Racing

Can mouthwash make you faster?

Can mouthwash make you faster?

No, we aren’t talking about Listerine, Scope, or any of those other mouthwashes that are intended to give you a clean mouth, fresh breath, and make you more kissable. We are talking about the opposite of that: a sweet drink that makes your mouth sticky with sugar, and you don’t even have to drink it. How does that work? First, let’s start with a little background.

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Most athletes understand that moderate to high intensity exercise is fueled primarily by carbohydrate. We have large stores of fat, but the energy from that fat cannot be released quickly enough to fuel your muscles at those higher intensities. The chemical energy in carbohydrates can be turned into mechanical energy at a much faster rate. So pedaling harder or putting one foot in front of the other with any reasonable intensity requires carbohydrates as fuel. The problem with carbohydrate is that you can only store so much of it. Once that carbohydrate done, you’ll slow to a pace that can be sustained using only fat for energy. You’ll be slow, and you probably won’t be very happy. In the 90s, researchers firmly established that supplementing with carbohydrates, usually in the form of sugary drink, improved performance. But here’s the thing: Carbohydrate supplementation improved high intensity performance even when the intensity and duration of the exercise was not enough to deplete the athlete’s stores of carbohydrate. And these improvements were real, meaningful improvements, ranging from as little as little as 2.3-11%. What does this mean in real world terms? It means that improvements in a 40K cycling time trial, or a half marathon are measured not in seconds, but minutes. So what is going on here?

A large breakthrough came in 2004, when Doctor Carter from the University of Birrmingham did something new and interesting. He bypassed the mouth. Carter and colleagues had cyclists do a 40K time trial while receiving and infusion of either saline, or a carbohydrate solution at a rate of 1g/min of carbohydrate (similar to what an athlete could drink and absorb the good old fashioned way). As you might expect, blood glucose level in the carbohydrate group went up. What might surprise you is that there was no improvement in performance. That athletes didn’t go any faster. Carter’s follow up was to have athletes do another 40K time trial. But this time they would take a mouthful of carbohydrate drink, swirl it around for 5 seconds and then spit it out. You can probably guess what happened: The athletes improved on the order of about 3%, similar to if they had actually swallowed the drink. Once again, the improvement could be measured not just in seconds, but in minutes. Several other researchers have found similar results, but not all of them have. But there does seem to be a growing body of evidence that at least in some circumstances, a carbohydrate rinse improves endurance performance. So how does it work?

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“Central governor theory” suggests that one of the limiters of performance is the brain, and I’m not talking about mental toughness here. According to central governor theory, the brain is constantly taking in all sorts of information about the physiological state of the body, and then regulating muscle recruitment based on that information. The evolutionary value of this would be to reduce the likelihood of self-harm. The brain tells the body to “ease up” to keep from hurting itself. The research on carbohydrate mouthwash/rinses suggests that some sort of chemoreceptors in the mouth tell the brain “more carbohydrate is coming!” so the brain allows the muscles to keep on pumping away.

Of course not everyone agrees. A few studies have shown no effect with the carbohydrate rinse. A few of these studies may have found an effect if the sample size were larger (the larger the sample, the easier it is to find differences). Studies that included 4 hours or more of fasting before the exercise session were more likely to find a benefit. So starting with full stores of muscle and liver glycogen may blunt the effect of the rinse. It also appears that the rinse doesn’t help with efforts of about 30 minutes or less, and nobody has really looked at efforts over 70 minutes.

So how can you put this information to use in a practical way? To some extent, this research has value even if we can’t put it directly to use right now, as it gives us insight into what limits human performance. But I think we can put it to practical use. In most cases, athletes should simply swallow their carbohydrate mix rather than spit it out. But athletes that experience an upset stomach ( GI distress) may be able to get the performance benefits of carbohydrate supplementation, while avoiding the distress. Some experimentation during training may be required, and the athlete may find it best to “rinse and spit”, “spit one, swallow one”, or something along those lines. The other practical implication is for people that are training for weight loss. It would be theoretically possible to use the “rinse and spit” method to complete a more intense workout, while also minimizing calorie intake.

So next time your legs are heavy and your stomach is in knots, just try the rinse and spit.

Questions? What would you like to see me write about next? Email me: coachsburke@gmail.com

Resources and further reading

Beelen, M., J. Berghuis, B. Bonaparte, S.B. Ballak, A.E. Jeukendrup, and L.J. van Loon (2009). Carbohydrate mouth rinsing in the fed state: Lack of enhancement of time-trial performance. Int. J. Sport Nutr. Exerc. Metab. 19:400-409.

Carter, J.M., A.E. Jeukendrup, C.H. Mann, and D.A. Jones (2004). The effect of glucose infusion on glucose kinetics during a 1-h time trial. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 36:1543-1550.

Carter, J.M., A.E. Jeukendrup, and D.A. Jones (2004). The effect of carbohydrate mouth rinse on 1-h cycle time trial performance. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 36:2107-2111.

Chambers, E.S., M.W. Bridge, and D.A. Jones (2009). Carbohydrate sensing in the human mouth: Effects on exercise performance and brain activity. J. Physiol. 587:1779-1794. Fares, E.J., and B. Kayser (2011). Carbohydrate mouth rinse effects on exercise capacity in pre- and postprandial states. J. Nutr. Metab.2011:385962.

