Category: fitness

Can Stronger Shoulders Make You a Better Rider? – Here’s What I’ve Learned

SHORT answer = YES! Powerful shoulders, and while we’re at it, a strong core, and good flexibility, are all beneficial when it comes to riding bikes.

AS you can imagine, there are other advantages to having “jacked scaps,” a concrete core and malleable muscles, some of which include:

  • Better bike handling
  • Fewer injuries
  • Less soreness
  • Faster recovery
  • Higher FTP
  • Greater endurance.

ESPECIALLY when standing and pedaling! We probably don’t give it much thought but that rocking motion when “dancing on the pedals” takes a good bit of upper body strength, and if you’re riding a course (like Stetina’s Paydirt – 9 days and counting!) that requires a lot of humping up (and flying down, too) rocky hills, it calls for even more muscle.

Chris says: “Yup, strong shoulders are helpful out here in the Pinenuts!”

THIS brings me to me. 😉 You may remember this post about shoulder pain that I published in February. Well, I’m happy (ecstatic, really) to tell you that my “shoulder-life” is much, much better nowadays.

THAT’S not to say it was easy, nor am I done; the work and focus must continue, as it should, especially for us older riders. After twenty-one sessions of physical therapy, though, and because I’ve put in the work, I’m pretty much pain-free.

THE biggest benefit(s)? Stronger shoulders and core; less fatigue in the upper body during, and post-ride; and better control of my mountain and gravel steeds. And some ROI realized on the road bike, too.

WHAT exactly, can you do, you ask. Here’s a few suggestions (tested by yours truly on a regular basis):

  • Regular (at least three times a week) shoulder and core work. The Crossover Symmetry bands are fantastic and give me a great all-around workout.
  • Fitball, Bosu ball and medicine ball exercises.
  • Stretching. So often neglected by many athletes…at their peril. Trust me, this is one of THE MOST important things you can do. There is no doubt in my mind that if I wasn’t as flexible as I am I would have been seriously injured many times over the years. Just look at professional athletes…
  • Don’t neglect the hammies and lower back. Squats, btw, work wonders for these often over-looked muscle groups.
  • Sprint intervals. Yesterday, for example, I hit Zwift Yorkshire and did about 10 laps of the Duchy Estate course. One ~20″ sprint on each lap produced a nice, all-around soreness today.
  • REST. It’s in CAPS for a reason and admittedly it’s something I still have trouble doing. Easier to just ride and hammer, you know? Today, though, no exercise at all. Read this post for some specific insight on that rest ‘thang.

BE sure to get input from your coach, personal trainer, doctor, what have you, though, k? Every body is different.

I’D hate it if you injured yourself trying to get stronger or more flexible.

I hope this article was helpful. Feel free to pass on any tips you might have, too. We’d love to share ’em.

TAKE care, be safe and go kick those shoulders’ asses!

Training for the Deathride? Here’s the Number One Thing You Should Do

CLIMB! And, climb some more. And when you think you’ve done enough climbing, do even more. Here in the California Alps climbing is pretty much par for the course; head out the door and you’re on some sort of incline (or decline).

Yesterday, I had the pleasure (and pain) of riding up the west side of Monitor Pass (this view is from just above Heenan Lake) and was reminded that there is no subsitute for climbing if you’re training for a ride with lots of elevation gain.

SURE, I’ve been training hard, with lots of paincave sessions, including HIIT, V02 max, and more, and some of those sessions focus on things such as building endurance, “rocking the rollers” and sweet-spot training (SST); yet I realized while “out on course” that even though my strain is up significantly from the previous week, I’m just not climbing enough.

THIS past week, including yesterday’s adventure, I rode about 116 miles with almost 11,000 feet of elevation gain.

THE DeathrideTour of the California Alps does that in one day, though, and while yesterday’s ride was 36 miles with over 4000 of climbing, I asked myself could I do that three or four more times.

The short answer = NO. At least not yesterday. 🙁

As you can see by my happy, yet very sweaty mug, that first big pitch was hard.

MONITOR east, Ebbetts north and south (or west and east depending on your preference), and Pacific Grade (twice) would still be yet to come on July 17th. Yowza, there is work to be done!

THANKFULLY, we’ve all got more time. IMHO, and based on previous experience, right about now (3-4 mos. out) is when you should start ramping 😉 up your training. And it’s not just about the climbing… Your secondary focus should be on time spent in the saddle.

