Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cycling Fitness

What is Cycling Fitness and how does one improve it?  Cycling fitness is comprised of many fitness elements.  And, the word "fitness" alone means different things to different people.  For me, cycling fitness is about getting stronger on the bike.  Stronger means being able to ride FASTER and LONGER.  The important thing is how to train  to improve ones performance.  Before I discuss how to train, here's what Cycling Fitness entails:

Cycling Fitness = Muscle-strength + Endurance + Neuromuscular + Aerobic + Anaerobic + Power + Other

These fitness elements are involved in every aspect of our riding..whether it's training or racing.  In the early-season, you SHOULD BE working on the more general fitness elements to increase Muscular-strength in your legs via Isolated Leg Training and resistance training. Additionally, you should work on Neuromuscular fitness via hi-speed skill drills.  Finally, you should work on your Endurance..the long steady rides. i.e. the 2-3 hr. Tempo/Endurance rides.  These rides help train your body to utilize fat for fuel, sparing your carb/glycogen stores.  These fitness elements are all relatively low-intensity fitness elements, in the L2/L3 zones, designed to develop your Aerobic energy system and establish a good base/foundation for the more intense fitness training to come.  I know there are some coaches and exercise physiologists that say this lo-intensity stuff is a waste of time and that if you really want to improve performance (get stronger) you should be doing hi-intensity training all year round.  Well, to those athletes that follow such a training regimine I say, "All the power to you if you can."  Notice I said, "...if you can."?  Because, I don't know about you but if I tried to follow such a program I'd burn-out for sure..or worse get sick or injured.   

Later on in the training season, you build on-top of the solid base with the more intense interval training workouts.  The L4, L5 and L6 interval workouts.  This is where you work on the more specific fitness elements such as: Power and Threshold training (which is still aerobic) and the hi-intensity L6 Anaerobic training.  These are tough-ass workouts...and are best done with a friend because they are soooooooooo easy to quit on if you do them alone.  Don't believe me?  Try a 5x4 VO2max workout with 2 min. rest intervals and tell me if you don't feel like quitting after the 3rd one.  How about a 3x20 Threshold workout, with a 5 min. rest interval, and tell me how you feel midway into the 2nd interval knowing you've got another one to do?  Or, maybe you want to do some Tabata intervals?  BTW, just because it's later in the season doesn't mean you should/can neglect some of the fitness elements you worked on earlier in the season- they are ALL important.  You want to continue working on your Neuromuscular fitness. i.e. the form sprints, spin-ups, etc.  (Just add them at the end of your group rides)  You also want to continue to "maintain" the Muscle-strength you built-up during your ILT on the bike and your resistance training in the gym..that's in addition to your Power workouts that you're currently doing (or should be doing) on the bike.  And, as long as you're in the gym, continue to work on maintaining your core-strength.  The last thing you want to be doing is nursing a bad back during race season.  Core strength is often neglected w/ cyclists because most cyclists don't even own a swiss ball at home to do crunches on...which is a great for maintaing/developing your abs and lower back muscles.  HINT!

It's this hi-intensity training that will make you stronger on the bike...provided you recover properly.  The recovery period is where/when you get stronger...NOT the hi-intensity training per se.  And, everyones recovery period is different.  For some, 24 hrs. is adequate.  For me, I need at least 48 hrs.  For others, I've heard some need at least 72 hrs.  Generally, the older you are the more recovery your body needs.  I can't reiterate this enough...it's the "recovery period" where you get stronger.  So please, make sure you get adequate rest after a tough workout or training ride.
If your coach isn't prescribing a similar Annual Training Plan (ATP) to develop your cycling fitness which includes all of the aforementioned fitness elements- THEY SHOULD BE!  Why?  Because it's scientifically proven to work..that's why.  And, it's one of the easiest to follow...at least I think so.  The ATPs I prescribe my athletes incorporate all of the cycling fitness elements.  Each workout builds on the prior in both duration and intensity.  Keep in mind, all of the hi-intensity stuff is saved for later in the season, after you've built a good base/foundation, and closer to your race season which will give you the motivation needed to get through the tough workouts.  In addition to being scientifically proven to show results- it just makes sense.  At least it makes sense to me.  I hope it makes sense to you.

(Yes, that's Kathy Ireland on the bike, in the drops, in a great aero position..and yes, that's what cycling fitness looks like..haha.  Sorry ladies, couldn't find a photo of Brad Pitt or George Clooney on the bike.)  Power ON! Coach Rob

Monday, March 29, 2010

PA/NJ access via Bulls Island

Good news!  The bridge(s) leading from River Rd. (on the PA side) to River Rd. (on the NJ side) via Bulls Island are no longer under construction.  They are open! You can now ride your bike from PA, across the walking bridge/Delaware River, through Bulls Island, and onto Rt. 29 in NJ.  Whoo Hoo! 

Physics 201


In one of my November 2009 blogs, entitled Physics 101, I defined "Power" and its importance in cycling.  Now, that you've (hopefully) grasped the concept of "Power", it's onto Physics 201 and the definition of "Work" and its importance.

We know that in order to increase our overall cycling fitness we have to perform more work on the bike.  More work, rest and recovery makes us stronger...right?  Not necessarily.  For now, lets take a look at the Power component in our equation above.  You would think that if one pedals at say a relatively low power for a long time which would be the same as pedalling at a high power for a short time..that one would create the same amount of work and thus improve overall cycling performance...right?  

Not really..let me explain.  Here's an example:  Training ride 1- a 2 hour (120 minutes) ride at an average of 150 watts for a total Work of 1800 kJ.  Training ride 2- a 1 hour (60 minutes) ride at an average of 300 watts for a total Work of 1800 kJ.  Both training rides produce identical total work of 1800 kJ but the power or intensity produced during one ride (training ride 2) is double the other (training ride 1).  What's not clear in the Work equation (above) is that the higher, more intense, power training rides have more performance benefits.  i.e. the higher more intense workouts require higher force muscle contractions where more fast-twitch muscle fibers are recruited...in addition to 100% of the slow-twitch muscle fibers.  These muscle contractions are what makes your muscle stronger..thus making you FASTER on the bike.  It's the composition and work capacity of our muscles that is the limiting factor on how hard/fast we ride.

So, what's all this mean?  It means the "intensity" of the exercise (or training ride) and the "recovery" from that intense exercise is what makes you stronger..NOT just an overall High Work or workload...via high volume training.  It's what "hi-intensity" interval training is all about- High Power Short Time intervals.

