WARNING: ZWIFTING CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH


Last year I raced on Zwift all winter. By the time March came & the weather broke… I was OVERTRAINED! My whole year was screwed up & a roller coaster as I never recovered!?

I cannot repeat that mistake.

Can you help me in designing a sensible training plan that I can use Zwift, but do workouts and make sure I am strong in March/April/May?

We all love to train and improve, that’s one of the reasons you are on this mailing list!  Our goal as cycling coaches is to share our knowledge, so that you can shortcut through years of trial and error and achieve your goals using your available time.  We are all time constrained and that’s one of the reasons that indoor riding has become so popular.  It allows you to train whenever you can, regardless of weather, time of day or where you live.  Zwift and other indoor apps have been incredible in providing “Trainertainment” and gone are the days when I used to ride in the basement on the rollers, starting a concrete wall beside the cat litter box!  

With our new indoor training tools, the temptation to just race inside Zwift or ride hard everyday is strong, but this is a mistake. Riding hard or racing 5-6x a week inside a virtual world is a recipe for disaster as not only will you not be training the energy systems correctly, you risk riding poorly when the spring comes and you can ride outdoors.   You see, our bodies don’t like continual stress.  We need rest, we need a progressive ramp up of intensity and we need the correct combination of volume with intensity.   Just riding as hard as you can indoors everyday is not a plan for success. It’s no plan.   If you do not have a plan for success, then you are planning for failure.   

If you do not have a plan for success, then you are planning for failure. 

We can help you plan for success using your indoor training apps!   All of our coaches use them as well, and designing a plan using these new popular indoor training tools, coaching you along the way, riding with you in a virtual world, all of that is part of becoming a coached athlete here at PCG.   Let us help you MAKE 2022 great!

–Hunter Allen

Four Keys to Powerful Winter Training

What you do this winter can really make or break your season in the coming year. Winter training is different for everyone since we live in different areas of the world; some of us spend a solid five months indoors while others can ride outside year round.

There are some vital components to creating a very good winter training program no matter where you live, and of course a power meter has a lot to do with it.

Before you embark on your official winter training plan, though, you’ve got to make sure you’re well rested and recovered from the long season. Hopefully you’ve taken a couple of weeks off and given yourself at least two weeks of easy cross-training; this is essential to recharging your physical and mental batteries.

Once you’re rested, recharged, and ready to go, your winter should contain the following four important components: 

  1. Focused indoor training workouts
  2. Solid workouts at your sweet spot
  3. A cross-training routine
  4. Balanced rest periods

These four components combine to create a strong winter program that can give you one of your best winters ever. I’ll expand on each point so you can use them all to the best advantage.

In most of the United States, the winter is quite cold, which means we will spend at least some of it on the indoor trainer. (All you southern California readers out there, don’t stop reading; just try to incorporate some of these workouts into your outdoor routine.) Even though most of us love riding our bikes outside, the indoor trainer can provide some really great workouts with no real distractions: no cars, no wind, no hills, no dogs. All the things that can get in the way of a focused session aren’t problems on the indoor trainer.

INDOOR TRAINING

Now that you’re resigned and committed to the indoor trainer, what workouts should you do? There are two basic types of workouts I prescribe to my athletes in the winter: cadence-based workouts and sweet spot workouts. Almost all the workouts my athletes do during this season are some permutation of these two basic types. Cadence-based workouts emphasize cadence changes first, with power and heart rate of second and tertiary importance. Cadence workouts typically do not stress the cardiovascular system but are more focused on improving the muscular system. They can range from high rpm efforts emphasizing neuromuscular power to very slow rpm efforts emphasizing muscular strength.

What is the purpose of cadence-based workouts and why should you do them this winter? The higher cadence workouts help you maintain your ability to quickly contract and relax your muscles, which is a very important skill in cycling. By training your neuromuscular power throughout the winter, you can keep the critical ability to quickly change your cadence and even enhance it.

This type of indoor workout is relatively simple and can also easily be done either indoors or outside. One of my favorites is one-minute fast-pedaling intervals, where you pedal over 110 rpm for one minute and then pedal at your self-selected (normal) cadence for a minute and then repeat. This is a great leg burner, but it doesn’t get the heart rate too high and therefore push your training into more of an anaerobic zone.

On the other side of the coin, lower cadence workouts are also great to do in the winter because they can enhance your muscular strength, which can in turn help you to sprint with more peak wattages and push a bigger gear into the wind in a time trial or up a steep climb. Muscular strength workouts are based around hard but short intervals done in the biggest gear you can manage at low rpm. Many people believe the myth that riding for hours in a big gear at slow rpm will increase muscular strength and make them more powerful, but this only makes you good at riding in a big gear at slow rpm! Riding at 50 rpm for hours on end just doesn’t create enough muscular stress to strengthen the muscles.

Consider this analogy: If you’re trying to bench press 200 pounds in the weight room, you need to start at 150 pounds and build up to it with low reps, high sets, and the most weight you can lift. You have to use heavier and heavier weights to stress the muscle in order for it to adapt. If you lifted 100 pounds one million times, you would never adapt to lifting 200 pounds one time. The “big gear” myth is similar; when you pedal at 50 rpm for hours on end, it’s just like lifting 100 pounds for a million reps. While 100 pounds (metaphorically speaking) is more than your normal pedaling force of 80 pounds, it’s just not enough stress on the muscles to get them to strengthen. In order to increase your muscular strength on the bike, you need to do hard, short bursts of effort in a big gear. For example, put your chain in the 53:12 gear and slow down to about 8-10 mph, then (staying seated) tighten your abdominals, grip your handlebars tightly, and with all your might turn that gear over until you reach 80 rpm. Once you reach 80 rpm, the amount of force you’re putting on the cranks has reduced to a point at which it’s just not enough stress to create muscular strength improvements. You should plan on doing about twenty of these power bursts in a session to create enough of an overload to achieve some benefit.

SWEET SPOT

The second type of training I prescribe to my athletes in the winter is called sweet spot training (SST). When you ride just below your functional threshold power (FTP) at approximately 88-93% of your FTP, you are riding in your sweet spot. Why is it called the sweet spot? As shown on the chart below, when you’re in this area of intensity, the level of physiological strain (read: amount of pain) is relatively low, while the maximum duration (read: time) that you can stay in this area is quite high. You can also see that your increase in FTP is greatest in this area, so training in your sweet spot really gives you a tremendous bang for your buck.

When you do SST, start out with 15- to 30-minute efforts and gradually build up to 60- to 120-minute efforts if you can. These efforts aren’t easy ones, but you’ll get a tremendous cardiovascular benefit from them. Make sure to do at least one to two sessions each week, and you’ll see a big difference in your FTP come February.

