The Cyclist’s Guide to Holiday Survival

“Everybody has the will to win but few have the will to prepare to win” – Bobby Knight.  What kind of will do you have this holiday season?

At FasCat we have the will and we’re prepared to show you the way because the holidays are here and the time off work can be an productive time of training.  Oh yea, we’re ready to celebrate to! As cyclist’s we’re also setting goals like eating fewer cookies than hours of training completed from November 23rd to December 31st, or if the piece of pie has more calories than my FTP, skip it. That’s why we’ve prepared the cyclist’s guide to holiday survival.

No matter where you are racing in late 2017 and 2018, you don’t want to derail your foundation with 4-5 bad days of “holiday-ing”. You might be rolling your eyes at the idea of derailing a season with 4-5 days of holiday cheer, but the combination of family commitments, stressful travel, and delicious food can easily turn into a setback that significantly limits your training during the winter months.

As cyclists, here are six tips that we like to follow for holiday survival:

  1. Follow a training plan, but be ready to adjust your daily routine to accommodate what’s really important during the holidays: spending time with family and friends. There isn’t a workout in the world that you “have to do” during the holidays that will make your 2018 season. Recognize this and take a practical approach to adjusting your prescribed training. Be committed to your plan but equally be flexible when family time calls.
  2. Carve out some time for a Turkey ride Thursday morning (see what we did there?). In other words, ride if you have time and have fun: intervals aren’t necessary unless you want to do them. Joining a group ride is a great way to get you out the door and into colder temps on Thursday morning. 60-90 minutes of riding is plenty of time for a productive training session, and it’ll help cancel out some pumpkin pie!
  3. On days that fall on and around Thanksgiving, New Year’s and other holidays, be committed to riding your bike regardless of how long you have. Got 30-minutes of free time? Good, ride for 30-minutes. Keep your legs moving every single day, even if it means riding for a comically short amount of time.  Remember the tortoise and the hare? The tortoise wins every time and in cycling, consistency to your training is the tortoise.  Have all day on New Years Day? Ring in the new year with a 2 hour an 18-minute ride or 2018 kiloJoules or even 218 TSS!
  4. Plan a 4 day block of training at Thanksgiving or a 7 day  block in-between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Live in a cold weather climate? Take on a Rapha /Strava “Festive 500″challenge
  5. Set a “food strategy” that delays the inevitable (eating delicious sweets) as long as possible. You note that we didn’t say “skip the cookies and pie entirely”, instead we’re suggesting that you delay eating those delicious sweets as long as you can. When Grandma sets the pie on the counter, wait for 20-minutes to have a piece and the chances that you’ll eat a second piece will go down dramatically!  Another idea is to set a goal like, “I am going to eat 2 cookies”.  This way you get to enjoy but have a plan – everything in moderation. Don’t forget our Go Fast Food Choices!
  6. Take naps and sleep more. This is a year round tip but during the holidays you actually have the time! Use the downtime to relax and repay the sleep debt you run during the work week. Ask Santa for a Fitbit or Whoop to measure and track your sleep so you can increase the quality of your sleep and develops strategies to get more in the new year. Take advantage of your days off work to sleep in a little longer and pass out on the couch watching football before anyone sees you sneaking that nap!

If you can commit and follow these tips, you’ll come out of the holiday season at least as fit as when you came into it!

Copyright 2017, FasCat Coaching

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To discuss how your holiday survival training, please call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation. You can also check out our off season training plans here!

How to Use the PMC Chart to Peak for Nationals

How to use the Performance Manager Chart to Peak for Cyclocross Nationals

US Cyclocross Nationals is about 8 weeks away (depending on when you are reading this) and there is still time to train smart and train hard in a way that will have a significant positive influence on your race results. I like to use the Performance Manager Chart to peak for cyclocross nationals.  The “PMC” is a chart in TrainingPeaks that provides a 10,000 ft aerial view of an athlete’s training volume and coinciding ‘form’.  As I design an athlete’s daily training plan, I use the PMC to massage their form to be the best possible it can be at cyclocross nationals.

What is the Performance Manager Chart, you say? Its the graph generated from the athlete’s power data and projected Training Stress Scores (TSS)  you see below. Way, way back in 2004 when myself and group of coaches and sport scientists were developing this performance model, I nicknamed it “TSTWKT“.  But I digress….

To set up your performance manager chart read these instructions in a tip we wrote here.

