Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Time Crunched Cyclist

Unless you're a full-time professional cyclist or triathlete you probably don't have more than 10 hrs. a week to get out on the bike to train. Unfortunately, up til now, the classic cycling endurance training model is built around the premise/notion that you have MORE THAN 10 hrs. per week.

Well, what if you don't have more than 10 hrs. of week to train? What if you only have 6 hrs. per week to train? Do you still use the classic endurance training model which suggests a hi-volume lo-intensity off-season build/preparation phase? Do you slowly reduce the volume and increase the intensity as the race-season approaches?

Chris Carmichael answers all of these questions (and more) in his new book entitled, "The Time-Crunched Cyclist- Fit, Fast and Powerful in 6 hours a week". For those athletes that I coach that fit into this category (< 6 hrs. of available training time) I'll be following his training program for 2010. Chris's training program consists of 4 workouts per week: 2-3 workouts during the week lasting 60-90 minutes, and 1-2 workouts on the weekend lasting 1-2 hours.

Oh, to give you athletes that I coach (that have less than 6 hrs. to train per week) a "heads-up"- you're in for more intense workouts. But, don't worry..I'll make them fun for you.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mountain Biking

In my prior blog I talked about some cures for late summer blues and how to prevent burnout. Well, I took my own advice and went out and bought a Mountain Bike the other day. And, to be honest with you..I'm having a blast. Since buying my Mountain Bike, I've been to Pennypack Park, Wissahickon Park and Blue Marsh Lake. I'm actually looking forward to when I can go out and ride it again. In fact, I think I'm going to go to Mercer County Park tomorrow. The best thing about riding a Mountain Bike is that it's giving me a GREAT workout..and teaching me handling skills and balance..which can only benefit me on my road bike. If you don't have a Mtn. bike, and you're burning out of the road bike scene, you might want to consider buying one. Now is a good time to buy one at your LBS since they'll be stocking up on 2010s soon...and there are great deals to be had.

BTW, I bought a 2009 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29er that I got a great deal on from my friends at High Road Cycles in Doylestown, PA

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cycling burnout?

Are you suffering from "cycling burnout"? I'm talking about the burnout that's NOT caused by "overtraining". I have to admit that I am. Why? I'm sure it's a culmination of things/reasons, such as:
a. excessive business travel
b. recent hot/humid weather
c. recent/past injuries
d. tired of the same old monotonous training rides/routes
e. getting late in the season, therefore getting physically/mentally exhausted
f. other distractions such as pre-season football on TV
g. showing little to no bike performance improvement
h. etc.

Regardless of the reasons for burnout, there is a lot you can do to prevent burnout, such as:
a. find new routes to ride
b. ride with a group or new group
c. ride at a different time of day. i.e. early in the a.m. to beat the heat
d. ride a different bike. i.e. hybrid, cross or mtn bike instead of your road bike
e. take shorter/quicker rides. No reason to go on a 3-4 hr. rides in the heat
f. go to races with friends instead of going's more fun..and safer if you crash on the bike
g. take your bike on business travel if you can...or ride at the gym in a spin class if you can't
h. etc.

Remember, there is (for the most part) only 1 month left of road racing before the cyclo-cross season starts up. And, for those of you that don't race cyclo-cross, that means "end-of-season". So, do what I suggested...stay motivated...finish STRONG!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

TSS HRZ Calculator

If you don't have a Power Meter or train with Power already know that HR training/monitoring is the next best thing. (If you don't, read some of my prior blogs on why I think so.) And, if you're one of the fortunate athletes that I coach, you'll know that TSS, or Training Stress Score, is my underlying coaching metric/principle. It's all about stimulus/dose and response. (If you want more info on stimulus/dose and a Google Search on: "stimulus response coggan".)

What you need to calculate your TSS for a given exercise, is a Heart Rate monitor that is capable of recording "Time in Zone" TIZ. Take those numbers and enter them into my handy-dandy calculator (that I'll email you if you request so) and you'll get your TSS.

