Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sharing my data - Improvisation...

In life and in training we are often forced to deal with the unexpected. I hear many reasons why people are unable to complete a workout or follow their training plan. I don't like to call them excuses. An excuse indicates that you were unable to overcome something. Instead, I call them obstacles. With motivation, dedication, and improvisation, we are able to work around obstacles and stay on track.

Saturday was one of those days for me. Winter weather impacted the area leaving snow and ice on the roads. Trails are heavily rutted after the wet weather of a few weeks ago. It is friggin cold. Those are sizable obstacles but it does not mean all is lost.

I had a workout to do and planned accordingly. I would ride my cross bike on the D&R towpath. The flat terrain allowed me to control the intensity. The cross bike easily handles the gravel path and light snow. Bundle up with the hand and foot warmers to manage the cold.

I added an obstacle that often sidetracks athletes. I did a group ride. Too often I hear people say, "Well, I decided to do a group ride so I wasn't able to get my workout done." That is not what I want to hear. Groups rides play a significant role in our training. I encourage them but you still have some specific work to do.

On this day, I rode with two clients and another friend. Since I was playing coach I had some influence over what we did. Without that, I would still be determined to get my specific work done. Even if it was with a group of people I did not know.

So I did two 15-minute intervals at 90% FTP. Another rider did the same. We just got to the front and lead the group down the path. Since I wasn't able to control everything, I ignore my prescribed rest periods. They end up being longer than ideal and also not as slow as I'd normally do. The entire ride was longer than I needed so I added some extra training towards the end just to ensure I was using my training time wisely.

Here is my data from the ride. Lambertville Towpath Data After warming up and sharing some conversation with others, I begin my first interval after 25 minutes of riding. 15 minutes at my prescribed power. You can see my HR go up and slowly increase with my perceived exertion. The power is pretty constant, dipping only to go around the closed gates we encounter on the path.

The rest interval starts slow as it should. Then we increase the speed slightly since most are not interested in riding at a walking speed. I get behind others and save some energy in the draft. We arrive at our turn-around point and take a quick stop to adjust clothing and stuff. We begin our return and I begin another interval. In this case, I was not in the front. In order to stay in my prescribed power range, I allow the others to ride ahead so I'm no longer in the draft. Just 5-6 bike lengths is good. Eventually the others slow and I take the front with another rider doing a similar effort. Then another rest period.

Another rider had enough in the tank for a third interval. The rest of us did not. He takes the lead and just drives us down the path. Although my legs wouldn't allow me to repeat the intensity, I found another way to benefit from the time on the bike. I finished the ride by keeping my cadence above 100RPM for 20 minutes. A higher cadence provides many benefits but takes time to get used to.

So I was able to ride with others and still get my specific workout done. I take pride in doing this often. Usually, I let myself fall of the back of the group and do the intervals without others even knowing. Doing it behind the group is less disruptive to others or the nature of the group ride.

Consider this the next time you are forced to deal with obstacles. Improvise and find a way to complete the training you need to reach your goals.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sharing my data - Active Recovery

Here is my first installment of my shared data. I'm starting with the most boring workout, Active Recovery (AR). It is the type of workout that athletes get wrong most often. Yeah! That means you!!!

Active Recovery is done to promote blood flow. That increased blood flow flushes all of the bad stuff left behind by a hard workout the day before. It loosens the muscles, reduces soreness, and gets you ready for your next strenuous workout.

Too often, we go too hard on those days reserved for Active Recovery. Instead of promoting recovery, we create additional soreness or fatigue. When it is time to do a hard workout again, we don't feel fresh or we are unable to perform as we should or need to.

An AR ride should feel really slow. As if you are doing almost nothing. Yes, it can be difficult. I recommend you distract yourself by involving exercise with something you normally do by car. Ride your bike to the coffee shop and relax. Walk to the local store to do an errand. Walk the dog or go for a hike. Show up at a friend's house across town. Instead of feeling bored, you accomplish something.

The result of an AR workout should feel similar to a good stretch, some light Yoga, or a massage. You should feel ready to go the next day. If it is inconvenient to do an AR ride, 30 minutes of stretching, yoga, or other light exercise is acceptable. You could even get really creative and schedule house cleaning or yard work as an AR effort.

So with that said, here is a recent example of my Active Recovery ride.
I drove to an area I used to ride through regularly, Princeton, NJ. It is a nice college town with plenty of distractions; traffic, pedestrians, historic building, etc. Lots of things to occupy my mind while just pedaling around slowly. If I enjoyed coffee, I'd have numerous options to stop and relax further.

On this day, my overall heart rate and power were well within my Active Recovery zone. I was noticing a bunch of historic homes that I normally fly by without a glance. It was a pleasant ride. If you are thinking that it is a waste to drive my car to do a recovery ride...you may be right. On this day, I parked at a barber shop and got my hair cut. I used the hair cut as an excuse to take my bike and ride.

Consider these things the next time you see an Active Recovery ride on your training calendar.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Big Gear Wind-Ups and VO2 Max workout

Here is a recent example of me doing the Big Gear Wind-Ups and VO2 Max workout. After a thorough warm up, we start with the Big Gear Wind-Ups. To complete these, we shift to one of our biggest gears (big chain ring and smaller rear cogs). Then grab the brakes and come to a crawl. Start the interval by exploding out of the saddle and start cranking that huge gear. Use your entire body. Pulling with arms and chest to counter the force of pushing with your legs. Continue this until you reach a cadence of 90rpm.

Don't be surprised if this is a struggle and you are unable to get to 90 before fatiguing. If that occurs, shift to a smaller gear for the next interval. When you get this right, you will reach 90 rpm just as your body says "I've had  enough". That may take about 25 seconds. Rest for 3-1/2 minutes and repeat. I hit my lap button as I slow down to begin each interval. That means I'll be looking to start the next interval every four minutes or so. I hope that makes sense. It is just what I do and works for me.

Big Gear Wind-Ups have many benefits. It is primarily a strength and form drill. Due to the low cadence, it is a Zone 7 power-building or strength related exercise. Doing it out of the saddle improves your sprinting form and technique. We would never want to sprint at such a low cadence but this exercise helps us to recognize the importance of pulling on the bars and remaining stable over the bike. Just be careful and get a thorough warm-up as these are strenuous. I have felt strains in my chest and rib cage while doing these. Consider doing the first interval at a lesser intensity to warm up into the intervals.

The VO2 Max efforts are pretty straight-forward. Look for a relatively flat and uninterrupted route allowing you to ride fast for 5 minutes. Look for a route that allows you to make right-hand turns to avoid disruption from stop signs, traffic lights, or busy traffic patterns. IF possible, try to make each interval more intense than the previous. Aim a few watts or BPM higher each time.