Two big opportunities for training stand out for the master cyclocross athlete who brings the bacon home, 9-5:

  1. the 4 day Thanksgiving Break
  2. the week before Xmas

These are two blocks of time for training that are absolutely necessary for working masters cyclocross athletes. The biggest reason is that most masters cx athletes have been racing every weekend and haven’t actually had time to train other than to maintain and sharpen their form. Athletes can run out of base racing and recovering week in and week out. The four days over the Thanksgiving ‘long weekend’ plus the week before Christmas present just the kind of opportunity for athletes to train and push their training load higher for nationals.

In the Performance Manager Chart above you are looking at a 59 year old master cyclocross athlete’s training data [with a 50 hour a week career, Monday through Friday]. The solid line through November 7th represents his training data: training load and form. The dashed lines after November 7th represent the projected training volume from the athlete’s day-to-day training plan I have designed in TrainingPeaks.

Race ‘n Recover till Thanksgiving:

The athlete’s training load (chronic training load/CTL) will remain in the low 60’s from a race ‘n recover style of training until Thanksgiving. Preference will be given to recovery and having good form for his weekly races. In order to maintain his training volume we are only racing on Saturday so he can train on Sunday; thereby maintaining his CTL – aka keeping his eyes on the National Prize. I modeled out his performance (and know from experience) that if he/we were to race both days in November he’d run out of base and form by December to the point of not being able to put in the hours before nationals. This is the ‘Eyes on the Prize’ I mentioned – cx athletes need to do one long ride (2-4 hours) per week in order to maintain aerobic conditioning for nationals.

1. The 4 Day Thanksgiving Training Block:

Once this athlete hits Thanksgiving, this is where we’ll move the needle upwards (his CTL) with a 4 day training block. Following thanksgiving we’ll take a rest week to eek out as much form and race results as possible for the next two weekends.  The Thanksgiving training block not only contributes to nationals but has the added benefit of improving the athlete’s form for his State Championships 2 weeks later. For those 2 weeks the athlete will rest and rest some more, performing only one hard workout per week on Wednesdays. This ‘rest block’ will also rejuvenate the athlete for the final block of training for nationals.  Even better because the athlete did a good training block over Thanksgiving. His form will be positive and he’ll get a good race result at States which will give him confidence for nationals. A whole host of benefits that is all made possible from a 4 day Thanksgiving training block.

2. The Pre-Christmas* Training Block:

Similar to how the 4 day Thanksgiving block sets the athlete up for States, the pre-Christmas training block picks up on that form and will use it to peak for nationals. Therefore the periodization of this block calls for 7 days of good old fashioned advanced aerobic endurance aka, you guessed it: sweet spot training. Its the best way to move the needle (CTL)! In the PMC above the athlete will increase his CTL from 63 to 75 in nine days and 24 hours total from Saturday December 16th until Sunday December 24th. This is a massive bolus dose of training that necessitates an equally epic rest week to digest.

*this training block is dependent on two things:

  1. when you will actually have to to do it
  2. your age. The older you are, the longer you need to taper down into Jan 10-12th.  The younger you are the less. To keep it simple if you are a 60+ racer get in your final training block before xmas and taper for 3 weeks. If you are 40 & 50+ your training block occurs inbetween Xmas and New Years allowing for a 14-17 day taper.

3. Taper and Peak:

This epic rest week will coincide with the beginning of the athlete’s taper* down into Nationals. The older the athlete, the longer the taper, I’ve found in my coaching experience. Twenty-somethings get a 10 day taper whereas 60+ racers get a 3 week taper. 4- and 50+ racers need  12 – 17 day tapers to come into a true physiological peak.

Even though the athlete is tapering it does not mean they are doing short easy rides; on the contrary: they are doing high-end, sharp, cyclocross specific intervals like Tabatas. With that, I am still taking the athlete’s training load from 75 down to 61 on race day for a training stress balance of + 22. A TSB of +22 is on the same level for when this athlete was winning races in the 3 week planned period in the last week of September and first 2 weeks of October. See the orange rectangle “Great Form, Won Races, +’ve TSB”.

This performance manager chart is one example out of many possibilities to plan a peak for cyclocross nationals. However the coach and athlete arrive to the start line in Reno on race day, a peak performance will rely on the 3 key training blocks outlined and illustrated in the performance manger chart above.


Want to follow an age based training plan so you can peak in six weeks at Cyclocross Nationals? Try ours designed with the exact key elements of this training tips. $49 Six Weeks to Peak for Cyclocross Nationals.


Copyright 2017, FasCat Coaching

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Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.  To discuss how you can peak for your State Championships OR Nationals, please call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation.


