Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Tiger's girls say, "HAPPY NEW YEAR" !

Monday, December 28, 2009

Why plans/goals fail!

Ok, so you've read my previous blog regarding making a plan and setting goals for 2010... and you've made them...good for you. I assume a lot of you have already started your Annual Training Plan (ATP), and others are waiting until the New Year. Regardless, did you know that over 80% of athletes who make a plan and/or set a goal for the New Year will NOT stick to that plan or achieve that goal? Why is that? Here are some reasons:

a. Illness/Injury/Death in the Family- Perhaps you got sick or injured yourself...or perhaps there was a death in the family or loved one that put you in a deep funk/depression.
b. Lifestyle change- a major unplanned change in your life occured. Perhaps you lost your job, changed jobs with new hours, etc. Maybe your favorite training partner moved away from the area.
c. No Willpower- you lost self-control. You just can't resist or avoid temptations or bad habits.
d. Demotivated- you plateaued, you're not seeing anymore progress regardless of how hard you try. Your stuck in a rut..and can't get out.
e. Unrealistic plan/goal- perhaps your plan or goal is NOT realistic.
f. Weather- maybe you do all your training outside and the weather is just not cooperating.
g. Know-how- perhaps you just don't know how to make a plan or how to achieve your goal.
h. No time- there's just not enough time in the day to train properly with work, family, hobbies, etc.
i. etc.

I'm sure there are many more reasons why plans/goals fail. But the purpose of this blog is NOT to list the many roads to failure (and there's a bunch) but to make you aware that they exist and what to do when you come to them. Here's some of the things you can do to keep you on the road to meet your goal:

a. Illness/Injury/Death in the Family- The best way to stay healthy is to eat well, exercise and get plenty of sleep. To avoid injury, be smart..don't go out riding at night in inclement weather. If there is a sudden or unexpected death in the family...use that loss to help inspire you to do your best. After all, wouldn't that person want you to be happy and achieve all your goals in life?
b. Lifestyle change- changes happen...good and bad. And, like REO Speedwagon says in one of their songs you've got to "Roll with the changes".
c. No Willpower- we all lose our willpower at some time or another. My advice is to stay away from what weakens you. If you're a drinker..stay away from the bars and don't keep beer/wine in the house. If you're trying to lose weight..don't eat at fast-food restaurants and don't buy junk food. Stay clear.
d. Demotivated- we all hit plateaus or get stuck in ruts in our training. Just know that these ruts are temporary and that you'll drive/ride through them. Stay motivated...treat yourself. Stay on track and keep pressing...there is a light at the end of the tunnel and you WILL see it.
e. Unrealistic plan/goal- if your plan or goal is unrealistic, re-evaluate and make new plans/goals. It's never too late to change!
f. Weather- I ride outside when I can NOT when I want. If it's bad weather outside, suck it up or get inside and train.
g. Know-how- if you don't know how, ask. Nothing wrong with hiring a coach that knows-how.
h. No time- sorry, you're not getting any pity from me on this one. If you don't have time..make time. No ifs, ands, or buts. If I can live out of a suitcase for work, and find time to train, you can too. If you don't know how to do me and I'll tell you how.

The main thing you want to do is recognize that SH$T HAPPENS in life. Things will get in the way of your plan/goal. Be flexible and roll with the changes. If you need a cheering section or support your friends and tell them to contact you for morale/support. Better yet, recruit them as a training partner. I met one guy over the internet from the UK that posts every one of his workouts and follows it up with a blog and/or video. Why does he do that? That's his motivation to stay the course. I email him occasionally to see how he's doing..and you know what? He's right on track.

Write things down..keep track of everything. When you write things down you are more apt to do the things you should and avoid the things you shouldn't. When I track what I eat, I tend not to eat junk...because I don't want it on my list. When I track my weight, I think twice about eating that bowl of ice cream after dinner because I know in less than 8 hrs. I'll be getting on that scale. When I track my workouts, I make sure that I not only do the workout..but that I complete it.

Treat/award yourself from time to time. It's ok to go out every once and a while and drink and eat that big dinner with dessert. Just don't make it a habit. Lastly, be patient, stay motivated..and stick with the plan. It's not going to be easy. If it was easy than everyone would achieve their goals. Most importantly, have fun with some new people..and ENJOY! BTW, when you finally achieve your your a$$ deserve it for all your hard work and sacrifice.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Power ON! Coach Rob

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tempo Endurance Ride

If a Tempo ride is Zone/Level 3 and an Endurance ride is Zone/Level 2, then what is a Tempo Endurance Ride? You guessed it, it's an endurance ride at a slightly higher pace. This ride will increase your ability to ride long endurance rides more comfortably and to ride them at a faster pace. This is a great ride during the base/build phase of the season. Make sure this ride is a minimum of 1.5 hrs. I like them anywhere between 2-3 hrs. Plus, there is nothing wrong at all with throwing a couple hills in the workout, like the elevation profile above. Just make sure that you don't stay at or above Zone/Level 4 (Lactate Threshold) pace for extended periods of time. This is also a good ride to rack up some TSS points. Personally, I think they're one of the most important training rides of the week.

Yes, I know, these are tough rides to get in this time of the year. But, when the good Lord gives you a near 50 deg F sunny day (the end of December) you get outside and take advantage of it- NO EXCUSES!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Magic Pill Workout

Just like there isn't a single "Magic Pill" that will take inches off your waist-line (that I know of) there isn't a single "Magic Indoor Trainer Workout" that will make you stronger/faster on the bike. Much too often, I see these "Magic" workouts prescribed in cycling magazines as part of a Winter Training Plan. The authors claim that if you do this particular workout you will become stronger on the bike. Well, I hate to say it, I could just about do ANY workout consistently on the bike and get some results? But what kind of results? Instead of "Magic Workouts" these authors should be labeling them "Mickey Mouse Workouts"- for fun. But, I guess "Mickey Mouse Workouts" don't sell magazines. More disturbing is that I see these same workouts being performed as part of an indoor spinning class...where you're jumping every other second...pedal hard...pedal soft...up/ These workouts are more mentally taxing for me than physical. (Trust me, I've done one recently at a local gym so I know). I've even heard some indoor cycling workouts include pushups off the bike. What the hell is that all about? The ONLY thing I can think of is that the sole purpose of the workout is to break-up the monotony and to build-up some kind of fitness...AND to make it fun. I don't know about you..but the primary goal of my workouts on the trainer is NOT's about doing HARD work now, targeting specific energy systems, that will make me stronger/faster later- NOW THAT'S FUN! And, unless you know of a "Magic Workout" that's NOT hard..that will make me faster/stronger in the Spring...please send it to me.

Don't get me wrong..I'm all about mixing it up during training workouts to keep it interesting (and fun)...but the sole purpose of a training workout should be to work on a particular weakness you have and make it a strength. (Remember, you train your weaknesses and race your strengths) Or, similarly, determine what particular physiological adaptation you're trying to achieve or energy system you're trying to improve upon. For example, if you're trying to improve your Lactate Threshold then you should be doing longer intervals (10-20 minutes) at Threshold power/heart rate. If you're trying to improve your VO2max, then you should be doing shorter more intense intervals (3-5 minutes) at VO2max power/heart rates. (BTW, two of my favorite workouts are 2x20s@ L4 and 5x4s@ L5.) If you want to improve your endurance, then you should be riding longer (2-3 hrs) at Tempo pace (L3). For improving anaerobic capacity (L6/L7) you may want to try tabata intervals. For improving cycling efficiency/economy/neuromuscular skills you may want to do some Isolated Leg Training, Spin-ups, form sprints, etc.

So, forget about the "Magic Workouts" that claim they are easy and you only have to workout for 15 minutes a day. They don't exist. Isn't that why they call them "Magic"...because you hardly have to do any work and you "magically" get results? Just like the "Magic Diet Pill" all you want and pop a pill and you'll shed pounds instead of gaining them. To be honest with you, I'm glad such pills don't exist...because when I'm cycling and someone drops me on the ride...I want to know it's because he/she worked harder than me in the off-season, NOT that he/she found some "Magic Pill" or "Magic Workout" that you sit on your a$$ and get slimmer/stronger/faster. I guess that's because I'm a firm believer that ONLY hard work should be rewarded (whether it's on the bike or at work) in life...not cheaters. And, "Magic" stuff- is cheating or being deceptive in my book.

Power ON! Coach Rob

Monday, December 21, 2009

Periodization of Diet

Nice image (above) huh? Well, I didn't draw it. I just thought it was funny. I don't know about you..but this is probably what MY food pyramid REALLY looked like for the month of December (so far). It's probably the reason why I'm at least 10 lbs. overweight. But the REAL reason I chose this image (besides it being funny/realistic to some) is to highlight the title of the blog- Periodization of Diet. (TM Joe Friel)

Just like your Training Plan (I hope you have one by now) has a Periodization should your diet. Your Periodization of Diet not only differs from person to person (depending on age, body chemistry, etc.) but it's different at certain times of the year. For example, during the racing season most professional cylists are consuming up to 60% (or more) calories from carbs, 25% protein, and 15% fat. During the off-season these percentages will change dramatically. Why? Because these same athletes aren't training at the volume and intensity they are during the racing season and they just don't require the high percentage of carbs to maintain their high energy output. For some of these athletes, their off-season percentages may change as much as: 50% calories from carbs, 25% protein, and 25% fat. Notice that protein input stays constant throughout the year?

