Improve Bike Performance:

Threshold Intervals

We talk a great deal about the importance of intervals and how they make the most out of limited amounts of training time but they can also make you a much stronger athlete.  We have seen it come true for so many athletes that we are not only confident in the success rate of intervals, we are sure that they will help to improve bike performance for you as well.

How do you Improve your bike performance?

A great deal of the “how,” comes down to what your specific goal is.  Are you a Triathlete searching for the ability to grind out hours of smooth tempo?  Are you a road racer searching for the ability to hold a high sustained effort?  You might be an “Average Joe,” just like in Dodgeball, like so many trying to hang on to the “B” group in your local ride!  If you fall in to any of the three categories we have a great solution for you to reach your goals. Threshold Intervals are a great way to improve your bike performance.  These intervals are sustained efforts at intensities just below and right up to your Threshold Power/Heart Rate.  They can vary considerably in length based upon a riders fitness but ultimately they allow you to perform a great deal of intensity without requiring excessive amounts of recovery time. The ultimate goal of these intervals is to train your body to become more efficient at buffering, or getting rid of, the wastes that accumulate under sustained moderate intensity.   Are you looking to take your performance to a higher level? Get a fully customized training plan from your own personal Science of Speed Coach.  LEARN MORE

SAMPLE WORKOUT:

Warmup:

10-20 minutes (dependent upon rider preference)

Intervals:

8 minute Threshold intervals

4 minute rest

8 minute Threshold intervals

4 minute rest

8 minute Threshold intervals

4 minute rest

8 minute Threshold intervals

Cool Down:

10-15minAre you new to training or on a little tighter budget? Consider one of our static training plans to help you improve your performance!

Athlete Spotlight: Pete Butler

In May of 2014, nearly one year from his goal event, Pete came to SoS for help with his training. With a lofty goal of winning a Senior National Championship bike race in 2015 he knew that there was no time to waste.  A plan was laid out with his coach and Pete’s diligence, hard work and motivation to attain his goal kept him on track.  With early results included an 18% improvement in power in the first 3 months of training and continued progress in power output through the next nine months Pete was becoming sure of his ability. 

Cycling National Champion

On June 8th & 9th Pete was in Minneapolis, Minnesota and was excited to compete in his 40k and 20k road races.  He had his strategy for both days, he was excited and confident in his fitness from the training that he had done to get to this point.  Day one Pete attacked in the final meters of the race gapping the field and powering in to the finish line ultimately winning by several bike lengths.  Day two was so incredibly close that it ended up having to be reviewed by the race officials.  With several different types of records being consulted it was determined that Pete pipped his competitor at the line! He not only accomplished his goal of a National Championship but came away from his racing having received TWO National Championships. 

Cycling National Champion

When asked what his biggest challenge was in accomplishing his goal, Pete’s response was “balancing life and cycling.” To help maintain this balance Pete put a cap on his training of 12 hours per week.  This stipulation made it crucial to turn every minute of Pete’s training into quality training time.  There was no fluff training, no LSD training but there was the fun of racing and group rides and ultimately quality time with his wife, Karen, and daughter and son, Anna Grace & Paul. Keep your eyes peeled for Pete on your next group ride, event or race.  He will be the guy with the ear to ear smile, encouraging others, helping the local junior team foster new up and coming athletes and at times putting others in the hurt locker!   Congratulations Pete, we are very proud of you and all you have accomplished!  Very few athletes have the opportunity to put on the stars and bars in cycling and you have achieved an amazing accomplishment!   Are you interested in achieving goals like Pete?  Learn more about our coaching packagesWhat is the Athlete Spotlight?

