Saturday, December 20, 2014

Endurance indicators

What actually does being fit mean? If you watch the Tour de France long enough you'll hear references like watts and VO2max which really are a reference to describe how hard we can go. To keep it simple, humans have 2 basic systems that when trained can give us enhanced fitness. The first one being the aerobic system which is our body’s ability to utilize oxygen as efficiently as possible. The term VO2 max is used in conjunction with this system. Everyone has a genetic predetermined VO2max number or ceiling. Off the couch VO2max is trainable but once at your genetic limit that's basically it, from there at most it's 10% trainable. That ceiling is more or less what you acquired from your parents genetically.

The second system is your Lactate system which is part of your metabolic system or referred to as ones Lactate threshold. LT is the biggest indicator of fitness and the most trainable. It's really a measure of your sustainable power. During light to moderate exercise, concentration of lactate in the blood remains low. The body is able to absorb lactate faster than the muscle cells are producing it. As intensity increases, there comes a point at which lactate removal cannot keep up with the rate of lactate production. This point is referred to "lactate threshold". This is the beginning of the end of high intensity exercise. You can't maintain your pace very long at these levels. The other side is that through proper training you can raise your LT to much higher levels. As an athlete your VO2 max and max heart rate can drop with age but you can still become faster by training your LT properly. An average cyclist might have a LT of around 75% of their VO2max heart rate but with correct training can work its way up to 95 - 98%. That alone shows you how trainable it really is. Your LT is trainable to the point it can keep elevating over years whereas VO2max hits a ceiling pretty quickly. The final desired result is to raise your LT and increase power or watts at LT.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Training with power vs HR

To a cyclist why is training with a power meter preferable to training with just a heart rate monitor?

A power meter records watts and watts don’t fluctuate, a watt is a watt. The instant you increase power it's measured instantly. Heart can fluctuate based on many variables, the quality of sleep or how much you've slept, caffeine consumption, hydration levels, illness, air temp. HR is also reactive versus instant. Meaning, that HR has a delayed reaction to the effort being applied. Also, there's something called cardiac drift in which your heart rate begins to drift as you train due to a number of factors. So, what does it actually mean when an athlete’s HR is up or down? The only accurate way to figure that out is by using a power meter. Training with Power takes out the variables, and eliminates guess work. Power is instant, and gives results immediately on how much work is being applied.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Rebecca Rusch "Rusch to Glory"

I'm generally not a "book reader" mostly a magazine reader so for a book to keep me fixated chapter after chapter is rare. Last year I read and reviewed "Be brave be strong" by Jill Homer which is about Jill competing in a mountain bike race called the Tour Divide which is a 2740 mile race from Canada to Mexico. It travels along the Continental Divide and takes weeks to finish, that is if you do finish. I truly haven't found a book that has high jacked my attention since Jill's.

Then, this August Rebecca Rusch released her book "Rusch to Glory" which I thought might captivate my attention, and I wasn't disappointed. It's the story of a true iron willed athlete. From her earlier days rock climbing to extreme adventure racing to 24 hour mountain bike races and beyond shows her incredable psychological and physical drive that inspires you throughout the book. This is her life as a professional athlete, digging deeper than almost anyone can imagine to be at the peak of her sport. While reading this book, I kept trying to imagine myself in desperate situations that she encountered and wondered how I would react and get through them, it was truly mesmerizing. Some of the situations she faced were literally near death experiences. The end of the book I found absolutely spellbounding with Rebecca delving deeply into the process of what delivered her to this moment in time and what direction she's headed. This book is the ultimate inspiration for any athlete to push themselves to higher levels. Quite honestly, anyone from any walk of life should be truly inspired by this life changing read.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Serfas Scandium MTB shoes 1 year report

I reviewed these shoes 1 year ago when still new so I thought do an update review to see how they held up under aggressive conditions. First a little refresher:... Stiff carbon plank soles, 390 grams for size 44 (fairly light), aggressive lugs on the soles, comes with a tool to install the removable spikes, nice roomy toe box, excellent price point when compared with other brands.

Fit; Never had a hot spot, the slightly wider toe box is a plus at least for me providing no metatarsal compression. Perfect if you want to wear slightly heavier socks in the colder weather.

Strap function; At first I thought the buckle would be a weak link as it seemed a little flimsy but it's held up fine. I've struck the buckle on numerous rocks without an issue. Strap and buckle system secure well and release easily.

Wear; Lugs show no wear after many rocky hike bikes. Likewise no wear on the heel which seems to wear first on some other brands. Outside material has held up well, no cuts after rough rocky New England trails. Outside toe area has shown no wear, and all the stitching throughout the shoe is still intact. Bottom of stiff carbon sole has held up fine.

I most definitely put these shoes through hell. The trails in New England and in this part of Connecticut are loaded with sharp axe head rocks and can really do some carnage on anything related to a mountain bike. I used these shoes in the rain, mud, heat and cold and was happy with the durability and fit. The traction from the hardcore sole lugs was excellent. Over I'd say these shoes were a good buy especially at the reasonable price point (180.00 list as of a year ago. I think 190.00 presently) and you really forget you have them on which is the way a good shoe should be.
Outside material and stitching show no signs of wear.
Durability is great.

