Interval Work Without A Power Meter: 3-Tips To Maximize Your Next Interval Session
With the proliferation of power-meter technology it has become much simpler for cyclists of every ability to perform workouts that specifically target and develop all facets of their cycling fitness.
However, despite the availability of cost-effective power-based training solutions, many Athletes still rely-on, and benefit from, training exclusively with a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM).
Although it is true that power-meters allow for the prescription of more complex and challenging workout protocols, every Athlete can benefit from having a deeper understanding of the ways Heart Rate and Rate of Perceived Exertion influence workout quality.
In order to help Athletes using HRM's get the most from their training, as well as aide power-meter users in the event that they must rely on Heart Rate data to train, we have compiled three-tips to make your next interval session more focused, potent, and effective.
Stay focused on the workout and don't rush to get your H.R. in the 'zone' during a steady-state interval, let Perceived Exertion be your guide at the start. Photo Credit: Doug Earnest, Inland Sports Photography
#1: Let Your Heart Rate Build Gradually
Because Heart Rate Values do not immediately respond to our physical output, as in there is a lag of up to 15-30sec. (sometimes more), it is best to start any steady-state interval using the Perceived Exertion Scale.
An easy tip is to begin your interval by applying the power (think pressure on the pedals) that will raise your H.R. to the prescribed level, not more.
Although it is easy to do so, do not fall into the trap of increasing the intensity excessively in order to elevate your H.R. to the prescribed level. Be confident that your H.R. will get in the zone in due time.
Instead, place your emphasis on developing the ability to gauge the appropriate output that matches the prescribed effort. Don't make the interval session harder than it should be, just to get your Heart Rate in the prescribed zone.
Remember, each interval starts and ends with your legs, not when your H.R.M. reads the entry and exit of the prescribed training zone.
Note: For those unfamiliar, the Perceived Exertion Scale is a 1-10 scale that utilizes our own self-awareness. Level 1 is equal to minimal output, while Level 10 is akin to a maximal output for the prescribed duration.
#2: Aim For A Consistent Effort & Even Output
Executing successful steady-state intervals using Heart Rate and Perceived Exertion requires consistent pressure be applied to the pedals.
This requires the Athlete to shift to harder and easier gears as the terrain undulates and momentum changes during an interval.
Shifting regularly will allow you to both maintain the steady-state effort and better accomplish pedal cadence targets that may be prescribed in a particular workout protocol.
This technique will become increasingly important as fatigue sets-in during long intervals or when you begin to tire from repeated interval work.
One way to make a steady-state interval easier is to select a portion of road that is as even and consistent as possible.
By selecting steady roads and shifting regularly, an Athlete can modulate their output to create properly executed intervals without a power-meter.
The R.P.E. 1-10 Scale is adapted from the Borg 6-20 scale and is similar to the "pain tolerance scale" which is used in Emergency Rooms across the United States. Photo Credit: KeyWordSuggest.org
#3: Breath Deeply & Purposefully
Heart Rate Values are heavily influenced by a myriad of outside factors, which can make it difficult to compare the sensations of the same workout performed in varying conditions.
Some common influencing factors for Endurance Athletes include, but are not limited to, caffeine consumption, fatigue, hydration-levels, and even breathing rate.
Of all these factors, the most easily controlled while executing an interval, is breathing rate.
In order to execute consistent steady-state Heart Rate-based intervals, it is best to utilize deep "belly breaths" focusing on prolonged exhales, rather than shallow "staccato" breaths that characterize breathing from the upper chest.
At Big Wheel Coaching, we think of this deep breathing work as, "purposeful breathing".
For those that are familiar with yoga, the method of "Ujjayi" breathing is a useful comparison (Note: "ujjayi" is pronounced oo-jaa-ee).
Although "ujjayi" breathing in yoga is performed primarily using nose-breathing, Endurance Athletes should mimic this same focused deep-breathing technique using both the mouth and nasal passages.