Hell of Hunterdon- Saturday April 3, 2010

I don't normally advertise or showcase a charity or fun ride, but when it's a worthwhile ride and a friend (Brian Ignatin) is putting it on- I do!  So, what's this "Hell of Hunterdon" ride all about?  In short, the Hell of Hunterdon is a "fun challenging ride" through Hunterdon County, NJ.  The ride starts/finishes at Pure Energy Cycling in Lambertville, NJ.  What makes the "Hell of Hunterdon" ride unique is the terrain.  Modeled after the European Spring Classics..the Hell of Hunterdon course utilizes flat roads, hilly roads, paved roads, dirt roads, gravel roads and roads you probably didn't even think were roads..haha.  In addition to the terrain, the course is long (80 miles)- at least I think so- for the early-Spring.

The best part of the ride is the extended forecast for Saturday April 3rd- sunny, warm, dry, mid 70F. How's that for Staying Motivated?  (see prior blog).  See you on Saturday.

For more information on the ride, click on: http://www.hellofhunterdon.com/

Friday, March 26, 2010

Staying Motivated

Feeling blue?  Suffering from cabin fever?  Still getting over a chest cold?  Business travel wearing you down?  Nursing a bad back or other injury?  Functional Threshold Power not increasing fast enough?  Not losing those saddle bags around your waistline- quickly enough?  Don't feel like riding outside because it's still cold?  Starting to get sick of riding your indoor trainer?  Feeling sluggish when you do get out on the road?  Already get dropped on an early-season group ride?  If so, don't despair.  Other than getting dropped on an early-season group ride...I suffer from all of the above.  (BTW, I may have gotten dropped on an early-season group ride if I was motivated enough to join one..haha)  So, what do you do to stay motivated?  Here's what I do/recommend:

a.  START RACING!  No, I don't mean tomorrow....perhaps in 4-6 weeks.  That's plenty of time to get into racing shape..provided you've been working out over the Winter and building a good solid base/foundation.  Also, the weather at the end of April (beginning of May) will most likely be nicer/warmer than it is now.  I sure as hell hope so.  (If I see another snow flake I'm going to move to Key West, FL.)  So, check out the racing schedule/calendar and pick out a race 4-6 weeks away.  It will help you get through those higher-intensity workouts you SHOULD BE doing right now.

b. UPGRADE YOUR BIKE OR WARDROBE!  Yeah, I know it costs money and economically it probably isn't the best time..but if you upgrade some components on your bike you'll look forward to getting out on it more often.  And, you don't have to spend thousands of dollars on a new wheelset either.  Perhaps try a new seat?  A new compact crank or cassette?  A new cycling computer?  Or, maybe just change the bar tape on your handlebars.  If your bike is already spiffied up..how bout a new pair of racing shoes?  A new kit?  New helmet?  Remember- look good feel good..it works!

c. START TRACKING EVERYTHING!  Write it down...or make mental notes.  Keep track of what you eat...you're less apt to eat junk...and you'll see the pounds drop each week.  What better motivation than that?  I've already dropped 2 pounds in the last couple of weeks.  Keep track of all of your rides too..every single ride.  Download your cycling computer files.  Look at your power output, cadence, heart rate, etc.  Is your peak power increasing?  Is your fitness increasing?  I betcha it is.  

d. DO YOUR OWN THING!  Don't worry about what the OTHER guy/gal is doing.  Don't listen to the guy that tells you he's been riding 350 miles a week or that his FTP is already 1000 mega-watts.  Chances are, they don't have a structured game plan like you do.  Even if they do, perhaps their game plan is to do well in an early season race like Battenkill.  Maybe that's the reason you got smoked on your early-season group ride?  Besides, if some of these riders are near peak shape now (for a particular race)..you may be dropping them on group rides in May and June when you're peaking and they're burning out.  Besides, who cares what anyone else is doing.

e. RIDE OUTSIDE.  Whenever it's nice outside- RIDE..even if you have to play hooky from work.  (Don't tell your boss I said that).  Time to leave the indoor trainer behind.  Besides, there is NO SUBSTITUTE for riding your bike on the road...NONE!  And, as long as your outside- change it up.  Do some sprints..ride the HILLS.  If you want to get better at sprinting or hill-climbing..then you've got to sprint and ride the hills.  Also, find time each weekend to ride..even if it's only for an hour or two.  Me, I wait until it warms up a tad.  No need to start at 0730 when it's 40 deg F out.  (I never understood why people ride so early in the a.m. in the early Spring.  Do they have to work on the weekends?)

f. TRAINING RACES.  There is no better way to get ready to race then to enter some training races. NOW!  For those of you that live around me (Doylestown, PA area), there are training races in the Lehigh Valley (near Allentown-Bethlehem, PA) and in Greater Valley (out near King of Prussia, PA).  I'll be starting these next week on Thursday nights (Greater Valley)...that's if I'm in town and not on business travel.  Even if you travel as often as I do...check to see where they have local rides or races.  Perhaps you can throw your bike in the car and enter one.  I raced on Tuesday nights last year at a Navy base I frequent in the Wash DC area.  I also rode a weekly A-ride out of the Baltimore area that was more of a race than a ride.  We averaged 24 mph for an hour and half ride. it was almost like being in a race.  I even got dropped one time.

So, get outside and ride!  Doesn't matter whether you ride solo or in a group.  Personally, I like riding solo because I ALWAYS have a purpose for a particular ride..especially in the early Spring.  I'm usually riding the hills or doing LT workouts on the road to improve my FTP.  But, if you're more of a social group rider..that's fine too.  Just make sure there is SOME structure/purpose to the ride...instead of a free-for-all.  By just riding, the pounds will drop off your body...your performance will improve..you'll be ready for that race you signed up for...you'll be motivated and a smile will return to your face.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tools of the trade

I'm often asked by athletes if they should buy a Power Meter or not for training?  My answer...you guessed it:: it depends!  It depends on what you want to get out of your training.  Do you want to maximize the amount of training time you have?  If so, then yes..I think buying a Power Meter will definitely optimize your training time.  Do you want a tool that can measure cycling dosage?  Then absolutely, the PM is the tool for you.  Can you get by with a Heart Rate monitor alone for training?   Sure, cyclists got by (albeit not as well as today) before Power Meters came on the scene. 

Like a Heart Rate Monitor, the Power Meter is just another tool in the cyclists toolbox.  (Notice I said cyclists toolbox rather than cycling mechanics toolbox.  I don't think most cycling mechanics know what a PM is..haha).  And, just like the tools pictured above..each one has a specific purpose.  Just like you don't buy a screw driver to loosen a bolt..you wouldn't buy a Heart Rate Monitor to try and measure Power Output.  (Funny, nobody asks if they should buy a PM for racing.  I wonder why.  After all, some of your BEST power data comes from race day.)  

