Peaking…. How do you maintain your peak?

Peaking is a delicate matter.  To create a peak takes hours and hours of hard work, hundreds of intervals, long rides, buckets of sweat and tears and gallons of electrolyte drinks.  When you finally get your FTP to the highest that it will be, you are both excited that you are “flying” and also in denial because you it’s hard to accept that this will probably be the fittest you are this year.  In other words, it could be all downhill from here for the rest of the season.  When you are on form, you have to have both the highest level of fitness for the year and also just the right amount of freshness, as form in its simplest, mathematical definition is Fitness+Freshness.  

That very first race you do when you come into your peak or form, is magical as you generally know you are riding well and feel strong, but all of the sudden you are in the breakaway (that you might have never made before) and you are also one of the strongest guys in the breakaway which might be a surprise (a very pleasant one!).  After your first successful race on form, you feel confident, exhilarated and happy.  This feeling of strength is a great feeling and one that you want to last for the rest of the season. All those doubts you had about not being good enough to ever win a big race or be in a strong breakaway with the best riders has been erased forever.  You are now ready to show the world that you are the winner that you have always known that you could be.   This incredible realization and breakthrough and will most certainly “change your world”.    If you have just read this and aren’t quite sure you have ever been “on form”, then you haven’t.  Give it some time though and with enough persistence, proper planning, you’ll achieve the magical “no chain” days.  When you are on form, it is a time when your legs don’t hurt as much, your heart rate can go higher than normal at threshold, you pull through harder, and you look at the riders around you and wonder why they are all hurting so much because to you it doesn’t feel like this pace is that hard.   Like, I wrote earlier, it’s a feeling you want to last forever, but in reality, you “might” be able to maintain for a maximum of 8 weeks, but more likely for 4 weeks.   In this article, you will learn some of the rules you need to follow in order to maintain that peak.  There are many critical things you need to do correctly to stay on form, there are things to avoid doing when on form and what absolutely cannot happen when you are on form as well.   

Rule # 1.  You will only have 10-12 days of just “AWESOME” legs in the roughly 4-8 week period of peak fitness.    Use them wisely.  Most athletes will use 6 of these in training, throw away 2 because of flat tires in races or some other calamity that doesn’t allow them to use their good legs, which leaves only 2-4 days of perfect legs on the weekends that you want them.   So, the trick here is to prevent yourself from using ALL 6 days in training.  You will need to use 2, maybe 3 for sure in order to build confidence and also keep your FTP high, but be very careful in planning too long and intense workouts during this period.   You know you are doing it correctly, when you come back from nearly every ride and say to yourself, “Wow, that wasn’t that hard, I could have easily done another hour”.  You can’t allow yourself to “Dig Deep” in training, if you are doing intervals when on form, always do one less interval than you would normally do.  Leave energy in the “bank” and leave that for the races.  It is very hard to resist going out to the Tuesday night world championships and just crushing everyone, but you have to preserve your “AWESOME” legs from training too hard during the week.   A typical week of training when on form would look like:

Monday- Complete Rest- Yoga or massage

Tuesday- Easy ride, even though the legs feel amazing, light and strong, just ride for 1.5hours at less than 56% of your FTP.

Wednesday- This is your work day.  Get in a ride in which you address ALL energy systems, so some Endurance/Tempo, Threshold, Vo2Max, Anaerobic Capacity and even Neuromuscular Power(sprinting).  The trick here is to UNDER do the workout.  Instead of 2x 20 at FTP, do 2 x15.  Instead of 10 hill repeats at Anaerobic Capacity, do 3.  Instead of 6 big ring sprints, do 2.   You get the picture. Reduce your interval work by at least 20-30%.

Thursday- Go for an endurance ride of at least 2-3hours but resist, absolutely resist the temptation to go hard.  You’ll feel strong.

Friday- Tune-ups and sprints, readying for the weekend.

Saturday- RACE- Make sure you race smart and don’t lose your head. You’ll be strong and want to chase anything that moves.  Race like you don’t have form. Then you’ll be in the winning move.  Make sure you do everything to recover afterwards: Recovery shake, cold bath, massage, whatever you can do to help recovery.

Sunday – RACE- Again, race smart and its O.K. to dig deep today!

Rule #2.   Immune system is key here.  You HAVE to stay healthy.  If you are on form and you get sick? Well, that’s pretty much it, game over (especially if you have to take anti-biotics) so do everything you can to keep yourself healthy.   Wash hands obsessively, stay away from people who are sick, carry a bottle of anti-bacterial gel around and wash your hands if you even think you might have touched something with germs on it.  Don’t share ANY water bottles or food and generally become a germ-o-phobe.  It is super critical you stay healthy, and I would go as far as avoiding people to a certain extent if you can.   You can also take steps to boost your immune system during this time and this means eating lots of colorful fruits and veggies along with taking vitamins that help to boost your immune system.  I highly encourage the use of vitamins/minerals and some herbs to enhance the immune system.   Echinacea has been proven to help boost the immune system and also increase red blood cells, so definitely use that.  I am also a big believer in the 4life products that include the Transfer Factor immune booster.  This has made a difference in many of my clients’ immune systems.  Email me and I’ll let you know which specific ones if you are interested.

Rule # 3. Form is incredibly fragile, especially in the last few weeks, so make sure that you balance the right amount of training in the “Middle” of the period of form.  This “middle period”, generally weeks 3-4 have to have 1 big long ride in order to maintain endurance and 1 intense ride in order to keep the FTP up.  This is different than the sample week above, as your form will be starting to wane at this point and you’ll need to do a little more training in order to maintain it.  I would make sure you go back to your 2×20 intervals at threshold for these two weeks, but don’t try to knock the wattages out of the park.  Right at threshold or at 95% of threshold is perfect to elicit a training response and also not use an “Awesome” Leg day either.  The problem with being on form is that you are gradually losing FTP because you are not training enough, and therefore in weeks 3-4, you need to help boost this back up a bit with a couple of longer and harder rides. Your CTL should be generally “FLAT” during this period or gently downward sloping.  That’s an indicator of more freshness and something that you have to balance throughout this 6 weeks.     See Figure 1 to understand how an athletes’ CTL (chronic training load) begins to plateau and slide when on form.   This slide leads to too much freshness (TSB-Training Stress Balance) and not enough fitness to keep you on form.

THE Performance Manager Chart…..

Rule # 4. Everything has to go right in order for the “form” to stick around for 6-8 weeks. I mean everything.   You can’t get sick.  You can’t crash, you can’t have their girlfriend/wife issues.  There cannot be any major emotional traumas (death in family, break up with your girlfriend, etc.) and life in general has to be very smooth and positive.    Some of these things you have no control over, but they one thing you can do is wash your hands obsessively like a crazed compulsive disorder fruit cake and absolutely avoid anyone that could be considered sick.   Avoid risks (other than cycling of course) and absolutely stay away from doing any type of cross-training for a while.  If someone wants to take you on a hike up a mountain, politely refuse and become hermit.  Oh, and be really nice to everyone also so you don’t create a bunch of unneeded drama.

