What is Active Recovery?
Most people think of recovery as an afternoon in the hammock with a nap and massage. While this sounds quite amazing, there is another way we can recover, and that is while being active. Remember that intensity with exercise is a continuum and not an on/off switch. For active recovery we want to be on the easy side of the continuum.
Ideally you will be incorporating both active recovery and hammock time into your training.
You've probably noticed that our recovery weeks have prescribed days for active recovery, titled as a "Recovery Ride." Lets talk a little more about what that means. Check out below for some tips:
Not a Recovery Ride:
Why active Recovery:
The idea is to flush all of the congestion and soreness out of your large muscle groups and keep things loose and moving smoothly in your legs. It's a great time to see some new sights that get missed with focusing on the trail and your training intervals. Since most of us just love to be on our bikes it's an opportunity to do what we love while still recovering our bodies. Now go and get your active recovery on!
Recovery: Stress Management
What can create both a positive and a negative response? Is something everybody experiences? Most people desire less of? And many people struggle to balance?
In our daily lives, we experience both physical and emotional stress. As athletes we need physical stress in the form of “training load” to provide the stimulus from which we can improve. The key to a good training program is one that provides just the right amount of stress; not enough and we stagnate or get stuck on a plateau, too much and we get fatigued, sick or injured. Remember the story of Goldilocks and the 3 bears? She wanted it “just right.”
Both too little or too much physical stress leads to a lack of progress in your fitness.
Emotional stress encompasses stress from work, social/family interactions, and general life stress. School work, friend drama, and Taylor Swift’s newest terrible record are all examples of the emotional stress people experience in their daily lives. The key point here from an athlete’s perspective is that at the end of the day stress is stress; whether it is physical (training) stress or emotional (mental) stress. All stress adds up and contributes to your ability, or inability, to recover from your training and improve your performance.
Remember that your body doesn’t know the difference between training and life stress. To it, all stress is stressful! (pretty deep, eh)
If your emotional (life) stress is heavy, then your physical (training) stress must be lighter. It all adds up! It’s critical to pay close attention to your stress balance if you want to make continued improvement in your sport.
Sleep is hands down the most important stress management tool. Aiming for 8-9 hours of sleep everyday is ideal. Oftentimes, in periods of high stress, it is more valuable to skip a workout in favor of more sleep. Listen to your body. If you’re tired, go to sleep!
The more you are under stress the more important a nutritious diet becomes. Eliminate the junk: sugar, fried foods, refined foods, etc. Maximize the fruits and vegetables. Less tacos, more apples.
Practicing yoga, deep breathing, visualization techniques, and simply reading a book can help lower stress levels. Spend time being still and quiet. (No, silence will not harm you)
Lighten up! Surround yourself with fun people at times and smile and laugh. It’s proven to relieve stress and make you a happier person.
Your training must progress gradually to avoid excessive acute stress. Fitness is a long term commitment and can’t be rushed. Experts estimate that it takes 10 full consistent consecutive training seasons for athletes to reach their prime fitness levels.
Consuming calories immediately following long and/ or intense training sessions is a critical recovery strategy. The key is to include both carbohydrates and protein in adequate amounts to begin the restoration process.
Daily self-massage (foam rollers, massage balls, massage sticks, etc.) is time well spent and can be done before bed as part of a relaxation routine.
While science will say there is no evidence that stretching actually does anything; however most people will agree that, at the very least, it feels good. Unless you are genetically hyper-flexible, including some stretching in your weekly routine will help you stay loose and maintain an effective range of motion. It is another great activity to include in your nightly relaxation routine.
Another controversial technique in the recovery equation. The verdict is still out as to whether compression actually does anything, but if you think it does then go for it! Donning compression clothing post-workouts and pneumatic ‘compression boots’ are two tools to consider including in your recovery routine.
In conclusion, stress management is a critical factor in your training progression. Work to get the balance right and you’ll better absorb your training efforts which leads to higher performance. Like Goldilocks, get it “just right.”
Here's a shout out to any of you Adam Sandler Waterboy fans. If you are lucky enough to have seen that bit of filming perfection you already know that H2O is king and hydration is a serious matter. So, lets talk a bit about hydration on your bike. Here are a few quick tips:
Now that you've figured out your big picture fueling strategy for both life and training, lets chat about what to eat and how much to eat while you are riding. Here are a few general rules/tips to follow for fueling on the bike:
More on hydrating during rides and races next week...
