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.

Cycling-Specific Leg Strength Training

By: David Ertl

There are a lot of theories on strength training for cycling out there, and unfortunately not a lot of science to back them up. Therefore, the following strength training recommendations below are based on my reading of a lot of literature, books and articles on this topic. I‟ve put together my thoughts on what should be a sound and effective strength training program for cycling. At the very least, I don’t believe it will hurt and should help. What I‟m referring to here is leg strength training. This article does not cover upper body and core strength. Those are important as well, but will not be addressed here.

Rationale for strength training

Some people argue that strength training is not necessary for cyclists. They say that cycling relies mostly on cardiovascular fitness and you can get all the leg strength you need by riding. They also claim that off-the-bike strength training is not cycling-specific therefore useless. While I agree that cycling is first and foremost a cardiovascular sport, leg strength is still important. Cycling is a power sport. Power equals force times speed. Force is the amount of effort you put into the pedal stroke and speed is your leg rpm. Here‟s why I disagree who say strength training is not required, and why I believe it should be part of a cycling training program.

First, cycling requires leg strength. Stronger cyclists who can continuously crank out more power must also put out more force per pedal stroke. If two cyclists are pedaling at 90 rpm and one is putting out more power, he must be putting out more force on the pedals and using more strength to do so. Power = strength x speed. If leg speed is equal then the only other variable is force, which is driven by leg strength. You can work on increasing your cadence, but there is a ceiling on how fast you can pedal, so your main power improvement from increased cadence is limited. The more force you can continuously generate, the more power you can put out. Strength => force. The upward limit of strength is much more open ended than leg speed. Therefore you should work on strength. Riding a bike will give you a lot of the strength you need to ride well. However, there are times when you could use more strength to turn the pedals, such as when you are accelerating, charging up a hill or sprinting. It is possible but difficult to build this type of strength just on the bike. During the summer I typically recommend doing one strength workout on the bike each week, to maintain leg strength. But in the off-season, I believe it is a good idea to do some gym leg strength work. You can build more strength in the gym than you can on a bike. Even if strength training isn‟t necessary, it is certainly more efficient and time-effective to work on strength training off the bike.

Secondly, strength training has the added benefit of increasing bone strength. There is some suggestion that cyclists have less bone strength than other athletes, perhaps due to the lack of impact (such as fromrunning) and resistance training. It may also be due to all the sweating that cyclists do, which can leach calcium from the body. Whether or not this is true, there‟s no doubt that resistance training can improve bone strength as well as muscular strength.

A third reason for doing strength training is that you can work on muscles that don‟t get used during cycling, or at least not very much, and therefore you can become more balanced. Cycling is a linear sport – we tend to move our legs in one plane and use only some of our leg and hip muscles.

Fourth, a rationale for doing strength training in the off-season is that for those of us who live in a northern climate, riding outside during the winter is difficult and often impossible. Strength training a couple times a week gives a great workout indoors and adds some diversity to your annual training routine. It can also simulate the effect of a long ride. The day after a good leg strength workout your legs should feel like you‟ve just ridden 70 miles.

Finally, as you age, it becomes difficult to maintain muscle mass, even with training. You tend to lose your type II muscle fibers (the fast twitch ones) the most, and these are the same ones built most by strength training. If you don‟t lift fairly heavy weights, you will likely lose muscle mass as you age even if you continue to ride a bike.

Cycling requires several types of leg strength. It mostly requires strength-endurance, which is the ability to push the pedals around powerfully, for long periods of time. It also requires pure strength – the strength required to push very forcefully on the pedals when accelerating, climbing or sprinting. Cycling also requires you to have the ability to generate a force quickly. Think about the pedal stroke. The majority of the force to turn the cranks is generated from the 1 o‟clock position to the 5 o‟clock position (when looking at the right leg from the right side of the bike). This is one third of the pedal stroke. If you are pedaling at 90 rpm, you are doing 1.5 revolutions per second, or doing one revolution in 2/3 of a second. Therefore, you are generating all the down force during a pedal stroke in 0.22 of a second (1/3 times 2/3). That‟s quite fast! Therefore, it‟s important to consider some leg speed work, both with and without resistance, to train your muscles to fire quickly. So we have strength-endurance, max strength and strength-speed to think about.

