Friday, December 28, 2007

Zen and the Art of the Endurance Ride

Most of us remember Eddy Merckx's response when he was asked for his advice for young riders aspiring to become professionals: "Ride Lots". Though Merckx is thought by many to be the greatest rider of all time, this sort of simplistic training methodology bares little resemblance to the highly specific and periodized, science based training plans of the stars of today. And in truth, even the great Eddy had a lot more structure to his training than he let on.

The difference between "just riding" and actually training with a purpose is that when you train you must recognize that every workout has a purpose. This is easy for us to forget in the fall and winter months when many of us are coming off of less structured periods of training and beginning base training composed primarily of endurance rides. Yet many of us look forward to this time of the year as a time when we can enjoy the longer, lower intensity, more social rides without the stress of a lot of intensity training, racing and traveling. Don't be misled though; there is much more to an endurance ride than "just riding". Like any other workout, an endurance ride serves a specific purpose and if done incorrectly can at best be of little training value and at worst lead to over-reaching (and ultimately over-training), injury and burnout.

Purpose of endurance rides:

- Mechanical efficiency. Though one-legged drills, fast cadence drills, riding a fixed gear bike and rollers can all help make your pedal stroke more efficient, the simple act of pedaling thousands or even millions of pedal strokes may do the most to make your pedaling as smooth and even as possible. All of this repetition should also help you to identify any bike fit or body misalignment issues (i.e. if you need to see a doctor or a chiropractor)

- Metabolic efficiency. Lower intensity rides (zones 1-3) will help teach the body to burn fat as a primary energy source. When we do Lactate Threshold tests in our lab, we can always tell when people need to spend more time developing their aerobic base because they accumulate lactic acid even at relatively low intensities (zone 1-2). Since lactic acid is a bi product of anaerobic energy production, premature lactate accumulation is a sure sign that these riders need to develop the ability to efficiently metabolize fat for energy. Burning muscle glycogen (which is in limited supply) for energy rather than fat (which there is a large supply of even in the leanest athletes) means that you will not be able to make the key high intensity efforts when it really counts.

- Improve the body's ability to transport blood and oxygen. When we talk about "aerobic fitness" this is primarily what we are talking about. High intensity exercise can also accomplish this, but these levels cannot be sustained as long and repeated bouts of high intensity exercise every day can lead to overreaching, illness and injury. Development of aerobic fitness will mean that the body will respond better to the intensity workouts that come later on.

- Muscular strength. Though muscle mass will be generated more effectively in the gym, on the bike strength training is what will make this muscle mass more functional on the bike. In order to keep heart rate and power in zone 2 uphill, it is often necessary to pedal at very low rpms. If you are able to stay seated with good form this can be an opportunity not only to keep your heart rate and power down, but also to work on cycling-specific muscular strength.

- Fat Loss. Though you will more fat in a 1 hour ride at LT than you will on a 1 hour endurance ride, you won't be able to do 1 hour LT rides every day, whereas most experienced riders are capable of completing 4, 5, and even 6 hour endurance rides on a regular basis. A typical cyclist will burn 350-800 kCal.hour on the bike, so if you need to shed some extra pounds before spring there is no better way to do it than to add endurance volume while monitoring your Caloric intake. You will still have to consume more Calories when you increase your training volume though. Cut out desserts, junk food and alcohol and cut portion size at dinner, especially on your light days or off days. Don't starve yourself on the bike. The more you eat on your rides, the more Calories you will burn and the better you will feel. If you are losing more than 1 pound per week (a caloric deficit of 500 kCal), you are losing weight too fast and should increase energy consumption and/or reduce training volume.

So how do we accomplish all of these goals most appropriately? When I examine power files from an athlete's endurance ride, this is what I look for:

- No more than 5% of the time above zone 2 heart rate. There will be times where it is difficult if not impossible to keep your heart rate down in zone 2. A little time in zone 3 is OK, but try to avoid extended periods above the upper limit of zone 2 HR.

Two graphs of heart rate distribution by zone. The first shows 11% in zone 1 and 89% in zone 2. The second shows 25% of the time above zone 2.

- Average power in zone 2. For most riders, average power for an endurance ride will fall in the low end of zone 2. Many riders go way too hard uphill and then coast or soft-pedal downhill on their endurance rides, which is more like hill sprints than endurance. Most will see power numbers at the high end of zone 3 while riding uphill and at the low end of zone 2 while riding downhill.

- Normalized power in zone 2. Normalized power better quantifies the difficulty of a ride with non-steady state efforts. I look for normalized power to be a bit higher than average power, but still in zone 2. A good endurance ride should be a relatively steady state power output, which means that the normalized power should not be dramatically higher than average power. We often describe this as "using your power meter to flatten the ride".

- Average cadence over 85. Though there will be periods of low cadence (uphill) and periods where cadence is zero (coasting), if you are pedaling, your cadence should be be 90-100 rpm unless otherwise prescribed by your coach. Factoring in uphills and coasting should produce an overall average cadence of 85 rpm or higher.

- No more than 10% coasting. Any ride will include periods of coasting such as approaching lights and stop signs and riding down steep and windy descents and this is fine. However, it is important to try to keep pedaling whenever possible. Time spent coasting is essentially time wasted. Practice shifting regularly so that you can keep your power where it needs to be on any grade. If your significant other ever gives you grief about riding your bike too much, just think of they would say when you tell them that you spent 20% of that time coasting!

A graph of cadence distribution during one group ride shows 19% of the time coasting (0 rpm)

- Steady power output and heart rate throughout the ride without a significant fade.
If a rider's power drops dramatically towards the end of the ride, it is probably a sign that they didn't eat enough. If their heart rate rises dramatically, it is usually a sign that they didn't drink enough. Unless you are pushing way too big of a gear and tearing up your leg muscles, if you fuel and hydrate properly you should feel just as good at the end of the ride as at the beginning.

A smoothed power curve from a 3.5 hour ride shows a definite drop in power. This rider did not eat enough and his power dropped 38% in the last hour of the ride.

One of the big questions riders ask about endurance-base rides is "Can I do group rides?". Group rides can often be "hammer-fests" with periods of very high intensity (usually up hills and in sprints) even if advertised as "easy winter endurance riding". For most riders, keeping heart rate and power in zone 2 and coasting time limited is difficult if not impossible. These rides may serve a purpose, but let me be clear here, they are not endurance rides. If you want to ride with a group and still accomplish the goals of the endurance ride, my advice would be to find the rides that the local pros and elite racers do. These guys may be able to race fast, but they also know how to ride slow (and do their endurance rides the right way). If you compete 9 months of the year, you look forward to the 3 months of the year when you can ride easy. Riding with experienced athletes can also be a great opportunity to pick their brains and get valuable insight into training and racing.

On the other side of the coin, if you happen to be of the stronger riders yourself, you may find that the group rides available are simply too easy. This is where riding a fixed gear bike can be extremely valuable. The uphills will help you work on cycling specific muscular strength, the downhills will help you develop leg speed and overall the fixed gear acts as a "handicap", allowing you to get a bit more out of the ride while still being able to enjoy the social aspects. If you are riding a fixed gear when other riders are on road bikes, make sure use fairly light gearing (e.g. 39x16 or 42x17), install at least one brake, and make sure to stay out of the way of the other riders on the downhills, as you will not be able to go as fast as you would on a bike that can freewheel. If you are not confident in your handling ability on the fixed gear bike, you should probably ride towards the back of the group.

As your aerobic base starts to develop, I recommend increasing the length of your longest rides to just over the duration of your longest races or events, so if your longest race will be 4 hours, your longest rides should be 4 hours. Rides much longer that this will be of limited benefit to you unless you need to lose a great deal of weight. In the later stages of base training, start to incorporate in more hills into your rides. While you should still try to stay seated and keep your heart rate in zone 2, try to carry your momentum over the small climbs better even if it leads to a short spike in power.
A good aerobic base will help prepare you for higher intensity training and racing to come. It will allow you to respond to theses stresses better and recover faster. Many may view endurance rides as "just riding", but paying attention to the details of these rides, being disciplined and patient will lead to results. Riding how you feel and ignoring the details will lead to fitness built on a shaky foundation and it will ultimately fall over like a house of cards.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cadence Bike Fit and Dartfish Video Analysis

Minus a pair of Zipp 999’s one of the easiest ways to increase cycling performance can be acquired in as little as two hours. A proper bike fit is the most overlooked factor in cycling performance and one of the easiest ways to increase speed. In the wrong position, an increase in fitness will not always transfer to increased speed. Correct positioning is the result of cycling experience, previous injuries, body size, flexibility, and technique.

Cycling experience is important factor because it is important to know how long an athlete has been riding in a certain position. Due to our adaptable nature it is possible to ride a saddle two inches below optimal but you will not activate the hamstring and gluteal muscles correctly, and for sure this will limit the amount of power generated.

Previous injuries can have a huge impact on your cycling position. A broken ankle from 15 years ago can change riding symmetry and result in imbalances. Many imbalances can be corrected or reduced by shimming, tiling, offsetting, etc. An experienced fit specialist will be able to explain which option is ideal for a given circumstance.

Correct cycling position is a question of arranging three contact points between the rider and bike: 1.Where the feet clip into the pedals, 2.Where the sit bones contact the saddle, 3.Where the hands/elbows hold the handlebars. The cleats are the only contact point locked into position and changes here can influence the action of the entire leg. Seat height and fore/aft position influence the transfer of power between the legs and the pedals. Aerobar height determines comfort and aerodynamics but be careful, bars that are too low relative to seat height can decrease power production. For triathletes, these factors are especially important because they must be maintained while trying to get the athlete as low and aerodynamic as possible.
A comprehensive bike fit that includes a dynamic assessment, using tools like Dartfish video analysis software, can determine if cycling posture and pedaling mechanics need improvement. This software can reveal problems with joint motions and display pre and post positions simultaneously using an overlay function that can fade in and out between the two. This software can also determine if changes made to the bike affect technique or dynamic fit, i.e. how an increase in seat height can increase ankle plantar flexion. These changes to form are not always readily apparent visually, but by using slow motion video playback or zooming in on a joint angle it can be very discernible.