There have been volumes of books written on Sports Nutrition and everyone seems to have a different opinion on what the correct fueling strategy may be for young athletes. So, here are just a few tidbits I'd like to share with our young riders. Consider these tips and figure out what works best for you.
For just a few minutes I want you to think less like an endurance cyclist and more like a downhiller (Yeah, send it bros!) We're going to talk about the right way to use your brakes. Funny thing is, this will make you a faster endurance racer as well!
Check out the following tips to dial in your braking prowess:
Let's start simple. Only use your index finger to brake. Modern disc brakes have plenty of power for on-finger braking. Use your other fingers to hold onto your grips.
The less time you spend braking, the better. When you hit your brakes bad things happen to your bike handling. Tires skip, suspension will stiffen, muscles tighten up and your ability to move around your bike will drop significantly.
Brake in the right places, harder, but less often. Try to break the habit of feathering your brakes through corners and during descents. Feathers are for birds, not bike racers!! Get heavy with your body on your pedals and give those levers a squeeze, then get off of them. Brake before corners and ride them through. Try not to brake in the middle of a turn. If you have to, then lay off the front brake and just use your rear brake.
Brake in a straight line (when your tires are perpendicular to the ground). Braking while leaning will either slide your tires out, or stand up your bike. This is no bueno on loose gravel or slick roots.
Brake on good ground. Look for spots with good traction and hit them hard. Avoid washboards (where everyone else has braked and skidded. These are common before tight corners) Get creative with your braking spots.
Use both brakes. Do not fear the front brake! If your body weight is in the right spot and your weight is driving downward, you won't go over the bars. Squeeze gradually to give yourself time to adjust your position. Squeeze both brakes equally. You don't realize how much stopping power that front brake will give you!
Practice braking as hard as you can without skidding. Experiment with braking lever pressure and body position until you have this dialed in. Start on hard surfaces, like a parking lot, then work up to gravel. If you drive your weight down as you brake you will be amazed how quickly you can stop on loose ground.
Never lock your front wheel! You need your front wheel to track through turns. When it is skidding it isn't tracking. If it starts to lock up, ease off the brake until it starts to roll again.
Get those fingers off your brake levers while climbing!! This one is habit driven and pretty obvious. Don't waste hard earned momentum with pointless braking when you are slogging uphill.
Lastly, Look ahead on the trail so you can plan your braking! The farther you look ahead the faster you can go while in control. Rather than seeing immediate threats you will find future possibilities. Good lesson for life, too!
This week will be short and sweet, but very important for those who climb while standing on their bikes (yep, all of us).
Usually standing pedaling is done for a couple of reasons.
First, it feels good to change position and get our butts off the saddle for a bit. This is a great way to use different cycling muscles and give your butt a bit of a break. Standing up for a few seconds every 15 min or so while on a trainer ride can really make a difference.
Second, many people do this to try and generate more power, or to increase power when we get tired. In some situations it can be a good way to surge forward on the trail (like in a sprint situation). What most of us don’t realize is that we actually lose a great deal of power by standing, unless you have your technique dialed in and your gearing ready to go.
Here are a few mental cues for keeping your power high when standing:
Overall you will be more efficient if you are pedaling while seated. Use standing pedaling in surges during your ride, but get comfy with planting your butt in the seat. When you do stand, think of the cues to keep your power high and get the most out of your standing pedaling. Ride on.
Lets go over a few cues we can tuck into the back of our minds about cycling position and posture, when climbing and descending. Dial these in and you will not only look more like the pros, but ride more like them as well.
(remember, piano fingers!!!) NO DEATH GRIPS!
**This is the position that will help you be efficient and drive the most power to your pedal stroke (that thing we talked about last week)
Descending (aka Attack Position):
**We'll talk later about more specifics when descending (looking ahead, braking, pumping, keeping momentum, etc., but the cues above are the foundation to build upon as we move towards our MTB Nirvana.
Is pedaling in circles really that complicated? Why does our coach have us do so many miserable single leg pedaling drills on our trainers? Seriously!