Jeukendrup, A.E., S. Hopkins, L.F. Aragon-Vargas, and C. Hulston (2008). No effect of carbohydrate feeding on 16 km cycling time trial performance. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 104:831-837.

Luden ND, Saunders MJ, D’Lugos AC, et al. Carbohydrate Mouth Rinsing Enhances High Intensity Time Trial Performance Following Prolonged Cycling. Nutrients. 2016;8(9):576. doi:10.3390/nu8090576.

Noakes, T.D. (2000). Physiological models to understand exercise fatigue and the adaptations that predict or enhance athletic performance. Scand. J. Med. Sci. Sports 10:123-145.

Silva T de A e, de Souza MEDCA, de Amorim JF, Stathis CG, Leandro CG, Lima-Silva AE. Can Carbohydrate Mouth Rinse Improve Performance during Exercise? A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2014;6(1):1-10.

Racing outside of your comfort zone.

Athletes sometimes like to label themselves  as a “sprinter” or a “climber”, but these labels can also be limiters.   Coach Trina talks about the benefits of racing out of your comfort zone, and what she has learned from personal experience. 

Racing outside of your comfort zone, by Trina Jacobson

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Why do races that don’t play to your strengths? The short answer is that it challenges you both mentally and physically.

To enter an event that doesn’t play to your strengths takes some self evaluation:

-    Can I physically do this?

-    What is a realistic goal for this race?

-    What do I need to do differently for this race compared to others?

And the answers to the above questions begin the mental challenge of knowing you’ll perform to your abilities, skills, and fitness not to your hopes and dreams. Managing these expectations with regards to THIS event, prepares you for expectation management in events you are already strong in.

For example, when I line up at a local criterium, there is a fair amount of confidence in my abilities to perform well based on past performance. This is my strength, and I've done so many of them that the fear of the unknown is gone, because I’ve done most everything you can do in a crit: blown up and spit out the back, lapped multiple times, helped teammates win, won with the help of teammates, won without teammates, etc.

A road race with any kind of sustained climb does not play to my strength, however I have entered a few road races. Could I physically do this? Yes, I could physically ride the distance and elevation. I may not be doing it with the rest of the field, but I could do it. What is a realistic goal for this race? 1) stay with the group for a long as possible/longer than the last time and 2) help my teammates when I’m able to. What do I need to do differently for this race compared to others? 1) train a little differently, race a little differently and 2) eat a lot.

After completing what would become my best ever effort in a road race, I was completely spent and it took me days to recover physically. This is what I learned and how my crit racing has improved:

-    I had never gone as hard for as long as I did that day —> no excuses to skip out on an interval on a training ride (as long as you aren’t harming yourself).

-    I actually emptied the tank —> I have never emptied the tank in a crit, but now that I know what it feels like, let’s do it.

-    I am a good teammate —> I have a deeper appreciation for my teammates that work for me in a race, which helps with the race-time communication.

-    I was stressed before the race because I didn't know how it would go —> I managed my stress successfully and I can use that skill at any race (or life event).

All of these things can be summed up by: My cycling as a whole is richer. My skills, experiences, and connections were deepened and strengthened. I have new and better appreciation for the local crits and have challenged myself further by taking it to the next level of a few races on the national level.

These lesson apply to racers as well as non racers,  Pushing outside of your comfort zone can also help the gran fondo rider or the weekend warrior who goes to the local group rides.   Try some rides that push you both mentally and physically and reap the rewards.

How To Use a Training Diary, or Keeping Track of the Important Stuff!

Most professional and top amateur athletes keep a training diary.

Training diaries are used to keep record of your training rides and races to track your progress over long periods of time. As a coach I have all my athletes keep a training diary. When filling out a training diary, it is important to record both subjective and objective data. You will also need some way to keep track of training metrics. With some performance testing, discipline, and a diary tracking your training, you can achieve those all-important long term gains in your cycling.

Subjective Data:

Subjective data is information about how you felt during a particular effort or training session. When recording your efforts, make sure to give detailed information about how each effort felt to you as well as how long your efforts were. How you feel is not just important on days when you do hard intervals: it’s equally important on your easy, recovery days. ‘Grade’ your workouts in order to track your progress. I like to use the traditional ‘A’ through ‘F’ scale with plus or minus indications on each grade if applicable.

Objective Data:

Objective measurements or ‘metrics’ are critical to record in your training diary. There are more than a few types of metrics to use when keeping records of your training activities. The coaches at Crank Cycling use Training Peaks software to record metrics with their athletes. Using metrics that give you specific data points like watts from a power meter or heart rate from heart rate monitors are best. Most power meters and heart rate monitors come with a software program to upload your data files for analysis. These are certainly not the only kinds of metrics available, but they are the most reliable. Here are four metrics that I use with my clients and a brief explanation of how they work.

Heart Rate is one of the older metrics available and there’s quite a bit of information about it out there in books, cycling magazines and on the internet. Because heart rate can be influenced by many variables (atmospheric temperature, stress, sleeping habits and diet, for instance) this metric has some inherent limits that will affect and limit reliability.