Personally, I like to adjust my off-season caloric intake percentages to: 50% carbs, 25% protein and 25% fat. It's just hard as hell to do during the holiday season when everywhere you go and everything you see is nothing but carbs (booze, candy, cakes, cookies, etc.). If I'm successful at keeping to these percentages I know I have a good chance of dropping some weight. And, THIS IS the time of the year to drop weight..not during the Build Phase of your ATP. BTW, this is the time of the year when I'm also at my highest body weight (10 lbs. higher than my summer riding weight). And, why am I sooooooo concerned about my body weight? In case you didn't know..the lighter you are the faster you're going to be able to climb hills. And, unless you live and ride at the shore (all the time) where it's're going to have to climb hills. Did you know that for every pound of excess body weight you have, you MUST pedal 2 watts more (on average) to pedal up a hill? So, if I lose 10 lbs. that means I can climb the same hill (at the same pace) at 20 watts less. I don't know if you realize it but if your FTP is 240w that's almost 10% increase/decrease in power. Trust me, as Tiger Woods would say, "That's HUGE". (BTW, where is Tiger?) Do you think you can increase your FTP by 10% by training on your bike as easily as you can by losing weight? I don't think so. So, think about that next time you pick up that cookie or have that 3rd or 4th beer. Listen to as I say..not as I do. haha

What should your optimal weight be (if you want to be a good climber)? According to Joe Friel, in "The Cyclist's Training Bible" (a must-have read), a good way to determine your optimal weight for climbing is by your weight-to-height ratio. Just divide your weight (lbs.) by your height (in.). So, if I weigh 180 lbs. and I'm 71 inches tall, my weight-to-height ratio is: 180/71= 2.5 lbs/in. Good climbers, according to Friel, are less than 2.1 pounds/inch. Wow! I'd have to drop 30 pounds. Well, that aint gonna happen anytime soon for me. I'll settle for 165 lbs. and a weight-to-height ratio of 2.3 instead. Wait a minute, that's 15 pounds less than what I am right now. Phew, I got a long way to go..bleh.

In addition to adjusting your percentage of carbs/fats/protein throughout the year, you should adjust them throughout the day as well to meet your training demands. In the off-season, particularly the Build Phase we're in now, my highest carb intake is typically during breakfast (cereal/pancackes/etc.) and lunch (wheat bread) and prior to my daily workout before dinner. I try to refrain from eating carbs AFTER dinner. Notice I said TRY? It's hard. I always IMMEDIATELY follow a workout with carbs and protein to assist in muscle recuperation. I just read an article the other day that said if you pop an advil/aspirin after your workouts, particularly for old farts like me, it will help build muscle strength:,6610,s1-4-21-17040-1,00.html

Adjust your Food Pyramid or Periodization of Diet Plan...not only during the year but during the day. In case you're wondering, the only way you're going to be able to determine your percentages of carbs/fat/protein is with a calorie counter software program. You can get a bazillion of them (FREE) on the internet. I use a program called I like this one because I can use it on my PC as well as my Blackberry. Just make sure the program graphs daily carbs/protein/fat percentages. Start countin' NOW. Power ON! Coach Rob

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lower and Upper Training Thresholds

(chart ref. Dr. Andy Coggan)

If you'be been around cycling for a while you've undoubtedly heard the terms/words: Lactate Threshold, Aerobic Threshold, Anaerobic Threshold, Ventilatory Threshold, etc. All of these words are mostly used to describe significant reference points for setting up power/heart rate training zones.

Technically, Lactate Threshold (LT) is the point where lactate levels in the blood first increase over your baseline levels. When your lactate levels reach a point that is 1 mmol/L above your baseline, it is referred to as your Lower Training Threshold (LTT)- designated LT1 (see graph.)

Wonderful, but how the heck do I know when my blood lactate levels reach this point? (I'll answer that question in a little bit). After all, it's not like everyone (or even me with all my toys) has a blood lactate analyzer in their back pocket to measure their blood lactate levels during exercise. And, if there is a Lower Training Threshold (LTT) is there an Upper Training Threshold (UTT)? Yup, there is. That point is the highest level of intensity at which your body is able to process the by-products associated with carb metabolism at the same rate they are being produced. Simply put, as exercise intensity increases more lactate is released into the blood to a point where production is faster than your body can process it and starts to accumulate. Thus, an upper point or Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation (OBLA) designated LT2- see graph.
The key words here are "increase" (where LT1 occurs) and "accumulation" (where LT2 occurs)- see graph. As a rough rule of thumb for most athletes: LT1 occurs at 2mM blood lactate and LT2 occurs at 4-6mM blood lactate. But, I repeat, that's a rule of thumb and everyone is different...let alone it also differs between sports. This the primary reason I do NOT own a blood lactate analyzer or have a reason to buy one to find FTPs for my athletes. I'd be able to find LT1 pretty easily but how do I know if/when the athlete is at LT2? Is it 4mM, 6mM, 8mM, etc? You can see from the first graph that there is a pretty substantial power range between 4-6mM. (No, this is not my chart..I can only dream of an FTP that high)
Ok, so how do you measure both your LTT and UTT without going out and buying a $500 portable blood lactate analyzer and sticking yourself every minute to find both these points on the graph? According to Thomas Chapple, author of "Base Building for Cyclists" (and a recommended read) the best way to determine your LTT is to do a Critical Power test for 30 minutes, aka CP30. (CP30 is nothing more than your average sustained power during a 30 min. Time Trial.) Your LTT will be 55-75% of your CP30 power. So, if your CP30 is 300 watts, your LTT range will range from 165-225w. How about your UTT? That will be 85-95% of your CP30 power, or 255-285w. BTW, your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is a good indicator of your UTT. That is why I use Hunter Allen's 20 min. FTP test to determine Power Training Zones for my athletes vice the 30 min. TT that Mr. Chapple suggests.
During the base training phase (the phase you should be in right now in your ATP), you want to be spending the majority of your traning time/power in the LTT range. The UTT will usually drop and the LTT will rise during this early base phase. Say what? That's right..according to Thomas Chapple, your UTT will drop and your LTT will rise. What's happening is that you're actually bringing the fitness ceiling down so that you can build a larger foundation that will support a higher, stronger ceiling. It doesn't take as long to put the ceiling back up as it takes to build a larger foundation. I know..I're probably thinking (like I was when I first read this) that this is a time of year I want to increase my fitness level (or FTP)...NOT decrease it. But, you have to remember one VERY IMPORTANT takes YEARS to develop your aerobic energy system and only a couple MONTHS to develop your anaerobic energy system (or ceiling). Oh, and in case you haven't figured it out yet...the LTT is ridiculously low if you're one of those guys that like to ride hard 24/7- 365 days a year. (You can see from the 2nd graph that it's in the L1/L2/L3 power levels). In fact, I really doubt you'll be able to effectively train in this range at all because you're going to convince yourself that it's a waste of your time. If you think I'm nuts or completely lost it..go back and read my blog about Base Building and read the benefits of riding in the lower power ranges. These benefits are well documented, and proven, by the best PhD weenies in the business. And, who can argue with them? I can't. At least I'm not ignorant enough to argue with them.
Yes, you MUST go slower BEFORE you can go faster. What you want to do during this base building phase is to build a large foundation that will support a higher, stronger ceiling. Makes sense to me..hope it makes sense to you. Power ON! Coach Rob

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Setting S-M-A-R-T Goals for 2010

Hard to believe it's almost 2010..just a few more weeks. If you haven't done so already, NOW is the time to be setting your goals for 2010. But, it's not enough just to make a generic goal- like I want to get stronger and ride faster (who doesn't), you should make your goal more specific. Make your goal realistic, specific and measurable.
Here is an acronym (S-M-A-R-T) I saw while reading an article the other day that will help you remember what's important in creating your goal(s) for 2010. And, there is nothing wrong with making multiple goals. The article was written in some Chesapeake Bay magazine (of all places)- can't remember which. (But, at least I remembered the acronym.) The article didn't apply to cycling per se, but you can easily apply it as follows:
S- Specific- be specific with your goal. Do you want to podium? Do you want to move up from Cat 5 to Cat 4? Do you want to just hang with the pack? Do you want to hang on your local group ride?

M- Measurable- make your goal measurable. Do you want to break the hour mark in a 40k TT? Do you want to improve your FTP from 290w to 300w? Do you want to average 250w on your group rides?

