Friday, December 30, 2011

Pain Cave Basics

Lets face it..NOBODY likes working out indoors when they can train outdoors.  I don't.  But, there are times/days in the Winter when you'll be forced to- train indoors.  For those days, you don't want to dread your indoor most athletes do.  And, the ONLY WAY I think you can look forward to it (relatively speaking) is if you have a place indoors that's somewhat fun/conducive to training. 

Welcome to Pain Cave 101 basics!  If you're serious about your indoor training there are some mandatory pieces of equipment you'll need in your Pain Cave.  (BTW, you can setup your Pain Cave anywhere: basement, garage, bedroom, etc.  In fact, I know some athletes that set it up in their living room.)  Here's a breakdown of MANDATORY Pain Cave equipment:

Bike- this may seem kind of trivial..but it's probably the single most important piece of training equipment..and, most overlooked in my opinion.  You want to train on what you'll be riding outdoors.  It doesn't have to be the EXACT same bike, but you better be sure that the setup (seat height, handlebar reach, etc.) is the same as your outdoor bike.  For me, I use my old C-Dale Aluminum bike for indoor training and use my (relatively) new Trek Madone Carbon bike for outdoor training.  Regardless, of what you use..cover it up good with towels so your sweat does NOT corrode your cables, handlebar stem, etc.  You can also use an exercise bike such as the Saris/Cycleops Pro 400 or 300 trainer.  (Yes, I know they're expensive but they're worth it).  Again, just make sure that the setup is the same as your outdoor bike.  And, for you Triathletes out there..make sure your aero bar setup is the's important.

Trainer- your bike has to go into some sort of a resistance trainer..whether it's wind, magnetic or electronic.  (Unless you buy a Saris/Cycleops indoor trainer)  I prefer, and highly recommend, the Computrainer.  Yes, I know..(I can hear the moans/groans already)...IT COST TOO MUCH!  Well, you know what..unless you're only making $25k a year there is NO EXCUSE why you can't afford a Computrainer.  Besides, I bet you weren't moaning/groaning when you shelled out $2000 for that new cool carbon wheelset of yours did you?  You know, the one from the bike shop with the 100% markup.  You don't have to buy a brand new can buy one for under $1000 on e-Bay.  Hell, I even think Computrainer will let you finance a NEW one.  The Computrainer will give you the best, and most accurate Power/resistance readings too.  If you're SERIOUS about your training..then you'll find away to afford one.

Fan- you'll need a fan..a BIG one too...not one of those cheap tabletop fans either.  Get a box fan or an industrial fan.  The fan serves two functions: 1) naturally, to cool you off and keep your body temp down so you can do more work and 2) to simulate the wind in your face when you ride outdoors.  Oh, and don't forget plenty of COLD water on-hand.  You want to hydrate well, before/during/after your workouts.

Tunes- I don't know about you, but I can't workout indoors without some snappy music/tunes on the Stereo.  For indoor riding I prefer "angry white boy music" or some "hip-hop" beat.  After all, the workouts aren't strolls through the Park..they're match your music with the intensity.  You'll be surprised how some intense music will make you work harder.  Speaking of Stereos, you want one that is "kick-ass" too.  I tell my wife you gotta FEEL the music..not just hear it..after she yells at me to turn that "sh$t" down because it's shaking the walls. ha  I have my iPod/iPhone hooked-up to my's great for chaning tunes while you ride/workout and gives you a great selection.

TV/Computer Video- Ok, here's where you can spend some bucks..but you don't really have to.  When I first started working out indoors, all I had was a laptop computer and my Computrainer.  And, I also had what I consider STILL to be the BEST indoor workout videos available (installed on my laptop)..and they come from  Erg Video makes computer HD Videos that control the resistance of your Computrainer while watching HD video on your Computer screen.  It gives the most realistic indoor workout possible.  If you don't want to buy Erg Video software, you can use the Computrainer software for your workout and just pop a DVD in the DVD player and watch a DVD on TV while you workout.  I did this for a couple of years..watching mostly DVD concerts of my favorite artists.  Later on, while I was able to save up more $$ for my Pain Cave..I purchased a projector and screen to view my Erg Videos on instead.  I also purchased another Computrainer so I could ride/train with another athlete.... in addition to having another Computrainer to test athletes on for my Coaching business.

So, that's it.  If you're serious about your training you SHOULD BE serious about your indoor workout studio (aka Pain Cave).  If you prefer to ride outdoors in the Winter rain/cold/sleet/ice/snow/salt/etc..that's fine.  I, however, see no merit to that..since you're not going to race in those conditions (except possibly the rain) this Summer.  Besides, I think it's unsafe on the roads in the Winter with all the salt/cinders/potholes/etc.   We've had a VERY mild Winter so far, so it hasn't been an issue riding outdoors..but, Winter just started..and there's no telling what Old Man Winter has in store for us this year.  If/when Old Man Winter does dump on ready to transition your riding indoors to your newly setup Pain Cave!  Have Fun!

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Monday, December 26, 2011

Cycling- a POWER Sport!

When you think about it, cycling training is actually kind of trivial.  Since cycling is a power sport..and we know that Power= Force x Speed, we just need to train our legs to be stronger (so they impart more force on the pedals) and pedal faster...right?  Well, kinda.  But, what's NOT so trivial is how to effectively (and simultaneously) develop pedal force and speed without compromising each other.  Additionally, what good is high pedal force and speed if you can't sustain (endure) it?  Joe Friel calls these (Force, Speed and Endurance) the "basic" (or general) racing abilities.  It's these "basic" abilities that I try to improve upon during the base and build periods of my athletes Annual Training Plans.  And, as far as I'm concerned..they are equally as important which is why I prescribe an equal dose of Speed, Force and Endurance workouts during the training week from November thru January.  Once February rolls around, I/we take these newly developed/improved Force, Speed and Endurance abilities and progress to more "specific" (or higher ability) training such as: Power, Muscular and Anaerobic Endurance training.  The difference between the Endurance Workouts from November through January (vice February on) is that they are relatively low force (low intensity) workouts.  Muscular and Anaerobic Endurance workouts are hi-force (hi-intensity workouts).

Well, if it (cycling training) is so trivial..then why aren't athletes training this way?  To be honest with you..I don't have a clue.  Actually, I do, I think it's because most are clueless.  But, even if they are clueless..all you have to do is RIDE and you'll gain more Power.  I've seen it.  If you want to ride with more Power on the bike you're either going to have to train longer or smarter.  I say "smarter" because you don't necessarily have to train long hours to be stronger (more powerful) on the bike.  Hey, I know there are a LOT of coaches out there (mostly from the old school) that still profess the best way to get stronger (more powerful) on the bike is: JUST RIDE!  (I'm talking 10-20 hrs. per week)  And, there's a lot of truth to that..for obvious reasons.  I don't know about you..but with my work schedule, social life, family life, other hobbies, etc. I don't have the time to JUST RIDE!  (I'm lucky if I can fit in 8 hrs. of training a week.)  Therefore, I need to train "smarter".  And, I do that by Training with a Power Meter (developing the abilities mentioned above)...and doing a LOT of research on which workouts BEST develop those abilities. i.e. the best bang for the buck workouts. 

It's up to you.. if you want to develop Power (that endures) you can train "smarter" or you can train "longer".  Me, I'd rather train "smarter"..because quite frankly..I just don't have time to train/ride 10-20 hrs. per week nor would I want to.  I don't think that would be fun...besides, there's more to life (at least I think so). IS a Power Sport!

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


No, we're not talking Supply-Demand Economics, we're talking CYCLING economy.  Cycling economy, as defined by Joe Friel, is how much effort you use when pedaling at a given power output.  The goal is to make quick movements (speed) with little wasted energy.  By improving economy, you can go faster using the same effort.  This ability is what Joe calls "speed skills" and what I have my athletes working on early in the base training season.

The goal with speed skills is for the body to learn to pedal comfortably at the higher cadences than you are doing now.  This high leg turover (hi-cadence) IS trainable.  (If you don't believe me, go ask a guy by the name of Lance)  Such training starts with hi-cadence speed skill drills.  You'll find out real quick how "economic" your pedal stroke is when doing high speed skill drills that I normally prescribe in the base/foundation period.  If you start bouncing at 110 rpm and your Heart Rate starts going through the roof at relatively low pedal forces, then you know you're not very economic. 

As I said, high leg turnover IS trainable..but you don't train it with a few speed skills workouts in the off-season.  It takes a long time..and a comittment to training to achieve better economy.  I don't want to get into a debate about whether you should be using your self-selected cadence when riding.  Naturally, some riders are just going to be "mashers" (low cadence) riders.  That's fine.  But, I'll bet if you take that masher and improve his economy, or "self-selected" cadence from even 85 to 90 rpm, you'll make him a faster cyclist that will be able to maintain his/her speed longer.  (Look at what it did for Lance's racing..he went from an average of 90+ to 100+ rpm)   And, that's what it's all about in any cycling race...going FASTER LONGER!