By taking full, consistently deep-breaths during an interval you will reduce erratic H.R. values and most-likely increase the speed you achieve on each interval too!
Bonus Tip: Don't Judge The Day On Your First Effort
Whether starting your interval session as part of an early morning workout or after a long-day at work, it is important to keep in mind that the first interval is often perceived to be the hardest.
Although subsequent intervals will not get easier (much to the contrary in many cases), the initial discomfort of interval training is most intense when the body has not fully 'warmed-up' for the effort.
This is especially true for those Athletes squeezing in a quick workout on a busy day, efforts performed with an insufficient warm-up, or any session that was not preceded by a rest-day.
Although this knowledge will not make any interval-day easier to execute, it most certainly should give you confidence knowing that completing the first interval inherently makes subsequent efforts easier to conquer.
Simply put, if you get through the first interval, subsequent intervals are more doable!
Selecting a steady road is key to properly executing intervals, broken, cracked, or consistently undulating roads can add unnecessary stress to a workout. Photo Credit: Brian McCulloch
Although power-meters are making it easier to prescribe, evaluate, and perform interval training sessions, understanding Heart Rate training principles and how to use our own self-awareness (Perceived Exertion) to execute proper steady-state workouts cannot be undervalued.
This knowledge must be reinforced through personal experience and can go a long way to boosting training adaptation while minimizing the risk of over-training.
If you have questions about Heart Rate Training, the Perceived Exertion Scale, and how knowledge of each topic can help you achieve your best fitness, contact us to schedule a coaching consultation.
We would be glad to detail each topic as it applies to your fitness and training environment.
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian and Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching
A Sign Of Success To Come Following The Team Tactics & Race Strategy Training Camp: 4-Questions With Paul Chia
Paul Chia has been a competitive road cyclist for many years, racing in the ultra-competitive SoCal road and criterium scene.
Having recently earned his Category 1 upgrade (the highest distinction possible for a non-pro racer), Paul has been working diligently, each year, to refine his ‘race-craft’ and achieve success at the races.
That is why when we announced the Team Tactics & Race Strategy Training Camp, Paul was one of the first riders to say he would be there!
The three-day training camp was about far more than fitness.
It was almost entirely dedicated to helping every rider learn the strategic and tactical elements of racing necessary to get results all season long.
And we are excited to say that it didn’t take long for Paul to apply the lessons learned from camp!
He sprinted to a spectacular 3rd place finish in Sunday’s CBR Series Opener Criterium.
The event coincided with Day #3 of our training camp and offered our Athletes a chance to apply the principles learned with the support and guidance of our coaches before and after the race.
With Paul’s success fresh on his mind, we asked him to answer a few questions about the camp as well as his racing goals for this weeks BWC Athlete Profile. Enjoy!
Primary Sport/Discipline: Road Cycling
Average Hours of Training Per Week: 12-14hrs
Upcoming Goals: The San Dimas Stage Race
Paul Chia has been a "student of the game", so to speak, in his cycling for many years and loves to race as much as he can. Photo Credit: TRU Cycling
Question #1: You were very ‘scrappy’ in the Masters 45+ race at the CBR Series Opener Criterium, scoring a hard-fought 3rd place finish against some big teams. How did the race play out for you?
Paul Chia:From the gun there were relentless attacks and break-aways, it was an aggressive race!
I was attentive to anything that could be dangerous, which put me into a couple of solid break-aways, but each time the peloton reeled us back.
Being the first race of the year, and with a few new teams and faces in the peloton, the bunch was very motivated to keep the race together, meaning it was very likely to be a sprint finish.
After about 30 minutes of racing, I followed another dangerous break-away. I could feel that the peloton had a lot of momentum and the anticipation of a sprint was building, so decided to sit-up and wait for the group.
It was time to ready myself for the sprint.
That turned out to be a smart move as that break-away was quickly caught.
During the last 5-laps I tried to fight my way through the pack toward the front and onto the big teams lead-out trains.
