases your rolling resistance.
c. you're off the road and don't have to worry about: traffic, salt corroding your bike, stopping for stop lights/stop sigan, dark, etc.
d. it's a good endurance ride from Stockton to Frenchtown, non-stop, just what you want for base building Winter season training.
e. you get to stop at Frenchtown and/or Stockton and have a latte/coffee and a cookie/muffin, etc.
f. safe- always somebody on the path walking, riding, running, etc.
g. can do a group or solo ride at night with a light if you want.
h. rather do two hours outside than 2 hours on a trainer.
i. get some fresh air.
j. scenery is better.

So, next time you dread getting on your trainer and riding inside this Winter for a couple hours..grab your hybrid or mountain bike and head to a place like the canal path instead...the most important thing I didn't mention (above) is ... it's fun!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Weight Loss- Part I

If you're overweight, like me, and you want to lose some weight before the race season..try works! Currently, I weigh 179 lbs. and my goal weight by February 6th (when I head out to Death Valley/Mohave Desert for a week of hilly riding) is 165 lbs. That's 14 lbs. I need to lose in just over 10 weeks, or 1.4 lbs. per week. To do this, all I need to do is burn and/or eliminate 500 more calories per day (500 calories/day x 7 days=3500 calories= 1 lb.) If that sounds hard, it really isn't. Here's how to do it:

a. Determine your maximum fat-burning heart rate zone. This is going to be close to 55-65% of your maximum heart rate. Although you won’t burn maximum calories at this heart rate, you will teach your body how to utilize fat effectively without causing muscle damage or inhibiting recovery. It’s important that you be able to insert this strategy into a pre-existing workout program without having to restructure for rest and recovery.

b. Every day, immediately upon waking (when your liver’s carbohydrate stores are nearly empty) exercise for 20-30 minutes in this heart rate zone. You can do this by either running, walking fast, using an elliptical trainer, etc. (I don't recommend doing it on the bike/trainer or you're going to burn out as you should be doing plenty of cycling training indoors already). In doing so, you will maximize fat-burning enzyme activity. Do NOT skip breakfast after the workout - just ensure that the actual exercise session is performed on an empty stomach.

c. To maximize this effect even more, eliminate any eating for at least 2 hours prior to bedtime the night before. This will ensure empty liver carbohydrate stores and more efficient fat burning in the subsequent morning routine.

d. In addition to the morning exercise, knock-out or reduce intake of the following: soda, candy, ice cream, and alcohol from your daily diet. (If you need to drink, like me over the holidays, stick to wine and light beer, it has less calories than mixed/alcohol drinks. And, keep it to 1-2 drinks per day max. If you need to eat ice cream, choose a light ice cream..they really don't taste too bad..once you get used to them.)

If you do this, exercise first thing in the morning and drop the soda/candy/ice cream/booze out of your daily diet, in addition to what you've normally been doing to maintain your current weight, I guarantee you that you will drop at least a pound or two a week.

Give it at try!


Training Doesn't Stop Because the Leaves Change
By Jeb Stewart MS, CSCS

Champions and seasons are made and broken by what we do or don't do in the off-season. Too many athletes wait until the racing season is upon them to hire a coach and ask them to work miracles with their fitness, having put in a haphazard off-season at best. Even worse, many athletes fire their coach when the racing season is over and then hire them again come spring. Many coaches may not have slots available and may require that the athlete pay another start up fee for the additional work they must now do since they have not been working together continuously.

Besides, this approach is very short sighted and leads to less than optimal fitness and unattained goals come race season. What you do in the off-season determines the heights that you can reach during the next year. Those who do it correctly, meet and far exceed their goals, and those who do not end up falling short and wondering why.

Why is this? Well, the most common traps involve doing too much or too little. Doing too much can take many forms such as going too hard when they should be really working on their base fitness, doing too much or the wrong stuff in the gym, and gaining too much weight by not approaching their nutrition correctly. However, even more athletes fall into the latter of the two categories. Doing too little includes: Not taking any time off, not doing enough miles, skipping cross-training or gym work, not doing enough base work before moving up the training spectrum, not attending to goals and long-term planning and not taking this time when there are no races to attain those elusive body composition goals.

Having a coach can also help you make sure that the things you are doing are actually helping you attain your goals. I see too many athletes either skip cross-training and instead do nothing, do only gym work (often times doing the wrong stuff), employ faulty nutritional practices and gain too much weight as result. I also find that a lot of people do their base training at too low an intensity to really get the gains they are shooting for. Having a coach prescribe the correct Power or HR training zones can help you make sure are actually developing your aerobic fitness when doing this ever so important part of your training. There is nothing worse than to find out that all of those miles you did only helped slightly at best. Never mind the athlete who just goes from racing to mountain bike racing, to cyclo-cross to group rides and then wonders why they never seem to get any better. Many of these things can and should be worked into a complete conditioning program for the bike. However, if you are going to train, then we had better make sure that what you are doing is actually going to benefit you in the long run.