CROSS TRAINING

Cross-training is another key to winter success. One of the most important cross-training exercises you can do this winter is some type of core abdominal exercises combined with stretching. A Pilates or yoga class can really help you develop strong abdominals, which in turn help you transfer energy from your upper body to your legs and protect your back from injury. If you can, take a class or do a video every week; that will be enough to make a difference. For cardiovascular work, I recommend doing some mountain biking, hiking, trail running, roller blading, and cross-country skiing (if you have the snow). Just keep it fun and not too intense, as cross-training is supposed to enhance your cycling, not cause injury or major cardiovascular stress. Cross-training is great to do in the off-season, since we don’t really move our muscles in multiple planes on the bicycle, and will provide some great muscular and cardiovascular stimulus.

A word of caution about starting any new exercise: take it easy for the first two weeks. I once had a client who was very fit and decided to go out and run ten miles in the first day of cross-training. Needless to say, he was barely able to walk for the next two weeks. He also inadvertently pulled a muscle, which forced him to take three weeks off from all training. So be careful and break yourself in slowly when you start a new exercise.

REST

The final component of a successful winter program is rest. It doesn’t sound like it’s that big of a deal, but too much training in the winter will make you a “January star.” It’s great to train hard in the winter, and it’s the key to really pushing yourself to the next level for the coming year, but if you constantly train hard in the winter, you’ll peak in January. The key to increasing your FTP this winter and making it your new normal fitness level is to train intensely for only two days in a row. After two intense days, give yourself a rest before coming back to training, except every other week give yourself two days of easy training after two hard days instead of resting so you can keep your battery charged. Your goal this winter is to never let your battery charge go below 97%. Two days of hard training will bring your battery down to 97%, and a day off or a day of easy training will allow it to recharge back to 100%. This way you can balance hard training with proper rest and enter the season fresh and strong, without turning into one of those riders that wins all the January rides!

These four components of winter training all combine successfully to ensure you create your best winter of training ever. A proper winter program will push your FTP up to the next level, maintain your ability to change cadences, and put you at the start of the season with a fresh mind and ready body for a strong and long season! Be sure to keep your focus this winter. This season really is the time for you to rise to the next level and make 2022 a breakthrough season! 

Hunter Allen 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. Hunter can be contacted directly through PeaksCoachingGroup.com

5 Key Attributes of Winning Athletes

By: Hunter Allen

Winners think differently.  They do.  There are many books on winners and why they are different, what they think and why they think it.  Winners are constantly focused on moving forward, getting things done, taking action and improving.  Whether it’s on the bicycle, in the pool, on the soccer field or in the office, winners are striving for the best they can be.   They aren’t afraid of hard work, as a matter of fact they love it, they crave it, and they absorb it and become better from it.   I believe winners are made and not born.  Each one of us has winning qualities and the ability to win; we just have to put these things together in order to achieve greatness.

1. Winners Set Goals

Winners have long term goals, short term goals, weekly and daily goals.  Most winners, you’ll find are highly goal oriented.  When a winner wants something, they really want it. They want it more than the rest of their competitors.  I have heard it said many times and believe its true, “The rider that wins the race is the rider that wanted it more than anyone else.” Sit down today or this weekend and write out your goals for the year and review them each week. Your goals will change throughout the year and you’ll want to revise them and update them as needed.  Your goals will help you keep focused!

2. Winners Make Good Decisions

This one is a bit obtuse and obvious at the same time.  What is a good decision vs. a bad decision?  If you don’t know the difference then how will you know which one to make?   Instead of eating that hamburger and fries, a winner would eat a healthy lean steak, baked potato and a salad.  Instead of going for a 5 hour bike ride with his teammates on a day when “something just doesn’t feel right”, he’ll honor that feeling and either take a rest day or ride a shorter ride.  Winners don’t lie around and wait for success to come to them (except on rest days!); they take action to move toward it every day.   Instead of thinking about whether to go with that attack or not, a winner will have already planned their strategy and not have to think about it.  They will know if that attack fits into their strategy and know if the riders attacking are good enough to win and react accordingly without hesitation.   

3. Winners Play to Win

This seems like a simple one and to tell you the truth, it is, however you would be amazed at how many people reading this right now don’t have a plan to get that next raise in their job, peak exactly at the right time for their “A” race, go above and beyond on that big project at the office or take their company to the next level.   Sit down, plan out your season, figure out which races you want to ride well in and refer to #3 above in aligning your own specific strengths and weaknesses with the race demands.

4. Winners Visualize Success

Visualization is an incredible tool in helping to align the universe to bring all the necessary situations and opportunities to you so that you can capitalize and win. Visualization is more important than most people think. When you visualize vividly enough to create emotion in the vision, your mind doesn’t know the difference between that and the real thing.  One key aspect of visualization is picturing the things that happen after you have achieved a goal.  For me, I have been focused on creating a great camp in Mallorca in March this year, so I have been picturing myself at the little Spanish store on the top of the Lluc climb in Mallorca drinking a great coffee and eating a chocolate croissant with happy campers all laughing and enjoying themselves. I have been imagining riding up the climbs and seeing 320 watts on my power meter and feeling comfortable and strong!  Visualization is critical for your success this season.  If you want to win a race this year, “see” your name at the top of the results sheet, feel the feeling of all your teammates congratulating your win, see that podium pic on your Facebook account.  By visualizing the things that occur after your goal has been realized is an incredibly powerful way to make that a reality.   

5. Winners are constantly learning and asking questions.

Winners are confident, but never so confident to think they know it all.  They are always seeking the advice of experts, looking for an advantage, seeking the latest knowledge in the field and doing everything they can to improve. Companies that never innovate or improve their product are destined for failure.   Athletes that stop reading about the latest in training advances or nutrition or mental training are destined for failure.  Keep your zest for learning. Get a new book on winners, or on cycling, or mental training for athletes.  Learn about the latest in nutrition and diet and find the right balance for your life.  Seek out the advice of an expert and listen wholeheartedly and then implement their advice.

Winning is easier when you are winning, that’s for sure. Success is an upward spiral and it’s much easier when you are in that upward spiral, but trust me, winners go in downward spirals too. The difference between the winners and the losers are the winners know how to “pull up” and get back in that winning upward spiral.  You’ll have setbacks, challenges, and failures along the way. That is part of the process and completely natural.  Winners have to deal with all of that as well.  If winning was easy, then it wouldn’t be as satisfying!  Remember no matter how bad things look or the time since your last win, and hope seems gone.. “The winners are still winning”…..

Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former Professional Cyclist. He is the co-author of both “Training and Racing with a Power Meter“, and “Triathlon Training With Power”, co-developer of TrainingPeaks Software, and is the CEO and Founder of the Peaks Coaching Group.

Why is my indoor power lower?