A- Attainable- here's the one that is abused the most. Do NOT make a goal that is NOT attainable. You're only setting yourself up for failure if you don't. Trust me, it's a lot easier to make an attainable goal, achieve it...and make another one than to make a lofty goal that you can't attain. We all want to be a Cat 1 Pro (even though some of us say we don't) but don't make that goal if it's not attainable. And, don't say my goal is "to be a BETTER sprinter" when you know damn well you don't have a fast twitch muscle fiber in your body. I hear that all the time. Get over're NEVER going to be a sprinter. Sorry!

R- Relevant- I'm not quite sure how this applies since it's just common sense to me. Why wouldn't I make a relevant goal. i.e. Why would a goal be to podium if I don't race? Well, I suppose that's the problem..some people don't use common sense. I suppose it almost goes hand-in-hand with my example above (attainable) about being a better sprinter if it's not in the cards.

T- Time-bound- I like this one the best. I think it's one of the most important. What good is making a goal if you don't have a date to attain that goal by? That's the whole point in making a gives you something to work towards, some motivation to help you attain. And, be specific with the date. Don't just say I want to move up from Cat 5 to 4 this summer. When this summer? June, July, August? Even if you're not sure about the month at least you can say at the beginning of the summer or mid-summer, or by the end of the summer.

Make a goal for 2010...and be S-M-A-R-T about it! Power ON! Coach Rob

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Let it Snow..

Hate to say it, but there is no excuse NOT to get outside in the Winter to ride...regardless of the conditions. This morning, Jim Ludovici (pictured above) and I headed out to the canal towpath (NJ side) to ride from Stockton to Frenchtown NJ and back. Enroute, we did 2-3 hill intervals on Stumpf Tavern Rd- a 1.2 mile climb of 400+ vertical ft. It was slow-going on the canal towpath (for me at least). It felt like I was riding through sand at points (because of the snow) with my Mtn. Bike.

This was a great 3 hr. endurance ride with challenging terrain (hills, slick spots, snow, etc.)- just what the doctor ordered. There is no way I'd be able to get a similar workout on the road (this time of year) with my road bike...since the main roads were still icy and had too much salt on them for my taste. So, for those of you that think the "canal tow path" is for sissies on their beach cruisers..think again. This was a GOOD workout for me with a TSS=230. For Jim, I'm sure it was a stroll in the park- but still a good ride.

So, don't let a little snow (or cold temps) keep you inside on the trainer this Winter. Even though the temps today were in the low to mid 30s...I was sweating for much of the ride. The warm sun helped though. So, until next time...let it snow..let it snow...let it snow. Power ON! Coach Rob

Friday, December 4, 2009

Training too hard too soon?

I thought this pic/icon would get your attention. Just a word of advice/caution/etc. for you: when starting your new Annual Training Plan (ATP) do NOT try to jump back on the trainer and think you're going to be able to pump out 2x20s @ L4 (workout) at your summer FTP. It aint gonna happen. And, if you try to make it happen..I can assure you you'll look like the guy/gal in the pic. It's just not realistic to think that even after a relatively short transition/off-season phase you're going to be even remotely close to where you were in mid-summer- power wise. So please don't try it. This is a good reason to be re-tested NOW if you haven't- to establish your new FTP (and power training zones) for the start of the 2009-2010 season. Also, even if you've been re-tested recently you do NOT want to jump into a 2x20 @ L4 workout. I suggest you start with a 2x10 or 2x15 @ L3/L4 "sweetspot" workout instead. You want to concentrate on building a good base this time of year..and you don't do that by jumping into a 2x20 @L4 workout and puking. Lastly, if you start an interval workout..and you're not feeling so's better to quit or knock-off one of your intervals instead of dogging/cheating on one. Just this morning I was doing a 2x15 @L3/L4 workout and I could barely finish the first interval. So, just 30 minutes (15 min. warmup) into the workout- I quit. To be continued on another day...not a problem. At least I got a solid 30 minute workout in instead of nothing.

So, don't beat yourself up this early in the season. There is plenty of time for that this Winter. If you're not feeling good during a workout..nothing wrong with quitting. Conversely, if you're feeling good..nothing wrong with adding a little more to the workout. Power ON! Coach Rob

Google it!

Ok, hopefully you're off and running with your new Annual Training Plan. If not, I suspect you're waiting until the first of the year to get started. Regardless, you'll want to post all of your workouts on some kind of calendar or software program. I use Google Calendar for posting my workouts. In fact, I use Google Calendar for posting my athletes workouts too. (Shhh, don't tell Training Peaks I said that). It's just so easy to share workouts..and the best's FREE! I also use Google Documents to store all of my workouts. I just cut/paste workouts from my huge database/library into my calendar. Oh, and you guessed it..I email my athletes with Gmail. But wait, there's more..if you have a GPS device like I do, you can save all of your rides in Google Earth. You can even upload FREE add-ons such as USGC Topo maps so you can see the elevations of your route/ride. No, I don't have any stock in GOOG (trading at $586/share), I just think they offer great programs for free. BTW, you want to see something cool. Go into Google Earth and click on View in the menu system, then click on Water Surface. Now, scroll over to the Atlantic Ocean and check out the canyons off the NJ coast. If you watch the elevation pointer it will show you the depth. There's one more thing I like about Google...all of their programs are supported on my Blackberry (or iPhone if you have one). So, you can see ALL of your programs on the road. And, you thought Google was just a search engine. Shame on you!

As not to leave the other guys out...I want to give you a link to another FREE program called SportsTracks by ZoneFiveSoftware. You can download this great program at: It does EVERYTHING you could possibly want in one program.

And, last but not least..I can't leave my friend Hunter Allen out and the folks at Training Peaks. They have THE BEST cycling program for downloading and analyzing workouts on the market..especially if you own a Power Meter. I use Training Peaks WKO+ Unlimited edition ($149) for my coaching service and some of my athletes use the athlete edition ($99). They also offer the WKO+ Professional Edition. So, check em out on

Start planning, recording/tracking and analyzing now! Power ON! Coach Rob

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Base Training

It's December..whoo hoo! Only 25 more days until Santa brings that new bike, wheelset, power meter, computrainer, etc. I can't believe the regular college football season is over though..I'm bummed. It seems like only yesterday I was basking in the sun in Beaver Stadium watching the Nits beat-up on the Zips. Regardless, I hope most of you have been X-training like I have. I've really enjoyed riding my mountain bike this Fall so much lately I can't even tell you the last time I was on my road bike. About now, all of you should be thinking about starting your Annual Training Plan (ATP) if you haven't started already. And, whether you're planning on sticking to the traditional training plan that consists of a distinct Prep, Base, Build, Pre-Race/Peak, and Race Phase (ala Joe Friel) or you're considering one of the newer High Intensity Training Plans (ala Carmichael) you still need to establish a Base. Ok, let me say that again..before you start your ATP, or as part of your initial ATP, YOU NEED TO ESTABLISH A BASE.

What is a "Base"? I'm sure you hear it quite often, during a group ride, this time of year, i.e. "I'm just taking it easy today..building a base" or you hear, "What the hell is that guy doing pushing it so hard this time of year...he should be building a base?" No, it's not a baseball base like the pic above. A base is exactly what Mr. Webster says it is, "the bottom or foundation of something". In regards to an Annual Training Plan (ATP) the definition is no different- it's the foundation; the foundation of fitness that you'll build "other stuff" to later on. (BTW, that "other stuff" is the higher intensity stuff- down the road).

So, what are the physiological adaptations or benefits of Base Training? And why so important? Here are some reasons:
a. Muscles and connective tissues are strengthened, enabling them to handle increased volume and intensity later on. (Remember the "other stuff")
b. Your body learns to burn fat and spare glycogen, enabling it to go longer/further.
c. Your body learns the neuromuscular coordination required to perform smooth, efficient movements. Exercise performance becomes more economical and fluid.
d. Your blood volume goes up, increasing the ability to deliver oxygen to working muscles.
e. Your heart becomes able to pump a higher volume of blood with each beat, increasing this ability even more.
f. Your muscles build more capillaries to deliver more oxygen to working muscles.

How do I effectively build a base and what intensity should I be riding? I believe the best way to effectively BASE train is by riding long at aerobic intensities. How long? Well that depends. If you're a Crit racer or Sprint Distance Triathlete that's a couple hours. If you're an IM Triathlete or road racer that could be 3-5 hrs. What intensity? I said "aerobic" intensity which means the L2 and L3 levels/zones. Yes, I know you can ride "aerobically" at L4 (Threshold) but this is NOT the time of year to be riding long at L4. Keep in mind that your Zones/Levels this time of year are also NOT going to be the same as they were during the summer/peak season. So, if you're not sure what your levels are- test yourself and re-establish new zones. In addition to riding long (yes I know the weather outside is getting colder and the days shorter) this is the BEST time to be working on: Isolated Leg Drills, Form Sprints, Spin-ups, and high cadence drills. (see prior blog)

In addition to riding long and honing your pedalling skills this is also a good time of year to get back into the gym to start strengthening your core muscles and doing a little resistance training. (check out my archives for weight training for cyclists) Just yesterday I saw a Tweet from Lance Armstrong where he said he just finished up a Yoga session. Wow, Lance Armstrong doing Yoga. I guess if it's good for Lance it should be good for us. Well, I think it is. I'm not a Yoga fan but I do like Pilates. My ailing back (2 herniated discs) appreciates it too. This is all part of establishing a Base...strengthening your muscles and preparing your body for the more intense stuff to come.