Rule #5.  What happens when the “form” goes away?  It’s like a faucet turning off.    One weekend you are off front and in the winning breakaway.  The very next weekend, you are dropped.  Seriously. It turns off and instantly you suck. Bad.  It’s incredibly depressing.  You have to be ready for this mental state of being as it can put you in a tailspin for a long time.   The way to prevent a tailspin is with a plan to re-build and awareness that you are now “OFF-form”.    That starts with a FULL rest week, then a “mini-year” periodization cycle, so that you can gently re-build the aerobic fitness and then bring back up the level to a nice higher FTP.  I suggest starting with two weeks of endurance riding, 1 week of tempo riding, 1 week of SweetSpot, 1 week of FTP and then 1 week of intensity above FTP.  That should bring you back around to decent and normal fitness, but not back to peak form. That is more complicated and it will take at least 3-4 months of well-planned training to get back to your peak.  What to do after your peak is over is the subject of another article as re-building that fitness takes some finesse and careful training to bring yourself back to another peak.   Many riders think they can peak soon after their first peak, but this is nearly impossible.  Even the fastest recovering athletes need a solid 3 months between peaks and for most of us, it’s 4-5 months.    If you want to peak twice in a season, then plan for a peak early on and then later in the year.

As you have realized, being on form is like being on the razor’s edge. If just one thing goes wrong you get cut and fall off of your peak.  It’s an incredibly fine balance and why maintaining form for longer than 4 weeks is an accomplishment in and of itself.  Make sure that you are tracking your Training Stress with your power meter and that will make a big difference in extending your peak so that you don’t lose fitness nor gain too much freshness.

Come to one of Hunter’s spring training camps or sign up for personal coaching at his website,  Hunter has a monthly power newsletter in which you can subscribe to so that you will quickly learn the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of power training and also some great insights into the best riders in the world.  Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former Professional Cyclist. He is the co-author of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter, co-developer of TrainingPeaks WKO+ Software, and is the CEO and Founder of the Peaks Coaching Group.  He has online training programs available at  and you can contact Hunter directly

Maximizing your speed….

by Hunter Allen

Maximizing your speed is the outcome of your ability to produce power, the economy of the bicycle, along with the efficiency of the bicycle.  Ultimately as we all know, the goal is to go faster.  The easiest way to do that is to produce more power or watts on our bike.  You should also make sure that you have an aerodynamic bike with aero wheels and that your bike is as light as possible at the same time making sure it’s stiff enough to maximize energy transfer from you to the rear wheel, which is where efficiency comes in(along with lubing your chain!)     Since we are all trying to go faster, and once you have the most economical and efficient bike your wallet can afford, then you have to focus on creating more watts and unfortunately that’s the harder side of the equation, since this involves work, which is expressed in kilojoules (kJ) or more commonly known as sweat.  As a coach, my job focuses on making sure that your hard work is efficient and effective in moving forward to achieving your goal (more speed!).   Let’s look at a couple of ways that you can directly increase your speed on the bicycle through smart training using wattage as the measuring stick by which you are improving.

I was chatting with some newer coaches at a seminar that I taught earlier this year, and one of them asked me a question,  “What is the most important thing we should train our beginner/lower category racers in order to go faster?”    FTP, functional Threshold Power is the most important single factor that can be improved to make an athlete faster.    As Dr. Andrew Coggan always states at our seminars together, “It’s an aerobic sport, dammit”, which he means that since nearly 90% of our success is based on our aerobic capacity (the ability to uptake oxygen , combine it with fuel and get it to our muscles to create force-we are essentially big air and water pumps!), then it makes the most sense to improve your ability to pump air and water.    Before you do anything else, you have to increase your FTP and in order to do that, you need to work close at your threshold and create stress which your body will absorb and adapt to become stronger which in turn allows you to produce more watts and go faster.   First, you need to know what your FTP is, so you’ll have to do a FTP test, which is either a flat-out 60minute time trial or a 20minute time trial.  If you choose to “man up” and do the 60minute test, your average watts from that will be your FTP.  If you choose the easy way out, then take your average watts in the 20minute test and subtract 5% in order to get a close approximation of your FTP.  Once you know your FTP, then you can begin designing workouts around this in order to improve it.  Think of your FTP has the height of a tabletop above the floor.   When you first start in cycling, your table will be low to the floor, but as you train more and more, the legs get longer on your table and the height of the tabletop increases above the floor, till eventually you reach the ceiling.   Now, what is the easiest way to pick up a table in your room and move it?   You get a buddy on one end of the table and you on the other, you put your hands just UNDER the table top and you lift it up!   Right?  You can’t walk up to the table pretending you are Spiderman with sticker fingers  and sticking your fingers to the top of the table to lift it up from the top, although that would be handy.     If we transfer this analogy to your training, then I would suggest doing workouts just below your threshold in order to lift the threshold up.   One of my favorite workouts is actually where you pick the table up and put it back down again, so to speak.  This is called, “FTP Criss-cross intervals” and I recommend doing this at least twice a week in the early season and then once a week later in the season.   This workout addresses your FTP in the first hour and then in the second hour addresses both your FTP and also your muscular strength, finally giving your neuromuscular power a shot in the leg with a few sprints.

Warm-Up:15minute warm-up with (1) 3 minute effort at 100% of your FTP watts in order to shock the system and prepare you for the next hour.  Ride easy for 5 minutes, and then begin your main set of work.  Nail it at 88-95% of FTP for 60 minutes, with 20 bursts (every 3 minutes!) to 150% of FTP watts hold for 10 seconds, and return back to 88-95%.  After completing the hours, ride EASY 10 minutes at less than 56% of your FTP.  Begin the second block of sub threshold work by riding for 20-30 minutes at 88-95% of your FTP, but this time do big gear intervals- 53:13 – 50 rpm from 12 mph to 31 mph every 2minutes, so 10-15 total…so slow down, stick it in the 53:12, stay seated and then use strength to turn the big gear over until you reach 85-90rpm or 30seconds, whichever is first and then return to your previous sub-threshold pace. Ride easy to recover for 10minutes at less than 56% of your FTP.    Finish the workout with 5 hard sprints – your gearing should be around 53:16 for these and starting from 20mph and sprinting for 250 meters each.  Make sure to rest for about 5 minutes between each sprint.  Cool-Down: 10 minutes easy spinning at less than 56% of FTP.

CRISS-CROSS…… A great workout for you.

The next workout you can do to improve your FTP, would be to ride right at your Threshold. These are a little more difficult, but also very effective.   I suggest doing these about 4 weeks before your first race of the year and then at least once during the week during your racing season, thereby giving you two days of threshold work a week.   Hey, this is the number one thing that is going to make you better, but you’d ought to accept it and get on with the work!   I suggest that you start out with 15 minute intervals at your FTP in the beginning and progressing toward longer efforts until you reach 45-60minutes straight at FTP.

This next workout I call, Tabletop Edge Threshold efforts: 2 hours-

Warm-Up: Ride for a nice 15 minute warm-up with watts under 76% of your FTP.  Now get ready for your main set of work with (1) blow out effort with watts at Threshold for 3minutes, recovering for 5 minutes at endurance pace.  Now, you are ready for efforts, right at your FTP, so start out with 2 x 15 minutes at threshold watts (100-105%), and giving yourself a little rest for 5minutes rest between each. At the end of those intervals, you could do another one, or continue to improve your endurance with 90 more minutes after the 2nd effort with watts at upper end of endurance pace, which would be from 80-88% of your FTP. Cool-Down: 15minutes at less than 56% of your FTP.