Note: Calculating TSS from Heart Rate is NOT as accurate as it is compared to Power..but it's close (in the ballpark) and that's all I'm looking for when I'm exercing away from home at a gym or hotel fitness room.

Heart Rate Recovery (HRR)

Heart Rate Recovery (HRR) is a measurement of how much the heart rate falls during the first minute after peak exercise. It is routinely measured during millions of exercise tests every year. Doctors usually order these tests when they suspect that a patient may have a heart in trouble.
Patients are put on a treadmill and exercise to the point that they can't go on. It is then that the heart rate recovery is taken. Afterward, it's added to the picture created by how long the person can exercise and what the heart rate was doing during the exercise test. This big picture can give doctors a pretty accurate idea of how well the heart is working.
The healthier a person's heart is, the quicker it returns to its normal beat; the less healthy the heart is, the longer it takes it to recover.

You can do the same test on your bike or cycling ergometer. Not necessarily to see if you have a bad ticker or not (I hope you don't) but to observe your fitness level over time- to see if it's improving..especially at a given intensity. You can do this test with your Heart Rate Monitor at different exercise levels/zones to see what your recovery is. I've performed a test the other day at 75% of my HRmax for 20 minutes. At 75% of HRmax my HRR=60 bpm after 1 minute. I was really surprised it was that high- which is a good thing. Another day I'll do the same test at 100% HRmax (for 3-5 minutes if I can hold it that long) to compare results after 1 minute.

Recovery Rate Numbers:

< 20 bpm=" poor"
20- 29=" fair"
30- 39=" good"
40- 59=" excellent"
> 60 bpm= "outstanding"

PLEASE DO NOT perform any of these tests without first consulting your doctor and/or getting a complete physical examination. Also, DO NOT do these tests alone or without contacting someone first.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Measuring HRmax

Just a quick word about Maximum Heart Rate (HRmax) since I talked about HR training zones in my last blog; the only "true/accurate" way to discover what your HRmax is, per given sport/exercise (since it varies), is to perform a "stress test" on a particular piece of equipment that mimics the sport you're interested in. For example, if you want to find what your HRmax is while running, then perform a stress test on a treadmill. If you want to find what your HRmax is while cycling, then perform a stress test on a cycling ergometer. (BTW, they are different..running will be higher) In either case, the equipment will increase load/resistance until you can no longer sustain a given output.

Please do NOT use the formula: HRmax=220-age, it's not even close to accurate...grossly understated probably for liability reasons. If I use that formula, my HRmax would be 170 bpm. That's not even my Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (175 bpm). My HRmax is 194 you can see it's not even in the ballpark.

Want to find a quick/cheap way of discovering your HRmax on the bike? Put your HR monitor on, then call your Cat 2-3 racer friend on the phone and tell him you want to ride with him..because you want to kick his/her a$$ both on the flats and on the hills. After about 5-10 minutes of trying to keep up with your friend on the ride..look down at your HR monitor..that's your HRmax..hahaha. Seriously, I've found my HRmax more than once on tough group rides with better cyclists. You'll know your at HRmax when it feels like you're going to puke, your head his throbbing and it feels like your heart is going to jump out of your cycling jersey...and most importantly your bpm number will NOT go any higher on your HR monitor...that's your HRmax.

Heart Rate Training Zones

For those of you that don't train with Power, the only other sensible/practical way to train (in my opinion) is with a Heart Rate Monitor. But, how do you setup your HR Training Zones (TZs)? Do you set TZs up as a percentage of your HRmax? Do you set TZs as a percentage of your LTHR? If you read Sally Edward's book, "The Heart Rate Monitor Book for Cyclists" (which is a good read) she recommends setting TZs as a percentage of your HRmax. If you read Dr. Andy Coggan's book, "Training and Racing with a Power Meter" (which is THE BIBLE for power meter training), he recommends setting them up as a percentage of your LTHR. So, who's right? I'll admit, it's a lot easier to set them up as a percentage of maximum Heart Rate. But does that make it right/more accurate? I don't think so. Plus, as a coach..I'm really NOT looking for my first liability suit when somebody drops dead during a Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP) test (used to determine Critical Power and HRmax), which basically pushes you to total exhaustion.