Can’t match your outdoor output? It could be one – or – all of these things…

There are a number of reasons why you can’t produce as much power indoors on a turbo as you can on the open road, and the biggest one is purely a matter of mechanics – a turbo applies resistance through the entire pedalling circle, whereas there’s no significant resistance at the bottom and back of the pedal stroke on a road bike. This is 90% of the reason your watts are lower indoors.

Think about how you ride as well. On the turbo you’re essentially ‘locked’ into a single position, and we create effective watts by using our upper body as we ‘wobble’ the bike outdoors. Indoors, it’s very difficult to use all of your collateral muscles.

Heat is another big factor. Indoors you will get hot, whereas outdoors you will at the very least have more of a breeze and fewer walls hemming you in. The cooler your body, the higher the wattage you can maintain.

Then there’s the mental aspect – going nowhere fast. I’d say this is huge. Most cyclists I know love to ride because they love being outside, going to a cool location and riding at maximum speed. There’s great satisfaction in being able to travel long distances under your own power.

One other thing to consider is where you are measuring your power output. It can be measured in multiple places on your bicycle, but the closer the measuring device is to where the power is being transferred from your foot to your bike, the more accurate the reading.

If you measure power in your rear wheel, you’ll lose 7-10 watts from inefficiencies in the drivechain system. So 250 watts at the pedal is probably 240 watts at the hub of your smart trainer.

Then there’s your bike. If you can mimic your exact fit from your bike to your indoor trainer, you should be able to produce the same watts, right? But there’s also this thing called gravity, and virtually everyone will produce more power outside while climbing (seated or standing) than on the trainer.

Gravity is a powerful form of resistance and the ability to stand and climb or stay seated and use your entire body to help push down on the pedals is significant compared to just riding in the saddle on a trainer. One British racer I coached could only hold 300 watts at his FTP on the flats, but put him on a climb and his FTP was 360 watts.

The turbo trainer does have its place. Of course we are tough endurance athletes so you’d better be able to overcome any negative self-talk or you might find needlework is a nice hobby… but it does take practice and it takes purpose. What is your goal and why do you want it more than anything else?

I ride indoors because I’m doing specific intervals that I just can’t do outside, racing in Zwift or coaching a client over TrainerRoad. All of those are motivating factors for doing my best.

So there are benefits. Working out indoors has always been a very effective way to train. You have fewer distractions, no traffic, no stop signs. You can do perfect intervals every time and address the correct energy system with no guesswork.

It can help you produce more power, full stop – whether it’s higher or lower indoors or outdoors doesn’t really matter as long as your power output is going up.

This article was originally featured in UK based Cyclist magazine.
Why is my indoor power lower than my outdoor power? | Cyclist

The expert: Former pro cyclist Hunter Allen is founder of the Power Training Principles used by thousands of cyclists. He owns The Peaks Coaching Group and is co-founder of the TrainingPeaks software. He is also co-author of Triathlon Training With Power and Training And Racing With A Power Meter. More info at peakscoachinggroup.com

3 Tips For This Winter

Over the years, I usually teach fall camps and teach power seminars around the world, I have been able to ride with many different cyclists and teach to diverse groups ranging from gold medal winning Olympians and their coaches to beginning cyclists that have never used a power meter.  Teaching to diverse groups is always a challenge, but at the same time forces me to teach with clarity, focus, and patience.  A common question that I get in the “fall” of each year in my seminars and camps is: “I really want to improve this winter, what are 3 things I can do to really make a difference.”  A broad and general question of course, and the great thing about being a cycling coach is that pretty much the answer to every question begins with, “It depends……”. There are many factors that go into improvement and lots of things that affect improvement, so there is no easy answer.   We are each highly individual and respond differently to different training stimulus along with having different goals at different parts of the year.   So, before I can answer a broad question, I must dig a little deeper and learn more about the athlete, their goals, time constraints and strengths and weaknesses.  These basics create the foundation of my answers and from there, I can build actionable answers for the athlete.  Thinking of the basics of cycling is where we all must start to improve and therefore let’s consider three solid, basic, fundamentals that can help you or any cyclist this winter to improve and make the 2022 season great.

Increase your Aerobic Fitness/FTP

Cycling is an aerobic sport, and this means you will need to have the highest output of wattage possible in order to give yourself the chance to be successful (you can be the strongest person in the peloton and still lose!).   The higher your FTP, the fitter you are, and more likely you will be to succeed in your given event.  For that big Gran Fondo in March or that first long road race of the year in April, you WILL do better if your FTP is higher than it is now.  So, first and foremost, you must always consider doing everything you can to improve your FTP.   That’s the number one thing you can do this winter to improve your chances for more success in 2022.   What does that practically mean though?  What kind of workouts should you do, how often and when?  The answer to these questions has more to do with when your season will begin and how far away your first race is from now and beyond the scope of this article.  Right now, though, this December, and you need to be riding in your Tempo and Sweet-Spot/Sub-Threshold power levels.  These zones fall between 76-90% with Sweet-Spot/Sub-Threshold between 88-93%.  Start out with intervals at the 20-minute mark and your intensity around 85% of your FTP, and then build the time and intensity until you can do at least 45minutes at 93% of your FTP.  It’s perfectly fine to break these into smaller portions, but don’t do anything less than 20minutes as that will give you enough time at that intensity to make sure you are improving your aerobic fitness. I really like doing 30-minute efforts at Sweet-Spot as they are challenging both physically and mentally and I can just complete the 30 minutes with enough mental games.    This workout should be done at least twice each week in December and increasing to three times a week in January and February.  Again, the main goal is increasing your aerobic fitness/FTP and if you can do that, then you’ll be on the way to creating an excellent 2022 season. 

 

Create “Applicable Strength”

Big Gear intervals. Yup, that’s number two.  Once a week, I want you to work on “applicable strength”.   This means strength that you can apply to making the bike go faster and not strength that will help you squat a piano on your back or carry a couch up 8 flights of stairs.  It also is NOT about pushing a big gear for 30 minutes.  It’s not even doing it for one minute!  This type of big gear work is not increasing your muscular strength and just makes you better at pushing a marginally harder gear in a slower than normal cadence, but not really helping your on-the-bike strength.  This is done by slowing your speed down to 5-8mph, putting the bike in a 53:13 gear, gripping the handlebars tightly, tightening your abdominals, and while staying seated the entire time, exploding with force on the pedals and getting that gear to 85-90rpm.  You will grunt and strain and think you might rip the handlebars right off the stem, but eventually you’ll get to 85-90rpm start feeling the “burn”.  Then it’s over.  That’s it.  Not long, but with lots of strength.   The effort has been completed and now you are ready to recover those muscles for another “feat of strength”, so give yourself at least 3-4 minutes between each effort.   These are very similar to “standing starts” in Track Racing, and I was privy to a “standing start” practice/training session with the top sprinter on the New Zealand track team this past month and he was doing almost identical efforts as the above.  He did them for 45minutes with solid 5minutes of rest between each to make sure he could get the maximum effort out in each.   Here, the effort must be in Quadrant II of the Quadrant Analysis chart, see figure 2.  This means that you are putting out maximum force with lower cadence and once you cross over into a faster cadence (over 90rpm), then you are no longer in the correct quadrant.