So, let that hotshot go off the front of the group ride and push it hard. You now know that he/she is NOT establishing a proper base and is probably going to end up injured or burned out in February when the real intense workouts start. So go ahead and say, "What the hell is that guy doing pushing it so hard this time of year...he should be building a base?". That's what I'd say!

Power ON! Coach Rob

Monday, November 30, 2009

Which Muscles do the Work?

I posted a blog in December of last year entitled "The Perfect Stroke" that you may want to read (see archive on the left side of the blog page). This IS the time of the year (training season) to work on perfecting your pedal stroke. (It's also not a bad time to check your bike fit. Yeah, I hear already got fitted to your bike years ago when you bought it. But, that's the got fitted years ago..and your body DOES change. Can't hurt to re-check your fit at your LBS.)

This colored graphic (above) highlights/illustrates the muscles that do the work- in each position of the pedal stroke. You'll see the Quads engage from 12 to 5 o'clock, the Glutes from 1 to 6 o'clock, Calves 1:30 to 6:30, etc. But, check out the position in which the Hamstrings do the work (6 to 10) or more importantly the Hip Flexors (9-11). Also, check out the thicknesses of each colored plot- which shows the relative amount of useful power that each muscle produces. Now you know why you read all those cycling articles about how you should be scraping mud off your shoes, pulling on the upstroke, pedaling with eggshells under your feet (that you don't want to crush), etc. when you pedal. All of these articles are intended to help teach you how to pedal in a more balanced complete circle while developing the lessor used Hamstrings and Hip Flexors.

Now I know why my Hip Flexors were hurting on my Sunday ride. It's from all of the Isolated Leg Training/Drills (ILT) I've been doing the past couple weeks- in addition to the high cadence riding. I supposed my Hip Flexors really are underdeveloped/out-of-shape and need some strengthening. I bet you yours are too (underdeveloped), unless of course you consciously pedal in full-circles when you ride. I know I don't. I'm probably like the masses where each leg mashes on the downstroke (12-6) and recovers on the upstroke. Isn't that how you pedal? C'mon admit it. The real advantage, in my opinion, of developing the lessor-used Hammies and Hip Flexors is that it will give your Quads and Calves a break (while you're racing or suffering in that tough group ride) while still maintaining a high intensity/power output. And, that little break may be all that your over-worked Quads need to flush out some lactic acid and continue working at such a high level.
In case you didn't know, that's the whole idea with Power Cranks. For more info. on Power Cranks, click here: I'm not a Power Crank user, nor do I know anyone that trains with them. But, I'm sure they can't hurt. I'm just not a fan of shelling-out $1000+ for them when I can work on the same concept with my home ergometer using ILT.
Power ON! Coach Rob

Saturday, November 28, 2009

No Laughing Matter

I was going to include this photo in my last blog but figured I'd keep it to a blog of its own. Just as much as the last blog's photo was funny..this one isn't. As much as we'd all like to lose weight and be "lean & mean"..we don't want to go this far. Does anyone know who this man (in the photo) is? I believe it's Michael Rasmussen the Danish Professional Bike Rider that ALMOST won the 2007 Tour de France. Notice I said "ALMOST". Why almost? Because Michael lied about his whereabouts to avoid taking a blood test, and eventually dropped out of the 2007 TDF (before he was thrown out) just after he had won Stage 16- and leading the race. Why quit when you're leading a race? Because Michael was blood-doping and he knew he'd get caught- thus he dropped out. Why did he have to blood dope? Because when you weigh a buck twenty, like it looks in this photo, how on earth can your body endure the rigors of the TDF without an extra boost? There is just no way your body is going to perform at that level/intensity for that duration, during the TDF without some OUTSIDE assistance...ala blood-doping and God only knows what other drug he may have been taking.

So, in addition to not ending up looking like the fat man (previous blog) for obvious reasons, we don't want to look like Michael either. At least I don't. If I didn't know this was Michael (in the photo) I'd say this photo would be a good poster child pic for the Bilimia and/or Anorexia Nervosa Foundation. I'm sure Michael's fear of gaining weight, which would ultimately slow him down on the steep hill climbs, led to what looks like an eating disorder. Hey, maybe Michael NEVER had an eating disorder and he looked like this (photo) his entire life. Perhaps. Remember, if you want to be a better climber it's all about Power to Weight Ratio. You either increase Power, lower your Weight or do both. In Michael's case, it looks like he opted to lower his Weight. Obviously, it worked for him..up until the point (Stage 16 of the TDF) he needed to blood-dope to maintain his standing...and later withdrew.

Anyway, after looking at both the fat-man pic (previous blog) and skinny-man Mike pic, I think we'd all like to be somewhere in the middle. Personally, I'd like to be on the skinny side because it's a helluva lot easier to gain weight than it is to lose it. At least it is for me. But, that could be an ignorant statement since I never suffered from Bilimia or Anorexia Nervosa. There is an optimum cycling weight for all of us..and I hate to say it..but my experience is, if you want to be competitive you better be on the lean side..or you just aren't going to be able to hang in the hills. Just be careful you don't get too lean..or you'll end up looking like Michael...or worse, needing an extra (illegal) lift to compete. I know we're ONLY amateurs but I wouldn't doubt that some competitive amateur cyclists/triathletes are blood-doping during longer endurance events, using EPO, or whatever the drug of choice is these days. It's sad, but probably true.

If you do look like the fat or skinny man, please get help. Just like obesity, Bilimia and/or Anorexia Nervosa are serious diseases that kill. I saw a woman in my gym this morning, on the elliptical trainer, that was skinnier than Mike. I felt like saying something to "as long as you find the need to workout, when you ONLY weigh 90 lbs, please eat something". MY wife was there too..she saw..and she agreed that the woman was too thin. Perhaps the next time I see her at the gym (and I have for the last 2 weeks), I'll enquire at the front-desk about her. Maybe it's not as bad as it looks.

Power ON! Coach Rob

Tis the Season...for Weight Gain

I always write a blog in the November/December timeframe re: Weight Gain. Why? Because that's about the time I start taking action myself to shed a few (more like a bunch) pounds. Yeah, I gained a few. Hey, it's not just me..the average Joe will gain anywhere from 5-10 lbs. during the Holiday Season alone. Me, I actually gained it (10 lbs) prior to the Holiday Season (during my vacation in the Florida Keys)..but I'm sure this recent Thanksgiving only helped tack a pound or two on to that total. And, for all you slim Jim's out there that can eat/drink all they want without gaining a pound (by the way I hate you guys), there is nothing wrong with packing on a few extra pounds in the off-season. One article I read on actually said that the added weight gain helps repair the body at the cellular level. (Yeah, right, probably some fat guy in the office that wrote that one..haha).

But, after thinking more about it, why feel guilty? Why not enjoy yourself in the off-season? Go ahead...drink some beers with the boys, get drunk, eat pizza/chili/burgers/fries/etc. After all, don't you deserve it for being so good during the training season? Enjoy that Holiday feast and top it off with a big-ass piece of apple pie and throw on a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream (my fav) for the road.

However, when the Holidays are over, here are 5 tips I have to get rid of those excess saddle bags around your waist/gut/ass that you won't need (or want) on your training ride:

#1- Write it down. Start tracking EVERYTHING you put in your mouth from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. Remember, calories in=calories burned in order to maintain your current weight. If you ingest more than you burn, guess're gonna gain weight. You'll be amazed at how much JUNK you sneak into your daily diet when you write it down. You'll also be more aware of what you do put in your mouth when you write it down...and you'll think twice about it next time. Go online, there are plenty of free calorie counters to help you track your calories. I just downloaded a freebie calorie counter onto my Crackberry called- Calorie Counter by FatSecret.

#2- Time it. Lets face it, the last thing you want to do is eat a BIG dinner and sit on your ass and watch TV until you fall asleep. Or worse, snack AFTER that BIG dinner. And, do NOT skip's the most important meal of the day..even if it's only a bowl of cereal. Ever hear the expression "Eat Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince, and Dinner like a Pauper." Live by it. Or, better yet, eat small portions spreadout throughout the day. As far as exercising, I find it better to get your workouts done in the morning or IMMEDIATELY after work. Morning workouts are good because your body is glycogen depleted from 8 hrs. of sleep and your body is just craving carbs to burn. You starve your body of carbs during your morning workout and it will grab the next best thing..FAT. Be careful, however, not to go too hard or too long in the morning on an empty stomach or your body will start burning protein..i.e. muscle mass. Keep your workout to no more than 45 minutes at Tempo/Threshold pace. If you're not a morning person, make sure you do your workouts IMMEDIATELY after work. Why? I'll bet you anything you want that if you go home and eat dinner first..9 out of 10 times you'll find an excuse not to go the gym (or even in your basement) for a workout. Add a glass of wine (or beer) to your dinner and I'm almost certain the last place you'll end up is in a gym. Been there done that! If you do eat dinner first, before working out, keep it small..make sure there are plenty of carbs in your meal and keep the fat portions down. Wait at least an hour before you workout or you'll end up in the me. Again, been there done that!

