Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year 2018

If you're looking to get in shape for 2018..make sure you set a goal (or have a plan) and that it's measurable. i.e. lose 20 lbs. in 8 weeks.  Increase my FTP by 25 watts by April, etc. Also, make sure you have the discipline, willing to sacrifice, and have the motivation to stick with your goal/plan.  Otherwise, it aint goin' to happen.  Wishin' (or dreaming) you get in shape will never happen on it's own.  You have to want it and you have to do it.  Just do it.  Good Luck!  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Happy New Year everyone.  Looking forward to a healthy & happy 2018.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Pedal Stroke Explained

I don't think most people think about their pedal stroke when they ride their bike and I suppose unless you're racing or logging a lot of miles as a recreational rider- who cares.  I can't tell you how many times I ride behind recreational riders and notice they're bouncing in their seat because the seat is too high or their knees are pointed outwards like they're riding a beach cruiser at the shore wearing flip flops.  I don't even want to mention their pedal stroke..because it's all over the place.  But, if you're racing or you're a recreational rider that logs some pretty long miles you'll not only want to be fitted properly to your bike, you want to ensure you're pedal stroke is as efficient as it can be.  By the way, if/when you buy a bike, you should have the bike fitted to you, not the other way around.

The best way to explain the most efficient pedal stroke is through this clock diagram (below).  I'll start with 12 o'clock.  At the top of the pedal stroke your foot should be at the same position as it is at 6 & 9 o'clock.  That is, the heel should be slightly elevated from the toe.  Your hip extensors or glutes are ready to kick in and drive the foot forward at the top.  At this position you'll feel the toes hitting the fronts of your shoes.  At 1 o'clock, your knee extensors, or quads, are ready to kick in and supplement the glutes.   The 2 o'clock position is the position of max power applied to the pedal because your glutes and quads (the biggest muscles) are both fully engaged. Your heel will drop down from its elevated position so that your foot is horizontal to the ground.  At the 3 o'clock position your foot will be horizontal and your heel may drop slightly below the toe level depending on the grade and/or how hard you're pedaling.  At the 4 o'clock position your glutes will acquiesce and let the quads takeover.  At 5 o'clock, or bottom of the stroke, your calves kick-in and takeover for the quads.  At 6-7 o'clock, your ankle dorsiflexor or shin muscles kick-in.  At this point you should feel like you're scraping mud from the bottoms of your shoes.  The hamstrings do all the work from 8-9 o'clock.  At this point you're actually pulling up slightly on the pedal (a lot if you're climbing).  You may not feel it but you are.  At 10 o'clock through 12 o'clock it's all hip flexor.  Again, you're pulling up slightly on the pedal.
Notice the foot position on the pedal is just about the same at the 6, 9 and 12 o'clock position.  Also, notice when pedaling correctly you're utilizing ALL of your leg muscles- front and back including the glutes.  You want good balance.  i.e. you don't want strong quads and weak hamstrings or glutes.  You want everything strong.

The Winter months are the months you want to work on pedaling efficiency.  One leg pedaling drills are probably a good idea to inject into your winter training plan/workouts.  You'll know if you have a good pedal stroke if it isn't jerky or erratic.  If it is, work on being smooth throughout the entire clock.

Check out the photo of Bradley Wiggins below.  Notice the foot position at 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock.  i.e. heel slightly elevated.  That's what I'm talking about.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

New Year, New You

It's that time of year again, the New Year, where resolutions are made only to see resolutions being broken/ignored.  Here are the top 5 New Years resolutions:

I agree, everyone could benefit or improve their lives from the Top 5 list.  But it's also a known fact 92% of  all New Years resolutions fail.

Why is that?  Why do 92% of all New Years resolutions fail?  The primary reason why resolutions are broken (or fail) is because either a) the goals were unrealistic or not specific enough to begin with.  i.e. goals need to be measurable, or b) there was no motivation or self-control to keep/maintain the goal or c) both a and b. 

Lets start with a). unrealistic or non-specific goals.  And, we'll use resolution #4 (as an example) which seems to be the number 1 New Years resolution on most peoples list.  Lose weight.  How much weight?  By what date?  How are you going to lose the weight?  Starve?  Exercise?  Eating Healthy?  Combination of eating healthy & exercising?  Ok, so you need to make a measurable goal.  How about losing 1 lb. per week for 20 weeks.  Or, I want to lose 10 lbs. by my wedding.  That's good, that's definable/measurable.  How are you going to do it?  By eating healthy and exercising.  Good.  Now, what's your motivation for meeting that goal?  You want to be healthy?  You want to look good?  Ok, good.  Now, the biggest impediment to meeting that goal is- what's your motivation?  Do you have a wedding?  Do you have a special event?  Is that enough motivation?  Do you have enough self-control throughout the dieting and exercising period to stay on track to meet the goal?  Do you have a support group?  That is why 92% of New Years resolutions fail.  People have the "desire" but they don't have the "motivation" or "self-control".  If you don't have the desire AND the motivation and self-control, it's never going to happen. 