4 Keys to Training in the Heat

Train Safely in the Heat

This time of year in the Southeast the

 heat can be nearly unbearable but that doesn’t mean you have to stop training all together.  During my threshold workout yesterday in the 95 deg, 100% humidity weather as the sweat was dripping on the top tube of my bike I thought, “what better time to discuss this than now!” Training can be done in nearly any climate but there are four key factors that need to be consider as you are training in the heat and they include your timing, intensity, hydration and clothing selection. Timing Timing is everything!  If you have not been out in the heat of the day doing any type of exercise it is important to prepare your body for the stressors that will come. Gradually build up your time in the early morning rides and let your body acclimate to the longer bouts of training and increasing heat as the day progresses. If the heat of the day is the only time you have available to ride be sure to keep your initial rides short.  Spending no more than 30 minutes in the heat the first week and drinking more fluids that you typically would on a ride will all help your body in the acclimation process and keep you safe. Intensity You might not be able to ride at any time other than the middle of the day when the sun is blazing down on you and you feel the 130 degree heat radiating off the jet black asphalt.  This is no time to be out trying to accomplish your hardest VO2 workout.  As your workload increases your muscles generate large amounts of heat and make it more difficult for your body to cool itself.  Lowering intensity is helpful in maintaining a proper core temperature and can be instrumental in regulating body temperature. Hydration Whether it is hot or cold outside maintaining proper hydration levels is extremely important.  We typically discuss this regarding peak performance because minimal changes in total body water can result in extensive decreases in performance.  In this instance our goal is safety, not performance, and minimum intakes are usually thrown out the window.  Several key notes to keep in mind is that a cold drink is absorbed into the body more easily but it also helps to cool your core.  Either using insulated bottles and packing them with ice or stopping at filling stations more frequently will help keeping water cool. Clothing Long gone are the days of the extreme dehydration style workouts.  Where athletes would “train” their bodies to work without fluids.  As our knowledge of the human body has increased, so to has the clothing.  now you will find lines purposed for varying weather conditions.  The most basic information for clothing during the summer is that it should be something that “breathes” very well and is a thinner material. Base layers are worn year round now and there are some for cold weather and some for the heat.  I personally wear a base layer year round and in the summer months I find it more advantageous.  A base layer’s goal in the summer months is to effectively increase the body’s surface area, much like a car’s radiator, and aid in the evaporation process, which cools your body.  You might find that the first few minutes of riding will feel a touch warmer until the base layer is wet with sweat but once that is accomplished you will begin to notice the differences. Signs of dehydration/heat exhaustion Preparing for your rides/events is crucial but sometimes the conditions are drastically different than what you have prepared for.  Ironman Couer d’Alene this year was a perfect example.  Athletes normally experience highs in the low to mid 80’s but for 2015 the high hit 108deg.  There is no possible way that any athlete had properly prepared for this event, however, there were athletes that still finished the day.  Many medics and officials were looking for several key signs that athletes were experiencing which included:

  • Sweating cessation
  • Chills
  • Confusion
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting

If you begin to experience any of these symptoms it is important to have someone who can help monitor you, seek cooler temperatures (air-conditioning is best), lower core temperature with a bath or other means such as fans or iced towels. The heat is nothing to joke about and if improper response to heat exhaustion is given it could result in severe injury or even death.   Looking to improve your fitness even with the heat?  One of our SoS coaches can assist you with your training, nutrition and hydration to make sure you are making the best decisions possible.  LEARN MORE

Gettin’ Dirty at the Dirty Kanza

The landscape was a vivid green this year at the Dirty Kanza bike race.  It wasn’t because that is what Kansas normally looks like in the month of May but because of the exorbitant amounts of rain that fell throughout the state.  The Flint hills where the race was help was no different but the one thing the lush green grass did not show was the thick black mud that had the consistency of peanut butter. In the weeks leading up to the event I developed tendonitis in my ankle due to excessively worn cleats (check your cleats!) and because of this had to downgrade to the 100mile race, which in hindsight was a blessing.  The ride started off just as I had hoped for.  I was towards the middle of the field at the beginning and was able to work my way up into the top 20 riders within the first mile of the rollout.  The pace picked up and we eased through the first 10 miles at a 20mph pace, weaving through DK200 riders trying to find a good line in order to keep the bike up right.  Then reality hit.  We came to a traffic jam.  Frame packing mud as thick as peanut butter.  Some tried riding it but found quickly that it not only brought them to a halt but added another 10lbs of weight to their tires and frame.  We shoulder our bikes and began hiking.  What we thought would just be to the top of the hill ended up revealing a long line of riders snaking over the hillside with their bikes shouldered trudging through the sloppy mud for what ended up being four miles with my Trek Boone slung over my shoulder for the entire hour. Through the mud with a clean bike because it didn’t touch the ground and I was on my way unlike many others forced to stop and clean out their bikes. My legs felt amazing, my mood was positive (I excel in muddy conditions) and the wind out of the North was a constant reminder that I was back in the place I grew up riding.  When we turned north for a long stretch I was alone for several miles and as I turned back I saw a rider 30 seconds behind.  I waited up and we rode together for some time taking turns pulling into the head wind.  At mile 40-45 I hit a dark place and Eric, from Kansas City, pressed on.  I realized I had fallen behind on my nutrition and at 3 hours in I had only consumed my first 90 minutes of nutrition.  I ate EVERY in my pocket and within 10 minutes I was back in good spirits and feeling the benefits of the calories consumed. 

