Friday, July 28, 2017

gomacro protein bar

When a new product or piece of kit or equipment comes along that I like, I normally pass the information on.  In this case, it's a protein bar from a company called "gomacro".  I pretty much stumbled upon this product at a local coffee shop/whole foods store in Bucks County, PA.  I was on a group ride and the guy that I was riding with wanted to stop for a bottle of water.  I figured as long as he was stopping for water, I might as well stop too and grab a protein bar- since I had left with nothing to eat for the ride.  Normally when I ride, I ride with a snack bag of some sort that I make up myself or a protein bar.

This particular whole foods store had a whole rack of protein bars.  I saw Crunchy Peanut Butter Clif Bars (for $1.69) which was what I'd normally buy.  But, recently, I had someone email me (I get a lot of emails as a Coach from athletes, other coaches, people selling stuff, etc.) from a company called "gomacro".  They wanted to know if I ever tried their protein bars.  I said, "No".  Well, here was my chance to try one.  So, I picked the Banana + Almond Butter flavor.  It was really chewy and yummy tasting.  What I liked most about it, in addition to the taste, was the texture.  It was nice and soft and chewy.  When I ride and eat, I like to take bites of food and store it in my cheek (like a squirrel) and eat it slowly.  The gomacro protein bar was the perfect texture for leaving it in my cheek.  Everything in the protein bar is/was organic.  It's also soy free, gluten free and non-GMO.  The protein bar was 270 calories and had 10g of protein, 34g of carbs, 13g of sugar and 12g of fat (no trans fats).  The sugar came from organic brown rice syrup and organic coconut sugar.  No High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) or chemical sugar substitutes in this protein bar.  This is more protein and less sugar than most protein bars on the market.  I like that because I need to watch the amount of sugar I intake these days.  The carbs are a little high if you're on a diet, but that's what you need post workout for muscle recovery-  high carbs and high protein.  I don't eat protein bars as a snack during the day.  There's much better/tastier foods to eat.   I only eat protein bars when I workout and/or post-workout.  The gomacro protein bar fit very nicely in my cycling bib jersey pocket.  And, the serated edge on the packaging made it easy to rip open with my teeth while riding.

Gomacro protein bars are sold at 7-Elevens, Target, whole food stores, etc.  Go on their website- click here, and enter your zipcode in the store locator for the closest store.  I paid $2.00 for my gomacro protein bar this a.m.  Definitely worth $0.31 more than a Clif bar.  It tasted so much better.  And, I like their flavors.  Here is a list of their high protein flavors: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Coconut Almond Butter Chocolate Chip, Sunflower Butter Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Cashew Caramel.  I think I'm going to try the Peanut Butter protein bar next.  The Peanut Butter bar has more protein (12g) and less sugar (10g) than the Banana + Almond Butter protein bar I had this a.m.  They should do a Peanut Butter Banana flavor in the future.

Check it out- gomacro protein bars.     I think you'll like em like I do.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Group Ride?

I decided to go on a group ride this a.m.  The ride was scheduled for 0830.  I show up at 0815 anticipating 20 or so riders.  There was only 1. One?  I thought maybe he and I were in the wrong location or that they canceled the ride and we didn't get the memo.  He said, "nope we're in the right spot".  The weather was fine.  I asked, "where is the ride leader?"  He said, "dunno".  Well, we waited 25 minutes and the ride leader never showed.  Believe that?  Heck, if I were the ride leader and I couldn't make the ride, I'd at least have the courtesy of driving my car to the meeting location to tell everyone I can't make it and then head back home.

Well, the good thing is/was this guy was a local so he knew the back roads and he was more of a B rider than a C rider.  We had a great ride that was exactly 30 miles long and lasted a little over 2 hrs- even with a stop at a local coffee shop.   I stopped in the coffee shop to get a protein bar.  I usually carry a protein bar with me but the cupboard was empty.  I got a banana flavored organic protein bar made from a company called gomacro.  It was really good.  So good, my next blog will be about the protein bar.