I saw a great movie last night (true story), that I've seen probably a half-dozen times before, with Robert DeNiro and Cuba Gooding Jr. called, "Men of Honor".  In the movie, Cuba Gooding Jr. wants to become the first Black Master Diver in the US Navy.  That's his goal, his desire in life.  Robert DeNiro, who was the Master Chief running the Master Diver program for the US Navy asked Cuba Gooding Jr., "why do you want to be a Master Diver so much Cookie?".  (Cookies are newbie divers.)  Cuba Gooding Jr. responded, "I always wanted to be a Master Diver sir...and because they said I couldn't do it".  So, Cuba Gooding Jr. had the desire and he had the motivation..and guess what?  He became a master diver despite being black and having his leg amputated.  

So, before you make your New Years resolutions for 2018, don't think so much about the resolution goal, think more about how you're going to have enough desire, motivation and self-control to stay the course and meet that goal.

Good Luck in 2018 and Happy New Year.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Fitness, Freshness & Form

Just wanted to highlight a BEFORE and AFTER Fitness, Freshness & Form chart from a ride on Zwift this morning.  This was the first time in a long time, my Form was actually a positive number.  (If you want more info on Form, search my blog).  Therefore, I should have been strong on my ride today.  I really didn't feel any stronger because I did nothing but eat/drink the last few days.  I know for a fact that I don't have good workouts after drinking copious amounts of beer like I did over Christmas.


You can see that AFTER my ride, my Fitness increased by 1 point (supposedly it made me stronger, when in reality workouts make you weaker because of the micro-tears and muscle inflammation), my Fatigue increased by 9 points (which makes sense since I'm tired) and my Freshness decreased by 7 points (which also makes sense since I'm not fresh anymore).  My ride was a 45 minute virtual reality training ride on Zwift.  My average power for the 45 minutes was 190w.


Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone from our family to yours.

Looking like a White Christmas at my Pocono Home!

Fat America

For those that don't know me, or for those that haven't seen me in a while..I've lost 35 lbs. since last year this same time.  Last year, on Christmas Day, I weighed 195 lbs.  This year, I weigh 160 lbs.  That weight loss was due to me "getting back in shape". i.e. eating clean/healthy and exercising regularly by cycling 3-4x per week.  Although I don't look great (according to friends & family), I feel great.  Friends and family say I look sick and they're asking my wife if "I'm ok".  Yes, "I'm ok".  It's not like I haven't been here before.  When I was 50 yrs. old (I'm 58 now), I dropped from 220 lbs. to 195 lbs. then from 195 lbs. down to 175 lbs.  I stayed at 175 lbs. for 5-6 yrs. until I let it slip back up to 195 lbs. last year.  The reason?  For those years that I let my weight gain from 175 to 195 were the years I stopped riding my bike.  Not sure why I stopped..well I do somewhat.  I used to race my bike when I weighed 175 lbs. and then I crashed at a big race (that I trained over a year for) and wasn't able to finish.  I thought to myself, why am I doing so hard and eating so clean only to crash in a race I prepared so hard for...for who..for what?  So, I gave up riding and racing altogether (and ate/drank whatever I wanted) which was pretty stupid because I lost all my fitness I worked so hard to obtain.  I just didn't care anymore.  I don't expect to race again anytime soon (although I did hear that USA Cycling may open up a 60+ Masters Category that has me thinking about it), I do expect to ride recreationaly in the future- this time for good.  I always want to continue to ride my bike- God willing.  There's just something about it..the free/liberating feeling of riding.  I still remember my first bike, at Christmas, almost 50 yrs. ago today.  It wasn't much of a bike.  It was a single speed stingray design from Sears second hand store called Cozi's. It had a banana seat, sissy bar, high handlebars, etc.  It wasn't even close to being as nice as my friends 5 speed Schwinn Orange Crush but it was mine.  When I rode it, I got that free liberating feeling.  I get the same feeling these days when I ride..whether it's my bicycle or my motorcycle.  Later, when I was 13, I received my first Schwinn 3 speed Varsity road bike on Christmas.  I was so proud of that bike.  I rode it every day even throughout the Winter.  So, for me, riding a bike has been a part of my life since I was 8.  Tricycles don't count- ha.

