Automatic Endurance Training
Bikes, Beers, Battlestar Galactica.
You know the saying: “Shoot for the stars, and if you miss, you’ll die in the frozen vacuum of space.”
A Word About Flanders
Ok, so we've all seen it at this point? Spoiler mode off? Gilbert wins; Sagan, Van Avermaet, and Naesen (MUH BOI, more on that later), hit the deck with about 16 km to go. If not for the crash, maybe they catch Gilbert, maybe they don't. We'll never know. What we do know now is what caused the crash. First it looked like a spectator's jacket was the cause. Then it was said Sagan got hooked on the advertising banner. Then it was said Sagan just lost control and hit a leg of the barrier. We now know it was what we originally thought: the jacket done did it.
There's some pretty clear footage of a jacket hanging over the barrier. As Sagan passes, the jacket catches his left hood, turns his bar toward the barrier, Sagan hits one of the metal legs, and goes down. GVA, right behind Sagan, has no where to go, and Naesen, who was half a wheel behind GVA looks to suffer the exact fate of the man in front: hooking the jacket (taking it with him in the process), and turning into the barrier. All three of them hit the deck. Race over. You should care about this for two reasons.
First: It denied us a climax to what I believe is the greatest race on the calendar. You may disagree on the "greatest race" part: Roubaix, Tour de France, Giro, Worlds, whatever. But you can't deny, Flanders is one of the top tier events of bike racing, and differing tastes aside, it attracts all the best specialists, on their best form, period. If the Sagan group makes it off the Oude Kwaremont unscathed, I believe we were in for a showdown. Even after crashing, then collaborating with Dylan van Baarle (who didn't have the strength to follow on the Kwaremont by the way), GVA was able to hack 30 seconds out of Gilbert's advantage on the run for home. Add the motorcycles that are Sagan and Naesen to that, and I'm not saying we'd have come to a 4 man sprint, but it would have been tense to watch, that much is sure. Instead, we effectively have a RVV that was decided 16.9km from the line in Oudenaarde. I think we're right to feel a little... deflated, regardless of who you wanted to win (and for the record, I don't hate that Gilbert won).
SECOND (and this is the biggie): A spectator directly influenced the outcome of the race. There's a reason there are barriers: to separate those who watch, from those who race. Everything on this side of the barrier is ours: the beer, the grass, the cow turds, the drunk uncles... Everything on THAT side of the barrier is THEIRS. The jacket was on THAT side of the barrier. Exactly where it should not have been. Spectator interference is not "what makes this sport great." It's not Sagan's job to avoid the errant jacket hanging over the railing, or the careless teenager taking a selfie, or the drunk idiot scampering across the street. It's his job to put himself deeper into the black than any of us can imagine in an attempt to win the world's biggest bike races. That means taking any patch of smooth road WITHIN the barriers to keep the speed as high as he can, and make the job of following him as difficult as possible. Cobbles, dirt, grass... the space was his. If you argue that, you're wrong. Sorry.
And the whole, "If he was a man, he would have ridden the cobbles" thing is total crap. Take it from someone who has raced these climbs and cobbles in amateur and lower level UCI races where they don't bother to barricade off the gutters: I would rather ride the cobbles than fight for the gutter 100 times out of 100. It's hard enough when you've got 196 guys fighting for a road barely wide enough to fit three riders across. Open up the gutter and what you have now is 196 guys fighting for 3 inches of road. One guy gets it, and he flies. The rest are left to follow blindly, trying to balance on a patch of road they can't even see. Trust me when I say this: being forced to ride the cobbles is the preferable choice. Slower, sure. Rougher, usually. But way more predictable, and way more controllable. But when the race is on the line, you take the fast option, regardless of risk. That risk, however, should NOT include Aunt Jeanie's Jogging Jacket. Tie it around your waste for god's sake, like a normal dweeb.