Power is a measure of cycling dosage (i.e. your output) and Heart Rate is a measure of response (to that particular output).  It's the most basic training paradigm I often talk about in my blogs- the dosage-repsonse paradigm. Does Power correlate well with Heart Rate?  Sure, my Lactate Threshold Heart Rate is consistent with my Threshold Power on long continuous rides. i.e. If I'm riding for 20 minutes at my present Threshold Power (FTP) of 260w I can pretty much bet that my LTHR will be 175 bpm +/- 5 bpm.  i.e. provided I'm properly hydrated, I'm not overheated, etc.  Does this correlation fall apart for shorter more intense efforts?  Absolutely.  That is why I don't recommend training with a Heart Rate monitor alone when doing hi-intensity interval work.  Your Heart Rate will lag.  The Heart Rate Monitor is NOT a substitute for a Power Meter..it has a different purpose.  One measures dosage and the other measures response.  Therefore, one tool actually compliments the other..rather than a replacement for.

When I ride (and race), you will almost always find me with both a Power Meter and Heart Rate monitor on my bike.  That is, my power output and heart rate are displayed on my cycling computer when I train and when I race.  Why? For the same reason I always look at my speedometer, tachometer and temp gauge when I drive my car.  I want to periodically monitor how things are running...especially if I'm driving my car hard/fast.  Likewise on the bike, if I'm pushing hard (high watts) I want to monitor what my heart rate is doing.  Is it staying level, drifting, escalating?  Can I power up or should I back it down?  In either case, driving a car or riding a bike HARD, I don't want to blow-up.  That's why I periodically monitor heart rate and power output when I train/race my bike.  Blow-up and it's game over..at least for that particular ride (car or bike).      

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lake Placid Training Camp

The Lake Placid Training Camp for 2010, will take place from May 21st-23rd in (you guessed it) Lake Placid, NY.  This is a development camp for both road cyclists and triathletes who want to get away for a long weekend and train on the Ironman Lake Placid USA course.  Lake Placid is a small picturesque town in the Adirondack Mtns of New York.  It's a great place to bring the entire family.  So if your spouse, kids, girlfriend/boyfriend doesn't ride, there are plenty of things to see and do.  For you cyclists/triathletes, there isn't a better place to train.  In the past, the weather has been beautiful- warm, sunny days, with temps in the high 60s, low 70s.  I don't expect anything different this year.  This will be my 3rd year in a row..and a trip I ALWAYS look forward to. 

Training in/on the hills of IMLP will get your early season legs in-shape.  And, for you masochists..if you want more hills than what the IMLP course offers- you can do the 8 mile-8 percent Whiteface Mtn. hill climb.  I only did 5 miles of the 8 miles last year and that was enough for me..but Coach Todd and Rick Fesler did all 8.  Actually, I was smart enough to start 3 miles into the climb as I knew all 8 miles would be a lot for a 50 yr. old guy with a bad back.  The older I get the smarter I get.

Speaking of Rick Fesler, Rick will be back for 2010 helping Todd and I with Camp.  Rick was ranked 11th overall at the '09 Tri Nationals.  If you want to see somebody climb hills better than a billy goat...watch Rick.  I have never seen a rider climb like he does..so fast and so effortlessly.  In fact, Rick is not only a great hill climber..he's fast on the flats too.  In the aero bars of his TT bike..I don't know if anyone locally could keep up with him.  (Yes, he's that fast.)  Any takers..for beer?

I don't need to say much about former Ironman Triathlon Pro Todd Wiley...other than, when it comes to Triathlon Coaching..you won't find too many guys with as much hands-on experience. 

Ok, so what do you get at Camp..and what does it cost?  You get:
a.  Classroom instruction and personalized on-the-road instruction
b.  Instruction on how to properly pace and race IMLP
c.  Instruction on Nutrition for racing IMLP
d.  Instruction on how a Power Meter can help you train and race smart
e.  Instruction on the proper Equipment and bike gearing
f.  Instruction on Bike Fit and Position
g.  On-the-road action photos of your aero position
h.  Power Tap/Wheel demonstration
i.  Friendly atmosphere where you can meet new people (and possibly future training partners)
j.  Sag support for all road workouts
k. Dinner for one night
l.  T-shirt and giveaways
m.  Assistance for any personal racing/training needs
n.  Instruction by Certified USAT and USAC Coaches
o. Lots More!

What it costs?  $125 for TWiley Sports coached athletes and $195 for non-TWiley Sports athletes.  This does NOT include lodging at the host hotel which is the Northwoods Inn.  I know some people are not crazy about the Northwoods Inn, because it's old, but I've NEVER had a complaint.  The rooms are BIG, the higher rooms have a nice view of Mirror Lake, they're clean (never saw a roach yet..haha), and the hotel is BIKE friendly.  That is, you can roll your bike in/out at any time without any problems.  I'm not sure what the rates are right now (last year they were a little over $100/night- which isn't bad at all) but I'm sure Todd will get a group rate in the same ballpark. 

So, whether you're interested in training to prepare for IMLP or just looking for a nice hilly venue to get your cycling legs in-shape..Lake Placid is the place.  For more information, you can email me or Todd Wiley at: Todd@TWileySports.com  This is the first of two blogs on LP Training Camp.  Next month, I'll post more details.  If you need to hitch a ride with someone let me know and we'll try to hook you up.  Coach Rob

Specificity of Training

Specificity of Training..so what is it and why is it so important?  In a nutshell, the Specificity Principles says, "if you want to be good at something..you've got to do THAT thing".  Sounds pretty simple huh?  Well, it is..but yet I see a LOT of athletes using alternative methods of training to help them improve in their specific sport.  For example, I see Triathletes jumping in Criteriums or Road Races in hope of improving their Triathlon bike split.  More specific, I see Criterium racers entering Road Races thinking that Crits will improve their Road Racing performance..even though in a Crit you spend 90% of your time in the drops and a Road Race 90% of your time on the hoods.  It's a different position utilizing different muscles.  Well, maybe not different muscles but different parts of the muscle.  i.e. one position may be utilizing the Vastus Intermedius (the upper portion of the Quad) more while the other position may be utilizing the Vastus Medialis (the lower inside portion of the Quad).  I realize it may not be such a big deal/difference for a Crit versus a Road Race but there is quite a difference between a Road Bike in a road race and a Time Trial Bike in a time trial.  I don't have the data to support this statement..but I'll bet anyone that buys a TT bike for the first time will have a lower power output on the TT bike as compared to their road bike.  I'm not saying they won't be faster on the TT bike, I'm just saying their power output will be less.  Any takers? (for a beer).  Spend enough time training on the TT bike and it may go the other way- you'll produce more power on the TT bike in the TT position than the road bike position.