At our support stop in Cottonwood Falls, KS, I found my dad, who topped my bottles off got my chain re-lubed while I was stuffing my pockets with the remainder of my planned nutrition and ate and slammed a bottle of osmo nutrition before I hit the road.  I felt amazing, my legs weren’t fatigued and I was having FUN!  Conveniently I caught back up with Eric at that stop, since my rock star pit stop father got me in and out in less than 5 minutes, and we rode together again.  Several miles out we hit a “minimally maintained road” and went up a steep climb.  I stood to apply power to the pedals and BOOM.  My knee popped and stopped me dead in my tracks.  Pretty sure I cursed because Eric turned to see what was wrong.  He waited and since I just met him I told him to go on.  I took a moment to regain my composure and tried to go on.  I had no problem on the flats or descents but any time power went over 150 Watts a searing pain shot through my leg.  After 3 miles of attempting this I was forced to abandon. Althought I was angry I was unable to finish, I am not discouraged by this because I know that with the training I had put in this year I have a very good chance of doing extremely well next year.  For now though my goal is to get my leg straightened out and ready to get back into a little different type of training than I have ever done!

The Myth of the Life Long Fit

The level at which an individual can meld physiology, biomechanics, ergonomics and art is what makes a bike fit specialist either good or amazing. As you may know from personal experience this can make your riding experience pleasurable or painful.  No matter your level of cycling ability, you are an athlete.  You push your body, you train yourself to do more and more mileage or you push yourself to ride faster and faster.  With this in mind, an athlete is constantly changing and because of that your bike fit changes as well. This might be hard for some to imagine but that position that was set up for you two years ago, that you have been comfortable to ride, train and race with might not be optimal for you any longer.  There are a multitude of things that can change this position the three most common changes that we see are: Variability in adiposity:  Let’s be honest, many of us get on a bike to either lose weight or maintain weight and this is a large factor in fitting.  Changes as little as five pounds in adipose tissue can result in a change in position.  This little change can make a saddle more or less comfortable, change hand pressure, allow for positional changes of handlebars and smooth the pedal stroke. Changes in core strength:  Core strength does not only refer to that shredded six pack abs.  The core strength that this is referring to is the entire region between your chest and pelvis.  This is your stabilizing platform on a bike and helps you to generate power, support yourself on the bike and can have a big impact on your comfort as the ride gets longer and muscles begin to fatigue.  Changes in core strength can mean saddle position changes to a more powerful position that we were not able to support previously and handlebar changes for improved aerodynamics. An athlete’s fitness: As we become more fit cardiovascularly and gain bike specific strength we are able to modify our position.  This added strength can result in changes in flexibility which can alter position. The important part is assessing your changes since you last had a bike fit.  Have you increased your saddle time by 10-20% a week or more?  Has your event specificity changed (i.e. 20 mile rides to century rides)?  Has your weight fluctuated by 10lbs or more?  Have you done our core workout or another one for several months?  Are you having discomfort on the bike? If you answered yes to 2 or more of the above questions you should seriously consider updating your fitting to optimize your position.   Schedule your Fitting Online or via Phone

How to Use Your Heart Rate Monitors and Power Meters More Effectively

n my years of running, riding, training, racing and coaching I have had the experience to come across thousands of people who own heart rate monitors and power meters.  As I became more versed in training, physiology and how each device could be best utilized I realized that at best 5% of the people who have these amazing aids are underutilizing the full power of the tools they have at their hands.  The simple question of “What is your power at threshold?” or “What is your heart rate threshold?” has often led to blank stares.  If you have a Garmin or Polar heart rate monitor or one of the many power meters that are out there and you feel that you fall into this stereotype let us help you get started with more accurate training.

Test your Fitness:

Use your HR monitor and Power Meter to their fullest

Without a baseline it is difficult to know where the current fitness level is which helps you know where to begin.  This baseline number is achieved through testing which can be done with a field test or in a lab test, like a lactate threshold test.  At SoS, one of the ways we have our athletes gauge fitness is by performing 2 field test efforts that are 10 minutes in length.  We have found that the numbers these two efforts produce are very accurate.

Create Training Ranges:

Training ranges allow you, as an athlete, to know how to more effectively utilize your training tool.  Based on the numbers that you produce during your testing you can create training ranges.  These numbers are used to help you focus on precise energy systems that the body utilizes during century rides, triathlons or bike races.

