Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hill Workouts..are you doing them? Are you doing them correctly?

I don't have to tell you the benefits/merits of doing routine/weekly hill workouts...especially as the race season nears. Accept to say, if you're NOT doing SHOULD BE!

Anyway, how do you know if you're doing your hill workouts correctly? Is there a correct intensity to train in the hills? Do I match my cardio-respiratory stress/pain with my muscle stress/pain? i.e. am I out of breath w/ legs burning. Or, do I treat them as Threshold or VO2max workouts based on how steep and how long they are? Well, I would say if you don't have a Power Meter the former suggestion would be the way to do it. Assuming, you can climb all four hills before falling off your bike. Forget the Heart Rate Monitor because by the time you crest the first're HR monitor is probably still playing catch-up. (it lags tremendously the harder the intensity). Now, if you do have a Power Meter..I would take a look at the hills (ahead of time) and see how long/steep they are..and estimate how long it would take you to get to the top. Then, base your ride/workout on that info. I'll use the file above as an example:

Hill #1- Fretz Mill Rd. Hill, is approx. 1/2 mile long, with 16% max grade.
Hill #2- Short Rd. Hill to Tollgate Rd., approx 3/4 mile long, with 16% max grade
Hill #3 & #4- Wismer Rd. Hill, approx. 1 mile long, with 14% max grade (repeat hill)
Hill #5 - Federal Twist Rd. Hill, approx 1.25 mile long, with 16% max grade
Hill #6- Strimples Hill Rd., approx. 1.5 miles long, with 10% max grade
Hill #7- Rt. 523 Hill, approx. 2 miles long, with 10% max grade
Hill #8- Rt. 179 Hill, approx. 1.5 miles long, with 6% avg. grade
Hill #9- Stoney Hill Rd., approx. 2.5 miles long, with 5% avg. grade
Hill #10- Holicong Rd. Hill, approx 1.5 miles long, with 10% max grade
Hill #11- Hansell Rd/Burnt House Rd/Fell Rd., approx 1.5 miles long, with 3% avg grade

So, looking at Hills #1-5, you can see that they're pretty steep (14-16% grade) and pretty short (up to a mile and a quarter). Therefore, it would make sense to me, physiologically speaking, to do a nice 4x4 VO2max (L5) workout. Except after reviewing my PM file, looks like I wimped out a bit and did them more at L4 (Threshold). That's ok and learn.

Hills #6-#8, are not as steep but a little longer..therefore, I'd say this would be great for doing a 3x10 Threshold (L4) workout.

Hills #9-#11, could also be another 3x10 Threshold (L4) workout interval, but for was a SURVIVAL interval. I was beat..toasted..spent..bonked..whatever! Over 3,000 ft. of climbing and 2.5 hrs. in the saddle...that's enough FUN for one least for me it is. Cheers Rob

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Functional Exercise Training Program

Hanging in/around gyms for most of my adult life, and as a kid through HS and College, I thought I knew it all when it came to exercise & weight training programs. Most importantly that every exercise program should be "sports" specific..and if you wanted to get stronger and improve in that particular better be training with sports-specific type exercises. For example, when I was on the Track/Field team at Penn State..most of my exercises (I threw the javelin) in the weight room were designed around isolating particular muscle groups..mainly my throwing arm. However, if you know ANYTHING about throwing the javelin (and I thought I knew a lot at the time) you would know that it's NOT just the arm that is involved in the throwing action- it's the arms, hips, back and legs. In fact, the hips/back/legs combined probably have an equal contribution to the arms in throwing for maximum distance. Did I concentrate on developing these OTHER important MAJOR muscle groups? No. Why? Stupid I guess. Well, maybe not stupid..lets just say "uninformed".

So, what does this example have to do with cycling- you're probably thinking? Well, did you ever think of the muscle groups involved in cycling OTHER than the primary muscles- such as the Quadriceps? How about your hamstrings, glutes, upper/lower back, abdomen muscles? If you're neglecting these OTHER MAJOR muscle groups you're probably not cycling to your fullest potential. (And, you may be even leaving yourself open to injury.) Not only is it important that you develop these OTHER muscles but to develop them TOGETHER..after all, don't you use them all together when cycling? That's what "Functional Exercise" is all about. It's an exercise program designed to involve ALL the muscles involved in a particular activity/sport. Here's a good link from Wikipedia that explains in detail:

Now, you may be thinking..where do I get more information on "Functional Exercise Training Programs" specific to cycling? Well, my friends, if you live near Doylestown, PA you're lucky because we have a Functional Exercise Studio right around the corner. It's called "Fusion Fitness Studio". The owner/operator/founder/trainer- all around super guy- is Fernando Paredes. I've recently had the opportunity to not only meet Fernando but to be evaluated by him during one session and to workout with him- one-on-one...during another private session. And, let me tell was one helluva TOTAL BODY workout. I could write pages on my positive experience but instead..I'll give you the link to his Fitness Studio and you can read all about it: including testimonials from other athletes. Better yet, if you live local, go up and visit Fernando yourself. His Studio is next to the Roman Delight Restaurant in Fountainville (corner of Rt 313 and Swamp Rd). If you go, tell him I sent you.. you will NOT be disappointed.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Group Paceline Interval Workout

Just wanted to highlight a good example of someone doing a good group paceline interval workout. How do you do it? Each person in the group gets to pull for a pre-determined distance or time over a specified route, say every mile or every 2.5 minutes. Prior to the ride, you try as best you can to pair people with similar FTPs or Power to Weight Ratios. For example, say you have four people in your group: one with an FTP of 380w that weighs 200 lbs. (91 kg), another with an FTP of 300w that weighs 160 lbs (73 kg), and two others with an FTP of 265w that weigh 175 lbs. (80 kg). Based on this information I'd pair the guy with the FTP of 380w (4.2 w/kg) and the smaller guy w/ the big engine FTP of 300w (4.1 w/kg) together. Likewise with the two guys of similar FTP and weight. (both 3.3 w/kg).

Now, you start the interval workout in pairs and rotate pulling...each guy/gal taking a turn out front for a specified time/distance. You could actually start the interval workout as an entire group..just have the stronger guys pull harder/longer. The weaker guys have to remember to take shorter pulls and not blow up..otherwise, they won't be able to hang-on the wheel of the bigger dawgs..even in their draft. (Hmmm, sounds like I'm saying that from experience. YES!)

Here is a Power File (attached) from one of the two BIG DAWGS I was talking about. You can see (from the graph) he banged out six very good, consistent/no drop in power, VO2max (L5) intervals. He pulled one mile, sat-in one mile, and repeated this 5 more times. Also notice that when he was out-front pulling he was averaging 330w and when he was sitting-in he was only averaging 220w. That's a 30% energy savings. (Hey, where did I read that before?)

So, next time you want to do an interval it outside with a friend or friends. It's much more fun than doing an interval workout on an indoor trainer. Also, there is no better race training..than training on the road with wind, hills, etc. and drafting.

Sitting-in the draft conserves 30% of your Power

Just confirmed that sitting-in the draft conserves 30% of your Power. Here is a graph of an interval workout I did last night where we (Jason Wood, Todd Wiley and I) were averaging 25 mph. (Well, at least they were averaging 25 mph the entire interval) You can see where/when I was sitting-in drafting at the 180w avg. line, and when I was out-of-the-draft, I was producing 250+w avg. line. (Same speed, same bike position.) Pretty cool stuff..only able to be confirmed with a Power this case my iBike Aero.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Using a Power Meter to Improve Race Tactics

Here's a great link on using the iBike Power Meter to improve racing tactics- from Pro Cyclist Boyd Johnson. Check it out:

Spring/Summer 2009 Rides

There are 3 weekly rides that I'll be doing this Spring/Summer (when I'm not on travel) that I think some of you, that I coach, will be interested in. They are: a Tuesday Night Ride (TNR) leaving from Cold Spring Elementary (CSE) at 530 pm, a Thursday Night Derby Ride (ThNDR) leaving from Starbucks in Doylestown at 530 pm and a Sunday morning Derby Ride (Derby) leaving from Cold Spring Elementary (CSE) at 0900. The TNR is an interval workout ride that we'll be doing on River Rd. (NJ) with TWiley Sports athletes. If you're interested in joining us for that ride, please email me ahead of time, , to let me know you're coming...because we'll be pairing people up for intervals. The ThNDR is an abbreviated/shorter version of the Sunday Derby Ride. It's a fast/hard ride. (Well, it's fast/hard for me.) And, the Derby a sane/easy ride up to Milford NJ, then hammer down..and try to hold on. Or, take a short cut (like I've done in the past) to meet-up with the BIG DAWGS! If there are any questions on any of these 3 rides, email me. Ride-on!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Don't lose weight!

