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5 steps to creating the perfect core workout program

The reason for posting this is that the core is the link between the lower and upper body. If it’s a weak link, performance will suffer despite any other training. Think swimming – what turns your chest on edge while breathing and back again, your core. Running, what stabilizes your back, your core. It’s important and should not be overlooked.

This excerpt is from the book, Delavier’s Core Training Anatomy. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics. Purchase this book from Human Kinetics and help keep in business!

Set your goals.

The very first step in creating your core workout program is to be specific when defining your goals. Are you working out for these reasons?

  • To get a six-pack
  • To get a slimmer waist
  • To maintain your cardiovascular health
  • and fitness
  • To increase your athletic performance

Often, your goals may be a combination of several of the items listed. However, if you do not define your goals well, it will be difficult to establish an optimal program. Write down your goals on paper so that you can read them before every workout.

Then, you need to quantify your goals. For example, I want to

  • be able to see my abs in 3 months,
  • lose 2 inches off my waist in 2 months, and
  • double the number of sets I can do in 10 minutes to increase my endurance within 15 days.

The time frame and amount of progress for your goals must be realistic. Keep in mind that no one ever progresses as fast as desired. You might often feel that you have hit a plateau. But with a good program, a true plateau is rare. By quantifying your goals and creating monthly milestones, you will more easily be able to gauge your progress. Each step you achieve will serve as motivation to continue exercising. We provide some typical programs in Continue reading

Key Traits of the Highly Disciplined Triathlete

This excerpt is from the book, Triathlon Science. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

What are the key characteristics of well-disciplined triathletes? Through extensive work with numerous triathletes over several years, a constellation of traits that defines the champion’s mentality has developed. High-level triathletes do not possess superhuman powers or extraordinary traits limited to a select few. Anyone who wants to excel in triathlon can develop the characteristics that make a champion.

  • Internal discipline and self-direction: Champion triathletes decide from the outset that they are training and competing for themselves, not for the awards, not for the prize money, not for their coaches. Direction and drive need to come from within. The objectives must be chosen because that’s precisely what they want to be doing. Triathletes should ask themselves, “What keeps me swimming, biking, and running? Who am I doing it for?”
  • Commitment to excellence: Does the triathlete set a high standard for herself? Elite triathletes know that to excel at their sport, they must decide to make it a priority in their life, to be the best at what they do. They set challenging yet realistic standards that are specific, and they are honest in evaluating their abilities and the amount of time and energy that they can put into their program.
  • Determination, consistency, organization: Winning triathletes know how to self-energize and work hard on a daily basis. Because they are passionate about what they do, they find it easier to maintain consistency in training and competition. Regardless of personal problems, fatigue, or difficult circumstances, they can generate the excitement and energy needed to do their best.
  • Concentration and focus: Disciplined triathletes have the ability to maintain focus for long periods. They can tune in what’s critical to their performance and tune out what’s not. They can easily let go of distractions and take control of their attention, even under pressure. They put their attention on the aspects of the competition that are within their control and recognize that they can make that choice.
  • Capacity to deal with obstacles: Top triathletes know how to deal with difficult situations. Adversity builds character and becomes an opportunity for learning, opening the way for personal growth and renewal. When elite triathletes know that the odds are against them, they embrace the opportunity to explore the outer limits of their potential. Rather than avoiding pressure they feel challenged by it. They are calm and relaxed under fire, realizing that nervousness is normal and that some nervousness can contribute to performance. Breathing deeply and doing a mental rehearsal of exactly how the race should go can also help triathletes remain calm and relaxed.
  • Enthusiasm and desire, love for the sport: Triathletes who win have a drive, a fire inside that fuels their passion to achieve a key goal, regardless of their level of talent or ability. They begin with a vision, and as they see that vision with more clarity, it becomes more likely to turn into reality. Wherever attention goes, energy flows.

Recognizing and preventing common triathlon-related injuries

This excerpt is from the book, Triathlon Anatomy. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics. Please also read terms of use.

Prevention and Recognition of Injuries

Rest, which by nature triathletes are inherently bad at, is an integral part of the healing process. This is when the body heals itself and gets stronger, whether you are taking a day or a few weeks off from working out or reducing the intensity or volume of your workouts. Prevention techniques that assist with healing, including stretching and specific strengthening, are often overlooked but are an essential part of triathlon training.