#3- ON days and OFF days. On the ON days (when you are working out) make sure you are properly fueled (with Carbs) and on the OFF days lighten up. If you're not fueled properly for a tough workout, you're going to cut your workout short or do it half-assed. Remember, when we're working out (the ON days), we're basically tearing our muscles down during exercise so that they repair bigger/stronger on our OFF days. So, we want to do as much work as some cases hi-intensity work. The OFF days are also good days to lighten up on the food intake particularly the carbs. The OFF days, are also good days to relax and catch-up on much needed sleep/rest..especially if you're training hard during the ON days. Remember, it's the OFF days where your body repairs itself STRONGER than before. No rest, no repair.

#4- Moderation. I am NOT a fan of diets or weight loss companies like Weight Watchers, etc. Why? Because for the most part, diets don't work and weight loss companies charge you too much to do what you can do on your own. Plus, their meals look like crap. Lets face it...if you eat/drink whatever you want in moderation you're not going to have a problem with weight gain. What's more important..I think..and I never see anything written on the subject of "self-control" and "discipline". Hey, make no bones about it..when I get my morning coffee at Dunkin Donuts don't you think I'd like to add a couple Bavarian Creme Donuts to that order? Hell yeah! But I don't, I resist..I just look at the fatties standing in line with me and think, if I eat those donuts I'll be looking like them in no time. BTW, speaking of Dunkin Donuts..I just saw on my Calorie Counter that 1 Dunkin Donut Bavarian Creme Donut has 260 calories compared to their Banana Walnut Muffin that has 540 calories (and twice the fat). See, good to have that Calorie Counter with you.

#5- Educate Yourself. There are a bazillion articles written on the internet about Weight Loss. You don't even have to spend a dime at your local Barnes & Noble. Read! Specifically, read articles about athletes such as they they train...when they train, etc. There's no excuse not to. It aint rocket science. As I said earlier, it's just Calories IN vs. Calories BURNED. When Calories IN exceed Calories gain weight..and vice versa. It takes a deficit of 3500 calories in a week to drop 1 lb. That's 500 calories a day which can easily be burned while spinning on your home trainer for 45 minutes to 60 minutes each morning. So, if you do NOTHING differently re: eating and exercising, the way you've done in the past, and you increase your calorie burn by 500 calories a day, you'll lose 10 lbs. by the end of January.
Power ON! Coach Rob

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Physics 101

One of Einstein's greatest insights, or accomplishments in life, was the discovery of the equation: E=mc**2. Where energy equals mass times the square of the speed of light. What does this short and simple looking equation tell us? In a nutshell, without getting too technical, it says that matter and energy are really different forms of the same thing. Thus, matter can be turned into Energy and Energy into matter. What is/was more impressive (to me anyway) was that Einstein had an understanding what this rather simple looking formula would lead to- Nuclear Fission and Nuclear Fusion. Nuclear Fusion is what powers a modern Nuclear Warhead and Nuclear Fission is what happens in an Atomic Bomb.

Another simple equation, and probably much more relevant to you and cycling is the equation: Power=Force*Velocity. I've already talked about 3 ways to increase Power in prior blogs: eg. Increase pedal force, increase pedal velocity(rpm) or both. This simple equation is not as impressive as Einstein's but to you (the cyclist) it could lead to an even GREATER discovery- more power which translates to a faster/stronger you on the bike.

Sounds easy huh? Just work on increasing my Force and/or Velocity on the bike (over the Winter) and I should be good to go in the Spring- right? Well, it's NOT that easy because there are a lot of different ways to do this. Do I/we:
a. Work on Force independent of Velocity?
b. Work on Velocity independent of Force?
c. Work on both Force and Velocity concurrently?
d. Work on a wide range of Forces and Velocities?
And, there are other questions we need to ask ourselves: Do we know which velocities are most effective? i.e. do I train spinning at 120 rpm? Do we know which Forces or loads are appropriate? i.e. do I train with heavy weights, steep hill climbs, etc?

I read an interesting article by Steve Swanson, Chief Science and Technology Director, Athletic Republic that will answer most of these questions. Steve says, "Our muscles and tendons have “sensors” in them that monitor both force and contraction velocity. The output from the sensors is monitored by the central nervous system, and the electrical signals sent to our muscles are based in part on what these sensors find. If the force is too great, the output signal is reduced and the muscle will be shut down (this occurs conceptually at the left end of the force velocity curve—near the left asterisk- see graph). If the stretch or shortening velocity increases, the signal will be increased to resist the stretch (to the point of too much force) or attempt to contract the muscle at a higher velocity. These mechanisms help the body protect itself from injury. A key aspect of these mechanisms is that your body has a “threshold” of what forces and velocities it thinks are acceptable to keep you from hurting yourself. In most people, this threshold is lower than what it needs to be—kind of a safety factor. If you attempt loads and velocities that are at this threshold or even slightly above it and no injury occurs, the body raises the threshold. This is the reason that strength and power quickly increase at the beginning of an appropriate training program."

Steve summarizes: "The key to effective training to improve power is to take your body just beyond what you normally can do—SAFELY. Your body then learns it is okay to send stronger signals to the muscles, which then result in more force at higher velocities. If you can create a safe and effective training environment that requires you to produce force at a wide range of appropriate movement velocities, you give yourself the best chance for success. "

Make sense to you? It does to me. Now all you need to do is put this information into an Annual Training Plan (ATP), via workouts , which will maximize Power Output. Power On! Coach Rob

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Blinded by Science

I just finished reading an article in the Nov/Dec ROAD magazine, written by Scott Saifer of Wenzel Coaching, entitled, "Blinded by Science", and I have to say (based on his article) I'd never hire him or one of his coaches. Here's a snippet of the article in which I totally disagree with his assertions. He writes:

"If we consider bike races to be the ultimate experimental tests of hypothesis about training, it appears that the best training plans have a large "non-scientific" component. Professionals are the best of the best-trained cyclists. Whatever they are doing must be "right". They often talk about riding (I'm assuming training) how they feel: pushing hard when they feel good and, going easier when they don't feel so good and adjusting the training plan moment by moment rather than sticking to a pre-determined agenda. This "non-scientific" training is scientifically proven by the success of its practioners to be most effective among the training methods currently employed".

So, what do I disagree or take exception with in Scott's article? The first is, I don't believe professional cyclists are the "best of the best-trained" cyclists. I believe they are the "best of the best conditioned" cyclists. Yes, I know these professionals train hard and long but they don't train harder than some amateurs (or elite athletes) I know that aren't half as strong/fast. A lot of these pros are as strong/fast as they are because they are genetically gifted ala Lance Armstrong, Taylor Phinney, etc. Secondly, Scott says that whatever they are doing must be "right". I don't agree with that either. I think for the most part what they are doing is "right" but I would bet that there are a lot of athletes on pro teams that aren't doing it right because the coaches don't have the time (and until recently knowledge) to decide what really is right for EACH rider. Because what is right for one athlete may not necessarily be right for the next. It's not wrong what they are doing, but I'm sure it could be better. Lets face it, before Heart Rate Monitors and Power Meters, a lot of teams trained together and did the same workouts at the same distance/duration and intensity. I'm sure members of the team benefitted from the workout..but I'm just as sure a bunch didn't- as much as they could have. I think the workouts were the "right" workout for the team (as a whole) but not necessarily for each team member. Lastly, Scott says that the "non-scientific training" (I'm assuming he means training by RPE) is scientifically proven by the success of its practioners to be the most effective among the training methods current employed. I ask Scott, "Currently employed by whom? He and the rest of Wenzel Coaches?".

I can assure everyone, that if I design a training plan for you..that it will NOT be a canned program for the masses but one that is designed specifically around your strengths/weaknesses and goals. It will be scientifically monitored (HR monitor or Power Meter) and scientifically tested/proven (via races or CP tests). And, the plan will be adjusted throughout the year to maximize results. And it will definitely NOT be a training plan/program based on how you feel. i.e. RPE. We have much better tools these days for assisting us (coaches) in training correctly. So, why not use them? Problem is, a lot of people (and coaches like Scott) still don't know how to use them effectively. If they did, they wouldn't be saying (or writing) what they are. Power On! Coach Rob

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cycling Efficiency

I just got done reading Dr. Allen Lim's article on Saris' website, "5 Tips for improving cycling efficiency". Great article. You can read it here:,guid,5272bd75-5f51-437d-a1ad-0f275aa7b2f4.aspx I'm a big proponent of EVERYTHING he suggests, except for the part about riding on rollers and doing Isolated Leg Training (ILT) drills...ESPECIALLY with no hands. Unless of course you'd like to spend your Holidays in the hospital with a broken neck.

