Category Archives: Cycling

Book give-away

Through the generosity of Human Kinetics, I am able to offer one book valued at less than $30(excluding shipping) to anyone in the US. In order to qualify, please browse their catalog at The triathlon related book are here.

Please email to enter with a subject line of “ contest” and enter the name of the book (less than $30 from Human Kinetics) in the body of the email along with your email address where Human Kinetics can contact you for your shipping information. The randomly selected winning email will be forwarded to Human Kinetics and no information be kept for any purpose by

The entry deadline is March 17, 2010.

Setting Personal Goals

‘Tis the season for setting goals and resolutions. In that regards, here’s an excerpt from Energy Every Day written in conjuction with the Human Performance Institute. It’s published with here permission of Human Kinetics.

“It is important to take a step…

back and consider your overall mission and your specific goals for increased personal energy. Let’s look first at your overall mission for change. What is it that you are trying to accomplish? Here are some possible


* To create more personal energy so that I can consistently perform at a higher level at work
* To create more personal energy so that when I am not working I will have the energy to fully engage with my loved ones
* To feel more confident in my physical being, look better, feel more alive, and have more energy to face each day
* To become healthier through physical activity and enlarge my circle of friends

These simple statements are clear, focused, and expressive of a desired outcome. If you like, feel free to adopt one of these statements, or to combine ideas expressed in them, but, however you arrive at it, your personal mission should be defined in the end by your dream or vision. Of course, this mission statement should include some mention of how you plan to create more personal energy or manage it better.

Now, let’s move on to the next level of planning through setting goals. To be helpful, a goal should be realistic, specific, and geared to a set period of time in which it will be achieved.

Realistic means that your proposed actions have a reasonable chance of success. For example, if you were to set a goal of exercising every day for 2 hours, it is unlikely that you would find the time or that your body would tolerate that duration of exertion if you have been inactive.

Specificity in a goal is crucial to evaluating success. A vague goal is impossible to measure. For example, the goal “improve my fitness level” is just too vague. Saying that you plan to eat better is equally unspecific. A better goal would be to improve your muscular fitness by performing 30 minutes of strength training twice a week for the next 6 weeks. This goal is specific and requires only that you exert effort to achieve it.

Tying a goal to a time line implies a sense of importance, urgency, and commitment. Think in terms of weekly and monthly intervals in order to evaluate your progress and make adjustments in your plan.

Finally, test your goals to confirm that the number one requirement for you to be successful in pursuing it is simply to invest energy and effort. If your personal program is well thought out, you should be able to focus on your own actions of investing effort rather than rely on outside factors such as other people, weather, or work to ensure your success. Only you can make a decision to invest your energy in the plan and be responsible for following through.

Here are some sample goals that you can use as models in developing your own:

* To increase my intake of water by carrying it with me and sipping it throughout the day
* To plan my physical activity for the week ahead on Sundays and follow the plan for the week
* To make a 2-week plan for physical activity, keep a daily record of achievement, and adjust my plan before the next 2-week period
* To share my commitment with my spouse and children and ask for their help by grading my performance daily
* To add two snacks to my food intake daily and reduce the size of my portions to five handfuls each meal for the next month
* To plan and carry out a schedule for 2 weeks that ensures 7 hours of sleep every night with no exceptions (even on weekends)
* To allocate at least 1 hour each day for relaxation and recreation away from my job, even if it means rising earlier each morning”

Rules of Training

For many, this is the season they rest or maybe you’re thinking about racing next year.  If you’re coming off a long rest or starting here are the “Cardinal Rule of Training” excerpt from Joe Friel.  Although this excerpt is about cycling, the principles apply to fitness in general.  This excerpt from Cycling Past 50 is reprinted with permission by Human Kinetics.

“Since 1971, I’ve trained and coached athletes in a variety of sports
with abilities ranging from beginner to professional. Some became
national- and world-class competitors; others achieved less impressive,
but no less important, personal goals. All improved their physical
abilities in some way.

