What motivates you? It's a great question that may seem simple to answer. For some it is, for others no so much. How you answer this question will dictate how you go about defining success and go about achieving it. There's no right or wrong answer, but creating a clear, crisp answer is, I believe, imperative.
As we now head into Winter, training outside becomes more challenging for many athletes. Daylight is at a minimum and the early mornings are ever colder. Safety and comfort both become challenges for most athletes. In large part, we are forced to move our training indoors for the bike and run. But, by training purposefully we can minimize the boredom factor and make the time spent on the bike trainer and treadmill very effective, and put ourselves in a better position to perform come next Spring.
Put a fan in a position that blows to keep you cool. The lack of airflow can cause overheating and, thus, inhibit your ability to perform optimally. Due to a slightly elevated core temperature, drink a little more than you do while exercising outdoors. Listen to some motivating music to help you stay focused on the task at hand. Lastly, for indoor running, set the treadmill to 1% gradient to better simulate running outside in terms of a more realistic effort at any given pace.
The biggest benefit of moving your training indoors is control. There are no stoplights or stop signs, no icy roads or trails, no traffic, and no other disruptive factors with which to deal. The ability to control every variable – speed, RPMs, power, HR on the bike, or pace, incline and distance on the run – means you can get an effective workout in less time than if you were outdoors. Secondly, while the advent of Zwift and other virtual training tools has certainly helped, without the stimulation of the outdoors, training indoors forces you to better focus and makes you mentally tougher. With the inability to glide along on either the bike or on the treadmill, you are forced to hold pace and can better keep yourself honest. With the treadmill specifically, if you live in a flatter part of the country or do not have easy access to hills, you can gain some great leg strength by conducting hill workouts on the belt.
Some Examples of Effective Indoor Workouts
Each workout should be preceded by an effective warm-up of 10-20 minutes and followed by a relaxed cool down of 10-15 minutes.
Hills and More Hills
5-10 x 2-5-minute Big Gear reps with half-time recovery. Big Gear reps are done at L3 and 55-65rpm; recoveries are L1/L2 at 90-100rpm. These reps simulate hill work and strengthen your hips and glutes by forcing you to better engage your hip flexors and low back. Be sure to keep the body calm and avoid being "all over" the bike like you're trying to manhandle it.
8-12 x 1-2-minute hard efforts with 90-second recovery. Hard efforts are done on a 6-8% gradient at 10k effort; flatten out the treadmill for the easy L1 recoveries. It’s important to not jack the gradient up too much otherwise you risk slowing your turnover rate to a plod.
Start with 30 minutes and build up to a solid hour of alternating 4:45 at L3 with 15 seconds of high RPM spinning (110-120rpm), then immediately settle back in at L3 and normal cadence. Avoid relaxing into L2 as you allow your cadence to slow. You may not shift gears or you may shift into one easier gear for the fast cadence intervals.
Perform 2 x 10-15-minute intervals at L3 with 4-6 minutes moderate L1 between. The goal is to settle into a solid pace that is at or slightly faster than half-marathon pace. Focus on getting into a groove just like you would on a flat trail or stretch of road.
The Speed Machine
Start with 4 x 15-second sprints from a dead stop, quickly accelerating to top speed and 100+rpm before spinning easy for 2:45 after each sprint. After the final recovery spin, head right into 4 x 30-second intervals at L6 with 1:30 easy spinning. Finish up with 4 x 1-minute L5 with 1-2 minutes easy spin between.
Start with 4 x 30-second intervals at 10% gradient with 1-minute recovery periods between. Complete the 30 seconds at an effort similar to running a mile on the track. Flatten out the gradient for the recoveries. Take the final minute recovery and then head right into 4 x 1-minute intervals at 6% gradient with 1-minute recoveries. The hard minutes are run at 5k race effort and the recoveries are again flat. After the final easy minute, go right into 2 x 2 minutes at 0% with 1 minute easy between. Run the 2 minutes at slightly faster than 10k effort, really getting the legs turning over when you’re a bit fatigued and your turnover was slowed down as you fought gravity on the previous reps. If your treadmill can’t get going fast enough here, use the lowest gradient possible to help simulate the proper effort.