The figure above displays some of the analysis tools of Dartfish. This software can accurately determine joint angles and provides instant feedback to dial in the perfect position. This rider is too compact and low on the bike in the pre position, picture on the left. By increasing seat height, moving the saddle forward, and changing the bar position the hip and knee angles increase at the top of the pedal stroke. This change increases the mechanical advantage and the power he can generate in an aerodynamic position. These changes also brought the arm angle in tighter decreasing the tension and stress on his upper body musculature.

This video analysis tool also allows us to see changes post fit otherwise not obvious with the naked eye. An increase in seat height may cause excessive planter flexion of the foot or reaching of the toes at bottom dead center of the pedal stroke. Trying to see this with the naked eye can be difficult but slowing down captured video or viewing an overlay of pre and post positions can make this very detectable. Too much planter flexion is a sign the seat has moved to high, too soon.

With all of the time and money we invest in the sport why limit your performance with a poor cycling position. A professional fit is one of the easiest ways to maximize your abilities and conserve as much energy as possible to make your overall triathlon event as successful as possible.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How do I know if I need a bike fit?

Here at Cadence, we never cease to be amazed at how many people out there are not fit well on their bikes. I am not just talking about small issues; I'm talking about seats 3 inches too low, stems 4 cm too long and bikes 3 sized too small. The truth is, our bodies are capable of adapting to a lot. Many people do not know they have a bad fit because they don't know what it feels like to be comfortable. Maybe they just assume that riding a bike is a painful experience because that is the way it has always been for them. So I am here to tell you that it doesn't have to be that way! A good bike fit can make you more comfortable, more powerful, more efficient and more aerodynamic as well as making the bike handle better and be safer to ride.

The first step is finding out whether you need a bike fit or not. Let me make it simple; if you haven't ever had a bike fit, you should get one. Trained cyclists with years of experience may be able to develop a hyper-sensitivity to changes to their position and end up eventually gravitate to the right position, but do you really want to sacrifice your comfort and performance for all that time? Go to someone that knows what they are doing and you won't regret it. A good bike fit can be expensive, but it is an investment. Simply put, if you aren't comfortable on the bike, you won't enjoy riding. Comfort aside, how much would you be willing to pay for 50 extra watts or 30 seconds off your time in the local time trial?

Common signs that your bike fit may be off could be: knee pain or hip pain, hot spots in your feet, numbness in your pelvic region or sore shoulders and back. If always find yourself pushing bigger gears it can be a sign that your pedaling could be very inefficient. A cyclist may pedal over 5 million revolutions per year, so even a 1 percent improvement in efficiency can pay huge dividends. If you feel stretched out if you hold firmly onto the brake levers or if your wrists feel uncomfortable when you hold firmly onto the drops; you should get a bike fit. With a good bike fit, the interface between body and bike is seamless. The bike should feel like an extension of the body rather than a vehicle you are struggling to keep control of.

Below is a description of some of Cadence's "pillars of bike fitting":

Individualization: A bike fit is unique to each individual. Even two identical twins with could have very different bike fits due to differences in flexibility, core strength, body composition, riding style, and personal preferences (such as pedals and saddle choice).

Specificity: It is important to know what the rider plans to do with the bike. A rider that wants to do road races will be fit differently than one who wants primarily to ride on bike tours or charity rides. A pursuiter is fit differently from a 40K time trialist. A sprint triathlete is fit different from an IronMan triathlete.

Fluidity: A bike fit is not static. The rider will change over time and the bike fit must change as well to accommodate these changes. Riders may gain or lose weight, core strength and flexibility. They may get injured. New riders will develop riding habits over time and old riders may change their habits. It is also important to re-examine bike fit after any component changes in the contact areas of the bike. These changes include, but are not limited to pedals, shoes, saddle, handlebars and brake/shift lever type (e.g. Shimano, Campy, SRAM). Even if your fit is good to begin with, any of these component changes can throw it off. It is also important to remember that saddles and cleats wear out, sometimes very quickly. If you do not replace them, your fit will suffer. Hyper-sensitive riders or those that have important events coming up may have to make changes incrementally to ensure that they adapt to the changes without injury.

The Cadence bike fit is a comprehensive process that usually takes 2-3 hours. Before we even look at a rider on their bike, we conduct an extensive athlete interview, athlete measurements, measurements of the current bike fit setup as well as a series of flexibility assessments. We talk to athletes about their goals, strengths, weaknesses, medical history and in particular any discomfort, inefficiency or power loss that they have experienced. All of these things can provide important clues as to what the root causes of their problems might be. Once we know what the problem is, fixing it is the easy part.

A good bike fitter should always try to treat the root cause of problems rather than merely the symptoms. Since bike and body parts alike are connected and inter-related, a problem can start out in one area, but be felt in another. Treating the symptoms without questioning the root cause is like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. It is also important to recognize the limitations of the bike fit. A bike fit is an optimization of the human-bike interface. If there is a problem with the bike, see a bike mechanic. If there is a problem with the rider, see a doctor.

If you are interested in finding out more about our bike fitting process or you would like to schedule a fit, please feel free to email or call us at 1-800-PRO-CADENCE. A retro bike fit costs $250 in Philadelphia and $315 in New York (there is an additional charge because New York utilizes Dartfish motion analysis software as a standard part of the bike fit). And in this holiday season, a bike fit might just be the perfect present for that special someone...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Power Demands of Cyclocross Racing: Part 3

The cyclocross season is now over for many of us. For those going to Nationals in Kansas City there is one more week before the cross bikes get hung up on the hooks for the winter (that is, unless you are planning on going to World's). Coach Mike Kuhn and I had a great time going to cross races this season in the PA Series, the MAC series and the two USGPs in Trenton. With the help of Cycle-Ops, we were able to provide 10 trainers for riders to warm up on under the shelter of our tents. We were also able to get some racers to demo some sweet PowerTap 2.4 wireless wheels in their races. We were pleased to see that the wheels look good as new even after some serious abuse and riding in extreme conditions. These riders also provided us with some valuable data about the demands of cross racing.

In the first part of this series, I listed the summary data for a number of riders riding in the same race (Spring Mountain Cross). The power files we collected showed how cyclocross is extremely non-steady state, meaning that there are huge spikes in power followed by periods of zero power (while the rider is coasting, braking or running) and low power (while the rider is soft pedaling through technical sections). I theorized that the more technically proficient riders were able to spend more time pedaling, less time coasting and braking and they applied less braking force. This meant that they did not slow down as much and in turn did not have to make as much of an effort to re-accelerate. As evidence of this, the riders that performed better typically spent less time at sub-maximal power levels (defined as power outputs greater than 5.5 watts/kg) and had more "in the tank" at the end of the race to make an attack, follow an attack or close the gap on the rider in front.

Don't make the mistake that cyclocross, or any type of bike racing for that matter, is simply a matter of numbers. Certainly, riders that are more technically proficient are able conserve better and use their power when they need it most. This hardly means that the race is a lock though. The great thing about bike racing is that given the right circumstances, any rider may have the opportunity to win. The key for each rider is to design their training and race tactics well in order to have the greatest odds of success. In doing this, the power meter can be a very useful tool.

Let me give a few case studies of riders from different backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses to illustrate how we might put together a training plan and a race strategy tailored to each individual:

Dave: 25 year old endurance mountain bike racer. Dave did a few cross races last year but this year is making cross an equal priority. Dave's bike handling skills are fantastic, though he does not have much experience riding a cross bike and doing cross-specific things such as barriers and run-ups. Dave is 5'10" and 143 lbs. His Functional Threshold Power is 290 watts, 5 second mean maximal power (MMP) is 900 watts, his 1 minute MMP is 430 watts and his 5 minute MMP is 330 watts.

Kurt: 28 year old Cat. 1 road racer. He specializes in shorter road races and criteriums. Kurt is new to cyclocross and is treating it as an afterthought to the road season with no real ambitions except to have fun and improve his technical skills. He does not have a mountain bike and has never really spent any time riding off-road. Kurt is 6'0" and 168 lbs. His Functional Threshold power is 320, his 5 sec. MMP is 1500 watts, his 1 minute MMP is 700 watts and his 5 minute MMP is 450 watts.

Bob: 40 year old recreational rider/Cat. 5 road racer. He did a few road races last year but decided to give cross a try because he likes the laid back atmosphere. Although he loves to do group rides on weekends, he feels a bit intimidated by the pack aspect of road races. Bob owns a mountain bike and rides it occasionally but has never raced it. Bob is 5'10" and 180 lbs. His Functional Threshold Power is 275, his 5 sec. MMP is 1000 watts, his 1 minute MMP is 500 watts and his 5 minute MMP is 330 watts.