Out of curiosity I looked into the Body Mass Index (BMI) chart to see if my height to weight ratio was in the normal, underweight or overweight category.  I knew I wasn't in the overweight category.  According to Wiki:

"In 1998, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought U.S. definitions in line with World Health Organization guidelines, lowering the normal/overweight cut-off from BMI 27.8 to BMI 25. This had the effect of redefining approximately 29 million Americans, previously healthy, to overweight.[20]

So, if you're BMI is over 25 you're overweight, over 29 obese.  Did you know that over 35% of Americans are "obese"?  Fat America for sure.  That's why when people look at my svelte physique they ask, "Is Rob ok?  Is Rob sick?".  No, he's not sick, you're just so used to looking at fat/overweight/obese people which seems to be the norm these days.  Here's the BMI chart with recommended guidelines:

For me, since I'm 5'11" and I weigh 160 lbs, my BMI (according to the chart) is 22.  That is near the middle of the green band.  Actually, it's closer to the overweight band (yellow) than the underweight (blue) band.  So, according to the National Institute of Health (and CDC), I'm where I should be- in the healthy range.  Are you?

Power ON!  Coach Rob 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Power Meters and Triathlons

Saw a chart today from Alex Simmon's blog re: the usage of Power Meters at Kona's World Championship Ironman Triathlon.  Seems like the Triathlon people are slowly catching on to the benefits of a Power Meter.  At least the more experienced triathletes are. See chart below.

 So, why are they gaining in popularity?  Either these athletes have more disposable income these days or power meters are more affordable- or both.  I think it's more the latter.  Regardless, I think it's great.  When I was actively coaching both road cyclists and triathletes back in 2011, there were hardly any triathletes with power meters on their bikes.  Yes, I admit price was probably a deterrent since even in 2011 a decent power meter would set you back $700.  But, what I found more common was that they didn't know how to use them even when they were given one to demo.  That is why I joined Todd Wiley (TWiley Sports) for his annual Lake Placid Triathlon Camp in May.  I gave a presentation during the weekend camp on the benefits of power meters for triathletes.  One of the primary benefits to someone doing the Lake Placid Ironman is/was pacing themselves.  The Lake Placid course bike ride is 2 x 56 mile laps that are very hilly.  If you go out too hard on your first lap, you'll most likely cook yourself for the 2nd lap and more importantly wreak havoc on your marathon run.

Good stuff.  Glad to see it.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

London Calling

When it's raining outside and it's 40-50F degrees I'd rather be riding indoors- in my pain cave.  Today's Zwift virtual ride was in London.  I've been to London about a dozen times in my life and I must say, the Zwift game graphics is as the Brits would say, "spot on" to the real-life scenery.

Today I chose a 15 mile loop in Zwift called the Greater London Loop.  It's flat for the most part until you reach the 10 mile mark where there is an average 6-8% grade hill for approx 2.5 miles.  Then, it's as the Americans would say, "balls-to-the wall" to the finish line (it's an aviators expression from the old days).  I think I reached 50 mph on the descent to the Tower Bridge.  It was fun and I got a great 45 mile workout- and I didn't even get wet..ha.

Here's a close-up of the Hill Climb:

Here's a chart of the ride metrics:

The printouts (shown above) are from Golden Cheetah (open source) Software which I've grown to love after ditching Training Peaks software.  Golden Cheetah does everything Training Peaks software does and more.  The best part- it's FREE..unlike Training Peaks.  I definitely recommend downloading the program.

This is my last workout til Christmas.  Until then, everyone have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Thursday, December 21, 2017

SKS Front & Rear Fenders for Mtn Bikes

Wanted to highlight the SKS Front & Rear Fenders on this Mountain Bike.  I've always had the SKS Rear Fender on my 29er Mtn. Bike but I recently purchased the Front SKS Shockboard Fender because my legs were getting wet on long rides with puddles.  It's real easy to mount.  Takes about 5 minutes.  The Fender/Kit comes with a sleeve that fits (and expands) inside your front fork tube/post.  The Fender clips on/off with a single press of a button.  All plastic construction for no rust worries.  It's durable too.  The plastic can be bent/twisted/etc. without any damage.  Cost $25.  When you want it for wet conditions, clip-on.  When you don't want/need it, clip-off.  The Rear Fender clamps on to the seat post and has a height adjustment.  All well made.  Made in Germany (they make quality stuff).  Take it from a German Engineer (moi).  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Zwift Racing