If you're not doing the cycling efficiency drills that Dr. Lim suggests..start doing them NOW. As Allen says...SPIN...SPIN..SPIN! Tis the season to Spin at a high cadence.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Power On!

I've had this photo posted on the Frontpage of my photography website for a couple months: and just noticed that the leaderes of this professional bike race (Criterium in Doylestown) ALL have power meters on their bikes. The first two have Power Taps (yellow head-unit computer) and the third has an SRM power meter (made in Germany). I like seeing this, not just because I'm a Power Based Training Coach but because you get some of your best power data from races. I'm sure their coaches agree. Are you racing with a Power Meter? Training and Racing with a Power Meter...gotta love it. Power On! Coach Rob

Friday, November 13, 2009

Derby Ride- is ON!

(Route shown taken on 11/15/09)

We'll be leaving from the Deli/Food Store in Stockton NJ (on the towpath) at 0900 this Sunday, Nov 15th and riding to the top of Baldpate Mtn and back. Bring your hybrid, cyclo-cross bike or Mtn bike for this leisure paced ride. The total trip is approx. 30 miles round trip, with a nice climb mid-ride 450 ft. in 1.5 miles (avg. 6% grade, with max. grades of 10%). The plan is to be back to Stockton by noon. Yes, I know that's 3 hrs. but I'm leaving an extra hour in there for those that might want to explore the trails at Baldpate with a Mtn bike or a stop at Pure Energy Cycle on the way back for a latte. I'd like to continue with this ride through the Winter, weather permitting, whether I'm on the ride or not.

I do know that on 22 November there is a Specialized Mtn bike Riders Club ride that will be meeting at Washingtons Crossing to do something similar. Perhaps we could combine with their ride and make it a weekly thing...although the Specialized ride is a B+ ride and I'm more like a D+ Mtn. bike rider.

For more details on this ride, see my previous blog below...or email me: You can also post comments/questions below this blog.

2008 Cycleops Pro 300PT Trainer For Sale

I'm selling my Cycleops Pro 300PT Indoor Trainer. The trainer is 2 yrs. old with low mileage/hrs. and is in brand new condition. The trainer was never sweated on because I always used a towel draped over it during workouts. The trainer utilizes a wired Power Tap so you don't have to worry about interference from cordless phones, etc. The HR monitor strap is, however, wireless. It's been waxed/cleaned and everything works and looks like brand new. It even comes with add-on aero pads/foream pads (not shown in photo). The trainer MSRPs for $2000 but I'm selling mine for $1200. Why am I selling? Because I'm purchasing two new Computrainers that I'm going to be networking with other Computrainers for group indoor workouts and could use the cash to help defray the costs of these.

For more details on this very accurate, quiet, stable indoor trainer (built like a tank) go to this link: Here's an unbiased review by Pez Cycling too: Email me, for more info: My preference is to sell it locally, Doylestown PA, because I really don't want to have to pack this baby up and ship it because the flywheel alone weighs 40+ lbs.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Season Starts When?

When does the Season Start? For some, it never ends..we go from road bike racing to cyclo-cross racing or mountain bike racing right into indoor interval workouts through the Winter. For most of us however, the road bike racing season ends in September and we take the month of October and November off and start training again in December. But, does the season really end or is it just a continuation of training with less volume? For me, it's definitely less time on the road bike and more time on the mountain bike and a return to the gym (for resistance training). Therefore, volume/duration (as well as intensity) is at an annual low..due to the shorter days and colder/rainy weather. In addition to volume & intensity of training being at an annual low I must admit my weight is at an annual high. For me it's hard NOT to gain weight because I'm spending less time outside and more time inside drinking beer, eating junk and watching football. No, I don't get FAT but I do gain anywhere from 5-10 lbs. in the off-season. I can tell you from past experience that you do NOT want to put on more than 5-10 lbs of weight in the off-season because it's hard as hell to lose in the Spring/Summer when your rides are longer (and higher intensity) where you'll be relying on a high Carb high calorie diet to keep from bonking.
Start your season now! Drop that Jelly Donut and get out on your Mountain/Cross bike or get in the gym and spin and/or lift weights. (Notice I didn't say drop the beer or pizza? You'd have to pry the beer out of my dead hand this time of year) Yeah, I know it sucks to do indoor interval trainer workouts which is why I DO NOT do them until the weather really gets nasty and cold in January/February. And, when I do them, I try to do them in a group because it's too easy to quit on them if/when you do them on your own. Until then, I find every excuse to ride my Mountain Bike, join an indoor spin class (where you spin at high cadence and low intensity), go to the gym to lift, x-train, etc. If you start an indoor interval workout NOW I guarantee you that you will be burned-out (mentally and possibly physically) BEFORE the start of the road racing season in April. If you do engage in an indoor workout on the on speed drills, endurance, cardio, etc. (see prior blog).
In a nutshell..this is what you should be doing now and in the future:
Nov/Dec- base endurance training, hypertrophy resistance training, and x-training
Dec/Jan- build training for strength, strength resistance training and x-training
Jan/Feb- power training, power resistance training
Feb/Mar- muscular endurance training, muscular endurance resistance training
Mar/Apr- race prep training, maintenance resistance training
Apr-Sept- race season, maintenance resistance training
Oct/Nov- off-season?, maintenance resistance training
For more detailed workouts, email me:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Derby Ride

Many of you may remember the Derby Ride on Sunday mornings at 0900 from Cold Spring Elementary School the past couple of Summers. It was a (hard) group ride that was led by some of the strongest riders in the area which started at a relatively moderate pace (avg. 20 mph) on the PA side of the Delaware River that accelerated into fast paced ride (avg. 24 mph) on the NJ side of the Delaware River. It was a great ride for everyone..even riders like me that were dropped along the way- because I got an awesome workout. In keeping with that tradition, I was thinking of doing the same in the off-season, albeit at a more relaxed/fun/social pace (since it's indeed the off-season) AND with anything other than a road bike. Why no road bike? Because the terrain/route we'll be following will be more appropriate for hybrids, cyclocross or mountain bikes. And, unlike the Summer Derby Ride this will be a "no-drop ride" provided you can keep up with the 12 mph average which includes: hills, stops, flats, etc. (I hope I can..haha)

Here's the route: start in Stockton, NJ and follow the canal tow path from Stockton to Hopewell, NJ. In Hopewell, cross over a canal bridge onto Rt. 29 Northbound for approx 1/4 mile to Fiddler's Creek Rd. Follow Fiddler's Creek Rd. to the entrance to Baldpate Mtn. Ride up the gravel road to the grass paths which lead to doubletrack and singletrack trails. Follow the Ridge Trail (white) to the Upper Parking Lot. Turn around and follow the route back to Stockton. Total mileage 24 miles, approx. ride time 2+ hrs. We'll stick to the Ridge Trail (white) which can be ridden with either a Cyclocross, Hybrid or Mountain bike. Here's a link so you can see the terrain: If some of you Mtn bike riders want to explore the Mountain trail descents you can meet back up with the group.

In addition to the Sunday ride (preferred over Saturday because there is no hunting on Sundays) I was thinking of doing a weekly night ride as well. Let me know if you're interested in either. This would be an all-weather ride: cold, snow, sleet, rain, etc. Unless of course there is heavy snow/sleet/rain. Lastly, I said it would be a more relaxed/social/fun ride but that doesn't mean you're not going to get a great workout. Baldpate Mtn. rises 300-400 ft. above the Delaware River so you'll be climbing at an average 8% grade for one mile to the top. Once on the top there are rolling you can count on half the ride being dead flat (canal path) and the other half being hills.

Do It Yourself (DIY) Bike Repairs

As a kid I had a higher than normal mechanical appitude. I was also good at building things and fixing things that broke. If I wasn't fixing things, I was destroying them by setting them on fire or blowing them up just to see what happens. I'm serious! This interest in how things work led to a lot of science and math classes in HS and later more advanced classes as a Mechanical Engineering student in College and later Grad School. To this date, I'm continually intrigued with new technology, new science and how things work. What particulary appeals to me in the biking industry are: bike computers, power meters, bike suspension systems, shifting systems and basically how bikes work.

So, what does this have to do with DIY bike repairs? You would think with my higher than normal mechanical aptitude, being good with my hands and fascination/interest in how things work that I perform my own bike repairs. Well, I don't. It's not because I'm not interested in working on my own bikes (I have four: hybrid bike, 2 road bikes and a Mtn. bike) or that I don't have the know-how to work on them, it's because I either don't have the time or I'm really not sure how to fix-it. (Actually, I think it's the latter reason) Instead of fixing things myself, I take them to the LBS and have them make the repairs for me. I've been happy with the Service I've received at my LBS in the past until recently. Therefore, instead of getting mad at them I've decided to start doing my own repairs...after all, working on a bike is not rocket science. (Hey, don't tell your LBS mechanic I said'll hurt his/her feelings). And, working on your bike will give you a lot of self-satisfaction in addition to saving some money. Besides, I'm willing to bet that I can do a more thorough job than any LBS mechanic can- provided I know how to do the job correctly.
Now that's the $64k question (in my opinion)- how do you ensure you do the job correctly? There are 3 ways: 1) buy a book like Lennard Zinn's, "Zinn & the Art of Mountain/Road/Triathlon bike Maintenance 2) go online and Google whatever you want to do, for example, Google- "bleed hydraulic brakes", or 3) take a mechanics course at either a LBS or better yet one of the Nationally Certified Bike Mechanics Schools like UBI, Barnett, Park Tools, etc.