Let's start with Dave. Being an endurance mountain biker, Dave surely does not need to work on his endurance, especially to prepare for a 1 hour event. Likewise, his handling skills are very good so he will probably pick up the cross specific skills very quickly. For someone like Dave, the best way to do this is to get some experience in races and to do a course-simulation workout at least once a week. As cross has grown in popularity, many areas offer cross specific workouts where you will ride a short course with a group. If you do not live in an area with one of these sessions, you can find a local park or field and set up a short cross course (1.5-2 minutes) that includes some turns, some off-camber sections and 1-2 dismounts. Complete 4-6 repetitions of 2 laps "on", 1 lap "off". It is nice to vary the course each week to include different elements that you may encounter in races, such as sand, gravel, stairs, etc. After the ride, it is useful to download your power data and record average power and lap times for each lap. As a rider gains more experience, he should be able to choose his lines better and take the technical sections faster. However, with fatigue he may not be capable of producing as much power as the workout progresses, provided the "on" laps are really all out efforts.

Dave will clearly have difficulty making the hard accelerations that occur many times in cross races. In terms of race strategy, Dave will fair much better if he can ride in the front of a group. This will allow him to choose better lines and take the technical sections at speed instead riding behind less technically proficient riders and having to slow down and then sprint out of every turn. Riders behind him will not be able to take these sections as fast and will still have to make those jumps, which will wear them down. That said, Dave needs to get in front to begin with, to do that he needs to improve his sprint. It would benefit Dave to practice some cyclocross starts. To do these, you start with one foot down and then clip in as quickly as possible, go all out for 2 minutes and then settle into a pace that is just above functional threshold power for an additional 3 minutes. Although no cross race will have 5 minute periods of sustained power, this will help Dave practice the start of the race as well as improve his upper-end aerobic capacity. With practice, he should start to see the his power for the initial 2 minutes rise considerably.

Kurt is a very different case. His numbers indicate that he should be able to start well and get up to the front of the pack quickly. However, his lack of technical skills will make it more difficult on him than many other riders and he will get worn down throughout the race because he will decellerate more, and thereby have to accelerate much harder. The most important thing for Kurt is to get used to riding off road. Buying or borrowing a mountain bike and riding the trails once or twice a week could be of great benefit to him, and it could also be a fun way to maintain his endurance. If he is unable to get a mountain bike, riding his cross bike on some mountain bike trails can be equally and often even more beneficial. Because a cross bike has no suspension, you have to pick your lines very carefully. In sections that are too technical to ride, pick up the bike and run it. If you have a choice of trails, try to find terrain with a lot of twists and turns and avoid overly rocky sections, as they are unlike anything you would encounter in a cross race. Of course, use caution when doing these rides because there is little room for error when you are riding with no suspension. For more cross specific work, Kurt should also look for a weekly group cross workout. He should spend extra time working on skills such as dismounts and remounts, off-camber cornering and riding over loose surfaces. When riding off-road, look for low power averages and non-steady state power output. As you get more comfortable, try to spend more time pedaling and less time coasting or braking, which will result in higher power averages for the same relative level of exertion.

Like Dave, Kurt will want to ride in the front of his group if possible. Since he can accelerate faster than most others, he can use this to his advantage if he is in front because everyone behind him will also have to slow down more and re-accelerate harder. Riding like this could be a death sentence to a rider like Kurt. If you are worried that this type of riding will break the rules of cycling etiquette, don't be. Remember, it's a race!

Since Bob is not an experienced racer, he will have to build more general fitness than either Dave or Kurt. Although his races will last only 30-40 minutes, it is still important for him to develop his endurance by completing at least 1 longer endurance ride (2+ hours) every week. In cross season, this is best done on a cross bike because it will help you get more comfortable on the bike. If you have access to fire roads or dirt roads, riding on this kind of terrain can be ideal. As far as cross specific fitness goes, it is very likely that Bob needs to improve his ability to make repeated sprints. An excellent workout for this is a cross version of suicide drills. Anyone who has played basketball knows what I am talking about here, but for those that weren't subjected to that torture in 5th grade gym class, suicide drills are where you run as fast as you can to the foul line, turn around, run back, then sprint to the half court line, then back, then to the far foul line then back, etc... For cross, you can do these on a soccer or football field at 30, 50, 70 and 100 yards. Sprint as hard as you can off the line and make a quick 180 at the line, trying to turn in as small of a radius as possible. Make sure that you don't get bogged down in you gear and you are sprinting all out after each line. Complete 4-8 sets of these with 5 minutes recovery in between sets. Like the basketball version, it is not unusual to feel a bit nauseous. Look at your power files afterwards to see your max and 5 second power for the sprints as well as how well you are able to maintain that power as you fatigue.

Finally, like Dave and Kurt, Bob should also try to do a weekly group cross workout to prepare for the specific demands of cross racing. The one thing that Bob needs to be a bit more careful about, however, is not overdoing it. As an older rider it will take him longer to recover from his workouts than Dave or Kurt, and I would bet that if he did a group cross workout Tuesday, endurance ride on Wednesday and cross suicide drills on Thursday, he would still be tired on Saturday when the race rolls around, meaning that he would not be performing at 100%. Remember that training is a balance of stress and recovery. Doing more training than you can recover from will only lead to fatigue, illness, injury and burnout. It can be useful to examine your Training Stress Balance, or TSB (for definition, see my blog posted on 11/2). If the race is a A or B priority, the TSB should be positive going into the weekend.

For race strategy, the most important thing for Bob is to be realistic. He should look at the riders that are placing just in front of him in early season races and try to stay with them. If Bob has no realistic chance of placing in the top 10, it won't help him to kill himself to try to get to the front of the pack at the start. His best bet is to find riders that are just a little bit better than he is, try to stay with them and hopefully beat them. As he starts to do this, his goals may become more ambitious and when he starts to consistently finish in the top 5 it is probably time to upgrade.

Good luck to all those racing at National Championships this weekend and a happy winter to everyone else! I hope you have enjoyed this series of articles and I encourage you to send me any comments or questions that you may have. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Power Demands of Cyclocross Racing: Part 2

It was another exciting round of cyclocross racing in New Jersey at Beacon and Highland Park this past weekend; both were UCI races and part of the Mid-Atlantic Cross Series. Davide Frattini and Georgia Gould won both days with the right combination of form and fitness. Georgia impressed us all by winning the Men's B race on Saturday and placing well again on Sunday (starting at the back of the field both days) before riding away from all her competitors in the women's races both days.

Last week I posted power numbers for some of the riders that rode with PowerTap wheels in the Spring Mountain race. Just to refresh, a few things immediately stand out about these files:

1. Very non steady-state efforts
2. Relatively low power; far less than what the riders would be capable of producing for a steady-state effort of the same duration.
3. Low cadence. Average cadences were 67-80 rpm.

So what makes cyclocross so hard? It certainly isn't the high average power, or even normalized power. Is it the low cadence? Is it the running? How important is technical ability? Does better technique mean that a rider will not have to put out as much power to go the same speed? And finally, what qualities make a good cross racer?

When you look at power files from any cyclocross race, there are 3 "modes" that a racer will be in almost all the time:

1. Sub-Maximal. This is the point that is just short of a sprint, about a 9.5 out of 10 on the intensity scale. In non-technical sections with good traction and no obstacles, riders can really lay down the power. These efforts can range anywhere from 2-3 seconds up to about 30 seconds on courses with long open sections. In the course of a 60 minute race a rider may have to make up to 200 of these efforts. Though the length of the efforts is highly course dependant, they are rarely over 30 seconds. Since Normalized Power is calculated using a 30 second rolling average, that number will not truly reflect the difficulty of the race like it will in criteriums and road races that include regular 30 second+ hard efforts.

2. Coasting. No power is applied to the pedals. This could occur going down a hill, into a turn or into the barriers. These efforts typically range from 1-5 seconds.

3. Braking. Although braking and coasting will both register as zero power, I will make the distinction here because braking is actually the application of additional opposing force. Remember my definition of Speed = [Power - opposing force]. On a flat road, about 85% of the opposing force is from aerodynamic drag with the other 15% from gravity, rolling resistance and drivetrain resistance. When a rider goes uphill, more of the resistance is from gravity and as they slow down the amount of aerodyamic drag increases. Off road, aerodynamic resistance is minimal because of the slower speeds, but rolling resistance is much more significant. Braking force is rarely considered in road racing because the brakes are used so infrequently, but it is highly significant off road. So maybe before you go on that crash diet and try to lose 10 lbs, you should ask yourself if you could brake a little less, or perhaps not quite as hard.

4. Soft Pedaling. These are the sections that are too technical for a rider to go full throttle, but they can still pedal through. These usually occur around tight turns or off-camber sections of the course. These efforts are usually 3-10 seconds in duration. Power output is typically in the recovery or endurance zones.

What is conspicuously missing here are the long steady state efforts that would occur often in road racing and even in mountain biking.

If we examine in detail the file of a technically proficient rider, you will see that they spend less time coasting and more time pedaling. A good technical rider is still soft-pedaling when others are coasting. This means that they will come much closer to actually producing the power they are capable of (as we saw with Kyle last week).

The other factor is that the better technical rider makes less severe decellerations. Less severe decelleration means that the reacceleration is also less severe. Think of it this way: every time you lose speed through an obstacle you have to get back up to speed after you clear the obstacle. If you don't lose as much speed, you don't have to apply as much power or apply power for as long to get back up to speed. This energy savings adds up. Though some of us have more matches to burn than others, no one has an unlimited number of matches. Every re-acceleration takes energy and causes muscular fatigue, so a rider that is constantly slamming on his brakes and then sprinting back up to speed is at a distinct disadvantage and most likely won't have much left at the end of the race to sprint, attack or chase.

As evidence of this, we can examine a couple close races at Spring Mountain. In the B race, Woody and Johann were 2nd and 3rd, respectively, and finished only 5 seconds apart. Woody, as the better technical rider, spent 8 minutes and 27 seconds (~19%) at sub-maximal power levels (>5.5 watts/kg) whereas Johann spent 9 minutes and 11 seconds (~20%) in that zone. In the elite race, we can examine John (4th place) and Colin (5th place) who finished 1 minute apart. John spent 13 minutes and 10 seconds (21%) at sub-maximal power levels compared to Colin's 15 minutes and 24 seconds (25%).