Training:

The testing has been done, the ranges have been created and now it is the utilization of those ranges.  Dependent upon what your goals and ambitions are will determine what you do with these ranges.  If you are looking at gaining some fitness but don’t really want to do intervals you can use it on your rides to gauge your intensity effort.  If you are looking for improvements, and fast, this will give you the best gauge of where your intensity needs to be.  Whether it is with the knowledge of a coach or your own knowledge, the amount of time that you need to stay at each intensity level is the other key factor in this equation.

How to Use your HR monitor or Power Meter

Think of these new ranges as a tachometer in a car.  If you are working with a Formula 1 engine and are going off of numbers for a Toyota Corolla you are not stressing the body enough, inversely, if you are working with the Formula 1 numbers and have a Corolla engine things will catastrophically fail.Now, GO, test and train!  If you are not sure of how to do this we can help.  Whether it be our knowledgeable coaching staff or our lab to perform lactate threshold and VO2max testing we can steer you in the direction to improve the usage of your training tools.

Bike Fit: Cleat Replacement

The most commonly neglected piece of equipment in cycling that we see during our Retul bike fits are cleats.  When riding we frequently clip in and out wearing the engagement points, walk on them, drag them across the ground as stopping (don’t do that!) and quite frankly I believe we forget they even exist.  Whether you are riding 10 miles at a time or hundreds of miles at a time these little pieces of plastic and metal play a much more important role than you might know.

Look Cleats
 Cleat on Right shows excessive wear with a broken off tab that holds the clean in the pedal

In bike fitting we focus on decreasing the risk of injury while trying to balance the ability to produce power and optimize a rider’s position for aerodynamics.  These factors might not all be important to you but for everyone who rides we know that injury prevention is a priority.  This injury prevention is directly correlated to position and quality of your points of contact with your bike.  Your first point of contact with the bike is the pedals and with cleats these are not able to be changed while pedaling.  With this being the case it becomes more important to make sure your first point of contact with the bike is at its best.

Even with a proper bike fitting riders with overly worn cleats can begin to notice signs of discomfort including, but not limited to, foot numbness, knee pain and hip pain.  If this becomes severe enough it could ultimately lead to time off the bike and away from training.  A newer set of cleats increases the stability of the foot’s positioning with the pedal which provides a solid foundation for a fitting to be based on.

Look bicycle cleats worn
 The nose of the left cleat is worn and can be a hazard for un-clipping under load

There are many factors that play into cleat wear with include how much you walk on them, the quantity of training and if you have any pedaling irregularities which create greater friction. There are several signs though that you can look for to verify the state of urgency.

Shimano Cleats –  With a very simple colored marker on the cleat (typically yellow), you can tell when these cleats are worn by the changes in the cleat.

Look Style Cleats – These are very common cleats and are frequently under maintained.  There is no clear marker on these.  With the “gripper” style cleats once the rubber is gone you need to replace them.  Non-gripper cleats do not have an indicator so you will need to pay closer attention to and replace once they begin to get roughed up.

SpeedPlay Cleats – The metal plate does not make these invincible!  These cleats hold  up a bit better than either of the other styles, however, if you wait too long you increase the risk of not being able to get the screws out.  Once these begin to wear or once you notice visible wear on the inner circle of the cleat it is time to replace the cleat.

If you are unsure of whether you need to purchase new cleats you can bring them in to Science of Speed or take the to your LBS for a knowledgeable opinion.

– On Resin based pedals, without a metal plate where the cleat contacts, it becomes even more important to regularly replace your cleats.  Any wear or roughness of the cleat acts like sandpaper and can create grooves in the surface of your pedal forcing you to buy new pedals sooner than you might have hoped.– Not replacing your cleats frequently enough can result to unclipping under higher loads whether sprinting or pedaling hard.

Do you need to get your bike fit?  Schedule a fitting with a Science of Speed fit professional today to make sure you are in the optimal position for your goals.