IF you are going to tackle the entire ride, you’re looking at a full day on your steed.

BACK in 2017, when I finished all of the climbs, I was on the bike for about ten (10) hours and my elapsed time was twelve (12) hours!

VENTURING on a velocipede for that amount of time takes a serious toll on the bod., and takes some getting used to, so don’t skimp. And, if you’re not already thinking about it, be sure to address your future nutrition needs by practicing what, and how much, you eat and drink.

EXPERIMENTING with new bars, gels or drink mixes the day of is a recipe for disaster!

So Now What?

WELL, for me that means heeding my own advice and hitting those hills and mountains more often, and taking on longer rides. I would guess that applies to you as well.

ANOTHER aspect of training that I’m working on is the gear. You may have noticed that I was wearing an USWE hydration pack. Amazing piece of equipment by the way – pretty darn comfy and it DOES NOT move. I am not planning on wearing it for the Deathride but I am going to have it on for May’s Paydirt here in the Pine Nuts. And, yes, sharp-eyed reader, Roscoe is a gravel bike. So it was a double-duty deed, if you will, yesterday – got some climbing in and did it on the bike I’ll be riding in May, with the gear and grub I’ll be hauling.

I’m thinking a 50-60 mile ride on dirt will be a similar experience to a century on the road and so I see some benefits to training for Pete Stetina’s ride now, while also keeping that next big day in July, in mind.

NEED some other ideas? Search “climbing” on this blog for myriad posts on the subject. If you’re a neophyte I’d especially call your attention to this post as well as this one.

The snow is melting and the rivers and creeks are rising and getting chocolately. This is the East Fork of the Carson near Monitor Junction.

AFTER all, spring has sprung so it’s time to get cracking!

WE’RE looking forward to riding with you in July (or sooner perhaps), and the community is getting ready for your visit.

BE sure to make those reservations early, by the way. There are fewer resources around due to last year’s Tamarack Fire.

RIDE on, be safe, and climb, climb, climb!

Shoulder Pain on the Bike? Me Too! Here Are My Three Takeaways

RIDING bikes can be hard on the arms and shoulders. I just finished a twelve-visit physical therapy stint for my bum left shoulder and while I would have preferred to not have the pain and mobility issues that caused me to finally go to the doctor I’m grateful in some weird way, that it did.

Physical Therapy

THANKS to my chiropractor, I got hooked up with Jason and Justin, and staff, at PT Revolution in So. Lake Tahoe. Having been to a few physical therapists in my life I found their focus on mountain athletes to be unique. They are also the only group where I received deep-tisssue work as part of the therapy. That was a bit painful (less so as I progressed through the visits) yet it was necessary to open up the muscles and tendons of the Rotator cuff to help expedite the healing process.

THAT was my first big takeaway…Massage, deep-tissue work, call it what you will, it’s a big part of rehabbing those shoulders.

Shoulder Work

COMBINE that with some exercises, most of which used the Crossover Symmetry system, and I’m on the road to recovery, with perhaps a caveat. As Justin said early on: “I think you may have some pathology going on in there…” So, an MRI is likely in my future. Still, the progress I’ve made has been surprising in that I didn’t think deep tissue massage and exercises would help at all; I was in so much pain. I couldn’t sleep on my left side, and doing household chores like shoveling snow and splitting wood wasn’t pretty.

SECOND takeaway, and I think Crossover Symmetry says it best: “Research shows that self-rehab helps to fix shoulder pain in several ways. First, movement optimizes your body’s natural healing process. Secondly, it builds a support structure around injuries that cannot heal, often restoring them back to full capacity. Lastly, by correcting the underlying movement issues it prevents the injury from progressing.”

Pain While on the Bike

THAT’S what motivated me to finally go see the doctor. I had been ignoring the problem since last summer, but once I started getting some twinges while riding, mostly when transitioning from seated to standing, I had finally had enough. After all, it is getting serious…the Deathride is coming this summer and I don’t have time for pain.

THAT will come in July!

Skeptic No More

IT’S been about two (2) months or so since I started this little adventure and I am definitely progressing. I was going to PT twice a week, and doing the exercises they gave me while there (after the deep-tissue work) and daily, on my own. Not only were my shoulders and arms getting stronger, so was my core; some of the exercises, while focused on the shoulder and arms, called for good engagement of the lower back, glutes and abs.