If you're overweight or you'd just like to shed a few of those extra (Winter) pounds before the start of the race advice is to do it NOW! The easiest/quickest way that I know to lose weight is to either: a) increase exercise i.e. burn more calories and/or b) eat less i.e. cut the carbs. Granted, as the race season does the nicer weather making it easier to get outside for the longer/harder exercise/training sessions. Therefore, option a) is not that difficult. Option b) is not that difficult just eat less..knocking out the carbs..ala Atkin's Diet.

Problem is, when you increase your exercise volume/intensity (and heart rate) your body relies MORE on carbs as a fuel source. (The lower the working heart rate, the more you rely on fat as a source of fuel.) If you don't give your body that needed fuel source during a hard exercise session/ride...guess what? YOU BONK BIGTIME! Therefore, you don't complete the workout interval you wanted, or more EMBARRASSINGLY you get dropped during one of your group rides with your buds. How do I know this? It happened to me recently..the latter..more embarrassing...being dropped. So, to avoid a similar situation this advice is to start losing your weight NOW...NOT later...because the only thing more embarrassing than being dropped by a buddy during a group getting dropped during a race with family and friends watching. So, don't lose weight..lose it NOW!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Simulate the Race...BEFORE your Race!

For every workout I prescribe (to the athletes I coach)..there is an underlying reason for each one. Some of my favorite workouts, such as: 2x20s @L4, and 3x5s @L5 are prescribed because, not only are they based on physiological adaptations- improving Lactate Threshold and VO2max, they work. i.e. there is scientific data that exists that supports the assertion. Even so, there will ALWAYS be someone (PhD geek) that refutes such findings/assertions.

However, what NOBODY can argue (even the PhD geeks) is the efficacy of workouts that simulate ACTUAL race day conditions. Let me give you an example. I entered a Cat 4/5 race last year that had a 6 mile loop/lap. In that route/race, there was one particular hill that was approximately a 10% grade that seemed to drop a lot of people from the group..even after only one lap. I was dropped after the 3rd of 4 laps. When I got home, I analyzed the Power Meter data and was surprised to see (for better or worse) that I averaged 330 watts for 1 minute on each hill ascent...and averaged 220 watts the rest of the way/lap. Obviously, those 3x1's @L6 were enough to blow me up (aka burning matches)...losing contact with the front of the pack.

Therefore, in better preparing for the same race (or a similar race) this year..I performed a workout last night that will help me get in shape. The workout was a little different: instead of four 6-mile laps I simulated a race that is twelve 2-mile laps. And, instead of 1-minute hill climb per lap, I simulated a 30 sec hill climb per lap. (The WKO+ file is attached.) This was a very difficult workout that left me gassed at the end. But, at least now I know what I can and can't do when a similar race comes around this year. And, I'll be in better shape to tackle it because my body is adapting to the workout/simulated race earlier.

So, before your races this year..take a look at your Power Meter data from last year's races and see what the Power requirements were for that particular race. Chances are, those same requirements will be identical this year. Simulate those same race conditons at home on your trainer, or out on the road, and you'll be better prepared this year. And, who knows..maybe this year you'll be able to hang with the BIG DAWGS (instead of being dropped like I was last year).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Race of Truth

I know a lot of guys/gals that race Criteriums, Road Races, and Track/Mtn Bike/Cross Races but I don't know too many people that compete in Time Trials (aka the "Race of Truth"). Wonder why? Could it be the physical and mental demands of the event? Absolutely! Does it require a Time Trial/Tri bike? No, not really. You can always buy clip-on aero bars and put them on your road bike. Is it because they're NOT really much fun/glamorous/exciting? Could be, I don't know.

BTW, time trials are called the "Race of Truth" because each rider is racing against the clock. There is no teamwork, no drafting, no race tactics, no place to hide etc..just you against the elements and the clock.

