Friday, March 30, 2012

The Spring Classics's NOT the Tour of Flanders (which by the way is LIVE on the internet this Sunday morning at 0830), but it's the closest thing you'll have to ride if you live in the Philadelphia/New York area.  What is it?  It's the "Hell of Hunterdon" (HoH).  In tribute to the Northern European Spring Classics the Hell of Hunterdon is a 79 mile Belgian themed ride in Hunterdon County, NJ.   The HoH is just one of the many Spring road rides put on by my friend Brian Ignatin. The Spring Classics start with the "Hell of Hunterdon" tomorrow, Saturday March 31st, 2012 (which is SOLD OUT). The next Spring Classic is the "Fools Classic" (Fools)..another great Spring ride.  

The HoH course features 19 sections of dirt, gravel, and hardscrabble roads (covering approximately 15% of the course) as you wind your way through scenic farmland and country towns in New Jersey's Sourlands. Total elevation gain is ca 5700 feet. The route is perfectly suitable for standard Road Bikes with Road Tires; tires wider than 23mm are suggested. Cyclocross bikes are welcome, but certainly not required, as most of the ride is on paved roads. It is the ideal preparation for those who plan to go to the Tour of the Battenkill on April 14th.  To be honest with you, I think the HoH is a tougher course than the Tour of the Battenkill- and I've ridden/raced them both. 

If you're signed up to ride the HoH..have fun and be safe..and smile for the camera.  If you haven't, there's still time to sign up for the Fools Classic...another great ride.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Paleo Diet for Athletes

The Paleo Diet for Athletes was released in October, 2005 from Rodale Press. The revised version with research updates will appear in late summer of 2012. Written by Loren Cordain, Ph.D., author of The Paleo Diet, and Joe Friel, M.S., author of numerous best-selling books on training for endurance athletes, the book applies the concept of eating as our Stone Age ancestors ate to the extraordinary demands of training for serious endurance sports. Although it is now the 21st century, athletes still have Old Stone Age (Paleolithic) bodies. There has been no significant change in the human genome in the past 10,000 years. Physiologically speaking, we are still Paleolithic athletes. And because of that we function and perform best on certain types of foods.

The Paleo Diet

The basic premise of Dr. Cordain’s research on paleolithic nutrition is that certain foods are optimal for humans and others are non-optimal. The optimal foods are those that we have been eating for most of our time on Earth - more than 4 million years. Only in the last 10,000 years, a mere blink of the eye relative to our species’ existence, have we been eating non-optimal foods. Unfortunately, these foods comprise the bulk of what western society eats today and include such foods as grains, dairy and legumes. Given that our bodies have not changed, we are simply not well-adapted to these non-optimal foods and they moderate health and peak performance.
On the other hand, we have been eating optimal foods - vegetables, fruits, and lean animal protein - for hundreds of thousands of years and we are fully adapted to them. Science tells us that these foods also best meet our nutritional needs. Eat these and you will thrive. Avoid or strictly limit them and your health and performance will be compromised.

Paleo For Athletes

Serious athletes, however, when it comes to immediately before, during, and directly after workouts, need to bend the rules of the Paleo Diet a bit since we're placing demands on the body that were not normal for our Stone Age ancestors. Hour after hour of sustained high energy output and the need for quick recovery are the serious athlete’s unique demands. This requires some latitude to use non-optimal foods on a limited basis. The exceptions may best be described by explaining the athlete’s 5 stages of daily eating relative to exercise.

Stage I: Eating Before Exercise

In brief, we recommend that athletes eat low to moderate glycemic index carbohydrates at least two hours prior to a hard or long workout or race. There may also be some fat and protein in this meal. All foods should be low in fiber. Take in 200 to 300 calories for every hour remaining until exercise begins. If eating two hours prior is not possible, then take in 200 or so calories 10 minutes before the workout or race begins.