I’VE gotten authorization for six (6) more visits, which Jason and I thought we’d spread out over six (6) weeks, mostly so I can get that hands-on help that I think has been crucial to the healing process.

IN the meantime I’ve gotten my own Crossover Symmetry bundle (they’ve got a hip & core package too) and Mrs. California Alps Cycling and I installed the set up in our pain-cave.

THE system comes with some sweet add-ons including charts that are actually comprehendable and an online “Training Zone” with courses, a mobile app. and additional resources.

ACTIVATION is now a part of my pre-ride routine. It “prepares the muscles for activity by increasing blood flow” and it takes only minutes. When I do it I’ve noticed a difference in my pain level while riding. Yesterday I had no pain while riding at all!

RECOVERY post-ride is something I’ve also starting doing and it too has helped loosen up the shoulders and arms after they’ve been bearing the weight of my substantial upper-body. As you’ve likely noticed in the images above, pro cyclist arms and torso I do not have.

STRENGTH and mobility come next but I’ll wait until I’m cleared before I take on those aspects of the program.

THAT brings me to my third, final and most important takeaway, and yes oh clairvoyant one, you’ve guessed it already.

Strengthening those shoulders, and keeping them that way, as well as increasing flexibility, is vital to maintaining the three (3) areas of the shoulder: the scapula, clavicle and upper humerus, and the muscles and tendons that surround and support them.

SO with that said, or written in this case, I’ll sign off and see you out on the road.

YOU’LL know me as I’ll be the rider with the happy shoulders. 😉

Snow Outside Means Tweaking Your Training – Here’s What I Did Last Week

SURE, there are other things you can do to augment your cycling training besides hitting the trainer. In the long-term, it’s definitely NOT just about the bike.

I have a goal, though, damn it (5000 miles for the year – and I’ve significantly curtailed that from what it was at the beginning of the year) and I’m going to hit it, or I’m going to hurl trying. Maybe…

MY quandary is that I need to chillax a bit (and I’m a firm believer in that being a big part of the fitness regimen – see this post from May). I’ve got 131.8 miles to go; I’m in dire need of a rest day; the snow keeps falling (which means it has to be moved) and we’ve got family coming for the New Year’s weekend.

REST may win. I am sore from head to toe, okay more like from calves to shoulders. And a little neck. Head, good. Toes, okay.

Here’s How I Got Here

  • MONDAY the 20th
    • Rest Day
  • TUESDAY the 21st
    • Fulgaz – Brugge Oostende
    • 29 miles
    • 1:25:42
    • TSS = 108
    • Worked in 5 miles of Sweet Spot Training (SST) and 3 sets of HIIT (Tabatas).
  • WEDNESDAY the 22nd
    • Zwift – London
    • 21.1 miles
    • 1:07:21
    • TSS = 74
    • Mostly Tempo and a PR up Box Hill!
  • THURSDAY the 23rd
    • Fulgaz – Creede Highway 149
    • 21.9 miles
    • 1:04:14
    • TSS = 62
    • An easy and fast spin (85 RPM avg.) on a mostly downhill course.
  • FRIDAY the 24th
    • Fulgaz – Hidden Valley RT; Golden Gate Cooldown; Pacific Coast Highway Cruise
    • 22.9 miles
    • 1:12:31
    • TSS = 76
    • Did these three (3) different rides I had never done, mostly to get some miles in.
  • SATURDAY the 25th (Merry Christmas!)
    • Zwift – Yorkshire; Duchy Estate Sprints
    • 18.2 miles
    • 1:00:03
    • TSS = 68
    • Short course (~2.5 miles) with a sprint (total of 8) on each lap
    • Felt it today. As hard as a tried I could not get the HR up to what I normally can. Tired legs and body…
  • SUNDAY the 26th (boxing it up)
    • Fulgaz – Brugge Oostende again
    • 29 miles
    • 1:26:53
    • TSS = 79
    • Mostly about the miles today and I knew there were several hours of moving snow to come.
    • Moving snow afterwards (see pic below)
      • 2:36:38
      • Avg. HR = 103 (max 135)
      • TSS = 103
      • Editors note: Did another 2+ hours Monday the 27th, this time recording the distance; about 3/4 of a mile walked.