The final way for you to improve your FTP or increase the height of your table is through VO2 max, or drilling holes into the top of your tabletop!  Yes, you can take a self-drilling hook and screw it down into the top of your tabletop and then lift the table up from the top, but if you do it too often, you’ll leave your tabletop with holes in it and eventually it will collapse on itself.    However, occasionally, like when you are in the final stages of building for a peak of fitness, or if you are in a slump, then some really focused work on your Vo2 max will bring up your FTP.   Doing Vo2 max work means doing intervals at 106-115% of your FTP from the three to eight minute range.  These are super hard efforts, where your respiration rate will be very high (over 50x a minute), they will be painful and you’ll have to push very hard to stick with the wattages needed to elicit a response.   Improving your absolute Vo2 Max is impossible after a certain point of development, you are only born with a certain size of lungs and that can’t be changed, however improving the efficiency of moving O2 from your lungs into your heart and bloodstream can be improved along with improving your velocity at Vo2 Max.   There is that speed thing again, and doing intervals at Vo2 Max, improves your speed at Vo2 Max, so that’s incredibly helpful in races.   I recommend one to two Vo2 Max workouts per week during the period in which you need to be doing this intensity.   Again, limit this work, as putting too many holes in the top of your tabletop will eventually make it collapse.     Give this work out a shot, it is designed to increase your cadence as well as teach you to use cadence to increase your watts when you are suffering and someone attacks or when you are on form and you feel so amazing that you want to attack after doing 5 minutes at vo2 max. I call this workout the “Vo2 Max Overdrivers”

Warm Up: 15 minute easy spin and then do 30 seconds in easiest gear with the fastest cadence possible without bouncing, then do a 30 second recovery.  Repeat this three more times.   Now do 20 seconds at cadence 5rpm faster than before with 20 second recovery. Repeat three more times.  The final part of the warm-up is now 1minute fast pedaling efforts at cadence 5 slower than first sets, with 1 minute recovery. Repeat three times.  Relax for 5-10 minutes of endurance riding while mentally psyching yourself up for the “Overdrivers”.     The main set begins on a hill or into the wind and each interval is five minutes long at cadence 10 slower than typical self-selected cadence.  Each interval is done at 110-115% of FTP in order to guarantee you are stressing the Vo2 Max system.  The “overdriver” part comes at the end of the interval where I want you to do a final 30 second hard burst changing to three gears easier(or the easiest gear you have) for 30 seconds, spinning faster and pushing harder to really fatigue the muscles and increase the respiration rate just a little higher!   Do 5 intervals of 5minutes each.  Recover for 5 minutes between each at your endurance pace 56-75% of FTP.

Returning back to our goal of increasing your overall speed in bicycling, we have learned that improving our FTP and Vo2 max are the foundations of increasing speed on the bicycle.   While it’s great to buy new faster stuff (yes, you can buy speed!), eventually you have to work on your engine in order to go faster.  Pushing that tabletop higher and higher will also eventually reach the ceiling in your room, but making sure you are approaching and close to that ceiling is the best thing you can do for more speed.  Keep in mind that your training first begins on the aerobic system and the higher your FTP, the faster you’ll be period.   While FTP is king,  you can’t neglect the smaller contributions of the energy systems either, as they all play a role in winning.   Spend most of your time on the three workouts above and then get in some shorter anaerobic intervals along with some sprinting and throw in a bunch of long endurance rides as well.

Hunter Allen has an obsession with speed and does just about everything to increase it, whether on the bicycle, in the car, on downhill skis, and even online.   He has fast online training programs available at ,  which feature improving your speed through FTP and Vo2 max improvements.  You can contact Hunter directly for personal coaching and camps.

Meet Elite Coach Barry P. Zellmer!

Barry, born in the 60’s started his endurance career as a 9-year old watching the ’72 Summer Olympics in South Eastern Wisconsin. He watched Frank Shorter win gold in the Marathon, and he was hooked. He was so hooked that he went out and ran 5-miles, all the way through high school distance running was his sport. Currently Barry resides in Fletcher, North Carolina with his Siamese cat Mowzer, he trains 10-16 hrs. per week year-round. He has a 2022 Bianchi Oltre XR3, 2021 Canyon Inflite, and a Wahoo KickrBike. Barry’s coaching focuses are road, cyclocross, and gravel cycling.

“What I love about coaching, is getting you to show the discipline and see the real athlete come out in you. Let’s figure out what you want to achieve and if you are committed, I and Peaks Coaching Group will get you there.” -Barry P. Zellmer

How did you get into cycling?

I got into cycling in the spring of 1982. I was 19 working as a mechanic at a Honda Motorcycle dealer, riding a Schwinn Traveler with Ambrosio black wheels. The Tour was on CBS and the big story was how Phil Andersen had taken Yellow from Hinault. Pascal Simone earlier riding with a broken Scapula and having to give up Yellow. It blue my mind how fit they were. They had style, Eric Heiden the whole deal and they shaved their legs! I was hooked. I want to look like that physically.

How did you get into coaching?

I was way nonfunctionally over reached let us just say. Partially from me and a heavy amount on not watching his naive athlete ride into a hole, my Coach. I achieved the main goal of an FTP number goal but unknowingly blew up. I Forest Gumped. On a Training Ride I blew , got off my bike and rarely rode for 2 years. When I got back at it in 2017 I had already had the knowledge of Power Training but could not simply understand the order of training. I researched it, podcasts, books, meanwhile applying these to myself. A Team Member who I knew still had the athlete in her was my first client. Total success story.

What are some of your hobbies?

I was a total committed Moto Cross fan; I raced had good equipment in the 90’s I just dig the Training. It for me is Mindfulness at its best. It sometimes can last for 6 hours on a solo ride. Or I watch GCN with a VPN.

Favorite long-ride fuel, food, snacks?

Long rides here in WNC you need to eat. Your constantly up or down. 3 HRS 2 Big Bottles. Gatorade mix 1 scoop and the other water with a ground up salt tablet. 3- 72 mg Caffeine SIS Gels. 2 100 Calorie Bars.

One of your most memorable moments with an athlete?

Best Moment Coaching have been multiple. When you can connect with a total stranger. They give you this goal they want to achieve and are willing to listen and commit. So, you and this stranger are like best friends in 2 weeks and you see many times this client transforms into a different, more confident person. That is Cool. Or that Crying phone call telling you 1st before anyone else, They Did It!

Want to take your 2023 season to the next level? has everything you need! From Hunter’s ‘Training and Racing with a Power Meter’ book to the best products from our sponsors. We have it all right here on ShopPeaks!

A Powerful Foundation of Fitness

I know you have spent a lot of time this winter on the indoor trainer doing workouts watching videos of everything from Rambo to “real-life” cycling videos, to riding in Zwift.  These are great tools to increase your fitness in the winter, go to the next level and also to maintain your hard-won fitness from last season. It’s always a battle in the winter with cross-training exercises, cold weather (for most of us!), indoor riding and just how much intensity to do indoors and outdoors on the good days.  I prescribe a lot of tempo and “sweet-spot” work in the off-season in order to limit the upper intensities. If you ride at the higher levels in the winter, you risk peaking too soon and creating a lull in your fitness in March, right when most of the racing starts in the US.   To prevent this from happening, it is important to continue this building of your power foundation.