Ok, so where am I going with this blog?  The intent/purpose of this blog is to simply tell you, if you want to improve performance in races..then you should not only be practicing on the SAME equipment as the race, but in the SAME position under the SAME conditions as the race will be run.  i.e. for a road race you should be practicing on your road bike, alternating positions between the hoods, drops, etc. while you ride and practicing on similar terrain.  If your road race is being raced on a hilly course..then you should be practicing on a hilly course.  For you Time Trialers, you should practicing on your TT bike, in your TT position, on similar terrain as your TT. 

You'll notice I said you should be practicing under the SAME conditions.  That just doesn't refer to the "terrain" of the course but also the "power output demands" of the course.  If you know that your 3 mile road race loop has a 1/2 mile hill that's at a 10% grade...you SHOULD be prepared for it.  Perhaps a good indoor training workout for such a course would be an 8x3 @L5 3RI interval workout..simulating 5 loops of the race where you're at VO2max for 3 minutes while you're climbing the hill.  Better yet, if you have prior power meter data on each race (like I do)..you know that, for example, at the Mount Joy race you had better be able to maintain 300w for 2 minutes (as a minimum) while you're climbing the hill (for 5x)..otherwise you'll be dropped. 

The closer you get to race day, the closer you should be trying to replicate the actual race conditions during training.  That is why for all the athletes I coach, interval workouts leading up to a particular race will closely mimic the demands of the race..including doing them outside on the road.  That is unless you recently started your Annual Training Plan.  I'm not going to give an athlete a series of VO2max interval workouts a month or two into their Annual Training Plan...even if they do have a race approaching.  I'm a proponent of building a good base as a foundation for the harder more intense workouts to come...for a LOT of reasons.  And, more importantly to get the athlete ready for their "A" race which isn't usually until the May-June timeframe.  Early races should be "training" races in my opinion.  It's awfully difficult to maintain a high level of intensity (required to podium during a race) throughout the entire race season.  It'll be interesting to see how the guys that are podiuming now are doing in June.  Unless they are new to racing, or should have upgraded, I'll bet they aren't doing as well.  BTW, I haven't lost a beer bet yet.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cat 5 Racing

Ok, so you're new to racing and you want to upgrade from Cat 5 to Cat 4?  Or, perhaps you've got your very first Cat 5 race coming up soon.  Regardless, here's a few tips for you newbies:

1. Are you registered?  If so, don't forget to bring your license with you the day of the race.  No license..No racing. 
2. Do you have directions to the race?  Don't rely on GPS alone.  Bring a map along with you too.
3. Equipment ready?  Is your bike working properly?  Lubed up and clean?  Don't be making any last minute changes to equipment.  That includes tires.  Do you have an extra wheelset you can bring for a Crit?  Got your HR monitor and Power Meter?  Got the right gearing for the race?
4. Get to your race early.  Don't rush to your race.  Leave early and arrive early so you can get a parking spot close to the start/finish line.  Relax and warm-up on the trainer. 
5. Know the course.  If you haven't been to the race venue before, ride the course.  If you can't ride the course ahead of time, at least go to Google Earth and check out the elevation profile.  Nobody likes surprises the day of the race.  Are there any obstacles on the course?  What's the length?  How many laps for your race.
6. Is there a lap counter?  Where is it? 
7. Are there primes?  Pronounced "preems".  Which laps?
8. What's the weather going to be like?  Any chance of rain?  Hot/cold?  Be prepared.
9. Where should I start?..in the front...in the back?  If this is your very first race..stay in the back until you feel comfortable moving up.  If you're a strong or seasoned Cat 5..start up front.  No sense having to move-up positions during the race if you don't have to.
10.  Where is the 200-300m marker?  It's nice to know when you should start your sprint for the finish line. 
11. Nutrition? Are you adequately fueled and hydrated for your race?  Water bottles?
12. Porta-potties..where are they?  You're going to use it sooner or later.
13. Be confident!

1. Conserve Energy..stay in the pack and draft as often as you can.  Stay out of the wind.
2. Keep track of laps..know when the primes are.  More importantly, know when the bell lap is.
3. Pick a line..preferably a smooth and fast line through the course..avoiding all obstacles.
4. Move-up early and often.  If you don't move up (in the pack) early you won't be able to later in the race when the pace quickens.
5. Where does the pack slow-up and accelerate on each lap?  Don't get accordian'd off the back.  Bridging gaps requires a LOT of energy.
6. Pace yourself.  You don't want to go too hard or you'll blow-up.
7. NEVER give up!
8. If there's a breakaway (and you're not in it)..work with others to bring em back.
9. Be Safe!  Don't do anything stupid.  Hold your line.
10.  Have fun!  Isn't this why you're racing?

1. Cool-down
2. Be thankful to judges, volunteers, etc.  If it wasn't for them..you wouldn't be racing.
3. Be Social!
4.  Phone home!  Let em know you're ok and that you had fun.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Not all Endurance Training is low intensity

There are three types of "Endurance" Training workouts for cyclists.  Each workout is intended to develop a particular energy system to meet the demands of a cycling event.  They are: Aerobic Endurance, Muscular Endurance and Anaerobic Endurance workouts.

Aerobic Endurance workouts are normally long (2-3 hr.) continuous Tempo Level (L3) workouts.  The purpose of the Aerobic Endurance workouts (at least the ones I prescribe) is to train your body to burn fat for energy (sparing carbs) and to establish a solid base/foundation for future hi-intensity workouts.   Yes, I know that these traditional low-intensity "base miles", as they're normally referred to, may actually cause the muscle endurance fibers (Type I) to shrink and lose strength.  But, that's only if you log a high volume of miles in the base/build phase of your Annual Training Plan (ATP) without incorporating any Anaerobic workouts.  Besides, in the Northeast where I (and most of the athletes I coach) live..it's kind of hard to log a high volume of miles outdoors on the bike and/or indoors on the trainer in the December-January timeframe. The weather outside is just uncooperative at times and indoor training sucks...so the training time is minimized.  That's right..I said indoor training "sucks".  And, anyone that likes it ought to get their heads checked out.  And, this is coming from a guy that has one of the best indoor virtual reality trainers money can buy.

The Muscular Endurance workouts are normally interval workouts where the interval lengths vary from 10-20 minutes long in the Threshold (L4) range.  These workouts are conducted at near hi-intensity and normally commence in the January-February timeframe of the Annual Training Plan (ATP).  These are great workouts that not only develop your Type I (slow-twitch) muscle fibers but start to recruit (and develop) your Type IIa (fast-twitch) muscle fibers as well.  Race performance depends upon the quality of Type IIa muscle fibers.  Because of their versatility, high force production, and resistance to fatigue, the Type IIa fibers are THE fibers to develop for bicycle racing.  Now, for the athletes I coach, you know why I prescribe so many Muscular Endurance (and Power) workouts in your Annual Training Plan (ATP).  The Power workouts, in the VO2max (L5) range, are normally 3-5 minutes in duration.  At this intensity, the Type IIa muscle fibers are being fully recruited.

