Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Multi Sport Training

Can you be good at everything? Okay, you know the answer to that one, I’m sure. Well then, how many things, like sports, do you think you can be good at, concurrently? I don’t just mean passable at; I mean really, really good at. Like reaching your full potential. Like winning almost every race you go to in multiple sports. Like going to the World Championship in multiple sports. That kind of good.

Does that sound like a dumb question? I hope not because I have lots of people ask me, and they are very smart folks. They simply want to participate in two (or more) sports and do as well as they possibly can in both (or all) – not just finish.

There have been few pro athletes who have tried anything like this. The only one who comes to mind right now is Michael Jordan who retired from basketball to give baseball a try. It didn’t work out for him. But even he didn’t try to play both sports at the same time, even though both involve a ball.

This is what many age group athletes want to do – race in two sports. Not just participate. That is easy to do. Anyone can sign up for races in different sports and have twice as much fun on any given weekend. What I’m talking about is racing competitively and winning at a high level. This is not nearly as common, although a few do manage to pull it off. But very few.

Former pro triathlete Cameron Widoff comes to mind. For several years he was the most successful American at Ironman Hawaii when it comes to consistent top 10 finishes – and he also raced his bike competitvely. Someone else who managed to pull it off for a while was Lance Armstrong who in the late 1980s and early1990s was primarily a triathlete but dabbled in bike racing - and became pretty good at the second sport. And so eventually he gave up triathlon (word is that he’s considering triathlon again for the future). In fact, the athletes who ask me most about doubling up are triathletes who also want to be road cyclists. After all, they always point out to me, both involve cycling.

I really do hate to rain on peoples’ parades, but when they ask me I feel a need to be honest. Sign up and have fun but don’t expect to be the best you can possibly be at two different sports. And the sports of triathlon and road bike racing really are different despite having a bike involved in each of them. Bike racing success depends on anaerobic fitness. It always comes down to three-minute or shorter episodes. Triathlon is a fully aerobic sport. There is no anaerobic in triathlon. It never comes down to a three-minute episode. And the people who are serious about bike racing – your intended competition – ride a lot of miles every week. A lot. They don’t run and swim or do anything else that takes energy and time away from bike training. And, no, there is so little crossover of fitness from one sport to the next that it’s a non-issue. Your running and swimming will not make you better when on a long climb you have to put out 350 watts or get dropped. And that’s what competitive bike racing is all about.

Let me tell you about an athlete I coached for many years. We’ll call him “Ralph.” Ralph liked to be competitive in both sports. At the end of each season we’d have this conversation about next year. I’d ask him if he wanted to stay with two sports or focus on one. And I always assured him he would be much more competitive if he did focus. Ralph was already quite accomplished in both sports with a spot on Team USA for the World Triathlon Championship and top 5 finishes in his state road cycling championship for his age group. He always said that he enjoyed both and wanted to continue training and racing in two. Then in the early spring a few seasons back he came up lame with a running injury that just wouldn’t go away no matter what we did or how much he rested it by not running. So I suggested that he just race his bike to let the injury heal. No more running for a while. He reluctantly agreed. Know what happened? His Functional Threshold Power (an indicator of bike fitness) increased by more than 15% in a six weeks. That’s unheard of for someone who had been riding for decades. The reason why is because all of his training energy and time now went into only one sport. He was no longer a Jack-of-all-trades. He was a specialist. At the end of that season he decided to stick with bike racing and forego triathlon. That was two years ago and he is still going strong as a bike racer.

Ralph isn’t the only one. A few years ago I was also forced to give up running after 50 years. A knee just wouldn’t take it any more. So I became a bike racer also. I had the same experience as Ralph. Even though I had been riding a bike competitively for 25 years I became a much stronger cyclist. Now at age 65 I ride with young guys whose wheels I couldn’t hold just a few years ago. Do I miss running? Sure. It was the love of my life for a half century. But I also love riding a bike stronger than I ever have, and in the seventh decade of my life.

Now I know someone is going to jump to the conclusion that I am a snob who doesn’t think people should participate in sport just to have fun regardless of how many sports that may involve. Please note that this is not what I’m saying. I have absolutely no problem with athletes doing as many sports as their hearts desire. The more the merrier. I used to do that myself. I’m only saying that if you want to excel at sport you can’t spread yourself thin. You only have so much energy and so much time. The higher your goals, the more you must focus on a single sport.