Muscle groups required for cycling

In cycling, there are four basic muscle actions involved in a pedal stroke. 1) knee extension 2) hip extension 3) knee flexion 4) hip flexion. Knee extension is the straightening of the knee joint such as when kicking a ball. During the pedal stroke, you are extending your knee from the 11 through 5 o‟clock positions. Knee extension occurs by the contraction of the quadriceps and Rectus femoris muscles – those big muscles on the front of the thigh. Hip extension is extending the thigh from a bent or flexed position to a straight position where the thigh is parallel to your trunk. When you stand up out of a chair, you are extending your hip. On a bike, your hip extends from the 12 through 6 o‟clock positions. Hip extension on the bike occurs mainly from the contraction of the gluteal muscles (your butt muscles). The hamstring muscles are also involved in hip extension but not to a very large degree in the range of motion involved in the pedal stroke. The hip and knee extension makes up approximately 80% of the force generated during a pedal with the knee and hip each contributing roughly half of the 80%. Therefore these are important muscles to strengthen for cycling. Muscles tend to be strongest at the mid portion of their range of their motion. For the two strongest muscles, the quads and glutes, their greatest force production is at the 3 o‟clock position. This is good news because this is where the foot is pushing perpendicular to the crank resulting in the greatest force transfer from the foot to the bike. Whoever invented the bicycle knowingly or unknowingly had this figured out. The greatest muscle force production coincides with the physics of the pedal motion in an optimal manner. Knee flexion is the bending of the knee such as kicking your foot back towards your butt. On the bike, knee flexion occurs from the 5 through 11 o‟clock positions, where you are pulling back with the foot. The hamstrings are involved in flexing the knee. As you actively pull back on the pedals, you are engaging your hamstrings. Hip flexion involves bringing the thigh up towards the chest such as when you step up and over something. On the bike, the hips flex from the 6 through 12 o‟clock positions. The psoas muscles are responsible for flexing the thigh. In actuality, most of the effort used to lift the leg up on the upstroke of the pedal stroke comes from the other leg pushing down on the pedals. Even when elite cyclists consciously pull up on the pedals, they just barely unweight the leg, and really don‟t produce enough force to propel the bike forward. However, anything you can do to help unweight that leg means the other leg can use more of its down force energy propelling the bike forward rather than lifting the opposing leg, so it is worthwhile trying to improve the efficiency of your pedal stroke by working on the hip flexors.

So the muscle groups involved in the pedal stroke are the quads, glutes, hamstrings and hip flexors. The quads and glutes provide the vast majority of the force and power for turning the pedals. Many other accessory muscles are involved, such as the calf muscles, but typically they get strong enough just from cycling and they don‟t contribute much to the overall force production so we won‟t worry about strengthening them in the gym.

The exercises

The squat and leg press work the quads and glutes simultaneously. These are the powerhouses of the pedal stroke and can handle heavy weight. The squat involves both knee and hip extension at the same time as you stand up out of a squat. Therefore it simultaneously strengthens both muscle groups in proportion to each other – the quads will be as strong as they need to be relative to the glutes. Standing up out of a squat mimics the downward pedal stroke motion very well. That‟s why it is such a good exercise for cyclists. The leg curl works the hamstring muscles, those used to pull back on the pedal. If you just do squats or leg presses, you ignore and potentially will have relatively weaker hamstrings than quads and glutes. A good way to hit the hip flexor muscles is to do one legged pedaling. When you first start pedaling with only one leg (clipped into your pedal of course while the other is held out of the way), it won‟t take long before your pedal stroke becomes jerky and you have trouble getting your leg back up on the upstroke. This is because of weak hip flexors. When riding two legged, we get lazy and let the downward leg push the upward leg back up. One legged pedaling does two important things: it strengthens the hip flexors and it also provides neuromuscular training so this pulling up motion becomes more automatic when pedaling with two legs. You don‟t want to have to consciously think about pulling up with every pedal stroke. These three exercises (squats, leg curls, one legged pedaling) will hit the four major muscle groups involved in the pedal stroke.