Ok, that's all I've got to say about that. Sagan crashing due to a spectator's jacket is not any more a "part of The Tour of Flanders," than a spectator hucking a full can of beer at Tom Brady's head is a "part of the Super Bowl." Watch the race. Enjoy the race. But for Christ's sake, don't think you're part of it.
One final note: If you're looking for someone to root for these next few years (and next week), I'd like to offer up Oliver Naesen. We were teammates a few years ago on the Belgian Continental team Cibel, and I've got to say, as good of a bike racer as he is (and trust me, he's f**king GOOD), he's an even cooler dude. If there's one guy who never made me feel out of place as a foreigner on an effectively all-Belgian team, it was him. Feel good about rooting for that guy. You'd have a hard time finding a more down-to-earth person, and he's gonna win some shit. For sure a safe bet.
Two Badass Chicks
I gotta say, I couldn't have asked for a better start to the year. Winning races is pretty frickin' neat. I already knew this. What I didn't know is how much cooler it would be to see one of my athletes lay down the law on her rivals. Or better yet, see two of my athletes do it on the same day, in two different races, just a couple hours apart. So without further ado, allow me to introduce to you:
1) Perrin Clavijo is someone I have to be careful with when writing her workouts. She's the type of person who, whatever you tell her to do, will do it, plus 10 percent, then maybe go for a trail run, break her foot, then continue to train through said broken foot (seriously, stop doing that). This little ball of enthusiasm races for Georgia Tech and just recently switched over to road cycling from triathlon, a path I myself took. It's a tough path because, although both are endurance sports, and both necessitate riding a bike well, each is on a different planet when it comes to physical and tactical preparation. It takes a long time to shake one mentality in favor of the other. In any case, Perrin seems to be making the transition well enough, winning in her first ever road race this past Saturday at the Swamp Classic in Gainesville, Florida. I think it surprised her a little more than it surprised me. In fact, it didn't surprise me at all. I was expecting it, but no coach in their right mind would tell an athlete before their first race ever, "you're probably going to win." That's a sure-fire way to make their head so big they need to buy a new helmet. But that's exactly what she did, flying away from the field to cross the line alone, with no competition in sight. Perrin's wins won't always be so... lonely. But I have no doubt this is just the beginning for her. Read the name. Remember it. You'll be hearing it a lot from now on.
2) Lauren Dodge is a natural. born. killer. She just doesn't know it yet. If she has a weakness, it's confidence. It's a weakness I myself share, and one that is easily addressed once you start winning races, which she's already done this year, in pretty violent fashion. She told me on Friday night when we were pre-riding the course, "I'm going to open the sprint from here." As it turns out, "Here" was about 250m, uphill. I voiced soft concern, but she was adamant. I figured, well that's bold, but hey, YOLO, let's let her make her own mistakes. Turns out I was the one mistaken: a gap on the line of eight bike lengths in the P,1,2 field is hard to argue with. Toss in a new max power by 50w, and any critiques you might have had start to fade away. She made it look easy. But it wasn't, and she'll be the first to tell you that. This is the same woman who told me last August when I started training her, "I'm not good enough to deserve a coach." And just last month told me, "I never thought I'd be athletic." Let that sink in for a minute: this woman, who is just entering her second full season of racing, and is now just a couple points away from her Category 1 upgrade, didn't think she'd ever be capable of being athletic. That's how hard she works. Hard enough to entirely change her perception of herself from underserving of a coach, to killer in just under six months. She's still got a long way to go until she even gets close to realizing her potential. But for day 1 of 2017... well, shit. I couldn't have asked for a better performance.
It is no exaggeration when I say I'm humbled to coach these women. Seeing the tenacity with which they attack my training plans keeps me honest in my own training. It pushes me to hold myself to the same standard that they hold themselves: a standard that says, anything less than better every day is a goddamn travesty.
Hot, Nasty, Bad-Ass Speed.