Sole and lugs show no sign of wear



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Castelli Sorpasso Wind bib tights

Another new collection to the "get me out in the cold" deep winter apparel collection is the Castelli Sorpasso Wind bib tights which is part of the Rosso Corsa line. The chamois is the Progetto X2 air, it's a multi-density padding with a soft inner layer that is positioned perfect and one of the more comfortable chamois I’ve used. It's designed for long hours in the saddle and so far I've found no discomfort at all. The bib straps are paper thin and don't slip outward and never irritated my shoulders. One thing the straps do is twist when putting them on and take a little finesse to get them right. The ankle grippers are large so the grip is exceptional and the legs never ride up, and the ankle zippers are long making getting them over your feet a snap. The interior material is brushed and very soft. The outside is Windstopper fabric and is placed in the most vulnerable parts of your legs and I never felt cold air penetrating the material. In fact at 50º F it was almost to warm. The cut in front is kind of low on your stomach and feels a little odd at first but I'm getting used to it and don't find it a major issue. The fit is snug (typical Castelli) and a little tight getting on but once they’re on the fit is exceptional with no bunching behind the knees. These are rated by Castelli from 32º to 59º F but temps approaching the high 50's and I do believe they'll be way too warm. In the dead of winter these should be the ticket.
Progetto X2 pad is designed for long hours in the saddle

Inside the ankle grippers are very large and prevent slippage upward

Fit is comfortable, snug. Long ankle zippers are a nice touch

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Castelli Espresso 3 winter jacket

No excuses this year. I've never been a big fan of riding in the dead cold of winter but I've upgraded my winter cycling wardrobe this year to get my butt outside more often and spend less time on the trainer. After reviewing all of the winter jackets I decided on the Castelli Espresso 3 (last year it was called the Espresso Due). This is a seriously warm jacket, suited for lengthy winter rides. Rated from 32º to 54º F but I imagine you can ride into the high 50's due to the zippered vents on the torso and open vents at the back of the shoulders, which actually give the jacket flexibility in the arms making it less restricting. The wrists also unzip to allow your hands to slip through easily and also provide a vented mesh in case you need to cool off even more. The adjustable venting is amazing on this jacket.

While I'm not the type who listens to music while riding, it does have an MP3 pocket with cable ports for your ear piece. Three rear pockets are deep with lots of volume to carry essentials. The outside fabric is a wind proof material with a 4 way stretch. The jacket is 3 layers. The primary material is Castelli’s Windstopper® X-Fast fabric and does offer some water resistance. The 2nd layer is designed to move moisture away for the base layer, and the interior is a mid-weight fleece with a waffle like texture that keeps little pockets of warm air against your body. I'm not a fan of heavy clothing and even though this jacket is 3 layers it feels much lighter and thinner and with a single base layer should keep me toasty down into the 30"s. The collar is nice and high and extends up the back of your neck to keep cold air out. Zipper is a YKK® Camlock, and has a large tab that you can grip easily with heavy gloves. While not cheap listing at $299.00 American dollars it's worth every penny with numerous adjustments for regulating temps and comfort.
Castelli Espresso 3 in Gray / Black

Cuffs are zippered to allow your hand to
slip through and mesh for more
ventilation 
Front zippered vents if needed

MP 3 pocket

Back of shoulders are vented and adds flex to the
shoulders making the jacket feel unrestrictive

Rear pockets are large and deep

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pushing your limits

Why do you push your body to the limits, put yourself under such physical stress, and sacrifice your time doing it? I get these general questions all the time from colleagues that aren't into training or anything physical for that matter. They view me as kind of odd I guess and some of the looks I get are priceless.  Some people simply believe if there's no financial value in it why do it?

Training and occasionally competing has become ingrained in my persona, and I am fortunate for it. There isn’t just one reason I do it, there's many. For one it's stimulated my curiosity about the human body to where I've studied it heavily. In a sense I'm studing myself. Recently, I was talking to a friend who does some hard core mountain bike racing.  He was saying after doing these events for a number of years he still gets nervous before a race because he knows he's going to suffer like hell but afterwards he can't wait to do another. That's another part of it.

It all comes down to athletes do something very unique - we seek out discomfort. When we're uncomfortable we learn about ourselves. There's moments the physical stress begins to take you beyond what you imagine to be endurable. There’s a repeated battle against surrender where mental strength accumulates and you develop an absolute conviction that giving up is never an option. You go places the untrained will never reach. Racing and training is very similar to life... hard. The mental positives you develop have a way of entering other facets of your life. That's the big payoff. It's truly unfortunate but the majority of the general population will never experience what that feels like. And lastly, at least for me, it simply makes me feel alive.
A little suffering never hurt anyone

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Castelli Flanders short sleeve baselayer

When temps begin to drop a good hi-tech base layer can make all the difference. There are a slew of good base clothing products out there and the Castelli line consistently gets good marks so I thought I'd give the Castelli Flanders short sleeve version a go. I like wearing short sleeve base layers combined with arm warmers as it keeps the bulk down, that is unless it gets to extreme cold conditions.

First, the sizing is the normal Castelli tight fit which I prefer in a base layer. I weigh 185 pounds, 6 ft tall with a 44 chest and fit tightly in an XXL. Be sure to size up if you’re not sure. Initially the neck is really tight and you think your head might not pop through but it does. This provides a good seal that does not allow wind to travel into the shirt when your tucked low into the drops.

