Category Archives: Periodization

Use training zones to achieve your best workout

Training Zones

Training zones are used to quantify and track intensity. Remember that workload is the product of volume (duration and frequency) and intensity. The volume component of your workload is easily tracked; all you need is a watch and a calendar. Intensity, however, is a whole different ball game. This is the toughest part of your training to get right.

As mentioned previously, every time you train you should have a goal for the workout. To reach that goal, you’ll need to be aware of how hard you’re riding (i.e., your intensity).

The purpose of a good training program is to work different aspects of your physiology. You’ll be training your aerobic and anaerobic systems, your strength, and your mental fortitude. Some workouts may be for base training, building up the vascular machinery that will allow you to go hard later on. Other workouts may focus on training your maximal speed, allowing you to blow past a friend as you race for a city limit sign.

Each training zone represents a different level of effort, ranging from easy to hard. An overwhelming amount of information is available on training zones. Different coaches and books use different nomenclature, and this can make it confusing. This book is designed to give you a solid foundation in the world of training; the goal is to simplify things so that you’ll have a good understanding that’s adaptable to whatever terminology you encounter along the way. 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.

Common combination workouts to prepare you for race day

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

Combination Workouts
Combination workouts bring two or more disciplines into a single workout, either for convenience or for specific race preparation. The most common combination workouts are swim to bike, bike to run (usually called a brick), and run to bike, depending on the goals of the triathlete and time of year.

Swim-to-Bike Workouts

A small segment of the triathlon population experiences some lightheadedness when transitioning from the prone position of swimming to the standing position of running, as triathletes do when moving from the swim to the first transition. Another small segment of the triathlon population experiences unusual leg fatigue going from swimming to running and then cycling.For these triathletes, one strategy is to set up a bike on a trainer on the pool deck.

Triathletes can begin with an easy swim of 500 meters or so and then transition to the trainer for an easy spin of around 10 minutes. They repeat this sequence two to four times in a single workout.

If the triathlete is not adapting or feels so lightheaded that passing out is a possibility, a doctor should be consulted to be certain that no medical issues are present. Depending on the severity of the problem, triathletes may want to be checked out before doing any swim-to-bike workouts.

As triathletes adapt to the easy swim-to-bike workouts on the pool deck, they should increase intensity by following a fast swim segment with an easy ride. The second round should be an easy swim followed by a faster ride. As adaptation to the transition between swimming and cycling continues, the triathlete can increase the intensity of both the swim and the ride.

Many triathletes do swim-to-bike workouts as a matter of convenience, particularly on weekends. Many do a pool workout and then head straight to a bike workout. With workouts sequenced in this manner, they can decide which workout or workouts should include intensity. As triathletes approach race day, they may want a swim-to-bike workout as a dress rehearsal for race day.

Bike-to-Run Workouts

Swim-to-bike and run-to-bike workouts are often called combination, or combo, workouts. The bike-to-run workout is often called a brick. Although the history of the word is not clear, one theory is that the name was given to the workout because when triathletes go from fast cycling to running, their legs feel like bricks.

To help triathletes adapt to the change of body movement and muscle recruitment from cycling to running, and the feeling that this change produces, aerobic brick workouts are a good place to start. Some prefer to do brick workouts every week throughout the training plan, but others limit brick workouts to once per month, perhaps as a workout during a recovery week. Others limit brick workouts to certain macrocycles. No standard has been set about how often to perform brick workouts, and some triathletes appear to make this adaptation better than others do.

In one study on elite international Olympic-distance racers, the intensity of cycling did not have an adverse effect on neuromuscular control and running economy. Even moderately trained triathletes experienced little influence on running muscle recruitment after cycling. These studies may lead the reader to believe that experience in the sport of triathlon eliminates any effect of cycling on running economy and muscle recruitment, but that is not true. A third study found that despite years of training, some elite triathletes do experience changes in leg movement and muscle recruitment in running after cycling. The effects of cycling on neuromuscular control and running economy appear to vary among people.