Our ride included what I thought were some of the best of Bucks County PA's back roads- really beautiful roads with little to no traffic.  We even rode a dirt/gravel road that was a couple miles long.  I'd say the route had a fair amount of hills..nothing to steep.  We climbed close to 2000 ft. which isn't too shabby in 30 miles.

I was actually glad the group leader didn't show up.  He or she would have most likely slowed us up and we probably wouldn't have ridden such beautiful roads nor climbed as many hills.  My kind of group ride. ha.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Beat the Heat!


I can't say it's very much fun riding in the heat of the day.  I know some people don't mind it..but I do.  In fact, I know a couple of people that like to race in the heat- sick.  I sweat a lot when I work out. If I sweat too much on a long ride, I won't be able to get enough fluids back into me..even if I'm drinking all day.  If my body doesn't get enough fluids, my body shuts down.  I'm talking headaches, nausea and on the verge of passing out.  Been there, done that!

To combat the heat of the day there are a few things you can do to get your ride in.  Here is my short list:

1. Ride early.  Get up early and ride at 0700.  You can be done by 1000 and get a great ride in.
2. Ride where there's shade.  On really hot days, I ditch the road bike and grab my Mountain Bike and head for the woods.  It's MUCH cooler under the shade of trees.
3. Wear a Cooling Vest.  I have a hyperkewl cooling vest that works ok.  I'd say it works for 3 hrs. to keep you relatively cool.  You just wet it down.  It doesn't cost much and it's not too heavy.
4. Wear a headband.  The riders behind you will appreciate it in a paceline.  Nobody wants to get sweated on.  Plus, it prevents sweat from dripping into your eyes.  Sweat mixed with sunscreen in your eyes is not pleasant.
5. Wear light clothes.  It's amazing how many times I see riders with black shirts and black shorts riding on the hottest day of the year.  I guess looking cool trumps staying cool- in their opinion.
6.  Head for the basement.  That's where I go when there is record heat.  My basement is nice and cool and that's where my trainer is located.  I'll just hop on the trainer for 1/2 hr. and watch sports on TV or I'll crank the tunes while I ride.  Today, I watched the final Time Trial of this years' Tour de France.

Stay cool.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Beat Stress- ride your bike!


They say that stress is an inevitable part of life.  But is it?  You may not be able to eliminate stress, but you can surely manage/control it.  Although stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life's experiences, there is no doubt in my mind that stress is a silent killer.  Your body responds to stress by releasing stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.  This rush of hormones increases your heart rate and breathing rate and blood flow to your muscles, heart and other organs.  The increase in blood flow also leads to increased blood pressure and risk of stroke and/or heart attack. If the stressor doesn't go away, the response continues. Under stress, your liver produces extra blood sugar (glucose) to give you a boost of energy.  If you're under chronic stress (like daily stress from work), your body may not be able to keep up with this extra glucose surge and lead to risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  The rush of hormones can also affect/upset your digestive system thanks to the increase of stomach acid.  Muscles also become tense (to protect themselves) when stressed.  This can lead to headaches, back pain and shoulder aches.

If stress continues for a long time, a man's testosterone levels can drop.  This can lead to erectile dysfunction, impotence and/or sperm production.  It can also increase risk of prostate infection.  In woman, stress can affect the menstrual cycle and magnify the physical symptoms of menopause.

When your body produces high amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, your skin can also become abnormally oily.  This can trigger eczema, psoriasis and rosacea outbreaks.  Stress makes it harder for your skin to recover from irritation and skin damage.  These skin outbreaks then add to your increased stress/anxiety levels and lead to a seemingly endless cycle.  Studies have also linked the stress hormone cortisol with cravings for sugar.  Sugar intake is probably the #1 cause of skin acne.  Study's show that students incur more skin breakouts during high stress times such as during exams.  An increase in the male hormone androgens is the culprit- especially in women.

