Mid Season Cycling Tips for Staying Healthy and Strong

July 17, 2014
John Polli racing strong and healthy.

John Polli racing strong and healthy.

Enthusiastic recreational riders and competitive athletes can make mid season training errors.  Namely, taking on too much physical activity, going too fast, exercising for too long or simply doing too much of one type of physical activity can strain your muscles and lead to an overuse injury. It’s easy to do during the summer months as the season beckons us to participate in outdoor activities. Yet, there are ways to enjoy ourselves and still stay strong all year long.

Pay attention to your equipment.  Yes, it’s true.  The right bike parts can make a difference in injury prevention.  A good bike fit  can make all the difference as well.  Periodically, review your setup.  Fit impacts comfort but also technique which is crucial to preventing overuse injuries.  Your body’s position on the bike affects how you ride. It affects how much power you can efficiently deliver to the pedals. It affects how comfortable you are on the bike. Bottom line, be mindful of your bike components and bike parts.

Strength train the whole year through.  Year round strength training matters. “One of the main goals with sport-specific strength training is to target your prime movers as well as the assistance muscles that support your prime movers. With proper strength training, each time you press on the pedal, your primary group of muscles (those that take on the majority of the load) will be stronger and have a stronger group of assisting muscles to help produce power. Since you are only as strong as your weakest link, the stronger system you build as a whole, the more potential you have for cycling specific gains.”

Add yoga to your fitness routine.  Some of the most elite cyclists use yoga as part of a successful training program, including 2012 Tour De France winner Bradley Wiggins.  According to the post, Yoga for Cyclist, cyclists need to focus on leg strength, which many poses in yoga target, but they also need to focus on flexibility and lower back strength.

Rest and recover.  Plan a day of rest once a week into your training schedule. No running, biking, swimming or strength training. Your body needs a day to recover. It will not hurt your performance, but will actually help it and is critical in muscle recovery.

Ultimately, training is all about stressing your body with hard workouts, and then letting your body adapt to that load.  The summer months invite us all to push the limits but with a little mindfulness, you can balance pushing the limits while staying healthy and strong.


What’s It Take to Ride Like a Tour Rider?

July 10, 2014

Pro cyclists are often all thought to be blessed with nature’s special gifts – a huge heart, enormous lungs and infinite leg power.  Yet, in reality this is hardly the case. The truth is that most of us have the physiology to be a decent racer if we trained as much as they do.  Granted, most of us don’t have the time or the resources available to pro cyclists but we can all optimize the talents bestowed upon us by training properly.  Here’s how.

Start with the basics.  Have good equipment.  Meaning, have a bike that fits, get the right bike parts, and wear the appropriate cycling accessories. It may seem obvious but even small things add up. This is an easy one to dial in, so get it right.

Next, focus on what you can control and let go of what you can’t.  Some argue work and family commitments distract from proper training but there are other elements you can control.  You can control your the quality of your workouts, your bike technique, and your recovery.  When training, focus your efforts using power and heart rate. Both play a key role in training and you can use both to target weaknesses and strengths.  Dial in your nutrition on an off the bike so that you are properly fueled going into the workout and can bring your best effort to each training session.  Also, schedule specific workouts to build fitness, improve your climbing technique and bike skills.

While it may seem counter intuitive, easy rides or time off the bike is equally as important as training time.  The post, Four Ways to Recover Like a Tour Rider, suggests ways to conserve energy while riding in the peleton (aka your group ride) and use your cycling buddies as teammates to pace you and shield you from the elements.

A little R&R or active recovery is good too.  Some of the most elite cyclists use yoga as part of a successful training program, including 2012 Tour De France winner Bradley Wiggins. Wiggins’ benefits from the focus it brings to his cycling, while others, such as pro mountain biker and Olympian Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, use yoga to gain strength. From power to endurance, athletes at all levels are incorporating yoga to gain an edge over the competition, and prevent injury.

You may not make it as a Tour rider but you sure can embrace the training elements of a Tour rider lifestyle.  And, if all else fails, put on your best suffer face!