The body of the shirt is a 3D rib-knit with lots of stretch and comforms around your torso comfortably. The design also incorporates channels that hold the fabric off your skin which reduces any chance of abrasion, so essentially less material is touching you skin. The tail or back is elongated to allow you to tuck in the shirt. The feature I like the most is the perforated mesh around your underarms to expel any excess core heat, very comfortable. All seams and the hem are flat seamed for zero irritation. Castelli recommends the shirt be used in temps ranging from 50 degrees F ( 10 c) to 68 degrees F (20 c). I find the technology behind current hi-tech cycling apparel to be incredible. I know people are sometimes put off by the price of quality cycling apparel but once you use it you really begin to understand how comfortable it can make things under any conditions.
Perforated mesh around underarms helps
regulate body temp

Snug fit as a base layer should fit

Tail is longer so it can stay tucked in
while in a cycling position



Saturday, August 30, 2014

Fox Pro launch knee guards

After donating some skin and now sporting a permanent dent in my right knee cap (all from last year’s fun) I decided to start using knee guards at least on some of the more technical XC trails. Here in the Connecticut - NY area at some point training or racing on these trails you’re going to hit some incredibly rocky, rooty, log covered trails...and come in contact with all the above, it's a given. After reading reviews on most of the leading knee guards on the market I went with the Fox pro launch guards. I put it off for a while because I felt knee pads would be a distraction due to the bulk or feeling but I was truly surprised.

These Fox pads are so comfortable I forget I'm even wearing them. The protection is excellent, they don't slip at all due to the ergo fit and silicone grips behind the knees. The lyrca Velcro straps are located at the very top and bottom and work well. They have a pre - curve that angles perfectly when riding and doesn’t bunch at all. In the high heat I do sweat a little but with the perforated neoprene they breathe pretty well. The fabric on the knee cup seems to be holding up well after a few impacts. The two things you want from a guard.... forget they're on and maximum protection. For the money, these pads are spot on. List price $60.


The last little mishap that made my decision 

Maybe I should spring for the elbow guards also

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Performance and Mitochondria

Mitochondria are the power source of your cells. Their primary role is to convert the nutrients we consume into energy and the production of adenosine triphosphate or ATP. ATP is then used by our cells to facilitate a range of functions from breathing to exercising. When the size and number of mitochondria is increased they can more efficiently convert energy into ATP which allows more energy to become available to the target muscular system. The more mitochondria an athlete possesses, the longer and faster they can train or compete. Also your system uses more fats and sugars around the clock which is paramount for weight management and preventing diabetes because mitochondria never rest.

Stimulating Mitochondrial growth
Mitochondrial growth is stimulated the same way we stress our bodies through exercise. Stress your body, recover and then it adapts or becomes a little stronger the next time. It’s pretty similar in the development of mitochondria. When current levels of mitochondria are inadequate to meet an imposed demand, our system responds by building mitochondria density. We have to give our system a reason to do it. We have to challenge our cells. And of course the drawback is when you stop training your body has no reason to maintain a high level of mitochondria so they eventually get broken down in the body.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lactate Resynthesis

As athletes when we think of lactate we've come to believe it's something of a waste product that causes our muscles sizzle from pushing our limits. But the reality is that lactate has a number of essential purposes. The liver actually recycles it, and releases it as glucose. During intensive exercise it provides another source of glucose. It's almost like a survival mechanism developed from our evolution to help us extend our endurance or time to total exhaustion. There's also a misconception that you’re not making lactate until you reach your lactate threshold. Not true, you’re producing lactate around the clock just at a much lower level at lower heart rates. Our bodies clear lactate very efficiently and use it rapidly until we approach a very high level of muscular stress. To determine where your threshold is a blood sample is taken and when blood concentrations are around 4 mmol/L that’s normally considered your threshold.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Interval training for burning calories

Not only does interval training increase your metabolic rate during the workout, it keeps it elevated for hours afterward, burning more calories even while you’re sitting on your couch.  A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that not only did subjects burn more calories during interval cycling (15 x 2 minutes at 100% VO2max with 2 minutes rest) compared to continuous cycling (60 minutes at 50% VO2max), they also burned more calories during the following 24 hours.  Other studies, in which subjects ran instead of cycled (6 x 3 minutes at 90% VO2max with 3 minutes rest or 20 x 1 minute at 105% VO2max with 2 minutes rest) have also found higher post-workout metabolic rates after interval workouts compared to after continuous workouts.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Side stitches

For those that suffer from side stitches when running here's a possible solution. Sports that involve an up-and-down motion are most susceptible, though it does occur in cycling and swimming but not as often.  It's also true that most stitches are on the right side of the abdomen, in the area of the liver, the heaviest organ in the abdominal area. The liver, stomach, and spleen all hang from ligaments attached to the diaphragm, a large, flat muscle in the core region that creates inhalation as it contracts. During running these organs bounce pulling down on the diaphragm, sometimes causing the side cramp known as a stitch.