When deciding how many bricks to include in a program, triathletes should consider their experience level, goal race distance, and race results. Slower sprint- and Olympic-distance racers are more likely to do short brick workouts. For faster sprint- and Olympic-distance racers, brick workouts are often in the range of 50 to 100 percent of race distance. For half-Ironman racers, bricks are often 25 to 50 percent of race distance. For Ironman racers, bricks become less important because the need for blazing fast transitions is not an issue except for the top triathletes.

For Ironman racers, the benefit-to-risk considerations of long brick workouts need to be evaluated. For example, how much value is gained from doing a 60-mile (100 km) bike ride followed by a 10- to 13-mile (16 to 20 km) run? Would this triathlete be better served by entering a half-Ironman race and using that race as part of the training strategy? Is the triathlete prone to running injuries? What is expected to be gained from the brick workout? Individual athlete strengths and weaknesses need to be considered when making training decisions. The bias should be toward conservative undertraining so that the triathlete remains injury free and mentally sharp.

Intermediate and advanced sprint- and Olympic-distance racers often complete brick workouts every 3 to 4 weeks. These workouts are done at the same intensity as other workouts in the macrocycle. The intensity portion of the brick can be structured in multiple ways:

- Aerobic ride followed by an aerobic run.
- Aerobic ride followed by a run that includes some portion at current training-cycle intensity. This run can be a steady effort or broken into intervals.
- Ride that includes some portion at current training-cycle intensity. This ride can be a steady effort or broken into intervals and is followed by an aerobic run.
- Ride followed by a run in which both disciplines include some portion at intensity.

Run-to-Bike Workouts

Duathlon T1 is easier to practice than triathlon T1 for most triathletes. Any yard or garage can be turned into a mock T1 area. The duathlete can go for the assigned run, return home, complete the transition, and head out on a bike ride.

The intensity for any run-to-bike workout should match the intensity of the rest of the workouts in that macrocycle. As workout intensity increases with an approaching race day, race-pace run-to-bike workouts can be included in the mix. Examples include the following:

- Run 5 kilometers, doing the last 1.5 kilometers at race pace. Immediately transition to an easy ride of 10 kilometers.
- Run 2.5 kilometers at aerobic intensity. Transition to a 15-kilometer negative-split ride. Begin at aerobic intensity for 7.5 kilometers and then ride the last 7.5 kilometers at close to race intensity. Faster duathletes can finish at zone 3 to 5a intensity and build from zone 3 to 5b in the second half of the ride.
- Run 5 kilometers, doing the last 1.5 kilometers at race intensity. Immediately transition to a ride of 15 kilometers. Make the first 7.5 kilometers at race intensity and finish at aerobic intensity.

The design of the workout should have intent for the duathlete. That intent may be transition practice, muscle recruitment when changing disciplines at an easy pace, or race-pace rehearsal. New and intermediate duathletes may consider making the workout distances less than race distances. Top duathletes may want the distances to be the same as race distances. They may perform only a portion of the workout at race pace so that they save the best performance for race day.

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.”

Learn the advantages of nutrient timing

This is an excerpt from Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

What Are the Benefits of Nutrient Timing?
There are several benefits of nutrient timing. These involve maximizing your body’s response to exercise and use of nutrients. The Nutrient Timing Principles (NTP) help you do the following:

  • Optimize fuel use so that you remain energized throughout your training

  • Ensure that you repair and strengthen your muscles to the best of your genetic potential
  • Ingest sufficient nutrients to keep you healthy and able to fight off infection, limiting the suppression of the immune system often experienced with intense training
  • Recover from your training so that you are ready for your next practice, event, or training session with well-fueled muscles

Energy
When sports nutritionists talk about energy, we are referring to the potential energy food contains. Calories are potential energy to be used by muscles, tissues, and organs to fuel the task at hand. Much of the food we eat is not burned immediately for energy the minute it’s consumed. Rather, our bodies digest, absorb, and prepare it so that it can give us the kind of energy we need, when we need it. We transform this potential energy differently for different tasks. How we convert potential energy into usable energy is based on what needs to get done and how well prepared our bodies are; how we fuel endurance work is different from how we fuel a short, intense run. It is helpful to understand that you must get the food off your plate and into the right places in your body at the right time.