There was a lot of chaos in the peloton with various teams wrestling for control of the front. Because there was so many big teams and not a lot of room, I took what I could in regards to position.
Going into the last turn I was somewhere around 10th wheel, a very good position coming into the headwind sprint down the home-straight.
From the corner I maintained good momentum and followed the wheels.
I had a good “kick” and accelerated around many of the riders that were falling-away to grab 3rd place in the 45+!
Note: This race is a combined peloton of 45+ and 50+ racers, making the race very complex as there are many teams and riders in each category vying for the podium.
I am very pleased with the result from Sunday, especially knowing this is the first race of the season. I hope this is a sign of good things to come!
Coaches Perspective/Coach Brian: This was an exciting race to watch and I was so happy to see Paul sprint his way onto the podium!
Being on a smaller team, Paul had to cover numerous dangerous moves that came early in the race, which sapped precious energy. All to often this is the kiss-of-death for riders on smaller teams as they deplete their energy reserves before the race has solidified.
One thing we discussed at the Team Tactics & Race Strategy Training Camp was sprint timing.
On Day #2 we worked on ‘timing’ the sprint to help each rider understand when they could go all-out to the line without slowing.
We did this so that each rider would then be able to identify what positioning they needed to jockey-for should the race finish in a sprint.
Obviously Paul took this lesson to heart and made the most of it!
He is a pretty ‘handy’ sprinter anyway, but with the confidence in knowing the position he should hold going into the final corner, Paul could follow attacks during the race and still be competitive in the sprint.
Well done Paul!
Paul Chia sprinted to 3rd place in a very challenging and aggressive race at the CBR Series Opener Criterium in the Master 45+ category. Photo Credit: California Bicycle Racing
Question #2: At the Team Tactics & Race Strategy Training Camp we did “on the bike” work as well as video study sessions on sprint timing, positioning, and tactics. Did any of this help you find your way to the podium on Sunday at CBR?
PC:Yes, it helped tremendously!
I learned how to better position myself and time my sprint optimally. The tips helped me to read the course and field properly.
Coach Brian: One of my favorite components of a training camp like we hosted is that we get to work one-on-one with every Athlete to help them bolster their weaknesses and maximize their strengths.
For Paul this meant working through the various tactical considerations for what we call, “under-dog sprinting”. That is, navigating a sprint without the benefit of a full lead-out train or teammates.
In essence, we wanted to teach our riders how to be opportunists!
Having recently received his Category 1 upgrade, the highest level possible for road racing, Paul could easily think that there is nothing more to learn as a racer…
But that would be far from the truth!
Instead, Paul remains a “student of the game”, working to build his fitness and hone his tactical approach to racing.
I know I can speak for all of us at BWC when I say it was incredible to work with Paul and his CBS Cycling/DNA Racing teammates at our camp!
As the owner and lead technician at CBS Cycling in Santa Clarita, Paul Chia has had his share of "off the bike" awards to go along with his recent Category 1 upgrade. Photo Credit: Paul Chia.
Question #3: As a newly ‘minted’ Category 1 Road Racer, you are still learning and working to improve your skills. What is something you learned from the Team Tactics & Race Strategy Training Camp that you can use all season at the races?
PC:I can use everything we learned in every race of the season!
What made a particular impression on me was the methods we learned to “do my homework” before an event.
Now I have better tools to evaluate the critical aspects of a course and to research who will be my competition at a race.
Coach Brian: “Doing your homework” is a concept we go through with all our BWC Athletes regardless of the size or type of event.
We think it’s an often over-looked element of coaching, mainly because it is far easier to focus solely on the fitness aspect of preparation.
In reality, there comes a point when no more physical improvement can be attained before an event.
That is when the best way to positively influence your chances of success is by researching the course, the competition, the weather, and anything else that might be useful to know during the event.
At the Team Tactics & Race Strategy Training Camp we helped each Athlete develop their best strategy by fully understanding their strengths and weaknesses as well as likely event outcomes, so they were as prepared as possible to capitalize on each scenario.