I don’t know who learned more – me or
them. My lessons came from observing how small changes in training
brought big results. Some riders obviously had a lot of potential when
they came to me. They were highly motivated and did challenging
workouts, but for some reason they weren’t getting all they could from
training. At first this was perplexing. How could athletes with such
great potential achieve so little? After years of reviewing hundreds of
training logs, I began to see patterns and understand why a person with
latent ability was not coming close to attaining it. He or she was
breaking one of what I call the Cardinal Rules of Training.

matter what you want from riding, there are three rules you must obey.
Breaking any of these means, at best, limited improvement, and, at
worst, overtraining and loss of fitness. The Cardinal Rules of Training
are as follows:

  • Rule 1. Ride consistently.
  • Rule 2. Ride moderately.
  • Rule 3. Rest frequently.

These may seem overly simple. Sometimes, however, the most
important things in life are the simplest. Such is the case with

Rule 1 is based on the premise that nothing does
more to limit or reduce fitness than missed rides. The human body
thrives on regular patterns of living. When cycling routinely and
uniformly progressing for weeks, months, and years, fitness steadily
improves. Interruptions from injury, burnout, illness, and overtraining
cause setbacks. Each setback means a substantial loss of cycling
fitness and time reestablishing a level previously attained.
Inconsistent riding is like pushing a boulder up a hill only to see it
roll back down before reaching the top – frustrating.

who violate the first rule of training are usually frustrated. The
solution to their problem is simple: Train consistently. “Okay,” they
say, “but how do I do that?” Good question, and that leads to the other
Cardinal Rules. The second Rule, ride moderately, is the first step in
becoming more consistent. This one usually scares highly motivated,
hard-charging cyclists. They can see themselves noodling around the
block in slow motion and not even working up a sweat. However, that’s
not what moderate means.

Moderate riding is that level of
training to which your body is already adapted, plus about 10 percent.
For example, if the longest recent ride is 40 miles, then a reasonable
increase is to 45 miles next week. That’s moderate. A 60-mile ride
would not be moderate and could lead to something bad, such as an
injury or overtraining that forces several days off the bike and a
lapse in consistency. Another moderate change is steadily progressing
from riding flat terrain to rolling hills, to riding longer hills, to
riding steep and long hills. Going from riding on the flats to steep,
long hills is not moderate.

Consistent riding also requires
frequent resting. That means planning rest at the right times, such as
after challenging rides or hard weeks. Chapter 7 discusses this
misunderstood concept in greater detail. Rest taken in adequate doses
and at appropriate times produces consistent training and increased

Even though the Cardinal Rules of Training are basic,
if you follow them, fitness will improve regardless of what else you do
on the bike. They are deceptively simple to read about; incorporating
them into training is a different matter. At first, it may be difficult
to ride moderately and rest frequently. Keep working at it. Old habits
are hard to break. When you initially train this way, it’s better to
err on the side of being conservative with moderation and rest if
you’re a rider who has frequent breakdowns and missed workouts. With
experience you’ll become better at determining what is right for you.

Although what we have discussed so far came strictly from experience,
the following basic components of training come mostly from science.

F.I.T. for Riding
Even though moderation is necessary, it’s obvious that a portion of
your riding must be somewhat stressful to cause a positive change in
fitness. Moderate stress comes from carefully manipulating three
workout variables:

  • Frequency – how often to ride
  • Intensity – how hard to ride
  • Time – how long to ride

The first question to ask
at the start of a week is, “How often should I ride?” Training to race,
for example, in the United States Cycling Federation’s national
age-group championship, requires a different response to this question
than if the goal is general health and fitness. The higher the goal for
ultimate performance, the more often you need to ride.

Potential is an elusive concept: an ability that is possible but not
yet realized. None of us ever knows how close we are to our potential.
We do know, however, that getting there demands many sacrifices, one of
which involves being on a bike several times a week instead of sitting
in front of a TV nibbling on potato chips. When it comes to frequency,
there are suggested minimums and maximums, depending on goals. If your
reasons for riding are strictly health and basic fitness, the minimum
number of rides each week is three. This assumes you ride only and
don’t cross train. Because training in other aerobic sports has a
cardiovascular benefit, you could get away with riding less frequently
and still improve the most basic elements of health and fitness.