Clients consistently ask us, “What can I eat to give me energy?” For you, “energy” may have different meanings, depending on what you’re referring to and how you’re feeling. If you’re talking about vitality, liveliness, get-up-and-go, then a number of things effect this: amount of sleep, hydration, medical conditions, medications, attitude, type of foods eaten, conditioning and appropriate rest days, and timing of meals and snacks. Food will help a lack of energy only if the problem is food related. You may think that’s obvious, but it’s not to some. If you’re tired because you haven’t slept enough, for instance, eating isn’t going to give you energy. However, if your lack of energy is because you’ve eaten too little, your foods don’t have “staying power,” you go for too long without eating, or you don’t time your meals and snacks ideally around practice or conditioning, then being strategic with food intake can help you feel more energetic. What, how much, and when you eat will affect your energy.

Nutrient timing combined with appropriate training maximizes the availability of the energy source you need to get the job done, helps ensure that you have fuel ready and available when you need it, and improves your energy-burning systems. You may believe that just eating when you are hungry is enough, and in some cases this may be true. But, many times, demands on time interfere with fueling or refueling, and it takes conscious thought and action to make it happen. Additionally, appetites are thrown off by training, so you may not be hungry right after practice, but by not eating, you are starving while sitting at your desk in class or at work. Many athletes just don’t know when and what to eat to optimize their energy stores.

By creating and following your own Nutrition Blueprint and incorporating the NTP, your energy and hunger will be more manageable and consistent, whether you are training several times a week, daily, participating in two-a-days, or are in the midst of the competitive season.


Recovery

During the minutes and hours after exercise, your muscles are recovering from the work you just performed. The energy used and damage that occurred during exercise needs to be restored and repaired so that you are able to function at a high level at your next workout. Some of this damage is actually necessary to signal repair and growth, and it is this repair and growth that results in gained strength. However, some of the damage is purely negative and needs to be minimized or it will eventually impair health and performance. Providing the right nutrients, in the right amounts, at the right time can minimize this damage and restore energy in time for the next training session or competition.

The enzymes and hormones that help move nutrients into your muscles are most active right after exercise. Providing the appropriate nutrients at this crucial time helps to start the repair process. However, this is only one of the crucial times to help repair. Because of limitations in digestion, some nutrients, such as protein, need to be taken over time rather than only right after training, so ingesting protein throughout the day at regular intervals is a much better strategy for the body than ingesting a lot at one meal. Additionally, stored carbohydrate energy (glycogen and glucose) and lost fluids may take time to replace.

By replacing fuel that was burned and providing nutrients to muscle tissue, you can ensure that your body will repair muscle fibers and restore your energy reserves. If you train hard on a daily basis or train more than once a day, good recovery nutrition is absolutely vital so that your muscles are well stocked with energy. Most people think of recovery as the time right after exercise, which is partially correct, but how much you take in at subsequent intervals over 24 hours will ultimately determine your body’s readiness to train or compete again.

Muscle Breakdown and Muscle Building

Nutrient timing capitalizes on minimizing muscle tissue breakdown that occurs during and after training and maximizing the muscle repair and building process that occurs afterwards. Carbohydrate stored in muscles fuels weight training and protects against excessive tissue breakdown and soreness. Following training, during recovery, carbohydrate helps initiate hormonal changes that assist muscle building. Consuming protein and carbohydrate after training has been shown to help hypertrophy (adding size to your muscle). The proper amount and mix of nutrients taken at specific times enables your body to utilize them most efficiently—that’s one of the Nutrient Timing Principles.