What you may not realize is that all those pedaling drills I built into your weekly workouts are honing in your pedaling skills and making you a more efficient rider. More efficient riders create more power and tire out slower so they can rider faster, for longer. Smoothing out your pedal stroke can also give you better traction in slick conditions and can help you avoid strain injuries to your tendons and ligaments from cycling. If you watch any UCI race and pay attention to the rider's pedal strokes you will notice they are buttter-smooth.
The simplest way to cue new cyclists is to simply tell them to pedal smooth circles. This is a great starting point, but I want to give you a few more cues to maximize the power in your smooth circles.
Check out the picture to the left and think about these cues as you move around the clock through 4 phases:
10-2: Set Up Phase Cue yourself to drive your heel down and push across the top of the stroke. (most people ignore this phase and don't utilize their glutes and hamstrings here. Big mistake!)
2-5: Power Phase Drive downward as your heel naturally comes upward. Lay down the power here!! This is the strongest part of your stroke where you utilize the greatest number of your cycling muscles. (remember last week's discussion?)
5-8: Pull Phase Pull backwards towards your rear wheel like you are scraping dog poop off the front of your shoe. Heel should continue to lift slightly.
8-10: Recovery phase This shouldn't take much effort, where your other leg naturally drives this part of your pedal stroke. You'll do some slight pulling here, and should focus on setting up your heel to drive across the top of your stroke for the next revolution.
With practice your pedal stroke will become smooth and fast. It will be a natural movement for you, even pedaling through technical rock gardens and soupy mud.
You may be wondering why we are doing specific lifts during our strength sessions. Let me break it down for you. Sometimes knowing the “why” will fuel the drive to buy into the exercises. Let's talk about our lifting progressions and what muscles they target. See below for what each of these muscle groups does during your cycling pedal stroke.
We always start out working our core (front, side and back). The core ties your body together and stabilizes during movement. It’s the glue that holds us together when riding. Weak core = overuse injuries and poor form, especially when you get tired late in a race. Pro tip: You should also be stabilizing your core in later exercises, which works it further.
Push and pull exercises work your arms, back and chest.
Squat and Deadlift are the keys to all of our cycling strength sessions. This is where you develop the power to excel on your bike. You work all of the muscles listed below and teach your body to be explosive.
The explosive movements at the end of each strength session are to further that explosion development. They should be a true full body exercise, just like mountain biking!
***Check out the attached pic to see the major muscles you use when pedaling and how your strength work integrates into your pedal stroke.***
When do we use these muscles when riding?
Quads: Big guns for the power phase of your pedal stroke
Gluts: Important for standing pedaling, descending
Hamstrings: main muscle in pull phase, big w/ descending in Attack position
Calves and Shins: Key for smooth stroke, efficiency. Used with all parts of cycling
Core: Key for keeping correct form, hugely important with descending, technical terrain
Arms: big with cornering, braking, shifting.
This should be your 7th week doing deadlifts during our strength sessions. Lets take a minute to self-assess our deadlifting form. Think about the following cues as you do your deadlifts to keep yourself safe, and to strengthen the right cycling muscles.
This should be your 6th week doing squats during our strength sessions. It seems high time we do a little tutorial on squat form.
Think about the following cues as you do your squats moving forward to keep yourself safe, and to strengthen the right cycling muscles.
1. heel, 2. ball of your foot, 3. front of your foot just behind your little toe.
Our last 4 weeks of How to Send It discussions have been focused on the aerobic part of the training puzzle. We’re going to transition now to the strength portion of training.
So, what’s the big deal with strength training? Aren’t we cyclists, not weight lifters? Why can’t I just ride my bike and not lift, I’m just going to bulk up and get slower on my bike…
Time spent improving your muscular strength, recruitment, flexibility and stability will improve how efficient you pedal and how safely you descend. Developing the muscular strength and stability required to maintain form and function when you are deep into a long race is the overall goal of strength training. You ultimately waste less energy when cycling and most importantly, you minimize the likelihood of injury (both overuse and crash related). All of this leads to faster speeds and increased endurance, all without requiring higher levels of aerobic fitness.
Remember that the power (Watts) you apply to your pedals is what propels you down the trail at Mach 4. Power is created by two factors: Force and cadence.