Joe Friel

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Wee Sunday Ride

Not  far today, 0nly 17 miles but 2,400 ft of up reaching the 3 highest points in the Glen

Friday, 18 September 2009

New Track

We have a new black/red run up and running. Steep gnarly and requiring bum off the back on the tread. I could tell you where it is but I have decided that I will only tell customers!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Groups Are Key To Good Health

New research by the Universities of Exeter and Queensland, Australia, shows that membership of social groups has a positive impact on health and well-being. The work highlights the importance of belonging to a range of social groups, of hanging onto social groups, and of building new social groups in dealing with life changes such as having a stroke and being diagnosed with dementia.

Writing in Scientific American Mind, the researchers from the Universities of Exeter, Queensland and Kansas review a number of previous studies, including many of their own, which identify a link between group membership and physical and mental health. Some more recent studies which support the same conclusion are presented by the Exeter-based researchers at the British Science Festival.

Commenting on this work, Professor Alex Haslam of the University of Exeter, said: "We are social animals who live and have evolved to live in social groups. Membership of groups, from football teams to book clubs and voluntary societies, gives us a sense of social identity. This is an indispensable part of who we are and what we need to be in order to lead rich and fulfilling lives. For this reason groups are central to mental functioning, health and well-being".

These conclusions are based a number of recent studies which were reviewed in the article and presented at the Science Festival. These included:

  • A 2008 study (published in Neuropsychological Rehabilitation) of stroke sufferers. This showed that being able to maintain valued group memberships played as important a role in positive recovery as an ability to overcome cognitive difficulties (e.g., problems with memory and language). After their stroke, people's life satisfaction increased by 12% for every group membership that they were able to retain.
  • A 2009 study (in press at Ageing and Society) of residents entering a new care home. This showed that those who participated as a group in decisions related to the decoration of communal areas used those areas 57% more over the next month and were far happier as a result. In contrast, the use of space by residents in a control group declined by 60%. Moreover, these differences were still apparent three months later.
  • Another 2009 study (under review at Psychology and Aging) looked at the impact of group interventions on the health and well-being of 73 people residing in care. After a period of six weeks the researchers found that people who took part in a reminiscence group showed a 12% increase in their memory performance, while those who received individual reminiscence or a control intervention showed no change.
  • Another 2009 study (in press at the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology) also studied nursing home residents and looked at the relationship between their sense of identity and well-being and the severity of their dementia. The study's key finding was that a strong sense of identity associated with perceived membership of social groups, was a much better predictor of residents' well-being than their level of dementia.

Summarizing this and other work in the article, Professor Jolanda Jetten from the University of Queensland commented: "New research shows just how important groups and social identity are to well-being. This is something that people often overlook in the rush to find medical solutions to problems associated with ageing, but it is time that these factors were taken much more seriously".

Dr Catherine Haslam of the University of Exeter, another of the works' co-authors, agrees: "On the basis of what is now a very large body of research we would urge the medical community to recognize the key role that participation in group life can play in protecting our mental and physical health. It's much cheaper than medication, with far fewer side effects, and is also much more enjoyable."

Indoor Workouts

With Autumn and Winter around the corner, heres 3 training sessions from a proffessional coach for Tri indoor cycle sessions which are equally relevant to XC and Roadies. Enjoy the pain:

Many of us do not enjoy the ‘pleasures’ of training on a stationery trainer. “Boring”, ”mind-numbing”, “a drag” are three phrases often associated with indoor trainers.

Most experts say that one does not have to invest as much time on the indoor trainer as you do on the road. The reason is that the intensity is higher. In general, a 60-minute workout is enough for most of us. Lets look more closely at indoor training:

Some Questions:

Is indoor training as beneficial as outdoor?
I get asked this question repeatedly. The cycling purists will say "No, it is not the same." Most of them are full time professional cyclists. They also often get to train in warmer more hospitable climates in winter. Most triathletes are not in that position.

What do you lose on training indoors?
For me, the biggest “loss” is the road handling skills and riding in the weather conditions. That is, riding in windy and wet weather that we may compete in. I have done many time trials on indoor trainers and ridden excellent times but could not match them on the road. One of the reasons for this was not learning to ride in all types of weather conditions.