Immunity

Nutrient timing can have a significant impact on immunity for athletes. Strenuous bouts of prolonged exercise have been shown to decrease immune function in athletes. Furthermore, it has been shown that exercising when muscles are depleted or low in carbohydrate stores (glycogen) diminishes the blood levels of many immune cells, allowing for invasion of viruses. In addition, exercising in a carbohydrate-depleted state causes a rise in stress hormones and other inflammatory molecules. The muscles, in need of fuel, also may compete with the immune system for amino acids. When carbohydrate is taken, particularly during longer-duration endurance training (two to three hours), the drop in immune cells is lessened, and the stress hormone and inflammatory markers are suppressed. Carbohydrate intake frees amino acids, allowing their use by the immune system. Carbohydrate intake during endurance training helps preserve immune function and prevent inflammation.

Certain vitamins and minerals also play a role in immunity: iron, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, B6, and B12. However, excess intake of iron, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and E can have the opposite effect and in some cases impair the body’s adaptation to training. An eating plan incorporating all of these nutrients in reasonable quantities, such as amounts found in food, can help athletes maintain immunity. The quality of the foods selected is very important and needs to be just as much of a priority as the focus on carbohydrate or protein, for example. For instance, eating a bagel for the carbohydrate but also including an orange for the vitamin C is important; drinking a protein shake can be helpful at the right time, but including some lean steak or shellfish for the iron and zinc is also essential.

Injury Prevention
Did you know that dehydration and low blood sugar can actually increase your risk of injury? Avoiding injury due to poor nutrition is absolutely within your control. Inadequate hydration results in fatigue and lack of concentration. Low blood sugar results in inadequate fueling to the brain and central nervous system. This leads to poor reaction time and slowness. Poor coordination as a result can lead to missteps, inattention, and injury.

Additionally, chronic energy drain (taking in fewer calories and nutrients than needed) will increase your risk of overuse injuries over time. Stress fractures are one example; poor tissue integrity can happen when athletes think solely about calories taken in but not the quality of the calories consumed. This is what is behind the phrase “overfed but undernourished.” Eating lots of nutrient-poor foods will not provide your body with the building blocks for healthy tissues and overall repair. Inadequate protein will also hinder the rebuilding of damaged muscles during training. If muscles are not completely repaired, they will not be as strong as they could be and will not function optimally. The damaged muscle fibers can lead to soft-tissue injuries. Both protein and carbohydrate along with certain nutrients are needed to help with this repair. For instance, gummy bears may provide carbohydrate, but they don’t contain any vitamin E, which is helpful in repairing soft-tissue damage that occurs daily during training. Therefore, the goal is both an appropriate quantity and an appropriate quality in food selection.

Cycling expert explains strategies for getting faster

Offers 10 tactics for maximizing hills

This is an excerpt from Cycling Fast. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

Climbs and descents make or break cycling races, according to cycling coach Robert Panzera. In his upcoming book, Cycling Fast (Human Kinetics, June 2010), Panzera covers hills and all elements that can make a cyclist faster, from conditioning to nutrition and key skills.

Panzera says even small climbs make a difference the closer a cyclist gets to the finish line. “Climbs are additive, meaning a 200-foot gain in elevation may not seem like much in the first few miles, but near the finish, it can seem like a mountain.” He advises cyclists to take special note of hills toward the end of the race because these hills split the race into two groups-the leading group going for the win and the chasers trying to pick up the remaining places. In Cycling Fast, Panzera offers 10 tactics for managing hills and staying in the lead:

  • Be near the front for corners that are followed immediately by hills. “This helps you prevent being gapped,” explains Panzera.
  • Shift to easier gears before approaching hills. “This prevents dropping the chain off the front chainrings when shifting from the big front ring to the small front ring,” he notes. “Quickly go around riders who drop their chains.”
  • Close gaps on hills immediately, but with an even, steady pace. “Once the group starts riding away on a hill, it is nearly impossible to bring them back,” Panzera warns.
  • Keep the pace high over the crest of the hill, because the leaders will increase speed faster than the riders at the tail of the group.
  • Relax and breathe deeply to control heart rate on climbs.
  • Dig deep to stay in contact on shorter climbs. “Once a group clears the top, it is difficult to catch up on the descent,” says Panzera.
  • On longer climbs, ride at a consistent pace that prevents overexertion.
  • Always start climbs near the front. If the pace becomes too fast, cyclists will be able to drop through the pack and still recover without losing contact with the pack.
  • Hills are a good place to attack. “Know the hill’s distance and location in the course before setting out on an attack or covering an attack by a competitor,” advises Panzera.
  • Try to descend near the front, but not on the front. Being near the front, as opposed to the back, gives cyclists a greater probability of avoiding crashes.

Panzera also advises noting all the descents before a race begins. “Long, straight descents may require work to stay in the draft, and twisty or narrow descents may require technical skills,” Panzera says. “If the descent seems technical in review, it will definitely be technical at race speeds.”

Cycling Fast covers the latest information on new high-tech racing frames, training with a power meter and heart rate monitor, and coordinating tactics as part of a team. Readers can learn how to periodize training and use the numerous tips, charts, and checklists to maximize effort.

Triathlon Training DVD series

I’ve reviewed this DVD series, “The Ultimate Training, Technique, and Strategy Series for Triathletes” and recommend you check it out. Most are taught by Clark Campbell, former Professional Triathlete and University of Kansas Swimming Coach.

The Bike, The Run, The Swim DVDs will take you through the nuances of technique and then go over detailed training plans in depth.

“The Core Strength: Pilates for Triathletes” is a superb teaching of core strength taught and flexibility by June Quick, Certified Pilates Instructor, licensed Physical Therapist, Certified Athletic Trainer, and Stanford University Swimming consultant. She explains the movements that are demonstrated by a beginner and pro triathlete, how to make some more advanced movements when you’re ready, and pre-hab to prevent common athletic injuries.

If you’re new to triathlon and learn better visually, this is the package you want. It’s like having a coach start you out. If you’ve been around the track a few times, pun intended, you may still pick up some technique and training pointers.

Championship Productions forwarded these to me for review and I’m glad they. I had not heard of them but these are some really good training resources.


Transitions are key for triathlon success

If you’ve raced more than once, you know you easily can spend too mush time in the transition area.  This is a good quick article from the authors of “Championship Triathlon Training“, where you can learn how to save time in the transition area.  It’s the easiest time you’ll make in the race.  It is reprinted with permission by Human Kinetics.

The secrets to mastering bricks

Experienced triathletes know that quick transitions are necessary
for low race times. But, according to George Dallam, PhD, USA
Traithlon’s first national team coach, transitions are often difficult
to master because rapid changes in movement put stress on the body.
“When you stop doing one activity and begin doing another very soon
afterward, your body must make adjustments in blood flow, nervous
system regulation, and muscular tension,” Dallam says.

The bike-to-run transition, or brick, is the most difficult to
master, making the body change from a static and crouched position on
the bike to an upright and dynamic position on the run. In his new
book, Championship Triathlon Training, Dallam offers tips for mastering bricks.

  1. Prepare for the bike-to-run transition by flexing and extending
    your back on the bike and maintaining or increasing cadence to
    run-stride rate or above.
  2. Pull your feet out of your shoes while riding and then dismount at speed, leaving your shoes clipped into your pedals.
  3. Run with your bike.
  4. Minimize equipment you will need to put on in the transition area for the run (that is, put on only your shoes in this area).
  5. Put on your running shoes while standing.
  6. Put on any other equipment-hat, glasses, and race belt-while running.

“Once these basic skills have been established, specific transition
training sessions can be instituted for continued improvement in a
race-specific environment,” Dallam says. “These sessions can then be
timed as intervals from entry to exit and can be used as a baseline for
improving performance.”