Zwift is now robust enough to even allow runners to run within its virtual world. Pretty cool! While I have never tried running in Zwift, I have ridden plenty of miles across its various worlds. My team even set up a virtual group ride -- The Boom Ride with Sonic Boom Racing, every Tuesday evening at 6:05pm Mountain time (here in Colorado). There are countless group rides and races for anyone of any ability, every day of the week.
For example, today was frigid here in Boulder. Rather than risk being miserable outside, I hopped into a virtual race called the P Race. In 1:45, I had warmed up, raced and cooled down, all by 9:15am, and gotten just as much out of it as if it had been a summertime criterium. What's REALLY cool about Zwift is that you can either ride alone or ride with other Zwifters from around the world. I think there were around 80 riders in the P Race today. If you have a Smart trainer, like a Wahoo Kickr, or ride on the indoor trainer with power, then you can hook up to Zwift. Cool stuff!
Indoors Year Round?
The effectiveness of the bike trainer and treadmill cannot be overstated. Even during the most perfect Spring and Summer weather, training indoors can continue to be an extremely effective way to conduct your interval work and further spur your fitness forward. By removing as many variables as possible during your interval workouts, you can more easily discern and quantify your progress.
I like training outside as much as anyone. And, there are plenty of days I do ride outside in the dark and cold as long as it is 30 degrees and the roads are clear of ice. My lights illuminate the road sufficiently enough so I can even descend canyon roads at full speed. However, there are some days when I just don’t want to deal with the cold or the dark or putting on layers of clothing, or days when I simply have to ride inside.
The workouts above provide just a few examples of a well-rounded mix of durations, intensities and stressors. Incorporate them into your current training regimen and create variations of your own. Whatever helps you spice things up and puts you on a more deliberate path to great fitness come next Spring.
Here is a well put together article on Chris Froome and his positive doping test, provided by OnsideView. It's worth a read.
Also of note is that David Walsh is now squarely and finally chiming in. Recall that Walsh was the most staunch of advocates for Team Sky, Bradley Wiggins (until he wasn't) and now Chris Froome (which he still is). As of today, the lastest from Walsh, with his inside view to Team Sky, is that the team, Froome and team doctor Derick McLeod "addressed [Froome's] respiratory problems (before the Vuelta stage in question) by increasing the number of puffs from the inhaler ... but since being caught inhaling on camera during the second stage of the 2014 Criterium du Dauphine, he had decided against using his inhaler in races ... that evening at the finish (of the Vuelta stage in question), wanting to show he was healthy, [Froome] took two or three puffs from his inhaler hoping he would cough less or not at all through the post-race interviews."
This irrational explanation begs a few questions. (1) Why would Froome take a few puffs directly before going into doping control? (2) Had he ever taken a few puffs in a similar situation in any of his previous races and then passed doping control? (3) Did anyone with a video camera or phone camera capture these puffs on film? Surely, with the press swarming him post-stage SOMEBODY captured the moment, right? (4) Why wouldn't Froome still be hacking up the vestiges of being asthamtic during the stage if, indeed, he took no puffs during the stage but did so after? (5) Or, did he use the puffer during the stage even though he supposedly made the decision to never use it again in competition?
The convoluted contradictions of the above quoted statement versus what we've been told during the past few days are many. The chasm between reality and the spin we're being fed today is broader than the Grand Canyon. The questions I pose above are just a few that quickly came to mind. Never mind so many others that have already been asked but not answered. Never mind the complete inconsistencies between Froome's lab stress test results regarding his sweat rate and the massive dehydration that supposedly occurred on a cool, rainy day. Never mind that the sport scientist who performed that lab stress test could only shrug his shoulders and say the Vuelta stage must have been some wild, one-off metabolic anomaly.
Just how many caveats and excuses and wild ass reasons is the general public supposed to believe?
Occam's Razor comes to mind. It speaks to the law of parsimony, that any example of animal behavior should be interpreted at its simplest, most immediate level. It is a philosophical principle, and it is this. When there are competing explanations for an occurrence, the simpler (or simplest) one is typically both better and more accurate. Another way of saying it is that the more assumptions you have to make, the more unlikely an explanation is.
How many assumptions are we being told to make with Chris Froome?
