"It's hard to hit the ball when all you can think about is striking out." ~ Unknown
If you're reading this, there's a good chance that you spend hours and hours on your bike, both inside and outside, training to reach your goals. We upload our data to Strava, Connect, and Training Peaks, looking at the metrics that are important to us. Most likely, you know your weekly volume and/or distance, and may go well beyond this with your average speed, maximum speed, elevation gain, average power, normalized power, kilojoules, average cadence, intensity factor, training stress score, variability index, and on and on.
When was the last time you sat down and trained your brain? We ride hard and purposely go out in adverse conditions and call this developing our "mental toughness." And while this is true and can help us to cope with difficult events and less than ideal environmental conditions, most of us can spend more time training one of, if not the greatest limiter: our brain. At some point, and unfortunately for most, it's at many points in our cycling career, we experience times of self doubt and mentally "cracking."
And the list goes on and on.
I found a great resource to at least get you started on properly training your brain. Sports Psychology for Cyclists is a wonderful read, co-authored by Dr. Saul Miller and Peggy Maas Hill. It's not just the theory behind what is becoming more and more popular in all levels of sports these days, but techniques with drills to practice these techniques. It takes time and effort, and is perhaps not as much fun as going out and riding your bike, but the results will speak for themselves. The book has a great flow switching back and forth between the authors, with many anecdotes to help the reader see the connections.
If you find this intriguing, there are also some great resources available on Youtube that are worth checking out. Here's a few for example:
It's All About the Mind: The Psychology of Cycling
Applied Practice in Sport PsychologyThe Psychology of Suffering - How to Handle the Pain
Take your next rest day to train your brain!
BJL Coaching and Cycle Craft teamed up again this winter for our seventh annual Winter Trainer Sessions. The block of ten classes is now complete and was a success. Congratulations to all who attended and chose to get in a solid mid-week workout on the dark and dreary winter nights. And a special shout out to the folks who were able to attend and complete all ten classes:
Chip (been there all 7 years)
Well done, ladies and gentlemen!
Our final class was extra special this year, as we had a guest speaker, Lisa Fleming, who presented on Nutrition for Endurance Athletes after the class was complete. Lisa is a personal trainer, nutritionist, and health coach. In addition to numerous certifications and specialties Lisa has a BA in Sports Medicine and an MS in Sport and Exercise Psychology. Currently Lisa is the tier 4 manager at Equinox Summit where she leads small a team of elite personal trainers and nutritionists who focus on optimizing performance.
Lisa gave us a super presentation, and was kind enough to share the slides (see below).
If you are interested in learning more about this very crucial component of endurance athletes and how it can integrated into your own training, give me a shout (BJLCoaching@gmail.com), and I'll put you in touch with Lisa.
Have you set your goals for the 2016 season yet? You don't need to be a hard-core competitor to benefit from setting goals. Not everyone enjoys setting goals, and often hesitation is due to a fear of failure. Once a goal is "on paper", there it is...it's real. One might not achieve their goals. Failure to accomplish a goal does not make one a failure. By not meeting a goal, we can often learn much about ourselves.
Training and racing without goals is certainly feasible, but it's a fairly sure way to make sure you'll never reach your potential. Goals help drive us, help coaches to create training plans, and give us an idea if we "did it" or not.
This is a very good article on this very topic that was published in Velonews.com several years ago, and it's worth revisiting as the season really starts to get underway.
A cycling coach can help you set realistic and attainable goals. However, goals certainly can be a bit of a reach. And while some folks find motivation by posting their goals on social media, goals can also be private between you and your coach. I do recommend, however, getting your family and support group on board, so they have an understanding of why you do what you do.
So if you haven't set your goals yet for this year, read this article, give me a call, and let's make them a reality!
Set goals the SMART way to achieve real success
This is a good read and certainly goes against some of the "conventional" thinking. Many of us have certainly read about Dr. Allen Lim, and you may be familiar with the Feed Zone Cookbook. You'll see him quoted below.
I've always been a fan of sports drinks with electrolytes, and in particular, sodium. I don't overdo it, but I do add a bit of salt to my foods, particular when I'm training in hot conditions. And it might be hot due to the temperature outside, or due to the fact that it's well below freezing outside and I'm sitting on my trainer or rollers indoors as puddles grow on the floor under me. I've also recently heard of some research being done with magnesium and cramping, and I'm interested to find out more about that.
This article is from Furthermore, from Equinox.
IN DEFENSE OF SALT
While everyone else cuts back, the super-fit may need more.
BY CASSIE SHORTSLEEVE
THE FOOD / NUTRITION
January 19th, 2016
Second only to sugar on the ingredient blacklist, salt gets more than its fair share of shade. But for high-performing bodies, avoiding salt may come at a serious price.