Other than achieving high levels of fitness, another frequency issue is
how to get in shape the fastest. When first starting to train on a
bike, five or six rides each week will cause the most rapid change in
fitness. Scientific research shows an increase in aerobic capacity, one
measure of fitness, of about 43 percent for novices training this
frequently. Three to four rides each week bring a 20- to 25-percent

If you already have a high aerobic capacity from
many weeks of consistent training, all you need to maintain it is four
rides a week. High-performance racers, however, usually ride five to
seven times a week.

of training frequency and time, the single most critical training
variable is how hard and fast you ride. There are several ways of
measuring intensity. The one you’re most likely to have available is
heart rate. The greatest changes in aerobic capacity come from training
at high heart rates, in excess of 90 percent of maximum. Although the
highly motivated athlete often seeks such benefits, frequent training
over 90 percent of maximum heart rate obviously violates the Cardinal
Rule of moderation and will eventually lead to inconsistency and loss
of fitness.

The key to cycling intensity is knowing when to
ride at higher heart rates and when to slow down. So, 90 percent plus
is the high side, but what about the low end? Riding less than 50
percent of maximum heart rate has little or no impact on aerobic
fitness. Such low-effort riding is of little physiological value
except, perhaps, for recovery.

Getting intensity right is the
trickiest aspect of training. Later, this chapter will teach you how to
use a heart rate monitor, and chapters 5 and 6 will pull all pieces of
the training puzzle together with suggested routines based on riding

The duration of your rides is
the second most effective variable in improving fitness. In fact,
there’s good reason to believe that longer, slower workouts are
equivalent to shorter, faster training sessions in improving aerobic
capacity. Because lower intensity workouts are easier on the body, most
athletes and coaches recommend building a base of endurance with long,
steady rides before starting to do high-intensity workouts, such as
intervals, later in the training year.

The length of your
rides depends on what you’re used to. In your first five years of
cycling, you should be able to increase riding mileage or time by about
10 percent over the previous year’s volume. However, if you’ve ridden
for several years, there’s a limit to how many miles you need to
improve. Through experience, you may have already discovered that limit
– due primarily to an inability to recover and go again.”

MIT’s “Chemistry of Sports” online course using triathlon

In the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Chemistry of Sports course, they “… will be focusing on three sports, swimming, cycling and running. There will be two components to the seminar, a classroom and a laboratory. The classroom component will introduce the students to the chemistry of their own biological system. Since we are looking at swimming, running and cycling as our sample sports, we will apply the classroom knowledge to complete a triathlon.

With Course Goals

  • Apply the principles of chemistry to studying sports. These principles include: atomic and molecular interactions, thermodynamics, acid/base chemistry, bonding, electrochemistry
  • There will be weekly reading of scientific literature related to the topic of the week
  • Understand the chemistry of their own biological system through observations written in a training journal
  • Study the science of a triathlon (swim, bike, run) from molecular/chemical/biological point of view
  • Improve your own personal fitness level by training for the Mooseman triathlon (either Olympic distance or half-Ironman) and earn PE credit or by maintaining you own exercise program.”

All materials are in PDF format and it’s worth a read if you’re interested, like I am, in the science behind your training.

Click here for the MIT course.

IronMan not enough for you?

Most everyone has heard of the Iditarod – the famous 1100 dog mushing race from Anchorage to Nome Alaska.  I recently returned from Alaska where I learned of the “Iditarod Trail Invitational“, tagged the longest winter ultra race in the world.  You have two routes you can follow, a 350 mile and the original 1100 miler.  The main difference are the modes of transportation.  You can race on bike, snowshoe or on foot. And it’s held in March where you it can be 30 degrees below zero with blistering winds.  There are sometimes days between rest cabins or villages so you have to carry a sleeping bag and food with you.  Visit the website here to learn more about it and read some of the competitor’s blogs.