Chronic stress can also lead to insomnia and sleeping disorders.  Ever wonder why you continue to wake up at 2-3am even though you go to bed at 10pm?  It's a known fact that stress leads to anxiety and depression.

Losing your hair?  Stress is also known to play a role in triggering hair loss in the autoimmune condition called alopecia areata.  I've known some men/women to have grown hair after they retired from work.

Heartburn, stomach cramps, diarrhea can all be cause by or worsened by stress.  In particular, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is thought to be fueled in part by stress.  Ever wonder why you have to go to the porta-pot before a big race or competition even though you went to the bathroom before you left your house?

I could go on and on regarding the negative affect that stress has on your body.  In short, stress is a silent killer...no doubt about it.  So, what can we do to combat stress?    Before I give you a list of top stress reducers the #1 thing you can do to combat stress is- avoid it.  That's if you can.  If your stress is job related, find a new job.  Yeah, I know it's a PITA to have to go through the hiring process..not to mention the stress/anxiety.  But, the job search stress/anxiety is short-lived.  If your stress is family related, that you can't avoid (since you only have one family), find a way to work it out.

Here's a list of the top stress reducers:


Eat healthy- reduce sweets and fatty foods. i.e. junk food.
Reduce or eliminate caffeine- I gave up caffeine a year ago.  I drink decaf coffee.  After a while, it tastes just like caffeinated coffee.  That's if you buy the good decaf coffee. Drinking coffee (or caffeinated beverages) will put you on a roller coaster of ups/downs all day long.  Even if it doesn't, the day you have to go without caffeine (for whatever reason) you'll feel like crap.
Have an alcoholic drink- I'm not promoting alcoholism but nothing wrong with a nice glass of wine, beer, whiskey, etc. from time to time.  Just don't drink in excess.
Visualization- aka daydreaming.  I can't tell you how many times I've been in business meetings where I was able to look outside at nature: birds, animals, trees, flowers, etc. which makes me relax.  I've also daydreamed during work about being in the Florida Keys on vacation with a rum runner drink in hand.
Take a nap- it works, even if it's only a 1-2 hr. cat nap.  Just don't do it at work.  Getting 7-8 hrs. of good sleep each night also works. 
Get a pet- get a dog or a cat.  Pets reduce stress...until they sh$t or puke all over your carpet.  Or, when they eat something they shouldn't and you have to rush them to the emergency vet and spend $4,000 to get it cut out of them.  Been there done that with two dogs.
Chew gum- there's proof that chewing gum reduces cortisol levels.  They say that peppermint gum can improve cognition and mental sharpness. 
Meditation/Yoga/Accupuncture/Massage/ DeepBreathing Techniques- like exercise, I've linked these activities together because they produce endorphins.  I haven't tried meditation/yoga/accupuncture but I have had deep tissue massages and they're wonderful- albeit expensive.  If I could afford it, I'd have a daily massage.  Deep breathing seems to work too.
Go fishing- it doesn't have to be fishing.  It can be another hobby that relaxes you.  They didn't create the saying, "The worst day of fishing is better than the best day at work" for nothing.
Aromatherapy- they say it reduces stress but can't say I've ever tried burning incense.  Although I know when smoking an occasional cigar it relaxes me..which in turn reduces stress.  Just like drinking, smoking is not a healthy alternative to stress reduction.
Self-hypnosis- can't say I've ever tried it.  They say it works.  I'll have to look into this one.
Watch a movie /Read a book- Just make sure the movie or book is relaxing.
Manage your time- poor time management causes stress.
Don't sweat the small stuff- if you've got a slow driver in front of you or there is a long line at the store- deal with it..it's a fact of life.  Accept you can't control the small stuff in life.
Keep work at work- don't bring work home.  Stay late at work if  you have to.
Take time off from work- if you have vacation time at work- use it.  Work is one of the #1 stressors.
Take a chill pill- nothing wrong with seeing the doctor to get an anti-stress/anxiety med to help you through some tough stressful times.
Don't worry about things you can't control- like not sweating the small stuff.  If worrying won't help/change the outcome of something/anything- why worry?
Exercise- go ride your bike.  It's a scientific fact that exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers—and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.
Listen to music- it definitely works for me to reduce stress.  I like to listen to music before work, after work, and before bedtime.  I also like to listen to music when I exercise.