I completed my first Zwift race tonight..woohoo!  The first time I entered a race on Zwift I got shelled.  Dropped like a hot potato.  I had no idea the races go out so fast.  In Zwift, if you lose the draft, good luck getting back on.  And, that's exactly what happened in my first race. So, this time I was ready.  I just didn't know how long I could hang before I was dropped.  The race tonight was a 10km, 1 lap race.  The shorter the race, the higher the intensity..just like in real life racing.  I entered the "D" category which is supposed to be between 1-2.4 w/kg.  The "C" category is supposed to be between 2.4-3.2 w/kg.  My power to weight ratio is about 2.9 w/kg.  So, why didn't I enter the "C" Category?  Well, that's because I got shelled from the last "C" Category race which is why I signed up for the "D" Category.  Tonight's race when out hard/fast.  I think I was averaging over 300w for the first few minutes.  It settled down after that, but I was still averaging over 200w.  On the last climb of the race, I got dropped by the field.  But, unbeknownst to me, our "D" race merged with the "A" thru "C" Category riders.  That is, we were all riding together.  I didn't know that.  I thought all the riders around me were "D" riders.

The results: I came in 2nd place in the "C" Category averaging 2.9 w/kg for 15 minutes.  My Normalized Power was 232w and Average Power was 226w for the race.  So, I pretty much rode at my max power to weight ratio.  It also seems like Zwift automatically upgraded me to "C" Category based on my performance..which is fine with me.  My FTP right now is about 220w.  I want to get that back up to 250w by the Spring of 2018.  I don't think I'll ever get it back up to 275w where it was in 2015..but that's ok.  I weighed 175 lbs back then.  I only weigh 160 lbs. now.  It's much more fun to ride at 160 lbs than 175 lbs..especially when you hit the hills.  I know.  When I first started riding in 2003 I weighed 195 lbs.  It was no fun climbing any hill..not even the shortest of climbs back then.  Climbing when I weighed 175 lbs. was much easier.  It's even easier at 160 lbs.  It's fun passing all the fatty patty's on a climb..haha.  Hey, I used to be one.

I'm starting to like Zwift racing.  Why?  Because it's a great workout.  You're expending close to maximum effort..more so than if you just did a solo workout.  The other thing that's nice about it is that there's no crashes..haha.  And, you don't have to listen to all the BS talking/chatting/yelling/etc. that normally goes on with real races.

Check it out.  I think you'll like it.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Sunday, December 17, 2017

You are what you eat!

It always amazes me when I read an article about the Food and Drug Administrations recommended daily food allowances.  What amazes me is how ANYONE can stick to their recommended allowances.  Lets take sodium for example; they recommend 1500mg or less of sodium intake per day.  How the hell is that possible?  I don't eat anything with salt on it and I can't get close to 1500mg per day.  I'm double that.  If I buy nuts it's unsalted.  If I buy pretzels, I rub all the salt off.  I don't put any table salt on anything and I don't eat soup which is loaded with sodium.  Even when I eat peanut butter it's low sodium peanut butter.  Sugar is another one.  The FDA recommends 38g of sugar intake per day or less.  Another WTF on that one.  How is that possible?  I don't eat any sweets at all.  No desserts, no ice cream, no cake, no cookies.  I only drink water or an occasional beer.  I don't even drink Gatorade anymore because of the High Fructose Corn Syrup.  If I get any sugar in my diet it's sucrose or fructose from fresh fruit.  Ok, I lied, I get a little from breakfast cereal in the a.m. but I make sure the Kashi breakfast cereal I eat is low in sugar.  And, I get a little from a protein/energy bar while I'm working out.  And, maybe once in a while I'll put a touch of ketchup on a burger.  When I say a touch I mean less than the size of a quarter in diameter and in height.

So, where am I getting all the salt and sugar?  It's in everything.  It's even in bread, milk, lunch meat, peanut butter, fruits and some vegetables, etc.  This morning I ate a Burger King Ultimate Breakfast Platter. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know but I was on the road in the poconos and had to get home fast and didn't have time (or money) to stop at a diner.  If you're not familiar with this breakfast it consists of: 3 pancakes, 2 scrambled eggs, 2 sausages, 1 hash browns,  & 1 biscuit (w/ syrup & butter).  That's a whopping 1200 calorie breakfast w/ 2800mg of sodium and 36g of sugar.  So, what I do is take one bite of the biscuit and throw it away.  I do the same with the hash browns.  Not because they don't taste good but because it's absolutely garbage for you.  Next, I throw all the condiments away: ketchup, syrup, salt, butter, etc.  Then what I do is take the egg and sausage and I slap it between 2 pancakes and I eat it like a breakfast sandwich.  No butter, no syrup, no extra salt or sugar.  It's actually pretty good.  I figure I cut the sodium, sugar, carbs, etc. in half by doing that.  There's sugar and salt in the pancakes.  The sausage is probably loaded with salt.  But, if you ate the entire meal you pretty much pegged yourself of sodium, carbs, fat and sugar for the day.  The entire day!  That's over 1/2 your recommended daily calories too.  So, it really is a sh$t meal.