Stage II: Eating During Exercise

During long or hard workouts and races, you will need to take in high glycemic index carbohydrates mostly in the form of fluids. Sports drinks are fine for this. Find one that you like the taste of and will drink willingly. Realize that events lasting less than about an hour (including warm-up) don’t require any carbohydrate. Water will suffice for these. A starting point for deciding how much to take in is 200 to 400 calories per hour modified according to body size, experience and the nature of the exercise (longer events require more calories than short). Some athletes become so good at burning fat while sparing glycogen during exercise that they don’t need any carbohydrates for 2-3 hours of moderate-intensity exercise.

Stage III: Eating Immediately After

In the first 30 minutes post-workout (but only after long and/or highly intense exercise) and post-race, use a recovery drink that contains both carbohydrate and protein in a 4-5:1 ratio. You can buy a commercial product or you can make your own by blending 16 ounces of fruit juice with a banana, 3 to 5 tablespoons of glucose (such as Carbo-Pro) depending on body size, about 3 tablespoons of protein powder, especially from egg sources and two pinches of salt. This 30-minute window is critical for recovery. It should be your highest priority after a hard workout or race.

Stage IV: Eating For Extended Recovery

For the next few hours (as long as the preceding challenging exercise lasted) continue to focus your diet on carbohydrates, especially moderate to high glycemic load carbohydrates along with protein at a 4-5:1 carb-protein ratio. Now is the time to eat non-optimal foods such as pasta, bread, bagels, rice, corn and other foods rich in glucose as they contribute to the necessary carbohydrate recovery process. Perhaps the perfect Stage IV foods are raisins, potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams.

Stage V: Eating For Long-Term Recovery

For the remainder of your day, or until your next Stage I, return to eating a Paleo Diet by focusing on optimal foods. For more information on the Paleo Diet go to or read The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, Ph.D.

How Much Protein, Carb And Fat Should I Eat?

The macronutrient requirement changes with the demands of the training season and so should be periodized along with training. We recommend that athletes maintain a rather consistent protein intake year round. As a percentage of total calories this will typically be in the range of 20-25% for athletes. This is on the low end of what our Stone Age ancestors ate due to the athlete’s increased intake of carbohydrate in Stages I to IV which dilutes protein as a percentage of daily calories.
On the other hand, periodization of diet produces significant and opposing swings in the athlete’s fat and carbohydrate intake as the training seasons change. During the base (general preparation) period the diet shifts toward an increased intake of fat while carbohydrate intake decreases. At this time in the season when a purpose of training is to promote the body’s use of fat for fuel, more healthy fat is consumed—in the range of 30% of total calories - with carbohydrate intake at around 50%. During the build and peak (specific preparation) periods the intensity of training increases placing greater demands on the body for carbohydrate to fuel exercise. At this latter time of the season Stages III and IV become increasingly critical to the athlete’s recovery. Carbohydrate intake increases accordingly to around 60% of total calories with fat intake dropping to around 20%.
During times of the year when training is greatly reduced (peaking/tapering and transition periods) the athlete must limit caloric intake to prevent unwanted weight gain.

Why Is The Paleo Diet Beneficial?