Paul Chia and his CBS/DNA Racing Teammates are known for their pink team colors that can be easily picked out of a crowd! Photo Credit: Ken Vietzke
Question #4: What is one of your biggest cycling objectives for this season and what events are you most excited about?
PC:I want to win a race!!!
My main goal for this season is to win a race. In truth, that is what brought me to the Team Tactics & Race Strategy Training Camp.
I want to give myself every opportunity to achieve that goal this year and knew the camp would help me work toward achieving that goal.
I have been close to a win in the past, but I have always been missing something…
I should also say that I am looking forward to racing with my teammates at CBS/DNA Racing this season!
My first target of the season is next weekend at the Santa Barbara Road Race, a hard, circuit-style, road race that is usually brutalized by cross-winds.
After that I am focusing on the San Dimas Stage Race, the various Rosena Ranch Circuit Race events throughout the year, the entire CBR series, and The Sea Otter Classic in NorCal. It’s going to be a great season!
Coach Brian: I am so excited to hear that Paul has a full season of racing ahead and plenty of opportunities to achieve his goal of winning a race.
My guess is that following up on all that we worked through at the Team Tactics & Race Strategy Training Camp, Paul’s first win is not far off.
And if there is one thing history has taught us about winning, it is that winning is a habit… meaning that once you do it once, subsequent wins are easier to achieve!
We hope you have enjoyed reading about Paul Chia’s racing success in his first race of the 2019 season as a part of the Team Tactics & Race Strategy Training Camp.
We enjoyed working directly with each rider that attended our camp as it was our sole focus to help each of them make 2019 their best season yet!
And for anyone who missed out on our Training Camp, know that a 2.0 version is already in the works!
So, stay-tuned to our social media channels for an announcement about future BWC events that can help you maximize your event-day performances.
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian & Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching
We are humbled to have had an overwhelming positive response to Joy’s article about riding and training after pregnancy, so I (Joy) decided to delve deeper, rewind the tape a bit, and shed some light on how I stayed active through pregnancy.
I believe these simple steps can be transcend pregnancy and be applied to any individual experiencing a big ‘life event’. You may even find them useful in a time when you are dealing with injury, depression, illness or a lack of motivation.
At the beginning, I had grandiose expectations of cranking out mega training throughout my pregnancy…
I even logged a 300-mile week when I was just 7-weeks pregnant, mostly because my body (and the nausea I was experiencing) felt better while moving. So I had a glimmer of hope this pattern would continue.
Soon however, I started to feel things - everything - slowing down.
I decided it would be a smart idea to forecast my expectations for the months leading into birth, so I created a rough training plan, culminating with my goal event (the birth) at the end of June. Much like training for a peak event within the cycling season, I viewed birth as my Olympics, my once in a lifetime opportunity to be at my best in mind, body and soul.
Going through the process of creating a training plan was eye opening is it highlighted some areas vastly overlooked in my past decade of training. As I refocused and began preparing for my key event, these are the practices that I used to supplement the countless solo hours I had been spending on the bike.
Coach Joy took to a weekly pre-natal yoga class to center her mind and prepare her body for her "goal event", the birth of Baby Seamus. Photo Credit: Joy McCulloch
I am fortunate to be part of a lovely yoga community at Vasa in Redlands that offers a wonderful Prenatal yoga practice. I joined the weekly class around 18 weeks pregnant and went each week up to birth.
This practice offered me a space to commiserate with expectant moms; find my breath; and be led through various mental and physical movements specifically tailored to birth - all of which I used when Seamus was born!
Seamus (Shay-mus) was born with the oversight of a midwife at a birth center here in Yucaipa. He was not born in a hospital as I wanted to have as natural of a birthing process as possible. With that said, actively working to ground my mind and soul leading into birth would ensure a natural birth remained an option when overcome by emotion and fear. The time and intention I spent on my yoga practice was so important! And it sure was fun meeting up with the yoga moms and our new kiddos!