The Benefits of Offseason Weight Training for Cyclists

Bryan Smith

One of the most effective ways to improve during the offseason is incorporating a well-built offseason weight training program. As we’ve written before, offseason weight training can mean a lot of things to cyclists, but in general, we’re talking about multi-joint cycling specific movements like a squat and leg press.  Of course, there are others and tons of variations but the squat and leg press hit all the muscles used in a pedal stroke.

The effects of offseason weight training have been studied again and again and again. These studies all show positive benefits to incorporating strength training into your annual and offseason training plan, with a few caveats:

  1. Cyclists are often hesitant to incorporate weight training into their programs for fear of hurting on-the-bike output and endurance. Studies suggest that replacing 1-2 days of on-the-bike training with 1-2 days of weight training increase both aerobic output and endurance.
  2. While heavy strength training (such as building a good 2-3 rep max in various lifts) can improve running performance, this type of heavy strength training is especially good for cyclists.
  3. Studies which focused on the benefits of strength training for well-trained female cyclists, showed that “adding heavy strength training improved cycling performance, increased fractional utilization of VO2 max, and improved cycling economy”.

During the offseason, many cyclists struggle because of the nature of “forced rest” and fewer hours doing what they love – riding their bikes. In our recent blog post about offseason training, we outlined the major concepts and focus that an athlete needs during the offseason.

That blog post makes the case for our offseason training plans which range in cost from $29 to $199, but more importantly, we wrote the post so that our athletes could think critically about their offseason plans. First and foremost, we want you to take an appropriate break from riding your bike, which will depend on who you are as an athlete and what your season was like.

Case in point is the legendary Nino Schurter’s #SecretTraining which we absolutely love and have tried to emulate for the past few years.

As coaches, we consider the offseason to start at some point in September and finish up after completing a 10 week, 4 phase cycling specific resistance training program. Now that we’re already a few days into the month of October, we encourage all of you to think carefully about how you’ll incorporate offseason weight training into your program for the fall.

Nino Schurter Circuit training

Nino’s Circuit Training

Nino Schurter’s “Secret” Circuit Training is so specialized that most traditional gyms do not have the required equipment. However, in his “Hunt for Glory” youtube series he details what you need and how to do his circuit training.

What You Need:

You can set up your own home gym and do Nino’s secret circuit training with these 12 items (bold orange are links to buy):

** If you buy one item, buy the Balance Board

  1. Skateboard
  2. Old Handlebar
  3. Box Jump
  4. Swiss Ball
  5. Hula Hoop!!
  6. Barbells, 2kg’s
  7. Pedalo
  8. Medicine Ball (2kg) with Rope
  9. Bike Balance Board
  10. Revolution Balance Board**
  11. Viper Tube, 5kg
  12. 5 and 10 lb weights same as you’d put on a squat bar

BUY Our 32 Week Off-Season Training Plan that includes Nino’s Circuit Training

How to do it:

Once you have your circuit training equipment all set you are ready to do Nino’s 30-minute Circuit Training.  We have outlined 17 movements below to be performed ALL OUT 20 seconds “on” and 20 seconds “off.  Then move onto the next circuit for 30 minutes total.

1. In a Plank position with the Viper (5kg) underneath your chest on the ground: Slide the viper back n forth on the ground alternating hands.

2. Stand on Balanced Board (juggling optional) Move side to side balancing the entire time

3. With a Medicine Ball 2kg between your feet/ankles: Move your legs with knees locked out from side to side on your back but never touch the ground

4. Sit on Balance Board: hands out to the side, knees up like a crunch – ‘rock’ back n forth

5. Sit on Balance Board with hands on either side of the board > backs of feet on 5lb weights: while balancing, elevate your butt off the board and slide your feet on the weights, up and down towards and away from you all the while your butt is off the ground, hands on holding you up balancing on the board (diabolical!)

6. Hula Hoop! Up Level is Hula Hooping on the Balance Board

7. With Old Handlebar overtop a skateboard get in a plank-like position with feet on the Pedalo: ‘pedal’ 10 feet forward and then 10 feet backward, back n forth

8. Balanced Board Planks and PushUps with 2kg Barbells: alternate between a pushup and then raising the barbell with your right arm/then left arm up to the ceiling (similar to the moves you do in YOGA)

9. Medicine Ball Extensions: Lying on your stomach on a bench above your waist take a medicine ball between your feet/ankles and raise/lower it

10. Balance board “recovery”

11. Shoulder & Core “Inchworms”: with knees on a bench or couch and hands on the Pedalo, pedal all the way out to a fully outstretched plank and then ‘pedal’ back, raising your butt up: back n forth