Go For a Long Ride

Long rides when its nice out.  That’s #3.  Every time from now till April, if it’s nice out (and you live in a normally cold area), then go for a long ride.  Throw away the training plan for that day (or even better, integrate it into a long ride) and go for a 4-5-6-hour ride.  You don’t know when the next nice day will be, so you need to get in those long rides in order to increase your endurance and aerobic efficiency.  It’s the long rides that will take you to the next level of fitness with a higher FTP and more fatigue resistance and unfortunately this is no short cut.  You have to get out there and put in the longer miles.  I have talked to many master riders over the years and when they have gotten “stuck” at a certain wattage for their threshold, they always ask how they can get to the next level and why they are “stuck” there.  The answer is the same for all and that is: Longer rides!  You don’t think Jens Voigt’s FTP is 460watts because he only rode for 2 hours day, do you?  No, if you want an FTP higher than 250 watts than you are going to have to do AT LEAST (2) rides a month that are longer than 5 hours. What should you do in these rides?  I would make sure that the majority of the ride is in the Zone 2-endurance range, but then also be sure to get in one solid section of 45minutes at your Sweet Spot and also do 20 fast pedaling efforts at 110rpm+ for one minute each resting a minute between them.  The goal is to come home tired like you finished a long ride, but not crushed like you “barely” finished a long ride.  It’s just that simple (and difficult).   Longer rides increase the stress on the aerobic and muscular system and that in turn causes it to adapt and get stronger which results in a higher FTP.  Nothing can substitute a long ride, and this is a key for you to increase your FTP this coming season.  Even if your longest race is 2 hours, you still have to ride big long rides if you want to improve your FTP above that 250Watt “Glass ceiling”. 

That’s it, those are the three things you need to do to improve for this winter.  They also apply to just about everyone and in the coaching world is hard to do, but if you only did those three things, you would be moving in the right direction and toward a very strong 2022.  With regards to training with power, you must remind yourself that these ideas came from the “demands of the event” first, then wattage-based workouts were born from them.  While you don’t a specific focus of wattages for the big gear intervals, you have a quadrant that you need to adhere to ensure you are training properly.  Use your power meter to train to the demand of your events, use your power meter to help guide your individual sessions, use your power meter to home in on your training zones and then analyze the data afterward to make sure you are on track for new peaks!

Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former Professional Cyclist. He is the co-author of both “Training and Racing with a Power Meter“, and “Triathlon Training With Power”, co-developer of TrainingPeaks Software, and is the CEO and Founder of the Peaks Coaching Group.

What Are Some Common Training Errors to Avoid?

If you don’t rest, you won’t ever get stronger

-Most athletes do not rest properly nor enough.  Many times, cyclists just don’t give themselves enough rest and when they do rest, they are not really resting.  Get a good book, read it.  Stretch lightly, eat healthy foods and take naps.   If you can take a nap each day, then do it. You’ll be a better cyclist and get fitter faster.   When you train hard, recovery is just as important as the training.  It’s in the rest period that you actually improve!   Yes, when you train, you break down muscles and get tired and sore.  When you rest, your body rebuilds, repairs and gets stronger.   If you don’t rest, you won’t ever get stronger.

NOT Training Hard Enough

-Many cyclists do not train hard enough when they are supposed to.   So many times when I start coaching an athlete, they thought they were training hard.   They had no clue!  Most cyclists do not train hard enough to really create the proper training stress needed for training adaptation.  One hard training ride a week is not going to make you the best you can be.  Try three hard days a week, then recover for two days.   What about trying four days in a row?  Push yourself and push it hard. Then rest. It’s amazing how much you can push yourself and if do not push those limits you’ll never know how far you can go…

NOT staying HYDRATED

-Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!    The #1 reason why cycling races are lost is because of improper hydration. #1. Second place is always not as hydrated as first place.   So, hydrate plenty.  Hydrate before your event, during your event and after your event!!!  If you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, then you are not hydrated enough!   Bring a two-liter container of water to work each day and finish it off during the day.  Have a cup of water beside your bed and when you wake up in the middle of the night, drink some.   For every 20-30 miles you ride, you should drink a full water bottle.

Training while you are sick

-When you are 98% healthy, then you can train again.  Most cyclists don’t wait long enough after a sickness before training again.   When you get sick, have a fever, or cough, then you need to WAIT until you can honestly say that you are 98% healthy again before going out and training.   So many athletes will go out and train again while they are 80% healthy and then just drag out the illness for another two weeks.  Whereas, had they waited just two more days before riding again, they would have become 98-100% healthy and be back in full training.   Here’s the rule:  When you think you are healthy enough to ride again, WAIT one more day and then go riding.  Give yourself an extra day, or two if you think you’ll be even better on the third day.   It’s always better than training for the next two weeks and remain kind of sick.

NOT Stretching?

-Stretching- We cyclist are a funny lot.  Nowhere else in your life, do you hunch over and bring your legs up to your chest, never straighten out your legs and then keep your arms stretched out in front of you.   Take a yoga class once a week. Stretch out those hamstrings, touch your toes easily, and open up that chest. You don’t want to be a hunched over person when you are in your sixties do you?  It’s essential that you stretch each day, even just fifteen to twenty minutes.  Your back, shoulders, legs and hips will thank you.

Check out my Yoga For Cyclist Class HERE!!!!

Forgetting what we learned as a kids

-Mimic your elders- If you are riding with an experienced rider, do exactly what they do.  When they drink, you drink.  When they rest, you rest.  When they attack, you attack.  Experienced and successful riders have gotten there because they have learned all the little things that make cycling easier.  Some of the best cyclists that I have coached have learned by mimicking exactly what the best have done before them.  Kids learn by watching their parents and doing what they do.   Why forget that important lesson when we are on the bike? 

All changes are big changes

-Give yourself transition time when changing bikes, shoes, cleats, pedals, etc.   When you change something on your bike that changes your position in some way, as small as getting new shoes, then take it easy.  Transition slowly over a couple of weeks.   Ride some easier rides for a while and if you feel any pain, stop.  Even on a ride, have someone come and pick you up.   I can’t tell you how many cyclist entire season has been ruined because they bought a new seat and then went out and rode 20 hours that week, only to end up getting some kind of overuse injury in the following week.  It takes time for your body to adapt to a new movement pattern, and especially for cyclists, as we repeat our patterns over and over hundreds of thousands of times each ride.