Injuries are not an act of nature. They indicate that the athlete has reached a breakdown point at which the body can no longer respond in a positive fashion and heal the injury. The body is pushed past its reparative capabilities and begins to develop signs and symptoms of injury. One of the hallmark symptoms of injury is pain. We all have experienced discomfort when working out, but when is it bad to push through the discomfort? Pain can be defined as an unpleasant sensation that is often associated with damage to the body. What about the sayings “Pain is just weakness leaving the body” and “No pain, no gain”? These proverbs are fun to say but if practiced can lead you down the path of chronic injury.

Any discomfort may be an early warning sign of injury. Discomfort that begins with an activity but goes away as you warm up may be an acceptable symptom you are able to train through with appropriate modifications. However, discomfort that continues through the activity should be a clear warning sign that something is not right, and activity should be discontinued. Discomfort that persists after the activity, does not respond to the basic treatment of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), and affects Continue reading

Establishing training goals on the bike

Training Goals

If you want to train more seriously, you need to have a plan. Every time you get on your bike, you are essentially training. The question is whether you’re training effectively or just gaining some conditioning through random episodes of exercise. If you are brand new to the sport, you will see great gains in your riding fitness, skill, and comfort simply by getting out on rides. Your body will respond to the stress of riding and will adapt accordingly. But, you can achieve much more progression if you take the time to establish a plan of action.

Effective training is what this book is all about. Most of us have other commitments—family, work, friends, and so on. That’s why cyclists need to make the most of the time they spend on the bike.

As a performance cyclist, you should always be striving to improve, and you should focus your attention on your cycling goals. If you want to hit the target, you first have to define that target.

What are your goals? Why are you riding your bike? Are you riding in order to stay healthy, to beat a friend up a local climb, or to complete your first century? Every person has a different goal, and that’s the point. You own your goals and all the training that you complete—every pedal stroke, every climb, every Saturday you drag yourself out of bed and onto the road.

Goals can be intimidating because they come with an inherent chance of failure. A goal that is easy to achieve and includes no chance of failure would be ineffective because it goes against the very premise of this book—getting the most out of your riding. The possibility of success or failure is the crux of a good goal. You need to struggle to improve, and the only way to truly struggle is to know that there is a risk of failure. It is the risk, the chance of failure, that drives you toward success.

To help ensure that you establish attainable goals, you should apply the Four Ps of goal setting: personalized, positive, perceivable, and possible.

Personalized means that the goals are your own. Only you can determine what is important, what will motivate you to keep your commitment, and what will give you a sense of accomplishment.

All your goals should be positive. Negative energy sucks! At Disneyland, they live by this philosophy. If you ask the workers when the park closes, they will respond, “The park stays open until 8 o’clock.” You should set a goal to accomplish a desired result rather than to avoid failure. Word your goals so that the outcome is positive.

You need to set goals that have a tangible outcome. Your goals must be perceivable to yourself or to others. This aspect of goal setting is all about accountability.

Finally, your goals need to be realistic but challenging. When you think about your goal, you should have a strong sense that the desired outcome is possible, but by no means assured. You need to believe even with the possibility of failure. This will help you suffer a little longer, struggle just a bit more, and get the most out of your training plan.

Don’t think that goals are only for professionals or racers. EVERY RIDER NEEDS GOALS. Think of goals the same way you think of the rest of the training program. Training is all about progression, and goals should follow suit. They start with more obtainable outcomes. But with each accomplishment, the task becomes more difficult. Each goal builds on the last in a stepwise fashion (figure 1.1), until you find yourself faced with your ultimate accomplishment.

Be sure to write down your goals. For each time frame—short, medium, and long—fill in your primary and secondary goals (figure 1.1). Again, these goals can be anything. They should be whatever motivates you to train when you might feel like flicking on the TV instead. There is something about actually writing down your goals. This brings them outside your brain and into the real world—an accountable world.

Training is all about commitment, discipline, and perseverance. It is a slow grind, and sometimes you feel as though you’re going backward instead of forward. But if you stick to your program, you WILL get better. Writing down your goals is the first barrier to overcome.

Goals will perpetually be included in your training program. Every time you reach a goal, you can have a little celebration, even if it is internal. Treat yourself to a double half-caf, mocha chai latte if that’s your thing. As soon as you are finished basking in the glory of the accomplishment, write down a new set of goals. Stay on target!