Regardless of the reasons why Time Trialing is not as popular as other races amongst local cyclists (at least I don't think they are), I'd like to share some advice on pacing for time trialing after reading a reccent article by Dr. Allen Lim, Saris/Cycleops advisor and Garmin/Chipotle's team Doc. Pacing correctly is essential for a fast time trial. Dr. Lim advises the following for correctly pacing in a time trial:

"Pacing in TT's is highly dependent on terrain profile. The idea is that you want to go harder, produce more power output on the sections of the course where you go slower. You want to ease off, allow your body to recover on sections of the course where you're going faster. For example, if you're going downhill at 55kph, and you try to produce 30 or 40 more watts, you wouldn't go much faster because aerodynamic resistance is exponential, and power relative to speed is cubic, so that much more power maybe gets you incrementally smaller amounts of speed. Likewise, if you stop pedaling and you get in an aerodynamic tuck, you're probably going faster than someone who's producing 300-350 watts on a fast descent. In contrast, if you're going up a hill where aerodynamic position doesn't matter as much, 20 or 30 watts more, the amount of time you put on your competitors is immense. So what we try to teach the guys is the ability to go deep in the red on the climbs, just enough so they maintain momentum, and then they can recover on the downhill or fast sections. "

So, keep that in mind next time you do a Time Trial...or if you're thinking about doing one for the first time. BTW, there are a bunch of 36km Time Trials coming up in the PA/NJ area (on Rt. 29 in NJ) starting on Sunday March 29 and continuing throughout the summer (at least one per month). I'll be there..come join me!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Sunday Ride

Sunday morning we're leaving at 0900 from Cold Spring Elementary School and headed to Hillsborough CC in NJ, and back. The ride is/was named after my dog (and best friend) who died unexpectedly last year from Lymphoma. Here's a link to the ride:

Sunday, March 1, 2009

HIIT the road Jack..

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), or sprint interval training, is an exercise protocol that is intended to improve performance with short training sessions. HIIT is a form of cardio which is beneficial to burning fat in a short and intense workout. Usual HIIT sessions may vary from 15-30 minutes. Most HIIT sessions have a 2:1 ratio in terms of time.

A HIIT session involves a warmup period, several short, maximum-intensity efforts separated by moderate recovery intervals, and a cooldown period. The period of alternating effort and recovery intervals typically lasts a total of 15-20 minutes. HIIT is an excellent way to maximize your workout if you are limited on time as well.

Perhaps the most popular HIIT protocol is that devised by Japanese exercise physiologist Izumi Tabata. The Tabata protocol was developed using stationary cycling. It’s essentially a 2:1 time ratio interval performed at max effort and complete rest. Here is the protocol that I use. Steps 1-3 are the warmup, followed by steps 4-6 which are the max intensity efforts, followed by step 7- the cooldown:

1. Perform 5-10 minutes of hi rpm (90+), low power (L1/L2), then;
2. Perform a 20-second L4 interval, followed by 20-second L2 rest interval
3. Repeat step 2, two to three times
4. Perform a 20-second sprint at maximum power, then;
5. Perform 10 seconds of rest, NO PEDALING, then;
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you have performed a total of 8 x 20-second max power sprints, then;
7. Cool down with a 5 minute hi rpm (90+), low power (L1/L2) effort.


Do NOT try these intervals if you’re
a novice athlete or new to cycling.
These intervals are HARD and designed
for fit/elite athletes only!
1. When performing these Tabata intervals for the first time, you might want to shoot for a maximum of 6 intervals instead of 8. And, I don’t recommend doing these intervals on your bicycle clamped on an indoor trainer unless you stay seated the entire time. (I just don’t think it’s steady enough). I prefer to do these efforts standing on my Cycleops Pro 300PT indoor trainer which is VERY stable...or doing them on a long stretch of road (outside on my bike) void of intersections or heavy traffic (like Rt. 29 in NJ).
2. For PM users, download the training file into Training Peak software and note your average 20 sec. maximum sustained power for each sprint. Each time you do these intervals try to maintain the same max power for each sprint. And, try to improve your max power (if you can) each time you do these interval workouts.
3. For max results, studies have shown, these intervals should be performed 5x/week for 5-6 weeks. Well, that’s all fine/good in December/January when the weather is foul but for March, I prefer to get my arse outdoors and ride. That is why I incorporate these intervals into my workouts either 1-2x per week in March...especially when I’m short on time and only have time for a ½ hour workout.

When the Tabata HIIT protocol was compared with low intensity stationary cycling, both improved maximum oxygen consumption but only HIIT improved anaerobic performance. What’s more, HIIT produced these superior results in a much more time efficient manner.
So, HIIT the road Jack..and improve your aerobic and anaerobic capacity/performance!