Weight

A common misconception is that all endurance athletes fit into the same mold, that in order to be serious about your sport you need to look like a pro. What you find when you look at the pro peleton is that there is a wide variety of body types present. Just because Chris Froome looks like a praying mantis on his bike doesn’t mean that a rider of similar stature will have the same ideal racing weight. Marcel Kittel is of a similar height but probably has about 40lbs on Froome. If Kittel had tried to drop that much weight he would probably wind up getting shelled out the back of his local club ride instead of being one of the top sprinters in the world. Forcing yourself into a target weight that is unnatural for your body type and build is not only unhealthy it can also rob you of training gains and cause your performance to suffer. When the body is chronically malnourished it is not getting the necessary nutrients to recover and rebuild from training. Resulting in little or no gain in fitness. Sometimes even a loss. Brad Huff is a professional rider who spent a couple years struggling to drop weight and actually wound up performing worse as his weight went down. Once his coach helped him figure out the problem he actually started the next season at a higher weight than he’d ever had before as a professional and his performance increased dramatically. That’s not to say small adjustments can’t be made to find an ideal racing weight but you’ve got to be smart about it. In order to lose weight at a healthy rate, knowing your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is extremely helpful. BMR is the number of calories needed for basic body function. The number varies greatly from person to person and in order to get an accurate number you need to take a BMR test. BMR tests take about 45min to complete and are extremely easy. There are plenty of online calculators out there to guess your BMR but they are wildly inaccurate and can vary by hundreds of calories from one calculator to the next. When you’re looking at maintaining a 300-500 calories a day deficit for healthy weight loss, that kind of inaccuracy can really create problems. Armed with an accurate BMR you can track your energy expenditure from day to day using either  a power meter or any number of algorithms that use, average heart rate, speed and elevation to calculate energy expenditure. Again, the more accurate the better. Where can you take a BMR test? Right here at Science of Speed! Do you have any questions regarding Diet and Nutrition? Send us an email and we will try to get it answered in our upcoming lecture (June 12th).

Interval Training

Since the beginning of this year, Science of Speed coach Trevor has been on a new interval training plan. We tested his LT/Vo2 max before the start of the training and again 4 months later. In that time, he showed at 3% increase in power at threshold. We sat down and discussed how the training’s been going for him: Q: How long have you been riding? A: Years and years, as a commuter. I owned a car for about 6 months when I was 18 and I hated it. I’ve been riding every day ever since. Nothing serious until I did my first bike race on a steel commuter with front/rear fenders and a rack 4 years ago and I’ve been obsessed ever since. Q: How long have you been training? A: Since that first race 4 years ago. No real structure to it though. Just lots and lots of riding. Q: How long have you been doing intervals? Had you done any before? A: I started in January. Before that, the closest I came to interval training was when I would go for all the sprints on a group ride. Q: How has it affected your training? Right off the bat I learned I was capable of more than I thought I was, intensity-wise. Before doing Vo2 intervals, I did everything I could to avoid sprinting. I hated it. After a couple of months of focusing on Vo2, I realized I just never really tried to go that hard before. There’s been a definite improvement there. Time-wise there’s been a big change as well. Before this year, I just tried to ride as much as possible and hit the group rides hard. I would try to ride every day as much as possible. Doing interval workouts on weekdays and taking rest days has actually shortened the amount of time I ride by quite a bit, freeing me up to do other things. Q: How has this changed your fitness? A: Again, I think a big part was just never really going as hard as I could on a regular basis. Before doing intervals, I just assumed if I went out on the group ride and rode hard then I was getting a good workout. I definitely made improvements that way but only up to a certain point. Last year I felt like I’d hit a plateau. In the last 4 months I’ve made more improvements across the board than I did over the entire season last year. Science of Speed offers a wide variety of training plans, from fully customized individual plans to static training plans. Contact us today and let us help you take your performance to the next level!

Knowing When It’s Time to REST

The idea behind any training is to stress the body to the point that it has to make an adaptation in order to handle the training load. It’s only by resting that the body can effectively repair itself and improve. Finding the balance between training and rest can be challenging though. For some athletes, the problem is not finding the motivation to train it’s knowing when to stop and rest. Highly motivated athletes often run the risk of over training, resulting in not only a lack of gains but actually losing fitness. As they continue to push themselves past exhaustion the quality of their workouts begin to suffer and they are no longer capable of pushing themselves hard enough to actually accomplish anything and it simply becomes a death march. Another common issue is training through an injury. Aches and pains come with the territory and sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between soreness and an actual injury. It’s always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to pain, especially early in the season when a serious issue can ruin the entire year if it isn’t handled properly. Due to the repetitive motions and long hours of training in endurance sports, seemingly insignificant issues can become big problems if they are ignored. When treating an injury, always remember: ICE. The answer 99.9% of the time is ice, not heat. Heat encourages blood flow and as a result, inflammation. Which is the last thing you want. Icing a sore spot for 15-20 minutes, getting it elevated and taking a few days off the bike is the best way to get you back on the road as soon as possible. So how much rest is enough? One day of complete rest a week is usually plenty. Changing how you approach rest after your workouts can help a lot as well.Taking the time to replenish fluids and nutrients, stretching and putting your legs up in the 30 minutes following your workout will help you more in the long run than extending your ride by another 30 minutes and then rushing home to do the yard work. Some days it’s all you can do to fit the workout in and that’s fine, just make the effort when you can.