Health and fitness are not synonymous. Unfortunately, many athletes are fit but unhealthy. Frequent illness, injury and overtraining reduce performance potential. The Paleo Diet for Athletes significantly improves health long term. Compared with the commonly accepted athlete’s diet, the Paleo Diet:
  • Increases intake of branched chain amino acids (BCAA). Benefits muscle development and anabolic function. Also counteracts immunosuppression common in endurance athletes following extensive exercise.
  • Decreases omega-6:omega-3 ratio. Reduces tissue inflammations common to athletes while promoting healing. This may include asthmatic conditions common in athletes.
  • Lowers body acidity. Reduces the catabolic effect of acidosis on bone and muscle while stimulating muscle protein synthesis. This is increasingly important with aging.
  • Is high in trace nutrients. Vitamins and minerals are necessary for optimal health and long-term recovery from exercise. The most nutrient-dense foods are vegetables and seafood. On average, vegetables have nearly twice the nutrient density of grains.
Excerpt from the paleo diet for athletes
Training for endurance sports such as running, cycling, triathlon, rowing, swimming, and cross-country skiing places great demands on the body, and the athlete is in some stage of recovery almost continuously during periods of heavy training. The keys to optimum recovery are sleep and diet. Even though we recommend that everyone eat a diet similar to what our Stone Age ancestors ate, we realize that nutritional concessions must be made for the athlete who is training at a high volume in the range of 10 to 35 or more hours per week of rigorous exercise. Rapid recovery is the biggest issue facing such an athlete. While it’s not impossible to recover from such training loads on a strict Paleo Diet, it is somewhat more difficult to recover quickly. By modifying the diet before, during, and immediately following challenging workouts, the Paleo Diet provides two benefits sought by all athletes: quick recovery for the next workout, and superior health for the rest of your life.
For more information on The Paleo Diet for Athletes go to or

Why YOU need a Power Meter!

by Joe Friel, Coach, Author, Exercise Physiologist
Should you buy a power meter? After all, they aren’t cheap and sport is already expensive. You’ve spent a small fortune on bicycles and all of their assorted and costly components. And don’t forget the entry fees, travel to races, special foods and supplements, and on, and on, and on.
And why get a power meter since you already have a perfectly good heart rate monitor? It’s just one more gizmo to have to figure out.
So why should you get a power meter? The short answer is that you simply are more likely to achieve your race goals by training—and racing—with a power meter than without. It is the most affective tool you can get to go faster on a bike.
Here’s Why
Don’t get me wrong, heart rate monitors are great intensity-measuring devices, also. But heart rate by itself actually doesn’t tell you much. It’s like the tachometer on a car—it tells you how hard the engine is working. Nothing more.
For example, what if your heart rate is 10 beats higher than usual? What does that mean? Is it good or bad? The only way to answer that question is to know if you were putting out more power or less than usual.
Input data such as heart rate isn’t meaningful until it is compared with some measure of output. Output is critical to success; input isn’t. After all, they don’t give awards at races to those who worked the hardest or had the highest heart rates (input), but rather to those who had the fastest time which results from high power (output).
Let’s get back to why you should get a power meter.
No More Guessing
Should you buy a power meter or fast wheels? Given the choice I’d recommend a power meter every time. When it comes to speed the engine is always the most important part. A power meter will help you develop a bigger one. With sleek wheels you still have a small engine.
How do they make your engine bigger? Power meters remove most of the guesswork that goes into training and racing. For example, I’ve known athletes who when doing intervals with heart rate monitors don’t call the work interval “started” until their heart rates reach the targeted level which could take several minutes. During that time they are guessing how hard to work. With a power meter you soon learn that the interval starts as soon as the power hits the targeted zone—which means right away. You get the intensity correct immediately with no guesswork. The intervals don’t taper off near the ends any more either. This means no wasted training time and precise intensity.
Also, realize that you’re not trying to train the heart solely when doing intervals or any workout, for that matter. In fact, what happens in the muscles during workouts, not the heart, is really the key to your success. Heart rate monitors, while quite valuable to training, have many believing that training is just about the heart. It isn’t. Power meters allow you to focus more on muscle.
Cheating With Power
Using a power meter in a long steady-state race such as a triathlon or long time trial is almost like cheating. When everyone else is fighting a head wind, excitedly going too fast down wind or guessing how hard to push when going up hill, the athlete with a power meter is just rolling along at the prescribed power. He or she will produce the fastest possible ride given the conditions so long as the optimal target power has been determined through training and observed closely during the race. While something similar can be done with heart rate there are some confounding factors such as the excitement of a race, cardiac drift, the acute effect of diet and the slow response of pulse on hills, accelerating out of corners or when passing others.
Power meters also provide highly accurate details about how your fitness is changing throughout the season. I test the athletes I coach regularly using a combination of heart rate and power. Without this information I really wouldn’t know for sure if they are making progress. I’d just be guessing. Now I can precisely compare output with input by dividing the average (or, preferably, “normalized”) power for a workout by the average heart rate. An increasing value for similar workouts tells me fitness is improving.
Moving On Up
There are many benefits of training with power. But perhaps the best indicator of their value for performance is the elite athletes who use them. Power meters are common with pro road cyclists and they are becoming increasingly popular with pro triathletes. Cyclists are increasingly using them. Age group triathletes have been slow to adopt this technology, which is unusual. Over the past twenty years triathletes were the first to adopt such innovations as aero bars, beam bikes, deep-dish rims, clipless pedals and gels.
The trend is definitely toward the adoption of power meters in road racing, triathlon and mountain biking. Many are leaning that a power meter will help them race faster. Start setting aside a few bucks a week so that some day you can get one. It will definitely change how well you train and race
This article originally appeared on on 1/28/2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Science of Cycling

