crank cycling

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!

What Is VAM?

What is VAM? Cyclists, even riders that don’t necessarily consider themselves climbers, almost always love a good hill. The other things that cyclists love are gear and data. As power meters and GPS units have become cheaper and more ubiquitous, a typical cyclist has more data available to them than ever. This article will discuss one particular metric that can be measured using a GPS: VAM VAM was a term first popularized by Italian cycling trainer Michele Ferrari. VAM is the Italian acronym for “ velocità ascensionale media” which basically translates as “average ascent speed” . Just think of VAM as vertical meters climbed per hour. VAM is typically measured in meters per hour ( M/H), but you could theoretically use feet per hour as well. What makes this metric so useful is the fact that when climbing, most of the power the cyclist applies to the pedals goes to pushing the cyclist upwards, rather than forwards. So VAM can be used as a proxy for power to weight, as well as to compare performance on say an 8% grade, to that of a 10% grade. If an athlete is climbing at a VAM of 100 (M/H), it will take the athlete 1 hour to get to the top of an 8%, 10% , or even a 15% climb of 1000M . The VAM metric can therefore be used to compare different climbs to each other. You can tell if a performance is a good one or a bad one based on the VAM you achieved on the climb In the absence of a power meter, VAM can be an excellent way to gauge an effort, or even a great tool to build a workout. For example: If a rider has a powermeter, I might have him do a 20 minute time trial, and then take 95% of his average power as his threshold power. If the riders doesn’t have a powermeter, I can have him do a 20 minute hill, and record the VAM. If he does a VAM of 1000, I can assume that at threshold power, he climbs at 95% of 1000, or 950 M/H! So if I want this athlete to do 4 X 10 minute intervals at threshold power but he doesn’t have a power meter, I can tell him to do 4 X10 minute hill shooting for an average VAM of 950! There are plenty of online tools out there such as Garmin Connect and Strava that allow you to upload your rides, and look at your VAM along with other metrics., and most GPS computers will allow you to view your VAM as you ride. So there you go: VAM is a great tool to compare climbs of with similar vertical ascent, and can also be used as an inexpensive alternative to a powermeter.

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

Hone Your Handling Skills

In order to hone your cycling skills it is important to practice them in a controlled environment. This means you should practice riding fast, cornering, and riding in groups. Creating a controlled environment is the hardest part of practicing these skills. To do so you need a safe place to ride and at least one experienced rider who has mastered all of the skills being practiced. Crank Cycling Coaches can help you do this.

Do you want to cruise through the field of riders and find the sweet spot in the peloton? Do you want to slide into the draft and reap the benefits of others' hard work? Would you like to glide through corners at high speeds, not hitting your brakes and not having to over-analyze the word Apex on google search for hours? Do you want to make it over, through, and around obstacles and hazards without worry?

Would you like to keep up on the local club ride without being afraid of riders coming too close to you, or the constant thought of being dropped and not able to catch up at the regroup spot?

All of these things can be accomplished and your mind can be set at ease with some classroom instruction and on-the-bike practice. Come to Crank Cycling's bike-handling and group riding skills clinic on April 16th, presented by Crank Cycling Coach Jesse Eisner. Jesse is a USA Cycling Certified coach and veteran racer with 2 decades worth of riding and racing experience.

See you out on the road, Coach Jesse

Link to sign up