Consider this: 2,300 milligrams of sodium, equivalent to the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for salt, can easily be lost in an hour of heavy sweating, says Allen Lim, Ph.D., a sports physiologist and founder of Skratch Labs. “Athletes or anyone who sweats on a daily basis needs more salt than those who are not sweating because the primary electrolyte lost in sweat is salt.”
Chronic sodium depletion is actually fairly common in athletes, partially because there can be no symptoms, says Scott Weiss, C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist and physical therapist. (While working with triathletes, Weiss and his team found 20 to 30 percent were suffering from sodium depletion and had no signs of it.) “Just as tons of people walk around with disc injuries to their backs, unbeknownst, there are tons of people walking around with undiagnosed sodium depletion,” he says.
This chronic depletion can result in overtraining syndrome—when you work beyond your body’s ability to recover properly, says Lim. (If you’re an endurance athlete, have chronically low blood pressure, feel lightheaded when you stand, or are depressed, those can all be signs that your salt levels are too low, Lim says.)
If you’re working out three to five days a week, hitting the two-hour-plus mark at a session, sweating the whole time, you should think about adding more sodium to your diet—whether or not you see signs of needing to, says Weiss. While it’s true that all athletes may benefit from more salt than the average person (simply because they sweat more), there’s a direct relationship between duration, frequency, and sodium loss, says Weiss. In other words, it’s those of us who go long and hard who usually lose the most sweat and salt.
For a two to three hour workout, Lim recommends downing a sports drink with at least 600 to 700 milligrams of sodium per liter. But know: Most sports drinks clock in on the lower end when it comes to sodium content, he says. Only working out an hour? You can replace water and salt post-sweat session, he says.
“Athletes aren’t listening to themselves and, despite craving salt, are often told or think they aren’t suppose to be consuming it,” says Lim. “The body is pretty smart at taking care of itself, so my general rule of thumb is that if an athlete has been sweating a lot, I encourage them to satiate their desire for salt.”
Food is another option: Just six pretzel rods can have about 600 milligrams of sodium—which is usually enough to replenish and get you back to baseline, Weiss says. Fruits and vegetables are a good bet, too. Carrots, beets, celery, and cottage cheese all have good amounts of sodium. To make sure you stay balanced—and don’t overdo it—eat salty foods alongside potassium, suggests Weiss. “Potassium can help to balance out any excess sodium.” Many vegetables like spinach and beans have both; bananas are also potassium-packed.
Starting in my late teens, I typically had a very difficult time waking up in the morning. Of course, having a full time job as a high school teacher and a passion for racing helped me to overcome that issue, but until my mid 30's, I was often a multiple alarm guy. Even though I evolved into a person who could get up, sometimes very early without an alarm, I still typically did not train early in the morning. When I was a bachelor and wasn't working over the summers, this would sometimes lead to getting in my bike much later than anticipated and riding through the hottest part of the day. Or, even worse, sometimes starting in the afternoon and riding into the evening, only to come home all jacked up and finding it difficult to fall asleep. Which of course, led to training later the next day, and the cycle continued.
Well that was all fine and good when it wasn't significantly impacting my life, but over the past 3 years I've have some awesome life changes (getting married and having a son) which made it necessary to be more flexible and yet more scheduled for my training rides. And although many days I do train in the evenings, I've become accustomed to training at the butt crack o' dawn, or even well before it. I dare say I even I enjoy getting out that early.
I saw this cool article on Bicycling Magazine dot com that gives some nice tips: 9 Ways to Make Riding in the Morning Easier
While I'm not a huge fan of the suggestion of skipping breakfast, I think the rest of them are great. As far as the food goes, I believe a little something in your belly to get you going is important. I would often do some peanut butter on toast with a banana. I eat this pretty much as soon as I get up so I have the time I'm getting dressed and getting my bike ready to digest a bit.
I really love the "don't check e-mail" tip. That goes for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. They are black holes of time and before you know it, you've eaten up 15, 30, or even more minutes of valuable training time.
Another tip I would add if you're going to get out super early is get yourself a great tail light and head light. I purchased my first bar and head lamps back in 1995 for my first 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race. Over the next 10 years of 24 Hour Racing, I picked up a new light or two, but no new purchase since 2004. Boy, has the technology really progressed. I purchased a Niterider Lumina 550 from Cycle Craft. It's a one piece unit that's USB rechargeable and super bright. I've found it sufficient for light night mountain biking, and perfect when supplemented with a head light. I picked up and extra bracket so I can swap it from each of my training bikes and not spend time in the morning swapping things around. Sometimes just the novelty of starting in the dark in the morning is enough to get me fired up.
The more prepared you can be, the better you'll be in the morning. As the article suggest, get your clothes all set, but also get your bottles and food ready to go. This way you can just roll out of bed, grab a little grub and coffee if you do that sort of thing, get in your kit, snag your bottles, and you're off.
It also helps to have good quality gear. My team kit has provided me with plenty of options for my tops and bottoms, along with good jackets. Additionally, I always knew my head, hands, and feet would be well cared for regardless of the conditions thanks to my incredible Sealskinz pieces. It's worth the investment to keep yourself more comfortable and warm. It also eliminates excuses if the weather is unfavorable!