Power ON! Coach Rob

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Building a solid foundation

A lot of people may know that the St. Louis Gateway Arch is over 600 ft. tall, but not many know that the two legs (base) of the Arch extend 60 ft. into the ground (in bedrock).   The Gateway Arch base/foundation was built to weather any storm...and so far, in its 46 year existence it has managed to do just that.  Just like the Arch, your cycling "base" training should be designed to do the any future storm.  The storm I'm talking about for cycling has nothing to do with weather, the storm I'm talking about is the hi-intensity training that's coming down the road (normally February and March for you roadies).  If you don't establish a solid cycling base/foundation NOW, your body (especially the muscles, tendons and ligaments in your legs) is NOT going to be ready for the higher intensity training and you're prone to all kinds of problems..specifically injury.

So, how do you build a solid foundation?  You build a solid foundation with workouts that are lower intensity on the bike (Tempo- L3) and an emphasis on aerobic endurance (longer rides).  This emphasis on aerobic endurance applies off-the-bike as well..especially cross-training.  If you've been following my blogs for some time, you know I'm a BIG advocate of cross-training for building a solid foundation..whether it's inline skating, vigorous hiking, running, cross-country skiing, Mtn. Biking, etc.  I'm also a BIG proponent of weight training for building a solid foundation.  In addition to improving the basic/general fitness abilities of Endurance and Force, both on and off the bike, I like to incorporate Speed skills workouts on the bike.  Speed-skills work incorporates drills that emphasize high cadence and smooth full-circle pedal stroke with independent leg training.  For now, simply think developing: Speed, Force/Strength and Endurance.

If you haven't started yet, start building NOW!  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Monday, December 12, 2011

Specialized BG Defroster Boots

I don't normally review cycling products that I purchase unless they REALLY make me happy. This weekend, I found a product that did just new Specialized BG Defroster Mtn. Bike Boots.  I purchased these boots because I didn't particularly like wearing my regular lightweight, ventilated, low-cut, Summer Mtn. Bike Shoes with a neoprene booty overtop as Winter riding shoes.   This combination is just too bulky and it really doesn't do a good job of keeping my feet warm and/or dry. 

Sunday morning I went Mtn. Biking in Promised Land State Park (in the Pocono Mtns of PA)...a good test for my new boots.  It was cold when I started, about 21F.  Everything was frozen solid from the night before.  The shallow puddles in the road were frozen except areas where it was 6 in. deep or more.  Since I don't normally ride in the snow and ice I wanted to test the limits of my equipment as well as my bike handling skills.  I found out all too soon that my Defroster Boots were actually as waterproof as they claim to be.  That's because I tried riding across a section of road that was completely ice covered.  The problem was..the ice was only 1/2" thick, hardly thick enough to support my fat ass. (see photo below)  So, as not to defy physics/gravity I busted through the ice.  To keep from falling I unclipped as fast as I could and submerged my boot to the depths of the puddle.  Not only did my foot stay dry, it stayed warm the entire 2 hr. ride in 20F temps. I was amazed.

The ratcheting system on the boots are second to none too.  It is easy to a turn of a knob.  To release, just pull the knob out.  It couldn't be easier.  I wore one pair of good wool socks with the boots. That's all I think I'd need down to temps in the teens.

It never really warmed up above 25F by the time I left at noon.  The boots were a hit..and definitely worth the money spent.  I crashed twice on the way back to my car because although the temps never climbed that high, the sun did.  The sun JUST put enough of a glaze on top of everything to make it as slick as an ice skating rink.  Definitely a learning experience.  I also flatted 2 miles from my car and ran out of CO2 I had to walk it home.  Regardless, I had a blast..and hope to ride in the Park again soon...with my new boots. 

Power ON!  Coach Rob

2012 Tour of the Battenkill

Just a reminder..signup registration for the 2012 Tour of the Battenkill starts at 7pm on December 21st.  This "Queen of the Classics" sells-out in a heartbeat so you BETTER BE online at 7pm sharp or you're NOT going to get in.  I'm not going to be competing this year because I'm pretty sure I'll be moto-reffing instead.  This years race is on April 14-15, 2012.  If you don't have a room yet..I'd definitely start calling around.  Last year, I stayed in South Bennington, VT (which was about a 20 min. drive from the race start) with my wife.  I actually preferred it because it was quiet, and the town had some great restaurants.  And, the best part was- it wasn't crowded with bike racers.

By the way, if you're an athlete I coach (or coached), and you're training for the Tour of the Battenkill..and you need some good training advice..shoot me an email and I'll give you some tips on what to do (and not to do) for a successful race.

It's a great race!  Hope to see you there.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Top 5 X-training Sports for Cyclists

It's hard to believe how someone can ride their road bike EVERY day of the week (365 days a year) and still like (and get motivated about) riding.  Besides, you REALLY can't tell me these roadies I see riding at 0730 on a cold dark Saturday morning in December, when the temps are in the 20s, are REALLY having fun.  I don't even care if they're dressed properly.  Don't get me wrong, I love to ride my bike but I also like to do other things in life and the off-season is no better time.  After all, if you love the outdoors as much as I do there are a bunch of things you can do all-year round.  I actually look forward to the colder months of November thru January as an excuse to get off my road bike.  For me, November through January are all about working out in the Gym, Swimming, Mountain Biking and Cross-Country Skiing.  And, if I could still run (bad back) I'd probably be doing that as well.  I still remember not too long ago getting up at 0700 in Salt Lake City, UT (on travel in January) and going for a 5 mile run on the hard pack snow.  It was beautiful.  When February rolls around, it's time to transition all of the strength and fitness off the bike...onto the bike.  February is the time when I start doing some serious indoor intervals on the trainer.  When I say "serious", I'm talking about HARD intervals that sometimes you quit on..because you're just not ready or feeling great that day.
Here is my Top 5 list and some tips if you engage in the following Cross-Training sports:
Weight Training- no reason to go overboard in the gym.  I like to keep my training focused on my core and my legs.  I do ALL of my workouts on machines vs. free-weights.  It's not that I'm opposed to free-weights, it's just that I don't think it's worth the risk of getting hurt..if you don't have a spotter.  For core exercises, I like crunches, planks and back extensions.  For the legs, I like: leg presses, lunges, leg extensions, leg curls, calf raises and squats.  I'll throw in bench press and pullups for the chest and arms.  Don't forget to spin for 15 min. at high rpm after your leg workout.  That's in an hour. 
Rollerblading- is a great Cross-Training Sport for cyclists.  And, it's fun AFTER you learn to skate properly/well.  I used to rollerblade with my Field Champion dog Kali..but she's gone now..which is probably why I haven't been on em in a while.  Perhaps I'll get back on them this Winter and train hard..a tribute to my girl.  When/if you do go, pick a route that is void of traffic where you can do laps/intervals.  I used to rollerblade in a local park with a loop that was one mile. I'd go one lap hard then easy the next and repeat til exhausted.  1 hr. max.
Mountain Biking- is FUN!  I'm not even good at it (technically speaking)..and I have fun.  I like to target off-road hill climbs when I Mtn. bike.  It keeps the speed down which is important when the temps are in the high teens and low 20s (like this weekend for me).  I go relatively HARD for about 2 hrs. then call it a day.  Just this past weekend, I went up to Promised Land State Park and Mtn Biked in the snow- by myself.  It was a hoot..granted I fell twice on the snow/ice.
Cross Country Skiing- if you've NEVER done have to try it.  I was always an Alpine (downhill) skier since I was a kid.  I lived for it.  I was a ski instructor as well as a Giant Slalom racer in College.  So I spent a LOT of time on the snow.  But, ever since I hurt my back, I can't alpine ski.  Therefore, I picked up Nordic (X-Country) skiing.  And, to tell you the's ALMOST as much fun, and it's definitely a better/harder relaxing/resting on a chairlift in X-Country skiing.  Actually, nothing is more fun as bombing the slopes on long boards in Alpine skiing- NOTHING!  For Nordic skiing I like long endurance workouts as well as lap/interval workouts.
Running- I don't run anymore but I miss it a lot.  No need to go long.  I used to run in the Bucks County 5k Winter Series.  It was a great time...sometimes racing in the snow.  I highly recommend all cyclists run at least a 5k a month in the off-season.  It will keep your cardiovascular system in top shape...especially you Cyclo-Cross guys.  A 5k won't take you more than 30 minutes (at least I hope not).
So, there you Top 5 Cross-Training List for Cyclists in the off-season.  They won't take much of your time and no excuse NOT to fit them in your busy schedule.  What's nice about them too, is that you can wear your Winter cycling gear for the outdoor stuff.  Are there other Cross-Training Sports for cyclists?  Absolutely.  Swimming is a good Cross Training Sport for Cycling.  In fact, I do it whenever I can (have time for).  Actually, it should be on the list.  But, it's really an indoor sport like weight training and I'd rather be outside all-year round.   I'd also have to drop one of the others to keep it at a "Top 5". ha
Power ON!  Coach Rob

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Weight Training for Cyclists

If you've been frequenting gyms like I have since High'll have noticed that equipment in the gyms are changing all the time.  Why is that?  That's because the sales/marketing folks have to keep inventing new ways of getting our fat assees in their gyms or their gyms go out of business.  And, they do it by coming up with a new piece of equipment...or toy...that looks "cool". Who cares if it works.