Many athletes want to come into form overnight and in endurance sports it just doesn't work like that unfortunately. Those who are patient and diligent in their preparation make the greatest gains. Take an athlete I am fortunate enough to work with for example. She started with me in November with her goals being in July. Her patient progress paid off in spades when she was on the podium 13 out of 14 races, won her state championships and two stage races. She was patient and believed in herself, her coach and the process. That's a perfect example of what doing things correctly can get for us.

Some of the many things your coach can help you with during the off-season include:
*Nutritional guidance and analysis
*Body composition goals
*Working cross-training into your schedule properly and effectively
*Periodized training for development in your sport of choice
*Proper strength and conditioning programming
*Yoga and flexibility training protocols
*Goal development for the upcoming season and annual planning
And much, much more.

Whether you are a recreational racer or a full-time athlete, what we do outside of our racing season is hugely important, and quite often will determine what we can achieve when the time comes to perform. So don't miss this golden opportunity to create your best season ever by working with a coach who can help you optimize the time you spend training in the off-season and make sure you are on track for the upcoming year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Build Power Now!

Here's a good article by Chris Carmichael. Plyometrics is a form of resistance training used to elicit power through explosive movements. I'm all for it. Here's a good workout:

Build Power, Save Time with this Double-Header Workout
By Chris Carmichael

Everyone knows the wintertime training lays the foundation for a successful summer season, but there’s still plenty of debate about the specifics – particularly when it comes to the idea of gaining power on the bike by heading into the gym to lift weights. I first heard the idea more than 30 years ago as a junior, and experts are still trying to decide if resistance training in the winter really improves cycling performance. You want to know the answer? For the vast majority of cyclists, resistance training won’t make you faster.
To make significant gains in on-bike strength and power, you need to be in the gym a minimum of three hours a week. That doesn’t sound so bad until you realize that, based on my observation of several thousand CTS-coached athletes, the average cyclist with a full-time job and a life can only squeeze out about 8-10 hours of total training time each week, if they really work at it. So why use 30 to 40 percent of that time doing something that may or may not make you faster when you know that more time on the bike will absolutely make you faster? Besides, there’s a way cyclists can effectively build explosive on-bike power without really cutting into your riding time: plyometrics.
Plyometrics are exercises that use explosive movements to bridge the gap between strength and power – and improve both. Most are jumping exercises targeted at making your muscles exert maximum force faster. Why is this more important for cyclists than pure strength? With strength you can push a big gear; with power you can push the same gear faster, which means you go faster. I also like plyometrics for cyclists because the exercises target large muscle groups, help them work together with greater synchronicity, and enhance balance and coordination – things you don’t get from traditional, muscle-isolating weight lifting.

The Double Header Workout
What I’ve found to be most effective in boosting power fast is combining a plyometrics session with high-intensity on-bike intervals in the same day. The jumps recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers in your legs, hips, and buttocks, which means they’re primed for action when you get on your bike. Try the following workout twice a week through the end of March. Do the plyos right before you get on your bike or within a few hours before your ride. Before you throw yourself right into jumping exercises, warm up with a simple 5-10 minutes of brisk walking and 2-3 trips up and down a flight of stairs.
Squat and Jump: About 5 minutesStand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart (in sneakers or bare feet, not cycling shoes!). With your arms at your sides, squat until your hips reach knee level, keeping your weight back and your knees even with or behind your toes. Then explode straight up and jump as high as you can, swinging your arms upward to generate momentum and more height. As you land, bend your knees to absorb impact. Immediately return to a standing position and repeat. Beginners should do two sets of 10 jumps, intermediates three sets of 10, and advanced riders two sets of 15-20 jumps. Rest 1 minute between sets.
Training ride with CTS PowerIntervals: total time 60 minutesPowerIntervals are short, hard efforts designed to boost your top-end power, but also to improve performance at any speed, so they’re worth doing even if you don’t intend to sprint for a single finish line this year. Warm up for 15 minutes. 4 x 1 minute at max effort (as fast as you can sustain), with 1 minute easy spinning recovery between each. These are very hard, and the time between intervals is purposely too short to provide full recovery. Beginners should do one set, intermediate riders two sets, and advanced riders three sets. Take 8 minutes of easy spinning between sets. When you’re done with the intervals, enjoy the rest of your ride.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weight Training for Cyclists- Part II