Moving snow, I’ve learned, is a great workout too – especially for the core, back and shoulders. Combined with, or as a follow up to a ride, it makes for a great day of training! The blower does a lot of the work certainly, but a shovel is still needed for those hard to blow places.

And there is something else that can be done with that snow…

Zwift and Fulgaz – a Great Combination

FOR me, having the ability to ride both in an animated and in a “real virtual” format via Zwift and Fulgaz makes all of this inside riding much more bearable. Add some good tunes, and focus on those (get through the song, then check the stats), or the scenery, depending, and plowing through those miles indoors can be fun, or at least do-able.

I’VE done several posts on the Zwift and Fulgaz dynamic over the last several years so if you’re interested in learning more just search for either term and you can meditate over those missives.

What About the Results?

AS it turns out I took another day off yesterday (somewhat forced due to the day job and some chores that needed doing (did those over the “lunch break”), and today, voila, a 96% recovery and Whoop tells me I’m primed for strain.

Today’s Adventure?

I’M not quite sure yet but I think it’s going to be a Zwift workout: Matt Hayman’s Paris-Roubaix. I have yet to complete it; it’s a challenging all around effort that is best done after a rest day (or two). Maybe today’s the day I’ll actually finish the entire thing.

IT doesn’t look good for that 5000 mile goal (132 miles to go with only 3 days left).

REST did win out and I still received the reward – my CTL (Chronic Training Load) score is trending up and so is time in the tub!

HERE’S hoping that my recap gets your juices flowing and gives you some ideas as to how you can mix things up a bit.

WE hope you had a very Merry Christmas and we wish you a joyful New Year filled with exciting experiences and fantastic fitness. Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses! next year, or even this year.

IF you have skies or snowshoes, that is. It’s starting to snow again.

Getting Fatter Yet Fitter – What the What?

MR. Scale has been feeling the extra weight and yours truly has been noticing the gain in girth. Since the Tamarack Fire really…About 15 pounds gained since July. Ouch. Yet people are telling me I look thinner or more fit. What the what?

COULD it be muscle mass? Great question! And that’s the interesting (and good) part. It’s been trending up. Due mainly to more core work and strength training; definitley not from the copious amounts of tequila or cerveza.

NOR is it from the extra “work” post-dinner, including ice cream and other sweet treats. Step away from the fridge, Mark!

WHILE on the trainer last Sunday I experimented a bit and found that I was pushing more watts with less effort (and as it turns out a slower cadence) even though I’m more rotund. Now certainly that trend needs to stop but my big takeaway was that the hard work has been paying off, even though I’ve been putting on the poundage.

A selfie of yours truly, in the ToC polka dot jersey, on the bike during stage 3 of the FulGaz French Tour last year.

GET back down to my “fighting weight” and I should be even stronger and faster, right?

RIGHT!

AS long as I keep up the training and continue to increase that muscle mass (or at least don’t let it decrease too much). Notice the fit ball and Bosu ball? Key items that really help with my balance and core strength.

THE other key is rest.

AND sleep training.

AS you may have read in a previous post my Whoop strap has really helped me focus on rest, recovery and sleep and that has helped me get more fit, also.

AND, when I do work out I’ve been overreaching (higher strain than recovery) more often after those restful days. That is optimal for increasing fitness says Whoop and I’ve certainly noticed it.

CHECK out this post, by the way, for more on that rest ‘thang.

PART of the recent weight gain could be attributed to my recent birthday. Last Wednesday I turned 58 and I went on a mini-vacation, which is why there was no post for you last week. Among other things (can you say Scoma’s?) I was able to partake of some Doobies. Brothers, that is. Was our (wife and Mom joined me) first concert since the pandemic began and it was awesome. Outdoors at the Shoreline in Mountain View and boy, what a show! Did you know the Doobs hail from San Jose, my hometown? Pat Simmons went to the same high-school I did.

THOSE boys may be old(er) but they can still rock, let me tell you!

ANYWAY, I digress. Apologies. Back to the story…

It’s also due to the business trip I took the week before. Couldn’t bring a bike and while I did miss that time, I did did hit the elliptical and did a bit of running (jogging, really) on the treadmill. That also makes a difference fitness-wise, at least that’s been my experience. Mixing it up makes the body react differently and gets some of those other muscles firing, too.