Coach Joy spent a bit of time on her MTB, even doing a short version of the Redlands Strada Rossa Gravel Event to keep active and have fun on two wheels.Photo Credit: Joy McCulloch
I rode my bike 4-5 days a week and I never even changed my position on my road bike! There came a time I opted for my mountain bike and stuck to trails and our local park to ride, even doing an 8-mile ride on my due date around the park!
As you would guess, I was going slower and slower each day. What’s more my heart rate and breathing became labored with very light pressure on the pedals which was almost comical… but at least I was riding!
I was outside - a place I have spent countless hours each day since I was a child - so I was determined that being pregnant wasn’t going to stop that.
I loved riding my MTB or CX bike on our local trails, even descending tight switchbacks until I was about 7-months along. I would have kept that up, except I have to climb up in order to come down, and there was a day I realized too late in the route I had gone too far. Sitting on the side of the trail under the shade of a tree, I checked my phone app to see how close Brian was and if he could come get me. Nope, he’s too far…
Pedal on and enjoy this final single track descent of the summer was my mindset!
I think I rode my trainer 5-times pregnant but to be honest it was so uncomfortable. I felt stuck and unable to move around, and the need for fresh air was too high to keep me inside. I was fortunate to spend much of my pregnancy in the winter/spring and you just cannot beat the SoCal winter weather. I felt comfortable and confident on the bike and never once felt unsafe.
I am not a rider that is known for being a crash-risk in general, so I wasn’t overly concerned. I would do a balance test each ride and see if I could still ride no-hands. I passed this test every time, so I decided that meant it was safe to ride outside.
After 20-weeks, however, I pulled myself from the group ride because the 3-hours workout necessitated a nap of the same duration, and I just didn’t have time for that!
Besides cycling, Coach Joy balanced her outdoor time with some trail hiking to enjoy the great outdoors with our dog, Dixie.Photo Credit: Joy McCulloch
We are surrounded by fantastic trail systems, so I opted to set out by foot several days a week as well. This provided me the chance to catch up with friends that I don’t get to connect with through cycling, and what an enriching experience! Walking, hiking, and chatting with wonderful people was a great way to “fill my cup” and keep the ligaments and muscles moving without too much stress.
The big bonus was taking our Chocolate Lab Dixie with me everywhere. We lost our Mama-Bear Moto (our oldest and original Chocolate Lab we had since she was six-weeks old) in the spring, so this time together was very important for both Dixie and I.
One foggy Saturday my friend Lauren and I logged 7.5-miles with over 2K of climbing. I was 7-months pregnant, slept about 2 hours on the couch afterwards, and quickly realized my ever shifting reality was that movement was becoming more and more taxing as my belly continued to grow.
I also had to scratch one trail system off the list due to mountain lion sightings - I was just too big and slow to get away from any wildlife, and since it was so hot outside I was hiking at dusk - bad combo no matter how you slice it! We got to hike trails I have ridden my bike on since 2003, and going by foot provides a whole new perspective!
I have never napped so much in my life. I am known to be a “sleepy bear”, like an 8-9hr a night type of gal.
As time progressed, I needed 1-2 naps a day to get a reboot. Pregnancy fatigue is the real deal, and should be treated as such! Feed the fatigue, and rest more than you ever thought, and maybe you will have enough energy for everything else.
Coach Joy made a training plan with her "A-Race" being the birth of Baby Seamus, she used all the aspects of a periodized training plan and tapered for her event with one final ride on her due-date. Photo Credit: Joy McCulloch
Back to my original training plan. I actually created the plan in October, while I was teaching a cycling coaching certification course and needed to go through the steps with the attendees. It was reassuring to have a definitive end and culmination of hard work. Although the date was a moving target, the steps were still the same.