Strength-Endurance Training

When pedaling along at your anaerobic threshold or time trial pace, you are only using a fraction of your absolute leg strength with each pedal stroke. When a body builder or weight lifter refers to „strength endurance‟, they typically are referring to 15 reps of a given exercise. However, you are doing many thousand reps per ride. Our definition of strength-endurance is a little different – a lot more endurance and less strength required. When a weight lifter is doing 15 reps of a given exercise, he can lift approximately 65% of his one rep maximum lift. So you can imagine that a cyclist doing a time trial doing thousands of reps is using an even lower fraction of his total leg strength. I can hit 800-1000 watts for a few pedals strokes but my threshold is less than 1/3 of that amount. So cycling at a fairly fast pace requires only a relatively small fraction of overall strength. This is a reason some coaches give that strength training isn‟t necessary for cyclists – cyclists don‟t need a huge amount of strength when cruising along. However, it‟s also been said that a strong muscle tires less quickly. Let‟s say you can crank out 1200 watts briefly while another cyclist can only hit 1000 watts. Let‟s say you both have a threshold power of 300 watts. You will be using a lower percentage of your muscle strength than the other cyclist when both of you are riding at threshold. Your muscles should tire less quickly.

Now, strength-endurance is effectively trained by riding a bike at or near your threshold level. In order to use the strength you have, you must be able to support aerobic muscular force by supplying oxygen and sugar to the working muscles. That is cardiovascular fitness. If your cardio system isn‟t able to keep up, then it doesn‟t matter how strong your legs are, they will slow down because they aren‟t being fed enough sugar and oxygen. I‟ve been dropped in races doing 180 watts, much lower than my threshold, but when I am exhausted, I can no longer generate the force I could when fresh because of cardiovascular fitness, not because I was weak. So on-the-bike threshold work is very important, but the other half of the equation is having the strength to use assuming your cardio system is able to support it.

Improving your strength-endurance requires fairly high reps with moderate weights. I like to prescribe 30- 50 reps per set of exercises when working on strength-endurance. This sounds huge to a typical weight lifter, but when you consider you normally do thousands of reps, 50 isn‟t that many, but the force (actually the torque, but we won‟t worry about that detail here) required for each rep is considerably higher than pedaling a bike, even uphill. I like to think of this type of training as mimicking hill work. Your leg speed is somewhat reduced, you are generating a lot of force and you may do a couple hundred reps (pedal strokes) going up a hill. At the beginning of the leg strength phase of training, you want to ease into it gradually, otherwise your legs will be extremely sore. So start off strength-endurance training with very light weight. The first time I do squats in the fall, I just use the bar. I will do 2-3 sets of 15 reps. It‟s amazing how sore you may feel that the next day! Once over the initial shock, your muscles will respond quickly and you will be able to increase the weight quite fast. Work your way up to 5 sets of 50 reps of each exercise. The exercises I suggest training this way are the squat and leg curl. You should also do one legged pedaling to improve strength-endurance of the hip flexors. Start out trying to make it one minute with each leg and build up to two minutes. Do at least three sets of one legged pedaling per session. Use the highest gear you can while still pedaling a smooth circle. This is actually a good exercise to do during your warmup.

A word about squats: If you do traditional back squats where you rest the barbell on your shoulders and then drop your hips towards the floor, you as a cyclist should try to go low enough so that your thighs are parallel to the floor. Some trainers suggest doing half squats, where you only go down to the point where your knee angle is 90 degrees. This is recommended for safety and for people who may have injured knees. As a cyclist, your knee is bent considerably more than 90 degrees at the 11 o‟clock position. Just hop on your bike and look at your knee angle at the top of the pedal stroke. You want to mimic that with squats, (unless of course you have knee problems), then you are better off stopping at the half squat. Another thing to consider: When doing squats, you put a lot of stress on your hamstrings when lowering yourself down to the squatted position. The hamstrings act as brakes to slow you down and prevent you from falling on your rear. This action is called eccentric muscle action, when the muscles are lengthening while under tension. It is this eccentric action that causes the most post-exercise muscle soreness (DOMS = delayed onset muscle soreness). Because cyclist never do eccentric contractions while cycling (the hamstrings are contracting while the hip is being flexed), when we start doing squats, it can be a fairly painful experience. Therefore I suggest you do box squats, where you squat down and sit onto a box or low bench at the bottom. You want the bench to be low enough so that you are able to get your thighs at least parallel to the ground. I actually do my squats standing on a board which raises me up slightly so I have the proper knee angle when sitting on my bench. What sitting does is allows your hamstrings to relax as you sit down so they don‟t have as much of an eccentric stretch, and they don‟t have to hold you up during the bottom of the squat. You will find you can squat more weight doing box squats than regular squats yet your hamstrings won‟t be nearly as sore the next day or two.