I was also able to pump some iron.

ALRIGHTY, then. Let’s bring it home so I can go get something to eat. 😉

YES, gaining weight is generally not good. If it’s muscle mass it certainly is, but if it isn’t?

ALL is not lost dear reader. Focus on building strength, mix things up somewhat, and most importantly get some good sleep and schedule those more intensive training days on days after which you’re nicely recovered.

THE proof is in the pudding. Mmm, pudding. That sounds good!

Rest – What a Concept!

ADMITTEDLY it’s been recently forced upon me – rest that is, but nonetheless it appears to be what I needed.

FOR various reasons, since last Saturday’s hike with fellow members of the Alpine Trail’s Association (ATA), I haven’t done any riding, or any strenuous activities for that matter.

SPEAKING of the ATA…Saturday, June 12th is the ATA’s Curtz Lake Trail Day event.

We’d love to see you there!

That Was My Quick Plug. Now Let’s Get Back To Rest

AS I was saying…er, writing, I’ve gotten three (3) full-on rest days since that walkabout (we were doing some fascinating recon – finding missing sections of an old YCC trail) near the Markleeville Airport, and that itself was somewhat restful. We did three (3) miles in the same amount of hours. A nice pace indeed and a nice break from “the usze.” Youze? Yooz?

WELL since then, and as I alluded to earlier, due to work, life, and such, I haven’t been able to put in any serious athletically-oriented time. The benefit? Real rest. And, real recovery.

NOW I realize that this isn’t the best way to gain fitness. On the contrary, my fitness, and the corresponding “scores” are declining. Not for long. But that’s not my point. My point is that I’m REALLY seeing the impact long-term rest is having on my performance. In my mind it’s validating that focus on rest and sleep is as important as focus on HIIT, TTs, endurance and tempo. See this earlier post for more on that if you’re so inclined.

HRV up.

RHR down.

THAT’S the long and short of this little missive.

I don’t share this data out of hubris, no; it’s just that since I’ve been in denial for most of the weekend-warrior part of my life I figured that you too might not be as steeped in those sleep and rest habits as you could be either.

KNOWING these little details has helped me better understand how my body reacts to stress, both chronic and acute, and so I can more easily know when things are off and more importantly, when things are on.

MY genuine desire is that what I’ve learned, and am continuing to learn, will help you in some way.

I’d love to know either way so do comment on this post, will ya?

IN the meantime let’s all relax, have a cerveza, and get ready for the Deathride!

FINGERS-CROSSED, my new, more restful outlook will help come July.

REST ON!

Honey I’ve Sold the Car – And Bought You an eBike

THE look on my wife’s face as she yelled “TURBO” must have been pretty sweet. I can only imagine it, though, since I was her sweep.

SHE has since named her bike “Bessie.” The sister of “Beast,” my eBike. They are both Treks. I’m a loyal “Trek-for-life” fan. There are reasons for that but that’s a story for another time. Or not.

ANYWAY, Bessie and Beast are Class 1 eBikes (thanks REI for the webinar a couple weeks back – I now understand those classes) BUT they are much more than that. A bit of context: I had originally purchased these beefy full-suspension Rail 5 29ers back in November when the bike shop was still a gleam and I had planned on renting them out – alas no more. This too perhaps another story for another time…

BACK to the bikes…Having decided not to rent them but instead keep them for ourselves, we have discovered that

They are MIRTH MACHINES!

I’VE heard what some people say: eBikes are not pure. They’re not “real” bikes. They’re cheating. Okay, on the cheating part. If you’re racing and not telling other racers. Roger that. Oh and there’s the “they tear up the trails” argument. They can, but that’s the rider not the bike doing the tearing. Right?

WHEN I posted that piece last year about the bike shop, I boosted it (i.e. placed an ad) on Facebook and got mostly positive responses. All but one. The detractor wrote something like “any shop that rents eBikes won’t get my business.”

I just don’t understand that.

THE laughter and shrieks of joy that I’ve heard from my spouse has made me laugh and giggle and has been enlightening. I’ve seen other riders, and talked to them too. Riders who either wouldn’t be riding, or if they were riding, they wouldn’t be riding THAT TRAIL, or climb, or…well you get the idea. It would be too hard or too far. But riding eBikes with my wife has really resonated, and it’s what gave me the idea for this post.