The Anaerobic Endurance workouts are interval workouts where the interval lengths normally range anywhere from 15s to 30s in duration in the Anaerobic (L6) range.  These workouts are hi-intensity workouts that increase cycling performance through maximal muscle-fiber recruitment.  I like to reserve these workouts for later in the season- like the beginning of March. Why?  I'll tell you later in the blog.  The Anaerobic Endurance workouts develop your Type IIb muscle fibers.  Brief bursts of intense, powerful energy, such as the final sprint of a race, utilize Type IIb muscle fibers.

So, with all the benefits from the high-intensity Muscular and Anaerobic Endurance workouts...why don't we just do em all the time and forget about the low-intensity Aerobic Endurance workouts?  I'll tell you why..because they suck...they hurt...they ARE Painful with a capital "P".  And, even if you can SUCK IT UP (the pain that is)..you just can't jump into them right away or you risk injurying yourself.  Remember, these are HIGH-intensity workouts with a lot of Force & Speed (which equals Power) applied to the bike pedals.  I already told you that riding an indoor trainer sucks..try doing Anaerobic Capacity workouts (like Tabata Intervals) on an indoor trainer.  It will bring new meaning to the word "SUCK".  And, the only thing worse than doing a Tabata Interval workout is doing a couple of Tabata Interval workouts a week...mixed in with other workouts.  You do these too soon, that is too early in the ATP, and you'll burn-out in a hearbeat.  If you don't know what a Tabata Interval workout is- Google it or ask one of the athletes I coach who have already started them.  Hey Jason, how do you like Tabata Intervals?  Better yet, try a Tabata Interval yourself.  Oh, I wouldn't recommend doing a Tabata Interval when you're out of shape unless you have an AED nearby and somebody that knows how to use it to jump start your heart when you fall off the bike.  I'm serious.  (AED= Automated External Defibrillator)

Before you conduct any hi-intensity workout..you better know (with pretty high accuracy) what your power zones/levels are...otherwise, you're wasting your time.  You can find your zones/levels by conducting a Lab or Field Test with a Cycling Ergometer.  If you're an athlete I coach..I offer these Lab Tests FREE (after your initial FTP test).  Power Meters make it so much easier to produce the correct workload during hi-intensity interval workouts.  If you don't have one, this may be a GOOD TIME to invest in one.  You just can't measure your high power workload effectively/accurately using a Heart Rate monitor or by using RPE. Power ON! Coach Rob

Monday, March 15, 2010

Energy Balance

Yes, another weight-loss blog.  I can't stress how important your power-to-weight  (w/kg) ratio is for improving performance on the bike.  In a previous blog, I had quoted, "Calories In=Calories Out"...implying that Weight Loss is nothing but a balance of Calories In versus Calories Out.  That is, if Calories In exceeds Calories Out you gain weight..and vice-versa. Well, it's NOT really that simple because the Calories Out is REALLY comprised of the Calories you burn through exercise PLUS calories burned through your basal metabolic rate.  Therefore, the equation should instead read:


Why is this so important?  If you reduce your caloric intake, and burn more calories than you consume, you'd assume you'd lose weight...right?  Well, not excactly.  Your body is pretty smart.  If your body senses that your caloric intake is not sufficient for the caloric use, the basal metabolic rate will slow down (decrease).  That's because your body does NOT like change...it strives to maintain a balance.  I wish I could say that for my appetite (in-balance)...since it seems like I'm always hungry...and my body is crying out: FEED ME.  My body is ALWAYS jonesing for food.  That's because of my exercise routine and the fact that you can't go anywhere these days where you don't either see or smell food.  Hell, it's even on my TV at home at least an hour a day (Food Network).
By the way, BMR is synonymous with Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR).  It's the amount of calories your body burns while at complete rest.  You can have your BMR tested at most health/fitness studios.  I've had mine tested ($50) in the past and my RMR/BMR=1500 calories.  That is, my body would burn 1500 calories per day if I just sat on my a$$.  And, BMR is different for everyone.  Some people have a high BMR (the lucky ones) and some have low BMRs (most of us).  And, more bad news, the older we get the lower our BMR becomes.  The good news is, we can raise our BMR through the right exercise and nutrition.  Yes, there are some foods that will boost your BMR.  If I remember correctly, there was a study done years ago with Almonds.  In the study, the test group ate an additional 500 calories per day in almonds for 6-8 weeks.  At the end of 8 weeks not one test subject gained weight.  BTW, if you want to know which foods will increase your BMR, you have to read, "THE ABS DIET".  It's really not a diet book but a book of foods to eat that will help you lose weight because they increase the body's BMR...in addition to fueling the body and being good for you.

In addition to proper nutrition, you can lose weight with a specific exercise routine.  We already know (I hope) that fat is maximally burned in a zone that corresponds to 65% of HRmax.  But, did you know that High Intensity Exercise/Training will not only burn fat but will increase your BMR?  It does.  That is why I end up losing most of my weight this time of year.  It's because my exercise routine becomes more intense..not only on the bike but in the gym.  Unlike low intensity training (the 65% HRmax training) where your fat burning ceases immediately upon finishing your workout, with high-intensity training..you're still burning calories out of the gym and off the bike.  High Intensity Training (HIT) increases your thyroid hormone, growth hormone and testosterone level...all responsible for weight loss.  Tis the season for HIT.

Stay tuned for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) blogs..coming soon.  Until then, Power ON! Coach Rob

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tired of fixing flat Tires?

My blog from the other day, where I mentioned potholes, made me think about fixing my flat tire where a sharp stone/rock had penetrated the sidewall of my Continental Grand Prix 4000 tire...essentially ruining the tire.  And, as WE all know..tires aren't cheap..unless you buy cheap tires.  If you REALLY want a good training tire, especially for this time of year that has a beefed up sidewall and excellent puncture resistance..you can't go wrong with Continental Grand Prix's 4 Season Tire.  Check it out:  http://www.conti-online.com/generator/www/de/en/continental/bicycle/themes/race/recetyres/grand_prix_4_season/gp4season_en.html 

Additionally, if you want an excellent all-around tire you can train and race on, you can't go wrong with Continental's Grand Prix 4000S.  It's what I ride exclusively.  Why?  Because I think I've ridden just about every other tire on the market (without much luck) and Conti's give me everything I want: good puncture resistance, good tire wear, good traction on dry and wet roads, low rolling resistance, etc.   I'm not here to bash other Tire Manufacturers but there IS a lot of junk out there.  And, if you want good advice on tire durability and puncture resistance..just ask any rider over 195 lbs. what they like/ride.  Lets face it, you under 150 pounders could probably ride a set of thin lightweight racing tires all year long and not get one flat.