How about the “Great Divide Race” which follows the US Continental Divide for  2,490 miles of cycling?

How about a Deca IronMan with a 24 mile swim, 1120 mile bike and a
262 mile run
?  Here’s their website.

Having never attempted one but from what I can gather, finishing depends a great deal on your mental fortitude; how tired you feel, how exhausted you are, and how the cold and hot plays games with your mind.

Assuming a high level of fitness and training, part of these finishes might be determined by nutrition – have you practiced your nutritional in take on road and in all sorts of weather.  Which leads me to this excerpt reprinted with permission by Human Kinetics.  The book is “Endurance Sports Nutrition“, by Suzanne Girard Eberle.

“The biggest danger with multiday rides, runs, treks and tours, cycling classics, sports camps, and climbing expeditions is incomplete recovery—

you slowly become glycogen depleted as each day passes and thus become increasingly fatigued. You find yourself less and less able to respond quickly or maintain your desired pace, and mentally you find that your commitment and enthusiasm start to wane. (Of course, chronic fatigue can set in as early as day 2 or 3 if you haven’t trained adequately with long back-to-back efforts, but you can’t do anything about that now.)

When it comes to eating and drinking, think before, during, and after. Fuel up every day before you start with a carbohydrate-rich breakfast to maximize your glycogen stores. If you’ll be pushing the pace or racing (working at moderate to high intensity, above 60 percent of VO2max) you’ll need to eat and drink at the earlier end of your acceptable breakfast window to start out on an empty stomach and minimize digestive problems. Drink again as near the start time as you can or top off with an energy gel taken with water. If the day is going to be more of a long, slow effort, then it’s generally OK to eat closer to the start (say, two to three hours beforehand) and to include fattier foods that take longer to empty from your stomach and be digested.

During the event or race, you’ll need to drink regularly (every 15 to 20 minutes) and refuel (every 30 to 60 minutes) from the onset so that you consume at least 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. Sports drinks are the rehydrating beverage of choice to replace fluid and electrolytes. Along with sports drinks, a safe approach is to rely on energy gels and well-tolerated carbohydrate snacks during faster-paced efforts. Be prepared with salty foods or electrolyte tablets to help keep pace with your sodium needs. On long, slow days, incorporate real food, especially for the mental boost that it provides.

The key is to drink and snack regularly as you go, keeping pace with the
calories that you’re expending. Unless you have a four-hour or longer break
planned, eating a large amount at any one time, such as a lunchtime meal or a meal during a rest stop, will divert blood away from working muscles when you resume exercising. You will feel lethargic and unresponsive and end the day lamenting how much harder the second half was.

When you’ve stopped moving for the day, your job is not done. You must
consciously take advantage of the carbohydrate window, particularly the first
15 minutes, to maximize the glycogen replenishment process (see chapter 4 for a review). Ingest a substantial amount of carbohydrate calories immediately— at least .5 grams of carbohydrate per pound (~1.0 grams per kilogram) of body weight. (Even better, take in .75 grams per pound.) Remember, these are carbohydrate calories, not just calories from anything, like beer, nacho chips, or a candy bar. A recovery drink or meal replacement beverage can make the job easier (see the chart in chapter 5), and a small amount of protein may help reduce muscle soreness.

Each evening eat a high-carbohydrate meal that includes a good source
of quality protein (for example, 20 to 30 grams as supplied by 3 to 4 ounces,
or 85 to 112 grams, of meat). If need be, eat another carbohydrate-rich snack before bedtime.

Weighing yourself (if feasible) before you begin and right afterward can be
very useful because you can quickly ascertain how well you are doing at meeting your fluid needs during the event or race. Over the next few hours, drink at least 2.5 cups of fluid for every pound (or 1.3 liters for every kilogram) that you are down. If you’re down more than a few pounds, adjust your drinking plan for subsequent efforts and pay attention to your sodium intake too. Losing weight from day to day (especially in events and races lasting longerthan three to five days) and having sore or “dead” legs that are struggling to respond are prime signs of chronic glycogen depletion. Your job is to stop the damage from occurring before it becomes too much to reverse by eating more (especially carbohydrate calories), taking more time to recover, or most likely some of both.”