WITH eBikes, it’s not too hard or too far, and for older bike riders, or riders who can’t keep up with their riding partners, eBikes are a GAME CHANGER.

BEAST allows me to cast my mind back, too. It’s so very reminiscent of those feelings from the days of my youth, jumping dirt berms and homemade ramps on my yellow, sissy-bar equipped, Schwinn 5-speed.

IT’S impossible not to smile when riding an eBike. I’m talking bugs-on-your-teeth smiling. I just love zipping around on Beast. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a Moped. There is some work involved. I’ve yet to really run Beast through his paces but that will come. Right now it’s a way for me to enjoy a rest day and ride with “the wifey.” And since she’s a novice, or more appropriately put, out of practice, I can do the sweep thing and be her wingman.

That’s me and Beast on one of our first rides together. Mud splatter on glasses, bugs on teeth and just a whole bunch of fun!

Hey! Just thought of this: as she gets more comfy I’m thinking I’ll grab the road bike every once in awhile and have her motopace me. Yet another plus!

Then There’s That Environmental STUFF

AS I alluded too earlier in this post, REI held a great webinar a couple weeks back. My wingwoman and I attended. We learned a lot. It also got me thinking…I don’t drive that much anymore. Sometimes Clara, my Outback — hey, what can I say, I like to name shit, okay? — sits in the garage for days. In this case she’s named after our realtor. Clara, our realtor, not the car, had our backs – you can read more about her here if you’re so inclined but suffice it to say “Clara” was an obvious name for the car.

MOVING on. My Mom needs a new car. I don’t need a car. I have an eBike that I can use to go to town for the mail and such and I can also ride it on trails. And my wife has a 4WD Colorado so really, we’re good. Oh, and Mom lives on the property so I’ll still be able to visit Clara. She’s a cool car. I’m going to miss those paddle shifters let me tell you. But Mom says she’ll let me drive her if I get to jonesin’ for those paddles.

WHAT we’re doing, though, is reducing our three-car family to a two-car family. And that’s pretty sweet. I know that means they’ll be days when one of us could be left alone at home without a car. Not a big deal necessarily but in the mountains, especially during fire season, something we’ll have to plan for/consider.

AND, we’ll save on various expenses, including fuel, insurance and maintenance. As it turns out, CalBike agrees.

IN a recent post about its E-Bike Affordability Bill, AB117, there’s a good quote: “E-bikes are one of the best ways to replace car trips with clean, green transportation.” I guess I knew that but I’ve been focused on eCars not bikes. Tesla and BMW and Toyota and others have been getting all the press. Especially Tesla.

BUT eBikes…That’s an apple I like. And so I’m all in. Well, mostly in. It’s not like I have a cargo eBike.

Wait…Honey!?

Riding Less but Getting Stronger – How’s That?

THE short answer is that I’m getting more rest and better sleep. I’m listening – to my body and to my gadgets.

GADGET may not be the best descriptor I initially thought but upon looking up the definition (a small mechanical or electronic device or tool, especially an ingenious or novel one) I realize it is apropos.

THOSE gadgets to which I refer, and about which I recently blogged, include my Garmin Fenix 6x and my Whoop strap.

LISTENING

THIS morning I had planned on getting in a fairly hard training session before work. However, my tech was suggesting otherwise. And after a month of wearing said strap and “comparing notes” with the Fenix, as hard as it was, I decided to listen.

I need more rest and frankly I find that part of training to be the most difficult. It’s easier to just ride.

OUR cat Ditty (nothing knows how to rest and relax better than a feline, right?) consistently shows us how to get it done so I figured I’d follow her example, and actually pay attention to what my devices, and more importantly my body, were telling me.

THE Fenix’s display indicated that I need 31 additional hours of recovery and that my recovery was delayed by poor sleep. Indeed, I was up late, celebrating my wife’s birthday and so was not able to get my usual Zs.

WHOOP’s recovery screen advised that I was only 18% recovered – my resting heart rate (RHR) was up and my heart rate variability (HRV) was “33.1% below its typical range, indicating that your body is not fully recovered.”

IT seems counterintuitive, at least to me, but since I’ve been focusing more on rest and sleep and mixing up my harder workouts with walks, runs, Kenpo workouts, easy e-MTB rides, and long endurance rides, I’ve been getting stronger.