Wattage measured by a power meter is not new to cycling but power meters have become super reliable in the last few years. They’re inexpensive enough that even a beginning cycling enthusiast can afford one and use it with ease. Power meters have strain gauges in them that measure the force and torque (the power that the cyclist applies with their legs) in order to calculate the wattage being produced. The use of a power meter is one of the most accurate ways to measure a cyclist’s progress.

Speed and Duration can show you how fast you’ve gone on a specific course or how much endurance you have built as your workout times increase. If one of my cyclists chooses to use a heart rate monitor, I always make sure to use speed and duration along with heart rate data.

RPE-Rate of Perceived Exertion is usually represented on a 1-10 scale, 1 being an easy walk and 10 being the most physical exertion you can endure for 10 to 15 seconds. RPE scales seem to work well for riders who are in tune with their bodies and who enjoy pushing their limits. Riders who do well with RPE usually find objective data unhelpful when riding, training, and racing. They might put black tape over their computer’s head unit during training and have their coach look at the actual metrics at a later time. RPE is, of course, considered a subjective metric.

Performance Testing:

Testing yourself on the same course every 3 months to see if you have improved your performance is important to overall, long-term improvement. Make sure you take tests and record them a minimum of 3-4 times a year. Be careful to record test results in your training diary, as they will show your improvement over time. In my next blog post I’ll talk more about the types of tests you can perform.

Tracking Long Term Gains:

Your subjective feedback (how you felt during the training session), and the objective data (your heart rate, watts, speed, and duration of the session) will help give you a picture of how you are progressing. If you keep good records, you will be able to look back at past years and find out what has worked best for you over time. You will also be able to see long-term trends which will help you focus your efforts on what you are making the most gains in.

Discipline:

Set yourself up for success! Create realistic habits for filling out your diary on a daily basis. Make sure that the act of filling out the diary is something that you can realistically do, at a certain time, every day. For instance, if you don’t have time to fill out your diary in the evening don’t plan on doing it then. Plan to do it when you know you’ll have the time and are free to take advantage of that time like just after your ride or during a post ride snack. Attach the chore to something you’re doing already so you’ll never forget to do it!

I try to download my power/heart rate data just after my workout if possible. I write down how my legs felt before the start of my workout, after my warm-up, and how they felt during each repetition of efforts, and then grade myself (A+ through F-).

Filling out a diary will help you make sure that you’re staying on track with your training. If you need help designing a training plan for your next big ride or event, let us know: we’re experts at it and we’ll be glad to help!

 

Coach Burke’s Saddle Sore Treatment

Saddle sores are an inevitable part of being a  cyclist.    It doesn’t matter if your position is perfect, your saddle is comfy, or if  are riding bib shorts that cost  as much as a cross county flight.    If you ride for long enough, you’ll eventually get  a saddle sore.     I am luckily enough that I seldom get them, but  when I do, I use the same treatment  every time, and it has never failed me Step 1:  Wash up in the shower   and be sure to use hot water, antimicrobial soap, and god old fashioned scrubbing.

Step 2:  Dry well with a clean towel, and then sit around panstless  in order to let the area air dry for a while.

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Step 3:  Put a Band Aid brand Advanced Healing Bandage over the saddle sore and leave it there.

Step 4:  Wait, don’t take off the  bandage, unless it begins to peel off.   In that case, start over again at Step 1.

This method has always worked well for me, and  others claim to have had good luck with it as well.   That being said, I’m not a doctor, so don’t consider this medical advice.    If the sore gets worse after a few days, begins  to exude puss, or develop a fever, I ‘d suggest going to get checked out  by your physician.

I hope you’ll never have to use this advice, but unfortunately you probably will at some point!

 

-Sean

Year in review

At the end of every season you should take a break from focused training. I’m not saying you shouldn’t ride your bike...not at all! But you should stop looking at your heart rate monitor, your power data and even your personal training duration for a few weeks. This helps to relax the mind, rejuvenate and reboot yourself. We don’t often think about it, but disciplined training is mentally taxing; it’s just plain tiring. Sometimes at the end of a good season the body will feel like it is ready to keep going but the mind still needs a break. After this ‘cooling off’ period I usually add very loosely-structured training with small goals to my riders’ training diaries. These goals are usually pretty simple: do a 4-hour ride 3 times a month, accumulate 3 to 5 hours of tempo per week or maybe do a club ride just for fun once a week. These workouts and weekly goals are low stress, low commitment and allow your brain to slowly get used to the mental workload that is coming when training season arrives.

Riders should find that rides during this time of the year are meant to be fun, motivating and inspiring. This is also the time when you should review how your riding and racing season went during the past year. New-found inspiration and motivation will help you see the future and all its possibilities. You should try to assess whether or not you’ve met the goals you set for yourself this past year and whether you want to try and improve on your gains. Maybe you want to attack those shortfalls that you may notice in this review. Maybe you’ll want to set entirely different goals for the coming year. It’s all possible, and it’s up to you!

Setting goals is paramount. If you’ve never set goals in past seasons you should try doing it this coming year. If my athletes are planning on competing in the upcoming racing season, I have them try to set at least three goals to strive for. After all, if you know what goals you want to achieve you can then measure how close you’ve come to attaining your desired results and make adjustments in successive years.