Designing Your Own Training Week

With one sport, you can understand how which days to train hard.  The following is an excerpt printed with permission from Human Kinetics book, Run Strong, by Kevin Beck.  It covers running only but the concepts cross sport lines.  Understanding training rules of thumb will put you on the path to designing your own training patterns.

Based on my experience as an athlete and a coach, I believe that the most valuable tool for any self-coached runner is an outline to guide decisions regarding which workouts are appropriate. The various types of training, …

With one sport, you can understand how which days to train hard.  The following is an excerpt printed with permission from Human Kinetics book, Run Strong, by Kevin Beck.  It covers running only but the concepts cross sport lines.  Understanding training rules of thumb will put you on the path to designing your own training patterns.

Based on my experience as an athlete and a coach, I believe that the most valuable tool for any self-coached runner is an outline to guide decisions regarding which workouts are appropriate. The various types of training, such as long runs, interval work, tempo runs, and so on, are all important and necessary for helping you improve as a runner. The key is classifying the various workouts and then scheduling them into your training consistently. Following a map–one that successful runners have used time and again–can ease the uncertainty and doubts that creep into every athlete’s mind. Following an outline that has led to success allows runners to train with greater focus and purpose, knowing their work will achieve long-term results. A workable training schedule brings workouts together to form a routine that addresses every relevant energy system necessary for top racing performance and continued improvement over time.

I cannot name one individual heroic workout that will take someone to the next level, but there are a few workouts that, when done consistently and repetitively as part of a training schedule, can lead to substantial progress for the majority of runners. The surprising thing for many runners is realizing that the training principles are the same for any distance you want to race. It doesn’t matter if the event is the mile, 5K, 10K, marathon, steeplechase, or cross country; the same training elements and concepts apply. As a coach, if I base an athlete’s training on the key elements, the athlete invariably maintains his or her health throughout the season, improves his or her race performances throughout the year, and competes well at specific goal races. It’s basic, it’s fairly brainless to follow, and most important, it works.

The following suggestions will help you fit each of the six elements into your training consistently within your standard training cycles. Some advanced athletes who recover quickly can address all six within a single week. Athletes who require more time between hard efforts to recover fully should consider fitting these within a two- or three-week cycle. You can also try a 10-day cycle if one week doesn’t work for you, but given that most people have schedules that revolve around a standard 7-day week, we tend to stick with 7, 14, or 21 days as the standard options.

For my athletes, I generally schedule two harder workouts every week, cycling through anaerobic-conditioning, aerobic-capacity, and anaerobic-capacity training. Once we’ve addressed each of these individually, we start the sequence of workouts over again; this allows us to elevate the athlete’s fitness level by concurrently working all of the energy systems necessary for distance running success. For athletes who recover especially quickly, I schedule a separate anaerobic-conditioning, aerobic-capacity, or anaerobic-capacity session each week, thereby allowing the athlete to address all energy systems within a single training week. For those who require additional recovery, a single session each week of one of these types of training is sufficient, allowing the athlete to address all relevant energy systems within a three-week period. Here’s the most effective route to incorporating the six elements in your program:

Step 1. Designate Your Recovery Day

Because most of the athletes I work with have families and careers, a recovery day is usually one on which they’d like to complete additional chores around the house, spend time with their families, or socialize. It may be a day to do little or nothing except read a book and relax. Others travel frequently for business and have a floating schedule; these runners need a day on which they can miss a run without feeling guilty. View the recovery day as a day to let your body and mind unwind and allow modern life to take priority over training. As an added benefit, it’ll keep you healthy, allow you to improve, and help keep you motivated.