Here's what to do. With a stitch on the right side, exhale when you’re left foot strikes the ground. This will transfer most of the jarring force away from the afflicted side allowing you to lessen the stress on the diaphragm. Hopefully you don’t have an ongoing issue with side stitches but if it occurs give it a try.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bike tours & riding styles

I had the pleasure of riding the Bethel cycle fest in Connecticut this past weekend which is a tour with distances of 23, 54, 84 and 105 miles and for good measure a strava team challenge on the 105 mile route. Even though it's technically not a race, at times you’re sucked into the competitive nature and become part of it. And as a perk there's always Strava segments sprinkled throughout. I guess that's why I love doing these things. Another thing that makes these tours interesting is at various times your riding with perfect strangers at all different skill levels, much of the time in a pack or pace line. You have the recreational riders with just finishing being the goal (which is fantastic and everyone's very supportive) then A and B groups of riders mixing it up as well as the Tri folks on TT bikes with their own style. The Triathletes generally don't mix it up with pace lines due to the safety factor of tri bars and pace lines which is understandable.


What I also find fascinating it's only on these tours that you can study the different riding styles while being part of the action. It's a really unique sensation when you find yourself in a group pace line and no one really knows the level or experience of everyone else around them when inches apart at 26 miles an hour. You don't get that with your familiar friends on a group ride. It's amazing how fast your mind will analyze everyone around you. You stay pretty frosty to say the least. I have to say most everyone was focused and rode hard and careful. A really good crowd.


 I find the Triathletes have very similar styles whether on a TT bike or road bike. In one of the pace lines I was a part of there were 1 or 2 Triathletes mixed in on road bikes and their style is always the same "steady". They've properly trained themselves not to go anaerobic if at all possible, stay just below lactate threshold, keep a good fast solid pace, don't sprint and conserve energy. Their all very disciplined and very good riders. Your general roadies are more explosive; love going anaerobic and love to sprint. Hmmm, sounds familiar. You even meet an occasional mountain biker who is using the long tour to really stimulate their cardio system and put long miles on a mountain bike to condition themselves for an upcoming mountain bike race. If you've never ridden a mountain bike on a road for a long distance at speed it's a workout.


It's not often on my road bike when I can ride one on one with a full-fledged TT bike and get that direct comparison. Fortunately, I had that opportunity when I came upon a Triathlete from NY on a Specialized TT bike. On the climbs I caught him almost too easy, again triathletes ride steady with very little explosiveness and TT bikes don't climb well at all. Once over the crest on the flats he just pulled away almost too easy with that aerodynamic advantage. This went on for 4 or 5 climbs and then flat sections; it was almost funny at times but really showed firsthand the differences on specific bike types.


All in all whatever anyone's goal was every one rode hard and were really cranking out those endorphins.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Muscle fiber types

Muscle fibers can be classified in three categories: Slow twitch or type 1, type 2a and fast twitch or type 2b. Type 2a are essentially fast-twitch fibers but have a somewhat trainable ability to adapt the traits of both type 1 and 2b fibers. It's really dependent on the type and bulk of training you do. Type 2a are normally classified as intermediate fibers. The differences between the fiber types are based on chemical, functional and structural differences.

Slow-twitch fibers exhibit a very good blood supply and are sometimes referred to as red fibers. This large supply of blood ensures that slow-twitch fibers receive large amounts of oxygen, which provides them the capacity to perform for extended periods. They have very little potential for hypertrophy and are best suited to endurance activities such as running and cycling long distances. In contrast, fast twitch fibers have a relatively poor blood supply and are subsequently referred to as being white in color. This lack of blood results in relative oxygen restriction, so fast-twitch fibers tend to fatigue much faster than the better oxygenated slow-twitch fibers. Fast twitch fibers tend to be physically larger than slow-twitch fibers and also have the greatest hypertrophy or growth potential. These fibers are best suited to high-intensity but short-duration sports such as lifting heavy weights or sprinting.

We humans have a baseline ratio of Type I to Type II muscle fiber. This ratio is genetically determined. In most people, the ratio of slow- to fast-twitch muscle fiber is around 50/50. In elite endurance athletes, however, it can be skewed as much as 80/20 either way: world-class Olympic sprinters can exhibit 80% fast-twitch fiber in their legs, while the muscles of ultra-long distance runners can reach 80% slow-twitch fiber. If you are curious to determine your personal ratio there are methods to determine it including a needle biopsy where a small fragment of muscle is extracted and analyzed but some less intrusive methods are being developed.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Tubeless tire pressures

Here's a cool starting point formula if your running a tubeless tire - wheel setup on your mountain bike.

Rider weight in pounds divided by 7 = x
x - 1 gives you FRONT tire pressure in PSI
x + 2 gives you REAR tire pressure in PSI

For example my weight is right now 183. 183 divided by 7 =26.1
FRONT pressure: 26 - 1 = 25 PSI
REAR pressure: 26 + 2 = 28 PSI

Of course this is only a starting point to launch from and depending on the terrain, wet conditions, tire tread you can tweek the adjustments