Forget the data. Forget the watts. Forget the hours, the heart rate, the nutrition, the weight... hell, even forget the sleep. Speed wins races. Now of course all these factors play into speed, but if I had a dollar for every time someone said, "But I did 20w more than you," I'd have enough money to buy, like, I dunno, maybe a Twix or something. Shut up. Point is, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is speed: how fast you can go. No training metric will ever beat speed. And that's something that I think has been lost lately. We overanalyze every little aspect of our training, down to the coffee we drink, and as a result, we sometimes forget that nothing beats plain old Fast.
Now, if you want to go fast, you've got to train fast. Simple as that. Nothing can prepare you for sprinting off a wheel moving at 60kph, like sprinting off a wheel moving at 60kph. Whether you do this behind a moto, or down a hill, or with your own personal leadout train, you must get the feel for engaging the pedals at speed with your maximum effort. If this sensation is new to you on race day, then allow me to extend my sincerest congratulations on your 9th place.
If you want to be fast, the first thing you must do is stretch your strength. You've built peak strength through your standing starts and tractor pulls. Now it's time to work a percentage of that for a sustained period. Got 1200w in the bank for 5 seconds? Find a hill of roughly 30 seconds, pick a spot in the road, and focus on holding an even 700w though the line. If that's too easy, then go a little deeper next time, but make sure it's something you can hold. We're building what I refer to as your Fade Point: the point at which the decline in your power production levels off. By doing these efforts evenly throughout, you're training your body to hold a high power even as the world starts melting around you. These are not efforts for peak value, but rest assured, by 30 seconds you'll be seeing black. As you do them, stay out of the saddle for the full duration and work on maintaining your form while keeping the power down: get low over the bars, and work on holding a straight line. Often you'll see someone open a sprint and start zig-zagging all over the road in an attempt to get other riders out of their draft. It almost never works, and they've just increased the distance they have to travel. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Take that line, and if you've built your quickness, the person on your wheel will be out of your draft before they even have time to react.
As the season draws closer, you're going to take that sustained effort, combine it with your peak, and apply it at speed. As mentioned earlier, it doesn't matter if you do that effort behind a moto, or off the back of a leadout train, or by just rolling down a hill, but you must get the feel for pushing at a speed that will win races. 1200w at 20kph is not the same as 1200w at 65kph.
Training Fast is a whole-package kind of deal. You're not so much training adaptation as you are practical race readiness. Because of this, rather than having my athletes sprint for a given amount of time, I have them set a line in the road, and practice pushing their limit through that line: no looking at numbers, simply getting to the line in the shortest time possible. Start with a set distance of 200m, hit it at speed, engage at your maximum and plow through the line. When 200m becomes something you can do without fading, push the line out 50m. Keep going. After each effort, take a minimum of 10 minutes rest. If you're not recovered enough to fire at capacity, then you're defeating the purpose of the workout. Most of the efforts we do on the bike focus on optimizing our ability to clear acid from our muscles. These efforts are just a sheer acid dump. Because of that, carrying any fatigue from one effort into the next will limit its benefit.
Too often we put ourselves in a box: "I'm not a sprinter. I'm not a This, I'm not a That." Good news is, if you're "not a sprinter," you have a huge deficiency that, when addressed, will make a world of difference. If you can survive a race without any sprint ability, you'll be amazed how easy racing gets once you've dedicated one session per week to working on peak values. And it comes quick. Just by doing the efforts, you'll see a huge improvement.
Now get out there, and push the pedals. Punxsutawney Phil says only 6 more weeks of winter.
Thick n' Quick.
That was my nickname in high school. Jk. But seriously. Words can hurt.
Anyway, I promised to explain quickness. Simply put, Quick is Power relative to size. Quick is the ability to deliver huge force in an instant. Deliver your maximum force in half the time, and congratulations, you're now twice as quick. Simple as that. Pretty easy, right?
Not so fast. The relationship between torque (effectively your strength), RPM and power is a linear one. If you have the torque to crack 1000w at the 50rpm mark, then delivering that same torque at 100rpm will give you 2000w. So just pedal faster, right? Well, sort of.