Force is improved with your increasingly strong muscles (from your strength training and riding intervals) and cadence is improved with cadence drills (all those 1 leg drills you’re doing right now in the cycling workouts).
Another important factor in endurance sports is muscular stability. This involves all those minor stabilizer muscles that don’t directly mash on the pedals, but do work hard to keep your hips and your core in the correct position so you can hammer on the bike for long periods of time. Greater stability in the core and trunk leads to stronger, more efficient movement in the extremities. Without this stabilization you have excess unneeded movement at the hips. This leads to wasted energy and quicker fatigue and likely injury.
The old-school principle of a few weeks lifting off-season, only to drop it in the Spring is thankfully dwindling. To see continual improvements year after year it is critical to include strength training throughout the year.
Lifting through the season doesn’t necessarily mean we will do the same weights and intensities year round. Typically your off-season lifting will be heavier, more frequent, and more intense, while lifting during the season will be “short and sweet” to maintain strength and stability, but focus more on maintenance.
Here are the benefits in a nutshell:
Convinced? I sure hope so. Time to get your lift on...
Coach Marshall's Goals
As a very private person it is difficult for me to post my own goals here. But seeing how I encouraged you all to share your goals with others last week I would like to avoid hypocrisy and do so here. So, here they are. Please help keep me accountable by asking how I am keeping up with them. I'd love to visit with you about your goals as well, and all the awesome things you are doing to accomplish them.
Long Term Goals:
-What would you like achieve this race season?
-complete a 100 mile MTB race (or non-sanctioned ride if COVID is still at war with racing) This one is scheduled for April 10th
-compete in an enduro race
-compete in a gravel race
-climb at least 500,000 vertical feet in 2021 (tracked on Strava)
-2-4 years from now?
-complete/compete in a MTB stage race (BC Bike race, Moab Rocks, Breck Epic)
-12 hr solo race
-24 hr solo race
-5 or more years from now?
-build my own bike frame
-What is your “Dream Goal”
-compete in US Master's Marathon Championship
Short Term Goals:
example: complete >95% of my prescribed training workouts before my 2 A races for the year
Dates: _"A" races are scheduled for April 10th, June 12th___________________
How to achieve above set Goals: show up every day, prioritize recovery and training sessions
example: Focus on staying healthy, climbing every ride, recovery and the enjoyment of singletrack
Dates: _ to end of 2021_______________________________
How to achieve above set Goals: focus on consistency and the long-game
-Goals for my next cycling workout:
example: Nail each of my Tempo Intervals at a HR of 80%, keep it between 149-151 bpm
Dates: _next Tues__________________________________
How to achieve above set Goals: focus on HR and smooth effort during intervals
Obviously the goals you write should be specific to you and should be a guide, but not a rigid path. They can always be moved around and adjusted. Enjoy, make sure to keep your goals close by where you will frequently see them.
Goals, seriously? What is this, New Years?
Let me be clear, these are not the same thing as New Years resolutions. The goals we are going to set together are focused, organized and specific towards building ourselves into the athletes we ideally want to become. They are a measuring stick to judge our efforts and our progress. They are the master plan to help us achieve our cycling dreams.
There have been entire books written on goal setting, so I'm going to try and keep this sweet and simple. Please see the outline below for how I would recommend you write up your goals. Yep, write them down! Once you've written them down, put them in a place where you see them every single day. (Like the home screen on your phone) Share them with friends, your coaches, and your family so you are held accountable. You have a whole team of people rooting for you.
Goals can be set for different durations. What is your goal for this season? What is your goal for this training block, this week, the next upcoming workout or interval? They can be powerful when applied to different phases of training. They should be revisited often as you get fitter and faster.
So, let's give this a try. Grab a piece of blank paper and a pencil and write down the following: (don't filter anything at this point, just write what comes to mind, no matter how crazy) These goals should be challenging, but not impossible.
Long Term Goals: (usually outcome oriented, not as controllable)
-What would you like achieve this race season?
Multiple race podiums? Overall season podium? Finish every race? Race with courage? Do a race for the first time? Make sure the goals are specific to you!
-2-4 years from now?
Race Varsity? Do a marathon distance race (>50miles)? Finally beat coach up that long climb?
-5 or more years from now? (yes there is life after High School)
Ride across America? Do a 24 hour race? Win U23 Nationals?