He Creates Winners!

Todd Scheske has been a coach for PCG for nine years and has been an integral part of Peaks Coaching Group’s success. His athletes continue to crush records and win championships! Todd coaches road and track racers and really loves racing on the track himself. This year, his athletes have won so many national championships, it’s hard to put our head around it! If you want to win in 2022, then let’s get you in touch with Todd, as he creates winners!

“No matter what we plan initially, life throws us new challenges, weather, illness, injury, and schedule changes. Champions find a way to overcome!”- Coach Todd Scheske

Todd’s 2021 Personal Accomplishments

  • 2nd place Eastern Regional Championship 500m Open
  • 6th place Eastern Regional Championship Flying 200m
  • 5th Masters National Championship flying 200m, 6th finishing

Todd’s 2021 Athletes Accomplishments

  • Masters Men 2k World Recod
  • Masters Men 1k U.S. Record
  • 1st Place U.S. Elite National Road Champion
  • 1st Place U.S. Elite National Criterium Champion
  • 2nd Place Dominican National Raod Champion
  • 2nd Place 12 hour World Time Trial Championship (50+ AG, 4th overall)
  • 1st Place Master National 2k
  • 1st Place Master National 500TT
  • 6th Place Master National points
  • 6th Place Master National sprint
  • 1st Place Master Men LATOJA Road Race
  • 1st Place Women’s Elite NYS Road Championships
  • 1st Place Men’s Cat 4 NYS Road Champion
  • 1st Place Men’s Cat 3 Criterium Championship
  • 4th Junior Track National Scratch Race 17-18
  • 2 Stage Wins Tour of Panama

Coach Todd’s tips for the going into the off-season and winter!

Going into the off-season

  •     Start planning the big boulders for next year to make sure you address specifics that may need added attention. That includes any equipment changes!
  •      Make sure early in the off season that as a masters age rider you do a hard effort every 10 days. Younger riders… take time away and do some cross training too

Winter Tips

  • Build strength. Incorporate a resistance training program.
  •  Work on efficiency, review where there are gaps and how to mitigate weaknesses.
  •  BASE. BASE. BASE. AS Dr. Coggan says, “It’s an aerobic sprot dammit”. Get those endurance rides in, but don’t race all the time either!

Could you race at elevation in 2022?  


Cusco Peru, the center of the Incan empire, sits at 11,000’ and over 1 million people live in this amazing location.  Normally, for us Americans, we think of a small mountain pass in Colorado being a high elevation at 11,000’.  But, for the Peruvians that live in Cusco and at even higher elevation pueblos, it’s normal life.   Yet, the locals breathe hard when climbing the stairs, no matter how long they have lived there.   One of my clients, Daniel Roura, invited me to race in the Machu Picchu Epic MTB stage race, which is a 5-day stage race around the Cusco and Machu Picchu area, with most stages between 11,000 and 14,000’.  I knew it would be incredibly critical to acclimate before the event.   How did I do it?  Can you do it?  

Getting Acclimated

Three weeks before the trip to Machu Picchu, I traveled to Colorado for a week of training and acclimating to a higher elevation.  Staying at 9,000’ and then riding up to nearly 12,000 each day for a week was just the thing I wanted to do to begin the acclimatization process and get a possible boost for acclimating to Cusco in just 2 weeks.    One of the most important things that you can do when acclimating is to take it easy for the first three days while at a much higher elevation.   This means reducing your training intensity to Zone 2 rides and reducing your volume to roughly 50-65% of your normal training load during those first 3 days.   It might even be fine to not train at all and allow your body to adjust.   During these three days, I rode easy, didn’t push it, and just enjoyed some great relaxed riding up to 11,000’ and took lots of pictures.  On day 4, I did a more intense ride and began increasing the total time as well, so that by the end of the 10 days in Colorado, I completed a 9-hour ride over two mountain passes, each up to nearly 12,000’.   Of course, I was breathing hard on those climbs, but on that final ride, I passed over 20 “locals” on the classic “Monarch Pass” ride giving me confidence that I had acclimated.

After a hard 10 days of training, it was time for a rest week at sea level and then a hard week of intensity in the week proceeding the trip to Peru.  For me, a week of rest is a week of rest. I ride maybe only 3 days during a rest week and really allow my body to recover, heal and adapt to the previous weeks of stress. Most riders don’t rest enough in their rest weeks.  Your rule should be to always rest more if you are trying to decide whether to train or rest, during your rest week.  This is critical of course for recovery from the previous weeks of training and you need to be able to execute the hard week of training that is coming up!  I knew that I only needed one super intense week of training before the trip to Peru, so I wanted maximum freshness to reach the intensity I wanted.   The week of intensity consisted of three days exactly the same workout:  3 x 5 minutes at 115% of FTP and 4 x 10 minutes at 100-105% of FTP.  This is a great workout to do in your final build week, as you are addressing both the Vo2 and FTP to “eek” out a little more performance.

“Rainbow Mountain”

Once in Cusco Peru, the effect of elevation was immediate as walking up the stairs made me breathe heavily and rapidly.   I felt out of shape!  Wow!  Unfortunately, or fortunately(?), my bike and luggage was stuck in Lima for 3 days, so there was no riding for me!   Walking around town, doing a couple of easy hikes up to 11,800’ and generally being a tourist (in the same clothes for 3 days!) was about all I could do.  I believe this ended up being a blessing in disguise, as it forced me to rest a bit more, eat some amazing Peruvian food and acclimate without the temptation to go out and ride 3-4 hours a day.  Once the bike showed up, I was able to jump on it and get in 3 solid rides before heading to do the “Rainbow Mountain” hike, which was up to 16,000’.   I knew these would be a further accelerator to acclimatization and had planned it for the seventh day in Cusco.

Hiking from the parking lot at 14,200 to 16,000’+ at the top of Rainbow mountain was not that hard at all!  Pushing the pace the whole way, I ended up with the third fastest time on Strava for the year (so far!).   Feeling strong on this day was a real confidence booster as well!  If you ever have a chance to visit Cusco or Machu Picchu, be sure to do the Rainbow Mountain hike, it’s worth it!

Tips for High Elevation

At this point, I should mention a couple of additional things that are important to understand and do while at a higher elevation.