Max Leg Strength Training

To improve your absolute strength, which is what weight or power lifters typically do, you need to lift heavy weights. In order to do so, you need to reduce the reps you can lift. Also, because heavy weights are involved, you need to be very careful not to hurt yourself. So some modifications are in order. To build strength most effectively, you need to lift a weight that is heavy enough to prevent you from being able to lift only 6- 8 reps at a time. The last rep should be very difficult to complete. We will work on the quads, glutes and hamstrings this way, but not the hip flexors. They will get worked enough just doing one legged pedaling. For the quads and glutes, it is best to use a leg press machine. This is safer than trying to do squats with very heavy weights. First of all, when using heavy weights with a squat, most people‟s back muscles become limiting before their leg muscles, so you won‟t be able to hold as much as you can lift. You also don‟t want to risk injuring your back, or losing balance and falling. Instead, use a leg press machine or similar type of machine. These are safe for your back because it is stabilized. The weights are also stabilized so you won‟t be able to lose balance. If you run out of weight that you can push (quite possible on some machines), then you can do these one leg at a time. For the hamstrings, you can continue using the leg curl machine you‟ve been using for strength endurance, just increase the weight and decrease the reps. These can also be done one leg at a time. You won‟t start doing heavy strength work until you‟ve had a good base of strength-endurance, to give your leg muscles a chance to get stronger and to get used to strength training.

Leg Speed-Strength Training

As mentioned above, you need to not only have strong muscles, but they must be trained to fire quickly. Strength training increases the muscles‟ strength but not necessarily their speed. So to work on rapid firing, we will incorporate some jumping exercises. This is not to be confused with plyometrics. I do not advocate plyometrics for cyclists. Plyometrics are a jumping exercise which begins by pre-stretching the muscles and then exploding into a jump. For example, jumping off a box and then back up in one quick motion. As you jump down, you do an eccentric stretch of the glutes and quads and then as you explode back up, they contract from this stretched condition. This type of exercise is used for ground-based sports such as football and basketball, where the players stop
suddenly and jump or change direction. The pre-stretch is helpful to these athletes because a stretched muscle has elasticity which helps spring the muscle back as it is contracting. You can jump higher if you quickly drop into a squat and back up than if you just start from a dead standstill. However, in cycling there is no pre-stretch at the top of the pedal stroke so there is no elastic potential energy stored up in the muscles that we can take advantage of. So, for our jumping we will start each jump for a standstill. The other reason I don‟t like plyometrics is because the risk of injury is so high. Even if supervised, it is very possible to twist an ankle, strain a joint or pull a muscle. It‟s not worth getting injured during strength training, especially a muscle or joint injury as these take a long time to recover from.

The main jumping exercise will be the squat jump. This involves starting in a squat position and then jumping as high as you can. I find it helpful to have a step or box to jump up onto – it gives you something to aim at. But if you don‟t have anything available, you can simply jump as high in the air as you can. As you land, lower yourself back down into a squat position and stop momentarily before jumping again. The key is to jump from a deep squat position, similar to the joint angles when your pedal is at 12 o‟clock. Jump rapidly and forcefully into full extension. Keep your hands on your hips as you jump. Typically squat jumps are taught with throwing your arms overhead. That just creates artificial momentum. You want your legs and hips to do all the work. Anyway, you don‟t throw your hands in the air while riding, do you? (except when you cross the finish line first! True story: I actually saw a guy throw his hands in the air so forcefully at the end of a race that he threw himself right off his bike backwards. To make matters worse, he was second and didn‟t realize the winner had already crossed the line. Oops!).

The amount of power you generate while jumping is much higher than the power you generate doing squats or leg presses with weights. That‟s because power is a function of both force and speed. Because you are contracting the muscles so much faster when jumping, you are creating a lot more power. Keep in mind that you are still lifting your entire body weight, so just because you don‟t have a barbell on your shoulders, it‟s not like you are not lifting any weight.