Strive for a balance.
If at all possible I suggest a balance of indoor and outdoor training in winter. I know from many months spent in Europe that there is plenty of opportunity to ride in the late morning. Thus, if you are a working triathlete, then try to do your long rides outdoors over the weekend. This helps you keep your road skills up to scratch. However, sometimes the weather seems so uninviting that it is more appealing to be indoors. My reply is "do it!" Training must remain enjoyable as much as possible.

What are the advantages of indoor bike training?
There are a number of positives to training indoors. No interruptions for one. On an indoor trainer you never have to stop for traffic lights, cars or pedestrians.

  1. Intensity
    The quality of your session is generally of a high standard on an indoor trainer. You work hard at a higher HR compared to outdoors.

  2. Improves pedal stroke
    I have experienced an improved cadence and pedal stroke after using indoor trainers. The trainers compel you to pedal properly and quickly highlights where any deficiencies may lie.

  3. Saves time and aids recovery
    For those who are constantly juggling time around to accommodate training, indoor training need not take the same time as outdoors. One’s power output is often higher on an indoor trainer meaning you can “do more for less” Not only does this save you time but it also means you have longer to recover.
    Get past the mindset that “longer is better”. I have sufficient training evidence to show that 1-hour of indoor 3 –4 times/week keeps you in great shape.

Be Aware…
Your liquid intake on an indoor trainer is usually higher than outdoors. It is easier than you think to dehydrate on an indoor. This is because your fluid loss is higher inside than outdoors. Usually, this dehydration takes place over a few days. I have ridden indoors for a few consecutive days and after a while I began to feel lethargic and weak. Tests confirm dehydration. You certainly can dehydrate in one session if you are not in good shape or you ride for an extended time on the indoor trainer. Each body is different but my rough guide is to double my fuel intake if I train indoors. This is certainly not a rule that is “cast in stone”. Make sure you hydrate and eat after your indoor sessions.

Keep spare clothes
Due to the increased sweat loss, I often need to change clothes in a session. It pays to keep dry as the wet clothes can cause a drop in body temperature and if your body is sufficiently vulnerable at the time, this may lead to a viral infection or common cold.

I hope I have sufficiently helped to make you more favorable towards indoor sessions. To finish off, here are three sample sessions for you to try….enjoy!

Session 1

  • Warm up: 10-15 minutes. Ride easy gears and spin for the most part.

  • Part 1: Do 15 minutes of 15-30 seconds sprints. If you sprint 15 seconds, recover for 45sec. If you sprint for 30 seconds, recover for 60-70 sec. If you like, you can take a 3-4 minute break after 7minutes. (Depends on your condition) Select a gear that you would use in a road sprint.
    Recover 5 minutes after part 1.

  • Part 2: Longer intervals. This part will take around 20 minutes.
    Do 60 seconds intervals. Recover for 90-120seconds. You can choose your recovery time depending what you want to train. Shorter intervals means training lactate tolerance, longer intervals trains ATP-ADP conversion.

  • Part 3: Warm down for 10 minutes. The total session should take around 60 minutes or so.

Session 2

  • Warm up: Include your warm up time.

  • Part 1: 20(40), 40(20), 60(60), 40(20), 20(40) - 2x
    Recovery time in bracket expressed in seconds. So, you sprint for 20 seconds, recover for 40, sprint for 40, recover for 20 etc.
    This training is challenging but it goes quickly. Repeat this drill twice but recover for 5minutes between sets. You can add another set if you really enjoy this.
    Again, recover for 5 minutes between part 1 and 2.

  • Part 2: 2min hard, 4minutes easy - 3x
    This part does not require you to go flat out. Use the 2 minutes as a sustained effort rather than a flat out affair. Keep HR out of the anaerobic zone. Ride at your aerobic threshold level….that is below race pace. This type of interval really asks you to keep up a pace. Your aim is more of an endurance effort, burning slower and more efficiently. As an example, if you normally average 35 km/hr on a flat course on a race, work on riding at 31-32km/hr per 2 minute interval. Ensure you do not go into the anaerobic zone.

  • Warm down: As always leave about 10 minutes to warm down.

Session 3

  • Warm up for 10-15 minutes.