Can You Take the Heat? Heat Acclimation Tips for Cycling in the Summer Months

July 3, 2014

It’s one thing to ride/train in the heat it’s another to RACE in the heat.  It’s that time of year, the summer heat has arrived and is making up for the lack of heat we had from the cooler temps to start off the cycling season.

Many cyclist, whether recreational or competitive, find dealing with the heat an issue.  Suffering from some degree of cramps at one time or another or heat related stomach issues, the heat brings on specific challenges to overcome in the summer months.   Specific to racing, many cyclist have encountered the negative effects of heat on race results. What, if anything, be done to help you train and race best in the heat?

When it is hot, especially when temps are in the 90-100F (36-40C) range, your body needs to work harder to keep your core temperatures in a safe range to allow the organs to function normally.  There are numerous heat–coping strategies to consider when planning a high-intensity workout or doing a race in hot weather.

  • Acclimate.  It takes about 10 to 14 days of frequent exposure to heat for your body to adapt. During this period of time workout daily in hot conditions at a lower-than-normal intensity. After a couple of weeks of near-daily exposure to hot conditions you will begin perform better in the heat than prior although performance will still likely be diminished from what you might have done in cooler conditions.
  • Nutrition. You want to eat “quality” carbs leading up to, and including, a hard effort or race day.  That includes eating plenty of fruits, veggies, etc.  Watermelon is a great fruit (carb) to consume even during race day.  Also, remember to stay away from the simple carbs. i.e. sugars, sweets, prior to the race or training in hot conditions.
  • Hydrate. This one is easy but also easy to forget! Water is 60% of your body weight and the number one concern on any athlete’s intake list. For both performance and health, the importance of your water intake exceeds that of your vitamin, calorie, and electrolyte consumptionFor your road racing needs, be sure to carry the water bottles and containers that you need on your bike but have extras available for bottles that are tossed and extras for immediate refueling post race. If you’re a mountain bike rider, you know tricky descents can bump a bottle right out of its cage.  This time of year, it’s best to wear a full camelback as well as have extra bottles on hand. For longer rides, opt for the Deuter Bike One 20 Hydration Pack- 100oz.  You’ll have enough fluids to get your ride in and also soak up the views.
  • Stay cool. Think shade and proper clothing.  Stay in the shade, warm up in the shade and cool down in the shade.  While it may seem insignificant, every effort to keep your body temperature down is important.  This includes wearing your sunglasses, having a light-colored helmet, and opening your the zipper on your jersey.  For longer rides, draping an ice-filled container around your neck may improve endurance performance.

To train and compete at your best all summer, it is important to understand how your body copes with heat, and what you can do to keep cool.  Everyone adapts differently to heat stress.  Need more tips?  Stop by the Peak Cycles Bicycle Shop to chat with our racers, mechanics, and other cyclist to see what works for them. Maybe you’ll learn some new heat-coping strategies that will work for you too.


Consistency: The Secret Sauce to Your Best 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race?

June 26, 2014

Peak Cycles Race Team What makes for a successful first 100 mile mountain bike race?  Is it riding a ton of trails? Picking the best race?

Or maybe, it’s knowing the difference between riding and training.  Sure, many think if they ride a lot it will get them to the finish line.  And it will.  But training and preparing strategically for your 100 miler will not only get you to the finish line feeling your best, but it can actually prepare you for better performances in the future.  Here’s why.

According to the post, Nine Golden Rules for Training, consistency is key. That means consistently training but also, consistently racing builds fitness too.  Consistency in racing builds all kinds of fitness: mental, physical, and psychological fitness.  To ensure a successful 100 mile mountain bike race, you need to train all the systems.

You can start by looking at the type of race or races you like to race.  What types of terrain, geographical areas, and elevations profiles suit your strengths.  What about your weaknesses?  There are numerous 100 mille mountain bike races to choose from including the National Ultra Endurance Series, the 100 Mile Mountain Bike and Running Off Road Race Series and the the Leadville 100 Race Series.  Racing longer distances consistently builds an endurance baseline to build upon year after year.