Anyway, the point is..start becoming a label reader of find yourself a good online food database that gives you the nutrient breakdown of what you're eating.   Then, keep a diary/journal of what you eat for at least a month.  That's right, every day for a month and see what you're average daily nutrient intake.  I've done it for the past 7 weeks. i.e. kept a diary/journal of everything I put in my mouth for 7 weeks..every day.  (BTW, I use MyFitnessPal as I believe they have the most comprehensive online food database.)  You can see my two main concerns are sugar and salt.  Just can't seem to get that down near the recommended FDA daily allowance.  Check it out:

Yes, it's a lot of work doing this (keeping a food diary).  But, it's the only way you'll truly know what your daily intake is.  And, you ARE what you eat wisely.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Friday, December 15, 2017

Mtn Bike Riding in the Snow

I led a group ride in the snow last night on the canal/tow path near my home.  It was in the teens cold.  When I got in my car after my ride, my car thermometer read 13F .  The snow was 1-2" with occasional icy spots.  Everyone stayed upright.  The ride was 22 miles long and took just under 2 hrs. averaging 13-14 mph with a couple stops for water and an energy bar.  Normally, I drink while I ride, but last night was so cold that my Camelbak Hydration Pack hose froze solid.  Here is my essential riding list for the snow:

BIKE- gotta have the right bike with the right tires.  I don't recommend a hybrid bike or a cross bike in 2 inches or more of snow.  Yes, I'm sure you can ride it in 2" of snow but it's not very stable.  Not stable like a Mtn. Bike or Fat Bike.

PEDALS and SHOES- some people still use clip-in pedals in the snow.  I don't because you'll invariably need to stop and when you do, your pedals will fill up with snow.  I use flat pedals with stiff sole shoes and flat bottoms.  You don't want to wear shoes with an aggressive tread pattern.  You want the tread to be flat so the metal nubs/barbs on the flat pedals can dig in for grip/traction.

GAITERS- these should be waterproof and cover the entire shoe including the tops.  This will keep the snow out which will prevent the snow from melting inside your shoes.  If you get your socks wet from melting snow, your feet will get cold in a heartbeat.

POGIES and/or GLOVES?- I don't like Pogies.  They're the big muff looking things that attach to your bike handlebars and grips- that you insert your gloved hand into.  They're too poofy for my taste.  Besides, I want my hands free to do whatever: get a drink, press a button on my bike computer, get a drink, blow my nose, scratch my ear, eat, etc.  I like Ski Gloves.  They work well.  If your hands still get cold, pop a hand warmer inside.

FACE/EYE/HEAD PROTECTION-  I lumped these all together because you want them to fit together.  You want your goggles or sunglasses to fit our helmet.  When it gets real cold and windy outside, I ditch my bike helmet and use my ski helmet w/ goggles or sunglasses.  If there is a chance of frostbite, I'll use a balaclava (full face/head mask).

FENDERS- I have a clip-on fender for my rear wheel (and it works great).  I should get one for the front.  They make them but they're just harder to find.

LIGHTS- for night riding you need a good hi-power (hi-lumen) output light.  You'll also need a high capacity battery to run the light for at least 2-4 hrs. since you never know how long you'll be riding or caught outside in the cold.  Make sure your light battery is fully charged.  The cold has a way of zapping your battery (even Lithium batteries).

BIKE RACK- I see people disassemble their bikes and throw them in the trunk after their ride.  To me, that's too much of a hassle.  Plus, it dirties up the back of your SUV or trunk. I like the hitch mounted bike racks.  It takes all of 5 seconds to safely secure your bike to the rack and it keeps all the dirt/salt/gravel/etc. outside of your car.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Let it Snow!

I know there's a lot of people that live near me in PA that don't like the cold or the snow.  They bitch and moan about it.  I never understood that.  If you don't like something, why do you put up with it- year after year after year?  It's not going to get any better.  Winter is still going to come and dump some snow on you if you live in the Northern latitudes.  Just move to Florida or wherever if you don't like it.  For some, that's not possible..they just can't afford to pack up and move.  Or, maybe they have older parents in the area to care for, etc.  I'm guessing the REAL reason why they bitch and moan is because they don't know how to enjoy the snow.  That is, they don't sled, ski, hike, snowmobile, walk, or bike in the snow which is a shame.  Some of the most beautiful nature photos I've taken over the years have been snow scenes where I was outside skiing, biking, walking, etc.  Plus, who doesn't like the fresh clean air after a recent snow and the warm sun on your face?