Why do it yourself? Here are a few reasons why I'm going to start doing it myself:
a. a lot cheaper to do it yourself
b. you get your bike back faster if you do it yourself
c. learn how your bike works/operates. It will come in handy if you ever breakdown on the road or trail
d. you'll do a more thorough job than a LBS mechanic
e. it's fun and self-satisfying
f. as I said previously, it's really pretty easy (definitely not rocket science)
g. you'll have more confidence in your equipment..especially at high speeds or during steep descents

If anyone is interested in joining me (email me), I'm going to sign-up for a Bicycle Assembly and Maintenance (BAM) course at the Barnett Bicycle Institute in Colorado Springs in July of 2010. It's a 5-day course (8 hrs. per day). I figure July would be an awesome time to head out to COS and do some Mtn Biking in the hills (cooler air) after a day of class. Here's a link to their website:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mountain Biking Baldpate Mountain

Funny, but I had a choice to go Mountain Biking or ride my Road Bike (on a beautiful day)yesterday- and I didn't even think about it, I chose the Mountain Bike. For you Roadies out there, that exclusively ride a road bike, you really ought to try out Mountain Biking in the off-season. Why? Because it's FUN. Here are some other reasons why I love Mountain Biking:

a. It gets you off the roads AWAY from traffic, cars, trucks, etc.
b. It's slower..and allows you to see, smell, hear (and taste if you do an occasional header like I do..haha) more.
c. It gets you "back to nature". I can't tell you how many animals I've seen Mountain Biking.
d. It takes more skill and hand-eye coordination on a Mtn bike which will only improve your road skills.
e. It's a different kind of workout...more full ON/OFF than road biking and great exercise.
f. It's a good excuse to throw the bike on the back of the car and travel and discover new routes, etc.
g. It's a lot more friendlier. Mtn. bikers actually acknowledge your presence on the trails unlike roadies on the road.
h. It's quieter and more peaceful than riding on the road. It's calming...stress relief for sure.
i. It's a lot safer than riding on the road. Nobody said you MUST do extreme Mountain Biking. There are plenty of smooth, flat, open trails to ride.
j. Did I say- IT IS FUN!

Here is a pic of Baldpate Mtn. no more than 1/2 hr. drive from my home. I've been spending quite a bit of time here lately on my Mountain Bike and having fun exploring new trails. It's a beautiful area in Hopewell, NJ across the Delaware River from Washington's Crossing. The picture was taken on the Ridgeline 400-500 ft. above the Delaware River. I'll be sending a link in a future blog to a site with photos of where to park, different trails, etc.

Anyway, if you're contemplating buying a Mountain Bike for off-season training and fun..DO won't regret it. Power On! Coach Rob

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Indoor Trainer Workouts

Not all indoor trainer workouts are "interval" workouts...nor should they be. I think there are a lot of cyclists out there that ALWAYS seem to be doing not only indoor "interval" workouts when they put their bikes on the trainer but hi-intensity interval workouts. Why? Because that's all I think they know how to do. At least that's what I see/witness when I join a group indoor training session...ESPECIALLY this time of year. Sure, it's ok to do an occasional hi-intensity "interval" workout to help maintain your cardio fitness and try to maintain some semblance of your peak Functional Threshold Power (FTP) (if that's important to you). But, this is NOT the time of the year to be going hard on the indoor trainer...or outside for that matter. In fact, when I ride outdoors this time of the year I keep the chain in the small chain ring and pedal at an average of 90+ rpm for the entire ride..including hills. And, NO COASTING. This is the only time of the year where I can honestly say I pay particular attention to cadence and ignore my power output. And, for all you "paralysis by analysis" Power Meter owners, this is a great time of year to ditch the Power Meter. I'm serious!

According to the classic Annual Training Plan (ATP) or Periodization Schedule (which I follow and recommend the athletes I coach to follow- for the most part), this is the "Preparation" period/phase...a period where you focus on general adaptation with weights, crosstraining, and on-bike drills. I already wrote a blog or two about crosstraining and weight training so I'm not going to get into that here. So, what kind of on-bike drills am I talking about? I'm talking about: Isolated Leg Training (ILT) drills, Spin-ups and Form-Sprints (and/or a combination of the three). Here's how to do a workout for each:

Isolated Leg Training (ILT)
Use a light resistance on the indoor trainer (Level 1/2). Put one foot in the pedal and the other on a chair (or hold out to the side for the ride). Spin with a higher than normal cadence. Change legs when fatigue begins to set in. Repeat for several sets switching from left to right leg. Focus on eliminating dead spots at the top/bottom of the pedal stroke. (I usually include ILT as part of another workout, such as a fat-burn/endurance workout, instead of doing them as a single workout)

Use a light resistance on the indoor trainer (Level 1/2). For one minute gradually increase your cadence to the maximum (a cadence you can maintain WITHOUT BOUNCING). Hold your maximum cadence for as long as you can. Recover for at least 3 minutes and repeat several times. Continually monitor cadence during workout. (I usually include spin-ups as part of another workout, such as a fat-burn/endurance workout, instead of doing them as a single workout)

Form Sprints
Warm-up at Level 2/3 for at least 20 minutes. Sprint for 15 seconds while standing for the first 10 seconds then sit for the remaining 5s while maintaining a HIGH cadence. Power should be no more than Level 5. These are NOT all-out sprints. Concentrate on building leg speed. Repeat 6-10 times...making sure to rest 5 minutes between each one. (It is best NOT to combine this workout with any other.)

BTW, you can do all of these workouts outside on the road as well as on a trainer. For the ILT, instead of clipping in/out, concentrate on using one leg to do all the work while the other one is along for the ride. Also, perform the ILT (as well as the other drills) on a flat section of road. And remember, SMALL RING only.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Balanced Off-Season Cycling Program

A "balanced" off-season cycling program SHOULD include: resistance (weight) training, time on the indoor trainer and x-training. The key here is "balance". If your off-season cycling program does NOT include "balance" at this time of year- it should, if you want to maximize your performance for the 2010 season. What do I mean by "balance"? Here's a good example:

Monday- Weight Training
Tuesday- Indoor Interval Workout
Wednesday- Weight Training
Thursday- Indoor Bike Workout
Friday- OFF
Saturday- Mountain Biking
Sunday- Mountain Biking/Roller Blading/X-Country Skiing/etc.

If you're not sure what kind/type of weight training or bike workout you should be doing this time of year, email me and I'll get you started.

What are the benefits of a "balanced" off-season program:
a. psychological break
b. builds muscle strength
c. improves hand/eye coordination
d. improves cycling skills
e. helps maintain sense of balance
f. cardiovascular benefits

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Annual Training Plan (ATP)

Why do you race/train/ride? Is it because it's fun and you love: the competition, to be outdoors, to keep (or get) in shape, to travel, the social aspect, etc? Regardless of your motive, I'm sure there is one thing in common with all cyclists and that is: they want to have fun and that EVERYONE wants to ride stronger/faster/better.

I'm pretty sure of another thing, and that is MOST cyclists (both recreational riders and racers) don't have a clue of what it takes to ride stronger/faster/better. Sure, if you don't know ANYTHING you can't go wrong by just going out and doing what you feel like doing and putting some miles in the saddle on your own or with a group. After all, you'll see "some" improvement.

But, the road to success (riding the best you can) is understanding where you are (identifying strengths/weaknesses), where you are headed (goals/objectives) and the best way get there (a plan). And, selecting the CORRECT Annual Training Plan, based on the concept of periodization, has a BIG BIG part in the best way to get there. When I say "CORRECT" I say this because there are all kinds of 'canned' Annual Training Plans that you can purchase online that claim they will improve your performance and help you achieve your goals/objectives. No disrespect to the people that sell these programs (after all there are some qualified folks that are trying to help you find that 'road to success- in addition to making $$ which I'm sure is the primary purpose) but how do these canned Annual Training Plans know:
a. what your work/travel/family committments are?
b. what your current fitness level is?
c. what to recommend when you get sick/injured?
d. what your goals/objectives are?
e. what your strengths, and more importantly, weaknesses are? (After all, you race your strengths and train your weaknesses)
f. which workouts are better for you than others?
g. when you want to peak? i.e. your 'A' races vs. 'B' races
h. if you're going to be racing Criteriums, Road Races or Time Trials?
i. when you want to start/ well as start/finish after your first peak?
j. what your nutrition requirements are during each phase?
k. whether you respond better to 2 back-to-back hard workouts or 1 every other day?
l. whether you train by RPE, Heart Rate or Power?

