Stretching: Good Plan, Better Body, Best Athlete

In recent years a very heavy focus has been put on recovery and training.  With that the focus has become more and more prevalent in endurance sports as well.  Whether it is a post exercise drink, compression socks or the latest pill designed to aid recovery many will spend whatever it takes.  All money aside, an often neglected aspects of recovery is stretching.  We know that after a long ride, run or swim all you want to do is eat, get cleaned up and relax. While this is all good, adding a short stretching routine to your post-ride ritual can go a long way towards aiding recovery, preventing injury and maybe even gaining a little power on your next ride. The goal in stretching is to counteract the cycling posture and limited range of motion in the pedal stroke. If your muscles are not being used in their full range of motion they will shorten and become tight. That’s why often at the end of a long ride it can take a little effort to stand upright or bend your legs fully. By stretching them back out they retain their full range of motion.   The Benefits: Our bodies are designed to move in a full range of motion. On the bike, we are confined to a very limited range of motion: the upper body is bent forward and moves very little while the legs never fully extend or contract during the pedal stroke and so the muscles are shorter (“tighter”) than when you started. Just like the spokes on a wheel the musculature of the human body keeps us upright and functional through counter-tension. When the origin and insertion points of a muscle are brought closer, the muscle shortens in order to maintain this tension. When a muscle is chronically tight (i.e. not capable of fully extending and contracting) it throws the entire system off balance. That’s why when you have lower back troubles what first starts in your lower back can begin to creep down your leg and can creep all the way up to your neck if the issue is not addressed. If you are one of the lucky few and you’ve never experienced any soreness whatsoever or have no idea what I’m talking about, I can only say that prevention is a heck of a lot cheaper than treatment. But most people, from recreational riders to top pro tour riders, can all benefit from stretching. Not only for injury prevention but for power as well, a tight muscle requires more energy to move.  Loose and healthy muscles need less energy. Meaning it takes less effort to transfer force to the pedal. When to Stretch Within about 15min of finishing your ride so the muscles are still warm. Stretching muscles that haven’t been properly warmed up can lead to injury, so you want to make sure you haven’t cooled down too much before you stretch. Get cleaned up, get some hydration and get started. (I could write an entire article on hydration. But to be brief, it’s one of the easiest and most important ways you can take care of your muscles. Proper hydration throughout the day prevents injury and helps flush lactic acid from the muscles. It’s water, it’s totally free and it’s everywhere.)  Sample Routine The goal in stretching is to counteract the cycling posture and limited range of motion in the pedal stroke. If your muscles are not being used in their full range of motion they will shorten and become tight. That’s why often at the end of a long ride it can take a little effort to stand upright or bend your legs fully. By stretching them back out they retain their full range of motion. More important than stretching as deeply as you think you can is the length of time you hold the stretch. This isn’t about challenging yourself, that’s what the bike is for. Think of this as an opportunity to let your body know that you are still friends after you just abused it for hours on end. Find the point in the stretch when you start to feel it, but can comfortably hold it while breathing normally. Hold each stretch for 20sec to a minute (or longer if it feels particularly tight). You should be able to breathe fully and deeply. If you find yourself holding your breath or have difficulty breathing normally, back off until you can breathe comfortably. Side Stretch 

Standing up straight, bring your arms up over head and clasp your hands together with palms facing outward (towards the ceiling). Deep breath in and on the slow exhale, bend sideways keeping your arms stretched overhead.  Hold stretch and maintain normal breathing     Chest Opening

Standing upright, clasp hands behind back. Keeping your hands clasped with your arms straight, slowly raise your arms while extending your chest forward and up.       Downward Dog   

Laying on your stomach, push your upper body off the ground with your arms and hold. Feet can either be flat on the ground as in the picture or for a little deeper stretch you can push up onto the balls of your feet.   Supine Hamstring   

Lying on your back raise one leg while keeping the other flat on the ground. Keeping the leg straight raise it high as you can, grasping it with your hands.         Seated Hamstring 

Sitting on the floor with both legs straight out in front of you. Keeping your back straight, slowly lean forward reaching for your shins or ankles. Once you reach a point where you feel the stretch in the back of your legs you can lower your head to stretch your neck. Supine ITB Stretch

Lying on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other, take the top leg and bring it out in front until it’s at a 90 degree angle to the rest of your body (leg can be either straight or bent depending on flexibility). To deepen the stretch, turn neck and torso away from top leg.     Seated ITB Stretch   