And, No, I'm not a rep for Continental tires..so I don't get anything from advertising.  As I said before, in my Garmin Edge 500 blog, I'm just passing on to the masses what truly pleases me in the cycling world..and Continental Tires are the way to go- as far as I'm concerned.  Hey, they're made in Germany where some of the best automobilies in the world are made: Porsche, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, etc.  Need I say more?  Cheers Heir Muller (aka Coach Rob)

Optimize Training to Reduce Body Fat

Here's a recommended read, "Optimize Training to Reduce Body Fat", by Dr. Rick Koutaff.  http://blog.trainingpeaks.com/2010/03/optimize-training-to-reduce-body-fat-by-dr-rick-kattouf.html  The reason I'm recommending it is because there are a LOT of athletes out there (myself included) that are trying to lose body fat (weight) while improving their strength/power on the bike.  After all, isn't that what it's all about- a HIGH w/kg?  i.e. increasing "w" and decreasing "kg"?  Well it is! 

The only part of the article I don't buy into completely, is the paragraph entitled "Heart Rate Training" where Rick says, "Outside of any specific anaerobic/high heart rate/speed workouts you are doing, be sure to keep your heart rate in an aerobic zone in order to maximize fat burning."  Yes, keeping your HR in the "Tempo/Endurance" zone will burn the highest percentage of fat (as compared to carbs & protein)..but it won't burn the highest volume of fat.  Additionally, when you stop training in the "Tempo/Endurance" zone (and we're talking L2/L3 zones here) your body stops burning fat IMMEDIATELY..unlike training in the higher anaerobic zones where your body continues to burn fat long after the workout is complete.  That is why you'll read articles professing that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts are good for burning fat.  They are! 

Lastly, I can't stress the importance of a weight training (resistance) program (not just in the off-season but throughout the year)..even if it's only to maintain the muscle you already have.  Lets face it, the older WE get the more the body loses muscle mass just through the ageing process.  I think I recall reading, from a reputable source, that after age 40 our body loses 1% muscle mass per year.  (I'm sure that's for sedentary people)  So, by age 60 you'll have lost 20% of your muscle mass that you had at age 40.  (That's another good reason to stay on-top of a weight training program.)  Think about that for a moment.  Here you are training to get stronger on the bike, and your biological clock is making you weaker.  That doesn't mean you need to run out and join a gym and start doing bench presses, squats, etc. with a thousand pounds on the rack.  There's a lot you can do at home with a swiss ball and a set of dumbbells. 

For the athletes I coach, I have a GOOD weight training program specifically designed for cyclists.  Email me: mullerrj@comcast.net and I'll send you a copy.  Oh, and the best part about weight training is (just like HIIT intervals) you will continue to burn fat AFTER the workout is over.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pothole Dodging

"Pothole Dodging"...sounds like a sport doesn't it?  Well, it pretty much is this time of year whether you drive a car or ride a bike.  And, nothing will trash your NEW $2000 carbon clincher wheelset than taking your eye off the road (for just a split second) and landing in one.  So, let this be a WARNING to you especially if you ride at night or ride in a pace line and don't have a clear view of the road.  Yes, we all know that the lead dog in a pace line should be pointing these things out..but if you're the last of 10 in a pace line it's sorta like playing "whisper down the line".  By the time the message gets to you..it won't make sense and you'll probably already have found it.  Even if you do have a clear view of the road, it's hard to discern potholes from shadows under the trees during a sunny day.

In addition to "Pothole Dodging" you're going to have to beware of sand, gravel, salt, junk, etc. on the roads leftover from the winter snow removal trucks/plows.  Just tonight, I blew-out a piece of sidewall from my rear tire on a sharp rock when making a long sweeping turn on the side of the road.  I'm pretty lucky I didn't go down since I was going about 20 mph.  I was able to pump up a new tube throw a dollar bill in-between the tube and tire, to keep the tube from protruding out the hole of my tire, and make it back to my hotel safely.  So, let this be WARNING #2.  When you ride, I'd cheat more to the center of the road.  Yeah, I know you're thinking I'm NUTS you'll get run over...but statistically speaking..less cyclists are hit/injured when they use up more of the road than when they hug the white line (on the right side of the road).  I don't mean to ride in the middle of the road...just cheat a little more to the center.  Wait until the Spring rains clear the salt, sand, pebbles, rocks, etc. from the sides of the road before you ride on the white line..or to the right of it. 

Lastly, for you local guys/gals, if you know of a road that is "Pothole City" like the photo above...add it in the comment link at the bottom of this blog (next to the pencil).  I'll tell you one road I will DEFINITELY stay off of until they fix it is Fleecydale Rd. a very heavily used cycling road that runs in-between Carversville Rd. and River Rd.  It's a FREAKIN' mess.  Even if you can "Dodge the Potholes" on your bike try dodging the cars coming the other way that are playing "Pothole Dodging" too.

Power ON! Coach Rob

Garmin Edge 500

I don't normally review products on my coaches blog but when I buy a product that REALLY pleases me (which is hard to do) I like to share it with the masses.  Let me introduce the Garmin Edge 500 bicycle computer.  I don't know the real story about the history/development of this computer but I seem to remember the Garmin-Slipstream Pro Cycling Team complaining about the size of the Garmin Edge 705 when it was introduced and mounted to the stem of every one of their team bikes.  Additionally, they said GPS is a nice feature but they really don't need a cycling computer telling them where to turn during the Tour de France Stages.  Thus, the creation of the 500...a small lightweight cycling computer with built in GPS that talks to Power Meters.