Following traditional models of training I selected specific days for yoga, cycling, hiking, and rest. I used rest days to reconnect with non-cycling friends or do house prep for baby. And as I continued to move through the trimesters, the durations of activity began to lessen and some of the ride time was replaced with more yoga.
I logged all my activities just as I would while racing, and kept close tabs on my perception of effort, heart rate, and overall feeling.
Watching heart rate was interesting, because a good laugh session would give me interval-type numbers, and I honestly didn’t have the desire to ride hard. I gained just under 50lbs and it takes a lot to move 195lbs up a technical trail, going slow proved to be work enough!
The week leading into my due-date I logged just under 5 hours of activity, including walking a crit course while Brian was racing, and on my due date I rode 8-miles, then stuck to movement by foot until Seamus arrived 3-days later.
For me, staying active during pregnancy was really important. It shifted from fitness to movement quite quickly with the over-arching goal of being strong and healthy for birth. I worked hard leading into pregnancy to be fit and strong, riding and training close to what I had done when I was racing professionally. Starting the process at that point was really important and set a strong foundation for me to begin this journey into uncharted territory.
I can happily say that once the process of birth began, I was ready for my the key event of a lifetime!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian and Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching
Endurance Athletes everywhere are seeking performance gain and have set goals for themselves that demand they push themselves to new heights.
But is performance gain merely a series of workouts and metrics that must be tracked, monitored, and exploited for physical gain?
Of course not!
As Athletes, our minds are the pilots of our bodies and enable us to push our boundaries.
Which is why we believe developing mental toughness and understanding sports psychology are as valuable to an Athletes’ training program as physical training and proper nutrition.
And if you are looking for resources, or an example, of how powerful our minds are in regards to performance, look no further than David Goggins.
Besides being a Navy SEAL and Special Forces warrior, Goggins has achieved incredible feats in ultra-marathon running events as well earning the world pull-up record.
In his book, Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind & Defy The Odds, Mr. Goggins shares his story about how he developed his “Can’t Hurt Me” mentality which is characterized by extreme mental toughness.
Although the book is focused on mental toughness and “callusing the mind”, as Mr. Goggins puts it, he does so by sharing his personal struggles, his demons, and the abusive upbringing he faced to become a warrior.
"Can't Hurt Me" by David Goggins is a hardcore book full of straight-talk and some dark stories, but the lessons are priceless. Photo Credit: DavidGoggins.com
In the book Mr. Goggins shares a quote to outline his “can’t hurt me” mentality as well as his personal quest to become the “one” warrior:
“Out of every one-hundred men, ten shouldn't even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” Heraclitus
Among the other stand-out quotes and concepts, here are a few of the topics that we think are the most applicable to Endurance Athletics and your pursuit of a wildly successful 2019:
You Have To Do The Reps
Mr Goggins was not always a stud, and on a path to be the toughest man alive, there was a time in his life that he would take the easy path in every situation.
In order to create better habits and to overcome the desire for comfort, Goggins says, “you have to do the repetitions”.
By that he means that there are no hacks and no short-cuts to success.
Yes there are ‘best practices’ and better ways of doing things, but to be strong an Athlete must put in the work!
Triple Down On Your Weaknesses:
If you spend any time researching personal development there is a notion that suggests that you should master your strengths and delegate the tasks you are weak at.
Although that might be a solid business strategy, it is not the best way forward for a cyclist or Endurance Athlete.
In order to be a well-rounded cyclist, an Athlete must ‘triple-down’ on their weaknesses and work to make these limiters become strengths.
David Goggins wants you to callous your mind and become extremely mentally tough!Photo Credit: Reddit.com
The 40% Rule:
David Goggins is known for doing Herculean things like winning ultra-marathon races and smashing the world pull-up record, but he has also had many failures including two failed attempts at the pull-up world record.
In all of this he learned that when an Athlete thinks they are “done”, “cooked”, “smoked”, or “smashed” they have only used 40% of their capacities.
By that he means that you are capable of so much more and have significant reserves even when you are “at the limit”.