The answer is: THEY DON'T! So what do you do? Well, you have two choices you either: a) buy a book (like Friel's Training Bible) and develop your own annual training plan or b) pay someone (preferably a certified USA Cycling Coach) to do it for you. That's if you want to maximize the available training time you have and you want to achieve your goals/objectives for 2010. If you need any help/advice I can help you develop your own annual training plan, or (for a small fee) I can develop one for you.

Train/Race Smart! Power On! Coach Rob

Friday, September 25, 2009

Why Should you X-Train?

If you're a road rider and you followed an Annual Training Plan for the 2009 season, and you started this training plan in December of 2008- you should be ready for a rest. If you're not, you either didn't race/train much in 2009 or your riding volume and/or intensity was not that high. If you are ready for a rest, you're probably not thinking much about the bike but are thinking about other activities to maintain your current fitness level. The idea behind off-season training is to integrate OTHER activities with your cycling skills- activities that will increase your Endurance, Speed and Power. What are some good x-training exercises? These exercises come readily to mind: weight training, mountain biking, running, x-country skiing (if/when we get snow), inline skating, etc. Why? Because they work the same muscles that riding a road bike do...albeit in a slightly different way..and they also condition the cardio-respiratory system.

But, what about specificity of training? You know, the concept that implies that sport movements and training are specific to one sport and do NOT improve performance in another sport. Well that's true (the concept), but a lot of the x-training exercises that I mentioned above will actually work the same muscles that road cycling does. For example, inline skating will develop the Quads, Hamstrings and Glutes just like cycling..granted, not in an identical way..but close enough. And, although the demands of mountain biking may NOT be similar to the demands of century ride on a road bike..mountain biking will improve your handling skills on the road bike.

Also, when weight training for cycling strength, the weight training program that I prescribe (for the athletes I coach) uses independent leg action on EVERY excercise to simulate the pedal stroke of the bike- as much as possible And, as I already told you in a former blog, mountain biking is a's a great workout..and isn't that what it's all about- getting in shape and having fun? I think so.

If you want to join me this Fall/Winter (in the Doylestown area) for a little x-training, I'll be mountain biking, inline skating (used to do this with my dog) and x-country skiing (snow required- may have to drive to the pocono mtns.) Here's a great article on the benefits of inline skating by Dr. Carl Foster:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Interval Workouts...are you doing them?

If you're one of the athletes that I coach, you are no stranger to interval workouts. Why? Because they work! Even if you're an Ironman Triathlete and ride at a steady Tempo pace (for 5-6 hrs. during an event)..studies have shown that interval workouts improve race times.
Conversely, I believe that the road racer/cyclist (who normally enters races lasting 2-3 hrs.) would benefit from periodic long endurance rides.

What are intervals? Intervals are periods of high intensity work interspersed with periods of low intensity work (or rest intervals). Intervals are usually classified by the workload and rest period, or by the physiological fitness system that they stimulate. For example, I routinely prescribe a 3x5 or 5x3 @L5 interval workout, more commonly called VO2max interval workouts.

So, which interval training method works best? Well, it depends. It depends on how much time you have to devote to your interval workouts, your goals/objectives, your physical makeup, etc. And, to be honest with you..interval training methodology is just as much an art as it is science. If it was ALL science there would be books, articles, videos, etc. produced each year stating/claiming- do these interval workouts each year and we guarantee you'll be able to ride a sub-hour 40k Time Trial or win your local criterium. I don't think you'll see any of these claims published anytime soon.

The following are two important reasons why you should be doing Interval Workouts this Fall/Winter. I'm paraprhasing them from Arnie Baker, MDs e-book entitled, "High Intensity Training for Cyclists", which by the way is a MUST read:
a. Interval Training allows a greater volume of high quality work. (Afterall, with our busy work schedules, isn't this what we're looking for- the best bang for the buck?)
b. Interval Training allows for controlled high quality work. (It's easier to target a specific physiologic fitness system or evoke a physiological adaptation w/ a controlled stimulus)

I believe the most important reason for incorporating interval training into your weekly workouts is because interval training can simulate race-specific intensities. And, there is no substitute (in my opinion) for simulating race-specific intensities during training. You can ask any of the road racers I coach and the one thing I like to do is to look at a downloaded power file from a recent race. I'll break down the race into laps (intervals) and see where the accelerations occur (power demand), the frequency they occur, and how long they last. Then, I'll replicate the race in an interval training workout for that athlete- at a later time. When the body gets used to the stimulus (learns to adapt) it will respond more positively than before.

Remember, interval training can simulate race-specific intensities, be prescribed at appropriate frequencies to allow for adequate recovery and can be altered to progressively overload the cyclist in a manner that will result in improved performance. After all, isn't that the goal/objective- to improve performance? I think so.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Transition Period

As the racing season winds down, the "transition period" immediately follows the "race period"- that's if you follow the traditional periodization training plan.

But, what exactly is the "transition period"? The "transition period" is a time of rest and recovery. It's a time to recharge the batteries and get ready for the following racing season. For most recreational racers/weekend warriors in the Northeast it lasts approximately 6-8 weeks- traditionally during the months of October and November. After all, no serious cyclist can expect to maintain top form all year long. But what does "rest and recovery" really entail? Does it mean sitting on the couch on the weekends watching football and drinking beer instead of riding your normal group/solo ride? Does it mean reducing training volume and intensity? Is it a time to cross-train? Do I ditch the road bike and jump on my "cyclo-cross bike" or "mountain bike"? Do I stay off a bike completely?

I think the answer to all of these questions, which seems to be the standard answer, is- IT DEPENDS. It depends on a lot of things. It depends on your current training volume and intensity. It depends on your current fitness level. Are you a serious racer, a recreational racer, a weekend warrior? It depends on your current physical shape and mental state. i.e. are you burning out? It depends on your goals/aspirations for the following season.

Regardless of your fitness level, current training volume/intensity, goals/aspirations for the following season, etc. I'll give you some advice on what I think you (and I) should be doing during the "transition period", they are:

a. Reduce your training volume. Remember, the transition period is a time of rest and recovery. So, if you've been riding 10+ hours a week during the might want to scale it back down to say 6-8 hrs. a week.
b. Maintain your current fitness level. You can do this by doing at least 1-2 Lactate Threshold and VO2max workouts per week. They don't have to be longer than 30-60 minutes.
c. Stay off your road bike as much as possible and get out on your "cyclo-cross" or "mountain bike". Staying off your road bike will give you a mental break- as well as physical break.
d. Maintain your current weight. The transition period is NOT the time of year to pack on the weight. I know it's hard NOT to do with all the football games on the tube. Besides, it's hard enough to maintain weight during the late Fall and Winter months- with all the holidays.
e. This is a good time to evaluate your current years racing/training and plan for the next. What are/were your strengths/weaknesses? What do you need to do to improve your weaknesses?

Simply put, during the transition period, you want to: reduce volume, maintain fitness level, maintain weight, evaluate the current season and plan for the next, cross-train and HAVE FUN!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Time Crunched Cyclist

Unless you're a full-time professional cyclist or triathlete you probably don't have more than 10 hrs. a week to get out on the bike to train. Unfortunately, up til now, the classic cycling endurance training model is built around the premise/notion that you have MORE THAN 10 hrs. per week.

Well, what if you don't have more than 10 hrs. of week to train? What if you only have 6 hrs. per week to train? Do you still use the classic endurance training model which suggests a hi-volume lo-intensity off-season build/preparation phase? Do you slowly reduce the volume and increase the intensity as the race-season approaches?

Chris Carmichael answers all of these questions (and more) in his new book entitled, "The Time-Crunched Cyclist- Fit, Fast and Powerful in 6 hours a week". For those athletes that I coach that fit into this category (< 6 hrs. of available training time) I'll be following his training program for 2010. Chris's training program consists of 4 workouts per week: 2-3 workouts during the week lasting 60-90 minutes, and 1-2 workouts on the weekend lasting 1-2 hours.

Oh, to give you athletes that I coach (that have less than 6 hrs. to train per week) a "heads-up"- you're in for more intense workouts. But, don't worry..I'll make them fun for you.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mountain Biking

In my prior blog I talked about some cures for late summer blues and how to prevent burnout. Well, I took my own advice and went out and bought a Mountain Bike the other day. And, to be honest with you..I'm having a blast. Since buying my Mountain Bike, I've been to Pennypack Park, Wissahickon Park and Blue Marsh Lake. I'm actually looking forward to when I can go out and ride it again. In fact, I think I'm going to go to Mercer County Park tomorrow. The best thing about riding a Mountain Bike is that it's giving me a GREAT workout..and teaching me handling skills and balance..which can only benefit me on my road bike. If you don't have a Mtn. bike, and you're burning out of the road bike scene, you might want to consider buying one. Now is a good time to buy one at your LBS since they'll be stocking up on 2010s soon...and there are great deals to be had.

BTW, I bought a 2009 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29er that I got a great deal on from my friends at High Road Cycles in Doylestown, PA