This excerpt is from the book, Fitness Cycling. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

The Predictive Power of vV·O2max

This excerpt is from the book, Running Science. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

To begin to comprehend the lack of predictive power of V·O2max in contrast to that of vV·O2max, consider an extremely well-trained runner who happens to have large, clunky feet. Such a runner will tend to have a high V·O2max because of the demanding training he or she has been undertaking, and the clunky feet will add to V·O2max, driving it higher compared with a similarly trained runner with small feet. Having to move those large feet down the road at high rates of speed will call for extremely high rates of oxygen production. However, large feet will not make the runner competitive; in fact, they will cause this runner to reach V·O2max at a rather modest speed since so much oxygen is being used to move the big feet along. Thus, this runner will have a high V·O2max but relatively poor running economy, and thus a moderate vV·O2max and moderate performances. As usual, vV·O2max will be more reflective of performance potential than V·O2max.

This big-foot scenario is an extreme example of why vV·O2max predicts performance quite well. It is important to bear in mind that the same situation prevails for runners in general who have modest to poor running economy for reasons other than big feet. Such athletes might have high levels of V·O2max. If running economy is subpar, however, any particular running speed will elicit an unusually high rate of oxygen consumption, and V·O2max will be reached at relatively mediocre running speeds. Thus, performance potential will be below what might be expected from the determination of V·O2max alone.

The power of vV·O2max to predict performance is illustrated in a study carried out at Lynchburg College in Virginia in which 17 well-trained distance runners (10 males and 7 females) underwent physiological testing and then competed in a 16K race. Laboratory tests determined V·O2max, vV·O2max, running economy, percentage of maximal oxygen uptake at lactate threshold (%V·O2max at lactate threshold), running velocity at lactate threshold, and peak treadmill velocity. The Lynchburg researchers found that among all the measured physiological variables, vV·O2max had the highest correlation (r = –.972) with 16K performance, while %V·O2max at lactate threshold had the lowest correlation (r = .136). Overall, vV·O2max was found to be the best predictor of 16K running time, explaining all but just 5.6 percent of the variance. The Virginia scientists concluded that vV·O2max is the best predictor of endurance-running performance because it integrates maximal aerobic power with running economy.

In a separate study carried out at Fitchburg State College in Massachusetts, 24 female runners from four different high school teams competing at the Massachusetts 5K State Championship Meet were tested in the laboratory. These tests revealed a high correlation between vV·O2max and 5K performance (r = .77). In contrast, the correlation between V·O2max and 5K speed was lower, and running economy at a slow velocity (215 m per minute) was poorly correlated with 5K outcome. Note that economy at race-like speeds is predictive of race competitiveness, while economy at slow velocities is not necessarily linked with racing capacity (another argument against conducting a lot of training at medium to low speeds).

In a classic study carried out at Arizona State University in Tempe, vV·O2max was found to be a primary determinant of 10K performance in well-trained male distance runners. Among these runners, the variation in 10K running time attributable to vV·O2max exceeded that due to either V·O2max or running economy.

Impact of Training on vV·O2max and Running Economy

French researchers Veronique Billat and Jean-Pierre Koralsztein have concluded that vV·O2max predicts running performances very well at distances ranging from 1,500 meters to the marathon. They also noted that vV·O2max has similar predictive power in cycling, swimming, and kayaking; of course, vV·O2max would have to be determined for each sport since running vV·O2max does not carry over to other activities. Billat and Koralsztein also discovered that training that emphasizes intervals conducted at vV·O2max can be extremely productive for distance runners.

In one study, Billat and Koralsztein asked eight experienced runners to take part in 4 weeks of training that included one interval session per week at vV·O2max. The athletes specialized in middle- and long-distance running (1,500 m up to the half marathon), and their average V·O2max was a fairly lofty 71.2 ml • kg-1 • min-1. This program included six workouts per week, including four easy efforts, one session with work intervals at vV·O2max, and one session at lactate-threshold speed with longer intervals. Total distance covered per week was about 50 miles (~ 80 km). Over the 4-week period, the runners’ weekly training schedules were formatted in the following way:

  • Monday: One hour of easy running at an intensity of just 60 percent of V·O2max.
  • Tuesday: A 4K warm-up and then vV·O2max interval training consisting of 5 × 3 minutes at exactly vV·O2max. During the 3-minute work intervals, the runners covered an average of 1,000 meters (.62 mi; their vV·O2max tempo was 72 seconds per 400 meters). Recovery intervals were equal in duration (3 minutes), and the cool-down consisted of 2K of easy running. Overall, the workout was a 4K warm-up, 5 × 3 minutes at vV·O2max, with 3-minute easy jog recoveries, and a 2K cool-down.
  • Wednesday: 45 minutes of easy running at an intensity of 70 percent of V·O2max.
  • Thursday: 60 minutes of easy running at 70 percent of V·O2max.
  • Friday: A session designed to enhance lactate threshold composed of a warm-up and then two 20-minute intervals at 85 percent of vV·O2max; for example, if vV·O2max happened to be 20 kilometers per hour (5.55 m per second), the speed for these intervals would be .85 × 20 or 17 kilometers per hour (4.72 m per second). A 5-minute, easy jog recovery was imposed between the 20-minute work intervals, and a cool-down followed the second work interval.
  • Saturday: Rest day with no training at all.
  • Sunday: 60 minutes of easy running at an intensity of 70 percent of V·O2max.

After 4 weeks, the results were amazing, to say the least. Although maximal aerobic capacity (V·O2max) failed to make any upward move at all, vV·O2max rose by 3 percent from 20.5 kilometers per hour to 21.1 kilometers per hour. In addition, running economy improved by a startling 6 percent. This enhancement of economy was probably behind most of the uptick in vV·O2max since it lowered the economy line on the graph of oxygen consumption as a function of running speed and thus pushed vV·O2max out to the right for the French runners.

After the 4 weeks of training, lactate threshold remained locked at 84 percent of vV·O2max. However, since vV·O2max was 3 percent higher at the end of the training period, running velocity at lactate threshold had also increased by a similar amount. Most of the key variables associated with endurance performance—vV·O2max, economy, and lactate-threshold speed—had advanced in just 4 weeks.

The 6 percent gain in economy associated with vV·O2max training was particularly impressive. A handful of training manipulations have been linked with upgraded economy, and the gains in economy have usually been far below the one documented by Billat and Koralsztein’s research. A classic Scandinavian hill-running study (see chapter 25) detected only a 3 percent increase in running economy, even though the hill training was conducted for three times as long (12 weeks versus the 4 weeks needed by the French runners in Billat and Koralsztein’s study). Similarly, improvements in economy associated with strength training have usually been in the 3 percent range, also after fairly long periods of training. It appears that vV·O2max training can work economy magic in as little as 4 weeks, especially for those runners who have not carried out vV·O2max work previously.

A Woman’s Metabolism

This excerpt is from the book, Running for Women. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics

Metabolic Differences

Metabolism refers to all of the energy-requiring chemical reactions occurring inside your body. At any

one time, trillions of reactions are going on inside of you, including the growth of new tissue, muscle contraction, and the breakdown of food for energy. The resting metabolic rate—the amount of energy needed during resting conditions—is lower in females because of their smaller body mass and muscle mass. When you run, your metabolic rate increases dramatically because of the increased demand for energy. The faster your metabolic pathways can use the available fuel to regenerate energy for muscle contraction, the faster you will be able to run any race.

While your nervous system controls your body’s faster functions, like the initiation of reflexes and movement, hormones control the slower functions, like the regulation of growth and metabolism and the development of reproductive organs. Much of metabolism is under the direction of hormones, which act as conductors, initiating signals that lead to the transportation and use of fuel. And the two predominant fuels for running are carbohydrate and fat, which provide energy on a sliding scale. At slower speeds, your muscles rely more on fat and less on carbohydrate, and as you increase your running pace, the energy contribution from fat decreases while the energy contribution from carbohydrate increases.

Carbohydrate Metabolism

The hormone insulin is responsible for carbohydrate metabolism. Consuming carbohydrate elevates your blood glucose concentration and increases insulin concentration. The increase in circulating insulin, which is secreted from your pancreas, stimulates specific proteins to transport the glucose from your blood into your muscles, where it is either used for immediate energy by your cells or stored as muscle glycogen for later use. Males typically have more glycogen stored in their muscles. Longer races like the marathon are limited, in part, by the amount of stored glycogen. Therefore, the lower muscle glycogen in women’s muscles can partly explain why they cannot run marathons as fast as men.