-What is your “Dream Goal”
(Olympics, UCI XCO World Championship?) Dream big! Remember, no filter. Write it down.
Short Term Goals: (Process Oriented: how to be fit and healthy)
Should be focused on how to keep your training (this year's training) heading in the right direction. These should be very specific and measurable. These can be goals for something as small as a specific workout or interval, or extend clear out through this off-season. Focus your short-term goals on the process of improving your fitness and racing skills over the course of a training block or season.
example: Do all of the amazing cycling/trainer workouts prescribed by my coach between now and Spring Break, dial in my nutrition/hydration
How to achieve above set Goals:
example: Continue doing all the cycling workouts, but transition them to outdoors.
How to achieve above set Goals:
-Goals for my next cycling workout:
example: load my workout to Strava so I can get credit for awesome prizes. (If it's not on Strava it never happened)
How to achieve above set Goals:
-Goals for my next set of AWESOME intervals my coach provided:
example: keep my heart rate exactly at my Tempo heart rate during my next tempo intervals
How to achieve above set Goals:
As an overview, here are the phases we will work through during our season:
I'd like to bring to your attention the different phases of training we utilize during a year-long training progression. While we could make this conversation quite in-depth I'd like to keep it simple to run home some important principles, but not overcomplicate things.
There are 4 Phases we are going to utilize to break up your yearly training.
The winter training (what we are accomplishing now) in the so called "off-season" is also known as Base training. This is the time when you build a large amount of endurance in preparation for the upcoming riding season. You can think of this phase as the foundation for the house you are going to build throughout the season. This also includes pedaling skills and strength training. During that program we work through each of our energy systems (See them below in the Week 1 discussion) in a methodical way to prepare your body for some tough training come race prep time. We'll start at low intensity, with longer duration rides and work our way into the more intense energy systems, even to sprint sessions.
The next phase is called Race Prep. This is a phase that will prepare you for your specific planned races during the season. The duration of race prep depends on the length of your race. Short, intense racing usually requires shorter, more intense prep, and longer endurance races a longer prep. This can last anywhere from 6 weeks to several months depending on your event. Because our race season starts approximately 8 weeks after the onset of our season we will plan on a 7 week prep for our first race.
The last phase leading up to any event is going to be your taper, where you give your body a rest in preparation for the big event. You want to come in fresh with strong legs and little fatigue. You are basically absorbing all the preparation you've done to this point in order to perform in the race. This can be anywhere from 1-2 weeks. We'll plan on 1 week in our preparations.
The last phase in our program is called recovery. This is where you body and mind get a brief break from training as a chance to recharge. This will typically be right after a race for a few days to a week, and a couple of weeks in the late fall, after you finish your riding season.
It's important to realize that you can't train at 100% effort all of the time. You might see some short term fitness gains, but in the long run your body would wear out and you would likely see illness and injury. This is why we break down our larger phases (listed above) into smaller, manageable blocks. We do a few weeks of hard work with gradually increasing load then follow those weeks with a recovery week so we can absorb all that fitness we have accumulated. Many of you have heard the phrase "train hard, recover harder." This emphasizes the importance of training in cycles and resting appropriately to make all that hard work pay off.
Periodization can come in many formulas. A very popular method is 3 weeks training, 1 week recovery. Some people require more recovery, some less, depending on the athlete. For our program you'll notice that we follow this formula with 3 tough weeks of training with increasing load, followed by a recovery week.
***Please take your recovery seriously, it's frequently the difference between those who burn out and those who excel. We'll talk more about recovery and what that really means next week.***
If you want to learn more about periodization, phases or training, or just about anything else regarding endurance sports, check out the training articles on this link: TrainingPeaks.com. There is a plethora of information to help you out. Great resource!
How to measure your training: Heart Rate and Power
So now that you are all familiar with training zones and have them memorized (yeah, there’ll be a test later) we need to know how to measure each zone accurately, based on your effort. This can be done using 2 different tools; heart rate and power. The most economical of the two is definitely tracking heart rate. The most accurate way to measure is with a power meter that actually tells you how many Watts of power you are producing. Lets stick with heart rate for our discussion...