So, what does it take to be a good cross racer?

1. The ability to make repeated sub-maximal efforts with little recovery.

2. Good technical skills: more time pedaling, less time coasting, less time braking and less severe braking. This of course, should all be done while keeping it upright :)

3. Good muscular strength. This is necessary because of the low cadence/high torque nature of the sport.

Of course, there are other factors as well, such as being able to start a race with a 15-30 second all out sprint, transitioning on and off the bike well, being able to run with the bike, and of course, a lot of mental toughness. Next week I will talk about how we can create workouts and race strategies that will best capture the unique demands of cross racing and help racers minimize their weaknesses and maximize their strengths.

This weekend Trenton will host the biggest weekend of cross racing on the East Coast, so I hope to see you all out there with your cowbells!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Another Multi-sport Season Draws to a Close - Now what?

by Mikael Hanson , Director of Performance for Cadence Cycling and Multisport Centers - NYC

If you are anything like me, the arrival of fall elicits mixed emotions. Sure, the turning of the leaves signals the much-anticipated start of the football season and the approach of another World Series, but it also means the days are rapidly growing shorter and the that slight edge in the morning air can only mean Winter is knocking on the door - signaling the end of another racing season. Regardless how you're season ended up (good, bad, or just plain ugly), one thing everyone needs is good old fashion rest.

A few years back, Inside Triathlon magazine ran an interview with multi-sport legend Ken Glah where he outlined his five steps to racing longevity. While we all may not have racing resumes as impressive as Kens' that does not mean we can not benefit from his years of wisdom for extending our own racing careers (my own has lasted over 25 years and I see no signs of stopping anytime soon!)

1. Enjoy your training - This is the only reason to be involved in our sport, so find the aspects of training you like the most and focus on those.
2. Enjoy the races - Which may come from the sheer thrill of competition, but also doing races in different destinations is a great way to include family and friends.
3. Be realistic - If you are in the sport for many years, it is important to adjust your goals from year to year, making sure they are attainable (as unreachable goals will only disappoint and decrease your enjoyment).
4. Don't just train - While the three main disciplines will dominate your time, engaging in other activities will keep you going for the long term (such as regular massages, weight training, yoga, pilates, and stretching).
5. Take time off - Yes, training and racing are addictive, but it is critical to include recovery time in your schedule as well as planned time off during the year. You will never last in this sport if you don't have a rich personal life outside of triathlon.

So, with nearly six months before the start of next season, how should we approach the long days of winter? The first step many of us fail to take is the brief, albeit necessary off-season break. Depending on your own level of obsession with training, this break should be a period of one to three weeks where one does not worry about hill repeats, weekly running mileage, or exotic Brick workouts. Leave the triathlon toys at home and take some time to enjoy your family and friends. Go to a football game, take a drive in the country, go for a hike in the hills (yes, some form of mild exercise is okay). Reward yourself for a successful season. Personally I like to start my end of the season break minutes after finishing the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot in Philadelphia, as images of steaming apple pie and mountains of turkey always seem to make me run a bit faster than normal.

During your break, it is important to take a hard look at your recent season and ask yourself several questions (and yes, honesty counts)! What worked in your training? What didn't work? Where were your strengths? Your weaknesses? And finally, what are your goals for the upcoming season? Only after you have accurately answered these questions, can you begin to address the next season.

Once your mini-break is over, it is time to EASE back into training, with an emphasis on the word EASE. With so many months before your first event, there is no need to rush into your training. However, one must realize the importance of building a solid foundation in the early season (January to March). Take a page from Lance Armstrong's training, as he has often said that the Tour de France is won in December and not July. Use the off-season to focus on your weaker sports. For me, a duathlete at heart who has converted to triathlons, that would mean leaving the bike alone for a few extra weeks while I focus on including a few extra sessions in the pool. This is also a great time to try your hand at a little cross-training outside of the regular multi-sport disciplines. Cross-country skiing, roller blading, and hiking are all great endurance building activities, while yoga and pilates can help with your core strength and flexibility – all things we begin to lose as we get older.

Riding Indoors
While many will ride almost year-round (multi-rider centers like Cadence certainly help here), come January the bulk of us need to consider re-introducing ourselves to the two-wheeled machine gathering dust in the corner. However as the weather deteriorates and darkness reigns, I find that many athletes actually dread climbing on their trainer, stating that riding indoors is about as exciting as watching paint dry. Perhaps these people suffer from a lack of imagination, as I for one relish the opportunity to ride indoors. Where else can one combine watching TV with a workout?

There are several things one can do to make riding indoors more enjoyable. First of all, your environment is a huge factor in how comfortable you are while riding indoors. For me, the closed confines of a NYC apartment can lead to some stuffy riding conditions. The first thing one should invest in (after a good indoor trainer for your bike) is a fan. Even on the coldest winter days, I crack the window a touch and aim the fan directly in my face, thus keeping the overheating to a minimum. Make sure you have a towel draped over the handlebars and for those of you with hardwood floors place another one on the ground below your bike, as you will sweat (trust me on this one!) The next item on the list is entertainment. Listening to music is always an option, but this only helps out one of our senses. I need more stimulation when riding at home. Why not ride while watching your favorite football or basketball team play? Or better yet, how about watching Lance win one of his Tour de France titles on tape? My favorite source of riding entertainment is a good old James Bond flick.

Now what to do while riding. Sure, watching Brett Favre or James Bond will help pass the time, but you still have to think about your workout. Try adding some spice to your indoor ride, while keeping in mind we are still in the off-season. One thing to focus on in the off-season is your technique. High cadence drills will help improve one’s mechanics by making your pedaling smoother and more efficient. Another drill to work on is one-legged drills. Pedaling with one leg helps develop that circular pedaling motion by incorporating more muscles into one’s pedal stoke, thus spreading out the workload smoothing out the dead spots (which will ultimately reduce muscle fatigue and help increase endurance, strength and power). After your warm-up and drills time for the core portion of the ride. In the off-season intensity takes a back seat to re-establishing a foundation and building back strength. If you are watching TV while riding, try an over-gear interval or hill climb whenever your football team has the ball, throw in a 30 second standing effort for every touchdown or turnover, or do a large-gear seated climb for the duration of every car chase. Just use your imagination and I ensure you will see the time fly by, and you'll get a great work out on top of it.

Running Indoors
Even in our northern climate, there are many who successfully run outdoors year-round, thus never need to face the boredom often associated with the treadmill. Coming from a cycling background, I will be the first to admit that the thought of running on the treadmill used to send a chill up my spine. Let's be real, on a scale from one to ten, the boredom factor is quite high for a treadmill run, especially when compared to the alternatives. But if you think about it, what separates the treadmill from say swimming laps at the pool or riding your bike indoors? Both offer little in the way of engaging scenery, so then, why do we all approach running on the treadmill with such trepidation?

Instead of climbing on the treadmill with the aim of slogging out 30 minutes before succumbing to boredom, plan your workout in advance, making sure you have all of the necessary tools to assist you. As overheating is always a concern indoors, make sure you are equipped with a towel and water bottle. Then there is the entertainment aspect of the workout. Unlike riding a bike trainer, where your bike is in a fixed position, a treadmill does require a certain amount of attention to maintain your place on that moving black carpet. While following a TV show on the treadmill may prove disorienting, listening to music can be your savior. Now that you are properly equipped, what do we do for a workout? With the ability to manipulate not only your speed, but also your incline, the workout possibilities are literally endless. Always try to keep a modest incline on the treadmill (say 1%) to better simulate actual outdoor running conditions, which we all know include wind and rarely a perfectly flat road.

Here is one treadmill workout I enjoy doing: This workout is a modified ladder with changes in both speed and incline. After a 1-mile warm-up, pick a modest base speed to run at (say 7mph for example). At your base speed, run 1/4 mi at 2% incline, then 1/4 mi at a 3% grade, then 1/4 mi at 4%. After those 3 quarters, drop the incline back to 1% and inch the speed (say 0.1 or 0.2 mph) and repeat the progression. See how long you can do this for!

Nutritional Thoughts
The off-season typically means lower training volumes for most of us, as we slowly rebuild our fitness levels as the season approaches. Fewer four hour plus bikes rides, means less of a need for that Krispy Kreme doughnut in the fuel tank. While I am a self-proclaimed doughnut junkie in the summer months (something I share with pro triathlete Hunter Kemper - who actually served Krispy Kremes at his wedding), one must exhibit some self-restraint in the dead of winter. Some weight gain over the holidays is expected and normal, however we don't want to over do it. A rule of thumb is to try an avoid weight gains of ten percent or more on your frame (15lbs on a 150lb frame), as those extra pounds will come back to haunt you if they are still hanging around come June. By no means does this mean we should starve ourselves during the holidays, just pay close attention to the soda and alcohol intake, leave the extra dinner rolls for the in-laws, try avoid eating after 8pm, perhaps consume a tad less pasta for dinner, and the one that kills me - less Krispy Kreme breakfasts!

Remember, while the majority of us are not professional athletes, we all share a small obsession for our chosen sport and the lifestyle that accompanies it, so rest and train smart so you can enjoy a lifetime of racing success!