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Max heart rate and fitness

As your bodies fitness elevates over the course of the season you'll probably see your maximum heart rate come down. Just how much is really dependent on a variety of factors such as temperature, hydration, blood volume levels and training frequency. Over the years having lots of "athlete friends" I noticed they spoke of maximum heart rate figures as more less a badge of honor when in fact a high max heart rate is not and indicator of fitness levels. I think there was a certain psychology to that thinking and over the years knowledge about the body has dramatically changed. I had a friend whom was a great marathon runner and trained in the high heat quite often, during mid-summer he decided to have a max heart rate test in an air conditioned environment and was baffled by the lower figure than he anticipated. Training in the heat will eventually increase your blood volume and thin out your blood making it flow easier thus reducing the effort your cardio system puts out. Increases also occur in the cardiac stroke volume or how much blood the heart pumps per beat. In a well-trained heart the left ventricle fills more completely as well as produces a more forceful contraction. All these factors along with a max HR test in a cooler environment means his heart did not have to work as hard to cool the body leading to a lower max HR. The heart simply becomes more efficient at pumping. An athlete in the peak of his training can have a 3 to 7% shift in their maximum HR figures. The reverse is also true, as fitness declines your max HR increases. Due to variations with heart rates it's always more accurate to establish training zones using your lactate threshold figures if possible.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Cateye Stealth 10 GPS computer

Last year Cateye entered the Cycling GPS market with their Stealth 10 and Stealth 50. The only difference between the two units is that the Stealth 50 comes equipped with Ant+ to handle most speed / cadence / power sensors.

One thing I've come to understand is more tech doesn’t always make you a better athlete. Sometimes an overload of tech can be distracting, especially when something isn't functioning correctly. So I made the decision to purchase the Cateye Stealth 10 which is similar to the Garmin 200. A pretty simple and functional unit, it has mph, the actual time with one optional display (Average speed, distance, elapsed time, distance 2, max speed, and odometer) and gets distance and speed from the GPS connection. The Stealth series uses the standard Cateye mounting system and Barfly makes a mount for the Cateye system. Add to that the Stealth has a waterproof design up to 20 meters.  I prefer not to use my smartphone for GPS tracking especially when I'm on the mountain bike and in rain so this waterproof unit is ideal.  Another nice feature is the time-based back light. You have the ability to determine the hours the computer is backlit.  If the computer is on during this time, it will continuously illuminate up to ten hours. A small drawback is the connect time for GPS which can take a minute or two but no biggie. The unit recharges pretty quickly using a USB port connector and the operating time is around 10 hours. Once you set up the computer you’ll need to download the Cateye App to your computer or laptop which allows you to send your info to Cateye Atlas.com as well as to Training peaks and Strava.

And just for the 3 people out there that don't know, Strava is a free or optional $60.00 full membership app/internet site that cyclists and runners can use to track their routes using a GPS system or a smartphone. Workouts can be uploaded to the strava website and shared globally. Users can create "segments" of rides (a section or road that a lot of people ride that include climbs, sprints or a loop) and compare times.  A KOM or King of the Mountain (or QOM for the top female performance) measures all riders who’ve ever crossed a segment and the top 10 are awarded trophies. Crazy, addictive but a great motivational tool. It adds a "pseudo-social" dimension to any solo workout.

The Cateye Stealth 10 costs around $100 - 120 and the 50 around  $150.00 very affordable for anyone not wanting to use their phones GPS system.
Cateye Stealth with Barfly mount

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Science of warming up in Cycling

Science has told us it's important to warm up before any sport and speaking for myself I almost always find I ride stronger after warming up gradually. Cycling and as well as running use very specific muscle groups in a very intense manner so the chance of injuring those specific muscles becomes quite high, whereas many other forms of exercise are less intensive and "share the load" across the whole body lessening the chance for injury. If you allow your heart rate and core temperature too gradually increase, your body and mind will be ready for the challenges of your ride.

Physiological importance of warming up:
Increased the muscle temperature.  A warmed muscle both contracts more forcefully and relaxes more quickly. Speed and strength can be optimized.

Blood vessels become dilated. This lowers the resistance to blood flow and lowers stress on the heart.

Facilitates oxygen utilization by warmed muscles because hemoglobin releases oxygen more readily at higher muscle temperatures

Lactate resynthesizing mechanisms begin to engage during warm up allowing lactate threshold to increase normally. 

Improved Range of Motion. The range of motion around a joint is increased.

Mental prep. The warm-up is also a good time to mentally prepare for performance by clearing your mind, increasing focus and concentration. This can be just as important as the physiological effects.

20 to 30 minutes is considered an ideal amount of time to spend warming up prior to the main portion of your training or racing. Spin easy for 5-10 minutes, and then slowly build up to threshold. Spin easy, and then do two or three 1 minute efforts just above threshold efforts. Spin easy till it's time to start. Some recommendations on warm-ups get far too complex.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Oral carb sensing and performance

The Journal of Physiology recently said that in England researchers discovered that simply rinsing your mouth with with a sugar drink may fight fatigue. The test consisted of 8 well trained cyclists doing an all out time trial on stationary bikes in a lab. Throughout the ride, the cyclists swished various liquids in their mouths but did not swallow. Some of the drinks contained carbohydrates the other drinks were just flavored, sugar-free water.  By the end of the time trials, the cyclists who had rinsed with the carbohydrate drinks — and spit them out — finished significantly faster than the water group. Their heart rates and power output were also higher. In conclusion there's some evidence when your brain is sensing fuel is being delivered to the body - without actually ingesting it - shows how it can an effect on Human performance.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Video update Shimano R260 shoes

I wanted to do a quick video update on the 2014 Shimano R260 road shoes after putting in some miles.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Dieting without exercise

Most people would love to loose weight without exercise and take the easy way out but very few are aware of all the positive effects provided by exercise. I've attempted to list them as completely as possible in list form.