Sitting on the floor with both legs straight in front of you, bend your right leg and cross over the left leg, placing the heel of your right foot next to the left knee (or closer to your hip depending on flexibility). Next, turning to the right, place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee and use it to push into the stretch, keeping your right hand on the ground for stability. Repeat on the opposite side. Runner’s Lunge 

Standing straight up, bend forward and place hands on ground on either side of feet, step one leg straight behind while front leg bends at a 90 degree angle (make sure the front knee does not extend beyond the toes). Keep the back leg straight behind resting on the ball of your foot or lower your back knee to the ground depending on flexibility. In just 10-15 minutes everyday (or at least after every workout) you can do yourself a world of good and keep riding strong all the way to the end of the season. If you have any questions be sure to contact us at scienceofspeed.org   PHOTOS BY ALICIA OSBORNE (aliciaosbornephoto.com)

Stage 2: A Start for First Timers

This years TdF has started off with victories from first time stage winners.  Today’s Stage win from Jan Bakelants was not only his first Tour de France Stage win but his first sizable win since 2008 when he won the Tour de l’Avenir. 

tdf13st02-win620

With a career plagued in injury, misfortune and close 2nd and 3rd place finishes it was certainly a well deserved day.  Today was no exception for his quality of performance, Bakelants appeared to be one of the strongest riders in the break and did his fair share to help a tough day turn out to be a success.  With a hard charging Peter Sagan, Jan Bakelants was able to hold on until the finish line for not only a 1 second victory but also the opportunity to spend Stage 3 in the yellow jersey. The day was not so enjoyable for many people though.  The second climb of the day, la Col de la Serra, lead to a great deal of riders dropping of pace including stage twos victor, Marcel Kittel.  Even though the yellow jersey will not rest on Kittel’s shoulders for day three he will still be given the honor of spending day three in the coveted green sprinters jersey. With a surprise filled first two stages the remainder of this Tour proves to be nothing short of exciting!

Managing Weight with Training Tools

The general population puts the majority of focus on weight numbers but as endurance athletes our goal is to make our bodies effective and efficient machines.  We already push ourselves physically and mentally and many focus on the effectiveness of our weight and bodies’ composition.  Power to weight is a great example of this efficiency, making each pound productive in reaching a final goal.  As athletes, one of the hardest things can often be maintaining weight during a taper or transition period when volume and/or intensity is low.  During these times it becomes more important to utilize many of the tools that are at our disposal including: testing, heart rate monitors, power meters and especially a 3 day nutrition log.

Calculating Your Burn Rate

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is a measurement of what our body would burn calorically if we were completely sedentary.  This number is what it takes our body to simply sustain life.  There are several things that can alter this including age, weight, body composition, supplementation, medications and stress.  Your numbers for RMR can be estimated with many online calculators, my personal favorite being at shapeup.org.  If you are looking to personalize it for yourself you can do a resting metabolic rate test, which we offer at Science of Speed.  This test gives you precise data that is specific to your own bodies needs and adds a much greater level of accuracy.

HR monitors and power meters can be a good way to gauge our total calories burnt.  Heart rate can have it’s inaccuracies, however, it can help you track your trends in training with your weight and allow you to become proficient at estimating your needed calories.  If you are looking to add an even greater level of accuracy power meters are an amazing tool for tracking caloric burn through kJ, which correlate roughly 1:1 into calories.  Tracking these numbers with RMR, and a calculated estimate of your daily activity can give you very reliable numbers for your overall needs.

Tracking it

By far the most successful thing that I have found for my own personal weight maintenance and many of my athletes’ success is completing a nutritional log.  It is certainly something that you can do daily but it can take a fair amount of time.  Doing a three day period, including one weekend day, monthly or bi-monthly gives a realistic gauge of consumption vs. burn.  I have found two great apps that have lead to great success for many of my athletes.  Trainingpeaks.com’s mobile app helps track training and nutritional data and makes it a one stop shop for all of my athletes to see their schedule, upload training files and input their dietary intake.  Not looking for something quite so detailed?  Another very useful app is MyFitnessPal.  It is free, very user friendly and has many great features.  With both of these you get the ability scan barcodes, create your own meals and most importantly get a breakdown of calories as well as your percentages of carbohydrates, fats and proteins that you consume.