Heart rate monitors are readily available, affordable, and used by most endurance athletes. The more popular cycling brands are going to be Wahoo or Garmin. Either will work great and It’s best if you can pair them with a cycling computer to track your heart rate while you ride. Some smart watches also sync with these heart rate monitors.
Ok, now that you bought your heart rate monitor and have it synced with your head unit (your cycling computer) you are ready to track your efforts during each prescribed interval in the ride. If you notice, each of the sections of the intervals has an associated ‘zone’ listed. Check out how this works below:
1. Recovery <50-60% max HR (heart rate)
2. Endurance 60-70% max HR
3. Tempo 70-80% max HR
4. Lactate 80-90% max HR
5. VO2 90-100% max HR
6. Sprint 100% max HR
All right, now we we need to figure out your maximum heart rate. Some common equations that people use are 211-age= max HR, or 211-0.64(age)= max HR. These are simple, but not terribly accurate since each person is build a little differently.
Here's a simple exercise you can do to figure out your maximum HR:
Find a long steady hill, or set up on your trainer.
After a 15-minute warm-up, complete the following:
1. Start off at a quick pace, increasing your speed every minute.
2. For about five minutes, stay seated.
3. When you can’t go any faster while sitting, get out of the saddle and sprint as hard as you can for 15 seconds.
4. Immediately take your heart rate, and you’ll have your max heart rate.
This may hurt a little, but it is very important to know your maximum heart rate if you want to set up your training zones correctly. Enjoy. Embrace the suffering.
I would highly recommend you calculate your heart rate for each zone listed above and write them down. Have them somewhere handy during your trainer workouts so you can pace yourself appropriately during each interval session (like taped to the wall in front of you).
What is Aerobic conditioning and why does it matter? As cyclists, aerobic conditioning is our primary goal. Better aerobic fitness = faster cycling = more fun on 2 wheels. Right? Lets break this down to learn why we train certain ways for certain events or goals. Here we go...
Aerobic conditioning, in is simplest form, has 2 components:
1. How fast can we go?
2.How do we maintain speed for longer durations of time?
All serious cyclists will train to maximize both of these components, but the fine-tuned focus of your training will be based on your end goal and what type of cyclist you want to become. Are you a track sprinter who cycles for a few minutes at a very high speed or an ultra-endurance cyclist who needs to ride for hours or days on end? Each type of cyclist will train for a different focus, but touch on multiple training zones to become aerobically fit.
In order to explain how we train across the spectrum of cycling focuses we need to talk about 6 different energy systems, or zones.
Energy System (zones): Duration (how long you can ride at this effort):
Peak Power (Sprint) <30 seconds
Anaerobic Power 1-4 minutes
Vo2 Max 8-16 minutes
Lactate Threshold 30-60 minutes
Tempo 2-4 hours
Endurance >4 hours
Training all six of these ‘zones’ of intensity is critical for all cyclists. Balancing the amount, and at what point in the training year, each energy system is emphasized makes up an effective training program.
During our 24 week program we are going to move you through each of these energy systems during your Cycling Trainer/Indoor workouts. The goal in doing so will be to make you a well-rounded cyclist by the time your season hits. Once the season starts we can start you into a race specific progression that will make you super fast and give you super endurance in just the right combination to peak for your races.
Please keep these 6 zones in mind, as we will refer to them in future posts. Mui importante!!
Stay tuned for week 2 tips where we will talk about training by heart rate and power and help you set up your individual training zones (yep, each of these zones can be identified and tracked by how fast your ticker is pumping).
We are going to cover 6 different important areas over the 6 months to make you a lightning fast cycling and overall awesome and durable athlete.
If you are reading this you are likely interested in off-season training. Hopefully you are preparing to start our program next week on Jan the 11th. Here are a few tips that will help you succeed while training thru the winter, indoors. Read on...
Riding indoors can be miserable if you don't have the right setup. There are many ways to set up for success, but here is what I recommend.
Indoor cycling/Pain Cave Setup must-haves:
Strength training must-haves:
This is where you will find your weekly tips to becoming a stronger, faster cyclist. We'll help you succeed in your physical and mental fitness to not only become a great cyclist, but a healthy, strong human.
This is a guide for racers and people who like to be generally active. Please take the time to read it! This knowledge could mean the difference between having a great race and performing your best and completely bonking!! Nobody likes to bonk!