  • Resistance training:
    You need to change the resistance on the trainer. Take it down 2-3 levels. It must not be impossible to pedal in the big chain ring though.
    Ride 5 minutes in big chain ring at heavier resistance. Recover for 4 minutes.
    Do 3-4 repeats. This is not a sprint up the hill but rather a sustained effort. This part of the session encourages strength endurance. Your HR need not go into the anaerobic level. It can also be in your aerobic threshold zone. In other words, below race pace. If you find you cannot prevent going anaerobic, reduce the resistance level.

  • Warm down. This can be a tough session if you’re not accustomed to climbing

From "Triathlete" Coaching

Thursday, 10 September 2009


With a loft with over 3,500 35mm slides in boxes and slide carousels from climbing, skiing and rescues, and now hundreds of high resolution digital pics, it's hard to remember where I either took them or what it was. This one is in a folder for avalanche lectures from back in the day when I used to teach avalanche and off piste safety. I have dozens of pics of rescues that I have taken over the years, but this looks like France as it's sunny and Scottish avalanches are often in full conditions. This is touring and most likely Le Fornet Val d Isere. Could be from HAT

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Are You Race Ready (or Toast)

Projecting Race Readiness

A unique useage of the WKO+ software is projecting what to expect on race day. Accompanying is a screen shot of a Fitness-Fatigue-Form projection for an athlete I coach who has two A-priority races in the next two weeks - the Record Challenge TT in New Mexico on September 6 and one week later the State TT Championship (click to expand). The horizontal axis represents time from the start of his training season in November of 2008 (and recovery from a crash almost immediately) until September 13, 2009.

What I've done here is to determine what the daily workout Training Stress Scores (TSS) need to be during his Peak period in order to produce a Training Stress Balance ('Form') of about +20. This helped me to decide on workout intensities and durations for each day of the Peak period. You can see here that his Form worked out to +21 for the first race and +22 for the second. So just about spot on.

My other concern in projecting a Peak period is to keep Chronic Training Load ('Fitness') losses to around 10%. For the Record Challenge he will come to the race with a drop from his recent high point of about 10%. For the second race the cumulative drop will be about 13% from the same point. This is quite good also.

Should he have decided on including a third A-priority race a week after the second (he didn't) Fitness would drop even more. This helps to explain why it is so difficult to have several A-priority races in consecutive weeks. Fitness drops each week when peaking. That's because Fitness and Fatigue follow the same general trend. So when attempting to reduce Fatigue, Fitness also declines, just not as rapidly. And the longer the race is, the greater the drop. By the third or fourth week of continued Fatigue reduction, Fitness is likely to be so low that performance is significantly compromised. This is why I encourage athletes to have only about three A-priorities in a season and to space them several weeks apart, if possible. Of course, that's not always possible so you must then be aware of what the consequences may be in terms of race performance in the latter races and set goals and race strategies accordingly.

From Davy Gunn

Summary. Prioritise and rest. Even though fitness will decline slowly during a rest period the net gain in performance on race day will be greater. The trick is how you optomise this - and this is why folk have a coach or personal trainer to take out the guess work. For us normal folk we can use HRM and keep a diary of training with an event plan, recording values, and importantly how it felt using perceived exertion scoring. Fail to plan and plan to fail. I use the WKO software but it's no better than the polar pro trainer although it does include power if you have a powertap or SRM. Where the software is good is comparing speed/time/HR which should remain paired in a TT, and show form.

I studied human and sports physiology some 22 years ago at what is now Telford University. Using myself as a Guinea Pig I made many errors in training which fitness and youth compensated for. As a senior vet I can't get away with that now and need all the help I can muster! Anyway Joe Friel is the master (although he must have shares in WKO!)

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Hog Flu and Training Don't mix

Above TT file shows the nice parallel of my HR in a TT where the HR is held for maxpower. The one below is on the turbo today where I felt a bit off colour. The saw tooth pattern where I keep needing to push hard but can't hold the pace is indicative of illness. A good trace is like a railtrack where speed and HR run parallel indicating a good functional threshold power. Although no speed on the turbo, if there had been the tracks would have seperated showing a poor functional threshold. Judging by symptoms it seems I have the hog flu!

Season End - Begining

Season Recovery

The season is as good as finished. What now?

Well, as ever its been a long season and youre probably glad to see an end to it, but it shouldnt be over yet. Three things should now be at the forefront of your mind. Reflection, rest and recovery. Well deal with the easiest one first; reflection.