See you next season!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Power Demands of Cyclocross Racing: Part 1

For the past couple weekends, coach Mike Kuhn and I have had the pleasure of going to some cyclocross races at Lehigh Valley, Fogelsville, Fair Hill and then yesterday at Spring Mountain. Cadence has partnered with CycleOps for these events and CycleOps has generously provided 10 Fluid trainers for riders to warm up on as well as 2 wireless PowerTap demo wheels for riders to use. We have encouraged riders to ride and race on these wheels. Many have never used a power meter before and are curious about what to expect. Others would like to test the durability of the PowerTap wheel in some of the harshest conditions imaginable. Personally, I look at it as a great opportunity to collect data. Though power meters are very common on the road, you don't see too many in cross races so naturally there isn't much out there in the way of literature on training and racing with a power meter for cyclocross racing. Here are some basic stats on some of the riders that rode Sunday's race at Spring Mountain:

Woody: 2nd place in Men's B race
Weight: 175 lbs
Background: Cat. 3 road racer, former messenger
Duration: 44:48
Avg. Power: 271
Avg. Speed: 12.1 mph
Avg. Cadence: 80 rpm
Normalized Power: 297 watts

Johann: 3rd place in Men's B race.
Weight: 200 lbs
Background: Cat. 2 road racer
Duration: 44:53
Avg. Power: 286 watts
Avg. HR: 186 bpm
Avg. Speed: 12.0 mph
Avg. Cadence: 79 rpm
Normalized Power: 316 watts

Chris: 7th place in Men's B race
Weight: 180 lbs
Background: Cat. 4 road racer, Ex-BMXer
Duration: 45:59
Avg. Power: 253 watts
Avg. HR: 180 bpm
Avg. Speed: 11.7 mph
Avg. Cadence: 70 rpm
Normalized Power: 275 watts

Kyle: 3rd place in Men's A race
Weight: 134 lbs
Background: Pro Mountain Biker
Duration: 34:36 (the data recorded is for the beginning of the race... Kyle had a mechanical and had to take a bike change)
Avg. Power: 234 watts
Avg. HR: 182 bpm
Avg. Speed: 12.7 mph
Avg. Cadence: 76 rpm
Normalized Power: 260 watts

John: 4th place in Men's A race
Weight: 160 lbs
Background: Cat. 1 Road Racer
Duration: 1:05:56
Avg. Power: 227 watts
Avg. HR: 175 bpm
Avg. Speed: 12.2 mph
Avg. Cadence: 74 rpm
Normalized Power: 250 watts

Colin: 5th place in Men's A race
Weight: 170 lbs
Background: Cat. 1 road racer
Duration: 1:06:59
Avg. Power: 245 watts
Avg. HR: 187 bpm
Avg. Speed: 12.1 mph
Avg. Cadence: 67 rpm
Normalized Power: 269 watts

Erik: 10th place in Men's A race (also raced in B race)
Weight: 185 lbs
Background: Cat. 4/espoir road racer/track racer
Duration: 1:02:54
Avg. Power: 203 watts
Avg. HR: 187 bpm
Avg. Speed: 10.1 mph
Avg. Cadence: 76 rpm
Normalized Power: 240 watts

For a definition of these terms, look at my last entry on this blog. The first thing that stands out to me about these files is how low the power is. Every one of these riders is capable of producing more power than they did here but the technical sections make it difficult to use that power. A good technical rider will spend more of the time pedaling and less time coasting. Kyle is certainly the most technically proficient of these riders and he is able to come much closer to actually producing the power he is capable of producing. However, it is important to remember that most riders will fade in the later laps of the race so with only 35 minutes of data, Kyle's numbers are most likely a bit high.

The other thing that stands out about these files, at least compared to a road race or criterium is how low the cadence is. This is primarily because a lot of time is spent coasting, usually just before obstacles or technical sections. However, cadence will be lower even when pedaling during cyclocross because a bigger gear will generally make it less likely that the rider will lose traction.

More to come later on how we can use these files to better identify riders' strengths and weaknesses and design individualized workouts and training plans that can help maximize their potential.

Mike and I plan on being at a lot of cross races in the upcoming weeks, so if you are there feel free to stop by, warm up on the CycleOps trainer and demo one of the wheels. Here's the schedule:

November 10th: Beacon Cyclocross, Bridgton, NJ
November 11th: Highland Park Cyclocross, Highland Park, NJ
November 17th: Mercer Cup Cyclocross #1 (USGP #3), Trenton, NJ
November 18th: Mercer Cup Cyclocross #2 (USGP #4), Trenton, NJ
November 25th: MABRA Championships, Taneytown, MD (tentative)
December 1st: Carlisle Cross Classic (MAC #5), Carlisle, PA
December 2nd: Capitol Cross Classic (MAC #6), Reston, VA

See you there!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Power Terms

I've had requests from some athletes to provide a list of some of our commonly used terms with particular regard to power, so here goes...

Speed = a measure of the velocity of the bike, measured in mph or kph. Speed is not a good measure of exertion or intensity while cycling because it is greatly affected by opposing forces such as wind, grade, road surface, drafting, gravity (body & bike weight), aerodynamic profile and friction (drivetrain efficiency) as well as power. It is important to remember though, that races are won by the fastest rider, not the rider with the most power. Speed = Power - Opposing Forces (aerodynamic, gravity, rolling resistance) so in the end a rider must optimize this equation by increasing power and decreasing opposing forces as much as possible to produce maximum speed.

Cadence = a measure of the velocity of the cranks, measured in rpm. Under constant conditions, if rpm increases, power increases. "Normal" rpm for most riders on a flat road is 85-100 rpm. Lower rpms (less than 85 rpm) will place more of the stress on muscular strength, and thereby cause more muscular fatigue and higher rpms (greater than 100) will place more of the stress on aerobic capacity (and cause less muscular fatigue) but the rider will be less efficient since the "dead spot" in the pedal stroke will occur more often. Depending on the efficiency of the rider, higher rpms may cause higher oxygen utilization, heart rate and glycogen usage. Every rider will have their own optimal rpm where they can produce the most power for a given period of time. It should be noted, though that this ideal rpm for the rider will change based on the type and length of event.

Torque = a measure of the angular force applied to the pedals, measured in inch pounds or foot pounds. Under constant conditions, if torque increases (the rider uses a harder gear), power increases. Riders with better muscular strength should be able to produce and sustain more torque with less muscular fatigue.

Power = a measure of the work over time done by the rider to push the bike forward, measured in watts. Power = Torque x RPM. Power will increase (under constant conditions) if torque or rpm is increased.

Power/Weight Ratio = a measure of power over a given period of time relative to the body weight of the athlete. Power to weight ratio at functional threshold (see below for definition) or Lactate threshold is most commonly used. It is speculated that to win the Tour de France a rider must have an FT power to weight ratio of around 7.0 watts/kg (in the case of Lance Armstrong, this came out to approximately 500 watts at threshold at a weight of 160 pounds!). Power to weight ratio is important because it requires more power for a heavier rider to travel the same velocity than for a lighter rider. However, it is important to remember that gravitational resistance is just one of many opposing forces while riding and only a small percentage of the opposing force on a flat road.

Heart Rate (HR) = A measure of the frequency of an athlete's heart beats, measured in beats per minute (bpm). As exertion increases, heart rate will increase. However, there is a delay in the response of heart rate (as exertion increases, heart rate will take some time to raise and as exertion decreases heart rate will take some time to drop). Therefore, heart rate is not a good measure of exertion in shorter efforts. Additionally, heart rate is greatly affected by heat, hydration and fatigue. There is also a great difference in heart rate values from athlete to athlete, even with the same level of relative exertion.

Work = average power x time, measured in kJ. Work done will increase if power increases or if time increases, so work is a measure of intensity and duration. A given route (under constant conditions) should require a given amount of work that will remain constant regardless of speed. In other words, if the speed is low the power will be lower and the duration will be higher. If the speed is high the power will be higher and the duration will be lower. Either way, the work done will remain the same. Work should not to be confused with energy burned by the rider, measured in kCal, which depends on rider efficiency and is better estimated using heart rate and/or oxygen consumption.

Work = average power x time, measured in kJ. Work done will increase if power increases or if time increases, so work is a measure of intensity and duration. A given route (under constant conditions) should require a given amount of work that will remain constant regardless of speed. In other words, if the speed is low the power will be lower and the duration will be higher. If the speed is high the power will be higher and the duration will be lower. Either way, the work done will remain the same. Work should not to be confused with energy burned by the rider, measured in kCal, which depends on rider efficiency and is better estimated using heart rate and/or oxygen consumption.

Normalized Power (NP) = calculated power over a given duration that better takes into account non-steady state efforts. Average power will decrease if there are significant recovery periods during warmup, cooldown or in between efforts but the stress of the ride does not necessarily decrease (think of driving a car… you can average under the speed limit but it doesn’t mean you won't get a ticket). Therefore, average power is not a good measure of exertion for non steady state efforts such as races, hilly rides and many group rides. Normalized power should reflect the actual intensity of the effort. It is calculated by taking a 30 second rolling average of the power values, taking these values to the 4th power, averaging these values and taking the 4th route of this number. Therefore, when the power spikes very high, these spikes will be given exponential weighting. For example, a criterium may produce an average power of only 160 watts (due to the regular periods of coasting) but the same race might yield a normalized power of 280 watts (due to the many accelerations). Though normalized power is a very good measure of true exertion, because NP works on a 30 second rolling average, rides with power spikes of less than 30 seconds may not be weighted as highly as expected and likewise other rides that contain maximal efforts of 30-60 seconds may be weighted more highly than expected.

Functional Threshold (FT) = the maximum power a rider can produce for a period of 60 minutes. This can be estimated by completing a 60 minute time trial, a 60 minute "race-type effort" with a high normalized power (commonly a difficult criterium or fast group ride), by taking 95% of the power produced in a 20 minute time trial, 90% of the power produced in an 8 minute time trial or by completing a lactate threshold test in the lab.