I'm not going to give you a blow-by-blow description of how the Edge 500 works or list its many features (you can Google "Garmin Edge 500" and get that information.)  Instead, I'm going to tell you what I like about it and what I think you'll like about it too.  Here's the list:
a. It's relatively inexpensive for a cycling computer that tells you EVERYTHING you want to know during your ride.  I mean everything..including GPS functionality.  The base Computer unit (no sensors) costs $250 (MSRP).  The full kit including Computer, HR monitor, Cadence/ Speed Sensor costs $350.
b. It talks to Power Meters that utilize the ANT+ Sport protocol such as Power Tap, iBike, Quarq, SRM, etc.  For me, it replaced the ugly yellow head unit computer for my Power Tap Wheel/Hub that showed limited ride data.
c.  I already mentioned GPS data.  It won't give you turn by turn directions (like the Edge 705) but it will track your ride and get you home.  When you get home you can download the data onto Google Earth and see where you rode.  If you have Training Peaks WKO+ software it will even show you the hill (on the map) that you broke a 5 min. peak power record on.
d. The computer allows you to customize the screen.  For me, I display Power, HR, Cadence, Speed, Distance and Time of Day when I ride.  There is no need to scroll through screens.  All the data I want to see is displayed on one screen. I set it, and never touch it again.
e. It has an ON/OFF power button.  You'd be surprised how many bike computers just time out after so many minutes of inactivity and turn off.
f. It has an internal rechargeable Lithium Ion battery that lasts a loooooooooong time.  The main screen has a battery meter that tells you what condition the battery is when you power it ON.
g. It's small (almost half the size of the Garmin Edge 705) and lightweight and has a nice removable mount for your handlebar stem so you can easily swap it from bike to bike.
h. It has a USB port for downloading information into Training Peaks WKO+ software.
i. Weatherproof 
j. It's VERY EASY to use..in a caveman can operate it.

I could go on and on..that's how much I like this cycling computer.  And, I am NOT sponsored by Garmin in any way....so don't think I'm just giving a sponsor's pep talk.  I have to pay the same price you do.  Well, maybe 15% less..but I'd still pay the full price if I didn't get a discount. 

Hey, don't take my word for it...check one out at your local bike shop. Or, better yet..attend the Endurance Sports Expo this weekend (outside of Philly) because I think Garmin (or somebody) is giving a seminar/clinic on the Garmin Edge 500.

Power ON! Coach Rob

Monday, March 8, 2010

USA Cycling Officials

If you've been racing for some time, and you live in the Mid-Atlantic region, you'll recognize the woman in this picture.  If not, it's Ellen Dorsey, UCI National Commissaire (that's an Official for those of you that don't know what a Commissaire is). from Bethlehem, PA.   I've had the pleasure (and honor) to work with Ellen this past weekend at the ECCC College Racing Series at Rutgers University.  (That is, in addition to working and learning under other officials who I have a lot of respect for including: Judy Miller, Alan Atwood, Rob Hendricks, etc.)  You guys/gals that race have NO IDEA how hard these officials work, including behind the scenes, before, during and AFTER the race.

Look at the photo of Ellen above.  You think she just flips the lap cards each lap of a Crit Race and rings the bell on the final lap.  Right?  Nope!  The reason she's looking left is because she's memorizing the numbers of each racer as they fly by at 25+ mph.  She has to write them all down for EVERY lap of the race.  And, I'm not talking a couple numbers I'm talking up to as many as eight numbers.  That's right, 8 numbers.  I'm lucky if I can memorize 3.  (Now you guys/gals know why it's so IMPORTANT that your bib numbers are displayed properly and not bent, crinkled, mutilated, etc.?)  In addition to memorizing bib numbers she is also timing NOT ONLY the lap times but the splits in groups for each lap...so she can see if groups are gaining or losing ground on the lead group/break.  And, this is not done automatically this is done by a stopwatch that is hanging around her neck (that you can't see in the photo). That's not it folks..in addition to doing that, she's also keeping track of lapped riders and riders that enter and leave the "wheel pit" as well as riders that crash and/or pull out of the race.  There is no time for lunch breaks and no time for potty breaks either.  When the race is ON..you're busy (non-stop) for the entire race.  BTW, Ellen is one of the nicest women I have ever met..so be nice to her.

Next time you guys/gals race..don't forget to stop at the Officials table before you leave for the day and thank the Officials for doing their best to conduct a SAFE and FAIR race for all.  They really like hearing that.  Trust me, there isn't an Official out there doing it for the money.  They're doing it for you and the love of the sport.  For that matter, thank ALL of the volunteers that are helping out with the race.  I'm sure there are plenty of other things they'd rather be doing that day than watching you race around in your spandex cycling tights.

Power ON! Coach Rob

Endurance Sports Expo..this weekend!

Is cycling an "endurance" sport?  ABSOLUTELY..unless you're a (short) track sprinter.  Even if you ARE a track sprinter- come and see and talk to Marty Nothstein, Trexlertown great, and former World Champion track cyclist...at this weekends Endurance Sports Expo in Oaks, PA (outside of Philly).  http://www.endurancesportsexpo.com/  I'll be there both days.  I was going to do a seminar/clinic on Power Training, but thought it would be BETTER to hear from the experts at Training Peaks.com instead.  So, I convinced Chip Homeier (organizer) to get in touch with the folks from Training Peaks.  I thought we could get Hunter Allen in attendance, but he had a prior committment.  But, TP is sending Tim Cusick from the Harrisburg, PA area...and I'm sure you can learn a lot from him.

Ok, what do I recommend you do at the Sports Expo?  Attend the FREE University Seminars.  That's right FREE.  You can shop/browse/fraternize/etc. in-between the Seminars.  Here is one weekend where you may want to put your training or racing on-hold.  Or, if you have a friend that is going to the show..throw an extra set of clothes, shoes, etc. in his/her car and ride your bike there (weather permitting).

Here is what I HIGHLY recommend you see on both days of the Endurance Sports Expo.  It's where I'll be:
1pm- Room A, Youth and Junior Training and Racing for Triathlon- with my good friend Professional Triathlete and USAT Certified Coach Todd Wiley
1pm- Room C, VO2max Training: Learn about VO2max and how training with specific bursts of High Intensity will help any athlete do better- by Dr. Michael Ross.  Michael is not only an MD, but a world class cycling coach in addition to author.  I hope he brings some of his books for you to buy entitled: Maximum Performance for Cyclists.  It's a must have reference.  I've traded emails with Dr. Ross years ago, when I started Performance Testing.  In fact, Dr. Ross was instrumental in getting me started in Performance Testing and Coaching. 
2pm- Room A, Pro Panel Discussion- Marty Nothstein, Todd Wiley, et. al- come see and talk to the Pros
3pm- Room A, Introduction to Power Training- Tim Cusick of Peaks Training Group
4pm- Room D, Nutrition pre, during and post exercise- given by my good friend and elite amateur Triathlete Chris Ganter.  Chris is one of the top amateur (age-group) Triathletes in the country.

11am- Room A, Power Training to Raise your Lactate Threshold- Tim Cusick of Peaks Training Group
1pm- Room C, Scientific and Medical Approach to training- Dr. Michael Ross

So, get out this weekend and head over to the first Endurance Sprots Expo in the Philly area that will be a HUGE success (since it's already sold out of exhibitor space and since I know it will be) and will surely be an annual event of the future. 