12. Sit on Balance Board (Repeat # 4): hands out to the side, knees up like a crunch – ‘rock’ back n forth

13. Box Twist Plyometrics w/ Old Handlebar: Jump off the box twisting in the air, landing in a squat position and back up on the box (also twisting). The secret sauce is for your feet to be on the ground for only a split second, as fast as possible

14. Standing on Balance Board (juggling optional)

15. Swiss Ball Squats (diabolical!): with your handlebar and medicine ball with a rope, stand on a swiss ball, hold the medicine ball out in front of you and squat (yes, squat)

16. Bike Balance Board for “Recovery”: One foot forward and one foot back to mimic descending. Alternate with the other foot forward

17. Single Legged Stair Jumps – on one leg hop up an entire flight stairs as fast as possible, alternate between single leg right and left leg hops and then both legs together – ALL for 1 flight each (so 3 trips UP)

Copyright 2017, FasCat Coaching

Ready to learn more about cross-training like a world champion? Browse our archive of weight training articles for cyclists!

Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.  To discuss setting up the best offseason program for your goals, including Nino’s circuit training, please call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation.


Off Season Training for Cyclists

This Fall,  for those of your with big goals and aspirations, NOW is the time to develop a game plan and start training.  Right now cyclists have a huge opportunity to begin their off season training to take their performance to the next level in 2017-2018. Here is our description of ON (off) season training for cyclists because there is no off season for better results next year.

BUY Our 32 Week Off-Season Training Program HERE

As coaches, we look forward to the offseason because it is a time when we can work on athletes’ weaknesses without having to worry about their performance in upcoming races.   As a result, we can start with the basics and methodically take athletes thru a 4-6 month offseason training program that elevates their performance.  There’s a saying “the offseason is where you can make the greatest gains” and we couldn’t agree more.

The Goal: Increase Functional Threshold Power and Race-Specific Power Output

The goal of our offseason training program is to increase the athlete’s power at threshold and race-specific power outputs.  Our offseason training program is divided into 5 phases that as a whole are much greater than the sum of the parts.  To measure improvement we test at the beginning of the offseason and right before the first race with expectations of a 3-20% increase in power at threshold.

The 5 Annual Training Plan Phase are

1. Annual Training Program (ATP) (planning)

2. Fall Foundation, Aerobic Endurance & Muscle Tension Intervals, 3 week $29 Plan HERE

3. Resistance Training: 10 Week, 4 Phase, Cycling Specific, 6 week  $49 Plan HERE

4. Sweet Spot: building a “Hemi-Powered Aerobic Engine”, 6 week $49 Plan HERE

5. Sweet Spot Part 2, 6 week $49 Plan HERE

6. Sweet Spot Part 3, 6 week $49 Plan HERE

7. Race Specific Intervals, 6 week $49 Interval Plans HERE

Buy the Complete 32 Week Off Season Training Plan for $199

For more information about the FasCat Off-Season Program, please read the descriptions below.

1. Annual Training Program (ATP)

The image above is an example of an Annual Training Plan in TrainingPeaks that we develop for our athletes.  This is the 10,000-foot view that outlines goals, when the 5 phases will occur, outlines testing, “A” races, a big picture race program, & a conceptual view to the athlete’s periodization during “base”.  Notice how all 5 phases are color coded to the week and month they’ll occur.

We call this a worksheet because it is a work in progress, its fluid and may be changed. Goal setting is a process, often times an athlete’s race program is ironed out by late February here in Colorado.  Earlier for warmer weather states such as California, Texas, & Arizona.  We use the ATP to stay focused as the coach & athlete designing training programs in 4-week blocks.

2. Fall Foundation, Aerobic Endurance

The Fall time frame is an opportunity to work on one’s weaknesses and carry a level of fitness into the winter months.  It may be a time to start losing weight, ride a fixed gear or get in some big rides before the winter forces many of us indoors.  For some athletes cyclocross racing may be used for training.   We also use this time for muscle endurance work in the form of Muscle Tension Intervals aka MTi’s.  It is VERY IMPORTANT to note that this is a time where our coaches are creative with training and flexibility is key.  Compared to the Spring, training is relaxed and low key.  Our coaches tend to stay away from intervals and instead encourage fun group rides, riding from the bottom to top of various climbs, “Strava Hunting”, and so forth.  If the athlete is a ‘roadie’ he or she may be encouraged to mountain bike or to dabble in cyclocross racing.  If an athlete’s climate dictates short rides over the winter, we will use the Fall as a time to ‘get fit’ so as to carry a significant amount of adaptations into the winter months.   For those familiar with TSTWKT we will raise the athlete’s Chronic Training Load (CTL), prescribe a regeneration block and test at the end of the block to set an off season power at threshold (FTP) benchmark.