Power ON! Coach Rob

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Post Ride Data Analysis...the cruel truth!


If you want to get fit fast..the best way to do it is to measure and learn from your ride..whether it be a race or a training ride.  (There is no better post ride data than post race data because you're giving maximum effort- at least I hope so).

I use the Garmin Edge 510 cycling computer to capture all of my data.  I love my Garmin Edge 510.  It's been replaced by the newer 520.  It's small and accurate and I can easily switch it from bike to bike. Here is the data it collects:b
  • Elevation Profile
  • Temperature Profile
  • Heart Rate (HR) Profile (paired via ANT+ to a Garmin HR Chest Monitor)
  • Power Profile (paired via ANT+ to a Cycle Ops Power Hub)
  • GPS Profile (shows your route via Google Maps)
  • Distance
  • Speed
  • Training Stress Score (TSS)
  • Intensity Factor (IF)
  • Normalized Power (NP)
  • 1s, 5s, 1 min, 5 min and 20 min maximum sustained average Power
  • Cadence
In addition to capturing all of the data, Garmin Connect will graph all of the data.  Here's a graph of Power (watts) vs. Heart Rate for a 45 mile ride I did this a.m. 

 This is a C+ group ride of 20+ riders so a lot of stop and go and waiting.  Yes, I know, a C+ ride.  It's a little embarrassing when I used to ride with the A/B guys.  Because it was only a C+ ride, my HR hardly reached my Threshold HR of 175 bpm...which is a good thing.  My average HR for the ride was 135 bpm which is just what I wanted for a first ride back...relatively easy where I could hold a conversation the entire ride.  When you can't hold a steady conversation, like a bunch of riders I noticed on today's ride, you're definitely riding in your upper Threshold or VO2 max range.  This was the first ride back on my road bike in 5 yrs.  I'm just glad I didn't bonk on the ride.  I was out there for close to 4 hrs. in mid 80F heat.

Normalized Power for the 45 mile ride was 140w which is well below my old Threshold Power of 275w.  I used to ride with the A/B groups with that power.  I'm not sure I'll ever see that FTP number again (275w), at least in my lifetime..ha.  But, I'm 7 yrs. older than when I achieved that max FTP of 275w.  More importantly was that my Watts/Kg (w/kg) was 3.7 which is Category (Cat) 3 racing power...which aint too shabby for a 50+ yr. old.  If I had to do an FTP test today, I'll bet I'd have a hard time sustaining an average 180-200w.  With my current weight of 165 lbs. that's a 2.66 w/kg which is in the "untrained" racing category range.  That means if I entered a Cat 5 race, I'd most likely be dropped in the race- early.  That's ok though, my racing days are over.  Plus, my power will build with training through the Summer and Fall.  I'll have a good Winter training on my indoor Computrainer.  A good goal for me would be to have an FTP of 225-240w same time next year, while maintaining my current weight.  That's smack in the middle of the Cat 4 range.  I'd be ok with that.  With that power, I'd be able to hang with most B group rides in my area.  My A group ride days are over..and that's ok too.  After all, most of the A group rides were nothing more than an all out "who's the strongest rider" ride.

If you don't use or have a good bike computer, like a Garmin Edge 510, buy one.  Yes, they are a bit pricey ($300) but it's a vital piece of riding equipment.  The Garmin Edge 510 has been discontinued and supplanted by the Garmin Edge 520.  The metric the 520 gives you that the 510 didn't was/is time in Zone.  That is really a good metric to analyze post-ride.  Who knows, maybe Santa will drop off the newer 520 this Christmas.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

You're training/exercising, but are you getting fit?