While dieting will show lower numbers on a scale, it will not give you the following benefits:
- lower resting HR
- higher muscular LT
- higher VO2-max
- significantly lower fat% (more lean muscle-mass, less fat)
- improved immune system
- higher motivation and energy level
- lower LDL cholesterol counts
- stronger/denser bones

Cardiovascular adaptations that occur from long term training will provide:
-Increased capillary density
-Increased mitochondrial volume and density
-Increased aerobic enzymes
-Increased intramuscular fuel stores
-Increased maximal oxygen uptake
-Increased stroke volume
-Possible lowering of systolic & diastolic blood pressures
-Increased left vetricle volume

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Caffeine and sports performance

I'm not promoting the use of caffeine as a sports stimulant just presenting a summary of research behind the use of it for endurance athletes. For me personally, I'm kind of a coffee afficionado and have found its use beneficial in training.

Caffeine optimizes muscle fuel
Science has shown that caffeine causes your body to burn a higher percent of fat which is really a secondary energy fuel. When doing so it's sparing a small percentage of glycogen stores in your muscles. If you’re preserving some of your glycogen stores, your body is less likely to fatigue when training or competing anaerobically or at high intensities. The sparing effect is believed to occur during the first 12 - 20 minutes of the exercise. If you’re sparing glycogen early it can be utilized in the later stages of exercise in theory extending your endurance.

Caffeine and pain sensation
We're all very aware that endurance sports can be associated with a high level of stress on the body. Athletes are constantly trying to mentally and physically manage the pain brought on by the intensity of high level endurance sports. Caffeine is believed to stimulate an endorphin like release which aids in decreasing pain perception. It also seems to lower an athlete’s perception of effort for the same amount of actual physical output.

Elevates adrenaline
Research indicates that caffeine stimulates your adrenal glands to release adrenaline into your system, providing a rapid physical boost.  Strength and speed can elevate for a limited period of time, while the body’s ability to sense pain decreases.

How much
Caffeine is certainly a case of more is NOT better. High levels can actually have dramatic setbacks. The levels of Caffeine that are beneficial are dependent on factors such as weight and your regular intake as you can build a resistance to the stimulation. Virtually all research has concluded that moderate amounts are best for performance enhancement. Extended events such as an Ironman or ultra-races have a greater risk of dehydration, nausea and abdominal cramps making it very important to consider the side effects of caffeine as it's a mild diuretic. Be aware though that not everyone benefits from caffeine and some will experience side effects even at moderate doses. Like all sports nutrition strategies make sure you try caffeine in training before using it in a race situation.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Shimano SH R260 road shoes

It's no secret that over time your feet widen and lengthen especially if you’re a runner or cyclist. Mine are no exception, the constant pressure applied to my feet after years of endurance sports and gym time have no doubt changed my paws. High end cycling shoes that I purchased just over a year ago are now causing some numbness and hot spots due to metatarsal compression. The slight widening of my forefoot eventually pushes my toes against the sides of the shoe and it's only a matter of time before the pain and numbness set in.  I've been researching as many shoes as I possibly can for a replacement and decided to go the Shimano route. The new upper end Shimano road shoes now have a slightly larger toe box compared to their previous models. The top of the line R320 is only available in white in the US and I'm not a white shoe kind of guy, cool looking but not my preference. New for 2014 is the R260 just below the R320 and come in black and are almost identical except for a few minor items. The adjustable features with these Shimano’s is what attracted me. The soles are heat moldable with a selection of 3 arch pad configurations. First, you can use no arch insert or a mid (yellow) arch insert and lastly a (red) high arch insert. The inserts slip into a pocket in the sole, very simple. With the correct arch insert you can custom tune the bottom of your foot to have more contact area resulting in even pressure along the whole sole lessening "hot spots". If there's a space under your arch and then it flattens as you apply pressure, the ball of your foot and heal will have excess pressure placed upon them leading to issues. On the underside of the sole there is a metatarsal button that you can leave on or off depending on your feel. All in all there are five different elements of adjustment just on the soles alone.

The shoes themselves are heat moldable. They're placed in a shimano oven then placed on your feet. A vacuum bag is placed over the shoes causing the shoes to mold to the exact shape of your foot. The vacuum unit is also a shimano product so a shimano dealer with the oven needs to do the shoe molding if it's needed. I haven't done any heat molding as the shoes feel comfortable as is but that being said I've only been on the trainer as of yet. I will say these are the most comfortable shoes I've ever used to this point but it's still early. I did go with the wide version in size 44. The standard width fit well but I like a little extra in the toe box, just a personal preference. And when trying on shoes remember your feet are going to expand when riding especially in the heat. If they feel perfect in the store you might want to size up a half size. The best cycling shoes are the ones you never think about.