For our athletes that are severely affected by daylight savings (Sunday November 1st, 2015) we will often schedule the Fall Foundation to end just prior to daylight savings so that the next block of training (Resistance Training) occurs in the gym where daylight is not a factor.

3. Resistance Training, 10 weeks & 4 Phases: Cycling Specific

Adaptation > Hypertrophy > Strength > Power with the last two phases coupled to on the bike neuromuscular work.  Anyone can lift weights but our 10 week cycling specific resistance training program is speed specific and therefore effective for improving power output on the bike.  We also use this time to work on muscle imbalances, core strength and flexibility.

We work with our athletes to time the resistance training program to overlap with the worst weather riding months.  Its important to remember that resistance training is not for everyone and we interview our athletes carefully before recommending the training.

If you want to improve your sprint, climbing, ability to attack & counterattack – to be explosive, then our resistance training program is the place to start.  Read more about ours here.

4. Advanced Aerobic Endurance: “Base”: building a “Hemi-Powered Aerobic Engine”

We take the traditional ‘piles of miles’ and use power based training & metrics to help you make the most out of your time to train.  After all, who’s got 12  hours or more a week to train like the pro’s?  Our training approach uses Tempo & Sweet Spot methodologies to raise CTL (Chronic Training Load) within the athletes time limits.  We spend a significant amount of time determining the athlete’s work & family schedules to create a balanced and productive training plan.

During the work week, Monday thru Fridays (for those of us with traditional 9 to 5 careers) we focus on shorter, highly focused advanced aerobic endurance workouts.  On the weekends, we work with our athletes to find group & team rides for endurance work.  During the “Base” Phase we use every creative trick in the book to plan out the best custom training program for each athlete we work with.

5. Pre-Season Interval Work to Increase Race Specific Power Output

This is the final phase of the off season where we dot the “i”s and cross the “t”s.   By this time frame we have identified what kind of races and events the athlete will compete in and we prescribe intervals to increase their ability to make power for the durations specific to performing well in those events. Aka race winning power output.  We employ a race specific interval training program to take athletes to their next level.  For those with powermeters, these are the workouts we’ll monitor closely to measure improvement and stay on top of fatigue.

As an example, for athletes who’s goals involve criteriums we’ll work heavily on their anaerobic power outputs.  For time trialists, we’ll concentrate on threshold intervals down in the athlete’s aerodynamic position on the time trial bike.  Lastly, this is the phase where we’ll prescribe a field test or have athletes come into the lab to determine their maximal lactate steady state (MLSS).  In our experience we are used to seeing improvements in power at threshold any where between 3 and 20%.

When the off season is all said and done, athletes begin the cycling season with an increased FTP (Functional Threshold Power) and an increased ability to produce power specific to their goals.  Additionally, athlete’s are more confident and optimistic about the season and are likely to enjoy the sport more.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

BUY Our 32 Week Off Season Training Program HERE

Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.  To discuss setting up the best off season program for your goals,  please call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation.


Layering Apparel for Cyclocross Racing

Layering apparel for cyclocross racing obviously includes your bib-shorts and your jersey…ain’t no one racing ‘cross naked this fall if we have our say in it. Beyond your team kit, things can get tricky when choosing apparel for ‘cross racing.

Layer layer layer, but always focus on your core.

Your core temperature is the first thing that dictates the temperature of your extremities. You can put 4 pairs of shoe covers on, but if core temps are dropping, you may have trouble keeping your feet warm.

If you want to layer like a pro, start with your base layer.

The best base layers are specifically designed to wick moisture away from your body which may help temperature regulation should you get too hot during your warm-up.

Chose the style of base layer to match the temperature and consider these four:

  1. Thin sleeveless tank top (55 – 70F)
  2. Short Sleeve Top (40-55F)
  3. Longsleeve thermal (25 – 30F)
  4. Even thicker longsleeve thermal with turtleneck and windstopper front (below 25F)

Experiment and adjust to your preferences and race experiences.

Next, have multiple vests and arm warmers of different thicknesses.

Most racers will pair bib-shorts with knee or leg warmers, many athletes put too much focus on thermal jackets instead of vests and arm warmers.

As a cyclocross racer, your primary goal is to get your body warmed-up while not getting too sweaty. If you sweat through your bibs and jersey 25 minutes before your race, it will be extremely difficult to stay warm during your race. Using vests with arm warmers for allows you to unzip the vest and/or roll down the arm warmers as your warm-up gets serious.