Many studies conducted on (trained & untrained) cycling groups that have combined aerobic endurance training and strength training appears to evoke a continuum of opposing adaptational responses. Why is that? It's because strength training alone is known to elicit an increase in muscle fiber size. That may sound like a good thing but for cyclists it's not, for two reasons: a) an increase in muscle fiber size reduces mitochondrial density and possibly capillary density (remember, high mitochondrial and capillary densities helps resist fatigue in the muscle) and b) increase muscle fiber size adds unwanted muscle mass/weight. The good thing is that increase fiber size (aka hypertrophy) is attributable to higher forces resulting in higher strength/power. High intensity endurance training alone, on the other hand, is known to elicit a decrease in muscle fiber size compromising the resistance training-induced increase in strength and muscle size. See the opposing adaptational responses?

So, what's this all mean? Does it mean that a cyclist should NOT engage in a combined aerobic endurance training and resistance training program? NO..not at all. But, it does mean that if you do enroll in such a program..that you do it under the supervision of a cycling coach that understands Exercise Physiology. Because if done right, I believe that an "explosive" resistance training program (vice a heavy resistance program) can evoke a marked increase in muscular strength/power, without compromising a combined aerobic endurance performance. An increase in a cyclists muscular strength/power will increase a cyclists ability to sprint at the end of a race..and isn't that a good thing to know when you're 200 meters from the finish line (after a 25 lap, one-hour criterium)..and it's only you and another guy duking it out for the top podium spot? I think so.

Here's a summary table of what was discussed- a comparison of physiological adaptations to resistance training and aerobic endurance training (click for larger view):

Weight Training for Cyclists- Part I

I can't begin to tell you how much I've read re: this subject in the last month or so. To tell you that the reviews (as to the effectiveness of a Weight Training regimine for cyclists, when combined with an aerobic endurance training program, in the off-season) are an understatement. And, I'm telling you the reviews are from the experts in the field: PhDs, MDs and Physiologists.

So, you may ask, why do I even care about a Weight Training program if I'm a cyclist? Specificity of training tells me if I want to get better (stronger) on the bike..just ride. But, unless you live in Hawaii or Key West, FL, where you can do that- just ride outside all year around- you're most likely going to be stuck inside during the Winter months. And, I don't know about you..but I get pretty stinking tired of JUST riding indoors doing interval sessions (or whatever) on my trainer all Winter long. Besides, for me, the off-season is a time to "mix it up a little", have some fun so you don't burn out, and prepare for the upcoming race season. (BTW, I think I would burn out if I lived in South Florida and could ride all year round.) When I say, "mix it up", I'm talking about X-training. i.e. doing things off the bike, like X-Country Skiing, Rollerblading, running, etc. It's also a time to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and work on those weaknesses. For me, my weaknesses as a racer are many: carrying too much weight (which drops my watts/kg and makes it difficult to climb hills fast), having a subpar aerobic engine (low Lactate Threshold and/or VO2max which makes it hard to hang-on during fast group rides), and having underdeveloped leg muscles (which will most certainly exclude me from any sprint finish). The weight I'm not worried about..because I'll start losing that with a strict diet and formal exercise/cycling training plan (which started in November), and the subpar aerobic engine will be tuned-up in February and March when I do more intense cycling interval training. But, what about underdeveloped leg muscles? I can take care of that weakness RIGHT NOW and continue that up to the racing season with a formal Weight Training Plan. Sounds pretty easy huh? Well, one problem..if you ever picked up a book on "Exercise Physiology" (and actually read it) you'll have discovered that Aerobic Endurance Training (i.e. cycling) and strength training (i.e. weight training) really don't complement each other too well. Why is that? See Part II for more.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Secret Workouts for Cyclists?

Here is one of Lance's weekly workouts for October 2008, posted on a Power Training Forum by a very reliable source. After looking at this workout, you'll see that Lance isn't doing anything "magical" or "secret" in his preparation for yet another Tour de France victory. In fact, this is a typical workout that I prescribe for myself, in addition to the athletes I coach. Take a look for yourself:

-2 x per week 5-5.5 hrs endurance pace
- 2 x per week 3-4 hrs endurance pace with 2 x 20minutes at *just below LT pace (380-400watts)
- 1 x per week Tuesday-nighter
- 1 x per week 3-4 hrs with 2 sets of 4 x 20seconds max effort x 40 seconds recovery
-1 x per week day off-travel, rest.

Other than the microburst workout, once per week, seems rather ordinary. Although, I can't remember the last time I rode for 5 hrs. at endurance pace. Must be nice to have that kind of time eh? Anyway, there are no secrets or magical workouts..even for the elite pros.