I bike in the snow with my mountain bike.  As long as the snow is 2" or less it's fine.  When it gets above 3" it can be a little tricky unless it's one of those powdery snows (which we don't get very many of here in the Northeast).  I just deflate my tires from 50psi down to 30psi for more/better traction.  Fat bike tires can run as low as 10psi of air in the tires.

The next thing I recommend is to change your pedals from the clip-in type to flat pedals.  Because you're going to put your foot down sooner than later and when you do, your cleats will fill up with snow and make it hard to clip back in.  Plus, your reaction time is much faster getting your foot on the ground for stability with flat pedals vs. clip-in pedals.  And, you're not going to have to worry about your foot coming off the pedal when you're climbing because you shouldn't be climbing in the snow anyway.  You also want to stay seated while you ride.  No need to stand up on the pedals.  The bike is going to wash out a little from side-to-side.  It will feel weird/unsafe at first but you'll get used to it.  Just spin at a good high rate (80-90 rpm) and don't mash the pedals.  Also, get used to the fact that you're not going to be riding at your customary speeds. If you normally ride at 15 mph on dry trails, don't expect to go faster than 8 mph in the snow.  And, you're going to use much more power to go 8 mph in the snow than you would 15 mph in dry conditions.  If the trail becomes slippery you can always put on some studded tires.  I've never done that yet, but there's always a first time.  If I do, I'll report it here.

As far as clothing, I dress for Winter bike riding the same way I do for skiing..except I don't wear the baggy pants that I do when skiing.  I wear long winter stretch riding/cycling pants.  They're comfortable and warm.  I also wear the lobster gloves where the thumb and index finger have their own sleeve, and the last three fingers of your hand share another sleeve.  If your hands still get cold you can always pop a hand-warmer inside your gloves.  I'll wear sunglasses or ski goggles depending on conditions.  Always wear goggles or glasses of some type with UV protection from the sun.  Don't forget your sunscreen too.  For shoes/boots, I love my specialized winter riding boots.  Except for the snow, I change to flat pedals and hiking boots.  If your feet get cold, pop in toe warmers- they work.  Lastly, don't forget to hydrate.  Riding in the snow is a workout.  It's tough riding and you're going to work up a sweat just like X-Country skiing..regardless of whether it's in the 20s.  I wear my Camelbak hydration pack on my back.

So, get out and ride and enjoy the snow... LET IT SNOW!  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Train Hard...recover Harder!

You don't get stronger by training harder, you get stronger by recovering harder.  When you cycle train hard, you're essentially tearing down the muscle fibers of the quadraceps, glutes, hamstrings and calves- in your legs.  Those small muscle membranes are torn-up/damaged.  That's the muscle soreness you experience 8-12 hrs. after a hard ride that can last 24 hrs.  When you recover, those muscle fibers in your leg are re-building stronger and acclimating to the stress they've been seeing lately..and readying themselves for the next hard effort.  Yet, most cyclists don't spend much planning on the recovery phase of training, just the workout/training phase. 

Recovery isn't about sitting on the couch with your feet up on the coffee table drinking beer and watching football all day/night long after a hard ride.  When we talk about recovery it should be "active" recovery.   I'll get to active recovery later.  Recovery should start at least 5 minutes before the end of your hard training ride.  It should consist of a nice cool down of high rpm low intensity pedaling.  This will help clear the lactate accumulation in the blood.  As soon as you get off the bike, you should ingest some carbohydrates and protein to fuel the muscles.  According to sports physiologist Joe Friel, in the first few minutes after getting off the bike, there is a potential for a 300% increase in glycogen resynthesis as compared to waiting 2 hrs.  Miss this window after your ride and your recovery may take more than 24 hrs. to get back in the saddle.  A good post-workout recovery drink is chocolate milk.  It's got the right amount of high glycemic carbohydrates and protein.  That combined with a high glycemic carbohydrate and high protein energy/protein bar should do the trick.  Within 2 hrs. after the ride, you want to eat a more substantial meal composed of lower glycemic carbohydrates and quality protein such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, etc.  This meal will keep blood glucose and insulin levels high.  This post ride meal is not a time to be thinking of eating less and losing weight.  It should be a time to be thinking of feeding and repairing your damaged muscles.  And, don't forget to consume plenty of water that was lost sweating during your your hard training ride.  Even if you don't think you sweated very much during your ride (such as in the Winter months), your body loses a lot of fluid.