  • Your FTP will be lower!  Depending on the elevation you are riding, your FTP could be lower by a whole lot! If you are at 6,000’ then expect about 10% lower FTP than sea level.  If you ride at 10,000’ then your FTP will be down by 20% most likely.  It gets worse as you go higher and at 14,000’ your FTP might be down by 40%!     So, it is IMPORTANT that you learn your FTP at some different elevation levels to help you with pacing.
  • About eight weeks before you go to a high elevation, you should have your serum ferritin levels checked.  Your serum ferritin levels need to be topped off, as once you get to elevation, you will be using more iron than normal.  If your serum ferritin tests in the bottom third of the “normal” level, I would suggest an iron supplement.  I am a fan of Proferrin. Colorado Biolabs, Inc. Vital health products (proferrin.com)
  • Beet Doping!   Yes, you need concentrated beets!  This is a tremendous advantage and makes the difference between struggling and feeling strong at elevation.  Beets are high in nitrates and when used in a concentrated form, you increase the nitric oxide in your blood and you can put more oxygen into your working muscles.  At sea level, using Beet Elite, increases my FTP 15 watts, and that’s 5% at my FTP of 300 watts!   You want to have it working when you start your workouts/event, so supplement at least 1.5hours before the start. You can get Beet Elite on our website. This stuff is magic.  BeetElite / HumanN Archives – Shop Peaks Coaching Group
  • Eating gels and gummies.  It is nearly impossible to eat while riding at a high elevation. There is no way I could have choked down an energy bar.  You just can’t close your mouth for any length of time when struggling for O2!  So, gels and gummy blocks are critical.  I wasn’t even able to chew the gummy blocks. I just had to stick them in the cheeks of my mouth and gnaw on them!  Sounds crazy, but it’s true.  I am a huge fan of the UCAN gels!  These things saved my life. Well, not really, but close!  UCAN Archives – Shop Peaks Coaching Group
  • Sleep. Staying at a higher and higher elevation can mess with your sleep.  I recommend some kind of sleep aid as well.   Whether that’s melatonin, valerian root tea or Ambien, pick up something before you go.  You will probably need it.  Sleep is critical in your recovery.
  • Your Heart Rate will be suppressed.  Do not be alarmed if your heart rate won’t go up.  It will be very suppressed depending on the elevation.  My normal threshold heart rate is 165-168 at sea level, but at 11,000’ it was between 147-150.  During the rainbow mountain hike between 14,000 and 16,000, it never went over 131 and I was at the limit from 129-131.   This is perfectly normal so don’t worry about it.

Machu Picchu Epic MTB Stage Race

After 10 days at 11,000’ and above, the Machu Picchu Epic MTB stage race started, and while climbing is not my forte’ I held my own and finished 27th on the first stage and 3rd for the 50-59 age group, so even though I felt like I was going pretty darn slow up the two major mountains, there were about 60 people going slower!  Climbing up the final mountain to the finish (yes, stage 1 was a mountain top finish!), I felt like I was riding so slow and couldn’t believe that rider after rider wasn’t passing me.  I continued to pace myself at “sweet-spot” (88-93% of FTP-elevation corrected) and finished relatively strong.    

Let’s talk about pacing at elevation. Pacing is critical when at elevation.  It is very easy to “blow-up” and go over your threshold with just a little effort.  When we ride/train/race at lower elevations, our ability to go above our FTP into zone 5, 6 and even zone 7 is usually very good.  We can recover from these intense efforts relatively easy and continue riding near or at our FTP. When you are riding at elevation, you can easily exceed your FTP and not be able to recover from that oxygen debt!  When starting a race, a climb, or a hard effort, it is crucial that you build up your power to your FTP and do it in a slow manner, over 5-10 minutes.  Starting too hard can be devastating at elevation and force you to have to actually stop riding and recover before you can pedal again!   Sneak up on your FTP and then be super careful not to exceed it.   Your cadence is also important and while cadence is largely based on your muscle fiber type (fast twitchers tend to pedal slower, and slow twitchers pedal faster), it is still important to watch your cadence at elevation.  Riding with a little faster cadence reduces the strain on the muscles but doesn’t increase the strain on the cardiovascular system by the same amount.  So, I recommend pedaling with a little less force when at elevation and this will help to keep your pacing under control and manage your respiration rate.  

Stage 2 and 3 were both tough stages but didn’t cause too much stress and that’s a good thing as stage 4 was a 25mile climb from 9,500’ to 14,200’!    The climb was very gradual and averaged only 3% but that was plenty steep when I got up to 14,200.  Since I anticipated it being a 3+ hour climb, I knew I could hold tempo pace (76-90% of FTP) for the entire climb and I also knew that the higher I went, the lower my power would be and the slower I would be!   The climb wasn’t all that bad, except for the rain and the cold!  By the time, I reached the top of the mountain pass, I was near hypothermic, couldn’t feel my hands, toes or face!   The elevation didn’t seem to impact me too much, but the cold sure did!   I was excited that I didn’t have any headaches, was able to actually pedal pretty hard from 13,000 to 14,200’ and again finished in 27th place.

The final stage was at a lower elevation from 3,000 to 5,000’ and all of the sudden there were riders around me during the stage that I had not seen before!   And they were keeping up with me!  I asked them if they were only doing the “3-day” race (stages 1-3-5), but they said no, they had ridden all the stages, but just were not acclimated and finished way behind me.  These riders were Peruvian but came to Cusco from Lima (sea level) only a couple of days before the race and every time the road went uphill, they went backwards!    I was able to survive the heat and humidity of the jungle stage and finished again in 27th and ended up 3rd overall for the old guys in 50-59 age group.

In conclusion, the answer is yes, you can race at elevation and at very high elevations if you are acclimated! Going to elevation for 10-days about three weeks before can really prime your system and help you acclimate even faster, so I recommend this if you can do it.  Otherwise, you should be sure to go early to your event by at least 7 days and more preferably about 10 days. This will ensure that you are well acclimated and ready to race.  Follow my tips above as well, using Beet Elite, gels, and a sleep aid if needed.  Make sure you have your serum ferritin levels checked at least 6 weeks ahead of time, so if they are low, you have a chance to increase them!    In those first 3 days you are at elevation, be very, very careful to take it easy and not ride hard.  Just relax for three days, rest a bit and then you’ll be even better for it after.  Pacing yourself is very important and becomes quite obvious on that first day you ride near your FTP!      

Send me an email if you have any questions about racing/training at elevation or the Machu Picchu Epic MTB race.  It’s an excellent event and I highly recommend it.  Here’s their website  Machu Picchu Epic – Competencia Enduro y XC Maratóninfo@peakscoachinggroup.com

Interview with IronmanHacks

I first met Hunter on a Zwift ride organized by UCAN. That specific workout had us doing some high cadence work, and I asked him about cadence.

I, like many other triathletes, tend to have a fairly low cadence and Hunter gave his advice.

Who better to get advice from that the father of training with power, a co-founder of TrainingPeaks, and a guy that has Zwift workouts named after him?

For those who may not know you, how would you introduce yourself?

I’m an endurance athlete coach specialized in training with power meters since 2002/2003, and I was a founder of TrainingPeaks software.