Generally when we ride, our energy systems work like a light dimmer, ramping up to our desired intensity, then holding steady. The light stays on, but the intensity depends on where we put it.
Peak power isn't a dimmer. It's a switch: it's on, or it's off. Taking the stored potential of your muscle and releasing it in an instant: BANG. That's quickness. So how do we train this?
Here's something to try: Small ring, midway up the cassette. Gearing in the 39x15-17 range. You're going to ease your leg speed up to the point you can just barely keep your hips from bouncing on the saddle. If that's 110rpm, that's fine. But try to work up to 130rpm or better. Your goal here is to avoid wasting any strength getting up to speed. You should still be in zone 1 when you hit your target RPM. When you get there, rip a sprint out of the saddle for maximum rpm. Drive that number as high as you can, and as quickly as you can. 150rpm? Good. 180rpm? Even better. 200+? Now we're talking. So why do we do this? Certainly you wouldn't sprint at 200rpm.
The idea is this: If you can keep the pedals from falling away from you at 180rpm, or 200rpm, you'll develop the necessary coordination to access a high percentage of your maximal force at 110rpm. And that's what this is all about: Coordination. Fair warning: You will not look cool sprinting at 180rpm.
Something else to try: roll along in an easy gear, not putting much effort into the pedals. Have a friend with you, riding just behind. Have them yell, GO (or Bang, or pineapple). The instant they trigger you, rip two hard pedal strokes: left, right. Then sit back down. That's it. If you've got an SRM or some other PM that will register that quickly, you can track your progress based on what readout you get. But even if you've got a super laggy Stages, or Pioneer, or even nothing at all, you can gauge your effort based on the top speed you hit. Rolling from 35kph, and you hit 40kph after 2 strokes, that's good. Hit 41kph next time, and you've improved. Again: it's all about switching on. All Systems Go.
Now I must state: this isn't training you to be fast. This is training you to be quick. You can have the explosive power to get from 0-50kph in 5 seconds, but if you never hit 60kph, you're probably never going to win anything. That said, if you go 0-50 in 5 seconds, you're probably a fucking mutant and will have no trouble dispatching the local category racers.
Now go push the pedals.
Strong Like Bull.
Strength is the foundation of any sport. If you don't believe me, that's probably why you've never won anything ever. But like brick and mortar, Strength is only the foundation. It's step one on your way to hot, nasty, badass speed. So how do we build strength? I'm glad you (didn't) ask.
Step 1: buy a gym membership. "But I heard..." YOU HEARD WRONG, SONNY. Step 1a: If someone tells you the jury is still out on weight lifting for cyclists, just run. I know cyclists aren't supposed to run, but in this scenario, you have my blessing.
Step 2: Use said gym membership. Grab a bro (I swear to god, Gym bros are way friendlier and more supportive than they look), and ask him/her to teach you how to squat/deadlift/not-cripple-yourself. If you can afford a real-live-personal trainer, then get one of those FOR SURE. If you can't afford such luxe, Youtube and a mirror go a long way. Then lift heavy. Ass. WEIGHT. Ya know, within reason. Push your limits. Don't squat 90lbs for 20 reps. You get plenty of muscular endurance on the bike. We're going for max force here. That's what this is all about: Bendin' Bars, and Beatin' Cars; Snappin' Cranks, and Givin' Thanks; Winnin' Races, and Bein' Respectful to the Race Referees... Seriously, be nice to those guys. They don't get paid enough to deal with your your cat 3 temper tantrum.