Are you looking for a structured six-week training plan custom built for cross racers? Check out our $49 cyclocross intervals plan here!

Invest in 2 – 3 pairs of gloves that balance warm and dexterity.  Gloves are one of the most important contact points for cyclocross racers. We recommend finding and testing three pairs with varying thickness to ensure that you have options on race day.

In cyclocross racing, your hands are probably on the hoods most of the time, but you’ll also be shouldering the bike during run ups. Crossers use their hands much differently than road or MTB racers. Do not underestimate the need to test your glove set up before it’s 20 degrees and snowing.

As a general rule of thumb (pun intended), if temps are over 40 degrees, you can probably go without gloves. 25-40 degrees and we’d recommend racing with a lighter pair of gloves, and if it is below 25 degrees you’ll probably want the thickest pair of gloves that don’t limit dexterity.

Once you are racing and your heart rate is 180 bpm or higher, 35-40 degrees will not feel that cold. What’s tricky is executing a well-timed cyclocross warm-up and getting to the start line without freezing your ass off while you wait for the gun to go off.

If you get wet during the warm up and go to the start line wet you are doomed! This includes getting super sweaty from a trainer warm up.  There are two ways to stay dry

Have a change of clothes to change into after the warm up.  Those sprinter vans? Yeah, now you get their utility because you only have 10 minutes in-between a good warm up and the cyclocross race start. Change your base layer if you are sweaty, and bibs too if you’ve been slaying a trainer warm up.

If you rode the course and it was wet or warmed up in the rain have a new pair of socks, shoes, bibs, jersey… everything so you start the race DRY with a warm core.

A gore tex jacket and warm up pants are nice to inspect a muddy wet cyclocross race course because you may be able to stay dry except your socks and shoes.  So bring a dry pair!

If at all possible, bring a friend to your race who can meet you at the start so that you can wear WAY too much clothing to the start and toss it to the sidelines with about 1-minute to the start.

Optimal layering for cyclocross means that you’ve completed your 45-60 minutes of all out racing without ever thinking about the outside temps during the race. If this is something that you can accomplish on a regular basis this fall, you’ll know you’ve figured out what to wear for cyclocross racing.

Browse all of FasCat’s $49 cyclocross training plans!

Nutrition for Cyclocross Racing

Nutrition for cyclocross racing can be challenging given the high-intensity nature of cyclocross races. Nutrition mistakes during and around cyclocross racing are one of the most common ways to sabotage your form on race days this fall. You’ve put the training time in, your tires and bikes are dialed…so here’s how you can avoid blowing your hard work by making common nutritional mistakes.

Monday – Friday:

If you are racing cyclocross on Saturday and Sunday for consecutive weeks, the bulk of your training during the week will be focused on recovery and secondly, on getting your engine ready to run high-octane on the weekend. Due to the intensity of cyclocross, your first focus after a race weekend should be finding the right amount of carbohydrate to recover and maintain muscle glycogen. We recommend doing this by consistently maintaining moderate carbohydrate intake during the week.

Avoid cramming all your carbs into the “oh shit I’m racing cyclocross tomorrow” Friday night meal. NEVER eat 500 grams of carbohydrate in one sitting, your body is only able to store a finite amount of carbohydrate as muscle glycogen after that carbohydrate will be stored as fat. Ever heard of pizza-legs? Yeah, it’s a thing and pizza legs don’t win races.

FasCat Recommends: choose low-glycemic and ideally gluten free carbohydrate sources (like rice and quinoa) for midweek meals to avoid spiking blood sugar and inflammatory foods like white pasta and bread.

Don’t skimp on the carbs. Cyclocross racers frequently train, warm-up and race at high intensity. It’s easy to view the stress you’re putting on your body as “puffy-ness”, but before you cut carbs altogether, remember that you’re recovering from exercise that drains muscle glycogen at a much higher rate than other endurance events.

FasCat Recommends: Find a diet that works and stick to it. Puffy-ness will come and go, but it’s important to have patience and set vanity aside in favor of optimizing nutrition for recovery and then racing.

Skip the spicy foods too close to race weekends. We’re huge fans of hot-sauce and ordering Thai food that’s way too spicy to enjoy, but we’re not making that call on Thursday or Friday evening.

FasCat Recommends: Your best option is going “full monk” and sticking to the most boring diet you can think of during cyclocross season…but if you absolutely MUST eat a spicy meal, do it early in the week.

Race Days:

If you’ve had solid recovery early in the week and maintained some intensity midweek, you should be building on the form that you’ve built in the summer and from previous races. Having a week that sets you up for racing on Saturday and Sunday is tough…don’t blow it by making a dietary mistake.