Periodization of leg strength training

There is a timing element to leg strength training. Some coaches go to great detail to create a week by week periodized leg strength training plan. I prefer to keep it as simple as possible. However, there is an order in which you should do strength training. Begin at the end of your transition period, typically in October. Start by doing squats and leg curls with very light weights and increase the weight and reps as you get over your initial muscle soreness, which should only last a few days if you aren‟t too aggressive. Once you‟ve had a good full month of training with high reps (strength-endurance), such as mid November, you can start adding in max strength workouts. Again, work your way up to your maximum lifting weight. Don‟t try to do it first time you do this workout. Do both strength endurance and max strength workouts concurrently (each workout once each week) through February. Once you get to March, you are hopefully doing more riding outdoors. Strength training is hard on the legs and takes its toll on muscles. You will notice that you don‟t have as much energy or pep if you ride the day after a strength workout. So as the weather starts to improve, phase out the max strength work. Continue to do the strength-endurance work but start to back off the weight and do the motions more quickly to transition the muscles into a faster, more powerful action suitable for riding.

Continue to do one legged training year round, at least once a week during the riding season just so you don‟t lose that muscle memory. Do them twice a week during the off-season. For squat jumps, you can do those starting in October and running through March.

Sample Plan

Here is a layout of a generic leg strength training plan by month.


October: Single leg pedaling, squat jumps, low weight, moderate rep strength endurance squats and leg curls November: Single leg pedaling, squat jumps, moderate weight and high rep strength endurance squats/leg curls
December thru February: Single leg pedaling, squat jumps, moderate weight strength endurance squats/leg curls alternated with high weight max strength leg presses and leg curls
March: Single leg pedaling, squat jumps, high speed lower weight squats and leg curls
April – September: Single leg pedaling, on-bike leg strength workouts (low gear climbs, seated grinds, etc).

Here‟s what a single leg pedaling workout might look like:
Warm up. Pedal with right leg for one – two minutes. Switch to left leg. Spin easily with both legs for two minutes. Repeat for a total of 3 sets.

Here‟s what a squat jump routine might look like:
Warm up on a stationary bike. Do a series of 15 squat jumps. Rest (or do a different exercise). Then do 4 more sets.

Here‟s what a strength endurance routine might look like:
Warm up on a stationary bike. Do a set of 50 squats. Then do a set of 50 leg curls. Repeat until you‟ve done 5 sets of both exercises.

Here‟s what a max strength routine might look like:
Warm up on a stationary bike. Do a set of 7 leg presses, then do a set of 7 leg curls. Repeat until you‟ve done 5 sets of both exercises. On days when you are doing strength endurance, here‟s how you might set it up. Warm up on a stationary bike. Do a set of squats, then leg curls, then squat jumps, and finish up with a set of single leg pedaling. If you are at a gym, you can do single leg pedaling very effectively on a spin bike so hopefully you can hop on one easily between your strength sets. Go back through this routine 4 more times, or whatever is called for in your training plan.

On days when you are doing max strength, here‟s how you might set it up. Warm up on a stationary bike. Do a set of leg presses, then leg curls, then squat jumps, and finish up with a set of single leg pedaling. Go back through this routine 4 more times, or whatever is called for in your training plan.

Supplemental leg and hip strength exercises: Cycling is quite one dimensional. We pedal in one plane and push and pull with the legs and hips. Never do we move our legs side to side or fully extend the hip. These motions become underdeveloped and may lead to muscle imbalances. It‟s a good idea to incorporate a few of these exercises to help maintain some balance.

Hip adductors: Hip adduction is the pulling of the leg in towards the center of the body. A little adduction occurs in the pedal stroke as you work to keep your knee in towards the top tube, but not much. The hip adductor muscles can be strengthened with specific hip adduction machines (where you squeeze your knees together against resistance) and it can be easily done with exercise bands or a cable machine. If using bands or a cable machine, attach to your ankle and pull one leg across the body in front of the other leg, while keeping the knee straight. Try to keep the hips stationary and only move the leg. Do both legs.

Hip abductors: Hip abduction is when you pull your leg out to the side, away from the body. Ice skaters and roller bladers use these muscles a lot but cyclists do not. Similar to hip adduction, these can be strengthened with specific hip abduction machines, where you push your knees out away from each other against resistance, and with bands or a cable machine. If using bands or cable, attach to your ankle, then pull the leg out away from the body while balancing on the other leg. Keep the knee straight and lift as high as possible keeping the hips level. Do both legs.