Back in the day, gyms didn't have any machines per se. Most of the equipment was: free weights, peg boards, medicine balls, kettle bells, dumb bells, inclined boards, weighted balls, swiss balls, etc. Most gyms resembled dimly lit (concrete floor and wall) dungeons instead of the carpeted, bright, chrome and glass, TV and stereo wired, electronic health clubs of today. But, does that make the gyms/health clubs BETTER today? I don't think so. If anything, most modern health clubs today are reverting back to the functional equipment of yesteryear. If you don't believe me, go to a relatively NEW or popular gym in your area and take a look around. You'll see ropes, kettle bells, medicine balls, swiss balls, free weights, etc. And, you'll notice that not too many people are working-out on the weight machines. They are either lifting free-weights or using the treadmills, bikes, elliptical trainers, etc. Why is that? That's because most people don't know how to use the machines.  So, they just use what's easiest to use: a bike, a treadmill, an ellipitcal machine, a ball, a dumbbell.  You think I'm kidding? I'm not. There is nothing wrong with using the weight machines such as Nautilus, etc. In fact, I highly recommend that you do...since they are a lot safer to use than free-weights, or kettle bells.

But, before you engage in ANY resistance training (with machines) at the gym know what the hell you're doing. If you don't, you'll end up hurting yourself and setting your training back even further. What I mean by that is, when you get ready to do leg extensions on a machine, for example,..know the correct seating height position and leg position on the machine. If you don't set the machine up properly, you're not going to be isolating the muscle properly. Also, know the correct weight to use, the correct motion/speed, and the correct repetitions. I can't tell you how many times I see people using too much weight and jerking the weight with other muscles in order to lift the weight. This is not only counterproductive, it could lead to injury. Lastly, know how to breathe correctly. If you don't, you'll get light-headed. Trust me! Don't be afraid to ask one of the personal trainers or employees how to setup a machine properly or how to lift a particular weight properly. That's what they're there for..but yet I NEVER see anyone ask. If you don't want to ask, go on the web and check out some videos. Here's one from VideoJug (of Canada and the UK). It seems elementary but it covers all the basics: properly positioning of the machine, movement and breathing.

I shouldn't have to tell you the advantages of an off-season resistance training program for cyclists.  All you have to do is Google the subject and you'll get plenty of good articles on the benefits from reputable cycling coaches.  Working out at the gym in the off-season will NOT make you "stronger on the bike" per se, but what it will do is strengthen your core and ensure that both your legs have equal strength/balance to push the pedals when you get on your bike. (If it did make you stronger on the bike, you wouldn't have to ride your bike, just go to the gym for a workout instead)  Resistance training will also strengthen the tendons/ligaments/muscles in your legs and prep them for the hi-intensity interval workouts on the bike beginning in February (provided you started your training in December).   And, for those of you opposed to resistance training in the off-season, it will NOT put on additional weight in the form of muscle mass.  You're hardly in the gym long enough or with enough frequency to generate any "appreciable" muscle mass.  In fact, with resistance training, you'll end up burning more fat (and calories) and replacing it with muscle. 

For you skinny guys, I promise you they won't laugh at your skinny-ass frame when you walk into the gym..that is, as long as you keep your shirt on and don't start flexing in the mirror..ha. 

And, that's the skinny...Power ON!  Coach Rob

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tis the Season to be Jolly...NOT Fat!

For those of you that haven't gained weight in the off-season, you're either under the age of 40, you don't drink beer, or you're exercising as much now as you were during the race season.  If you're one of these people, consider yourself lucky.  Lucky that you're young and your body's metabolism is high, lucky that you can drink as much beer (and/or eat) as you want, and lucky that you have the time to exercise as much as you did this Summer.

For me, I'm not one of the lucky ones.  When I eat/drink it seems to go right to my gut and butt.  I don't have time to do anything these days..especially during the week.  And, usually by the end of a long work day, the last thing I'm thinking about is getting on a bike and doing an interval workout on a trainer.  I'd love to ride outside except it's too dark, cold..and like I said..I'm beat!  I got on the scale yesterday and couldn't believe me eyes; I weighed almost 20 lbs. more than I did last April.  I thought perhaps the scale was a bit off (people do that- we try to blame our weaknesses on somebody or something) but when I tried on my size 32" waist jeans this a.m. I could barely snap them..let alone get them over my fat ass.  Yes, I'm FAT!

It's moments like these, however, that are a WAKE-UP call for me.  It's time to stop making excuses and start getting my butt (fat) in gear.  After all, it's only going to get worse (temptations) in the weeks ahead.  All those Christmas/New Years dinners, desserts, junk food, etc.  It's time to start exercising more and stop eating/drinking JUNK!

If you do a Search on my Coaches Blog you'll see that I've written quite a few blogs on Weight Gain/Fat/etc.  That's because it's just as important as developing power on the bike.  After all, it's your Power-to-Weight ratio (w/kg) that seperates the men from the boys in cycling..especially if your a roadie who races on hilly courses.  Even if you don't race on the road, it's just as important off-road on a Mountain Bike or a Cross Bike.   You want to increase your power and drop your weight to maximize your w/kg ratio.

Stop making excuses why you can't exercise.  If it's cold out, buy decent clothes.  If it's dark out, buy a decent light for your bike.  If you don't like riding on the roads at night, ride off-road.  If you don't like training indoors on a trainer, make it so you do like it.  Buy a nice Audio/Video system.  Buy a Computrainer and a couple Erg Videos.  Yeah, I know, these things cost $$.  Well, so does entry fees in bike races. Do you want to piss that $$ away?  That's what your doing if you don't train properly in the off-season and keep your weight down.  If you travel as much as I do, find a local gym that has spin classes.  Or, take your bike and trainer with you and ride in your hotel room.

Also, stop eating junk food.  Give up the desserts or if you have to- split them with somebody.  And, limit your holiday drinking to one or two glasses of wine/beer a day..that's it.  No reason to get all slopped-up drunk over the Holidays.  Plus, don't even think about drinking and driving.  You're stupid if you do..just too much at risk. 

Again, tis the Season to be Jolly...NOT Fat!  NOW is the time to start shedding those pounds.  Don't wait for the New Year.  Do it NOW!

Power ON! Coach Rob

Monday, November 28, 2011

Are you ready?

If you're NOT ready to start your Annual Training Plan (ATP), what are you waiting for?  Especially if one of your "A-events" is the Tour of the Battenkill on April 14-15, 2012.  (Just a reminder, sign-up is in three weeks (Dec. 21st) if you're interested.  And, I shouldn't have to tell you that it fills-up FAST!)  I don't think I'm going to be racing this year, probably because I'll be moto-ref'ing at Battenkill instead.  Regardless, I know how to train for Battenkill (if you want to do well in your age-group)...and if you haven't started your training better get on it soon.

Additionally, if you don't have a goal for is the time to make one.  For me, I've stopped making event-goals. i.e. I stopped wanting to do this or that at a particular event.  Instead, I made my goal for 2012 a power and weight goal.  That is, I want my power-to-weight ratio as close to 4.0 as I can get it by May.  (Last year it was 3.7.)  That way, I'm not disappointed if I crash or don't do well in a particular event.  After all, why should an entire off-seasons work be assessed by just one race?  This is NOT the Olympics..thank God.

What I do to stay motivated, during the Winter, is to make a chart like the one above and track my progress.  I plot my current FTP and weight and my goal FTP and weight and fill it in as I go.  Last year I achieved my goal.  This year, I intend to do the same with a lot of hard work over the Winter.  And, it starts this Thursday (Dec. 1).  Actually, it started this past Thursday (Thanksgiving) since the weather has been so nice.

Are you ready?  If not, get ready.  If you don't, you're not going to meet your 2012 goals. 