GO figure! Putting in fewer hours (and miles) on the bike yet getting stronger…And, having more fun in the process.

ON April 1st I was following my new guidelines and I jumped on Zwift for an easy 45 minute spin. It took me a minute to realize what was going on (that’s my avatar with the yellow wheels) but rather than stress about not having my “real bike” (one rider chatted “this isn’t funny anymore Zwift, give me my bike back”) I just enjoyed the ride and the memories that came flooding back. I had one of those Big Wheels when I was a kid, you know?

I was smiling and giggling almost the entire session; in the past I would have whined about it.

PERFORMING

THE reason I’m still in need of more recovery is three-fold.

  • An intense HIIT workout last Friday
  • An endurance ride on Saturday
  • A virtual climb (focused on a new personal best – which I attained) on the Ebbetts Pass North Ascent on FulGaz on Monday.

FOR the HIIT workout I went with rocket drills. My workout consisted of six (6) sprints, two (2) minutes each at full throttle, from a standing start, up a small hill on Hot Springs Road. The rest interval was five (5) minutes, by the way, and I did that by doing a bit of easy spinning farther up the hill as well as back down to the starting point.

ON sprint #5 I hit almost 900 watts – the highest I’ve ever done on the road and it was the penultimate interval!

SPRINT #6, however, was almost a hurl-fest. Thankfully, though, no technicolor yawn.

SUNDAY, after Saturday’s approximately 90-minute endurance ride, I joined the wife for a short and easy ride on our e-MTBs.

THAT set me up for Monday, where I was able to set a personal best on the entire climb, as well as one of the segments, and hold a heart rate of 159 bpm for 60 minutes (per Trainingpeaks), a 2021 best.

RESTING and SLEEPING

AND so it was that I scheduled yesterday as a rest day and joined the wife again on our e-MTBs, this time for an easy ride up to Grover Hot Springs State Park, where my wife got her first taste of gravel on her new Rail.

AS for sleep, that’s where WHOOP is really helping. Now that I’ve been religiously wearing the strap for over a month I’m finding that what I like most is the focus it provides regarding sleep. From the after-action report in the morning, to the alerts the night before, it is teaching me (and it’s validated in my performance results) that sleep is just as important to training as the actual workouts.

WHEN I pay attention to the feedback it provides, as well as the input from the Fenix and Trainingpeaks, I perform better.

WHEN I don’t, I don’t.

AND so while I find myself champing at the bit to ride, or do something else hardcore today, I’m not going to do that.

I’M going to heed the warnings and try to be more like my cat. And in the process I know I’m going to get even sturdier on my steed.

THE Deathride is just over three (3) months away after all and it’s going to be a doozy.

HAPPY hump day! I hope you too are conquering some of those training humps and as always your comments are most welcome.

A More Holistic Approach to Fitness? WHOOP May Be Your Answer

AS you know I’m a bit of a data junky and between Trainingpeaks (TP) and Garmin (Fenix watch) I’m getting some pretty good information. But I’ve found that I just don’t have the time to jump into the TP data and with the Fenix, IMHO, the feedback is lacking.

AND so it was that I found myself getting a WHOOP strap earlier this month. I’d heard of, and seen (on Strava), some of my fellow athletes, including pros, using this unobtrusive little band and so when I got the special-offer email I thought I’d give it a try.

Inspector Gadget

YUP, it does feel a little bit like that with the Fenix on the left wrist and the WHOOP on the right but after thirteen (13) days I’ve gotten used to the set up.

THE WHOOP strap is minimalistic – a strap with a clasp.

What It Does (and Doesn’t)

DO, that is.

  • It doesn’t have a watch face.
  • It doesn’t track your steps.
  • It doesn’t track your pulse ox.
  • It does track your sleep (better than the Fenix does) and gives you specific feedback.
  • It does track your recovery and gives you specific feedback there as well.
  • It focuses on what it calls strain and what level of strain (load) you are under currently, and more importantly what kind of strain you can or should undertake that day.

SAYS WHOOP — “By balancing your daily recovery, strain and sleep, you will train optimally and unlock the secrets to your body’s true potential.”

I’M finding that to be true.

The overview panel provides a quick glance at recovery, strain and sleep.

The strain dashboard assesses your current strain and suggests the level of strain needed for optimal training.