“Base Training” vs. “Power Foundation”

I really don’t like the phrase, “Base Training” because it produces images of long, slow distance training where your watts are at 60% of your threshold and you just putter along in your ride.   Too many athletes and coaches believe that an athlete has to do “Base training” first and before any other type of training can be started.  Now, I’ll concede that if you are a Pro cyclist and training for a huge season in Europe in 2014, then yes, you should be doing some serious “Base training”.  Riding your bike for 4-6 hours a day at endurance pace will help continue to develop your aerobic system and also prevent you from peaking in January.   But, everyone else?  Forget it.   We don’t have the time to put in 4-6 hours a day at a slow pace, stopping at coffee shops along the way and enjoying the sights. 

For most of us, we have only 1-2 hours a day to train and we have to make the most of those hours, optimizing our training for the highest ROI.  If we took those 1-2 hours a day and rode at endurance pace, then what would really happen?   We would lose fitness and get slower. For most of us, riding that slow will not be challenging enough to create any training stress and therefore adaptation (improved fitness).  There is a relationship between time and intensity that must be respected and when you ride at lower intensities, you will need to ride longer in order to create enough stress for adaptation.  Therefore, I like to call what most of us do in the winter and early spring, your “Power Foundation”.  This is the type of riding that contains more tempo and sweet-spot work, essentially more intensity (but not too much!) than riding around at endurance pace.  Building your power foundation, I believe, is critical for the coming season in improving your FTP, and also preparing for the entire season of racing, so that you are consistent throughout the year.   In the late winter/early spring, you should be finishing the power foundation phase and transitioning from indoor riding to outdoor riding.  This signals the time in which you need to solidify your winter fitness, especially if you have risen up a level (!) and begin adding in more and more work at your threshold and a little above.

Let’s Start with Your Sweet-Spot.

Before beginning to ride right at your FTP for extended periods of time (longer than 10minutes) I would recommend you do some final work at your sweet-spot (88-93% of FTP) and then move onto work right at your FTP and above.    This is one of my favorite workouts that I use for many of my athletes regularly in February and March.

Sweet-Spot with Bursts


15minute warm-up with (1) 3-minute effort at 90% of your FTP, then 5minutes easy,

Main Set: Nail it at 88-93% of your FTP for 60 minutes, with 20 bursts (every 3 minutes!) to 120% of FTP, hold for 15 seconds, and return to previous pace (88-93% of FTP)

EASY 10 minutes riding at endurance pace 56-75% of FTP

Then do 30 minutes at 88-93% of FTP and this time do big gear intervals- every two minutes.  Slow down to 12mph, put your chain in the 53:13, stay seated and then use strength to explode on that gear and push it hard for 30seconds or if you reach 90rpm, stop when you reach one of those criteria first and return to 88-93% of FTP.

In order to start transitioning into race fitness, finish with 5 hard sprints – Start in your 53:16 from 20mph and sprint for 250 meters each, 4-5 minutes rest between each.

Cool Down: 10 minutes easy spinning at less than 56% of your FTP.

To remind you of the Coggan power training levels, see figure 1.

Incorporating FTP Workouts

During February and March, along with continuing to ride at sweet spot, you need to begin incorporating riding right at your functional threshold power and also doing some forays above it to prepare for the higher intensities of racing.  I recommend at least one day a week of training specifically at your FTP and then one day in which you incorporate shorter intensity as well.  I like to incorporate the shorter intensity on the weekend when you are doing a longer ride, by including it in the first two hours and then using the last hour or two to focus on your overall aerobic endurance through tempo and sweet-spot work.

The one focused day of threshold work needs to be highly focused and designed to just address your FTP and nothing more.  This allows you to dig deep into the “well of courage” and push yourself for maximum training effect.  I recommend doing this workout for improving your FTP.

FTP “Well of courage”

Warm-Up: 20 minutes-endurance pace 56-75% of FTP

MS: 5 x 1minute fast pedal over 120 RPM to get legs opened up with 1 minute rest between each. Ride at 10 minutes easy at 56-75% of FTP after those warm-ups. Now, dig in the well of courage and do (4) x12 minutes at or just above FTP- so 100-108% of FTP – Nail these and push in the last minute up to 110% of FTP!  Do NOT kill it in the first 2 minutes though, so start out and ramp up to your 100-108% of FTP.  REST for 5minutes between each.

After completing the (4) x 12 FTP intervals, ride for 20-30 minutes endurance pace (56-75% of FTP).Finish with one more 12 minutes at FTP interval to completely bury yourself!  Make sure you push it hard and do your best completing a total of 60minutes at FTP for the day!

Cool Down: 10 minutes at less than 56% of FTP

Don’t Forget to Have Fun!

On your weekends, make sure you are getting in at least one day of group riding as this is fun and it will also help to develop your race fitness with short, hard bursts and simulated attacks.  I recommend to my clients to do a group for an hour or two and then go longer afterward if they can.   This really makes a difference in your endurance and stamina for the upcoming season.   On the other day during the weekend, it would be great to work on your shorter, more intense efforts.  I recommend this workout:

Weekend: “A bite of it all”

Warm Up: 15minutes at 56-75% of FTP.

Main-Set: Do (3) x 1 minute fast pedaling. Then do (4) sprints- BIG RING –Put your chain in the 53:15 and start from 22mph. Only do two gear shifts in these sprints to 14, then to 13. Rest for 3-4 minutes between each and get psyched for the next sprint!

After you finish your sprints then do (2) x 12 minutes JUST BELOW threshold- so about 88-93% of FTP watts in order to get in a little more sweet-spot/FTP work. Do your best to hold it there!   Rest for 5minutes between each.

Now, finish the workout with 4 x 2 minutes on a flat section of road. 2 minutes ON, 2 minutes OFF. Do your best to hold 130-140% of FTP on the effort.  Lastly, ride at endurance pace for 20 minutes (56-75% of FTP)

CD: 5 minutes (<56% of FTP)

Training this early spring should be focused around making sure you have the overall power foundation developed and then building your threshold power on top of that.  It’s critical that as you get closer and closer to race season, that you begin incorporating shorter, more intense intervals that stress your anaerobic capacity (30sec-2min efforts) and neuromuscular power (5-15 sec.).  The transition from winter to spring training is more important than most riders think as the demands of racing are very specific you must be prepared for them along with prepared for the entire season.   One important final note to discuss is the importance of entering the race season with your “battery” 100% charged. This means that you should make sure you rest between hard workouts and keep yourself relatively fresh.  Digging a hole in this transitory time can be a recipe for disaster. I recommend taking a rest/easy day after every 3 hard days of training, as this will guarantee that you are well rested for the next block of training and are not getting fatigued.

The phrase, “Power Foundation” is how I prefer to talk about winter and pre-season training as it doesn’t conjure up those dreaded thoughts of LSD training, and more focuses one on the ‘power’ side of the equation, since your goal is to increase your power at threshold this season.  Overall aerobic fitness improvement is always something that we all want to accomplish every season as more fitness=more fitness and you will be riding faster than previously.    These workouts are for riders that don’t have 4-6 hours to ride each day and will keep your fitness higher throughout the winter than normal, but that means you don’t have that far to go in order to peak for your key event in the spring.  Give these workouts a shot and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with your new higher threshold this spring!