Timing is everything. Not eating enough and/or not timing your pre-race meal correctly is a common mistake for cyclocross racers. Many athletes experience terrible stomach cramps during and after cyclocross races. This is commonly referred to as “cross-gut”, but this can happen for a variety of reasons, all of which are individual to the athlete.

FasCat Recommends: Part of your journey to being on the podium every week is figuring out what foods do and do not work for you on race day. Racers who’ve put in the “10,000 hours” already have this figured out. If you’re on the way to that level, the best thing you can do is record what you ate on race day and when you ate it. We recommend a small to medium portioned carbohydrate meal 3 – 4 hours prior to your race start. After the race, add to those notes and over a season you may see patterns develop. Follow the good patterns with diet, abandon the bad ones, but give it time.

You ate something during your race. The truth is that your body is pretty inefficient – after digesting foods, you’ll only be able to utilize around 25% of the calories you intake. This means that if you consume 100 calories during a cyclocross race, you’ll only be able to use 25 of them…and only AFTER you digest the calories.

FasCat Recommends: Many cyclocross racers carry one gel with caffeine as an emergency backup during races. You may get through the first 30 minutes of a race feeling flat, if you can find a gel that works well with your stomach during intensity, this may benefit you during the last few laps of a race.  It is also important to remember that carbohydrate intake takes 15 – 30 minutes. Anything you eat in the 2nd half of the race won’t really help glycogen depleted muscles during your race.

Eating the wrong stuff immediately after your race. As much as we like to bro-down after races, drinking that IPA right after your race is never going help recovery as much as something without alcohol! Finish your race and drink a mexican coke, have a hot chocolate. ~150-200 calories will cover your needs at this point. 30-45 minutes later, focus on getting a well-balanced meal that includes 30-40 grams of protein.  We like a healthy portion of chicken fried rice or a chicken burrito which is easy to find if you are on the road.

Optimal nutrition for cyclocross racing probably doesn’t sound like a lot of fun at this point, but you’ve done all the hard training, keep your nutrition boring and simple and you’ll reap the reward when you see the results sheet!

Cheetah getting aero and running

How to Warm Up for Cyclocross Racing

At the start of every cyclocross season, athletes ask us how to warm-up for cyclocross racing. It’s a great question, and we’ve seen very few athletes be able to get up off the couch and perform a great cyclocross race start without a great warm-up. Here are a few tips that you can use as a guide to finding a more effective cyclocross warm-up, and a higher spot on the results page.

Consider the weather as you plan for race day:

We can’t change the weather – if we could we’d make sure it’s 45 and raining for all cyclocross racing this fall! Aside from pre-riding the course and course inspections (we’ll save that subject for another training tip), be sure that you have a good place to warm-up planned ahead of time.

If the weather is inclement and your team will not be bringing a tent to the race, do whatever you can to warm-up on a trainer out of the elements. While everyone needs to know the race course well, there is no sense in warming up outside in poor weather.

If the weather is not an issue, some riders like to warm-up out on the roads near the race course. This is easier to do if the race is in your backyard and you know the area, however, if you are racing out-of-state or at a new venue, it’s worth scouting the area for a section of road that allows for a predictable 30-minute warm-up.

There are no trophies for “never riding a trainer”, and if you’re serious about having a great race, the turbo-trainer will likely be the best way to warm-up for your cyclocross race.

Timing your warm-up for maximum benefit:

Warm-ups for cyclocross racing need to be timed so that the warm-up is completed roughly 10-15 minutes before your race starts. Timing is the secret to a great warm-up! Based on our experience, timing your warm-up to end at the perfect moment is an art form, not a science. Little things like proximity to the race start and keeping an ear open to the race announcers (in case the race is delayed) will help you understand when to start and when to finish your warm-up.

Before starting your warm-up, make sure you have everything race ready before you begin the warm-up! Tire pressure, clothing, water, gear so that you can go immediately to the staging area after the end of your warm-up.

FasCat’s suggested 30-minute cyclocross warm-up:

  1. Begin with 4 minutes at 60% of your FTP
  2. Move on to 9 minutes at 72% of your FTP
  3. Interval #1 is a 3-minute effort at 80% of FTP
  4. Spin for 30-seconds
  5. Interval #2 is a 3-minute effort at 90% of FTP
  6. Spin for 30-seconds
  7. Interval #3 is 3-minutes at 100% of your functional threshold power
  8. Spin for 2-minutes in zone 2, 72% of FTP
  9. Interval #4 is a 30-second sprint at 140% of FTP
  10. Spin for 1-minute in zone 2, 72% of FTP
  11. Interval #5 is a 30-second sprint at 140% of FTP

Finish with 5 minutes of zone 2 while timing your lineup.  All together it looks like this:

Experimentation for the future:

When you review your race, think back to the first lap and ask yourself, “was I properly warmed up or not?” If not, was it because you warmed up too much or too little? These are both great questions to ask when thinking about what changes to make for future racing. The goal is to have the warm-up dialed after 3-4 race weekends, and once you feel good about it, work on repeating your warm-up every weekend!