Setting goals is one of my favorite parts of riding and racing because I have the opportunity to entertain all the possible things I can try to accomplish, and that’s just fun! But remember: goals should be challenging and attainable. After you set some goals you should make sure to keep a record of the training you do, being sure to add comments about how you felt during and after your training sessions. You should also make sure to set milestone markers to measure whether you are moving in the right direction in order to attain your goals.

In my next blog post I’ll talk about setting accomplishable goals for your next season.

See you on the road, Coach Jesse Eisner

Did you have goals this past season? Did you achieve them? If you need help setting goals for next season and you need direction in how to achieve those goals, let the coaches at Crank Cycling know. We can help!

Top 10 Fitness Myths from Outside Magzine

The January issue of  Outside Magazine  has a list of the " 10 Biggest Fitness Myths".      I don't know how they go about calculating the "biggest", but seeing as how popular magazines frequently get these messages so wrong, or the advice in their lists is just plan silly.  I think Outside did a good job with most of these, so I am going to address a few of them here: Myth #1: Stretching prevents injuries and improves performance.

This is absolutely true.  The evidence has been piling up for over 10 years.     No matter what your  gym teacher or personal trainer says, stretching does not prevent injuries.    It is a well established fact that stretching   BEFORE exercise inhibits maximal voluntary contraction (  strength and power), and there is a growing body of evidence that it may inhibit maximal aerobic work  as well.     I am not saying here that a warm up does not have its place, or that stretching is not useful in some circumstances.  But   stretching does not prevent injury, and pre- event stretching can definitely hurt  performance.

Myth #2: Running barefoot is better for the body. 

I am a cycling coach  so this isn't really my area of expertise, and I usually only run if someone is chasing me.  Myth #3: You need to focus on your core to become a better athlete.

I couldn't agree more.   I am  just plain tired of hearing about how important the core is.   A few years ago, there was a guy buying adverts on Velonews  suggesting that the best way to  improve your climbing was to improve your core strength, and I saw  recent   blog post from a coach that suggested that core muscles are more important than your leg muscles.  All of your muscles are important!       But  you don't pedal with  your abdominals or your obliques.  Otherwise all those women   that spend hours in pilates classes would be crushing it on the bike.   You pedal with the muscles in your legs and your butt.  Period.   I am not saying that doing a little core work  is useless.  These workouts have their place.   But the importance of a strong core in cycling and many other sports has been grossly overstated.      You can only train so many hours a week, and you get  faster on your bike by riding your bike, not by doing crunches.

Myth #4: Guzzling water and electrolytes before a race prevents cramps.

Also true.   You need to be properly hydrated  and you need to take in electrolytes for many reasons, but  hyperhydration and taking  in large amounts electrolytes isn't going to stop your cramps.     Find a cure for cramps that really works and I promise you you'll be famous though.

Myth #5: Popping ibuprofen before a hard workout prevents sore muscles afterward.

So many people do this, and it is absolutely the wrong thing to do.     Not only do ibuprofen and  others NSAIDS fail to reduce post exercise  muscle soreness  Inflammation  an important part of the muscle's repair process.  That means that  inflammation  is required to recover from training.    You are hurting your recovery by taking those things.      NSAIDS do have their place,  but don't pop them willy nilly.   Save them for when you have a specific  pain or inflammation issue that needs to be addressed.

Myth #6: Dehydration hurts race performance.

Outside magazine is wrong here.  WTF are they thinking.  Maybe they only had 9, but wanted to finish off their list.  Dehydration will make you slower, and can be dangerous.   Simple as that.

Myth #7: Ice baths speed recovery.

I'm not sure on this one.  I personally thing the jury may still be out.

Myth #8: Long and slow is the best way to burn calories.

True.  Ride harder and you burn more calories.  That isn't hard to figure out.    The only caveat here,  is that if you do a  really exhausting 1 hour ride, you may not be able to burn as many calories as if you  do a 4 hour easier ride. Myth #9: Fructose is a performance killer.

Fructose is a sugar that is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream.  It is a great fuel for exercise, and for post exercise recovery.   Too much of it, like any carbohydrate will make you fat.   So   use some common sense here.   But if your sports drink  has some fructose, even HFCS in it.   You are probably getting exactly what you need.

Myth #10: Supplements take performance to the next level.

Most supplements are a waste of time.     I hear people say things like  " well, I started taking such and such, and I got much fitter".     I am willing to bet that the same time you started taking that supplement was the same time you started training harder.    It was the training.      I don't care if your local hero takes a  particular supplement either.   Just because " Joe Fast Guy" takes it doesn't mean that it improves performance.    He would probably be just as fast without it.     That being said, there are a few things out there that are helpful.   The number one being a simple carb/electrolyte sports drink!

 

Thats my 2 cents.  You can find the list along with Outside Magazines comments here: 10 Biggest Fitness Myths

Here comes the Race Season

It is coming. It sneaks up on us every year. That first race. We told ourselves that we were going to be ready. We drew up a plan, bought a new training journal, and made a list of goals. Unfortunately, the off season is filled with holidays, friends, family, and fatty foods. None of these things are truly bad. However they can put a hamper on our best laid plans.