Step 3: Apply newly found mutant strength to the pedals. How? Here are a couple ideas:
1) Standing Starts: When it comes to inducing worry over whether your chain/cassette is worn out, there's nothing better. It's also pretty good at developing maximum torque. You'll never produce more torque on your bike than you do in the first few strokes of a standing start. So how do we do them? Put your chain in a massive gear (I stay out of the absolute biggest because of that one day in November I don't like to talk about). Slow down to a stop, or as close to one as you can get without falling over. Take a deep breath, brace, and accelerate that puppy as violently as possible. Truthfully, it won't be all that violent (lol jk). It'll feel like you're moving a barge through mud, and by the time you get on top of the gear, the effort will be over. So how long does this last? About 5 seconds. Pretty short, huh? That's because after about 4-8 seconds, there's a break, and force production declines. You'll start dipping into glycogen stores, accumulating lactate, and potentially blunt the main workout of the day. I stick to 6 strokes if I've got something else to do later. Left, right, left, right, left, right, done. I wouldn't do more than 10 of these if it's not a sprint-specific day. Take as much rest as you need, but always take at least 2 minutes. The purpose here is to get your muscles firing at capacity. Shorting the rest will only detract from that. Always do these coming off a rest day. It's not that you can't do them on tired legs, but what's the point? You're trying to fire emoji at 100%.
2) Over-gear hill climbs. Do them up to 10 minutes in length. Keep the cadence in the 60-70 range. Get a bike fit. Maybe not in that order, but you get the idea. This isn't anything new, but sometimes I see riders doing their "over-gear" work, and all they do is click the chain down to the 11, and start smashing at 50rpm, but don't actually up their power. Congrats, you just went from 200w at 90rpm to 200w at 50rpm. Not exactly causing deep stimulus, and not really the point of over-gearing. These efforts can be hugely beneficial, but you need to go deep. Depending on the duration, Zone 6 deep. Do these for a few months, and see what happens to your anaerobic power. Again: big effort, big recovery. Do them on at least equal rest, but take as much time as you need to wrap your head around going again.
3) Tractor pulls. They're like standing starts, but for triathlete converts who don't yet want to sprint out of the saddle (I got pretty good at these). But seriously, they're great for strengthening everything from your ankles to your nipples. Here's the idea: Biggest gear, rolling at about 20rpm, fanny planted firmly on the saddle. Limiting upper body movement as much as possible, brace your entire body and accelerate as hard as you can. When your cadence hits 70, it's over. That's it. Take at least 3 minutes rest, but again, Mo' Rest, Mo' Better.
So there you have it: all you have to do in order to start to maybe one day think about being a decent racing cyclist is turn yourself inside out on a consistent basis to the point where you feel like you may throw up and pass out or die, or both. Check back tomorrow for the opposite side of the equation: quickness.
In the meantime, enjoy!
Strong, Fast, Quick
No, they're not the same, no you don't have to pick just one, and yes you should build them individually. Before we get into some ideas on how to make you stronger, faster, and quicker, first you should understand the differences.
So what's strong? A tractor is strong. A tractor is strong as shit. Would you race in a tractor? No. As strong as it is, it's equally slow. Trust me, I've been stuck behind many a John Deere on country roads, cursing.
An 18 wheeler is also strong. Hell, it's even fast. I've seen those things blast down I-95 so fast your side view mirrors shake. But again, would you race in one? No way. Those things get off the line about as well as a 1980s club-hopper in Miami (yes, that's a cocaine joke).
Well, what about a moped? I'd take the moped against the 18 wheeler in a 100m race, but anything past that distance, and it's useless because it's got no top end speed. Quick yes. Strong and fast? Not even remotely.
Are we seeing the differences yet? The key in racing is to know your strengths, of course. But also to know your weaknesses, and not let the opposition play those against you. For instance, if you can hold a good top speed, but take a day and a half to get there, then don't let your competitors open the sprint. I can't tell you how many times I've come 6th out of a group of 6 simply because I was too chicken shit to open from distance. Not everyone is a 100m sprinter. If you don't have punch, then try slugging it out from 300m and see what happens. Just make sure you use some good timing to create the initial gap. On the other side of this, if you've got tremendous punch, but no particular top end, don't open from 200m and fade 50m from the line. There's more than one way to win a sprint, but first you must understand all the ways you will lose the sprint. As someone who's lost a lot of sprints, I've had the opportunity to become quite the scholar.