Full hip extension: While cyclists do hip extension during the pedal downstroke, it is only a partial extension. We rarely fully extend our hip, even outside of cycling. If you have done cross-country skiing, you will notice that your lower back and hip get tired quickly. While skiing, we bring our leg back as far as it with go while pushing off on the ski. In cycling, most of the hip flexion is due to the glutes working. When doing a full hip extension, it more fully engages the glutes and other muscles (hamstrings). This motion is best worked using bands or a cable machine. Attach to your ankle and pull the leg back, keeping the knee straight, keeping the hips stationary. Do both legs.

Putting it all together – creating a powerful, smooth pedal stroke

Leg strength is critically important for cycling, but it is also important to use this strength in a manner that creates a smooth and efficient pedal stroke. Here are some ideas for turning the pedals in a smooth fashion. You may have noticed that the knee is maximally flexed at the 11 o‟clock position instead of the 12 o‟clock position. This means your knee starts to extend as the foot comes over the top of the pedal stroke. Therefore, you should be thinking about pushing the foot forward as it crosses over the top of the pedal stroke, which engages the quad muscles. Starting to push at the 11 o‟clock position instead of 12 or 1 o‟clock results in a smoother, less choppy pedal stroke. Try this sometime when riding, especially uphill or into a headwind. You will notice a difference. It‟s like your leg gets a head start on the downstroke and it helps smooth out the dead spot at the top and bottom of the pedal stroke.

As your foot goes down through the downstroke, you are engaging both the quads and glutes. You really don‟t have to think about this, it comes naturally. But keep in mind that the most force is generated at the 3 o‟clock position, as the force is perpendicular to the crank arm. However, as you get down to 5 and 6 o‟clock, you are pushing mostly parallel to the crank arm and very little force is being used to turn the crank. So don‟t continue mashing down on the pedals once it reaches the 5 o‟clock position. You are just wasting effort. Once the pedal reaches 5 o‟clock, instead you should be thinking „pull back‟ on the pedals. The objective is to try to put a force on the pedals in such a way that the force is always as perpendicular to the crank arm as possible throughout the pedal stroke. So at the bottom of the stroke, where the crank arm is vertical, you need to be pulling back on it to create useful force on the cranks which translate into forward motion of the bike. To pull back, you engage your hamstrings. It is commonly stated that you should be envisioning scraping mud off the bottom of your shoe as you are pulling back through the bottom of the pedal stroke. This helps visualize the feeling in your hamstrings.

Now some people recommend breaking the pedal stroke into three parts: 12 o‟clock to 5 o‟clock, 5 o‟clock to 8 o‟clock and 8 o‟clock to 12. We‟ve just covered the first two parts, the pushing down and pulling back. The third part is pulling up from 8 to 12. This engages the hip flexor muscles. However, I don‟t advocate breaking the pedal stroke into three parts, for a couple of reasons. First, it‟s more complicated. Your legs are flying around at 90+ rpm and your brain really doesn‟t have time to think push pull- lift, push-pull-lift, with both legs at the same time. I find doing so, especially the lifting or pulling up phase, actually makes my pedal stroke more jerky. Plus, as mentioned above, the hip flexors are pretty weak and don‟t really contribute much to forward motion so accentuating this motion doesn‟t really help power the bike forward. So instead, I recommend just thinking „push-pull‟. Push from 11 o‟clock to 5 o‟clock, and pull from 5 back up to 11. By pulling back on the pedal, you will actually be flexing the hip and pulling up and lifting as the pedal comes up through the backstroke without even thinking „lift‟. If you have been doing one-legged pedaling religiously, your hip flexors will be trained to fire as you are pulling back and up. Also, you will be able to think fast enough to think “push-pull” during pedal strokes with both feet. Give it a try the next time you are out riding. I bet you find you pick up a little speed plus you should notice a smoother pedal stroke, especially if you start pushing at 11 o‟clock and start pulling at 5.


Coach David Ertl

This article was originally posted on his personal coaching website: Cyclesport Coaching


David is a licensed USA Cycling Level 1 (Elite) Cycling Coach and a coach with the Peaks Coaching Group.

He enjoys sharing his years of training and racing experience and love of cycling with recreational and competitive individuals and teams.  He offers training plans, ebooks, training articles, and in-person and distance cycling coaching.  He would be happy to talk with you about achieving your cycling goals, whatever they may be.

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.

How Was Your Race Season? – What needs to be done for 2022?