Intensity Factor (IF) = the normalized power for a ride with respect to the functional threshold of the rider = NP/FT. Therefore an effort at 100% of threshold should equal an IF of 1.0. If the rider has an IF of over 1.05 for over an hour, their functional threshold may have increased since the last test (or their power meter needs to be calibrated)

Training Stress Score (TSS) = a measure of the intensity and duration of the ride. Intensity is measured in IF and duration is measured in minutes. If the ride is harder the IF will be higher and therefore the TSS will be higher. If the duration of the ride is increased, the TSS will increase as well. As a rule of thumb, most people should be able to recover from a workout with a TSS of 150 or less in 1 day 150-300 in 2 days, 300-450 in 3 days and a workout with a TSS of over 450 should require more than 3 days recovery. However, actual recovery rates will be affected greatly by fitness level and fatigue as well as recovery habits (nutrition, sleep, massage, etc.). It is also important to remember that if a rider’s FT changes it will affect the IF for the ride, which will in turn affect the TSS for the ride. For example, if a rider increases his FT, the same workout done at the same wattage will produce a lower IF and a lower TSS.

Acute Training Load (ATL) = a measure of short term exercise fatigue level using TSS values from workouts. This is usually calculated using a 5 or 7 day time constant. A rider's ATL will increase incrementally if the TSS value for the day is greater than their ATL and decrease incrementally if the TSS value for the day is less than their current ATL. The greater difference between the rider's TSS and their ATL, the more the ATL will change.

Chronic Training Load (CTL) = a measure of overall fitness level using TSS values from workouts. This is usually calculated using a 30 or 42 day time constant. A rider's CTL will increase incrementally if the TSS value for the day is greater than their current CTL and decrease incrementally if the TSS value for the day is less than their current CTL. The greater difference between the rider's TSS and their CTL, the more the CTL will change. This implies that the higher the level of fitness, the more it takes to keep raising the fitness.

Training Stress Balance (TSB) = CTL - ATL. When an athlete peaks for an event, they should have a high TSB (a high level of fitness and a low level of fatigue). If an athlete takes a break at the end of the season and then resumes training after a break, their fitness (CTL) will most likely be low but their fatigue (ATL) should be low. When the athlete first resumes training, their ATL will go up quickly, and their CTL will remain low at first (meaning that their fatigue is high and fitness is low). After a long and intense training period, CTL will most likely be high, but ATL will be high as well so the athlete will be unable to fully utilize his high level of fitness until he takes a rest period and allows the ATL to decrease. In general, athletes should avoid TSBs of less than -40 for risk of injury, illness and/or overtraining. TSB should be at least above 0 for B races and over 20 for A races. If CTL is high, a period of high ATL will not produce as low of a TSB than if the CTL were lower. This implies that if fitness is high the same amount of training may not cause as much fatigue.

* Normalized Power, Intensity Factor, Training Stress Score, Acute Training Load, Chronic Training Load and Training Stress Balance are terms created by Andy Coggan and Hunter Allen as ways to objectively model the stress of training and the body's short and long term responses to this stress. To read more about these terms, you should read their book, "Training and Racing with a Power Meter". Though these models hold up very well when compared to other objective and subjective models, it is important to remember that the human body also operates with a certain degree of unpredictability. In other words, we are not robots.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

TriDiet: Reloading for Rapid Recovery

By Mary Ellen Bingham MS, RD, CDN

What do you crave when you cross the finish line? After a long training session are you completely turned off by food or do you make sure that the final mile lands you right in front of a fast food joint? (You were just training for 3 hours. You earned it, right?) Every triathlete is different in regard to what works for them. Finding out what proves to be best for you will require some trial and error but you can be certain that whatever you choose to consume after your workouts will affect the way your body recovers between training sessions. This is especially important when training sessions end up being less than 24 hours apart because you will want to maximize your rehydration and nutritional recovery to replace muscle fuel for the next workout.

Post training nutrition options varies from sports drinks and recovery mixes to energy bars, whole foods, fruit juices and perhaps the choice gaining the most attention these days, low-fat (1%) chocolate milk. Regardless of the triathlete's preferred way to reload, there are certain evidenced-based practices that should be considered when deciding what to choose for recovery nutrition. To reload, your nutrition plan should aim to replenish muscle glycogen, body water (hydration), and electrolytes (primarily sodium).

You may be familiar with the common recommendation to reload within 30 minutes immediately follow exercise. Ever wonder why this 30-minute window is so crucial? Studies have shown that this window of time is when the body's sensitivity to insulin is at its highest and this is when muscles are able to quickly absorb nutrients for maximum restoration and storage of muscle glycogen. A triathlete's body can be depleted of muscle glycogen rather quickly; therefore immediate consumption of carbohydrate is very important. Studies suggest anywhere from 0.5-0.7 grams per pound of body weight (1-1.2g/kg) is an optimal goal for rapidly absorbed carbohydrate intake. Thus, a 155-pound triathlete (70 kg) may require about 80 grams of carbohydrate immediately following a long training session.

There has been much debate regarding the value of protein intake as part of reloading. Generally accepted practice at this time is to consume a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein for your recovery nutrition. Choosing to include high-quality protein sources such as whey protein, dairy products and soy milk, lean meats or nuts may help to speed up the repair of muscle tissue. If the 155-pound athlete is consuming 80 grams of carbohydrate, about 20 to 26 grams of protein will satisfy the recommended 3:1 or 4:1 ratio for optimal recovery. Additionally, the amino acid glutamine (a building block for proteins) is found in many recovery products and may be beneficial for muscle repair.

The most effective way to figure out your individual fluid needs following your workouts is to weigh yourself before and after the session. Replace each pound lost with 24 ounces of fluid. You will also want to ingest sodium to enhance your rehydration efforts and replace that which has been lost through sweat. Similar to fluid needs, sodium requirements will vary among individuals based on how much sodium is lost during exercise. Salty snacks, salt packets and sports drinks are all good options for repleting sodium losses. The recommendation is 110-200 mg of sodium per 8 ounces of fluid. The sodium content of most sports drinks per 8 ounces falls in this range.

Knowing how many grams of carbs and protein, ounces of fluid and milligrams of sodium your body needs is half the battle but figuring out which foods and fluids work best for you is the other half. Most likely your nutrition and hydration choices are going to depend on taste, tolerance, convenience and affordability. Some athletes simply have no tolerance for solid food immediately following exercise. This is where recovery mixes can come in handy. The commonly noted drawbacks to these are that often times they do not taste good and they can be costly. If you choose to purchase these products, don’t waste your money on unnecessary ingredients. You now know that you are looking for a 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio, and adequate fluid and sodium to match your losses. Recoverite by Hammer Nutrition offers 332 calories, 65 g carbohydrate, 20 g protein, 148 mg sodium and 38 mg potassium in 4 scoops, mixed with 16-24 ounces of water. Sports drinks are commonly used for recovery nutrition as well. Relatively inexpensive, often well-tolerated, offered in a variety of different flavors and, as previously mentioned, these beverages are a good way to replete sodium and fluid losses at the same time. Newer to the market than traditional Gatorade, Gatorade Endurance offer 90 more mg sodium per 8 ounces, and Accelerade offers 4 grams of protein per 8 ounces.

With all of these sports drinks and recovery mixes out there you may find it hard to believe that if you choose to, you can actually practice proper post-training nutrition guidelines using real food! Believe it or not, low-fat chocolate milk has proven to be a very successful recovery beverage providing 84 grams of carbohydrate, 26 grams of protein, 2 grams of fat, and 345 mg of sodium in 24 ounces! This matches up with your recovery nutrition plan a little bit better than the Big Mac with 540 calories, 25 g protein, 75 mg cholesterol, 30 g fat (10 g saturated fat), 1040 mg sodium, and 45 g carbs! Other great real food choices include a turkey sandwich with pretzels, a bagel with peanut butter and jelly, a fruit/granola/yogurt parfait or even a smoothie made with fresh or frozen fruit, soy or low fat milk and yogurt. Just be sure to wash these foods down with an appropriate amount of water.

With the guidelines in place, take some time to experiment during your longer training sessions to see which choices fit into your budget, appeal to your taste buds, and sit well in your stomach. Once you find a successful strategy, stick with it for the race. Nothing new on race day!
Now you have jam-packed the 30-minute window of opportunity with all of your immediate needs for nutrition and hydration but the game isn’t over just yet. Your body is still recovering. Within 2 hours after the session you are going to want to consume a balanced meal, packed with protein, vegetables and a large portion of starch. This is also a great time to get “healthy” fats (mono- and poly-unsaturated fats) into your diet. Sample healthy and balanced meals include salmon with sweet potato and steamed vegetables or pasta with chicken and vegetables mixed with olive oil and a little garlic salt and parmesan cheese for flavor. As a triathlete your body has unique demands. To optimize performance you know you need to keep your body strong, your energy high and your immune system healthy. Proper nutrition and hydration is essential before, during, and after you cross the finish line.

Mary Ellen Bingham MS, RD, CDN is a Sports Nutrition Associate for Visit to learn more about their innovative sports nutrition services including Tri2Lose and Menu Planning for triathletes.
Coleman, Ellen RD, MA, MPH. Eating for Endurance, 4th Edition. Bull Publishing Company, 2003.
Dunford, Marie PhD, RD, editor. Sports Nutrition- A Practice Manual for Professionals, 4th Edition. American Dietetic Association, 2006.
Ryan, Monique MS, RD, LDN. Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes, 2nd Edition. Velo Press, 2007.
Seebohar, Bob MS, RD, CSCS. Nutrition Periodization for Endurance Athletes. Bull Publishing Company, 2004.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Brian Maiolo Reports on his 2007 Kona Experience

I had always dreamed of qualifying for the IM World Championships. But I never really thought past the qualifying part. That's what I was thinking about as I lay on the ground after hitting a large hole in the road during on a long training ride. I didn’t know what I hit or what was wrong, but I knew that this was bad. Really bad.