Power ON!  Coach Rob  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Power Meter Advantage

This past week I had the pleasure of joining my friend, coach, pro-triathlete Todd Wiley at a Power Spin Session he was instructing/running.  During our warmup, I was wondering why my PM was reading lower than what I thought it should be.  Was I REALLY that out-of-shape?  Could be!  After all, the only workouts I had in October were my 12 oz. curls of Octoberfest (bottled) beer while I was sitting on my fat a$$ watching football on TV.  I said nothing and continued on.  When the workout started and it was my turn to pull (in our imaginery indoor pace-line) I was cranking it up pretty good.  My PM read between 120-170w.  I knew this couldn't be right because my HR monitor said I was definitely riding Threshold pace.  And, even in the off-season..I know my Threshold Power never drops below 225w.  (At least in the last 5 yrs. it hasn't dropped below 225w).  So, I knew something was wrong.  After a minute or so, I figured it out.  My Garmin Head Unit (Computer) was reading the gals PM next to me..not mine.  Stupid me forgot to sync my head unit with my PM and instead of reading my PM I was reading the gals next to me..duh!  But, that's the beauty of knowing your FTP and riding/training with a PM.  After a while you pretty much know where your power is just based on your RPE and your HR.  Funny, I just realized that my FTP swings 50w from 225w in October to my peak of 275w the end of May.  Next year, I'll try to make sure that I don't let it drop below 250w (in the off-season) and see if I can get it up to 300w the end of May.  It would be a good test.

Another advantage of training with Power is comparing your fitness from year-to-year.  Training Peaks Software has a pretty cool feature called Multi-file/Range Analysis where you can compare two similar rides a year a part.  What I like to look at is my HR delta at the same Power this case 180w.  In the figure above, you can see I rode a pretty similar stretch of road on my Erg Video 3 software.  It was an L3 Tempo Workout where I compared the first 20 minutes of the ride.  My HR in 2011 was almost 20 bpm LESS (145bpm avg. compared to 165bpm avg.) than it was in 2010.  That's pretty good.   However, I'm NOT getting too excited about that..because I could have been more rested for this ride (in 2011) than I was last year.  I could also have been better hydrated, cooler, etc.  There are a lot of factors that affect HR..which is why I don't train by HR alone.  Nonetheless, I'm pretty happy that I'm not in as bad a shape as I thought I was.  More testing in the next couple weeks (performing similar comparisons) will reveal the truth- is my fitness level really better than last year (the same time)?  My PM and HR monitor will tell the tale.

Time to chow down on some Turkey and drink a few beers!  Hey, I deserve it, I went to the gym this morning for resistance/weight training and just finished an interval indoors on the bike.

Power ON! Coach Rob

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Surviving the Holidays

In case you don't know, the average person gains about 5 lbs. between Thanksgiving and New Years.  It's NOT hard to me, been there done that.  However, for me, I actually lose weight between Thanksgiving and New Years.  That's because I'm more conscious of what I put in my mouth during this time period.  And, I exercise more.

For me, the Holidays are actually a period where I increase the frequency and volume of my workouts.  Where I used to work out only 2x per week (October) on the bike, I'm increasing that to 4x per week on the bike (November/December) and the workouts are longer.  I make sure I get at least one long ride (> 2 hrs.) in on the weekend too.  These longer rides are money in the bank.  I like to ride my Mtn Bike in November thru January.  I do that for several reasons: a) it's colder outside and I like the slower speeds to stay warmer b) the roads get all gunked up with salt, cinders, etc. which will rust your road bike out in a heartbeat (unless you're anal with cleaning) and c) I like the change from the road bike to the Mtn's just more fun to ride..especially when it snows.  

I'm also spending more time in the gym with resistance training.  It's imperative that cyclists work on their core strength as well as their leg strength.  No, this strength is not necessarily transferable to the bike..but it will make you healthier/stronger and get you ready for those tough hi-force, hi-intensity intervals that are coming in February.

Most of my training on the bike (about 80%) this time of year is done in the L3 Tempo Zone.  If I do any higher intensity interval's usually in the L3/L4 Sweetspot Zone.  There is no need to be doing hi-intensity intervals more than once per week in November/December. 

Having said all that, the Holidays are NOT the time to say, "No, I'm sorry I can't eat that or can't drink that because I'm in training".  At least I don't think so.  Enjoy the Holidays!  Eat that big-ass Turkey Leg like I'm going to do tomorrow.  Have a glass of wine and a couple beers.  Have that piece of pie!  What you should be doing is training the morning of Thanksgiving Dinner, Christmas Dinner and/or New Years Eve Dinner.  And, don't forget to workout the following day.  If you workout the morning of that heavy dinner, and workout the following day, you probably won't gain a pound...provided you're burning the same calories that you're consuming.


Monday, November 21, 2011

What (or who) motivates you?

I hate to say it, but if you don't have something or someone to motivate you during your training, you're NEVER going to reach your goals...NEVER!   What is "motivation"?  According to Webster, motivation is:


  1. The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.
  2. The general desire or willingness of someone to do something.

According to the definition, there's got to be a reason...and/or a willingness to do something.  Reasons can be simple..such as:  "Because I want to".  However, wanting to do something is as futile as wishing or praying.  At least I think it is.  "Wanting" to do something is NOT going to get you through those tough Winter interval workouts.  "Wanting" is NOT going to get your a$$ out of bed on those cold dark Winter mornings.   You need to be motivated by more than just "Wanting".  Hell, I want to be a millionaire but "wanting" alone is NOT going to get me there.  Now, if somebody told me, "You'll NEVER be a millionaire" there's motivation.  It's a reason..a reason to prove someone wrong.

I'll never forget what my mother-in-law told me when I was 25.  She said, you wait until you get to be 50 (like your father-in-law).  You'll be just as overweight and out of shape as he is.  She said, he was just as active as you are now at age 25.  I told her right then and're wrong.  In fact, I think she was bold enough (and cocky enough at the time) to bet me $100.  I said, "you're on".  She had no clue that was the easiest $100 I'll ever make.  On my 50th birthday, I was not only at my High School weight (165 lbs), I was probably in the best Cardiovascular fitness/shape in my life.  She was wrong...dead wrong!  I won the I knew I would.  I never asked her for the money..she would probably say she had forgotten about I never brought it up.  Was the money the "motivator"?  Hell No!  The motivator was proving her wrong..since she is so opinionated and thinks she knows everything.  Besides, I wanted to prove to myself that I could truly get in the best shape of my life at age 50..and I did!  BTW, I busted my a$$ to achieve that goal.  It was a lot of hard work..especially since I weighed 222 lbs. in my mid-forties.

Whatever the reason, you need a good one to motivate you to reach your goals.  The loftier the goal, the better the reason.  To be honest, I don't have any motivation for the 2012 season.  I don't!  Sure, I have goals: I want to be faster/stronger/etc. just like everyone else.  But as of this minute, I don't have any motivation.  But, for now, what I do have is "motivators"...friends!  And, that can be one of the BEST motivators of all.  There is nothing like a friend to encourage you.  A friend to help you get through a workout.  A friend to call you up and invite you out on a ride.  A friend to call you after work to get a workout in the gym..after you were set on going back to the hotel room and falling asleep.  To those people..Jason, Jim, Todd, Tim, et. al...I say THANK YOU.  In the next couple weeks, I will come up with a Motivator for 2012.

If you hire a Coach..the Coach will be your motivator.  If he/she's not, then you should get another Coach.  Because I firmly believe that is the job of a "good" motivate you and help you get through those tough workouts.  A Coach that can tell you, "you can do it", when you didn't think it's possible.  A Coach that knows how hard the workouts are..because he's done them.

So, before you start training long/hard this Winter..decide what or who is going to motivate you to achieve your 2012 goals.  If you're NOT will NOT reach/achieve your goals.  And, it doesn't matter whether you're an amateur or a professional.  We are all human..and we need motivation to achieve our goals...especially lofty ones.  If you say you don't need motivation (that it comes from within)..then perhaps your goals were never high/lofty enough.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Monday, November 14, 2011

Coaching for 2012

I've got two spots left/open for the 2012 season if anyone is interested.  I'll be running annual training plans/coaching programs from December 1 to April 1 (16 weeks) and then continue with a racing plan from April to September for those that race.  For those that don't race, or are not interested in coaching beyond April..we'll discontinue coaching at that time.  Either case, I would like a 16 week committment as a minimum.

I'm ONLY interested in taking athletes on (either cyclists or triathletes that want to get faster/stronger on the bike) that either train with Power (have a PM) or plan to purchase a PM in the near future.  I just can't see why, in this day/age, that athletes wouldn't take advantage of this tool to train more efficiently and more effectively..and achieve their goals FASTER.  PMs are getting cheaper each day.  Besides, if you sign-up with me I can get you a coaches discount on either a Quarq (crank-based) or Power Tap (wheel/hub-based) PM.  These are the only two PMs I recommend (for now anyway)..unless you have the $$ to purchase an SRM PM..the Cadillac of PMs.  Why?  Because they are the ONLY reliable and accurate PMs out there.