I helped develop the desktop software, WKO, and I’m also the first author of the gold standard book on training with a power meter.

I wrote this with Dr Coggan.

I know of his work as a HRM guy, is that right?

At one time he had the most peer reviewed studies in exercise physiology so he’s just been a prolific writer in this area.

He was also an avid competitive cyclist and he had been training with power in the lab so he got a jump start on how to train with heart rate monitors and power meters before they were widely available to the public.

You originally got started cycling through BMX, is that right? Tell us a bit about your background and how you got started in cycling.

I raced BMX from 11 to 18. It was awesome. It still is awesome.

BMX is one of our only feeder systems in cycling. Triathlon doesn’t have that.

Other sports, do, though. You play soccer when you are 4, football and baseball when you are 8, or whenever.

But what’s kids’ entry into cycling? BMX.

BMX is fun and every kids wants to ride through the mud.

Right, I guess BMX is a lot more fun for kids than time trials, right? And you worked with the 2008 BMX team at the Olympics in Beijing, too, didn’t you?

Yes, I did. Previously we never had power meters on BMXers. We didn’t understand what the power demands in BMX were.

So, I went to USA cycling and told them I’d love to get power meters for the BMX team and see what we can learn and see if we can help earn some gold medals.

We started doing this in 2006, and in 2007 we started testing the athletes. We even built an exact replica of the Beijing track in Chula Vista California. It was modelled after the one they’d be competing on in Beijing.

So we got to test all these athletes on the track and train them exactly the way we were going to have them compete.

With BMX power I imagine you aren’t looking at VI (Variability Index) and smoothness like in triathlon.

No, the jumps are so big and so long, they would get what we call micro rests in the air.

So they’d have a short rest in the air, land, and then hit the next jump.

But the riders that could do maximal explosive force followed by a rest of 2-3 seconds and then do it again were really the best ones.

There was a cadence cut-off of those who made the Olympic team and those who didn’t.

They’d do 180 RPM and 1500-1800 watts. The others that didn’t make it could only do about 160 RPM.

Would you say that everyone in BMX uses power now?

No, not at all. But the other Olympic teams do, now.

What are the brief milestones of your cycling and sporting career? Can you talk us though this chronology?

Turning pro was one of them – that was always a dream of mine, and it finally happened in the mid-90s. I and won some pretty nice size races here in the US. That’s when I slayed my dragons so to speak.

Then after that, becoming a coach. In the mid 90s, there were no coaches to take you under their wing. I realized I had some specialised knowledge and wanted to share that with as many people as I could.

What was next after that? Developing TrainingPeaks?

Yep, my client Kevin Williams and I went to the first ever power seminar, in Philadelphia, and Dr. Andy Coggan, Allen Lim from Scratch Labs, and Dean Golich were there.

And so those guys talked about training with power and each one of them said we don’t have a away to analyse this data.

That’s when Kevin said, “Hey, I can build this software.”

There was some software at the time, but it just showed you a squiggly line of a single ride and you couldn’t really analyse your cumulative training.

But then we developed it to show aggregated activity and in 2004 we launched it. That was called Cycling Peaks.

Then, we merged that with Dirk Friel and Gear Fisher’s company – TrainingBible.com. And Training Bible plus Cycling Peaks resulted in TrainingPeaks.

So is there a lot of confusion between Peaks Coaching Group and TrainingPeaks?

All the time. We get calls weekly with people asking questions about their software account.

So you could start a side business as customer support for TP it sounds like.

But you know that I think is super cool? Where the “peaks” part of the names came from: The mountain Thomas Jefferson measured in 1815 near where you live called The Peaks of Otter.

That’s awesome!

These peaks overlook the town I live in an there’s tremendous history here. All the locals that grew up here call it “The Peaks” and so I wanted to have a name that kind of honored that and the same time honored what we were striving for – a peak performance.

We can’t all win all the time, but we do want to strive for that peak performance. The best I can do on that day is what I’m striving for.

Are you involved with TrainingPeaks anymore?

No, I sold all my equity at the end of 2014.

What do you think about PKRS and the other various AI type of training systems that are emerging?

Do you think there’s a place for an automated coach that’s intelligent enough to adapt a plan to your input, either by data or let’s say by text messages, tags, or qualitative / subjective feedback?

For example, you tell it, “that hurt” or “felt my IT band flaring up again” and it adapts?

I think it definitely is coming, for sure. When you think about AI the first stages are just a bunch of algorithms and decision points and rules, but that’s coming. It’ll be interesting to see.

I think there’s a group who will like that because they don’t necessarily want to have that relationship with the coach. They don’t need it or want it but others still will.

But it will take time. We live in a capitalist society so it has to be monetary reason to do it.

What’s the biggest mistake you see most TT or tri cyclists making?

Kind of like you – they pedal too slow. I think in triathlon we see a lot of riders pedaling at 80 RPM or less and they think that by pushing this bigger gear they’re saving energy but in reality that’s not the case.

They’re pushing too big of a gear, putting too much force on the pedals and anytime you are putting more force on the pedals you are using more muscle glycogen.

He has a whole series of Zwift workouts

So you are using too much muscular force, when you could shift that stress to your cardiovascular system.

Your job on the bike is to preserve your muscles on the bike so you can run fast. If we can pedal at 90 RPM or very close we’re saving a lot of energy and setting ourselves up much better for the run.

But I FEEL more comfortable at 80 RPM.

But that’s a practice thing, Andrew. You need to do those cadence drills and begin getting the body used to it. You need to start to gradually do that.

Do 10 sets of 1 min fast pedals every day for two weeks and then do 20 min of fast pedaling without stopping. Don’t worry about your power, just your cadence. And that becomes habit.

Is it all about having the right IF (Intensity Factor, or percentage of FTP) and then a smooth VI?

VI is super important, absolutely. You have to be very smooth and steady to preserve that muscle glycogen on the run. And that’s where some of that slow RPM stuff has come from.

Because it is easier to be smooth, but being smooth with a higher force is counter-productive for a strong run.

So both you and Joe Friel have top-rated books on power meters. But yours was first, right?

Yes, and it was received really well. There was a pent-up demand in 2006 because when had this information around now and by then a lot more people bought power meters and were trying to figure it out.

So finally people could read how to use it with the system that Andy and I developed.

What’s your chosen power meter?

I’ve got them all, or most of them. All of them have their own pros or cons, but the PowerTap hub which has been around since 1998 or 1999 just works. I’ve got it on a really nice sent of ENVE wheels and it works every time.

I’ve got the Infocrank, Rotor, SRM, PowerTap pedals, Favero pedals, Stages and probably a few more I have forgotten…

Tell me about your nutrition when you race. What do you use?