One of the differences with the R320 is that it has a silicon anti-slip heel-gripping liner while the 260 uses a standard cloth heel liner but I can't detect any slipping at all. Heel retention is excellent. Both shoes utilize the new +11mm longer cleat-adjustment range that allows more optimum foot, pedal, and shoe area of adjustment. Nice feature as I do run my cleats back a little further which takes pressure off the Achilles and calf muscle and places a higher level on the quadriceps. The R260's use Shimano’s new offset strap system that's designed to eliminate pressure points at the highest point of your foot where pressure tends to be the highest. Non-offset straps will sometimes ‘pinch’ the top of the foot which restricts the blood flow to the forefoot and pinches the nerves at the top of the foot. The Shimano offset straps cinch-down to the left and right of this sensitive area. The cooling vents are massive, the front vents look like air intakes on a jet aircraft. There is also plenty of vented material included in various parts of the shoe so if you use these in colder weather you'll really need shoe covers.

Both shoes have full carbon soles and the R260's are approx $80 less than the R320's. They weigh in at (size 40 per shimano website) 496 grams for the R260's and 470 for the R320's. Right now the shoes feel great but I’ll post an update after I put them through boot camp.
Good looking shoes and from my count 6 adjustable features, plus
you can heat mold the shoes and soles up to 3 times.

Arch inserts slip into a pocket or you can leave them out.
Yellow is mid and red is for a high arch.
Sole is heat moldable also.

Air intakes are monsterous

Full carbon sole. You have an additional 11 mm of cleat
adjustment if you need it. Great feature.

To loosen the ratchet just press the black tab

The optional Metatarsal pad sticks on.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Adapting to hot conditions

Personally, training hard in the heat equals a zen experience I can't really explain but I love it. When most cyclists would be indoors I'd be out on the baking asphalt using that time to understand how the heat would affect me and how I would deal with it. I've always acclimated well to those conditions but I always allowed myself to do it gradually.

The process starts in the first few days you’re exposed to higher temperatures, so long as you're training in hotter conditions for at least an hour a day over the duration of 3 to 5 days strait. Be sure your workout intensity and duration is gradually increased over those 3 or 5 days, gradual is the key here. Increased sodium intake may be necessary during the first 3 to 5 days since initially you'll experience more sodium loss.  After 7 to 14 days positive adaptations should have your sweat rate up, sodium loss down, blood plasma or volume level up and your perceived exertion level should feel easier. As your sweat rate goes up after 7 to14 days of being exposed to the heat, higher fluid intake is needed after you acclimate. Don’t' forget, pre - hydrating is a must due to the increased sweat rates you'll experience if your training for over a few hours. Even though sweat rates are up sodium absorption into the cells becomes higher.

Calories in the heat
As your body works harder due to the heat you burn more calories and calorie absorption is lessened so forcing yourself to eat enough becomes essential. From my own experience my appetite decreases in the heat while my fluid intake increases. Sweet tasting calories are less appealing in very hot conditions than in milder temperatures. In high temps combined with a high heart rate sweet stuff is just tough getting down. This seems to be a general theme with most endurance athletes. Many athletes will alter the foods they consume in very hot conditions so if you’re going to change your foods in hotter weather you need to experiment prior to any racing.

Friday, March 7, 2014

NYU School of Medicine

In March I'm enrolled in a course at NYU School of Medicine entitled "A mulitdisciplinary approach to treating the multisport and endurance athlete across age, gender and injury". It should provide some very qualified insight on training issues. Here is the course description;
Many studies are looking at swimming, cycling and running economy in the endurance athlete and how it translates to overall performance. Do certain biomechanical patterns lead to certain injuries and can modifying those patterns decrease the incidence of injury? With advanced technology and the use of more sophisticated tools for assessment and treatment of these athletes, aberrant patterns are becoming easier to identify. In addition, since multisport events are becoming more popular, more research in this area is being done and a better understanding of the medical, musculoskeletal, nutritional and physiological considerations are being reported. This conference will address medical emergencies, immunodepression and other considerations, cardiac complications, the new female triad, nutritional considerations, swimming, cycling and running biomechanics and injury rehabilitation and barefoot running in the multisport athlete.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Eccentric training

If your a runner, especially if your a runner you should consider adding to your winter training program eccentric movements in the gym. When we land while running we are landing at 2 to 4 times our body weight and our primary protection system is our muscles acting as shock absorbers or contracting eccentrically. The sudden jolt of landing is offset by the sudden contraction of the muscle bracing the landing. The opposite of an eccentric contraction is a concentric contraction in which the muscles propel the body foward or when the foot pushes off from the ground. Concentric movements are used heavily in the sport of cycling where there is no landing phase of movement just propelling. In running both are used though in cycling the concentric contractions are generally longer and deeper. Eccentric training can best be described as the lowering phase of a weight training movement. An example of a preventive injury movement for running is slowly doing heel drops for your calfs. Eccentric weakness in the calf muscles can contribute to Achilles tendinitis, an injury that can sideline your running for months. By simply performing eccentic movements in the off season your reinforcing your "shock absorbing" system.  Your muscluar system will become more reactive to impact also creating more stabilty thus improving your running performance as well.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Rigors of competing