The first step is to contact me via email, and let me know if you're interested.  The second step is to either get tested by me, or at a bike shop near your home.  The test you need to have them run is a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test.  I need to know what your Threshold Power and Threshold Heart Rate is.  If your local bike shop doesn't know what an FTP test is, or doesn't test, find a new bike shop.  When you contact me, I'll have you fill out an athlete questionnaire where you tell me what your goals are for 2012.  That's what you'll be paying me for..someone to help you achieve your goals.  If you don't have a goal, make one..even if it's only to get stronger and faster.  That's my goal for 2012!

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Sunday, November 6, 2011

It's November...take it easy!

It's November, and before we know it the Holidays will be here.  For me, November is the month to start getting back in the saddle.  It's also time to lay down the Octoberfest beer (bleh) and push myself further away from the TV and start getting back in shape.  It sounds easy, but when you've been goofin'-off (not really) like I have been the last couple months it's hard to get started again.  Just yesterday my friend, and former ridin' partner, Jason Wood called me up to see if I wanted to ride.  My first thought.."NO!"  Actually, my first thought was "HELL NO!".  Why?  Because I'm about as overweight and out of shape as I've been in the last 5 yrs.   And, I knew that if I rode even close to the speed/intensity that I normally ride trying to stay-up with Jason I'd be puking my guts all over the road.  But, instead of saying "HELL NO!" I said, "Sure".  I knew that I had to start sometime and NOW was as good a time as any.  I rode, and yes I felt like dogshit about 15 min. into the ride.  I was hoping I'd flat to give me a chance to stop and re-group...ha.  I didn't puke but then again I wasn't feelin' that good either.  And, Jason was riding at no more than Tempo pace the entire 2 hr. ride.  (Thanks Jason) Regardless, I survived to ride another day. Getting back into the gym on a solid Weight Training program will have me feeling equally as shitty.  Been there done that.  I'm sure I'll be breathing wrong, and I'm sure the shock to my system (of lifting once again after a 6 mo. layoff) will have me feeling like crap.

I think most of you have heard that November is a month where you want to build a good base and go slow.  I agree with the "good base" advice but I don't agree with the "go slow" advice.  In fact, I just read an article in December's edition of Velo News by Trevor Connor, entitled "Go Slow to be Fast".  After reading the article,  I'm thinking that Trevor should have entitled the article, "Take it be fast".  (But, I guess it's not a catchy oxymoron like the original title.)  Because, it's NOT really the speed you want to dial down it's the "Intensity".  I'll let you read the article yourself, but the principle is that your central nervous system conditioning (which accounts for up to 80% of the improvements in a trained cyclists VO2max) is best trained at lower intensities (60-65% HRmax).  So, you don't have to go hard but you should go often/long.  It will take months (if not years for new riders) to see gains. 

Also, November is a good time to make your goals for the 2012 season.  For me, my 2012 goal will be more "human factor" oriented instead of "performance" oriented.  That is, my goal will be to lose 15 lbs. from my present weight and increase my FTP 40 watts from its present power.  I want my w/kg at a minimum of 3.5.  Is this achievable?  Hell yes, I did it last year.  I can't see why I can't do it again..God willing.  The reason my goal is "human factor" oriented is because in past years my goals were "performance" oriented. That is, I wanted to finish in the top 10 of a race, or I wanted to finish a long race in a certain time.  The problem with that, is that I think I have the worst luck when it comes to training for my "A"-events.  When I was training for Triathlons in the early 2000s, I trained for 8 mos. for one race and ended up tearing ligaments in my ankle (2 weeks before the event) one year and herniating discs in my back (three weeks before the event) another year.  I can't tell you how bummed I was..because my goal was to place in those I never even competed in.  I trained so hard for those events too.  And, I was ready.  Instead, not achieving my goals put a damper on the entire season.  Same with road racing.  Last year my goal was to finish Battenkill with the "Masters 50+ pack" or "bunch" in 3 hrs. or less.  Instead, a crash 10 miles into the race had me riding 50+ miles by myself to the finish line..40 minutes later than I wanted.  I trained VERY hard for Battenkill..and I was ready.  My FTP was where I wanted it in addition to my weight.  But, my goal was to finish in 3 hrs. or less.

Jackson Browne started writing it..and the Eagles finished it..a great song nonetheless..Take it Easy!  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hunting on State Game Lands in Pennsylvania

You're probably thinking, "what the hell does this have to do with cycling" aren't you?  Well, if you're like me and you Mountain Bike on State Game Lands (like Nockamixon State Park) it has a LOT to do with cycling.

I don't hunt.  I never did.  Well, I take that back..I did back in College...because my roomie "Kirk" was not only the most avid hunter you'll ever meet..he was one of the best.  But, that was for "small game" (Grouse, Woodcock, etc.) with a shotgun.  For some reason, I just could never see shooting Bambi with a bow/arrow or a high power rifle.  That's because I'd probably miss the Deer's heart and hit it in the ass and they'd end up bleeding to death over a 24 hr. period.  NOT GOOD! 

Earlier this summer, the Pa. Game Commission narrowly approved a resolution supporting expanded Sunday hunting in the Commonwealth. The board's declaration urges the state legislature to repeal the Sunday prohibition; prohibition dating back to the late 1800's.  So, what's that mean?  That means we're probably going to have more city-slickers out in our State Game Lands on Sunday's in the future.  It's bad enough the city-slickers (hunters) are out there on Saturday.

I don't know about you, but I'm MORE THAN a little uncomfortable when I enter the woods on my Mtn. Bike and I see signs posted on the trees like: BE AWARE OF HUNTERS!  Are you kidding me?  Be aware of hunters?  The sign SHOULD SAY, "HEY HUNTER'S LOOK OUT FOR HIKERS, MOUNTAIN BIKERS, etc.  DO NOT SHOOT THEM...THEY DON'T TASTE GOOD"..or something like that. 

Regardless of whether you Mtn. Bike on State Game Lands or not on a Saturday or Sunday..make sure you wear visible clothing when you ride in the woods..preferably something BRITE orange or yellow.  You want to be as visible as possible to a hunter.  Why?  Because most of the city slickers that are hanging out in the woods have been drinking (a lot) the night before.  Therefore, their decision-making process is going to be hampered more than it already is (bwah, did I just take a shot at hunters?).  On a serious note, you don't want a hunter to mistaken you for an eight point Buck.  It would suck having to ride to your car with an arrow sticking out of your chest..and hoping the ambulance will get there before you bleed out.   Help the hunter with their quick decision-making process...make yourself seen.

Live to ride another day!  Power ON! Coach Rob

2011-2012 Coaching

I'll be accepting NEW athletes for the 2011-2012 Coaching season during the month of November.  This year, I'll only be taking on 5-6 athletes for the upcoming training season.  Normally, I take on closer to 10 athletes.  But, this year I'm building a house up in the Pocono Mtns. of PA (future cycling training site) and I know it's going to take more of my time than in the past.  It's only fair that I provide the athletes that I coach the same amount of attention/time (for the money) that I have in the past. 

My Annual Training Plans (ATP) generally run from December through April (5 months).  The price hasn't changed in the last 3 yrs. (still $150/mo.)  For 2012, I'm going to offer a racing season plan, from May through September, for a lower fee (probably $50/mo.)  This fee will include preparing the athlete for races, race critique, post-race assessment, unlimited phone and email support as well as attendance at one of the athlete's races to critique the race and take professional action sports photos.

I can tell you without reservation, that I offer more "bang for the buck" with respect to Coaching than the majority of current USA Cycling Coaches.  I believe I'm still one of only a handful of Certified USA Cycling Power Based Coaches in the Tri-State area.  And, I know for a fact that I spend more time with each athlete than the majority of Coaches. That's because I design an athletes ATP around THEIR schedule.  Although most of my athletes will be doing similar workouts (based on progressive power training), you will NEVER see a cookie-cutter workout from me.    In fact, Training Peaks Coaching was so impressed with what I had to offer my athletes that they had offered me a position on their coaching staff for 2011-2012.  I had an interview with Hunter Allen, owner of Training Peaks, re: joining his staff this Summer.  I, however, declined the offer because I'm just too busy (with work, other businesses, new home construction, etc.)  I'm honored that Hunter asked me to be a part of his Coaching Program.  I honestly believe that his Coaches are some of the best in the business.  In fact, if you have the $$, there isn't a better power based coach than Hunter Allen himself. 