With our friends and family requesting our presence, and commitments filling our time, training can be nearly impossible. This is a time when your own creativity can help you meet your goals.

The majority of cycling disciplines (at their core) rely on our aerobic engine. Training that engine should be a priority during the off season.

Below are some training tricks that can help you. Before you start, you will need to know your upcoming events and the longest duration (time, not distance) you will be competing. Find a date in the future that you will hit that longest duration (date of race) and work backwards, subtracting time trained at your aerobic capacity to the current date. For example, if I am planning to do a 3 hour road race in June, I will plan to ride 3 hours at maximum aerobic capacity in April and subtract 10 minutes every week till I get to the current date.

Block out your training: Find the times that will work best for your personal training. Sometimes that means you will miss your Saturday club ride. At certain times of the year I get up at 4:30 am to be on the the road by 5:15 am. This affords me two hours of uninterrupted training.

Do Doubles: Some days squeezing an hour in before work and adding 45 minutes on the trainer after the kids are in bed is the way to go.

Build a camp: If you have multiple days off and you need to work on climbing, get up early (being up early is good for meeting other obligations, too) and drive to an appropriate cycling terrain on consecutive days. If you build multiple camps over a period of two to three months, you will see your fitness grow by leaps and bounds.

Since the majority of cycling disciplines (at their core) rely on our aerobic engine, there are a multitude of alternative aerobic activities that can help us build our aerobic foundation. Go for a run, it's easy to get out the door quickly and be back before anyone notices your gone. Does your work have a gym or offer membership somewhere? Take a spin class or kettle bell class before work or at lunch.

Maximize your training time: If you are set on meeting specific goals, don't go do the epic ride with your buddies and stay away from the super slow ride that does not give you any training benefit.

If all else fails you can race into fitness. Make sure to adjust your goals, planning to do better the second half of the season. Don't stress, cycling calenders usually have a long season with multiple disciplines and lots of racing options.

Crank Cycling can build you a training plan and even offers cycling camps. Let us know how we can help you reach your goals

See you on the road, Coach Jesse

Percieved exertion 10 point scale and how to use it.

About 2/3 of the athletes I coach  use power meters to train, and the majority of them use heart rate monitors as well.  But even with athletes that use all of this fancy equipment, sometimes a  "Rate of Perceived  Exertion" (RPE) scale  is the best way to explain  the subjective  intensity of the workout.       This a basically  how hard  you are going on your own personal 1-10 scale.   While  the scale is 100% subjective, it winds up being quite reliable, and has been validated in multiple scientific  studies. ( you can do a Google Scholar search for GAV Borg or Gunnar Borg) The scale is typically given like this:

  • 0 - Nothing at all
  • 1 - Very light
  • 2 - Fairly light
  • 3 - Moderate
  • 4 - Some what hard
  • 5 - Hard
  • 6
  • 7 - Very hard
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10 - Very, very hard

But I also sometimes explain it like this:

  • 0 - Nothing at all
  • 1-2  Super easy, like a slow walk
  • 3-4 Moderate effort, you  aren't going easy anymore, but you can hold this for a long time
  • 5-6 Hard  holding this for an extended period is difficult,  at or just below   race pace
  • 7 -8 Very hard     race pace, as  you can only hold this for a couple of minutes
  • 9 Almost as hard as you could possibly go
  • 10 - This is as hard as you've ever gone your entire life, like someone is chasing you with a cattle prod.

This is  useful for large groups of people such as stationary  cycling classes ( such as the classes I teach at the  Navy and VA hospitals), or situations where athletes don't have have access to, or don't want to use devices such as power meters  or heart rate monitors.  It is also     frequently  use the RPE scale even with athletes that DO use these training devices.   The fact is, that an athlete needs to know  how to go off of feel,  to gauge their own physiological  responses,  just get a  handle on  what they can do,  and when they need to do it.      Don't get me wrong.  I love training, coaching, and racing with power.   But if you you don't know and  understand what  your boy is doing at the moment, and what you are capable of on a purely primal level.   You'll never really reach your maximum potential.

Retul Bike at by Studeo DNA - Part 1

I had a Retul bike fit done with Chris Bennet at Studeo DNA in Carlsbad last month, this is Part 1 of a 2 part entry on my experience with Studeo DNA and the Retul System. I'd like to start off with my  thoughts on bike fits, and fitters in general.  A good bike fit is can be one of the most elusive parts of a cyclists training and fitness regime. Fitting an athlete and a bicycle is equal parts science, rider feedback, personal experience, black magic and voodoo. I've always been skeptical of expensive bike fits that use lasers, smoke machines, and other fancy equipment. After all, the most important part of a quality bike fit is the fitter himself. You often see shop mechanics doing bicycle fits, but this never made much sense to me. I don't go to TP Automotive for my shoulder pain, so why would I go to a bike mechanic to help me with a bike fit. Even a week at some bike fit school, and a certificate on the wall doesn't necessarily impress me. I'm not saying that all bicycle mechanics are bad bike fitters, I've met many excellent fitters who also know how to turn a wrench. My point is that working in a bike shop does not necessarily qualify someone to do a good bike fit. In my opinion, the most important aspects of a bike fitter are( in no particular order) are:

1) Experience on the bike: A good bike fitter should have logged literally thousands of hours on the bike. This means that they have several years of experience riding bikes themselves, and simply know what it means to pedal a bike for mile after mile, hour after hour... and how to pedal a bike hard. Their understanding of how a bike and a rider fit together needs to be more than academic, it needs to be experiential.