Hunter Allen is the co-author of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter, co-developer of TrainingPeaks WKO+ Software, and is the CEO and Founder of the Peaks Coaching Group. Along with coaching, directing power training camps, he consults with athletes and coaches around the world to help make them even better. Check out  Hunter also has online training programs available at TRAINING PLANS Archives – Shop Peaks Coaching Group You can follow him on his Instagram page as well. Peaks Coaching Group (@peakscoachinggroup) • Instagram photos and videos

5 Tips for Riding on Zwift.

By: Coach Paul Ozier

Just as you would when you head out the door for a ride, you need to make sure you are prepared when you ride inside. But once you have your setup dialed in, it’s literally a breeze cranking out an indoor training ride. Check out my 5 Tips for Riding on Zwift, to make your next training ride a little more enjoyable.

5 Tips for Riding on Zwift

#1 Load up Zwift early! – 30 minutes before the ride starts. 

Zwift does a lot of updates to keep everything going smoothly, and some of these can take several minutes. This also should give you some time to do a warmup workout that is appropriate for your event (10-15 minutes), followed by that last minute bathroom break.

#2 Read the actual ride description. 

Ride leaders put specifics that will override a possible default Zwift power range, or ride length/duration. An example is the ‘event’ is a 1-hour workout…but after the workout we continue as a free ride group for another hour. Or maybe the event has a secret code or question in the description for a prize or two. Read those details.

#3 Grab extra towels, water, ride food, etc. Be prepared. 

Make a checklist and keep it near your Zwift setup. No sense spending tons of money on that ultimate setup, only to forget that $5 water bottle full of your event calories. Have extra on hand close by. Your indoor setup should include a table or desk close enough that you can grab some extra fuel if needed. Hunter really enjoys using the Saris TD1 Trainer Desk. This desk is adjustable and sits right in front of you keeping everything right where you need it when you need it. No more struggling trying to reach for an extra energy bar, or to adjust a setting in Zwift.

#4 Prepare for your indoor workouts just like you do for outdoor workouts. Fuel, hydration, etc.

Just like you would for any other ride, make sure you prepare for your workout. Eat what you would normally eat before a ride. Stretch! It is so important to stretch out before your ride. This should also include preparing your environment. Make sure everything is ready to go before you get on your bike. Do you have your fans on? One of the most important parts and most overlooked aspect of any indoor training setup is airflow. Do you have fans close by that you can adjust to keep you cool? One thing Hunter always talks about for indoor training is to make sure you are not thermally stressing your body and overheating. Check out this video where Hunter goes over his indoor training setup.

#5 Most importantly, why did you choose today’s workout or event? 

What is your goal/purpose for this decision? How does it affect the rest of the week, or your long-term goals? Stick to the plan. Stay disciplined and committed. I see way too often an athlete jumps on Zwift, sees tons of hammerfest going on, and they simply throw everything out the window and do random stuff, trashing their body again in the gray zone of plateaued training. Focus on the focus! Commit to a determined practice!

Meet Coach Paul Ozier

How did you get into cycling?

Cycling started when I was 15 or 16 years old. Just my brother and a few friends were always riding. I remember riding our bikes to school when I was in 5th or 6th grade…a whopping 4 miles each way! Somewhere along the way I got a copy of cycling magazine. I was captivated by all the cool bikes, races, etc. Somehow a seed was planted. I never looked back.

What is your role at PCG?

At PCG I am an Elite/Master Coach. I coach remote athletes online as well as in person. I come to the various PCG Camps and play mechanic and coach. Camps are great! I do mechanic work both before and after the training rides, as well as ride with the athletes. Long days, but very satisfying and fun! I also am one of the main coaches that lead the PCG Zwift Training Rides.

Other than cycling, what are some of your hobbies?

Hobbies include ham radio, flightsim, and a slew of other outdoor activities like hiking, camping, anything outside is good 🙂

Favorite coaching experience with an athlete?

It is hard to pick a favorite coaching experience. There have been so many great moments. Seeing athletes win an event or get on the podium is always a super moment. Coaching athletes in person is a blast. I was in Sint Maarten a few years ago with an athlete. She won her National Championship in the TT event. That was very happy day 🙂

Why Polarized training is NOT for you!

By Hunter Allen

There is much discussion about “Polarized” training and traditional training across all the training zones, which includes a large amount in the Tempo (76-91% of FTP) and Sweetspot (88-93% of FTP) zones.    If you are below 35 years old and a Pro or a category one racer, you can stop reading here.  Or if you are a Masters rider from 35-45 years old and you legitimately have a shot at winning masters nationals this year, you can stop reading here.  Polarized training might be for you.    HOWEVER, for the rest of us…..POLARIZED training is NOT for you. 

First off, what is polarized training?  Polarized training is a way of distributing your training in two polar opposite intensities.   You are either riding very slowly at endurance pace for long periods of time OR you are riding very intensely at your FTP, VO2 or Anaerobic Capacity zones.  There is no “in-between” riding.  You go easy and slow or you go like a manic and kill every interval.   This distribution is generally 70-80% at lower intensity and 20-30% at high intensity.  This concept was introduced and promoted by Dr. Stephen Seiler, who is a well-known exercise physiologist.  There IS a lot of good research that proves that this approach to training does work and works well.

Ride Easy mostly. Then go really hard. The distribution of the “Polarized” training method.

Secondly, what’s the opposing training method?   I will call this the “traditional” method of distributing intensity more evenly across all the intensities which include a big part of the training in the “in-between” intensities. This “in-between” is a “no-go zone” for the polarized training advocates.  The tradition method of training includes riding at endurance pace, tempo pace and the higher intensities as well, but takes a more equalized approach to training.  This distribution would look like the traditional bell curve, 10% Recovery, 25% Endurance, 35% Tempo, 15% FTP,  10% VO2,  5% Anaerobic and Neuromuscular power.  Which means that the majority of your training is done in the tempo zone, which equates to 76-91% of your FTP.   The “sweetspot” intensity is 88-93% of FTP and blends the upper end of Tempo and the lower end of FTP, crossing both zones.  In the traditional method, you will want to spend a good portion of your training at “sweet spot” as well.  There IS a lot of good research that this approach to training works and works well.

So….why do you want to avoid the “polarized” training method?  Because. It’s. Not. Fun.

Yup, that’s it.  It’s not much fun.  Not because it doesn’t work or isn’t well thought out.  It’s just not fun.  Let’s face it, you do this because it’s fun.  If it wasn’t fun, you’d do something else like golf or bowling or backgammon.   With the polarized method, you drone along for hours (do you have 3-4 hours a day to train???) at a low intensity, and let’s say that equates to riding at 14-16mph for 3-4 hours.  It’s boring.  And if you are stuck inside???? Who wants to sit on their trainer and spin their legs for 3-4 hours.  Plus, for most of us, we would just lose fitness as it’s not intense enough to create any meaningful training stress.    When you are not being bored out of your mind, you are going to do intervals as hard as you can.  All the rest of the time.  ALL.THE.REST.OF.THE.TIME.   So, you are suffering like a dog, legs are burning, heart rate is maxed, you are breathing at your limit and negotiating with yourself every 15 seconds to just convince yourself to finish the interval.  “Come on, dammit, you can do this. One more minute. Come on…” and you have to do that for hours.   So, unless you met the requirements in the first paragraph, then seriously, polarized training is not for you.  For us working stiffs, it’s just too hard, not fun and sucks all the fun out of cycling after about a week of trying to do it.