If you’re a serious athlete it's essential to build strength in the winter if you intend to compete at consistent levels throughout the season. Another words don't waist the winter if you plan to compete in endurance sports. Due to the rigors of racing and muscle-catabolism for energy, you lose strength as the season progresses. Come late Aug.-Sept it’s not uncommon to have only 75 - 80% of the strength you had at the beginning of the season. It mostly depends upon the weight-loss you experience, most serious athletes end up losing about 2-5lbs of muscle during the course of a season. This is especially true if you do a lot of long distance running events or compete in cycling events in the 75 - 100 mile+ range. It might not be that noticeable because you don't utilize max-strength often, but the percentage of max determines the efficiency. Early in the season, you may only be using 30-40% of max-strength during most of a race. By the end of the season, to maintain that kind of speed, you have to use 50-60% of max-strength. This won't be as efficient and will consume more oxygen for the same power-output and muscle fatigue will set in faster as well.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ammonia buildup and fatigue

All athletes long to be their best whether it's for personal goals or driven by competition. Sometimes correcting small details in training and nutrition can make a surprisingly big difference. Currently, ammonia buildup during workouts or competing is getting more attention these days. High ammonia levels are a toxic by-product that accumulates during intense exercise and is a primary factor in fatigue.

All anaerobic and endurance exercise produces ammonia, from an endurance standpoint the longer you exercise the more ammonia you produce. Science still doesn’t understand how much it contributes to fatigue, but it does know that the higher your blood ammonia the more it affects your performance. Ammonia inhibits the energy cycle by affecting the formation of glycogen. It also affects brain function and interferes with your focus.

Many individuals take in levels of protein prior to workouts but many proteins contain glutamine including whey protein. Glutamine, while an excellent ammonia scavenger, should be only taken after workouts not prior or during. Glutamine will initially elevate ammonia when metabolized but then scavenges it to a lower level. It could take 3 or more hours for this process to occur. You don't want to elevate ammonia levels at all when exercising, so watch your proteins prior to training. You should note if your working out for over 90 - 120 minutes you need to add some protein into the fuel mix, as up to 15% of you energy needs comes from protein. Just make sure it does not have any added glutamine, and if it does use it after exercise for recovery. Another nutrient called OKG (ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate) is getting serious attention by professionals in sports nutrition these days. While the actual biochemistry is complicated OKG provides a rapid, non-ammonia-producing source of glutamine in the body and is a very effective ammonia scavenger. It is anti-catabolic, a good source of arginine and supports the immune system.

I've always been somewhat skeptical of supplement claims because of the profit incentive of some companies but I've been using OKG for over a year now. I have no real concrete evidence to prove anything; all I can say is how I felt using it, compared to not using it. On the days that I’ve used it I seem to have a strong second, then third wind of endurance. It's proven to be very consistent in my findings. More companies are including it in their supplement line such as Hammer nutrition and GU's new version of Roctane. 2 companies I do respect for their products. As for side effects, it's been taken in levels of 10g per day for as long as six weeks without reported side effects. The only side effect that has been reported is diarrhea in dosages above 15g per day.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Thoughts on Cramping

There's really no solid one reason why we sometimes cramp when training, most are just theories. The 2 most popular are dehydration or electrolyte imbalances and just pushing oneself beyond your fitness level until training allows your body to adapt to the stress. These arguments make sense as cramps seem more common in the heat when body fluid levels decrease.

I'd like to throw out 2 other reasons that seem to have some merit. One is the result of burning protein for fuel in the absence of available sugar. Some research in this area confirms that subjects with the highest levels of ammonia release during exercise were more likely to experience cramps. High Ammonia levels indicate that higher levels of protein are being used as fuel. Ingesting whey protein before exercise can elevate these ammonia levels. Second, poor patterns of movement during say running or cycling might be causing activation of the Golgi tendon organs. The Golgi tendon reflex protects the skeletal muscle from excessively loads by causing the muscle to relax. These "strain gauges" are built into the tendons to prevent muscle tears. There could be something upsetting the Golgi organs that sets off a cramping pattern.

The only way to deal with a cramp coming on is slow down or try to stretch the muscle out which can be difficult depending if your competing. Of course the other option is pinching your upper lip which some athletes swear by, Odd, but true.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Rockguardz downtube protector

The downtube protector I ordered from Rockguardz arrived in just under 2 weeks from the UK to the US. Due to the fact that the downtube on my last mountain bike took a couple of good shots (aluminum frame XTC) I decided to go with Rockguardz Carbon protector on the Carbon XTC for some added protection. On the previous bike I fabricated a downtube protector out of plastic piping from the plumbing world but the Rockguardz product adds more protection to the bottom bracket and the downtube sides. Craftsmanship is quite good and each one is made for the specific bike you own, there's nothing universal here. The instructions tell you to submerge the product in hot water for 2 minutes for flexibility as you spread it around the downtube. Do it as it makes a difference. As you can see in the photos I put a rag around the downtube when spreading the protector as to not scratch the paint but then again it’s a mountain bike and it's going to get trashed anyway. You can pull the rag out when the protector snaps around the downtube. There's just something about scratching a new bike the first time, you just want to put it off as long as possible. Totally psychological. The fit is decent but I decided to put a couple of cable ties around the downtube to make things fully secure. The visual appearance is fantastic, the thing looks great. You can go to rockguardz.com or you can find them on ebay.

Make sure you submerge it in hot water prior to installing as you
 need to spread the sides apart. The downtube on the XTC
  is huge other downtubes will vary quite a bit.

I used a rag around the downtube when installing

Fit around the bottom bracket is excellent.

Nice bike schwag


Fit around one side is a little off. Overall good though.

It's not really needed but a couple of ties to fully secure it.