2) Experience watching others: Ok, this mostly comes with logging the miles themselves. But spending all those hours riding with others riders allows a good bike fitter to instantly sense when something isn't right, to recognize the "suplesse" of a a bike and a rider working in perfect harmony, and to try and help you replicate that yourself.

3) An understanding of biomechanics and physiology: A good bike fitter has to have a fundamental understanding of how our muscles and bones work together to put the power to the pedals. This is where some good old fashioned book learning comes in. Fitters can be self taught, take college classes, go to weekend or week long bike fit classes, or combination of these things to learn and understand the biomechanics of pedaling a bike.  A good background in biomechaincs  allows an experienced fitter understand how parts of the body are related, and adjusting one part effects the rest.

4) Experience doing actual bike fits: Practice makes perfect.   That is not to say that all new bike fitters give poor bike fits,  simply that experience counts.

Each of these things is equally important and helps a bike fitter make you more comfortable, faster, and injury free on your bike. What you sometimes find in a bike shop employee is someone who has some background and understanding of biomchanics because they went to a "fit school", yet I assure you that all of these things cannot be learned in a weekend. Many bike shop employees loves bikes, and love to ride them but don't get all that , much saddle time. If a fitter has not had long hours riding the bike and watching others, a good understanding of biomechanics, and actual experience doing bike fits, then approach with caution.*

Studeo DNA in Carlsbad specializes in doing bike fits only.     Chris is an experienced masters racer, with many miles on under his belt, and one look at Chris clues you in to the the fact that he is a former bodybuilder.   As a bodybuiler and cyclists, Chris  has spent  years   studying and absorbing information about the human body and biomehanics and is as well versed  as anyone how all of those muscles, bones,  ligaments and joints work together.    Chris would be using the Retul Fit System to  help examine my current bike fit, and  possibly recommend any changes in my bike fit.   People usually get a bike fit because they are either new to cycling, have pain or discomfort, or simply want to find a more aerodynamic or  improved biomechanical position.     I had no particular reason to change or  alter my current fit, but I figured I would see what these guys have to offer.

Coming next...the actual fit process:

* I don't want to seem as if I am bashing bike shop employees here, I'm just trying to drive home the point that being a good mechanic  and  being a good bike fitter are not the same thing!   I have also seen non bike shop  bike fitters that posses all of the attributes I've mentioned, at yet still give terrible bike fits!

New Warm Ups Posted for Road, Mountain, Cross, and Track

A warm up is an important part of your race preparations.   It  is rather silly to  train for countless hours,  travel to a race, and payg entry fees if  you aren't  going to be properly warmed up. A  proper warm up may not necessarily  win  you the race, but it can definitely lead to a sub-optimal performance and can lose you the race.   We have posted  warm ups for road racing, cyclocross racing, crit racing, time trialing, track racing, and mountain bike racing.    These warm ups are not set in stone, and you may have to experiment a little bit to find out what works best  for you.    If you haven't been doing a structured warm up, or are looking for something new, consider them a starting point.   If you like them, stick with them,  but  feel free to experiment a little.     You'll more find  information   links to all of our warm up  protocols here.

Skills Clinic on April 16th

Crank Cycling will be holding a bike handling and group riding skill clinic on April 16th.   If you are  new to cycling or just need work on some of your riding skills such as  safely riding in traffic, over  or around hazards  such as railroad tracks, dirt, sand, and other debris,  cornering in wet and dry corners, pacelining and drafting, riding in close proximity to other riders, and more.   This clinic is intended primarily for beginner to intermediate  level riders, and  is a great way to help you finish your events   faster, safer, and upright!     You can find more information and registration here, or contact Jesse at Jesse@crankcycling.com

Good Weekend For Crank Athletes

We had a few  guys  racing this weekend, and some decent results.   James Enright  got  a very respectable 12th in his first ever cat 2 race.  Steve S did a 58:01   40K at  Fiesta Island, his best 40 K in 3 years. Coach Burke works  with 2  military paralympic riders that had excellent rides this weekend. Zach L  set a PR on  Fiesta  Island today and and put in time that beats the "emerging standards" for his paralympic category.

Steven P set a PR at Tom's Farm on Saturday and then set another PR on Sunday  at Fiesta Island.   Steven's time at Fiesta was good enough to meet Paralympic National Team Standards.     Congratulations Steven!

PS:   Steven has been taking our Performance Cycling classes on Tues/Thurs nights, and this has alot to do with his performance.   Our next class series starts Tuesday March 15th.  Check it out!

Red Trolley Classic Women's Race at Risk for Next Year.