Chris Froome's AAF (Adverse Analytical Finding) occured on Stage 18 of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana. Team Sky and Froome were notified on September 20, after both his A and B samples came back positive. So why the 3-month delay in communicating to the public? What sort of narrative did Sky, Froome, his doctor and lawyers prepare and create during that period of silence? And what does it all mean?
I recently turned 49. Approaching half-time in this thing called Life. While I am not going through a midlife crisis, I am allowing for a moment of pause and reflection.
When taking stock, I’ve got very little about which to complain. I can tell I’m getting older in some ways but not yet others. There are few ‘major life decisions’ which I regret. Relationships, family and friends are all on the rails.
As I think about my continued sporting career, I sense that the curtain is starting to lower on it. Competitively, I’ve accomplished a lot – across swimming, triathlon and now cycling. The first step toward the sunset was when I realized I was happier and more fulfilled in helping teammates win than winning myself. Don’t get me wrong, I still strive to win races that suit my strengths and I still get a charge out of victories. But, helping teammates by playing a key support role is a great rush. To me, this signals a further disconnection between the sport I do and how I define who I am. That I now have an instinctual sense I probably won’t be competing much longer tells me complete disconnection is driving toward completion.
I used to think “Why train if I’m not competing? What’s the purpose, what’s the drive?” The competition was the reason for the training. The race results justified the investment of blood, sweat and tears to the process. But, now, competition is something I do and, to do it well, I know I better be in some semblance of shape. Otherwise, the inherent discomfort of racing will be that much more uncomfortable. Who wants that? Competition has morphed into something I do as an offshoot of all the training rather than a justification for it. It’s a subtle yet material shift in mindset.
Recently, I started riding with a new group of men and women, a Saturday ride I didn’t even know existed in my 25 years in Boulder. Some ex-pro cyclists lead it and it is almost entirely made up of folks who used to compete at a high level but no longer race. It is an ass kicker of a ride, too. The group rides because they love the self-expression cycling allows. They still love the tinge of blood in the throat, the burning in the legs and seeing who will be the hammer or the nails on a given ride. This is the most connected I’ve ever felt in a group ride. And it has further opened my eyes to the realization that training can be its own end to the means.
Regardless of how long I continue to compete – I’m not done yet! – I can now continue forward with a greater appreciation for the journey.
The battle is about to begin. At some point I will no longer be competitive in the strictest terms. But, I will always continue to challenge myself while fighting tooth-and-nail to retain my vitality. While I may not prolong my life, I’ll most definitely increase the quality of life in my advancing years and, hopefully, keep at bay the maladies which tend to afflict folks too early and too often in life.
Typically at this time of year, we relax the reins a little bit regarding our militaristic approach to training and racing. We train less, sleep more, stay up later, pay less attention to exactly what we eat and drink. Especially during the year end holidays, whichever you choose to celebrate.
In doing some research on how alcohol impacts athletic performance, I came upon a study done by UC San Diego that states the average college student drinks more than 34 gallons of alcohol every year. Think about that. There are nearly eleven 12-ounce beers in a gallon, so we’re talking somewhere in the 350-375 beers in a year. While this only adds up to a beer a day, most of the consumption comes via binge drinking during the weekends and typically not every weekend. The ill effects of tipping back a few too many too often cannot be disputed.
Alcohol may provide as much as 20 percent of calories in the diet of some drinkers. On the surface, alcohol consumption seems harmless and a normal part of the college experience. And, for adults a drink or two in the evening is a way to wind down after a rough day at work. However, research overwhelmingly suggests that alcohol use and athleticism do not go hand in hand.
Although it may not be realistic to eliminate the use of alcohol altogether, Masters athletes may want to evaluate their alcohol consumption and determine whether or not they could benefit from reducing their consumption. The following are just some of the effects drinking a bit of alcohol can have on us.