If you're interested in my Coaching Services for the 2011-2012 Training Season, please email me so I can reserve a spot for you.  I prefer to coach athletes that train with Power Meters.  Although NOT mandatory, I HIGHLY recommend it.  If you don't have a Power Meter, I'd consider purchasing one.  You don't have to go out and buy a $4000 SRM Power Meter (although they are the best).  There are plenty of Power Meters out on the market, right now, starting at just $200.  Granted, a $200 Power Meter is NOT going to be as reliable or accurate as a $4000 one.   I get coaching discounts from/on Saris/Cycleops Power Taps, iBike and Quarq PMs.  So, if I coach you I will get you a PM at discount prices.  If you don't have a PM, or plan on getting one BEFORE I start coaching you, I'm going to mandate the use of a HR monitor- as a minimum.  I'm also going to require that you be periodically tested at either a facility near me (such as Fusion Fitness in Fountainville, PA) or at an approved facility in your area.  You MUST be periodically tested on a cycling ergometer.  After all, Stimulus and Response is the ONLY way to know (or measure correctly) if your ATP is working.  It's analogous to the doctor-patient relationship re: medication.  Too little a dose and no effect (in our case, no improvement), too much a dose and it could kill you (in our case, set you back).

Email me at:  Power ON!  Coach Rob

The Off-Season

If you're like me, you're enjoying October.  What's not to like about this month?  Cooler weather, football, beer, kids back in school, more beer, etc.  Yeah, hard for me to stay away from beer during the Fall months..especially when I'm drinking a nice Octoberfest beer while watching a good football game.  Do I feel guilty doing this?  Hell No! I'm enjoying life. 

The only problem with Fall, particularly October, is that the days are getting shorter (less light to ride outside) and the weather is often unpredictable (cold and rain).  Despite beautiful sunny mid-day temps in the 60s, the weekend morning temps are generally in the upper 30's/low 40's which is a little nippy for me to get excited about riding outdoors.  (Yup, I'm getting softer in my old age.  When I was ski racing in my 20's, I'd train/race in 20-30F temps regularly...and love it!)  Also, my favorite football games are generally on TV from 1-4pm (on the weekends) when the day is the warmest- and the best times to be outside riding.  So, it's easy to see that more drinking and less riding is a recipe for weight gain and declining fitness.  That's ok, because I really believe that your body and mind require a break from cycling..whether you're an avid racer or just a recreational rider.  However, having said all that (including making excuses why I'm not riding regularly), what you do NOT want to lose so much cycling fitness that you dip below last year's power level.  For example, if I performed an FTP test back in October of 2010 and my FTP was 250w, my goal for this October would be to be at or above this number.  If I'm below this number, I'm going to have to work even HARDER (and SMARTER) than I did last year to be stronger in 2012.  That's why periodic testing is so vital/important.  Just like periodically jumping on a scale to check your weight, you should be tested (periodically) to see if you're losing power.  After all, nothing matters more than w/kg when it comes to cycling longer/faster/stronger.

Just like it's inevitable that you'll gain a few pounds when the season ends, you WILL inevitably lose strength.  But, what a lot of riders don't realize is that MOST will actually start losing that strength DURING the height of the cycling racing season.  I can hear some of you saying, "BULLSHIT!"  Well, if you don't believe me, test yourself in the middle of the racing season and at the end.  You can test yourself in the gym and out on the bike.  I will bet you a beer (can you tell I like beer?), that not only will your FTP be higher on the bike mid-season, your leg strength (measured on any gym machine) will also be higher.  Ok, for the minority that say, "My FTP was definitely higher at the end of the season than it was DURING the season", my question to you is, "WHY?".  The only acceptable answer, in my opinion, is that you had an "A" event in the Fall that you were peaking towards.  If that's NOT your answer then you need to adjust your ATP for 2012 so you peak earlier.

Enjoy the Fall, just don't let the "good times" (drinking beer, watching football on TV, etc.) keep you out of the gym or off your bike.  This is a GREAT time of the year to ride your Mountain Bike, Cross-Train (hike, roller-blade, yoga/pilates, swim, etc.) and Strength Train (particularly core and legs).

Power ON!  Coach Rob 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Eddy Merckx..the Cannibal

I just finished reading John Brant's article, "Regarding Eddy Merckx" in November's issue of Bicycling Magazine.  From what I know of the legend..Eddy Merckx probably is the undisputed "greatest cyclist" of all time.  What was most interesting in the article was the author's quest to discover what made him "the greatest"..which by the way, he never did.  But he did ask Eddy (indirectly) what he thought made him so talented.  Eddy replied, "What is talent, really?  Is it the fact that your heart pumps more volume than the average person's or that your blood turns less acidic when exercising?  No, talent has to do with your capacity for suffering".

To Eddy..I say (respectfully) BULLSHIT!  I honestly believe if everything is equal (physiologically speaking) then yes, the man that says "ouch" last will be the winner at the end of the race/day.  But, you can not tell me that physiologically Eddy was just your average Joe with normal VO2max, Efficiency, Lactate Threshold, Endurance, Strength, etc.  It's obvious that Eddy was blessed with God-given talent/ability (to accomplish what he did in the day) and not once did he mention this to the author.  I guess Eddy wants everyone to believe he's a rough, tough manly-man (and maybe he is/was) and that the reason he won so many races in the day was because he endured more pain than anyone else.

(By the way, everyone has a different "pain threshold/level".  I know my wife has a higher "pain threshold" than I do.  But, I can't see her ever beating me in a race regardless of how much pain she can endure or how much she suffers.)

I've coached and seen many a cyclist that pushed past their pain threshold during races..enduring more pain and suffering than anyone else in the race.  The pain was so bad the racer almost passed-out.  Did that cyclist win the race?  Nope, not even close.  Why?  Because suffering (from pain) doesn't win races alone.  What wins races is talent..talent that is normally God-given.  And, that God-given talent is in the form of your genetic makeup.  If you don't believe in God, then it's's good genes.  As I said before, if the talent is equal..then the winner will most likely be the one that suffers the most.

I ride with pain (it's slight), I've been riding with pain ever since I herniated two discs in my back in 2003.  That pain will never go away (so say the docs) unless I have spine surgery to correct it (if that's even possible).  Does riding in pain make (or allow) me win races?  Hardly.  And, I do ride in/with pain every time I ride/race.  For me, I've just learned to accept it.  The pain is not excruciating..but it's there.  And, just because I can ignore the pain in my back when I ride/race doesn't mean that I can ignore the pain in my legs when I race.  The pain in my legs is a result of lactic acid build-up, micro-tears in the muscle, increased hydrogen ions, calcium deficit, or whatever "really" causes it- the jury is still out on this.  It's a different kind of pain.  But this different pain (in the legs) is a "physiological" pain barrier..not a "mental" pain barrier.  Pushing past this barrier whether your brain allows it or not will NOT make you go any's a limiter.  It's your body's way of protecting itself.  It's saying, "dude, if you keep going any more at this pace/level..I'm going to pass out and make you stop, so you don't damage these muscles". 

So, sorry Eddy..I don't buy the pain/suffering thing.  But, you're still the greatest cyclist of all time and "manly-man" (in my eyes)..but next time an editor from a major mag asks you what your secret is/was..tell them the truth (it's ok)..and thank God..or your parents..or better both for your brilliant talented career.  That's not so painful.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Season Start

What does cycling have in common with the Philadelphia Flyers?  Nothing that I know of..other than I've been a long-time follower of the Flyers and the fact that we both start our seasons this week.  (Actually, I attended Flyer's Stanley Cup parades in 1974 and 1975.)  For the NEW Flyers, it's the start of their Regular Season for me it's the start of my Training Season.  I say NEW Flyers because of their many off-season trades and new acquisitions.

What I found rather interesting when viewing their schedule is the fact that the Flyer's 2011-2012 season schedule pretty much mirrors my training season schedule.  When they finish their regular season, I'll be starting mine. 

Historically, October/November is my Base Building Phase of Training.  During these months the majority, if not all, of my workouts are in the L3 Tempo Training Zones.  December/January is my Build Phase where I'm building on the base (I developed in Oct/Nov) and the majority of my workouts are "Sweetspot" workouts in the L3/L4 Training Zones.  February is normally crunch-time for me.  It's when I start ramping up with hi-intensity interval workouts in the L4/L5 Training Zones.  It's also a time of year when I like to go on a week long vacation out West to get outdoors in the warmer weather and get some longer miles in my legs.  If I have excess weight to lose, February is normally where it's dropped.  March is pretty much a continuation of L4/L5 training with some L6 training thrown in. 

By the end of March and beginning of April, I'm race ready.  Just as the Flyer's are getting ready for the playoffs, I'll be getting ready for the Tour of the Battenkill (the first race of the 2012 season for me).  I'm not sure if I'll be racing Battenkill again this year...but I'll be there either way- racing or officiating (on my moto). 

Lets go Flyers!  Power ON!  Coach Rob


It's with a heavy heart to blog that we had to put down our last AKC Rhodesian Ridgeback Champion- CH Dimond-Regals Sure Shot "Kobi" on Friday night.  Kobi passed-away just short of his 10th birthday.  Like Kali, our other Champion who died a couple years ago at age 7, Kobi succombed to Cancer..not only a nasty F'n disease for humans but also for animals.  Kali and Kobi were both Rhodesian Ridgebacks.  Kali was a "Field" Champion and Kobi was a "Conformation" Champion...a show dog.