If there are not at least 30 women at the Red Trolley this year, there will be no women's race in 2012.   Last year, after the 7th annual Red Trolley Classic, I wrote about how  it costs $10,000 to put on a simple industrial park criterium.    When you break that down, we are looking at a costs of $1,000 dollars an hour.   We've already written about how the SDSU cycling team and I lose money all morning during the collegiate categories, as they have a lower entry fee and relatively small fields.       While these fields are small, they are still larger than the Womens' 1-3 field.  When you have 10 riders paying an average of $27 a piece, the revenue coming in is less than $300.  That means we are running at a loss of $700 that hour, and that is after losing money all morning with the collegiate races.   I would love to support women's racing, but neither I, nor the SDSU team can  afford to do it with money directly out of our own pockets.    The profit margins are very slim at this event, and the risk of losing money is very real.    That is why we have made the decision that of there are not at least 30 women at this years race, we have no sane choice other than to cancel the  women's race in 2012.   So women... encourage your fellow racers to come out  and race.  We  really want to see you  again in 2012.

Don't forget to have fun!

Race season is fast approaching, here in SoCal.  Riders are getting serious, and so are the rides.   Riders are out there doing intervals, staying focused, and looking forward to race day.  There is one important thing to remember through all this, and that is to have fun.    The video below is of Thor Hushovd and Mark Cavendish sprinting for the   "King of the Mountain" line on top of Mt Ventoux.    Both men are obviously way of the back of the leaders in a groupetto, and  the  big smiles on their faces let you know that these guys are having fun.     Here you have two fierce competitors and professional cyclists on the secons to last day of a 3 week grand tour, and they are still enjoying themselves.    Enjoying themselves  is something that even amateur cyclists some times forget.     We do this sport to push ourselves, to stay fit, to be competitive, and to have fun.       Next time you finish that city limit sprint, the grueling climb, or that industrial park criterium, think of the grins on the faces of these 2 pro racers, and remember to have fun.

Red Trolley Classic

The Red Trolley Classic is on the schedule and registration is open.   Its'  the first big race weekend for people in San Diego and really all of  Southern California.  I've been involved with this race since its first year in 2003, and I really do enjoy putting on the race.   I've managed to keep the entry fees the same, even though the costs have risen by 20% over the last several years.  Ambulance cost has gone up by about $400 since the race started, USCF insurance fees have gone up by about $600, officials fees by about $200,   and San Diego City  traffic control costs have gone up by about $1500 over the last several years. ( from $300 a few years ago, to $1800 this year)  Fortunately the costs of the toilets and dumpsters, Ralph Elliot's announcing, traffic control equipment, and other costs have stayed relatively the same over the years.  Still, these increases mean that race entry fees  will go up  by a few dollars next year.    It also means that we have to  give some serious thought to the categories that we have racing.   The cash, and time outlays are quite significant, and I am putting my own money on the line.   We  already lose money all morning  by running the collegiate races, which have relatively small fees and mandated low entry fees.  We had to make the decision a few years ago to cut out the junior races, as we can't afford to lose money on those as well.   The women's field has been the smallest field over the last several years, and if the women's race does not have enough entries this year, we may have to eliminate that category as well.    It is simple  fact that  revenue needs to be generated to cover all the costs of putting on the race.  I would love to help support women's racing, but  I simply can't afford to take money out of my own pocket to make that happen.  So please women racers.... please come out to the 9th Annual Red Trolley, so that  we can have you there for the 10th! -Sean

You may want to read my post from last spring explaining:  Why it costs $10,000 to put on an industrial park crit.

Is power measurement the "End All Be All?"

I personally have been using power meters since 2002, and I love to use power meters to coach athletes. I'm kind of a science geek and I love to crunch the numbers and evaluate the data. I also love that fact that the power data can enhance or even tell a different story from what the athlete conveys. Power meters give truly objective and accurate information that can't be obtained any other way. They let us track progress more accurately than any other method, and they help us dial in an athlete's effort level to ensure an efficient use of time, as well as determine when "enough is enough." There plenty of resources out there on training with power, and there is ever more powerful software available to analyze, evaluate, and plan training. These are all powerful tools, that help athletes track and attain higher levels of fitnes, as well as help coaches communicate and track their athletes better than ever. The problem comes when athletes and coaches become too reliant on the power meter.

The training and coaching of an athlete is not just a simple recipe or formula with predetermined inputs and outputs. Every athlete is different, and every athlete's response is going to be just a little bit different. An athlete needs to be viewed as a whole organism, not just a set of power data. In fact the subjective feedback from an athlete is every bit as important as that power data. I think some athletes and coaches easily forget that. They just want to open up a book, take training plan from the book, and adjust it for the athlete's power numbers. It is easy to get caught up in all the charts, graphs, and information that today's powerful software provides, but all those charts and graphs just don't tell the whole picture. I would argue that power data in isolation can even confuse the issue. For example in riders look at their power meter data along with a chart that says they are in a Cat 1 range and get frustrated because they are still a Cat 3.

How and athlete "feels" is every bit as important as what that athlete does. In fact there are several athletes I have been training for years that don't use a a power meter, a heart rate monitor, or any piece of electronic equipment on their bikes whatsoever. We train primarily using RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion), or how an effort feels, and these athlete have reached many of their goals, as well as put wins on their palmares. Power meters have their place. And if i had my way, most of my athletes would train and race on them all the time. But power meters aren't for everyone. Price, functionality, and even all of that information makes powermeters and training with power undesirable for some.