Here's another truth that's hard for some of us to swallow: everyone must sprint. Acceleration is the cornerstone of success in sport. From weight lifting, to marathon running: without a good turn of speed, winning probably isn't in the cards. Even the great long distance efforts of Cancellara in the classics were initially set off by vicious accelerations. And that stick figure Froome? He doesn't ride people out of his wheel with an aerobic engine: he does it with short bursts well into the red. So how will training your sprint benefit your aerobic nature and help you long before the finish line? Here are just a few benefits to having a little extra pop in your pocket (not a cocaine joke):
1) The harder you kick, the further you go with each kick, the less often you will have to kick, and thus the more time you will spend coasting and recovering. It's counter-intuitive, but the harder you pedal, the easier your ride.
2) Riding in a large bunch is not as stable as it looks on TV; It's extremely fluid, and if you're not going forward, you're going backward. Having that extra punch will help you zip through any gap that opens ahead of you, and maintain or improve your position in the bunch. And as we all know, it's easier to race at the front than it is to race at the back (usually). If you're sluggish, that gap closes, you get shuffled to the back, and you spend the rest of the race dying a thousand deaths out of every corner.
3) Attacking is easier. The quicker you can deliver larger force to the pedals (power), the fewer pedal strokes it takes to establish an equal gap. Establishing the gap more quickly will help limit the anaerobic damage of the attack, and let you access a higher percentage of your threshold power to sustain and grow your advantage.
4) Combine all three of those reasons you just read: having that extra kick will allow you ride at the front, do so more easily, while pedaling less, and as a result, when the race switches "on," you've burned fewer matches and can more easily respond to the attacks of others, or make the difference yourself.
Check back tomorrow for a few short efforts you can tack onto any workout to make racing easier.
Your diet is bullshit.
Ok, do I have your attention? My apologies. Your diet is not bullshit, and you shouldn't let anyone tell you it is. We've all gotta make money, you lazy shit: Or at least that's what my grandpop keeps telling me. And some of us (yes, myself included), are trying to make money by telling you what to do. This actually isn't a terrible line of work, IF undertaken with good intentions. Unfortunately, you'll come across more than a few people interested only in peddling their particular protein shake, vitamins, or brand of non-dairy trickery. They don't give a damn about making you better; they give a damn about making your wallet lighter. I'm no saint, and so I'm admittedly interested in both. Though if I had to pick one, rest assured I'd rather make you better. That's why the blog is free. That, and I otherwise couldn't get anyone to read my writing: Harper Collins told me to go fuck myself.
So you're vegan? cool. I support that. Only vegetarian? That's cool too. What's that? You go out daily and murder bison with your bare hands, eat its flesh raw in the fields, then make boots from its hide? Alright, man! You do you. There's no one diet that's right for everyone, and I'm inclined to believe there's no one diet that's "right" for anyone. Our bodies are extremely good at adapting, and THRIVING with what's on hand, which is one of the many reasons why homo sapiens are still around, and homo habilis is not. We're the latest, greatest, baddest iteration of the Ape (Unless you count our inferior strength and knack for starting worldwide conflict). Your body is going to use what you put into it, and poor health is often associated with quantity, not purely quality (okay, usually it's high quantity of poor quality).
Alright, alright, gluten "intolerants," stop chucking loaves of bread at me. This doesn't apply to EVERYONE. But it does apply to most people. There are people with special dietary needs, and these people know they have special dietary needs. Their doctor has told them so. If your doctor hasn't told you so, and you don't burst into flames every time you drink a glass of milk, then you're better off focusing less on what you're putting in your mouth, and more on how much you're putting in your mouth.