I’m definitely a UCAN guy for sure, I really like UCAN. I came to them because I do a lot better with lower blood sugar spikes. I’ve always been very sensitive to that and as a pro I had to keep energy levels up and would bonk easily.

I became carbo addicted. So I was trying to change my body back to more of a fat burn and I worked on that for many years but nothing ever in the sports drink industry could do that – it was all just sugar and that still puts you on that roller coaster.

Sometimes you’ve got to have it, but I just don’t have that roller coaster effect with UCAN and don’t need as many calories and I just feel better.

It’s pretty revolutionary. I’ve been this industry along time and have seen so many sports drinks come and go but UCAN has done something revolutionary.

What is your nutritional philosophy or approach for everyday eating?

I tend to be protein heavy and eat as many fruits and vegetables as I possibly can. I do like my fish, chicken, and red meat. All my meals have to have a good source of protein where I’m not on this roller coaster of carbs.

OK so more protein but you’re not like a high-fat, low-carb type.

I think that would work for other body types but that would just make me fat. Haha.

Which athletes, triathlete or other do you admire the most? Or that you have enjoyed following over the years?

He’s not a pro anymore but I really like TJ Tollakson. He won the 2014 Lake Placid Ironman and maybe 2009. He’s the owner and founder of Dimond bikes. He’s one of these guys who has worked really, really hard, used a lot of power training principles and science, and has brought those things together to be an Ironman.

Do you have any tips, tricks, or hacks to a faster race?

There are a couple things I would suggest.

First of all, you have to be comfortable on your bike. That’s the first thing that I do with all my triathletes. You have to get a fit that you are comfortable in.

You need to feel at home and be able to relax on the bike. You have to feel like you’re on your favorite couch at home.

Well, maybe not that comfortable, but if you’re not very comfortable you can’t stay aero as long as you need to be.

I also think you need to spend 12 weeks in the off-season working on strength and flexibility. Get in the gym, do the functional strength, take a yoga class and harmonize and balance the muscles.

Hunter Allen is a is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” , “Cutting-Edge Cycling,” , and “Triathlon Training With Power” , 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.

Check out more by IronmanHacks HERE!!

Building Your Power Foundation.

Is it too early to begin next year’s foundation training?  Yes!  You need a break at the end of the season. If you are planning on a big 2022, and you are just finishing your 2021 season, it’s not too early to plan though! You do need to take a break to re-charge your batteries, and that usually lasts a 2-4 weeks, but that is also what I consider as prep for 2022. Now is the time to really plan for 2022 and once your enter into the off-season training phase, I want you to consider some of the below workouts and training principles to make 2022 great!

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 2022, then yes, you should be doing some serious “Base training” right now.  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 that 1-2 hours a day and rode at endurance pace, then what would happen?   We would lose fitness and get slower.  There is a relationship between time and intensity that must be respected and the lower the intensity the longer the time you should ride in order to stress that energy system.  If you really want to improve your endurance system, then riding at endurance pace for 4-5 hours is what you need to do.   A 2 hour ride will not be long enough to create the necessary stress on the body in order to adapt and improve endurance.   So what is the correct intensity for your 1-2 hours of available time?   This is the tempo zone, Level 3 on the Coggan Power Level chart and from 76-90% of your functional threshold power (FTP).    

Riding at tempo pace is a challenge and not easy, but it won’t make you peak in January either. By pushing yourself a little harder this winter in your shorter sessions (many of us are stuck on the trainer all winter too!) you’ll be able to stress your aerobic system appropriately enough to continue improving throughout the winter.  In a previous article, that was titled, “The Next Level”, I talked about how to train in order to get to that elusive next level of fitness and riding at the tempo level this winter is one of the keys toward moving to that next level.   You have to be willing to trust and believe that training in the tempo zone will create the training stress you need as your “Power Foundation”.   This 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 winter.  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.   

What types of workouts should you do this winter to make sure your “Power Foundation” is sufficiently challenged?   I have written below three workouts that are perfect for both indoor and outdoor workouts, as each can be adapted to either environment.

Tempo with Bursts and Big Gear efforts- This workout is designed to make you ride at a relatively high intensity keeping your aerobic system taxed, but not so much that you can’t do the big gear efforts afterward.  The big gear intervals are done afterward since your muscles will already be fatigued from the tempo work and then make you summon more strength to do the work.  The big gear efforts are there to help you create some additional muscular strength and translate any weight training you might be doing onto bike specific work.

Warm-up (WU): 15 minutes. Main Set (MS): Then Nail it for 60 minutes at 80-83% of your FTP, with 20 bursts (every 3 minutes!), hold for 10 seconds at 120% of your FTP. EASY 10 minutes. Then do 20 minutes at 80-83% of FTP and this time do big gear intervals- Put it in your 53:13 – 50 rpm and every 2 minutes, (so 10 total)… Slow down, stick it in the 53:13, stay seated and then use strength to push it to 90rpm.  Once you reach 90 rpm, and then back to your tempo pace. Cool-down (CD): 10 minutes easy spinning

Tempo and Sweet Spot intervals- This workout is designed to both fatigue your muscular endurance and cardiovascular system. By doing two longer 30 minute intervals at your sweet spot(88-93% of FTP or Upper tempo/lower level threshold pace), you’ll really have to work and stay focused but it will be ‘do-able’.  After you do the 30 minute efforts, then you’ll have to ride at tempo for 45minutes, but at lower level tempo pace, which again will be challenging but stress that muscular endurance system.

WU: 15 minutes steady.MS: 5×1 minute fast pedals- over 110rpm with 1 minute recovery between each. Then do 2×30 minutes at 88-93% of threshold, right in your sweet spot. Rest for 5 minutes easy between each. Then finish with 45 minutes at 76-80% of FTP. Nice tempo, but not hard. CD: 15 minutes.

Solid tempo workout- This is your bread and butter winter workout where you get plenty of tempo work done and that will challenge your cardiovascular system and is sure to make you “red in the face” with some early, hard work to assure you are awake.

WU: 15 minutes steady and smooth, getting the legs going.MS: After you are warmed up, do (1) 3 minute effort all out to get the carbon out of the legs, shoot for 115-120% of your FTP. Then do 5×1 minute fast pedaling intervals with 1 minute rest between each. Ride for 20 minutes at endurance pace and faster cadence than your normal self-selected cadence by 5rpm. Legs just spinning a little faster than they want to! Then do 60 minutes at Tempo pace, NOT race pace, but a notch below uncomfortable, but do-able and at your normal cadence. Tempo Pace is 76-90% of FTP. CD: 10 minutes.

These workouts are just some of the great variations on Tempo that you can do this winter.  The goal is to keep improving, without peaking in January and build your ‘foundation’, so that you’ll be ready for more intense threshold work later.   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 a is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of “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.