Take time today, or this week at the latest, to sit back and reflect on the season youve just had. Get a pen and pad, I know you wont but just try it anyway, and write down the answers to the following questions:

- did I race to my preseason expectations
did I meet the objectives I highlighted for the season
did I enjoy my season from beginning to end
did I race with my peers on an equal footing
did I balance training & racing with the needs of real life
do I feel as strong now as I did in May

Only you can answer these questions and only you can address the issues that arise from them. If you dont write the answers down now, and reflect on them, you may well not remember how your season went and what you learnt from it.

The saying goes, that you learn more from your failures than your successes. But that isnt necessarily true. Its just that most people dwell more on their failures than they enjoy their successes. Celebrate your success and analyse why things went so well. If you dont know when, how and why you succeeded how can you hope to replicate success in the future? Record it now before you forget or it gets blurred with time.

Also, if you dont make a note in your training diary (you do have one?) about what didnt work, you may well blank out your negative experience, repeat the same drills, only making them harder, to try and chase the success that previously never came, Without a true reflection you could actually make the results worse! Dont expect different outputs from more of the same inputs.

Without reflection, you may well forget what a great season youve just had and fail to enjoy your successes before you start training for next season. If you did well reward yourself, or whats the point of thrashing around the Island for ten months of the year?

Rest & Recovery
Whatever your answer to the above questions, our recommendation for you now is exactly the same. You must rest and recover and recover fully before entering into a training programme for next season. Your mind and body needs full recovery. And as you get older you need a quality recovery period, not just a short rest. Full recovery from this season is the key to a successful race programme for next season and you can only achieve that by scheduling in resting time.

Your body has to rest sometime. The clever bit about organising a training programme is to make sure you choose the time of the rest period and not let your body choose. Because when your body chooses it does so in an instantaneous and often not very nice way. Very quickly you can become run-down, lethargic and ill, severely compromising your ability to perform training of any kind.

The idea now is to slowly back out of the last season and slowly move in to the next. Cut all interval, top-end and high speed riding. You can retain about 75% of your peak season aerobic fitness by maintaining week-end club runs and some mid-week activity. The other 25% can be brought back in January and February which will then allow you to develop your anaerobic capacities back to and above your previous seasons levels. But for now, rest, quality intensive rest, is the key.

Proper rest, will help your body recover, repair and prepare itself for the forthcoming season. If you dont think and act now to incorporate some proper rest in to your end of season preparations your body will call its own halt to proceedings. Paradoxically the problem is that most of us are screaming fit, we may be mentally jaded but we think that well hang on to the fitness we now have and build on it for next year. If it were only that simple.

If it was people who have just started cycling would never be able to compete against those that have been racing for ten years. But we often find people turn up out of the blue, do a winter, and mix it with the best come April and May. How does that work? And expanding the principle further; if we trained every single day without a break, surely wed be good enough to go to the Olympics after four years? The answers no! The only place youll be going with that principle is the hospital.

Nutrition management is also important. That phrase is a fancy way of saying youve cut your activity make sure you cut your food intake. Dont go on a diet or anything daft, just make sure you eat the right things in the right quantities and make sure you treat yourself to something nice at the weekends.

Staying at peak fitness and your leanest race weight is for the summer and very stressful on your body. Dont do an Ullrich, just gain a kilo to give yourself a fighting chance when infection comes your way. So for the winter give your body a rest from maintaining racing weight. Youre not racing so why add stresses you dont need? For now we should be actively resting, intelligently eating and slowly riding. Preparing ourselves for a faster new year.

The message
So thats it, short and sweet. Look back, think about what youve achieved and start to plan and think about next year. However next season is five months away. So relax, ride slower, ride shorter and try not to have too many treats.

Cruise through the next few weeks and start to feel fresh again. Get out the winter bike and start thinking about fitting mudguards. Go for a swim or a run but whatever you do do it non-competitively, do it slowly and get plenty of rest. The time will soon come for some heavy work and you and your body need to be ready. Get your body, your life and your health back in balance.

In the next factsheet Ill give you a tool to help you analyse and identify your own requirements for next season. We need to do it now while its fresh in your mind. So answer the questions above, have a good hard think about what youve achieved and note down any "under developed strengths" you may have that you would like addressing for next season.

Tony the Cyclosport Resident Coach