Questions for all the cyclists out there as the season winds down:
- How has your cycling year been?
- Did you have a great year?
- Did you meet your goals?
- What would you change?
I, like everyone sets goals for my cycling in the early season. Usually I get excited in January about the upcoming season and the thought of getting back out on the roads, racing and riding with the local groups as the weather improves. It also comes from the fact that I have rolled my workout intensity back in the fall and in January I’m looking to get back into serious workout mode again.
This year has been very good for me and I have ridden some very strong rides, Battenkill, Trooper Brinkerhoff races, the Harlem Valley Rail Ride and finally the latest 50-miler: the “Bike for Cancer Care” group ride in Kingston NY last Sunday. It is a group ride with no timing and not a race, but the course is good with what I would call moderate climbs, only one is categorized (cat-4, but short).
I started out with no warm-up and just sat in with the second group of riders that were working fairly well together and pace-lining on Hurley Mountain Rd., waiting for my cold leg muscles to warm up and my attitude to improve. Somewhere near the left turn at the south end onto Tongore Rd., I started feeling better and stronger, so decided to work at it a bit, instead of just riding. Time to check the ol’ legs out and see if they were ready. Who knows, maybe they are actually working? After the turn on Mill Dam Road the course gets more hilly and the pack broke up. Another rider (Bill) and I, broke away on the climb and descent to Rosendale. We eventually rode together, trading pulls with each other for the rest of the ride (about 40 miles), averaging in the low 20’s for most of the rest of the ride. Eventually we picked up two more riders that were dropped from the lead group and finished strong, averaging 20 MPH for the entire ride. A nice effort and really a surprise for me, since I was not motivated and had no plan to ride that hard at the start.
The net of this long discussion is that this year’s training has been quite good and the results show it, even though I have ridden less total miles this year than last year at this time. About 500 miles less and riding 3-4 days a week. I’m also stronger than at this time last year. How did I do it? Through focused, high intensity training for strength and speed, with longer rides for endurance. This is the training that the Big Ring Riding group has been doing all season with excellent results. We have done all types of intervals: high-intensity, short, long, sprint, tempo, threshold, VO2Max, hills and more hills. In addition, we also worked on pace-lines, criteriums, and time-trials, just for the fun of it.
Here’s my offer to cyclists in the area. There are a couple more weeks of Big Ring Riding evening training sessions left this season and I am opening up the rest of the season for free to anyone who wants to try it out, no strings attached. Come out and train with us on Monday and Wednesday nights at 5:30 pm starting tomorrow, 9/18. Sessions last 1 to 1-1/2 hours, typically. Send me a message on our contact page or via FB to reserve your spot and get the details.
What? Work harder but shorter to burn fat? Haven’t we always been told we need to spend endless hours at moderate effort to burn the extra pounds? Well more recent studies show that shorter, higher intensity workouts (think HIITS) actually results in more fat burn overall than the moderate exertion in a longer cardio workout. If these shorter workouts can really deliver results it’s great news for everyone ‘cuz what’s the number one excuse why people don’t exercise? that’s right… time!
So what is it about this higher intensity format and why shouldn’t you just hide before someone tries to make you do it?
First word. EPOC . Excess Postexercise Oxygen Consumption. Translation – burn up to 5x more calories AFTER your workout. That’s right. EPOC increases your metabolism and burns calories (and hence fat) for up to 24 hours following your exercise. This effect is not seen with low-moderate intensity exercises. (see this reference).
Second word. Interval. Without getting all clinical and technical, it simply means seconds of exercise followed by seconds of rest. Each exercise/rest cycle is called an interval. Now combine some intervals back to back and you have a set. Pretty simple really.
Third word. Effort. The other part of the equation. (you thought I was going to say intensity, right? but I know that word scares you…) The idea is, during those seconds of exercise, you’re supposed to “give it all ya got”, then rest, and repeat. There are different timing cycles, with the best known being 20/10 for 8 rounds totaling 4 minutes or Tabata timing. The key is to maintain the 2:1 ratio of exercise to rest. So 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of recovery, or 30 seconds of work and 15 seconds of recovery, etc.
So what high-intensity exercise should you try? BuiltLean.com has a menu of example workouts here that provides one framework for you to follow. There are many others out there, so browse around. But, one that we especially like, and is the basis for our Fitbata class, is progressive or mixed-interval training. In this method, rather than repeating the same move in a 20/10 pattern, you follow a 40/20-30/15-20/10 interval, adding effort and movement each time yielding a hard, harder, hardest approach where you control the effort.
So the next time you head to the gym for your regular steady-state aerobic routine, think of me – Short, but intense 🙂
Less time. Concerted effort. Bigger results.
