Peaking at the end of the season

With the many late season races around the corner, such as the Iceman Cometh race – the largest mountain bike race in the country, and countless cyclocross regional and national championship races about to happen, peaking for these races becomes a priority. If you have worked hard all season, you certainly want to go out on a good note and fuel the fire for next year with a great feeling fast race. So, to feel good late season, keep in mind these few simple tips.

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Motivation – Using the left or right brain

Motivation never comes easy, especially when it comes to exercise. Busy lifestyles, schedules and the need to train on a high level will all butt heads at some point. Let’s face it, if you want to be good at a sport, then you are going to need to train when you’re tired, stressed, and pinched for time. So, what motivates you? Are you motivated by the sights and feel of a workout or by the numbers? Determining this will help you figure out which side of the brain you like to use most, which will then help you dig deep for motivation when you need it.

Most athletes will train on a daily basis but never think about what motivates them. As a coach, I try to figure out what motivates people, but as a self-coached athlete, you need to do this on your own and it’s important to do. You need to determine whether you are a left or right brained dominant person and use this to your advantage. So let’s take a look at the differences between left and right brain characteristics.

Left or Right Brained

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Mid-season transition for cyclists

Whether you race often or not, taking a break mid-season and changing gears is always a wise decision. That is of course if you are not preparing for a peak race in the middle of July or early August, and even if so, taking a transition after that peak race will still be a wise move. For cyclists targeting races in May and June, intensity and greater weekly volume needs to be part of the game plan starting in March, leading to four or five solid months of working hard to make fitness and strength gains. At some point, giving your body and mind a complete break will help you advance; otherwise staleness, plateaus, and burnout can happen easily. The following are a few tips to help you structure a mid-season transition, to get you back on the path to making gains through the end of the season. Continue reading

Missing training – Adjusting the plan

Whether you train with a coach, on your own, or use a pre-written program, you are going to need to adjust your training program at times. General fatigue, lack of time, and life in general will always play a role in preventing training and missing training days. So what do you do? The good news is a few days missed will not affect training at all. It will throw you off a little both physically and mentally but there are ways to adjust.

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Adaptation to Training – How Strength Gains Happen

To make gains in fitness, daily consistent hard work to build training stress (and fatigue) is necessary in order to create the need for the body to adapt. How you adapt to the fatigue will solely depend on how you train, and what systems you targeted. Adapting, the part of training most commonly overlooked, all depends on how well you recover from the training fatigue you have accumulated. Individual responses to training stress may differ, depending on genetics and fitness levels; however, there will always be an individual limit to the level of fatigue that can be handled before you lose the ability to adapt to any amount of training stress.

The General Adaptation Syndrome, a three phase response to physiological stress, was introduced by Canadian biologist Hans Selye in 1936. John Garhammer, Ph.D., a specialist in biomechanics and physiology, later took Hans Seley’s work and applied it to resistance training and exercise conditioning. The work of Selye and Garhammer established the groundwork for learning how the human body reacts to training stress, and more importantly, how it adapts.

Let’s discuss and apply the three phases of the General Adaptation Syndrome (the alarm, resistance and exhaustion phase) to endurance training.

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The variables and trends of heart rate training

Since the invention of the wireless heart rate monitor in the late 1970’s1, heart rates have been widely used by athletes, coaches and exercise enthusiasts as an important guide to training intensity. Heart rate training has been viewed in many ways over the years, from very precise to not so precise. Now, a growing number of coaches and exercise physiologists support the use of heart rates as an important part of biological feedback, as heart rates are a direct reflection of what is happening internally. In order to understand how heart rate plays a key role in training, you must understand the trends and variables that are associated with it.

Heart Rate monitor

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Core Strength for Endurance

Most, if not all, athletic movements require you to activate your core group of muscles to help complete the movement. From a quarterback’s throw to the pedal stroke of a cyclist, your core provides you with the stability and power needed through every motion. Every time you lift your leg, you rely on core muscles to do so. Each time you hop a log with a bicycle, ride through technical terrain, or make a turn, you rely on core muscles. So during a long ride or a race, a core that fatigues fast will lead to weaker legs, upper torso, and arms, which will lead to a loss of power, loss of coordination, and a slower effort. A weaker core will ultimately reduce your overall potential as an athlete.

Building endurance requires a repetitive movement such as the repetitive movements used to run or ride a bike. When you think about it, while you’re running or riding your bike, your legs are moving anywhere between 4000 to 6000 repetitions an hour. That’s a lot of movement. Moving your legs that often over hours and hours of time builds endurance. Continue reading

Fall Season Training

The thought of fall racing is like the flick of a switch when cooler weather arrives. The need for arm warmers, light jackets, and lights are all fun thoughts to have. I like to think about the change in scenery, riding my bike or running in a new atmosphere, as well as what type of training I need to focus on. So, whether your goals are to prepare for shorter events such as cyclocross races on the bike or a half marathon on foot, you are going to need to be extra smart. A full year of training will provide plenty of wear and tear to your body.

Entering into the fall season and continuing to train with the same amount of volume and intensity is not wise. The body can only handle so much training stress in one season whether your limits are to race 20-30 times a year or 5-10 times a year. The goal for most is to push individual limits for the season, which means you are going to build a good amount of fatigue mentally and physically.

Jordan Villella

If the year has been a busy one with races and training, you are going to need to reduce your volume of training as you transition into fall. A primary goal should be to focus on shorter, harder efforts with plenty of easy days, and recovery days. This will help elicit further gains in top end power. If your year has been a light one with fewer races or hours, you may be able to handle more volume and intensity in the late season but you will still need to be smart about it. Continue reading

Heat Acclimation

Dealing with the heat, at least initially, is always an issue. I think it is fair to say that most if not all endurance athletes have experienced some degree of cramps at one time or another, and most likely while racing or training on a hot humid day. Even those who live in hot climates need to acclimate somewhat to the hotter conditions of the mid-summer months of June, July and August, especially if you plan to race during that time.

When it is hot, especially when temps are in the 90-100F (36-40C) range, your body needs to work harder to keep your core temperatures in a safe range to allow the organs to function normally.

Jason Betz

One of the ways your body keeps cool is by circulating blood to the skin. This allows the internal heat building inside to be transferred to the environment. Core temperatures of 104F (40C) have been observed with marathon athletes. So, transferring heat to the outside plays an important role in helping your core keep cool. Continue reading

Winter Training and Cycling

The extreme weather of each season makes training outdoors difficult, and at times, impossible. That does not always make it easy to maintain a steady training schedule, but that’s the way it goes. Both the cold temperatures of winter and precipitation can, in their own way, affect training outdoors. So, with seasonal limitations from Mother Nature in mind, you must keep realistic weekly goals, cross train with other activities, and ride outdoors when you can.

When temperatures are between 10-30F for most of the winter, and especially when there is precipitation along with those temperatures, indoor trainers provide the only option at times. Cycling indoors is different than riding outside, so logging a ton of hours inside often can be a tough task to accomplish. Continue reading