Step 2. Determine Your Long-Run Day

This is pretty simple because most athletes do their weekly long run on either Saturday or Sunday. Whatever works for you is fine, as long as you do it consistently. I don’t have a hard and fast rule regarding spacing recovery days around the long run. In most cases, my athletes run a harder effort on Saturday, run long on Sunday, and run an easier day on Monday. This allows Saturday to be fairly hard and Sunday moderate while providing a recovery day following these back-to-back harder run days.

Step 3. Determine Your Primary Workout Days

On primary workout days you run scheduled harder workouts. My athletes schedule primary workouts every Tuesday and Friday in the fall. In the spring, the longer-distance athletes maintain this schedule, while the middle-distance runners adopt a Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday schedule. Depending on the length of your workout cycle, combinations of hard days vary. A 7-day cycle might include primary workouts on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Runners on a 14-day cycle might designate Monday and Thursday as primary hard-workout days. On the other hand, some runners can only tolerate a single hard workout each week and are therefore on a 21-day cycle. Based on your particular goal event, rotate workouts in this order:

1. 200s, 300s, or 400s at faster than 5K race pace (anaerobic capacity)
2. 800- to 2,400-meter intervals at 5K to 10K race pace (aerobic capacity)
3. Tempo run of approximately 30 minutes at threshold pace (anaerobic conditioning)

On the fourth hard-effort day, start over again with the 200s, 300s, or 400s at faster than 5K pace and work your way through the lineup again. In this manner, you address all the relevant energy systems needed for top-level performance. The 800- to 2,400-meter intervals at 5K to 10K pace handle aerobic capacity, the tempo runs address anaerobic conditioning, and the 200s, 300s, or 400s at faster than 5K race pace develop anaerobic capacity (economy).

Most runners use a 14-day schedule of two primary, harder workouts each week during the two-week period. The question arises: There are four harder workout days and three primary workouts to do, so should I adjust the schedule? Rather than starting again with workout one on the fourth workout day, would there be a benefit to focusing on one area of fitness more than the other? I allow for the following slight variations based on the fact that most athletes see the greatest improvement in race times by giving increased focus to aerobic-capacity development.

Week 1: Aerobic-capacity workout, anaerobic-conditioning workout

Week 2: Aerobic-capacity workout, anaerobic-capacity workout

During the final four to eight weeks of the training year before the championship racing season, I make the following adjustments based on event focus:

1,500 meters. Each week perform an aerobic-capacity workout on one day and an anaerobic-capacity workout on another.

5K to 10K. During week one, perform an aerobic-capacity workout one day and an anaerobic conditioning workout the second harder day of that week. During week two perform an aerobic-capacity workout one day and an anaerobic-capacity workout the second harder day.

Marathon. Each week perform an aerobic-capacity workout on one day and an anaerobic-conditioning workout on another.

Step 4. Schedule Your Double Days

I generally schedule double days on the primary harder workout days of the week because I want the athlete’s hard days to be hard. Without exception, my top athletes do a minimum of two double days per week on Tuesdays and Fridays, the same days we schedule either the 200s, 300s, and 400s, the 800- to 2,400-meter intervals, or the tempo run. The more experienced athletes add double days on an additional two to four days per week as they see fit.

Step 5. Fill In Rest With Aerobic-Conditioning Runs

The remaining days should consist of runs varying in distance from 45 to 90 minutes. Whether you choose to do two-a-days and whether you keep to the shorter end of the 45- to 90-minute range or the longer end is as much a matter of preference and “recoverability” as it is a function of your chosen race distance.

To help illustrate the previous concepts in detail, tables 3.1 through 3.3 provide some sample training weeks using this program. These are not set in stone, but rather are intended to illustrate how to apply the training principles to the everyday training of fast competitive athletes who also happen to have careers and family obligations.

So that’s it. Designing a training plan is important yet simple. I’ve described the elements it should include and provided examples of runners across the race-distance spectrum who have used these elements to form training plans that have taken them to the top of their game. Now, it’s your turn. Reread this chapter along with the other information in this book, set clear goals, grab a pen and paper (or a mouse and computer), and go to it.