Consistency in race preparation makes a difference too.  If your race day strategies are scattered, unorganized, and left to chance, all your training leading up to the race can only take you so far.  The post,  Top 10 Tips For Your Best 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race  states the importance of race day preparations.

Other resources reinforce dialing in your race day nutritional needs and bike inspections to avoid mechanicals, flats, and other bike related issues due to not having your bike parts in order for racing.  Imagine doing all the prep work for a major race and having to DNF due to not replacing a chain, derailleur, or tire.

Consistency in training helps you physical body prepare for the physical stresses of racing a 100 mile mountain bike race.  But minimizing or eliminating other stressors like those mentioned above helps you free up your mental and psychological energies so that you can successful focus on the task at hand: racing your best 100 miler ever.


Racing at Altitude. What You Need to Know.

June 19, 2014

trail aThe beautiful scenery and challenging terrain of Colorado’s cycling scene beckons riders from all over the world to ride along the backdrop of blue skies and snow capped mountains.

However, one of the toughest challenges a cyclist can face is completing all of their training at their low-elevation residences, and then traveling to ride or compete in a race at high altitude.  For events like the Leadville 100, The Breck Epic, and The Triple Bypass, many are left questioning what to expect when riding at elevation and what are the best ways to acclimate faster to ensure optimum performance.

For starters, it’s best to understand how the body responds to altitude. The post, Understanding the Challenges of High-Altitude Racing at the Leadville 100 and USA Pro Cycling Challenge, gives us a detailed understanding. “The basics of altitude work like this: as you go higher the air becomes less dense, which means the oxygen molecules are more spread out. As a result, when you breathe in and fill your lungs, there are fewer oxygen molecules in that volume of air.”  More so, as you increase in elevation, heart rate and breathing rates at rest will be increasing elevated as your body tries to pull more air through the lungs so it can grab the oxygen it wants.

While at rest at altitude, you might experience a combination of headache, poor sleep, fatigue, and dizziness. While training, racing, or participating in an event at altitude, most likely you’ll discover an elevated heart rate and reduced power. And, your recovery rate between hard efforts will be longer and maybe not even complete.  So, what can you do if you want to perform your best at altitude?

Obviously, a no brainer is to have your bike and the correct bike parts in order!  If you are accustomed to riding on flat terrain, you’ll want to have the appropriate gearing for your event.  Specific to altitude acclimations, there is definitely science and research behind acclimating for cycling performance but without getting too technical, following are some of most common approaches.

  • Acclimate  - Spending time at higher elevations enables the body to adapt and increase the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. This improves your ability to deliver oxygen to the brain and working muscles at all levels of activity, including high-intensity exercise. The longer you can acclimatize – the better.  Keep in mind, true acclimation can take three weeks or more.
  • Hydrate Drink plenty of liquids. High elevations can cause fluid loss, so it’s important to stay well hydrated. Your best course of action is to stick with water or liquids that replace electrolytes and avoid sugary or caffeinated beverages. These liquids act as diuretics and can dehydrate you.
  • Tools – Use your training tools for biofeedback.  It’s important to know your limits going into an event and modify your strategy if necessary. This includes dialing in your race day nutrition requirements, heart rate limits, and using your power meter for feedback. Power meters are especially useful because they help riders to gauge their efforts.  To maximize your opportunity for best performance, consider running course intelligence and learn the course and the conditions due to time of day.  You’ll be better equipped to know when to attack and when to recover as it relates to time of day (heat), and course profile.

Overall, different people respond differently to attitude.  Experiment with what works for you.  And, while you might not get the same results racing at altitude as you do at sea level, the rewards of riding in beautiful Colorado is a reward in and of itself.