I see more people exercising outside (walking, jogging, cycling, etc.) on a daily basis now that the days are longer and the weather is nicer...which is a good thing to see.  But, I always wonder if these people have any idea at all whether they're getting fit. After all, isn't that the goal of exercising- a fitter/healthier body?  At least I hope that's why they are walking, jogging, cycling, etc.  Yes, for a few, I know some people just like to walk/jog/run/ride a bike.  I know a lot, however, are wasting their time- if getting fit is their goal.  Why?  Because their pace/effort is too low/slow.  Unless their pace/effort is in the Endurance/Tempo Zone (>L2) for a minimum of 20 minutes there will be little to no cardiovascular benefit.  Not to mention little to no calories burned. i.e. weight loss.  I'm not saying that everyone that exercises should exercise til they feel like puking, but if your exercise isn't slightly "uncomfortable" then the benefits are few.

So, what's the best way to ensure you're exercising at the correct pace/effort?  I like to use a Heart Rate (HR) monitor.  And, I like to train at the L2-L3 levels/zones when I'm just starting out.  They are the Endurance and Tempo Zones and they are roughly 70-80% of your HRmax.  I believe that training/exercising at Zone 1 is a waste of time. How do you find HRmax?  Some fitness gurus advocate using the formula 220 minus your age.  For me, that would be 162 bpm.  That's not even close to my HRmax.  If I were to base my training zones on that HRmax, I would be wasting my time.  My true HRmax is 195 bpm on the bike.  By the way, most peoples HRmax is different when running.  I believe the only way to find your true HRmax is to do an all out effort of say 3-5 minutes at the specific sport/exercise.  Just be careful you don't do an HRmax test if/when you're out of shape or you'll drop dead of a heart attack.   As my fitness improves, I like to train at the L3-L4 levels/zones.  L4 is the Lactate Threshold Zone and it's a Zone where you can train for approximately 1 hour before you're completely exhausted.   When I'm in shape, it's mostly workouts in the L4-L5 Zones.  If you don't have a HR monitor, get one.  They're not expensive.  If you can't afford one, then just use perceived exertion as your guide.  Put simply, initially you want to train at a Level or in a Zone where it's slightly uncomfortable.  Once you become fitter, you want to train in the "uncomfortable" zone.  Uncomfortable means just that..not painful and not comfortable.

What I also like to do, to see if I'm getting fitter, is to compare the same rides with the same external factors (weather conditions, rest level, food fuel level, etc.).  I like to look at the average speed or average power and look at the associated average HR for those rides.  For example, say I ride the same 20 mile Time Trial flat route on my road bike...and it takes an hour to ride (averaging 20 mph).  I look at my average HR for that ride (say it's 140bpm) and see if my HRavg drops for the same ride, at the same average speed, in the future.  If it drops in the future (to say 130bpm avg), I know I'm getting fitter.

To get fit in 2017, make sure you're training/exercising in the correct zone.  Otherwise, you may be wasting your time training.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Back in the Saddle


As Steve Tyler (Aerosmith) has sung a time or two before, "I'm back in the saddle again".  For those of you that are too young to remember that song..here it is on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJDPCTT9txA

For me, it's been a long time out of the cycling saddle.  I got too fat and way out of shape the last 2-3 years.  I blame that on my job.  I left work at zero dark thirty and came home in the dark.  I was working 12 hr. days..for who for what?  The pay sucked compared to what I made in the past...not even half of what I used to get paid. Not to mention the mental anguish and bullsh$t I had to put up with at work on a daily basis.  My health suffered because of it.  In January of 2017 I weighed 204 lbs.  I've been heavy before, but a lot of that was muscle mass.  My peak weight was 220 lbs. back in 2003.   But, I was lifting weights then and I could bench press 300 lbs. and do inclined presses with 110 lb. barbells.  Today, I'm a svelte 164 lbs.  I lost 40 lbs. in 6 months by cutting out: caffeine, alcohol, sweets, carbs and dairy products.  No ice cream, no pizza, no cheese, no chocolate, etc.  Giving up the alcohol was the hardest.  That's less than I weighed as a Senior in High School.  But, I had more muscle mass in HS than I do now.  I no longer work at the job I had the past 3 yrs.- thank God.  It's not worth working at a job you don't enjoy especially if it's affecting your health like mine was.  Life is too short to be working at a company or job you don't like- especially if it affects your health. There's plenty of other employers looking for good hard working smart people that are willing to compensate you fully for.  Enough of work.