In addition to eating/drinking properly, many professional riders find that a massage is a highly effective way to restore muscles after a hard ride.  However, for the everyday amateur rider (like you and me) that is not practical nor feasible.  But, what is is stretching and using a foam roller.  Ten to fifteen minutes of stretching and rolling out your leg muscles on a foam roller goes a long way to a speedy recovery.  Don't forget to get plenty of sleep the night after your hard least 7 hrs.

So, what is "active" recovery?  Active recovery is just that- recovering while being active instead of passive.  Active recovery from the bike can be taking a walk, swimming or hiking as long as the intensity is low.  Active recovery can also include getting back on the bike as long as the effort/intensity is ridiculously low and slow.  Pretend you're riding with your grandmother of 80 yrs. in your flip flops.  You want a low intensity ride of no more than 20-30 minutes.  I find that I recover faster with "active" recovery vs. "passive" recovery..again, as long as the intensity is low and doesn't exceed 20-30 minutes.  I think most cyclists would agree with me.

Remember, your recovery is just as important, if not more important than your training ride/workout.
Power ON!  Coach Rob

The Pain Cave

I always have people tell me how much they hate indoor training- so they don't.  That's a shame, because it really doesn't take a lot of effort or cost a lot of money to build your own Pain Cave- as I like to call it- for indoor training.  What are the pain cave essentials?  First, and foremost, you need a a cave.  I finished 1/2 of my basement to make my pain cave.  Carpet, drywall walls, drop ceiling, all basic stuff.  The 2nd, you need a bike.  I use my old (circa 1995) Cannondale Aluminum bike.  It's still a great bike.  The 3rd, is a good "smart" trainer.  What do I mean by "smart"?  It's a trainer that changes resistance automatically as the bike (in your training video) either ascends a mountain/hill or descends.  There are plenty on the market these days.  I have a "Lab Quality" Computrainer that I bought years ago.  It's compatible with all of today's virtual reality software programs like Zwift and ErgVideo.  It's also one of the most accurate trainers on the market.  That is, it reads power output in watts +/- 1%.  Yes, it's pricey ($1500) but I got a great deal from Racermate for being a USA Cycling Power Based Coach.  You don't have to spend that much on a good trainer.  There are a bunch on the market made by Power Tap/Saris, Tacx, Wahoo, Kinetic, etc. that cost half of that.  Fourth, you need a good computer to run the virtual reality software.  I find that a laptop works just fine.  Just make sure the processor speed is fast enough, the video graphics board is fast enough, there's enough memory, and make certain you have a fast (wide bandwidth) internet connection.  Fifth, you need a good monitor/display to project your ride on.  No, a phone doesn't hack it, not an iPad either.  I don't even like laptops since they're still too small for me.  You gotta go big on the monitor.  I either recommend plugging your laptop into a big screen TV or plug it into a projector and project it on to a screen.  I used to project onto a projector screen but now that I have a big screen TV within earshot of my laptop, I connect via an HDMI cable.  Speaking of phones, that is sixth on the list.  If you use Software such as Zwift, you need a smart phone to act as a remote.  Seventh, you need a good fan.  I'm talking near industrial strength/grade to keep you cool during your training ride.  Eighth, you need some tunes..either provided by your phone or by a stereo.  I use my stereo from my college days which still kicks out some amazing sound with good bass.  Ninth is all the other stuff: towel, water bottle, shoes, HR monitor, etc.  You definitely need a HR monitor that is either ANT+ or BLE protocol that talks to your computer and the software on it.  If you use an ANT+ trainer and/or HR monitor you're going to need an ANT+ dongle in your computer so they talk to each other.  My Computrainer plugs-in directly into the laptop so I don't have to worry about dongles or wireless connections.

So, stop making excuses on why you don't train indoors or why you hate training indoors.  If you don't train indoors (or you hate it) you probably don't have a decent set up.  Yes, I know these things/equipment costs $$$.  So does every other hobby/sport I know of.  If you're serious about cycling you'll find a way to come up with the $$$ to build/create a similar pain cave to mine.  Beg, borrow or steal some $$$.  No, don't steal..just kidding on that one.  And, who said you had to build it all in a day/weekend.  Rome wasn't built in a day, nor was my setup.  Mine took years to build.  So, start building.  I actually look forward to training in my pain cave on inclement weather days.  Is it as much fun as riding outdoors?  In general, "NO"..but it's the next best thing.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Friday, December 8, 2017