And there is certainly something to be said about looking back on your day on knowing that you've gotten several hours of saddle time and it's only 9 am. A little smugness never hurt anyone...just make sure it's only a little!
Now get out and ride your bike!
The Benefits of Caffeine for Endurance AthletesThursday, August 7, 2014 | By Dr. Rick Kattouf
Understandably so, endurance athletes are always in search of a boost in energy and performance. More often than not, caffeine is the go-to for athletes. But is caffeine truly an ergogenic aid and is it safe?
According to American College of Sports Medicine, caffeine may be the most widely used stimulant in the world. It can come in many forms such as coffee, nutrition supplements, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks and chocolate. Caffeine can reach its highest levels in the blood approximately one hour after ingestion. It can have a stimulant effect on the brain as well as affect blood pressure, pulse rate, stomach acid production and fat stores. Many athletes use caffeine as a potential ergogenic aid and performance enhancer.
PerformanceCaffeine may help mobilize fat stores, enabling the body to use fat as its primary fuel source. By utilizing fat as fuel, this allows the body to spare glycogen, which is an additional fuel source for the body stored in the muscles and liver. (For more on this check out Why Athletes Need Carbohydrates). By delaying muscle glycogen depletion, exercise can be prolonged enabling the athlete to go harder, longer, faster and perform more reps before fatigue.
Glycogen sparing is most crucial in the first 15 minutes of exercise. This is when caffeine can help significantly decrease glycogen depletion. Even though caffeine reaches its highest levels in the blood 45 to 60 minutes after ingestion, some research suggest consuming caffeine three or more hours before exercise is most beneficial. The reason is that caffeine may have a maximum effect on fat stores several hours after peak blood levels.
The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition says that caffeine in the amount equivalent to one to three cups of coffee lowers heart rate during sub-maximal exercise, but not at near maximal or maximal exercise. The effects of caffeine were measured during dynamic leg exercise on a cycle ergometer. According to the Journal of Applied Physiology, no significant differences were noted in terms of heart rate.
Recent work by the ACSM, on well-trained athletes reported that 3-9mg caffeine per kg (kilogram) of body weight one-hour prior to exercise increased running and cycling endurance in the laboratory.
RecoveryCaffeine may also help assist in enhancing recovery after exercise. According to the American Physiological Society, four hours post-exercise, muscle glycogen increased 66 percent by ingesting a carbohydrate drink containing caffeine as compared to the carbohydrate-only drink. This type of increase in muscle glycogen can help to expedite recovery and it will help to make the next day's workout that much more productive. The carbohydrate and caffeine drink post-exercise also resulted in higher blood glucose and plasma insulin.
Side EffectsEach individual can respond differently to caffeine. It can have many side effects such as poor sleep quality, gastrointestinal distress, fatigue, headaches, muscle cramping, dehydration and anxiety. Caffeine can also have a diuretic effect by increasing blood flow to the kidneys and inhibiting the re-absorption of sodium and water. According to the American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs, moderate consumption of caffeine likely has no negative effect on one's health, as long as an otherwise healthy nutrition and fitness lifestyle is followed.
Is It Legal In Competition?Based on information provided by the IOC (International Olympic Committee), athletes are allowed up to 12 ug (micorgrams) caffeine per milliliter urine before it is considered illegal (15 ug as per the NCAA). These limits allow athletes to consume ‘normal’ amounts of caffeine prior to competition.
In summary, caffeine may help assist in performance and recovery. As with any supplement/drug, be sure to use responsibly and always consult with your physician if you have any questions regarding caffeine use and your known medical condition(s), current medications, etc.
ABOUT THE AUTHORBest-Selling Author and Fitness & Nutrition expert Dr. Rick Kattouf has been named one of America’s PremierExperts® and one of the World Fitness Elite™ Trainers of the Year. He has been seen on ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates around the country as well as in the USA Today, Chicago Tribune and The Independent in the UK. Rick is the CEO/Founder of TeamKattouf, Inc., CEO/Founder of TeamKattouf Nutrition LLC, Creator of TeamKattouf Nutrition Supplements, Host of Rx Nutrition, author of Forever Fit, Creator of 5-Round Fury Fitness™ workout app, Sports Nutrition Specialist, ITCA Triathlon Coach, MMA Conditioning Coach, Food Psychology Coach, Wellness and Nutrition Consultant, Sports Nutrition Consultant, Heart Rate Performance Specialist, Entrepreneur and Inspirational Speaker. View Rick's Training Plans, check out his websites www.teamkattouf.com and www.5roundfury.com or reach him at: email@example.com.
Interesting read! I have a little study that I did on caffeine where n=1 that I'll post up shortly.
Coach B.L. is the head coach at BJL Coaching and an avid racer and cycling enthusiast himself.