Nutrition truths for endurance athletes

Some practical wisdom on endurance sports nutrition from the book is “Endurance Sports Nutrition“, reprinted with permission by Human Kinetics

“You are responsible for experimenting in training (before the actual
event or race) to discover and build a repertoire of acceptable foods
and drinks, and any other supplements, that you will use to meet your
fluid, energy, and electrolyte needs during long-distance events and
races. You must figure out the basics—what and how much you need to eat
and drink and when you need to eat and drink it. Don’t neglect to put
your strategies to the test in various weather conditions at your
intended race pace or intensity.

  • The only way that drinking and eating on the move become automatic
    on the day of the event or race is by practicing beforehand. Aim to be
    consistent and stick with what you know. When your favorite or old
    standby is no longer working, however, you must be willing to try
    something new. If you’re contemplating tackling ultralength challenges,
    you first need to establish smart drinking and refueling habits in
    longdistance events and races.
  • Consider how your body processes foods during exercise. Blood flow
    to the gastrointestinal tract falls as your pace or intensity
    increases, making it harder to digest and absorb foods that you take
    in. In addition, your ability to consume and absorb calories when
    running (because of significant jostling of the stomach) is far less
    (by as much as 50 percent) than when cycling. Rely on simple
    carbohydrates during high-intensity efforts or when you need a rapid
    energy boost. Choose electrolyte replacement drinks, energy gels (take
    with water) and sport chews, glucose tablets, and  if tolerated, soda
    or juice. During longer efforts of moderate intensity, add  solid foods
    and high-calorie liquid drinks to boost your calorie intake and your
    spirits.
  • Refuel frequently instead of eating a large quantity at any one
    time, which diverts blood away from your working muscles. In other
    words, spread your hourly energy needs over 15- to 20-minute
    increments. Don’t try to cram it all down on the hour mark. The best
    sports drinks, high-calorie liquid drinks, energy gels, and energy bars
    for you are the ones that go down and stay down.
  • Hitting the wall means that you have essentially depleted your
    muscle glycogen stores. Your legs (and other major muscle groups) have
    gone on strike, even though you may have been consuming adequate fluids
    and calories. Your training, or lack thereof, improper pacing, and
    general fatigue can contribute to this phenomenon. You will often be
    able to continue and finish, albeit not with the desired performance.
  • Bonking, when the body completely shuts down because of a severe
    drop in blood sugar, is a much more serious situation. The glycogen
    stored in muscles and the liver is essentially gone. Muscles and, more
    important, the brain are not receiving sufficient fuel. If left
    untreated, you may become increasingly irritable, confused, and
    disoriented. You could find yourself sitting or lying down and could
    possibly lapse into a coma. Stop whatever activity you were engaged in
    and boost your blood sugar by consuming readily absorbable
    carbohydrates, such as sports drinks, energy gels, soda, fruit juice,
    or glucose tablets, if available. Seek or ask for medical attention if
    necessary.
  • The best way to avoid bonking is to create a calorie buffer. Liquid
    calories in the form of electrolyte replacement drinks and high-energy
    liquid products are favored because they tend to be well tolerated and
    require less effort to get down than solid foods do. Large male
    endurance athletes often have to consciously work to consume enough
    calories (for example, as much as 500 calories per hour of prolonged
    cycling as compared to 300 calories per hour for smaller female
    athletes) to stay in energy balance.
  • Athletes who struggle with sensitive stomachs and other
    gastrointestinal problems are advised to learn beforehand what sports
    drink will be served during races and organized events. They can then
    train with that product or, if they will have access to water, carry
    their own acceptable powdered sports drink in premeasured baggies and
    reconstitute it along the way.
  • The less fit you are, the fewer shortcuts you can take. Knowing
    what you can survive on and still perform well with comes with
    experience. If you are less fit or less efficient (a novice rider or
    trail runner, for example), you need to drink and eat on a regular
    schedule. Set your watch or bike computer and train yourself to drink
    every 15 to 20 minutes and refuel every 30 to 60 minutes to keep pace
    with the energy that you’re expending.”