Don't believe me? Usain Bolt ran a World's best in Beijing eating nothing but chicken nuggets. Marshawn Lynch famously used to eat Skittles in the weight room. Boom. Roasted. But their sports are strength based, you whine. Low weight isn't as important for them, you plead. Endurance sports cause different stress on the body, you opine. To which I reply, if you're treating your endurance sport as a one-speed, non-explosive endeavor, you're never going to make a significant gain. A road cyclist, runner, swimmer or triathlete has more in common with a track sprinter than we're usually ready to admit (Gebreselassie kicking down Tergat to win Gold in the Sydney 10,000m, or Wiggins winning a bunch sprint in Romandie come to mind). The truth is, without explosive speed, you'll never win. Even the great mountain goats have to attack. But that's a different discussion for a different day. (As a counter example to Usain Bolt, I'd like to offer Dave Zabriskie: a vegan who rode the Tour several times, only breaking his diet for a can of sardines, and a suitcase full of EPO).
In the meantime, have some confidence. You're not doing it wrong. If someone tells you "You need to be eating this," gently remind them that we're all different; what works for one, may not work for all, and they can go get stuffed for all you care. As long as you're taking in adequate protein, getting enough fat, and some carbs for your explosive work, you're going to be fine. No one Macro is the devil: They all have their time and their place.
If you've made it this far without writing a scathing review on Yelp, I'd like to offer a caveat or two: First, your body needs fat. Don't cut all fat from your diet. Your brain will turn to mush, or worse, you'll bonk. Second, eat protein. I don't care if you get it from elk, or your neighbor's lawn clippings; if you're embarking on a strenuous training program, you need a baseline of 2g/kg of LEAN body weight (as per the recommendation of Team Sky). Without protein, you won't get stronger. Simple as that. And don't underestimate the power of not hating what you eat. Happiness goes a long way to performance.
Now go eat something.
Move Yo' Body!
It can be daunting during the winter months trying to get “the ball rolling” after a nice and well deserved midseason break (let’s be honest there is no off-season). There are a lot of thoughts about being able to train consistently all year opposed to having a base season, then slowly working into pace work, then race sharpening and finally the taper. With the right training and coaching why shouldn’t this be possible? It is possible to achieve year round fitness and maintain race form without injury and burn-out. This isn't to say one is always going to be ready for their “A” race, but they should have confidence in their training all year long. But I digress.
For me, transitioning out of this so called "off season" is definitely a process, and it SHOULD be. It is an important part of training for the mind and body. The rule of "too’s" can be the hardest lesson for a triathlete to learn. Too much, too fast, too soon can literally keep one sidelined for a season, especially the older we get.
Here are a few tips I personally use to make this transition. Some of these may be different than what you're used to, but it's served others well in the past, and whether you're new to multisport, or a 20 year veteran, you would do well to shake things up a bit. After all, variety is the spice of life... or wait, was that Cumin?
1) Unstructured training – The last thing you want to do at the beginning of a season is to stress about training over the next year. So just go out and ENJOY your three sports for what they are with no time goals, no distances: just have fun being out there. It’s OK to go a couple weeks without data… What’s that you say?! NO data? BUT HOW WILL I KNOW IF I'M EVEN EXERCISING!? I’m sorry my data geek friends, but training does go on without numbers. What this means is you should be going easier than you think. If you cannot carry on a conversation while running or riding the first couple of weeks, back it off a little. Run, ride, swim with friends of all abilities. If the data thing freaks you out and you have to use it, let lower numbers become your friend. Often this time of year I do not wear a watch. We all know about the distances of the loops we typically run or ride: you won't be as in-the-dark as you think.
2) No Pace Workouts – This is an offshoot of unstructured training. It is easy to stress out thinking about a track workout or interval session on the bike tomorrow morning or after work, so keep your workouts casual until you get back in the groove. Just get your body moving.
3) Keep it social – Not that training isn't already sometimes social, but you should take this transitional period to make more of an effort to call, tweet, or get in touch with people you like to train with but don’t normally do on a consistent basis once targeted training starts. There'll be plenty of time for lonely intervals soon; for now, catch up with some old friends to help get the motivation flowing.
4) Focus on form – This is something we often neglect, but can benefit greatly from especially if we have imbalances. Most of us have an understanding of swimming, riding, and running form but rarely focus on it. I am a huge fan of swimming drills and incorporate them into my workouts year round. I do the same with my cycling and running. It’s a great way to warm up or cool down or just add quality volume if you need it.