Let’s GO! Certified coaches for cycling and triathlon and nutrition coaching (

What to do instead?   Do the traditional method of training.   Spend more time at tempo and sweet spot, which will also create enough training stress to keep you fit on your limited budget of 10-12 hours a week of training and those intensities are “do-able”.  Yes, you must focus and stay in the “present” to keep the pressure on the pedals, but you will not be suffering like a shaggy dog in the swamps of Louisiana in August.   You still will do some high intensity work of course because you need that, but we’ll limit it so that it doesn’t make your training life a hell of suffering.   You’ll do some longer endurance rides on the weekend when you get out in good weather, but it will have peppered in some sweet spot, some tempo, some FTP, some sprints and more and you’ll come home tired and satisfied.   With the traditional method, you’ll still enjoy training, with a good variety of workouts and plenty of work at your “sweet spot” to keep your FTP up and continue pushing it forward. 

The Biggest Bang for your “Training Buck”. The highest training effect to improve your FTP, it’s “do-able” and you can do it for a relatively long time.

When you use the traditional method, you maintain your fitness at a higher level throughout the year as well.  This is important and desirable.  Most riders over 35 do not have time to lose fitness as it takes too long to gain that fitness back, so it’s better to maintain a higher level of fitness all the time and then punch it up to a peak when you want one.  When you are 60 years young and your CTL drops from 80 down to 50, it’s a long fight for months to get it back to 80!   Keeping your fitness at 90% of your absolute best is a great way to enjoy cycling, always be in the group with your friends and then with just 8 weeks of focus, you can bump up that last 10% to a peak.

Most importantly, with the traditional method of distributing the intensity, you’ll have fun.   Since you’ll be having fun, you’ll stick with it longer and you’ll reach an even higher peak than doing the “polarized” method for 2-3months and quitting.

Hunter Allen is the co-author of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter, co-developer of TrainingPeaks WKO+ Software, and is the CEO and Founder of the Peaks Coaching Group. Along with coaching, directing power training camps, he consults with athletes and coaches around the world to help make them even better. Check out  Hunter also has online training programs available at TRAINING PLANS Archives – Shop Peaks Coaching Group You can follow him on his Instagram page as well. Peaks Coaching Group (@peakscoachinggroup) • Instagram photos and videos

Why racing makes you appreciate cycling more. and more. and more.

Racing a bicycle is always a challenging experience and it is not for everyone, but I encourage every cyclist to at least try a bike race at one time or the other. There are lots of options from racing on gravel bikes, to road races to cyclo-cross, mountain bike, and track racing. All have their own specific demands and needs, I suggest you find a race that is local to you, and you have the right bike, to go for it! I promise in the end you will have a greater appreciation for cycling.

4 Goals of a Bike Race

For example, if there is a local cyclo-cross race coming up next month and you already have a gravel bike, then jump in there! You have 4 goals in finishing a bike race: 1) Learn the overall experience of preparing for the event, proper nutrition, warming-up and racing. 2) Make a new friend. Meet someone there and introduce yourself. Friend them on social media. Stay in touch. 3) Push yourself! Go for it! It’s important to push your limits on a regular basis and keep life interesting. Suffer a bit. Feel the desire to quit and don’t. 4) Bask in the accomplishment of racing your bike and doing something new and keeping life interesting. It doesn’t matter what place you get, just enjoy the feeling of racing hard and pushing it.

You vs. You – Don’t Quit!

I started racing bicycles when I was 11 (now 53) and I raced constantly from 11 till I was 27, when I retired from Pro racing. Since then, I have raced here and there for kicks and grins and to remind myself of the things I have forgotten! All those above goals I mentioned are why I race now. While highly competitive, I have long ago let go of the need to win every race, understand/know the limits of my current FTP and also know what it takes to win. I am happy to just enjoy some good overall fitness and go racing whenever I want to and still be competitive in the 50+ age group. And yes, during the race, I wanted to quit. I didn’t.

Here’s the FRC of my CX race this past weekend. Very interesting to see a CX race!
My daughter, Susannah Allen, freshman on the UVA Cycling Team raced in her first CX race and placed 3rd in the Women’s 4/5 race! Yes, it was proper CX cold weather!

Hunter Allen is a is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of “Triathlon Training With Power”, “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” and “Cutting-Edge Cycling,” . Co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes.

The “Power” of Intention.

What does ‘intention’ bring to the game?   Intention is something often talked about in the martial arts world and not so much in the endurance sports world.   Intention is A: a course of action that one intends to follow. B. the state of one’s mind at the time one carries out an action. C: a determination to act in a certain way.  Your intention about your race or event has a lot to do with the outcome of the race/event, how you determine your happiness with that outcome, and the experience of the race itself.   

What the heck does intention have to do with training or racing with a power meter?  Well, training and racing with a power meter by definition implies intention.  You have made a conscious decision that you want to improve; investing in a power meter has become the outward expression of that intention.  Not to say that those folks without a power meter don’t also want to improve, but maybe their intention isn’t as strong as yours.  Without a strong intention, the intensity of the riding is very different.

“Intention” vs. “Intensity”

                How do “intention” and “intensity” relate exactly?  We know that the ‘intensity’ of your workout or the ‘intensity’ at which you do your intervals determines the specific type of training response that your body gives you, ala the “dose and response” effect.   If you do intervals at 120% of your FTP, then at that intensity you are training your power at Vo2 Max. Do enough of them and your power at Vo2 Max will increase.   There is a metric inside the TrainingPeaks WKO+ software called “Intensity Factor” that Dr. Andrew R. Coggan created in order to define the relative intensity of a ride or a specific time period within a ride as it relates to your FTP.  Intensity is an essential part of training and adapting to becoming a stronger rider and without the intensity in your workout, you won’t continue to improve.  

When we think about ‘intention’ in relationship with ‘intensity’ to each other, it is the ‘intentionality’ that we bring to the workout which imparts the necessary ‘intensity’ to each interval, workout, ride or race.   If we ‘intend’ to win a race, then we race with a much higher intensity than if we only ‘intend’ to ride a race for training and sit in the field. When we intend to go out for a cyclo-cross workout in order to improve so that we can have a chance at winning the next race, then that workout will be a very intense workout with lots of hard threshold intervals, anaerobic capacity efforts, and maybe even a few hard sprints.  This intention that we bring to the workout defines the needed intensity and the important thing you need to know is at which intensity to ride in order to create the training response you want.

Why It Matters To Have Intention

                Let’s examine some workouts done with intention and some without so that you can better understand the difference between the two.  In the Figure 1, we see a ride in which the athlete went out and ‘just rode’.  She didn’t ride very hard nor super easy, but just rode at whatever pace she felt like.  When she returned, she even commented in her notes that she didn’t feel much like riding and her legs were just spinning around.   

Now, let’s examine Figure 2.  In Figure 2, she had a workout goal of 2 x 20 minutes at FTP in an hour ride.   Clearly, you can see how focused she was and she even got on the indoor trainer to do this workout, so she could focus on the workout.   In her workout notes she wrote that she felt clearly better when she was focused on the workout and worked on engaging her core.  Bringing intention to the workout brings about body awareness and that will make a difference to your cycling, just like it did in this case.  

Racing with Intention

What about bringing intention to a race?  How do intention and intensity interrelate in racing situations and what do power files from each look like?  

Just the act of participating in a race means that you are bringing intention into your reality.  Because you have chosen to join the race, you have made a conscious decision about becoming a part of the race and that will impart your intensity.  The difference between ‘intentions’ for racing and training have more to do with the strength and desire of your intention which governs your intensity.  If your desire to win the race is very strong, then it’s more likely you will stay more focused than the riders around you, continually watching the terrain, the tactics that other teams employ, and your own race strategy.