The only way to test this theory is to push yourself farther and go-deeper…
But having coached many Athletes over the years, we can confidently say that your potential is immense and that Mr. Goggins is onto something with the 40% rule!
Callous The Mind Like A Weight-Lifter Calluses Their Hands
Weight-Lifters are known for having thick callous’ on their hands from all of the weights they have lifted.
These callouses protect their hands and are the result of a lot of work as well as many repetitions in the gym.
Mr. Goggins suggests that just as weight-lifters seek to callous their hands, every Athlete should callous their mind in order to be strong and resilient in the face of adversity.
To be “uncommon” is to be out of the ordinary.
For David Goggins, his goal was to be uncommon amongst uncommon men. He wanted to be the alpha amongst all the other “alphas”.
The idea at play here is that being uncommon by seeking continuous improvement in all areas of your life is uncommon as our world is built around convenience and comfort.
In practice, we would say that if you have read this far in our article you are definitely “uncommon”!
To Mr Goggins, being uncommon is a matter of holding yourself to a high standard.
Pain Is Temporary
Although this notion is not new to the Endurance Sporting community, Mr. Goggins echos the notion that pain is temporary.
Where his perspective differs is that this notion should breed confidence and help an Athlete push themselves beyond their limits because they know any discomfort will not last.
David Goggins was not always an incredible Athlete, before he become one of the toughest men alive he was nearly 300lbs and craved milkshakes or donuts while working the graveyard-shift for an exterminating company. Photo Credit: U.S. Veterans Magazine
We hope that you have enjoyed this brief overview of “Can’t Hurt Me”, by David Goggins and that it has sparked an interest to read his book.
Although some of his story is very dark and his tone can be confronting, the book is written from a perspective to help you be your best. To illustrate that point Mr. Goggins opens his book with this quote:
“I did not write this book to be your hero, this book is about realizing you are the hero of your own story.”
And as Coaches that believe your potential is immense, we want to spread that message!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian and Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching
A Wickedly Successful '19 Starts With Evaluating Current Fitness: 5-Tips To Better Threshold Testing
The New Year is upon us and you have big goals!
And at some point in your preparation there is going to be a need to execute a threshold test to evaluate your fitness level.
Does the notion of a 20min. sustained maximum effort intimidate you?
If it does, don’t worry, you are not alone, the dreaded 20min. Threshold Test causes both stress and anxiety for many Athletes that see this vicious protocol come across their workout calendar.
With this in mind, we are dedicating this edition of the BWC Coaches Corner to five tips to executing a flawless threshold test.
Threshold Testing is hard, but a very valuable part of the training process. Here is an example of the Threshold Testing Protocol on TrainingPeaks. Photo Credit: BigWheelCoaching, Inc.
Five Tips To Execute A Flawless Threshold Test:
In order to produce your very best effort, you must be well-rested and warmed-up properly before the effort starts.
For each Athlete, being ‘warmed-up’ means something different. Some riders prefer a short intense warm-up, while others prefer a longer less intense prelude to the Threshold Test.
We recommend that you try both options to determine what works best for you. There are advantages to short intense warm-ups as well as longer, less intense ones.
What is most important is that your legs, aerobic-system, and mind are ready to give a maximal effort for the full 20 minute effort.
Regardless of warm-up duration, we suggest adding 2-4 one-minute ‘leg openers’ to the warm-up process.
These efforts require an Athlete to start on a flat road in a moderate gear and then push that gear harder and harder until they are giving a maximum seated effort for the final 15 seconds of the one-minute interval.
These efforts can go a long way to ensuring the body is ready to produce a maximal effort.
#2: The Route
Choosing a route that offers an uninterrupted road, preferably with a steady incline is key to creating an evenly-paced effort.
If the road has undulations, steep pitches, dangerous intersections, or blind curves, it should be avoided.
The goal with route selection is to find a piece of road that simulates a laboratory-type setting. When performing a Threshold Test, you want something that is completely predictable with no surprises!