BTW, these are JUST the seminars I will be attending because I'm a coach/racer and are of particular interest to me.  There are many more Seminars to choose from, including "Pro Cycle Fit" from my friend Steve Hawkins of High Road Cycles and "Preventing Running Injuries by Improving Bio-Mechancis" from my friend Johnny King-Marino.  I will probably be dropping in/out to see my friends.  I wish I could see them all, except a lot of the FREE Seminars are going-on concurrently.
Power ON! Coach Rob

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Spring Racing Training

I've been getting a lot of requests lately from NEW riders/raers wanting to train and learn from more EXPERIENCED riders/racers.  It seems like a lot of NEW riders/racers are tired of their local group rides consisting of "wanna-be pros" who don't race but treat the group ride like it's a Stage of the Tour de France...complete with attitudes.  I can't say I blame them.  It's probably the reason why I do the majority of my training on my own or with other riders/racers that are much more stronger and experienced than me.  You can ALWAYS learn something by just following an experienced rider: a bunny hop to avoid a pot hole, a track stand at an intersection, how to pace yourself on a hill, etc.

Therefore, what I'm going to do is get together with some of the top racers/coaches/cycling experts in the area and see if we can't schedule the following this Spring.  Our Spring Training Series.  Perhaps a weekly 2 hr. "on-the-road" class (after work or on the weekends that would run from April through May) that would ready you for the racing season and include:

a. bike handling skills like hopping obstacles, track stands, picking up objects, sharp turns, contact drills, looking back, shoulder/elbow bumping,  etc.
b. group-riding etiquette
c. group fun ride
d. hi-speed paceline riding and rules
e. how to do interval workouts correctly on the road & where to do them
f. hill climbing- maybe even a timed hill climb race..know why w/kg is KEY!
g. motor-pacing training
h. local practice mini-crits to ready you for the weekend race
i. how to prepare for a road race, criterium or Time Trial
j. race day tactics
k. how to race/train with a power meter
l. how to ride safe on your own and in groups
m. learn race day rules
n. nutrition tips/advice

If you have any other ideas/suggestions..shoot them my way.  mullerrj@comcast.net   We'll have to charge a fee for the service/class but we'll keep it low ($10/class) and we'll make it fun.  (If we can't run it weekly perhaps every 2 weeks.)  So, not only will you improve your bike riding..you'll get to meet some great people that are more interested in improving their bike skills than they are impressing people on a local group ride.  You'll have a LOT more fun too...trust me.

This "on-the-road" class will be for any race club rider or recreational rider that is interested in racing and riding safer, faster and improving their bike handling skills.  The classes will also make you stronger because they'll include interval workouts as well as bike handling skills/drills.

Power ON! Coach Rob

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rule of the day!

Since I'll be racing AND officiating this year... I figure what better way to "learn the rules" than to post them from time-to-time as a review. This will not only keep me sharp but it will also benefit YOU! The rules will be italicized and printed word-for-word from the 2010 USA Cycling Rule Book- which you can find online from the USA Cycling website.

Ok, here is one that is used and "abused" at every race I've been to (even by me in the past):

Rule 1N7. Racing Numbers:
"Numbers may not be folded, trimmed, crumpled, or otherwise defaced. [Replacement of the numbers at riders' expense if noted before the start, otherwise warning or relegation.]"

Rule 1A32. Relegation:
"Relegation is a penalty consisting of loss of position, points or time, depending on the type of race. It may be against a rider, a team or both. Relegation of support personnel in a road race consists of placing their vehicle farther back in the caravan."

Yes, I've crumpled my number up before a race because I hate hearing it flapping in the breeze regardless of how many pins I pin it down with. Why is this NOT permitted? My guess is because it could make it harder for the officials to see. After all, most racers are zipping past the officials at 25+ mph and it probably is harder to see the number if it's folded or crumpled versus flat. Also, as an event photographer that posts photos online by race number..it's MUCH easier to see a number correctly positioned and NOT crumpled, folded, or trimmed.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cat UP?

So you think you're a good road racer..and you want to upgrade a category eh? Do you know what it takes to upgrade to the next category? Here is what you need to do to upgrade:

Now, the most logical question (at least I think so) is how to get upgrade points. Here is how:

March Madness

It's March...and for me..springtime can't come quick enough. For a lot of sports fans, March is "March Madness" month..time for the NCAA College Basketball Championships. For me, "March Madness" is not only watching hoops on TV but also "crunch-time"...a time to start ramping up the intensity of cycling workouts.

If you started your Annual Training Plan (ATP) in December of 2009, March of 2010 is the month to be working on your Anaerobic Endurance (AE), Muscular Endurance (ME) and Power. If you're an athlete I coach, you'll notice that the majority of your March workouts are at the L4 (Threshold) Level. That is NOT to say, you won't see the long Tempo/Endurance workouts scheduled or the L5 (VO2max) workouts. It's just that you'll see more L4 workouts than normal. And, not only will you see more L4 workouts, you'll notice that the duration of the L4 workouts will have increased....both interval duration and set duration. Don't be surprised if you see a 3x20 @L4 March is also the month I start introducing Micro Intervals (MI) into the ATP.

Speaking of MIs, here is a great power tip from my friend Hunter Allen:


Micro-intervals (MI's) are short, on-off bursts which allow one to intermittently work at a power output which is much higher than could be performed continuously. MI's are performed in an "on & off" manner over a longer, continuous duration, although other variations exist. The high power output during the "on" part of the intervals then accumulates into a significant amount of total, high-power stimulus to one's body.

Micro-intervals are intervals done at 150% of your threshold power for the 'ON' period, which only lasts 15 seconds. The 'OFF' period is also 15 seconds and done at 50% of your threshold power. I recommend these to be done in blocks of 10 minutes each, in order to keep focused and also allow for multiple blocks.

This workout directly addresses your neuromuscular power, or the ability to contract and relax your muscles quickly. This is an essential component of cycling in which short sprints out of corners in criteriums, quick speed changes in the peloton and hard uphill bursts are the norm. Since you are riding at 150% and 50% of your threshold power for each block, your average watts for the entire block should equal 100% of your threshold power.

One of the nice side benefits of this workout is that not only do you stress the neuromuscular system, but you also stress the Lactate threshold system, giving you the benefit of improving your overall fitness, without too much work at threshold power. (If you spend too much time at threshold power in the winter, you might risk becoming a 'January Star'.)

For those of you that started your ATP later in the season...PLEASE DO NOT start any of the more intense L4 or L5 workouts now. I know you probably want to jump right into the aforementioned workouts but DON'T. You're only asking for a setback of one type or another- TRUST ME. Stick with your plan...that is..continue working on your Force, Endurance and Speed Workouts. These workouts are all necessary for you to achieve your 2010 goals. It's like money in the bank.

Power ON! Coach Rob