Finding The Right Balance

Sometimes your desire is too strong and you want to win so bad that you chase down every attack until you finally get worn out and then that’s when the winning attack goes away. Sometimes, balancing your desire to win with the natural rhythm of the race becomes more important than the actual intensity you bring to the race.  Other times, your race desire isn’t very high and you are just ‘going through the motions’ , which means that your intensity will most likely be low. 

Another case might be that your intention in the race is dictated to you by your teammates or team director.  In this case, your intensity is governed by an external intention to your own free will and choice (of course you are a willing partner to this or otherwise you won’t be on the team).   As we examine Figure 3 below, we see a race from a rider that didn’t really have a plan in the race and the resulting intensity in the race was rather random and his finish was also mediocre.

                After reviewing the above race done without much intention, a race done with a focused intention appears very differently in a power file analysis.  The race below was done by an athlete that went into the race with a highly specific game plan and intention in mind.  He wanted to get in a breakaway and then once in the breakaway to grind people’s legs down, so that all he would have to do is put in a little attack to drop them and then solo to the finish line.  Wishful thinking for some of us, but for this athlete, he knew the course, knew he had the legs to back up his plan and then just needed to execute it.   

One thing you should note about Figure 4 is how the much smoother the power becomes when he is in the breakaway versus in the pack and then how it becomes even smoother still when he is solo off the front and doing his best to get to the line first.  Clearly, the intention in the race is an ever-changing thing, as the best racers use their intention before the race to set their game plan and tactics in the race, but when the race is unfolding, a careful response and appropriate reaction to the dynamics of the race is also required.

Power and Intention

A power meter can tell us many things about our training, racing, and post analysis; it’s a useful tool to help teach yourself the importance of training and racing with a goal or purpose in mind.  Goals and purposes are typically very hard, concrete and defined as, “I am going to win the race in a field sprint”, or “I will attack on the climb at the finish and solo to the line for the win.”, whereas intention isn’t always a hard and concrete goal. 

Intention is more of a determination in how you are going to approach a race or act in a certain race and with highly dynamic bicycle races, it is often the better way to think about a race or training ride. Intend to do your best, play out your strategy, all the while being willing to change on the fly to adapt to the ever-changing tactics employed by your competitors.   When you train with your power meter, intend to train in specific training zones, work on specific weaknesses and use that intention to improve which will help you better regulate your training intensity.

On the flip side, I am also a big believer in going out and just riding your bike (which is an intention as well), and not having a strong intention on some days does not mean you are not competitive or do not want to win nor does it mean you will not have fun.  Quite the opposite on some of those days and days of weak intention can end up being your best days on the bike. 

Matching Your Intensity with Your Intention

Finally, remind yourself occasionally that it is bike racing and not every day is going to be perfect, nor will you be on form for each race.  As former USA Cycling’s Coaching Coordinator Sam Callan said to me one time, “Sometimes my level of intensity did not meet my level of intention” which helps to remind us that no matter how hard you want to do something, your body does not always respond the way you want it to.  Intention and intensity are both entangled concepts that when put to proper use consciously can really enhance your fitness and also your success in races and rides.   Start with the right intention and then the success will follow.

Hunter Allen intends in each of his articles to impart some knowledge to the reader about power training. He is the co-author of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter”, co-developer of TrainingPeaks WKO+ Software, and is the CEO and Founder of the Peaks Coaching Group. Along with creating custom coaching solutions for all levels of athletes and designed with winning intentions, he has online training programs available at  and you can contact Hunter directly

Recovery tools that the Pros use!  – By Hunter Allen

There are three things that I recommend for recovery to the athletes that I coach and to our athletes here at Peaks Coaching Group.   These are critical to enhancing your recovery.   Everyone talks about recovery, but no one really understands just how extremely important this is.  So many of us watch the Tour de France on TV and can’t imagine how those riders can recover day in and day out for 21 days.  Racing over mountains, riding in breakaways and giving their all every day for a chance at glory seems impossible and it would be impossible if they didn’t spend the entire REST of their day focused on recovering.  Right after the stage ends recovery begins: Cool-down on the trainer, recovery shake, shower, massage, nap, food, more food, and more sleep. Pro cyclists do nothing extra.  They don’t carry their luggage down the stairs, heck they don’t take the stairs!

Since the rest of us can’t spend our remaining parts of our lives focusing on lying around and watching TV, we need some simpler tools that take less time for us to use and make a difference in our recovery. I have found 3 things that can make a big difference!

3 Recovery Tools the Pros Use

#1 Compression boots

If you don’t have a massage therapist on staff, then these are the next best things. Put them on your legs, turn the TV on and enjoy the gentle squeezing and releasing of the legs that simulates a massage.  I usually do this for at least 30 minutes and most times for 45 minutes.  It feels good, helps to flush out the muscles squeezing them to push the blood out and then releasing them to allow new blood to rush in and enhance recovery.  The next day my legs feel lighter, more supple, and consequently ready for the next tough workout. 

  Speedhound makes some great recovery boots that I use and have been super pleased with.  They are simple to operate, work super well and I like how you can micro-adjust the pressure of the boots on your legs.   They just work.

#2- Percussion gun

Relatively new as a recovery tool, these have multiple different types of heads to use on various parts of the body.  What does a percussion gun do exactly?  Basically, it is a massager, with deep oscillation, and different speeds that you can adjust for different muscles and how sore you are!  The head moves back and forth and lightly “punches” you to give you a massage.  Moving the gun over your legs, arms, neck, and even lower back allows you to give yourself a nice massage without exerting additional energy!  And this is the magic of a percussion gun really! 

When you give yourself a “self-massage”, you have to exert energy to help you recover which sometimes seems like a “net zero” effort.   However, with a percussion gun, the gun does the work!   Just charge the baby up, turn it on and let it do its work.  

This is outstanding!  Again, SpeedHound comes to the rescue with their Pro Percussion Gun.  It has 6 different heads; the battery lasts for 5 hours and even comes with a 2-year warranty.  Not only that, but it’s half the price of other percussion guns out on the market.   I love mine and don’t even think about taking it away from me!

#3- deltaG Ketone Esters

This should be another tool in your recovery arsenal.  Ketone esters have been shown in three research studies to enhance recovery in three ways:

  • Increase sugar uptake, blood insulin secretion, and glycogen resynthesis in recovery.
  • Improved mTORC1 signaling, which controls protein synthesis, in recovery after a workout when ingested with carbs and protein. 
  • Prevention of overtraining symptoms as well as helping professional athletes enhance performance throughout 3 full weeks when used during athletic recovery.

What’s important to understand is that you take the Ketone Esters WITH carbohydrates.  There is a misconception out there that ingesting ketone esters is the same as cutting carbohydrates out of your diet. It is not!  Adding ketone esters in, when also ingesting carbs is what makes the difference helping glycogen synthesis.

The results show that when ketone esters are combined with sugar, they improve insulin secretion, sugar uptake, and glycogen synthesis when ingested with protein. The sugar also activates mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) which targets and improves leucine-mediated protein synthesis. In conditions where your recuperation period needs to be fast, ketone esters, as well as glucose administration, might offer a better possibility to ensure that glycogen is renewed in a shorter amount of time before using up energy during your next physical activity. Without ketone esters, glycogen would be restored to baseline levels in 24 hours.