For those that don't want to train with power, RPE works just fine. I used to rely heavily on heart rate monitors for athletes without power meters, but now I've gone the other way and prefer to use just mostly RPE. Heart rate data can simply change so much from day to day, and RPE conveys both what I want from the athlete, as well as what the athlete should do much better than heart rate.

Power meters have their place and many coaches and athletes love to use them, but they are by no means a requirement for success. Coaching and training is more than just looking at power numbers, and the entire experience of the athlete needs to be taken into account. Rate of perceived exertion and how an athlete feels is just as important as power numbers, and many coached athletes are successful using nothing more than than their own perceptions and some feedback from their coach.

Use the comments section below to tell me what you think.

"Understanding Your Power Files" Clinic

Ok, You've got this fancy doohicky on your bike. Maybe its made in Germany, maybe its built in the US, . This fancy thingamajig may have cost you just about as much as some people spend on their entire first racing bike. It tells you how hard you are going in watts, it tells you you average watts, your max watts, it tells you how much work you've done in kiljoules, and more. It gives you all sorts of information, but what do you DO with all this information. The coaches at Crank Cycling are here to help. We work with power every single day. We sell more Power Tap and SRM power measuring systems than most bike shops. We've helped elite athletes analyze their power files, and adjust their training.  We've written articles on power for local and national cycling news outlets, and we want to share our knowledge with you with you.

This clinic will cover:

  • The basics such as how power is measured, what are the advantages and disadvantages of the different power measuring systems.
  • How, when and why you should do field testing with your power meter.
  • How to monitor and analyze individual workouts as well as weeks, months, or years worth of data.
  • Creating and implementing a training plan based on power.
  • Racing with your Power Meter
  • and more

This clinic is appropriate for anyone who owns a power meter, or anyone who is thinking about purchasing a power meter.    It is appropriate for self coached athletes as well as athletes who work with a coach (Crank Cycling or anyone else!)*.    Knowledge is power, and the more knowledge you have, the greater your chances for success.

The clinic is scheduled for Sunday November 20th at 1PM at our downtown training studio and is expected to be 3-4 hours in length.   The cost of the clinic is $99 with discounts being offered to Crank Cycling coached athletes or clubs with more  5 than athletes attending.

Registration is HERE , or use the contact form on the lower right or call Coach Burke at   six- one –nine -865-3389 for more information.

*Athletes that work with another coach may bring their coach with them to the clinic for no charge.  We welcome the company of knowledgeable coaches, and encourage their  participation in the question and answer portions of the clinic.

Free Coaching with a Power Meter Purchase

You know you’ve been thinking about the taking the power meter plunge for a while now. We know that you want to quantify how hard you are pounding those pedals into submission (+- 1.5%) It is unlikely that your power meter will make you the as tough as Jens Voight,. Nor will it help you put out enough watts to power a small alpine village like Fabian Cancellara. But a PM can help you hone in your training so that you can see the maximum possible improvement, as well as make the most of your precious training time.But what do you do with that expensive toy once you get it? Well, the Crank Cycling coaches are here to help. Crank Cycling is an authorized dealer for both Powertap and SRM and we really want to get you on a power meter. More than that....we want to get you into a power meter and teach you how to use it. That’s why from now through the end of October, we are giving you 3 months of coaching with the purchase of either an SRM or Powertap SL. It’s as easy as that. Buy a power meter and a Crank Cycling coach will work with you for 3 months. That alone is a $495 value. So head on over to the Coaches page and check out the coaches. Don’t know which coach is best suited for you? Contact head Coach Sean Burke and he will help you figure out which Crank Cycling coach is the best match for you.

So to sum it up.... Here are the reasons why you should buy a new power meter from Crank Cycling right now:

You’ll get free coaching worth about $500 It will help you make the most of your training time You want to quantify how hard you are crushing it They look cool Jens Voight uses one, and he is a badass You know you want one This offer is only good through October 31st 2010

Contact Coach Burke at Coachsburke@gmail.com to get going on your power meter.

It's Time for Speed

June and July are the peak months for most racing seasons throughout the US. Most championship races are held in these months, including Junior, under 23, elite senior, and masters nationals. Some state championships also take place at this time of year. This means peaking, tapering, and speed leading into these months are key. All of these are accomplished by lessening time and duration in your workouts, while increasing intensity and effort. These changes in your workout can be as simple as removing a long ride and adding more sprints, or by pacing with a motor and incrementally increasing the speed until your peak. An important component to these efforts is having rest days so your legs recover, as well as phasing in new exercises gradually so as not to incur injury.

One common workout to do to help build this speed is 30 second speed intervals. These 30-second bursts are followed by a 2-5 minute rest and repeated. Efforts in races at the height of the season are usually more intense and more frequent. By this time in the season, many riders are fit from training and racing and want to show off that fitness by attacking over and over again.

Riding in this aggressive manner splits the race fields in half, thins out the weaker riders, and helps us drop our friends on the Saturday club ride.

If you need help designing a training program that can increase your speed, we at Crank Cycling can help you. Shoot us an email. Let’s see what we can accomplish together.

Cheers,

Coach Jesse