Surgery was a week later and almost exactly three months before the race. It required a large metal plate, eight screws and a bunch of wire. While many were asking if I'd race or if I could possibly postpone my race for next year (you can't) my coach, Dianna Ineman, was quietly putting a plan together that would get me to Kona.

It involved walking at ridiculous inclines on the treadmill and hitting the old school stairmaster while my arm was still in a sling. The next step was getting back on the spin bike, my old friend from IM Arizona. The next step after that was running, which came five weeks post-surgery. Swimming and cycling outdoors came at seven weeks. My doctor, Dr. Stephen Silver from ISK/Lennox Hill also had some plans. In addition to the surgery, he prescribed something called a bone growth stimulator to help my clavicle heal faster.

Three months went by in a flash. Well, most of it except the time spent on the Compu Trainer at Cadence (aka Dianna's Dungeon) pushing crazy wattage. The long runs in the the park, along the Hudson and at Rockefeller State Park. The crazy hours on the spin bike. And Labor Day weekend, which included a long run, followed by a 140 mile ride, followed by a 100 mile ride and 10 mile brick. Well, maybe it wasn't a flash, but here I was about to do the race that I'd been dreaming about for years.

The race organizers make this race different than any other Ironman. It's wrapped around Hawaiian culture. Plus, in every way, they really make the athletes feel special. Which is why they were stamping my race number on my arm race morning, as opposed to writing it like any other IM. Oh, and as I was making my way into the water, Navy Seals were parachuting into the ocean right before the Pros went off. No, this is not just another race or just another Ironman.

My plan was to stay a bit left and behind the masses to stay away from the mayhem. But as I entered the water (this is a water start), I figured that I've come this far why not go for it and start near the front in the middle. I won't say I regret that decision. But I certainly obtained my share of kicks, elbows and gridlock. I’ve never been in a race with so much congestion. Still, I got out in 1:05. Not bad for a non-wetsuit legal race and collarbone held together by screws and chicken wire.

The bike is a big part of makes Kona "special." If you don't play your cards right you end up getting a head wind going out and coming back from Hawaii (the town where you turn around). Thankfully my coach had some plans to help me avoid this. This was one of the points where you have to trust your coach. It amazes me how people will spend so much money and not listen to their coach. If I've learned anything it’s that you find a good coach and then you let them coach.

Another great thing about this race. A rather large peloton flew by me in the first hour of the bike. Not cool at all, but at the next sin bin I saw them all. I wanted to kiss the next race official that went by me, I was so happy. The rest of bike was ugly, windy, and hot as hell. In my ear, I could hear my coach telling me to watch your nutrition. I also had some friendly reminders on the race course: namely athletes who got off their bikes and were lying on the ground because they were so out of it from the heat, humidity and dehydration. Usually that sort of thing only happens during the run. Uh oh!

There are headwinds and rolling hills as you make your way back into Kona. Hill after hill after hill. I almost cried when I finally got back to Kona. Later I discovered that those weren’t tears, that was just sweat. My plan was to keep my transition times as short as possible. So when I got off my bike, I limped as fast as possible through transition, threw my sneakers on, grabbed my nutrition and took off.

And by took off, I mean I watched my pace so I didn't blow up in the first 10k. The crowd is going nuts and it's so easy to run too fast early on. Athletes were blowing by me at this point. Pacing (and nutrition) are everything in an IM, even a Kona virgin knows that. As fit as these athletes were, I had a funny feeling I’d be seeing them later in the race.

Everyone talks about the Energy Lab. How tough that section of the run is. My coach had me run it during the week so I'd be prepared for it. But it's one of those things that you just have to experience. It's hot. There are very few spectators out there. And it's that dark part of the marathon where people traditionally fall apart. It was at the energy lab that I saw an athlete that I've trained with before. I knew that if I kept my pace I'd reel him in. He must have heard me coming. (At every aid station I'd been pouring water over my head on my body to try to cool off, so you could hear me coming a long way away.) About a mile later I did just that. He mentioned that if I kept my pace I'd break 10:30.

This really helped cause at this point of the race I needed something to shoot for. Around me there were some interesting sights and sounds. There were pro's walking. Athletes vomiting. And the ever-present sound of my water-logged sneakers. It's these dark times in a race that I personally look back at my training. I've felt worse before. How about those speedwork sessions on the track and treadmill? Or the long intervals with my HR between 88-92% of my max? As bad as I was feeling, I'd felt worse and this was Kona. Thankfully being in Kona also means the marathon is really only about 25 miles. Just get yourself near Alii Drive and let the crowd do the rest. Thankfully, my sister and my girlfriend Brooke were on the outskirts of town so really all I had to do was get to mile 24 and I'd be OK. They had commandeered a bullhorn and were cheering me on. I didn't really hear what they were saying, but it was so nice to see them.

A few minutes later I hit Ali'i Drive. This is the moment that I'd been training for, for years. Literally. And when you build something up in your head for so long, it's so easy for the actual experience to be a bit of a letdown. Who am I kidding, as I approached the finish line there were thousands of screaming fans, my parents, sister, girlfriend and Mike Rielly, the voice of IM, screaming the four words every triathlete wants to hear…Brian Maiolo, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mike Egan Reports on his IronMan Hawaii Experience

Kona Race Report (3am-Midnight):

Location: October 13th, 1:40 pm-mile 5 of the marathon in Kona.

I've melted down. I'm starting to hallucinate. My core temperature is off the charts, it's 96 degrees, and there isn't a cloud in the sky. I have 21 more miles to run on legs that have already swum 2.4 miles and biked 112. I know this day had a beginning, and I know it will have an end, I just don't know when. But at this moment, I feel as though it will never end. It all began at 3am, when I awoke at the King Kamehameha Hotel, 4 hours before the start of the Ford Ironman World Championship.


There's a moment the day before the Ironman, when a peaceful easy feeling settles in and I finally feel relaxed. There are no more training rides, no more long runs, no more mind-numbing swims. No more special needs bags to be packed, no more tinkering with the bike, no more left to do, other than race. The hay is in the barn. It's because of this that I wake up after one of the most peaceful nights sleep I've had in a while. It’s at this moment I experience the first of many hurdles I'll have to overcome-moldy bagels! I laugh it off and start pounding the cereal. 90 minutes later, my pre-race bag is on my shoulders and I’m off to get body-marked. #1568 is stamped on my arms, and it's real. I walk to the pier, ready my bike, say goodbye to my family, and slowly work my way into the water.

7am-Swim 2.4 miles

The beauty of the Ironman is that there is no easing into the day. No matter how nervous or afraid you are, when that cannon goes off, it's on. Your nervousness and fear are gone instantly, and you're confronted with the first of a series of moments—survive! It doesn't matter how fast you are-if you can't swim away from 1700 of the best amateur athletes on earth, the swim is going to be chaos. I will get out of the water in 54 minutes, but I will still get my ass kicked by the over-zealous swimmers to my left and right while the swimmer behind me is harassing my feet trying to find the draft. And I am doing the exact same thing to the swimmer in front of me.

8am-Bike 112 miles

Well, thank God that's over. Yes, even when you're a faster swimmer, you're happy to get on your bike. I catch many of the athletes who come out of T1 ahead of me, bike through town and before I know it--I'm on the legendary "Queen-K" highway. And I'm alone! I’ve placed myself in the top 10 of the amateurs and that's when it hits me—I'm doing Ironman Hawaii, I'm on the Queen-K, I've dreamt about this moment! Coming from my first race 4 years ago where I "raced" a half-ironman in over 6 hours, to the following year where I did the same race in 4 and a half, to being diagnosed and treated for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and preparing for Ironman Lake Placid only to find out I had a tumor in my chest that needed to be removed but racing Ironman Florida 9 weeks later, then qualifying at Coeur d'Alene by winning my age group—it's all led to this moment. When this wave of euphoria passes, I realize that I've only got about 95 miles to go on my bike. Oh boy. Reading about biking 112 miles is probably as boring as doing it, but I will just say that it was a long ride. The winds to Hawi had me going 12 mph downhill, and the long return home to Kona is brutal. The course is an out-and-back, and the return is always into a headwind. I got off my bike in just under 5hrs (4:57) and as I hand it off to the volunteer I ask her to throw it in the ocean for me. Which means it’s time for the marathon.

1pm-Run 26.2 miles

And what happens? I get tackled by another racer! I run out of T2, see my friends and family, and as I run over to high-five them, I'm clobbered by a Pro Male trying to pass on the right. My legs cramp, I've got road rash, and I think "that’s it, it’s over." I stand up and my hip is throbbing, my legs are cramping, and I've got 26.19 miles to go. I start running and get into a rhythm, but it becomes too much. My pace for those first 5 miles is about 7:22, but as the heat and pain of the day start to build, I'm overwhelmed by fatigue, and I start walking. You must prepare for these moments, and as I sit at the aid-station trying to cool down and drink, I hope that this moment passes. I "run" the next 11 miles at about a 9:00 pace, and I'm in tears. I see my good friend and coach, Brian Walton who would tell my friends that I was "unraveling" and at the bottom of Palani Rd. I see my mom, sister, and girlfriend. I stop to kiss them, and I run to the top and turn left onto the Queen-K and start running to the Energy Lab. 10 miles after hitting the wall, I've maintained a decent pace and I've recovered with a chance to salvage my day. I run to each aid-station, walk through and run to the next. 10 little races that take me only 80 minutes! This was my defining moment, I've negative split the marathon of an Ironman. My pace is 8:08 for the final 10 miles, and I run down Ali'i Drive and see the clock-9:35! I can’t believe it, I did it. I'm so proud at this moment, so I put my arms up and start high-fiving everyone in sight.