Research has shown that men also are more responsive to carbohydrate loading than women. In other words, women do not increase muscle glycogen as much as men in response to consuming more carbohydrate in their diets. However, some of this research is clouded by the fact that women consume fewer total calories than men, so the lack of glycogen storage may be due to a lower caloric or carbohydrate intake by women rather than an inherent sex difference in the ability to store glycogen. When women increase their total caloric intake as they also increase the amount of carbohydrate in their diets, they increase their muscle glycogen content by a similar amount as men. From a training perspective, while men simply need to increase the percentage of their calories coming from carbohydrate in order to carbo load and store more glycogen, women need to also increase the total number of calories in their diets to get the same effect.

Because carbohydrate is the predominant fuel source during running and the only fuel source at speeds faster than acidosis threshold, research has focused on how the hormonal differences between men and women affect insulin and alter carbohydrate metabolism. Most research has found that women use less carbohydrate than men when exercising at similar intensities.

When you finish a workout that severely lowers your muscle glycogen content, it’s important to replenish the carbohydrates so you can resynthesize more glycogen to be prepared for your next run. In fact, refueling nutrient-depleted muscles is possibly the single most important aspect of optimal recovery from training and racing. Scientists first discovered in the late 1960s that endurance performance is influenced by the amount of stored glycogen in skeletal muscles, and that intense endurance exercise decreases muscle glycogen stores. The faster you can resynthesize muscle glycogen, the faster your recovery. Research has shown that the rate of glycogen synthesis in the first few hours following a workout (the time when you are best able to store glycogen because the cells are most sensitive to insulin) is similar between the sexes. This suggests that recovery rates between males and females are similar, at least the component of recovery affected by the resynthesis of fuel.

Fat Metabolism

As a consequence of not using as much carbohydrate during exercise, women rely more on fat than men. Indeed, it has been estimated that women use about 75 percent more fat than do men while running or cycling at 65 to 70 percent V·O2max. Women get about 39 percent of their energy from fat during exercise at 65 percent V·O2max, while men get about 22 percent of their energy from fat. However, the percentage of energy derived from fat varies significantly from person to person because factors such as training status, muscle fiber type, muscle glycogen content, and mitochondrial density all play a role.

While it is difficult to tease out the exact reasons for the difference between the sexes in the metabolism of carbohydrate and fat, it appears that estrogen is at least partly responsible. Research done on rats has shown that when male rats are given estrogen, they deplete less glycogen during exercise; the concentration of fatty acids in the blood increases, suggesting a greater availability of fat for energy; and they can exercise for longer periods before becoming exhausted. Increasing the amount of fatty acids circulating in the blood favors their use by muscle during exercise, resulting in a decreased reliance on muscle glycogen and blood glucose, thus delaying glycogen depletion and hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and postponing fatigue.

This switch in fuel use to a greater reliance on fat at the same running speed also occurs from endurance training. Training enhances fat use by increasing the mitochondria in your muscles, allowing for more aerobic metabolism and the sparing of muscle glycogen. This shift in the energy source for muscular activity is a major advantage in delaying the onset of fatigue in running events that are limited by the availability of muscle glycogen—marathons and ultramarathons. Because humans’ carbohydrate stores are limited, the difference in metabolism between the sexes may give female runners an advantage for very long endurance activities, during which there is a greater need to conserve carbohydrate and a greater use of fat because of the slower pace. In 2002 and 2003, Pam Reed showed that science may be on to something, by winning the 135-mile (217K) Badwater Ultramarathon, beating all of the men. In shorter races, however, when there is a greater demand to generate energy quickly for muscle contraction, relying more on fat will slow the pace because energy is derived much more quickly from carbohydrate than from fat.

Protein Metabolism

The third macronutrient, protein, is often neglected in metabolism because it accounts for only 3 to 6 percent of the amount of energy expended while running. Rather, protein is used primarily for other things, such as building, maintaining, and repairing muscle, skin, and blood tissue, as well as aiding in the transportation of materials through the blood. Protein can be thought of as your body’s scaffolding and cargo. However, it can be used for energy if inadequate amounts of fat and carbohydrate are available because the body’s requirement for energy takes priority over tissue building. Although the amount of protein you use for energy may be small, even a small contribution to your daily run may be large if you run a lot and run often.