In Dr. Andy Coggan's Bible, he states, "Power at Lactate Threshold is the most important physiological determinant of endurance cycling performance because it integrates VO2max, the percentage of VO2max that can be sustained for a given duration, and cycling efficiency. As such, it is more logical to define training zones/levels relative to an athlete's threshold power than it is to, for example, define them vis-a-vis power at VO2max (just as it is more logical to define HR-based training levels relative to threshold HR than to use maximal HR)".

So, how do you develop HR training levels/zones based on LTHR? You do that with (by performing) a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test utilizing a cycling ergometer such as a Power Tap or Computrainer. I routinely perform these tests at local bike shops and fitness centers in my area for $80. Once I determine an athletes FTP, I find their associated LTHR from the test...and then set-up their HR Training Zones based on LTHR. I use Dr. Coggan's recommended percentages of LTHR for setting-up my HR Training Zones (See chart).

Are Dr. Coggan's recommended HR Training Zones (based on LTHR) that much different than other peoples/experts (based on HRmax)? Take a look at the attached chart and you'll see the difference, specifically at Zone/Level 4. You'll see that Dr. Coggan's Level 4 zone is btwn 168-184 bpm (with the LTHR nestled right at the mid-point) and that Sally Edward's Zone 4 is btwn 155-175 bpm (with LTHR at the high end). It doesn't seem like much of a difference (on paper) but if you start doing L4 workouts with a HR monitor, you'll notice that Dr. Coggan's workouts are a LOT harder. Bottom line- don't you want to be working in the "correct" zones that will be enahancing your performance and benefitting you physiologically speaking? I'd hate to think that I was doing L4 Threshold Heart Rate training workouts all of these years when in reality they were L3 Tempo workouts. Hmmm..maybe that's why you haven't been progressing/improving your performance over the years by training with your HR monitor? That's why I train with a Power Meter. When you train with a power meter- YOU KNOW when you're training at your Threshold me.

BTW, the LTHR and HRmax values shown in the Chart are mine...and I can tell you from training with both a HR monitor and Power Meter for 6 yrs. now, Dr. Coggan's HR Training Zones are more accurate than Sally Edwards. But, don't just take my word for it...check it out for yourself. If you want a copy of the Chart, which is in MS Excel, email me and I'll send a copy to you. You just enter your HRmax and/or your LTHR and it will automatically compute the HR Training Zones. Cheers Coach Rob

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Training Peaks Software

Many of you that I coach have received emails from me stating that I'm going to be suspending my coaching services until December. Right now, I'm just absolutely swamped with my 9-5 job, which is turning into 7-7 job instead...not to mention living out of a suitcase. I just don't have the time or energy anymore to keep up with everyones Annual Training Plan (ATP). Besides, most of you that I coach are nearing the end of their season and just have a few races remaining.

Ironically, after I sent many of you emails stating the above, I got a call from the Training Peaks Software folks in Boulder, CO. They wanted to give me an online demo of their new I took them up on the offer. What I saw...was a software program that will make it MUCH easier for me to prescribe workouts for everyone and track all of their progress with one program..vice the 2-3 programs I have now.

For those of you that don't have Training Peaks software..check it out. It's the personal edition. Here is a link to sign up for a FREE basic version. In the meantime, I'm going to check out their Professional Edition for coaches. I just need a week or two to play around with it and become proficient. As soon as I do, I will contact all of you...and we'll finish out the year with Training Peaks or we can start new in December with Training Peaks. Anyway, play around with it..and I'll do the same. I think we'll both like it...and it will make it MUCH easier not to mention saving us both a lot of time. Cheers Coach Rob