You may be thinking, well that's too bad..but what does this have to do with cycling?  Believe it or not, my Kali was my training partner when I started doing Triathlons in 2002.  She was my running partner and she was also my cross-training partner.  She used to run with me while I was rollerblading.  She just loved being outside...and she loved to take walks and run.

I don't know if many of you knew that I was very much apart of the AKC Rhodesian Ridgeback Conformation and Lure Coursing scene in the early 2000s.  My family spent just about every weekend at either a lure coursing event or a conformation (show) event.  Lure Coursing is an AKC Field Event for purebred sighthounds where they chase a white trash bag around a course.  The white bag looks like a bunny when it's put into motion.  Here's a link:  We're not involved with RRs anymore except for my wife is still involved in Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescue.  Just after my Kali died, we rescued our Ridgeback (Briar) from a puppy mill in Ohio.  We still have Briar.  She has come a long way.   

Kali was my scholar-athlete..the smartest dog I have ever known/met and also one of the most athletic dogs I have ever met or known.  (Notice I said "ever met" not "ever owned".)  When I weighed 222 lbs. (yes I weighed that much in 2002) I was able to bench-press 275 lbs.  I was not really fat per se..just big all over.  (ok, maybe a little fat..ha)  And, despite being that big/strong my Kali at times could drag me to the ground..especially when she was lure coursing. I can't tell you how many collars she broke, or how many people she dragged to the ground that were trying to hold her when she saw a bunny or a squirrel.  Oh, how she loved chasing the bunnies.  My girl was a Nationally ranked AKC Lure Courser in 2002.  In fact, she gained her Field Championship in less than a year..a feat that not too many sighthound dogs of any breed achieve.

Kobi was our "pretty-boy"...our somewhat aloof handsome man.  Oh, how he loved the ladies.  I'll never forget at the Rhodesian Ridgeback National Specialty in Virginia Beach (in 2003) how my Kobi man tried to mount a female WHILE he was lure coursing.  Yes, while he was in a race.  (Later on, we found out the bitch was in no wonder).  Although he was a handsome man, it took him a while to obtain his AKC Conformation Champion status.  That's because Kobi was a tad smaller than most RR males.  In fact, at first glance, most people thought my Kali was the male and our Kobi was the female.   That's because my Kali was VERY dark for a Rhodesian Ridgeback..definitely not the breed standard. 

I will miss our Kobi dearly just like I still miss my Kali.  It's been over 2 yrs. since my Kali passed away and there is not a day that goes by that I don't think of her (and miss her).  I'm sure Kobi will have the same affect.  I have cried my eyes out the last two days and am sure many more days to come.  That's how much my dogs mean to me.  They are like kids to me.  Although he was more my Daughter's dog, he was still one of my kids..and will be missed very much til the day I die.  He was such a good boy..he never snapped at anybody or anything..EVER.  He just barked when someone (or something) scared him or if something wasn't right.  I think he was smarter than I thought.  

To my Kobi man..I miss you bud..have fun with Kali til we all meet again.  Dad

Monday, September 19, 2011

Exciting NEW products from Saris/Cycleops

Rather than write about I'll let you read a great article from Velo News describing the NEW products on the horizon from Saris/Cycleops.  I'm meeting with Steve Hawkins, local Saris/Cycleops rep, this Friday to discuss how we can get a hold of some of these products for a test ride- so to speak.  What is of particular interest to me, is the NEW heart rate based power calculator.  How does it work?  I have no clue.  Is it as accurate as a $1500 Power Meter?  No, and it's not marketed as one.  I'll just have to wait and see for myself.  But, what I like about this new device is that it's at least a foot in the door of the Power Meter world at a fraction of the cost.  I think it's a good idea for those cyclists that a) don't really understand what power meters are and b) for those cyclists who thought/think that power meters are still cost-prohibitive.  Regardless, I'll be passing all this good information on as I receive it.

Stay tuned for more info to come!  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Monday, September 5, 2011

2011 Univest Grand Prix Cyclosportif- September 17th

Although it's NOT a race, if you want to ride (a pro course) with some damn good riders you want to sign-up for this years' Cyclosportif.  Yes, the UGP Cyclosportif is back.  It's IMPROVED and even better in years past.  You get to ride the same course that the Pros race.  And, I'll be there to capture your day on the bike with a great on-road action shot and finish line photo- for your "I love me wall". 

I rode the Cyclosportif years ago (in the rain) and it was fun.  Yes, even in the rain.  I even managed to finish first, averaging 20 mph, albeit I rode the shorter less hillier course (40 miles) because I wanted to see the start of the Pro race.  I believe this years' ride is only offered in the 100k ride (a hair over 66 miles).  Regardless, it is a fun ride and you can ride it at any pace..yes, even your race pace.  Can you finish 66 miles in 3 hrs on a hilly tract (4700 ft. of climbing)?  In past years, you even had the opportunity to ride with the likes of International touring Pro Bobby Julich.  My friend, and former coached athlete, Jim Ludovici rode with Bobby the entire ride and had a great time.  And yes, they averaged 20 mph...maybe even more.

Yes, it costs $65 but it is well worth it.  For the money you get chip timing, a T-shirt, an opportunity to ride with quality riders/racers, on-course tech support, raffle prizes and you even get fed afterwards.  You can't beat that.  You may even get to ride with a Pro- a real Pro.  What's get upfront viewing of the Pro race, from your private tent, which takes place after your ride.

For more information on the ride, and a link to register online at Bikereg, go the following link:  Don't wait, sign-up now whether you're a racer or casual weekend rider!

By the way, my friend Brian Ignatin (and local cycling enthusiast) is running the Cyclosportif event along with John Eustice.  Brian is an up and coming cycling event director who also runs the Spring Classics in our area.  These are "quality" rides that are well marked and well supported and include goodie bags.  If you haven't ridden in one of Brian's Spring Classics you MUST sign-up for his 2012 Classics.  I honestly believe some of his Spring Classics are even HARDER tracts than the Tour of Battenkill with MORE climbing and MORE gravel/dirt roads.  Challenging?  You bet.  Fun?  Absolutely!  Been there done I know.

Oh, one more thing, if you're a cycling geek (like me) and you have a GPS, or better a Garmin Edge 500 or 800, you can download the Cyclosportif course onto your computer for directions.  You get turn-by-turn directions for you lucky Garmin 800 owners.  Here's a You Tube link on how to program your Garmin Edge 500.   Hell, I own one and didn't even know it could do that.  Now that's cool.  That way, you don't have to rely on course signs (which are EVERYWHERE) or those really nerdy cue sheets..ha.  Go to "Ride With GPS" for the .gpx downloadable file. You'll have to sign-up for a free account:  I'm sure Brian will be using Ride With GPS for his Spring Classics as well.  Hey, if you don't have a Garmin Edge 500 or 800 by now, get one, I HIGHLY recommend them.  They are Ant+ Sport compatible and will read/record your power meter. What, not training/racing with a Power Meter?  No excuse!  GET ONE NOW, if not, put it on the top of Santa's list this Christmas.  I HIGHLY recommend either a Quarq PM or a Saris/Cycleops PM. If I coach you, I'll get you one at a coaches discount which is hundreds of dollars off MSRP.  Waiting for Garmin's Vector PM?  Good luck!

See you on September 17th.  Power ON! Coach Rob

Train/race SMARTER...PERSERVERE and meet your 2012 goals

For many of the you the racing season is over...for others it's on to the Cyclo Cross season.  Regardless, did you meet your 2011 goals?  For me, 2011 was sort of a bust.  Although I met my weight loss goal and power goal I did not even come close to meeting my race season goals...including my A-event, the Tour of the Battenkill.  I got caught up in a crash at mile marker 10 and ended up humping it by myself to the finish line.  What should have taken me 3 hrs. to complete ended up taking me 3 hrs. and 40 minutes.  Those additional 40 minutes out on the road put me in severe carbohydrate depletion and dehyrdation.  I'm lucky I even finished the race. Sure, I could have quit..but I didn't.  I did NOT plan on being out on the road that long, for that pace/effort, that early in the season. To say I was bummed (and pissed) an understatement.  I trained long and hard over the Winter for just this event.  I was ready too.  But, that's racing and sh$t does happen.  Albeit, for me, it seems like it happens all too often.  Just years ago, I had been training for a Half-Ironman event in Bend, Oregon.  I was ready, all signed-up, entry fees and travel expenses all paid.  Just two weeks prior to the event, I tore ligaments in my ankle on a training run which left me on crutches and 6 weeks in rehab.  I cried when it happened (I'm serious).  All that hard work (6 mos. of training) down the drain.  Although demotivated, I trained even harder the next year for the same event.  This time, just three weeks prior to the event I herniated two discs in my back on a Scuba Diving trip.  Not only did I miss my event, AGAIN, I had to give up running (too much pounding on my back).  Bummed? Are you kidding me?  Severely depressed was more like it.  Determined not to give up training, I concentrated my efforts on cycling since it does not affect my back. (Although, the herniated discs have left the side of my foot numb to this date.)   My sports related injuries even pre-date these as a torn quadricep muscle kept me sidelined for most of my senior year in high school football and hampered my college track and field days.  Nonetheless, I've pushed on and perservered over the years.