How to Improve Joint Health While Cycling Safely 

June 12, 2014

Biking_Graphic ARCWhen you feel great, you probably take your fitness and health for granted. But as many cyclist know, it doesn’t take but a quick spill on the bike to go from a physically fit state to an injured one with limitations on riding and training time. Surface injuries are the easiest to heal but as we’ve seen in the recent crash that injured BMC Racing’s Taylor Phinney at the Volkswagen USA Cycling National Road Championship, broken bones and muscle injuries can make a good season turn bad.

With June being National Safety Month, how can you avoid injuries, improve joint health, and capture the gains of an active lifestyle? Answers can be found in the post, Bike Inspections: A Guide for Injury Free, Enjoyable Spring Cycling, which shares the importance of having the right bike setup, cycling accessories and gear. More importantly, for safe riding, regular bike inspections are in order.  If you’re not sure what to look for, you want to notice any bike parts that need to be replaced.  For instance, saddle injuries are the result of poor seat position, height, angle or design. Replacing older items like saddles, cables, tires and brakes provide safety and peace of mind while riding.

Also, consider if the right bike parts can make a difference in injury prevention.   In a sport based on such a highly repetitive action, like pedaling, the first line of defense against injury is a proper bike fit. Whether you’re just starting to ride or you’ve been cycling for a long time, there are numerous benefits to getting a professional bike fit in which you can dial in the appropriate riding position for you as well as the exact bike parts needed to accommodate that fit precisely.

Cycling is safe and effective, fun way to improve fitness as well as joint health. It strengthens muscles which puts less pressure on joints and it is a low-impact exercise limits wear on cartilage around joints .  When you take a few preventative measures, as in bike inspections, bike maintenance and commit to a regular cycling schedule, not only do you improve joint health and fitness, but you also improve your overall peace of mind.  Enjoy a National Safety Month from the view of your two wheeled friend!

 

 


How to Survive or Thrive Your First Century

June 5, 2014

image credit: 303 cycling

For many cyclists, a century ride (100 miles) is a goal that is equivalent to running a marathon. It seems like a crazy long distance but whether you’re pushing your limits to cover 100 miles as fast as you can or you are riding 100 miles for the first time, you can finish fresh and feeling good by planning appropriately. 

Set a Date
The most important step is to set a date and sign up. You will be more motivated to train once you pay an entry fee and have a date on your calendar. Knowing when the big ride is will also help you set your training schedule appropriately. There are several citizen road rides and competitive 100 mile endurance mountain bike races to select your event.  Discovering which one inspires you the most is the easy part!  With so many locations, routes, and rides to choose from, you can opt for a flatter course or one that offers more challenges. Pick one, get it on your calendar and begin your preparations. 

Prep Your Bike Gear 
Is your bike ready for the ride? Should you use a particular bike for the century? If you’re not sure, now is the time to stop by Peak Cycles Bicycle Shop.  We’ll help you identify your needs and confirm you’re on the right road bike or MTB for you. Presuming you have your bike and your bike does fit, get it and your cycling accessories ready.  It is not a good idea to make major modifications to the bike the day before the ride.  As you train for your century, it’s important to dial in all of your personal and bike requirements.  This includes your bike parts, helmet, cycling apparel, and bicycle tools for quick fixes.  If you don’t know how to change a flat, you might want to build that, along with performing bike inspections on a routine basis, into your gear preparations as well.  

Train, Train, and Train some more!
Do you know the right way to trainHaving a strategic approach and structured training means every workout has a purpose.  Every step, pedal and stroke is being performed with the confidence it’s the right thing to do and performed the right way.  The post, The Right Way to Train, shares four essential components of deliberate practice.  You may also consider How to Dial in Your Race Day Nutrition Needs. If you are considered about stomach issues and performance, preparing well and listening to your body during training can significantly improve your enjoyment level during your century. 

Ride and Celebrate!
Embark on your century ride and enjoy the experience!  Remember to pace yourself and savor the experience.  Consider breaking the course into sections or have a goal to get to the next aid station.  Smaller goals are little victories aiming you towards the final big one at the finish line. 

Finally - Repeat!  Congratulate yourself on a well deserved accomplishment and sign up for another one! 


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