I hope this helps relieve some of the winter/off-season blues and motivates the athlete inside you to start or enjoy the training you’re already doing.
Onward and upward - Wolfe
No Bad Bikes
Holy shit, have you seen the new World Tour bikes? They're like sex mixed with Molly, wrapped in dynamite! SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY. That's the de facto reaction this time of year as the World's top teams start meeting for "team building" camps, and reveal what they'll be wearing and what they'll be riding the following season.
One problem: pro kit is about 10 grand above what most of us can afford. So are the rest of us doomed to ride shitty bikes? Well, yes and no. Certainly there's nothing like riding a top-shelf bike, with top-shelf wheels, and top-shelf tires. The problem is, when you're riding top-shelf everything all the time, it becomes "normal," and the feel isn't what it was the first time you hopped on. And all this isn't to say you shouldn't buy nice things. If you can afford it, by all means! You worked your ass off for that money, and you SHOULD buy the raddest set up you can reasonably afford. I just want the rest of you reading this to not get down on your bikes. Like dogs, there are no bad bikes (Just kidding, I almost barbequed a Shitzu that came after me on a training ride the other day).
A couple years ago, I traded my roommate, like... six jelly beans and some scotch for his 2005 Motobecane Phantom Cross. I built it up with some bargain bin components, and some wheels that probably should have been thrown in the trash, and holy shit that thing is a slug. When I come off a fast bike from the season, and settle into some winter training on this thing, I feel like I'm riding through mud. And that feeling sticks. For about 10 days. Then it becomes "normal," and it's the best bike I've ever ridden. You develop some weird bond with a shitty bike. You picked the hodgepodge of componentry. You're not likely to see another one on the road. And when you smash some unsuspecting soul, riding a bike that should have been relegated to the scrap pile... well, there's no better feeling. It feels a part of you, and a shit bikes becomes less a training tool than a training partner. But maybe that's the romantic in me.
Anyway, here are a couple things to think about when picking a new bike (especially if it's your first one):
1) Bikes are massively better than they were 10, 20, 30 years ago. So rest assured, if you can only afford the bottom-of-the-line 2017 model, it's almost definitely a better bike than what Miguel Indurain won five TdFs on in the 90s. Techonology man: It's a beautiful thing
2) The difference between the "Top-of-the-line" and a "Bargain-Bin-Bike" of the same brand is not as big as you've been lead to believe. Dura-Ace components are like magic. But 105 is also heinously good and a quarter of the price. Significant differences for 99.9% of the cyclists out there comes down to weight (and looking cool). So instead of spending 8k to shave 2kg off your bike, why not just lose 2kg off your body (which most of us can do easily), and spend that money on other things... like your spouse who you haven't seen in 3 weeks because you've been locked in the basement on the trainer.
3) As a follow up to that last bit: If you have "X" amount of money to spend, then go a model down from what you can afford. The worst thing you can do is blow all your money on a bitchin' bike, then not be able to afford a proper fit. A good fit will run you up to 300 bucks, and it is worth every penny. Being in a good position on your bike is critical to not hating everyone and everything in your life. A good bike with a bad position is a shit time. A bad bike with a good position is a helluvalotta fun.
4) Speaking of spending money elsewhere, if you're concerned about going fast, you should look into getting a coach *ahem I might know a couple*. Ever been smashed on a group ride by someone riding a bucket of bolts? That's because that person knows how to train. I've named my Motobecane the "MotobeSHAME" because of how many lives it's ruined. It's also broken an 8.5 mile TT course record (at 29.6mph) with a pair of clip-on aerobars (hard brag). So speed is in the legs, not the bike.
New bikes are great. But if you can't afford one, don't get down on your current setup. You can be fast on anything. Love what you've got and go train hard! And if you need a little help with the training part, hit us up on Facebook, or send us an email.