Maintainence or Loss

Each day’s nutrition can vary drastically.  From the long training sessions that lead to high caloric burn and the rest days that result in very low caloric needs so too will your caloric intake needs vary.  Much like training, tracking our nutrition can be a very good thing to help take you to that next level but it can be taken to the extremes.  A safe approach to weight loss is moderate weight loss (1-2lbs/wk ¹) over an extended period of time and by properly monitoring your nutrition and workload with the above listed tools you can track this very precisely and effectively reach your own weight loss goals. So, take that next step and begin tracking your nutrition.  Don’t track the days that you know are your “good” days, instead get a realistic snapshot and take a critical look at it.  If it is overwhelming to track your own training progress, nutritional progress and everything else that is involved we are here to help you bring the science to your training and help you make it to whatever your next level may be.

¹ http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/aim_hwt.pdf

Equipment Like the Pros

Over the past week there has been a great deal of hype in the cyclocross world.  With the Elite men and women racing in Louisville for the first ever U.S. based Cyclocross Worlds.  If you have been reading through any of the cycling news based sites or magazines you would have noticed that there has been a great deal of focus on these important races.

One thing that has not been mentioned that has stood out to me is the story of current U.S. National Champion, Jonathan Page.  Through 2012 he has not had a bike sponsor, or title sponsor for that matter, and had been riding and racing on a Blue brand cyclocross bike.  After his Nationals victory he was signed by Fuji bikes, hardly one week before his largest race of the year. Here is what I see as a coach, bike fit specialist and athlete:

  • Even though as a professional and he has a full time mechanic to take care of his equipment and make sure it works well you drastically increase your risk of something going wrong.
  • When you have been training and racing on the same equipment for a whole season.  One week out you are now changing not only the bike but the fit and the way the bike handles.  As many of you know fitting is not always an instantaneous process and a fair bit of the fine tuning takes time.  Having a bike that doesn’t feel perfect has a big impact on not only comfort but confidence which ultimately can impact outcome.
  • As athletes we all fall prey to marketing hype, athlete promotion and “sex appeal” of equipment.  This is a perfect example in my eyes that a lot of times it comes down to money for so many athletes.  Keep in mind that your hero is working when they are training and racing.  A lot of the equipment comes down to a paycheck even if it isn’t the most optimal thing out there.  You can see this at some of the large races where a wheel is re-branded with another name but the dimpling clearly means it is a Zipp wheel.

What does this mean for you.  Be smart, remember that you do this for fun and because you love your sport.  If you are unsure of what to do research the product and if you can’t find anything try to find a friend or trusted source that has the knowledge to help you.  This could be your local bike shop or it could be your coach.  As coaches many of us pride ourselves in doing a fair number of research on a great deal of our sport to offer our athletes a less biased viewpoint.  

Press Release: Liz Gerrity Joins Rose Bandits!

For the 2013 cycling season, Science of Speed athlete, Liz Gerrity will be racing for The Rose Bandit Cycling Team.  Liz’s several years in the saddle have brought a great deal of success to her including many first place wins but the crowning jewel are her SECCC Time Trial Championship and her 2nd place finish in the Florida State CAT 1/2/3 Road Race Championships.  2013 is sure to bring a great deal of success for Liz and Science of Speed and her coach, Brady Irwin, can not wait to see all that we know she is capable of!

Phillipe Gilbert Wins World Road Championships!

With a leg shattering attack Phillipe Gilbert took the win in the final four minutes of today’s World Road Cycling Championships. His decisive move on the Cauberg left all other riders behind and only Edvald Boassan Hagen had enough strength in his legs to even consider chasing down the belgian’s jaw dropping attack.  

Mind of Matter!

Most recent blog from SoS’ very own Liz “Lizard” Gerrity: So i am filled with weird feeling today. I am filled with endorphins, as I am now doing 2-a-day VO2 intervals and my existence is marked by suffering. But in a good way. Every time i go out, i just pretend that I am battling with the forces of evil and I must crush them or resign all that is good and nice to an untimely destruction. It is empowering. But it is so easy to see an article like THIS one and feel like everything is just a waste of time. If Emma Pooley can’t keep herself on a team, what is there for a little lizard to reach for? It is easy to say it is unfair. It is easy to quit. But I cannot. What else is there?