By selecting a route that is mundane and predictable, you, as the Athlete, can put all of your focus into generating the very best effort possible.
Note: Your chosen test area, assuming it works well, should be used for all subsequent Threshold Tests throughout the season.
A steady climb is the best route choice for a Threshold Test, but just because the road is predictable, doesn't mean it can't be scenic! Photo Credit: Joy McCulloch
Twenty minutes may not sound like a long time, but when the pressure is on, and your eyes are glued to your cyclo-computer, seconds will start to feel like minutes!
A proper pacing strategy uses a straightforward approach that breaks down the event into manageable segments. In this case we suggest 5-minute milestone goals.
Achieving each 5 minute milestone is 25% closer to completing the goal of a successful 20 minute test.
When the inevitable discomfort of lactate build-up sets in, there is some relief in knowing that each completed minute is one step closer to another 25% milestone, and ultimately, a successful Threshold Test.
As for pacing the effort, it is important to understand and respect what Lactate Threshold means.
Theoretically, the human-body can perform sub-threshold efforts indefinitely, in contrast, going over threshold cannot be sustained indefinitely. Even worse, the higher we go above our lactate-threshold the shorter the duration of effort we can sustain.
With this in mind, we suggest starting the Threshold Test at a moderate effort rather than a fast effort. It is much better to do the first 5-10 minute just below your Threshold than slightly over it.
By going over Threshold, early in the test, an Athlete risks a significant dip in their average power output in the final minutes of effort.
This is because the build-up of Lactic Acid forces the body to reduce its power production substantially.
The moral to pacing this type of effort properly is this: it is better to be slightly conservative at the beginning, rather than overly anxious, your results will be better by being patient!
At Big Wheel Coaching we talk a lot about mindset and believe that a strong and determined mind is the most powerful part of every successful Athlete!
In regards to Threshold Testing, the proper mindset is one that allows the Athlete to recognize that a maximal effort is not going to ‘feel’ good.
If you somehow manage to ‘feel good’ after a maximal effort, you probably did something wrong!
We like to tell our Athletes that the only way to get more comfortable in the ‘pain cave’ is to go there.
Although that sounds obvious, it is much easier said than done. This self-inflicted physical anguish can be difficult to manage, but with the help of the proper mindset it can be a positive experience.
A good piece of advice that we received is to treat the ‘suffering’ like waves of the ocean.
Every surfer knows they cannot win a fight with the ocean, so the best way to cope with the discomfort of ‘suffering’ is to relax and let it wash over you (figuratively, of course), like a wave.
Developing a mindset that is less resistant to the discomfort can go a long way to producing excellent maximal efforts.
Don’t fight it - flow with it, and never give-up or quit!
#5: You Only Go Faster
For those cycling fans that watched the Tour de France in the late 80's and early 90’s they heard Greg Lemond coin the phrase, “it never gets easier, you just go faster.” His advice is sage and besides being a ‘stud’ on a bicycle, the man was apparently part philosopher.
Because a Threshold Test is a maximal effort, it will be hard… no matter what.
When done properly you may even have to stop and sit down after the test.
The important thing to remember is that the purpose of the test is to give your best effort and not assume any sort of negative outcome from the performance.
Concentrate on going as hard as possible, and the rest will sort itself out.
Threshold Testing is not glamorous, in truth it is very difficult, but the end result and what can be gleaned from the testing process can be helpful beyond just producing more power. Photo Credit: Danny Munson, DMunsionPhoto.com
We hope that this discussion of threshold testing and the tips offered will help you perform your next threshold test confidently and powerfully!
…Or at least not be intimidate or dread the protocol when it comes up on your workout calendar!
With that said, and our hope of seeing you have a wildly successful 2019 season, if you have questions about Threshold Testing, it’s execution, or when it is applicable in your training cycle, please contact us.
We would be happy to discuss how it applies to your preparation and goals!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian and Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching
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