The recovery dashboard gives you feedback on your current recovery and readiness for strain.

The sleep dashboard interprets and reports on your sleep performance.

Sleep is Key

AT least I’m learning that it is for me and WHOOP is driving me to focus and prepare for sleep like I do for workouts and training.

MY goal is to be able to sleep like my cat, Ditty. That’s her in the image at the top of this post.

All Together Now

  • The Fenix gives me the ability to capture my workouts and such while at the same time assures me that my resting heart rate and pulse ox are good. I find this especially reassuring when I’m not feeling 100%, especially in light of Covid-19 and the fact that those two data points are often key indicators of something being amiss.
  • Trainingpeaks lets me dive deeply into the specifics of my rides while at the same time mirrors nicely with WHOOP when it comes to things such as Acute Training Load (ATL), Chronic Training Load (CTL) and Form.
  • The WHOOP strap, and associated app fills the what-should-I-do-about-it?-gap and so far this is what I like most about it.

IN the end, what I’m seeing is that the COMBINATION of these three (3) pieces of technology, with their amalgamation of data and interpretations thereof, is giving me that global view, if you will, that I didn’t have before.

WHAT about you? What do you do to keep yourself honest and focused? Please share!

Take Aways from the Training Plan

LAST Sunday I finished up the Trainingpeaks 4-week FTP-Focus 2021 plan. On one hand I’m happy it’s over but on the other I’m going to miss the structure of just doing what the coach (Paul Ozier – Peaks Coaching Group) tells me to do.

AND so the challenge: how to keep the vibe going! I’ve been pondering that for awhile now; this after I just rode (on Zwift) Tuesday. Per the coach’s recommendation this is to be a week of just riding the bike. It was nice and I felt strong.

LUCKY me…I am finally employed (I started March 1st)!

However, that puts a serious damper on this former professional cyclist (dripping sarcasm here), so named by my brother from another mother, Scott Keno. I’m likely not going to be able to keep up the pace but maybe, just maybe, I can come close. The plan was designed for weekend warriors. I’ll just have to re-think how, when and where I’m going to execute it, right?

AND perhaps most importantly, I don’t want to lose the gains that the workouts brought my way.

What Improved

I hit one power PR on the last day, the FTP test, and some twos and threes, too.

  • I can produce more power at a higher cadence. The plan focused a bit on this since in a sprint it’s necessary to keep up the power while that cadence goes up – especially if you’re smoking and on your lowest gear.
  • I can breathe more efficiently (fewer breaths) at threshold (and everywhere else, really).
  • I can keep a high cadence (90-100 rpm) for longer and much more easily. A lot less rocking.
  • MY overall fitness improved. I was productive more consistently.

What Didn’t

  • MY FTP (290 or 287 – 2.87 or 2.90 w/kg depending whether I listen to Zwift or Garmin) went nowhere. I was surpised by this but am going to hold out on final judgment until I get the WKO files to the coach. My last test was in November (should have done a more current one, doh!) and I followed that test to the letter. I should mention that I am rather large for a cyclist (220 lbs – 100 kg exactly) so certainly dropping some lbs would help and I’ve been working on that: at the start of 2014 I weighed 307 pounds!
  • FOR this test, the coach had me go ALL OUT on the five (5) minute Vo2 max interval that was just before that ten (10) minute rest which was just before the twenty minute test. 🙂 That had to have made a difference (fingers crossed), right?

What Was The Most Challenging?

  • That’s an easy one to answer: the endurance rides. They were hard to endure!
  • As I read in the spring issue of VeloNews this a.m.: “Many riders underestimate the value of long endurance days, which in my opinion are the MVP of training.” – Coach Julie Young, former U.S. national team member and founder of JulieYoungTraining.com.
  • Those long days in the saddle at fairly low watts (205-ish for me) are interesting, especially the four (4) hour versions. It takes some focus to not let loose the hounds.

What Was My Biggest Takeway?

I can see why having a coach makes athletes better. Paul was responsive and helpful when I had questions, and as I wrote earlier, it’s pretty groovy when all you need do is what the coach, and the plan, “tell you” to do.

THANKS coach!

I can’t wait to see what he has to say about my FTP test. In the meantime, now that I have a job, I’m thinking some more coaching is in my future.

Most importantly, I hope some of my take aways resonate with you, fellow rider.

Let me know, will ya?