Bike Racing Tactics 101

As my Twitter and Facebook followers might already be aware of, this past weekend I volunteered to help out with our local collegiate race.  I am glad I could help out because, if you have never promoted a race, there are a lot of parts to the puzzle and many of them can only be accomplished with the help of volunteers.  Everything with the race promotion was done very well and my hat is off to the crew of the Florida State cycling Club, however, as a coach and a racer there were two main things stood out to me over the weekend. The first and most frustrating was the time trial (TT) starts.  When you looked at the number of people that were starting off for the time trial I would guess that 40-50% of them were late for their start time.  Typically this would lead to a time penalty because you missed your posted time, however, since this was a smaller venue all of the riders who were late were gifted a later start time.  I have not had many of my athletes in my years of coaching miss a TT start, but if you ask the few that have they will tell you that my response to the news was not a pleasant one.  In a Time Trial often times it is a matter of seconds that can separate first and second place and if you stood a chance of winning you might have just lost that chance.  Being on time for a race is the easiest part of racing, so be responsible for yourself and if you are late take it like a man/woman, don’t hassle the official and you had better have a stellar performance to compensate for your tardiness. Road races are a thing of beauty, ability and tactics and for the road race that I followed I can say it was none of the above.  Since the race only consisted of 3 racers from the start I don’t know if you can even consider it a field, and since it was down to two riders by mile 3 I would have compared it to more of a time trial.  The one factor that kept this from happening though was the rider who took it upon himself to set the tempo for the first eight plus miles of the race.  The lesson was quickly learned though as the rider had been sitting on his wheel for the first 8 miles attacked on a longer climb as he sensed weakness in his competition.  The attack was nothing earth shattering, however, since his opponent had been pushing a strong tempo for the last 25 minutes there was not much need for a Cancellara style attack.  So what is the point I hope this young cyclist walked away with is that you do not have to set the pace and if you don’t have someone who is willing to work with you, you do not have to work with them either.  If there is a field large enough you do not have to stick with the break and can drop back and wait for another break that might suit you better.  In this case though my choice would have been to sit up and soft pedal which will either send the other rider to the front to keep the third rider from catching you or it turns into a game of cat and mouse with one attack followed by the other until the stronger rider prevails.  Think about the tactics of the day though and never feel like you are the only one doing the work if there isn’t someone you are working for.

Nutrition: The Skinny on Calorie Consumption and Exercising

Many times people begin running and cycling as a form of exercise to help with weight loss.  These are two activities that we either have fond childhood memories of, or we simply know that increasing our activity level will help reduce our statistics in the ever expanding American waistline. Unfortunately many individuals enter into this new exercise habit misinformed or unaware of what is required for the exercise time frame that they are out there for.  Many of us have heard that to lose weight calories out must be greater than calories in.  The downfall of this is that many have never been taught the timing of this calorie consumption and it leads to many people eating sparingly throughout the day, exercising after work and then gorging on the meal the last meal of the day.  This can lead to consuming far more calories than if we were to more evenly space out our actual calorie consumption taking several things into consideration:

  1. How many calories should you consume throughout the day.  There are many online calculators to figure this out
    1. One more accurate way is a Resting Metabolic Rate Test which we offer at Science of Speed
  2. What your physical activity level actually is
  3. When you tend to exercise during the day
  4. How long you exercise for

So for most people one and two make complete sense and loosely mean “Calories out are greater than Calories in.”  Now 3 and 4 are less common considerations for a great deal of people but here is why they are important.  If you are focusing on improving fitness as well as losing weight you will want to focus on fueling for your workouts.  This includes pre workout, during workout and then your post workout nutrition and is important because your body burns predominantly carbohydrates to fuel your workout for optimum performance.  Once you have this part figured out the next step is your exercise time and your total amount of calories required to lose the weight that you are shooting for. Weight loss information: 3500 Cal ~ 1lb of fat 1-2lbs of weight loss per week is considered healthy¹ To help with your long term success weight loss is not about a “diet” but about a lifestyle change To maintain weight loss, aim for at least 60-90 minutes of daily moderate physical activity¹ ¹http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/aim_hwt.pdf

UCI Para-Cycling Worlds Championships

If you happen to be in L.A. this weekend be sure to check this action out!  Go see SoS athlete Lisa Turnbull and her stoker, Karissa Whitsell to a great spot for the London Olympics.  Race hard gals, we know you will do GREAT!