I honestly believe I've read just about every book written on cycling training in the last 10 yrs.  Why?  Because before I start prescribing what I believe are the best training methods/workouts for my athletes I want to ensure there is some "scientific evidence", that has "statistical significance", behind the workouts which substantiate that they do in fact- WORK!

I'm really excited to announce a NEW book which will be hitting the streets in mid-April.  One of the authors is my mentor Hunter Allen.  The book, entitled "Cutting-edge Cycling", shows how science can improve fitness and riding, and how to make science practical and relevant for cyclists". 

My cycling training/coaching methodology has been and always will be based on "Science".  The workouts I prescribe are "proven" workouts which show performance improvements for the masses.  Granted, some workouts produce better results for different people.  I don't normally prescribe cycling workouts that are fun...I prescribe ones that work. If you want fun workouts go to a Spin Class and do their "Mickey Mouse" workouts with music.  Or, buy one of the many CD/DVDs on the market that claim they'll make you stronger/faster in just 2 weeks.

Anyway, look for Hunter's book in mid-April.  I'm sure it's one that I'm going to enjoy, learn something from, and use information from to improve future Annual Training Plans.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Let the Games Begin!

What an exciting time for Cycling..daylight savings this weekend..warmer temps..and my first race of the season this Sunday.  No, I'm not racing- I'm officiating the start of the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC) at Steven's University in New Jersey.  Actually, I'll be the Chief Referee (CR) for this event.  It's truly exciting for me to see all the young kids Amp'd up to race for the first time this season.  A lot of these kids from the Northeast, and I'm not talking NE Pennsylvania, I'm talking NE United States, have only been out on the road for only a handful of times because of the short days and cold weather.  Schools like MIT, Harvard, Boston U, and others in Maine and New Hampshire will be descending on Steven's University in New Jersey this weekend.

For a lot of you, your racing season start is right around the corner.  Many of you have Battenkill as the first race of the season.  That's only in a little over a month from now.  So, if you're not better start gettin' your a$$ in gear.  I can tell you for a fact, there are a LOT of guys that are ready for Battenkill.  Some have been riding all Winter long and others have been attending warm-weather Winter camps in California.  If you want a good tune-up race for Battenkill, and you live in the Bucks County/Hunterdon County area I highly recommend that you ride the "Hell of Hunterdon" ride on March 31st.  This ride is a good ride and the layout is even tougher (in my opinion) than Battenkill.  Not only is there more elevation rise, the roads are tougher to navigate/handle.

Daylight savings is March 11th so don't forget to set your watch/clocks.  Also, take advantage of the warmer temps and longer days and RIDE!  This is "crunch-time"!  It's a little bit early to start working the AC system but you should definitely be working the Threshold and VO2max via LOTS of hill work.  Also, for you guys that could stand to lose a few pounds, NOW is the time to drop it.  You don't want to be dropping weight in-season.  Remember, it's all about w/kg..because the guy/gal with the highest power-to-weight ratio normally wins (all other things being equal).

Get out and RIDE!  Power ON!  Coach Rob