Exercise increases the use of amino acids from protein breakdown, and the amount of amino acids that your muscles use is inversely related to the amount of glycogen in the muscle. When glycogen is abundant, muscles rely on glycogen, but when glycogen is low, muscles begin to rely more on amino acids. Research has shown that females use less protein during exercise than do males. Because endurance-trained females use less muscle glycogen and rely more on fat than endurance-trained males, protein breakdown seems to be inhibited in females by virtue of the greater muscle glycogen.

Improve your endurance by knowing what affects your heart rate

This excerpt is from the author of Heart Rate Training. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics

One of the most valuable long-term pieces of information you can gather is resting heart rate. When you wake up each morning, take a minute to get an accurate resting heart rate and keep a log. You’ll find this an invaluable tool, providing feedback on injury, illness, overtraining, stress, incomplete recovery, and so on. It is also a very simple gauge of improvements in fitness. We know athletes who have gathered resting heart rate data for years and in a day or two can identify a 1 or 2 bpm elevation that precedes an illness or a bonk session. Some newer heart rate monitors have the capacity for 24-hour monitoring.

Several factors affect heart rate at rest and during exercise. In general, the main factors affecting heart rate at rest are fitness and state of recovery. Gender also is suggested to play a role, albeit inconsistently (more about this later). In general, fitter people tend to have lower resting heart rates. Some great athletes of the past have recorded remarkably low resting heart rates. For example, Miguel Indurain, five-time winner of the Tour de France, reported a resting heart rate of only 28 bpm. The reason for this is that, with appropriate training, the heart muscle increases in both size and strength. The stronger heart moves more blood with each beat (this is called stroke volume) and therefore can do the same amount of work with fewer beats. As you get fitter, your resting heart rate should get lower.

The second main factor affecting resting heart rate is state of recovery. After exercise, particularly after a long run or bike ride, several things happen in the body. Fuel sources are depleted, temperature increases, and muscles are damaged. All of these factors must be addressed and corrected. The body has to work harder, and this increased work results in a higher heart rate. Even though you might feel okay at rest, your body is working harder to repair itself, and you’ll notice an elevated heart rate. Monitoring your resting heart rate and your exercise heart rate will allow you to make appropriate adjustments such as eating more or taking a day off when your rate is elevated.

These same factors of recovery and injury also affect heart rate during exercise. The factors that elevate resting heart rate also elevate exercise heart rate. If you’re not fully recovered from a previous workout, you might notice, for example, at your usual steady-state pace, an exercise heart rate that is 5 to 10 bpm higher than normal. This is usually accompanied by a rapidly increasing heart rate throughout the exercise session.

An extremely important factor affecting exercise heart rate is temperature. Warmer temperatures cause the heart to beat faster and place considerable strain on the body. Simply put, when it is hot, the body must move more blood to the skin to cool it while also maintaining blood flow to the muscles. The only way to do both of these things is to increase overall blood flow, which means that the heart must beat faster. Depending on how fit you are and how hot it is, this might mean a heart rate that is 20 to 40 bpm higher than normal. Fluid intake is very important under these conditions. Sweating changes blood volume, which eventually can cause cardiac problems. The simplest and most effective intervention to address high temperature and heart rate is regular fluid intake. This helps to preserve the blood volume and prevent the heart from beating faster and faster.

Another important factor affecting exercise heart rate is age. In general, MHR will decline by about 1 beat per year starting at around 20 years old. Interestingly, resting heart rate is not affected. This is why the basic prediction equation of 220 – age has an age correction factor. As a side note, this decrease in MHR often is used to explain decreases in .VO2max and endurance performance with increasing age, because the number of times the heart beats in a minute affects how much blood is moved and available to the muscles. We have coached and tested thousands of athletes, and the general trend is that athletes of the same age who produce higher heart rates often have higher fitness scores. However, your MHR is what it is, and you cannot change it. Don’t obsess over it.

A final factor is gender. Recent studies have suggested a variation in MHR between males and females. However, the data are inconclusive with the calculations resulting in lower MHRs for males versus females of the same age, while anecdotal reports suggest that the MHRs are actually higher in males. In general, females have smaller hearts and smaller muscles overall than males. Both of these factors would support the conclusion of a higher MHR in females, certainly at the same workload. We have to conclude that the jury is still out on the gender effect.