It is less than 24 hours to the Tour of the Battenkill Spring Classic Pro-Am in Cambridge NY. Over 2500 professional and amateur cyclists (including yours truly) will descend on the small village of Cambridge for 3-days of cycling to race 62.4 miles of country roads including 10 segments of dirt roads (about 25% of the distance is dirt). Saturday is the Pro/Am with heats going off every 10 minutest from 8am to 2:40pm. Sunday is the Pro race (29 teams will compete this year), where they will ride two laps, 124 miles. To make it even more exciting, there are at least 3 steep(!) dirt road climbs. Juniper Swamp Road is the first big dirt climb and has a 20+% section. As my riding/racing friend says: “Juniper Road is a Beast! Only about .4 miles but it has an extended pitch of 16-18% with a max of about 21%”. This is were the lesser riders are separated from the stronger ones. Stage Road is the last dirt climb starting at 56 miles for 1-1/2+ miles of up to 10% grades. If you have any legs left that will finish them off!
I would like to think that I am one of the stronger riders.
But am I ready? I signed up for this race when the registration opened on December 22. More than 1000 riders registered in the first ten minutes, just a measure of how popular this race is. Categories were filled in less than a day. So after registering I looked at the calendar and thought about my training plan. How would I peak for the April 14th race, with 3-1/2 months to go. As a base, I rode 2800 miles in 2011, with the bulk of it in the last 6 months, including several 100 milers. So I felt that my base as good, but I took most of December as a rest month riding only a couple of days/week. But the real question is what did I need to improve? First of all: climbing ability, since Battenkill is a hilly course. Secondly, endurance to be able to ride my goal of 19+ MPH average over 62 miles.
Here’s the plan I created:
January: Base building on the trainer, treadmill, and doing boot camp style workouts. Workouts were focused on aerobic base with threshold-pace intervals and longer zone-3 sessions.
February was the Build phase: Worked on leg, upper body and core for climbing and endurance. This was mostly weight training and intervals on the trainer. Lots of push-ups, squats (weighted), crunches, and pull-ups. On the trainer, 2 to 3 days of either high-intensity intervals, progressive intervals, and/or threshold intervals with recover days inbetween. Most of the trainer workouts were 1 to 1-1/2 hours and exhausting.
March and April: Speed and endurance building towards the peak. Longer rides, longer intervals. Group rides with pace-lines to improve my pace-line skills. Now doing 40 – 50 mile rides at race pace at least once a week. At least one day a week is interval work on hills or rolling terrain outside on the roads. By the end of the first week in April, with 7 days to go, the fitness level is set, time to taper for the race.
From January 1st to today, I’ve ridden 1420+ miles, maxing out at 211 miles in the first week of April. I feel stronger than I ever have, and that shows in some of the climbs I have been able to do recently. So I’m confident I’ll be in the mix tomorrow. The weather is ideal, mid-60’s and partly sunny, light winds. We will see what happens at 1:50 in the afternoon!
This just in from IDEA Fit – “Tabata Training – The Hottest Trend in Hard-Core Cardio”. Tabata or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is basically about taking an exercise, such as sprinting or push-ups, and performing that exercise all out for a burst of 20-30 seconds, recovering for 10 seconds, and repeating this 8 times. The key to getting the full benefits of this approach is the “high-intensity” part. That is, you have to push yourself to work those 20 seconds at max effort (85% MHR,or RPE of 15). About a month ago, I set up a Tabata segment for my bootcamp class. We started with V-situps, moved to Push-ups, Prisoner Squats and ended with Tricep Dips. So each move followed a 20 second work and 10 second rest pattern, for 8 sets with a 60 second transition to the next exercise (W20/R10/T60). After watching my bootcamp class tackle Tabata, I ran myself through various other interval workouts, and discovered I really liked this approach because…
- Having the ability to adjust both the interval time and the exercises you do means people of all fitness levels can do this. For instance, you could start with jogging in place for 15 seconds and giving yourself 10 seconds or more recovery before repeating. Once you can handle that, increase the work time to 20 seconds and keep the rest period at 10 seconds. Then progress the work time to 30 seconds, or change the exercise to something more challenging like Jumping Jacks or Squat Jumps.
- No fancy equipment is needed. Your wrist watch or room clock should suffice for timing your intervals. But I have to admit, I love using the free HIIT and Tabata timers you can download on your SmartPhone. They are all very simple to set up, and once you hit start, you just listen for the whistle to blow!
Still looking for a tamer introduction to the world of intervals? I suggest you get moving to your favorite songs. This is one of the best ways to learn to run, but can apply to other movements as well. Grab your mini music player and start walking, briskly, to the first song or two. When the next tune starts, take it up to an easy jog for the duration of that song. When the songs ends, return to your brisk walk for the length of the next song. If your breathing rate has recovered, jog again for the next song. Keep repeating this pattern. Your favorite songs will make the experience more enjoyable and the time goes by quickly. This is the technique I used to develop my ability to run, and I still leverage it today. I just try to pick up my pace and hold it for 2-3 songs now before returning to a jog. And since most songs have a run time between 3 and 4 minutes, you don’t need any other timer, and you can easily estimate your total workout time based on how many songs you’ve heard.
So don’t fear the hottest trend in high intensity… embrace it as a way to bring variety to your exercise program and build intensity appropriate for you, over time.