I use and recommend the DeltaG ketone esters.  These are the original ketone esters developed and invented by Dr. Kieren Clarke and are outstanding in every way. 

So, there you have it.  Three real world things that you can do both inside and outside your body to enhance your recovery.  These things aren’t that costly, don’t require a team of nutritionists or massage therapists to be on call and can be easily implemented right after our workouts and then during downtime in front of the TV relaxing on the couch.   

Hunter Allen is a is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of “Triathlon Training With Power”, “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” and “Cutting-Edge Cycling,” co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes.

How to use a power meter to your advantage in CycloCross- By Hunter Allen

Looking at anything besides the course right in front of you is nearly impossible in a cyclocross race as the intensity in a cyclocross race and technical demands of cycling force you to be present each moment. Riding and racing “in the zone” is something that many of us strive for in every race as it’s an incredible feeling along with a confirmation that you are doing your very best.  This focus means that it’s highly doubtful you’ll get more than a ½ second glance at your power meter head unit when racing, so unless you have a heads-up display, watching your power meter during a CX race will be next to impossible and most likely undesirable as watching for that next tree root takes priority. In training though, it is likely that you will be able to train using your power meter to focus on specific intervals.  Specificity is one of the keys of success in training for any cycling discipline.  Each cycling discipline has unique demands and riding for 5 hours over mountain passes climbing with a very steady wattage output is nearly the complete opposite of the demands of a CX race. 

When you examine your power file from a ’cross race, one of the first things you might notice is that it looks a lot like some of those criteriums you did earlier in the year: loads of power spikes, easily discernible laps and big “race winning” type efforts are all commonalities to criteriums. A cyclocross power file will define the power bursts needed in the race, reveal the amount of rest in each lap and show the overall training stress accumulated in the race. One thing that’s important to identify in a cyclocross power file is the number of efforts you have above your FTP and how long each of these efforts last and the height of each peak of wattage.  In figure 1, we discover that he had to ride over his threshold power 29 different times in the race, but many of these times were so close together that in reality it was more like 18 separate efforts each ranging from 30 seconds to 3 minutes with short recoveries between each.   This means that any rider doing this race will need to do a minimum of 18 efforts in order to just stay in the race. So….when was the last time you did 18 intervals in your training rides preparing for CX season?

Figure 1

In step 2, I want to see any effort over 110% of threshold power (solidly in the Vo2 Max range and above) for times over 5 seconds and up to 5 minutes.  This will tell me how many highly intense intervals my athlete will need to do in preparation for their event.   As we see in Figure 2, this race contained over 100 different efforts above 110% of the athlete’s FTP and that is pretty significant when you consider this is a CX race!  When was the last time you did over 100 hard bursts/efforts in your training?!   The highly variable nature of this race is what we call a “stochastic” race and this means that the race was so incredibly variable; the power spikes appear to be almost random.   When I see a power file with this much stochasticity, it reminds me how important the ability to quickly change cadence is to be successful as a cyclist and especially as a CX racer. 

Power meter files from ’cross races typically average about 20 to 40 watts below an athlete’s actual FTP, since there’s so much “down time” when the athlete is either coasting down a technical hill, off the bike and running or just experiencing a lack of traction. This does not mean you will be below your threshold heart rate though!  Plan on riding with your heart rate pegged at your threshold number.  The difficulty of putting the power to the ground skews the power numbers down, so don’t let those lower than FTP numbers fool you into thinking your FTP has dropped or you could have ridden harder. Because of these running and technical coasting sections, it’s hard to determine the exact muscular demands of cyclocross, but if you use a tool called Quadrant Analysis, then you can better understand those demands. When viewed in a Quadrant Analysis plot, which breaks down a ride based on time spent with different force outputs and cadences, a ’cross race contains the largest amount of amount of the effort in Quadrant II, which represents slow pedaling and higher force, but Quadrant III (slow pedaling, low force) and Quadrant IV (fast pedaling and low force) are also represented.   This changes the demands of the event dramatically as compared to a criterium.  A Criterium will have just as many bursts and efforts over FTP, but done in Quadrant IV, which is lower force and a higher cadence (easier gear, over 90rpm) is used in order to stay on the wheels and quickly accelerate out of the turns.    The result of this analysis means that you need to do a lot of “bursts” over your FTP and done with higher force and lower cadence (bigger gear, under 90rpm), to best simulate a CX race.

           After reviewing hundreds of cyclocross race and training power files, I have determined that a specific training workout good for cyclocross is one that I call the “30-30-30” workout; it’s made up of 30 seconds at 150% of FTP, 30 seconds coasting (0% of FTP) and 30 seconds of running. The “30-30-30” workout is done continuously for 10 minutes and then a rest is taken for five minutes before doing two to four more sets total.

The “30-30-30” Cyclocross workout

15 minute warm-up, level 2.

(1) – 5 minute hard effort at 110% of FTP to “open up the legs” and make sure you are ready for the intervals.

5 minutes easy- Level 2, preparing yourself mentally for the coming intervals.

3 x 10 minutes —  “30- 30 -30”- This means you nearly sprint for 30 seconds. It’s RIDING hard at a cadence under 90rpm, followed by 30 seconds coasting and not pedaling, followed by a dismount and 30 seconds of running fast…. REPEAT.

5 minutes Level 2 recovering after each of the “30-30-30” block of efforts at a cadence of 90rpm+.

4 x 2 minutes- at 150% of FTP. Anaerobic Capacity work-  This is done to further fatigue you and create training stress that is similar to what you will experience in a CX race.  Again, simulate the cadence you will see in a CX race, so ride under 90rpm.

REST 2 minutes after each at 90+ rpm and at your Level 2 wattage.

After the set of 2 minute efforts, ride for 10 minutes Level 2 at 90+ rpm.

Finish with 10 x 1minute FAST PEDALING at 110rpm+. 1 minute on, 1 minute off at 80rpm.    This is done to make sure you can quickly and easily change leg speed/cadences during your race. Don’t worry about high wattages here, it’s more important to focus on your cadence.

15 minutes cool-down at Level 1 and Level 2 wattages with your preferred cadence.

One of the most important reasons to use a power meter is in training for the demands of the event, and this reason is highly applicable in the case of cyclocross. Addressing the specific needs for a strong anaerobic capacity along with highly-tuned technical skills (dismount the bike, run with the bike and remount) creates a perfect blend of a workout in the “30-30-30,”. Along with this anaerobic capacity workout, cyclocross demands a strong FTP, so the traditional Level 4 threshold workouts done at 4 x 10, 3 x15, and 2 x 20 minutes at FTP are important for the successful ’cross racer.

Cyclocross is another discipline within cycling where using a power meter in order to train more quantitatively and also more specifically to the demands of the sport allows racers to improve their performances. A key component of this improvement hinges on the ability of the athlete to mimic the demands of upcoming ’cross races and develop training routines for them. As the popularity of cyclocross continues to gain momentum, more and more racers will be using a power meter to collect data, analyze the demands of the events and then train for them.

Check out Hunter’s Cyclo-Cross plans!!!!

Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former Professional Cyclist. He is the co-author of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter, co-developer of TrainingPeaks WKO+ Software, and is the CEO and Founder of the Peaks Coaching Group.  You can contact Hunter directly