It’s Show Time

Like my three-year-old nephew said at a college football game, “It’s game day, baby!”. Relax, enjoy the race. There’s nothing more you can do other than execute your race plan. All the training is behind you.

This is from the author of Distance Cycling. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics

“All your hard work in training and preparation is done. Now relax, take it all in, and have fun. For a successful ride pay attention to these key things:

Pace yourself When the gun goes off, some riders go out fast. Unless you’re going for a personal best, avoid getting caught up with them. Choose your groups wisely and pace yourself. In the excitement of the start, you may go faster than you should, so take it easy for the first 30 minutes. Remember that the group riding your pace is often behind you! If you are using a heart rate monitor, keep in mind that your heart rate may be elevated compared with what you experience on training rides, so you may be better off using perceived exertion as a guide. With a power meter current wattage fluctuates a lot. Try to keep it in the same range as you do during your long training rides.

Check your cue sheet Put one copy of the cue sheet in a map holder on your handlebar, carry it in your jersey pocket, or tuck it up one leg of your shorts for quick reference. Stow the other copy in another location. Some organizers paint arrows on the pavement to show the turns, but if other rides have been routed through the same area, determining which arrows to follow can be difficult. Don’t assume that other riders are following the course correctly; double-check each turn yourself.

Ride with a group Riding with a group increases the fun; however, pay attention to your ride even during a fun conversation. Even if you aren’t the first rider, look down the road for potential problems and point them out to your group. Ride smoothly in a straight line and signal or call out before you move or change speed. Don’t overlap front and rear wheels.

Ride in a pace line If it’s windy or the pace is above 15 miles per hour (24 km/h), you can save a lot of energy by riding in an organized pace line. Remember the protocol: Ride at a pace everyone can sustain, take short pulls, look carefully for traffic before you drop to the back, drop to the traffic side of the line if a crosswind isn’t blowing, and drop to the windward side if it is. Be cautious when riding in a pace line with unfamiliar riders who may not know the protocol.

Eat and drink The first hour goes by quickly. Start eating in the first hour. Depending on your body size we recommend consuming a mix of carbohydrate totaling 60 to 90 grams, or 240 to 360 calories, plus a little protein and fat, during each hour of riding and drinking to satisfy your thirst. Nibbling on a variety of carbohydrate during each hour will work better than eating one thing on the hour. Use your experience from the weekly long rides to guide you;what worked on them will work on the century. If you might forget to eat or drink, set your watch to remind you.

Take advantage of rest stops Rolling into an aid station during your ride feels great. Take advantage of what they offer but use them wisely. View them not as places to rest but as resupply stations. If you have tight muscles, stretches using your bike will loosen you up (see figures 7.2 through 7.4).

When you arrive at a rest stop, park your bike carefully to avoid thorns and other potentially hazardous debris. Before leaving do a quick bike check: Are your tires hard? Are they clean? Are your brakes working?

Enjoy the company of others but avoid lingering so long that you get stiff. Use the restroom, fill your bottles and pockets, and get back on the road. Before you leave, thank the volunteers because without them rides like this could not exist. When reentering the road watch for cars and other bikes and ease back into your pace as you did at the start.

Mentally manage the ride During your century, problems may occur. Don’t panic—almost anything can be solved. Take a deep breath, relax, and diagnose the problem. Is the problem with the bike? Riding with a soft tire or a rubbing brake can be a drag—literally. Are you getting repeated flats? Make sure that nothing is embedded in the tire or protruding from the rim strip. If you are down mentally, have you forgotten to eat or drink? If your legs are tired, did you go out too hard? Mentally review your three basic scenarios. If you have forgotten to eat, don’t try to make up the calories immediately because doing so may give you digestive problems. Instead, just get back on schedule. If you have gone out too fast and your legs are trashed, slow down for a while, regroup, and adjust your expectations. Your energy level and emotions will fluctuate during the ride. You may find that after slowing down for a while your energy will return. Above all, whatever happens, remember that this is your ride. You still can have fun and finish.

Enjoy the experience Whether this is your first or hundredth century, enjoy it. Get your head away from your electronics and look around you. Discover the beautiful scenery right in front of you. Chat with other riders who come and go. You may find new riding partners who become lifelong friends. Carry a small camera in your seat pack or jersey pocket, take lots of photos, and offer to share them with others. By relaxing and putting the fun factor ahead of your performance, you’ll have fond memories for years to come.”