I am determined to train even HARDER for the 2012 season.  I will be stronger and I will be lighter than this year (remember, w/kg rule).  Only this time, my goals for 2012 will be built-in with plan B's in case of injury, crashes, setbacks, etc.  I can't let setbacks depress me like they've done in the past.  As long as I can train and ride my bike (God willing) I will continue to do so.  As a 52 yr. old Masters Racer, I'm not going to win any races..unless everyone crashes out.  I've accepted that, and I'm ok with it.  I ride because I enjoy riding and I race because I enjoy competition since I've been competing in sports since age 11.  I've just come to the conclusion that I'm just NOT lucky when it comes to BIG events...and conceded to the fact that whatever happens in the future..happens.  Although, having said all this, I can learn from these setbacks.  For example, why was I caught up in a crash this year at the Tour of the Battenkill?  Could it have been that I was riding in the middle of the pack instead of out front?  Absolutely.  I should have been racing smarter and staying out front knowing that it was least for the first half of the race until it thins out a little.   Why did I turn my ankle on a training run before my Ironman event?  Could it have been because I was running on the canal path instead of the road? Absolutely.  What caused me to herniate the discs in my back, could it have been all the heavy lifting of my Scuba Equipment?  Possibly.  What caused me to tear my quadricep muscle?  Poor warmup?  Possibly.  I need to train and race SMARTER!

If you, like me, didn't meet your 2011 goals due to a setback let it be motivation to train even HARDER for 2012 so you're stronger and faster.  If you met your 2011 goals..congratulations!  I'm truly happy for you.  When you start training for the 2012 season..train SMART!  Make your 2012 goals realistic.  And, if you have a setback- for whatever reason- plan for it, accept it, and re-set your goals for the remainder of the season and move on.  What you don't want to do is get so depressed and demotivated that you give up completely.  Trust me, after the Tour of the Battenkill..I didn't want to race period- and I didn't.  Hell, I didn't even want to ride my bike much- which I didn't.  And, I'll be the first to admit...that is NOT good!  Of all people (a coach) I should know better.  But, I am only human.

For you Cyclo guys..good luck for the upcoming racing season.  For you roadies, relax, spend some time with your family and start thinking about your goals for 2012.  And, train/race SMART!

Oh, the pic of example of NEVER QUIT and PERSERVERENCE!  Here's a link:

Power ON! Coach Rob 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Performance Testing

It seems like we've been taking them (tests) forever...doesn't it?  Tests in school, tests to operate a motor vehicle, tests at work, tests to become a coach, and even tests for athletes such as "performance tests". 

But, why do we test?  Testing provides measurement and objectivity to some of the elements of performance.  Those elements of performance (for cycling) being: speed, power, strength, endurance, skills, and even pain.  Yes...PAIN!  Sometimes, the winner of a particular race is determined by who says, "OUCH" last.  Testing provides feedback on training. i.e. is your training plan working?  Does your training plan need to be tweaked/optimized?  Testing provides a baseline. i.e. what is your power at the beginning of the season compared to the end of the season?  How does it compare from year to year?  How does it compare to other riders in your racing category?  Testing identifies strengths and weaknesses.  You train your weaknesses and race your strengths.  Testing identifies your capabilities..present and future.  i.e. if testing identifies you as "sprinter" you're probably NOT going to win any hill climbs now or in the future.  Sure, you can become a better "hill climber" but you'll never compete with the best of the hill climbers regardless of your training.  Why?  Because it's NOT in your physical makeup/genes.  Hey, don't blame me..blame your parents.  It's the same for you endurance guys that always come up to me and tell me that you want to be a "sprinter".  Sorry guys/gals, aint gonna happen.  Sure, training will make you better at sprinting, but you will NEVER be a "sprinter". Again, don't blame me (which I've had athletes do in the past)..blame your parents.

There are different forms of testing.  Laboratory testing- where the test is performed in a controlled (laboratory) environment with lab quality equipment under the watchful eye of a scientist/physiologist/doctor, Field testing- where the test is performed outside in the environment on the road/track (in the case of cycling) in the presence of a coach/physiologist and Competition testing- where the test is performed under race conditions at the race venue with other athletes.  Each of these forms of testing has their advantages/disadvantages.  Of the three, I prefer laboratory testing for one reason only (no not because I'm an engineer/scientist) and that is "repeatability".  In a laboratory setting you can control all of the environmental factors that normally affect performance outdoors such as the weather, road conditions, etc.  It's this "repeatability" that is so important when gauging or measuring performance..especially if you want to determine whether you're getting stronger/faster.  The only true disadvantage of laboratory testing, in my opinion, is 'competition' conditions.  i.e. the fans/support, your adrenaline rush, the will to push on when your mind/body tells you to give up, other riders, etc.  That's why it's important to have someone (a coach, a friend, a tester, etc.) cheer you on when you're performing a laboratory test.  You need to re-create that race day excitement/adrenaline rush.

Ok, now that I've identified a need to test lets discuss where you should test, what to test and when to test.   I already told you where you should test..and that's in a laboratory.  Additionally, you want to ensure that the lab (or test facility) has "laboratory quality" equipment.  Laboratory quality equipment will ensure that "repeatability" is maintained from test-to-test.  I only use Computrainer Lab quality ergometers/trainers when performing tests.  In the past, I've performed tests in my "finished" basement.  It's not the best place..but then again, it's better than some commercial facilities I've seen.  It has good lighting, a commercial-grade fan (which is VERY important), awesome stereo, awesome computer and software for data collection, excellent video projection system, clean/dry, etc.  What to test?  There are three tests that pretty much give me all the rider/athlete information I need as a coach: 1) a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test, 2) a 5 minute test and 3) a 1 minute test.    The FTP test will give me a good idea of the athltetes Lactate Threshold power.  The 5 minute test will give me a good idea of the athletes VO2max and the 1 minute test will give me a good idea of the athletes Anaerobic Capacity.  These are three good physiological benchmarks for gauging/predicting performance for anything from a 1 minute sprint to an hour Time Trial.  I like to test FTP one day and the 1 and 5 minute test another day...usually the end of the same week.  When to test?  For cyclists, including myself, I like to test 4x/year...every quarter (3 mos.).  I like to test the beginning of November (at the start of the annual training plan), the beginning of February (mid training season), the beginning of May (road race season) and mid-August (end of road race season).

Lastly, and most importantly, you need to have someone who knows what they're doing "analyze" the test data and make sense of it for you.  It sounds easy enough to go out and purcahse a trainer and do your own testing in your garage/basement and draw your own conclusions..but trust me, it's not that easy.  It's because there are so many variables.  Like what?  Like the time of year, the day you test, the time you test, the test conditions (heat/humidity), your stress levels, your weight, your nutrition, your bike setup, your test equipment, your hydration level, your conditioning, your attitude, your motivation level, your fitness level, your fatigue level, your warm-up, etc.  Any one of these variables can affect your test results.  Even if I'm not performing your test, make sure the person that does is a USA Cycling Power Based Coach.  They are the only ones that are smart enough, in my opinion, to make some sense of your (power) test data and give you advice for putting together a solid annual training plan that will improve your weaknesses and make you a faster/stronger rider.  BTW, good luck with that, the last time I checked I was the only USA Cycling Power Based Cycling Coach in Pennsylvania.  There is one in New Jersey though..she attended the same Power Based Coaching clinic in Atlanta, GA that I did...years ago.  She draws blood though..and charges more.

If you're interested in being tested, and you live near me (Doylestown, PA), stay tuned to this blog because I'm looking at finding a "better" space/place (than my finished basement) to perform Performance Testing.  I've already got a good lead.  When I say "better" I'm talking more accessible to the rider/athlete with a locker room.   Pricing will remain the same as previous years, $75 for non-coached athletes and $50 for coached athletes.  I've been talking to a couple local fitness center owners and I'm sure one of them will allow me use of their facility a couple weekends out of the year in: November, February, May and August.

One last thing, although I call inside testing "laboratory testing" I don't draw blood and use a blood lactate analyzer for determining Lacate Threshold nor do I use any fancy/expensive oxygen breathing machines for VO2max testing.  It's not that I don't have the $$ to purchase these devices..I just don't believe they are necessary for acquiring accurate test data and for repeatability.  Besides, I like to keep it simple and keep the test costs passed on to the athlete to a minimum.

Power ON!  Coach Rob