Before you get back in the (cycling) saddle from a long lay off, either because of an injury, because of work, or whatever..you really do want to lose weight.  Losing weight will make it easier on your joints and your cardiovascular system.  Granted, you don't have to lose 40 lbs. in 6 months, like I did, but if you do you'll feel so much better on the bike...especially the very first hill you climb.

My recommendation for your first rides back is to wear a HR monitor and let that be your guide.  All of your rides should be in the Tempo HR range (Zone/Level 3) which is approx. 70% of your HRmax.  My HRmax=195bpm so 70% of that is roughly 140 bpm.  I don't believe in Zone/Level 2 or less training.  The benefits just aren't there for the amount of time you have to put in at that Zone/Level.  It's ok to alter the pace within Zone/Level 3 from say a min of 130 bpm to a maximum of 150 bpm like I did, averaging 140 bpm for the ride.

Today's workout was an interval workout (See Garmin Connect Link). Garmin Connect It was a 2x45@L3 workout with 10 min rest between intervals.  That's 2 intervals of 45 minutes each at Tempo (L3) intensity.  No more rest than 10 minutes.  I did this workout on my Mountain Bike.  I could have done it on a Road Bike but I thought it was easier to do it on Mountain bike on a flat course.  I'm not quite ready for hill climbing on a road bike even though I'm a relative lightweight.  The other reason I did it on the Mountain Bike is because I rode on the Delaware and Raritan (D&R) canal alongside the Delaware River in NJ.  I rode from Point Pleasant on the PA side of the river, down to Lumberville and across the walking bridge to Bulls Island on the NJ side.  It's an awesome canal path that is heavily shaded from the warm/hot June/July sun.  The path is cindered and in good shape, unlike the PA side that has mostly mud, grass and rocks from all the river flood washouts.

When getting back into it, I'd keep riding in the Tempo Zone for at least a month.  Keep it flat and void of hills..for now anyway.  I'd ride at least 2 days a week spaced 2-3 days apart so you get some rest/recuperation in-between.  At the end of a month, you can ride 3-4 days a week..if time allows and start adding some hills at little at a time.  Remember too, when just getting back in the saddle, your sit bones on your butt are going to be sore.  You need to toughen them back up..and it will take at least a month.  Cadence and pedaling stroke is another thing you want to concentrate on.  Strive for 90 rpm cadence and ensure your pedaling stroke is flat, that you're pushing down with your heels and lifting on each stroke.  You want to keep your knees in too..which might feel odd, but by doing this you'll actually be pedaling more square/inline.  Trust me, a good pedaling stroke will prevent knee problems in the future.  I too often see people riding with their knees pointed outwards.  That's fine when you're riding your beach cruiser on the boardwalk but it's a recipe for bad knees when your riding a road bike in the higher intensity L4-L6 Zones.

Anyway, I'm glad I'm back in the saddle again.  I'm going to wait a month or so before my first group ride on the road.  I used to ride with the A group when I rode on group rides in the local bike clubs or local bike shop rides.  I may have to suck it up and start with a C group ride for now, to see how I fair.  I'll bet there are some women on these rides my age that can ride circles around me.  I'm not getting any younger (almost age 60 now).  That's fine.  I'll let them ride circles around me now.  That won't last very long..ha.  I don't think I'll ever get back riding with the mens A group, but that's ok.  The B group is probably more fun to ride with.  With the As, it always seems like the rides turn into races to see who the fastest/stronger riders were.

Until next time.  Power ON!  Coach Rob