There's nothing quite like the finishing line of an Ironman. The emotion there is something you can bottle up and take with you, it's absolutely palpable. You feel like a champion because you’ve overcome so much to get there, and you feel a strong connection to your competitors because only they know what it took to get to that same finish line. It's at the finish line that this bond is sealed for everyone. I go back at 9pm and stay until midnight. I watch Brian Breen finish 2 years after getting hit by a truck and dying 8 TIMES! on the operating table. I watch Scott Rigsby become the first double-leg amputee finish and it feels as good as it did for me at that moment as it did when I finished. The midnight ceremony quiets the crowd and I look around. I love this sport, and I love the Ironman. 1700 athletes, 1700 amazing stories. Everyone is a hero in their own world, it doesn’t matter what their story is, it's inspiring. Cancer survivors, double amputees, 75 year-olds, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, it is so hard-the work required to get to that start line and then get to that finish line.


Sitting there nursing the aches and pains of the day, I'm thankful for those who helped get me to the finish line. My training partners from Cadence (Joey, Brian, Todd, Scott, Tom, and Holden) who pushed me, Matt and Melissa Heitmann for supporting me, my girlfriend Alex who is the one pushing me out the door and always taking care of me when it gets tough, my coach Brian Walton, my sister Kelly and her husband Daniel, and my Mom & Dad--who inspire me to never give up on my dreams. We did it. And now I start thinking of ways to improve, where I can get faster, and I go to sleep knowing that my first Ironman Hawaii was as much a learning experience as it was a "race," and I am more motivated than ever to make an impact next year. I will make an impact, and Brian tells me "next year starts next week." I hope to see all of you out there.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Kona Strategy vs. Tactics

As I rode towards Kailua today for an early morning meeting at the famous coffee shop meeting point, Lava Java, my shadow stretched 100 feet over the lava rock down towards the ocean. I started to think about what would transpire on the Queen K tomorrow. The athletes have their strategies. Tomorrow the tactics will be played out.

Stadler, will he be able to repeat? I have seen Norman everywhere over the past week; more than a super model’s legs on a Parisian runway. Will he crush the field or maybe have another meltdown on the lava rocks like 2005? Everyone says he is looking "bigger" and that he has a build that should suit him in the water. Can he put the necessary time advantage on the bike into the runners like Tim "has one more in him" DeBoom, Craig "wildcard" Alexander, or Chris "has to be my year" McCormick?

As for the women, can Desiree Ficker build on last year's performance and pull back the 6 minutes that Michellie Jones swam out of her, or will it be Canadian newcomer, Samantha McGlone, the rookie in the field who will pull something to surprise the veterans?

All these athletes have put together their personal strategies and maybe even a contingency plan. But during-the-race tactics is a whole different matter! How will an athlete react when his or her competition throws a wrench into the mix and does something out of the ordinary? Could it become personal with “Macca” and Norman and someone else sneaks in there (a la CA)?

By the end of my ride, my shadow was only slightly larger than my frame. The dreaming was over. Now it's race time!

A Little Pre-Race Strategy for Kona

Today I had my final strategy meeting with Michael. This past year has been designed around qualifying for Kona, and then a successful race. Michael qualified by winning his age group (30-34) in Coeur D’Alene with a time of 9 hours 34 minutes. The issue then became: “How does one then prepare for a second IronMan in the same year?” Well, to quote Frank Shorter, “You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.” Michael’s training since June 26th has been strictly oriented towards success in Kona on Oct. 13th. He is now ready to race here: he is leaner than he has been since grade school, and he is nervous but confident.

Today we discussed race strategy. In general I do not like to focus on specific goals, e.g. a time goal, since weather conditions (wind and heat) may dramatically impact such goals. Instead, athletes should focus on the process; the outcome will take care of itself. The other key point for an athlete to remember is to focus only on those issues that YOU can control. There’s no sense worrying about how fast your competitors will race. YOU cannot change that on race day.

Because Michael is a strong swimmer he should finish within three minutes of the leader. So, our strategy is to follow the leaders, let them plow through the water, and take as much time as possible from other contenders.

Over the last couple of years Michael’s cycling has improved to the point where he may be one of the leaders off the bike, but this is the World Championship and it is a different ball game this weekend. So, again, our strategy is to be patient, use the competitors, and keep in mind that 112 miles is one long time trial. We know that the last turn with 35 miles to go will be the point that separates the leaders from the rest of the competition. It is a long way back to the Pier and if the winds do what is forecasted then there should be a slight headwind. Ouch.

The run is Michael’s Achilles heel, but he has improved significantly over the past year and we look at the run as an opportunity. For the run, we did set a time goal, but only to assist Michael with his pacing. This is to ensure that he has energy left as he enters and exits the Energy Lab.

Stay tuned. Now it all comes down to execution! Tomorrow: Sights around Kona and people or, I should say, triathlete watching.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Brian Walton Reports from Kona 2007

I arrived Sunday night, having flown into Kona for the first time. What struck me most was the barren, open landscape that is so well known the triathletes who will compete in the Ford Ironman World Championships this coming Saturday 7:00 a.m. local time (for age groupers and 6:45 a.m. for the professionals).

I am here gathering information for our Cadence Kona Challenge that will take place the following weekend, October 19-21 at Cadence NYC. Thousands of applicants have now been whittled down to 100 semi finalists who will compete for the 6 coveted final positions. Platinum Cadence level coaching, physiological testing, Cyfac bikes equipped with Zipp wheelsets and Sram groups, Suunto HR monitors, Zoot wetsuits, Sidi shoes, LAS helmets, and Enervit nutrition products will be awarded to and used by the 6 finalists. Cadence, in conjunction with Triathlete Magazine, will chronicle the training and lifestyle of those six athletes as they prepare for an IronMan event.

Back to Kona...and the winds. Many people have written about the Hawaii winds but until you ride out and back on the Queen K to Hawi it is impossible to fathom how strong and prevalent they are. I raced many years in Belgium and Holland in the classics, semi classics and Belgian Kermesses fighting for the gutter on many occasions, but these Kona winds really mess with your head. No rhyme or reason as to when they pick up or let off; and out or back, it just doesn’t make a difference. Yesterday I was nearly blown off my bike and my athlete, Mike Egan, had the same issue, having to get out of the aero position and ride in the drops so he would not be sent into the gravel. If the winds stay as strong today as race day, it will be a cyclist winner such as last year's champ, Norman Stadler, that wins again in 2007.

Stay tuned for move coverage regarding the athletes and strategy leading up to the race!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Fall Indoor Multirider Classes - Now Open!

Check out the latest action from our fall indoor class. These athletes are performing a field test to determine there training zones for the class. This also allows us to track their progress over the next 12 weeks. We have seen historically an average of 10% improvement after just 12 weeks!!! Enjoy

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Notes - VO2max

VO2max is the maximal rate at which you can inspire oxygen (O2) from the environment and transfer to the muscles within the body during exercise. It can be measured using specific equipment which measures the O2 you breathe during a graded exercise test.

VO2max is largely influenced by genetics and heredity.

For an individual, the variables that determine VO2max are cardiac output (CO) (the amount of blood you pump with each heart beat) and the aVDO2 difference (the concentration of 02 in the arteriole blood minus the concentration of O2 in the venous blood, basically the amount of 02 you extract out of the blood as it rushes past the working muscle cells).

VO2max = CO * aVDO2

Cardiac Output is dependant upon:

Stroke Volume (SV) – the amount of blood pumped out of the hearts ventricle each beat.

Heart Rate (HR) – the amount of beats per minute

CO = HR * SV

With proper training, these mechanisms and the variables that influence them increase 1.) The amount of blood you get to the muscle with max exercise 2.) The amount of oxygen you can extract from the blood as it travels past the exercising muscle.

An increase in VO2max from endurance training is primarily the result of an increase in CO. In turn, the most influential variable to increase CO is the increase in stroke volume after training (aVDO2 plays a small role in increasing VO2max, it has more influence over work capacity at sub-maximal workloads).

Reasons for an increase in SV (and hence, CO)

1. An increase in the heart’s left ventricular dimension – the chamber becomes larger thereby storing more blood for each beat.

2. Increased contractility of the heart. The heart beats a little harder thereby decreasing the amount of blood volume left in the ventricle after it contracts.

3. An increase in the plasma volume (PV) of the blood (hypervolemia). With training you can increase the amount of blood in your body by as much as 20%. The Frank Starling Mechanism says that as the PV increases the end diastolic volume (EDV) (the amount of blood sitting in the left ventricle right before beating) thereby causing an increase in SV which increases CO.

↑ PV → ↑ EDV → ↑ SV → ↑ CO

Therefore, an increase in CO through specific endurance training means that at any given absolute sub-maximal workload there is less stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system (because blood pressure is maintained easier). This is the reason HR decreases (at rest and for a given absolute sub-maximal workload) after a block of training. There is also less blood flow redistribution during a given absolute sub-maximal workload due to an increased CO. This increases exercising blood lactate clearance, absorption of ingested food, and an increase in the formation of glucose by the liver. All of which make you a stronger endurance athlete.

Main point – Increasing your VO2max can benefit your performance at sub-maximal workloads, including lactate threshold, and this is primarily the result of an increase in the volume of blood you pump through your body during exercise.