Interval Workout

Most cyclists think the only way to do training intervals is inside on their trainer.  That's not so.  You can do intervals outside as long as you find a road/path where you have time/distance to perform a steady-state interval effort.  That is, a road/path void of any stops.  I have just that path/road.  It's a canal/tow path near my home that runs adjacent to the Delaware River.  It's flat, and at night, it's deserted.  The only slow downs are 2-5 second slow downs for road crossings and/or bridge crossings.  In the interval workout last night, I completed two intervals at L3/L4 (sweetspot) zones: the first being 25 minutes long and the 2nd being 45 minutes long.  Each interval was separated by a 5 min. rest.  The rest interval was when I dismounted my bike and walked across a Delaware River bridge (on the walking path).  At the end of the 45 minute interval there was a 10' cooldown period  Here's the workout:

5' Warmup
5' RI (Rest Interval)
10' cooldown

Here's what it looks like graphically:

What I really like about this graph is the W' curve (red line).  It shows how my stress went from positive to negative during the interval workout.  They (experts) say when your W' equals zero that you're nearly out of gas.  That was true last night.  In fact, I was running on fumes at the end of the 1st interval.  The second interval was no different...running on fumes at the end of the interval.  You can see how the 5' Rest Interval (RI) re-charged my batteries but that they were drained shortly thereafter- again.  No doubt a good interval workout that stressed the legs.  My legs were sore when I got home last night.  In fact, they're still a little sore this a.m.  Now, I need to get some rest and recover so the leg muscles can rebuild (stronger) and get ready for the next effort/workout on Sunday.  Until then.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


Ok, so I said whenever a cool product hits the market I would review it.  Well, this product isn't necessarily new but it's new to me and it's WAY COOL!  The program (or game) is called Zwift.  What is Zwift?  It's an online (internet) game, it's an interactive cycling software program, it's a training aid, and it's FUN!  See

What you need to set up Zwift is a bike, a cycling trainer with a power meter, a laptop or desktop computer and an internet connection.  You can even run the Zwift program from a phone or iPad.  That power meter can be built into the Hub of your wheel (provided it can communicate via Bluetooth or ANT+ protocol with the computer that the Zwift software is installed on), it can be a HR Monitor/Power Meter strap (such as the PowerCal from Power Tap), it can be a trainer such as Computrainer (by Racermate) or one by Cycleops or Tacx.  The more accurate the power meter, the more realistic the online experience.  The computer should have a good network or Wifi connection with hi-speed internet service.  It should also have a fast graphics card/adapter.  If not, the Zwift software program won't run properly or won't run at all.

Once set up on your computer you can go for a group training ride, sign up for a race, or just ride alone.  The first thing to do, once you sign-on is to determine what your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is.  You can do that by clicking on the FTP test.  You have the option of doing a 1 hr. FTP test or a 20 min. abbreviated FTP test.  I chose the latter.  Once you determine your FTP (mine was 210w when I tested it last night.  My FTP is actually closer to 220w) you divide that number by your weight in kilograms.  To do that, just weigh yourself in lbs. and divide by 2.2.  I weigh 160 lbs. so my weight in kg is 160/2.2= 73kg.  Now, take the FTP (210w) and divide that by the weight (73) and you get a power to weight ratio (w/kg) of 2.9 w/kg.  If you want to race online, you need to know this number so you can ensure you sign up for the correct race.  The races are rated/categorized A thru D.  Here is the Zwift w/kg per race category:

A> 4 w/kg
B= 3.2- 4 w/kg
C= 2.5- 3.2 w/kg
D< 2.5 w/kg

Based on this, my w/kg was smack in the middle of the C-category.  So, I entered a Cat-C race and I got shelled/dropped...ha.  I could clearly see that the people ahead of me were not Cat-C riders, their w/kg was close to 4, some even over 4 w/kg.  By the way, these people are real people from all over the world.  So, just like in real life racing, there are sandbagger racers online.  It's easier to sandbag at an online race than it is a real race.  The easiest way to do it is to enter a weight (into the software program) lower than your actual weight.  The other is to use a Power Meter that is not calibrated properly and reads high.  I know that the PowerCal HR monitor/power meter reads 10% higher than my Computrainer Power Meter.  I know Zwift is trying to police this somehow/some way.  Here is a screen shot of a race:

The Zwift software tells you everything you want to know about the race/ride.  It tells you your power output (watts), your Heart Rate (bpm), your cadence (rpm), your speed (mph), the distance and time into the race and the time remaining.  It also tells you the other racers around you, their names, where they're from, their w/kg, etc.

All of this Fun is not free however.  After your free 7-day trial, you must pay $15/mo. to continue.  But, that's cheap considering one spinning session at your local gym where they play Beyonce music for 45 minutes charges $25.  That's $15/mo. for unlimited riding, races, etc.  Even if you only sign-up for the Winter months (December thru March) it's well worth it in my opinion.  Because there is no better cycling training than racing.

Check it out, I think it's a cool program that's only going to get better.  Power ON!  Coach Rob