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