By: Coach Paul Ozier

Train to Win

I hope everyone is staying motivated and thinking about the upcoming season. Last year has come and gone. How was it for you? Did you meet your objectives? Think back about your best performance, or your worst. What could have been different? Not just in that particular event, but what could you have done differently to have a better result before the event? If you won your event, well I guess you are pretty happy. If the event had a less than expected result, what was the cause? Do you need a stronger and faster sprint, higher FTP, better VO2Max, or better race tactics? Let’s talk about a key point that a lot of riders miss in training; race tactics. We all go out and perform our intervals, long rides, and whatever else we are told to do by our coach, team mates, or whomever is directing you toward that path to glory. In my years of coaching and racing I have seen time after time that the rider with the most horsepower does not always see the results that the training numbers show he/she should receive. How many times do you go out and practice winning a race? How many times do you go out and train to win? What data do you look at to see how you performed and why you just could not pull off the race results you hoped for? Personally I upgraded to category II and I am definitely not the strongest rider around. Race smarts, experience, and having a game plan (and goal) was my key.


Some race tactics that are often overlooked are cadence, and conservation of energy.

Do you know your competition?

If you have trained all year and timed everything just right for your A event of the year, then you will most likely be feeling very good on the bike. You will feel like you are unstoppable. You may feel like hammering away to show everyone you are king. However, the only time you can claim the title of king is when you are standing on the top spot of the podium. Your A event is not the time to make senseless attacks or efforts. The thing to do today is know your competition, conserve and let other riders make the unsuccessful attacks and moves. Why waste all your training on showing off today. How many times have you seen the race come back together in the final few miles? You need to stay in the shelter of the peloton as much as possible, this is your A event and what matters most is achieving the goal you set for yourself months earlier. Save your legs for when things really start to heat up, like the last break away with 10km to go, for the final climb before the finish, whatever you have determined to be the deciding moment! Many riders that did the earlier work, attacks, moves, will fall by the wayside. If you know the competition, and you should, after all this is your A event, keep an eye on the riders that have a history of placing well or better yet, try to learn why they are racing today (what is their goal?). Watch the riders that always seem to make moves that stick. These are the ones that you will need to go with if an early move is made. Do you know the racecourse? Is the course one that always ends in a field sprint, or is it the course that has that key 1km climb, 5km from the end? Plan for the race, make a game plan and stick to it as much as possible. Game plans are great, but sometimes you have to be aware that the plan needs to be adjusted slightly if circumstances warrant. Think, be smart, and do not react senselessly. This is a race and things most likely will be unpredictable. Be aware of the environment around you; wind, course conditions, road surface, other riders, cars/traffic, etc.

Know “Your” Cadence

Cadence is something I will touch on briefly. Research with your coach all of your racing and the key training files and compare cadence in training to cadence in racing. So many times I see riders train at X watts and Y cadence. In a race they still race at about X watts, but the cadence is higher than in training. This excessive cadence variation if not trained can cause a higher respiratory rate, increased heart rate, a higher perceived exertion (and this is one I have heard many times destroyed the riders mental focus), and a different level of fatigue that many times spits a rider out the back. Key here is to know “your” cadence and stick to it in training and racing. Watch cadence in a race just like you watch watts and heart rate. If race data shows you always exceed training cadence by 10 or 15 rpm during a 30 second blast out of a corner, or a 2 minute effort to close a gap in a criterium, then you would benefit greatly by training at a similar cadence and power as you plan for your racing block. We must prepare the body for the demands of racing, while in training.

What is it going to take?

Now is the time to look back and educate yourself about the previous race season and get a grip on what you need to be doing right now so that this year coming up has a happier ending. Now is not necessarily the time to do only months of long, slow, and easy riding. The fall and winter hold the keys to a successful race season ahead. Now is the most important time to work properly to move to the next level in the coming year. What must you do to
make the coming season a success?

Paul Ozier is an Elite/Master Level coach for PCG. He is a USA Cycling Level I Coach, and TrainingPeaks certified. Paul has been with Peaks Coaching Group from the beginning of the early 90s when he started getting coached by Hunter himself. About 10 years later he became a certified coach and started coaching for PCG. He has a background in road racing, mountain bike racing, Zwift, Gran Fondos, and gravel racing as well. Paul’s goal is to make your goal possible, no matter what the cycling path you take.

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