Alcohol is a diuretic that can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. The more alcohol and the stronger the alcohol you drink, the more severe the dehydration can be. If you drink a lot, the ensuing dehydration can require several days to a week for full recovery. While dehydration can lead to things like cramps, muscle pulls, and muscle strains, it can also lead to extreme maladies such as severe brain impairment and even death when coupled with high temperatures and intense workouts (most notable during two-a-days). This reminds me of a 100-mile ride I did the morning after my bachelor party. I woke up dehydrated and feeling less than stellar. The group I was with was a “who’s who” of professional triathletes, duathletes and cyclists, and our collective goal was to cover the 100 miles as fast as possible. My HR was a good 15-20 beats higher than it should have been, but I hung on until about mile 90 before completely exploding. It was agony. I limped in about 10 minutes behind the front group, in 3h 51m. I don’t even remember the majority of the ride because I felt pretty awful.
Alcohol also negatively impacts serum testosterone levels. Decreases in testosterone are associated with decreases in aggression, lean muscle mass, muscle recovery and overall athletic performance. This can also cause testicular shrinkage, breast enlargement, and decreased sperm development in males. In females, this may cause an increase in the production of estradial, (a form of estrogen) which may increase the risk of breast cancer. This isn’t the result of having a single drink most nights. But, if it common for you to consume a bottle of wine at dinner, you are unknowingly opening yourself up to these types of risks. At the very least, you are setting yourself up for a less than stellar workout the next several days.
The biggest thing here is that alcohol interferes with lactic acid breakdown and can result in increased soreness after exercise. The more quickly blood lactate levels rise and the harder it is for your body to process that lactate, the slower you will go.
With nearly as many calories per gram as fat (7cal v 9cal), alcohol is stored much like fat in the body. Also, alcohol destroys amino acids and stores them as fat. Alcohol consumption, therefore, increases fat storage. Powerful energy pathways (like glycolysis) are impaired and large amounts of lactic acid are produced, this results in decreased energy, decreased muscle recovery, and increased muscle soreness. And because alcohol is typically consumed in conjunction with our normal food intake, we tend to consume a lot more calories than our body needs, leading to even more fat storage. Carrying around unnecessary weight absolutely negatively impacts athletic performance.
Sleep has a huge impact on athletic performance. Get too little of it and your body’s ability to repair itself is compromised. The fatigue we feel from a lack of sleep negatively impacts our ability to perform in a workout or a race. Alcohol has a detrimental effect on both the quality of sleep and on daytime attention. The effects of alcohol on sleep and attention are complicated to define and have considerable variability in individuals.
That said, alcohol seems to accelerate falling asleep, at least in subjects who do not tend to fall asleep immediately. “Great!” you might say. However, the negative effects arise later and affect the quality and duration of sleep. Alcohol disturbs or interrupts the sequence of paradoxical sleep and light sleep, both of which are essential to a healthy and full night’s sleep.
The less and worse sleep you get, the worse your athletic performances will be. Disturbed sleep stimulates the sedative effects of alcohol during the waking hours. Alcohol consumed late in the evening will noticeably reduce performance the following morning. By producing an accumulation of nights of poor sleep, well-being starts to be impacted to a considerable degree.
So, should we raid the liquor cabinet and pour all of our alcohol down the drain? No! But, should we be more cognizant of what and how much we are imbibing? Absolutely. It is way too easy to pass off our consumption. We are social creatures and socializing leads to greater alcohol consumption. We enjoy a beer or a handful of them while watching sports. We tend to use alcohol as a destressor after a challenging day at work. And so on.
What is important here is that you come away understanding the real and potential ramifications of your drinking habits. If you have one drink an evening, you’re probably fine. If you have 2-3 most nights, you’re imparing your ability to perform optimally in your training and racing. I’m not suggesting you have a drinking problem. Rather, you can now decide which is more important to you – multiple drinks per evening, or achieving your athletic goals.
At some tipping point, there is a choice to make. I enjoy one beer per evening. During the important weeks of my racing season, I cut back to a beer every other evening and even cut it out altogether. I do sleep better, my body feels better after hard bouts of training because it’s repairing itself more quickly and completely. My training stats see an uptick, as does my racing. So, why not cut alcohol out completely? Because I enjoy it. I don’t need it, but a top quality Belgian beer is quite tasty in the winter just as a light, crisp summer beer can be refreshing during a hot evening. But, sometimes I do take a pass. Sometimes a beer does not sound appealing so I leave it in the fridge.
Ultimately, being cognizant of what we put in our bodies will allow us to make more informed decisions so we can strike the right balance between maximizing what we get from our training and not taking ourselves too seriously too often.