Questions? Comments? Add them below or email! Frank is the head coach, founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. To talk with Frank and/or a FasCat Coach about your warm-up (and cyclocross racing & training) please fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire or call 720.406.7444 to set up a Coaching Consultation. Otherwise start here, experiment, revise and dial in your cyclocross race warm-up!

Lars van de haar Cyclocross Skills for a Race Start Attack Position

The Perfect Cyclocross Race Start

The cyclocross race start is unlike the start of any other discipline of cycling. Cyclocross race starts are unique because athletes need to have their best sprint at the start of the race, rather than the finish.

I’ve written about starts before in “Cyclocross Skills to Bring to Your First Race”, but here I’m going to expand on what it takes to have a perfect start in a cyclocross race.

In other cycling disciplines, the start can be intense, but most races do not require an all out sprint at the beginning of the race. In cyclocross racing, every athlete needs to be ready to go from a standstill to an all out maximum 2-3 minute sprint/anaerobic/vo2 effort.

If you’re cringing in pain when you read that, there’s no way for us to sugarcoat it: cyclocross race starts are hard. Our recommendation is to embrace the pain and refine your technique with these four tips and leave your competitors in the dust!

1. The Line-Up

The line-up at a cyclocross race start can’t be overlooked and will play a critical role in the success of your race. Start by choosing a good starting gear based on how you’ve practiced race starts as well as the race course.

If the start is on pavement, choose a larger gear than if the start is on grass or uphill. Experiment a time or two during during your race warmup to figure out what’s the best gear choice!

The secret to a quick start is to choose an easier gear to pop off the line quickly. Pay attention to the referee when he or she gives you 30 seconds notice. The whistle may go off any time after that! When the ref blows the whistle simply push down with your dominant foot while simultaneously pushing forward off the ground with your un clipped in foot.

Start from a seated position with your non clipped in pedal leveled out. Once you are clipped in, sprint out of the saddle with your hands on the hoods.

During cyclocross race starts, nearly every rider we’ve seen uses a hand position on the hoods. This may seem obvious to some of you, but starting with your hands on the hoods makes it a lot easier to execute the seated start while also giving you easy access to your rear shifter as you accelerate.

2. The Start

When the race starts, you need to be ready for a near-maximum effort in order to ensure good positioning for the rest of the race. This type of start is a bit of an art-form and requires you go as hard as you can without completely blowing up after the first 5 minutes…which is easy to do.

Know the course! Every start is different, and getting the holeshot may or may not be that important depending on the passing opportunities each lap offers. In addition to understanding where to pass during the first lap, think about what you’re good at. If you excel in corners, you may be able to make up a few positions without using raw power to move up. Anytime you can use skill over power to pass in cyclocross – DO IT!

3. Practicing Cyclocross Race Starts

Practicing your race starts can be done on every single training ride! At the stoplights and stop signs during your ride, practice your race start by working on clipping in smoothly. Count down 3, 2, 1 at the stop signs or wait for the green light and GO!

As you would at a race, start in the saddle, pick the right gear and work on clipping in during the first pedal revolution for the most pop off the line. Ideally, you’ll work up to clipping in perfectly during the first pedal revolution 10 out of 10 times.

Based on our experience, getting in 100 reps each week for 4 weeks before the season starts is a good goal that will set you up for getting the hole shot all year long!

4. Race Start Training

From an imaginary start line in a park or at your local cyclocross course do 5 x 20 second race starts focusing on: gear selection, starting position in the saddle, clipping in smoothly and accelerating as hard as you can for 20 seconds. This is an all out, full gas, maximum effort.

Cyclocross race starts are a critical skill to develop if you want to perform your best this season. We believe that following these recommendations will set you up for success – as well as getting better call-ups as the race season progresses.

Questions? Comments? Add them below or email!

Frank is the head coach, founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. To talk with Frank and/or a FasCat Coach about your cyclocross race start (and cyclocross training and racing) please fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire or call 720.406.7444 to set up a Coaching Consultation. Otherwise, practice practice practice!

Crusher in the Tushar Winner Frank Overton

Crusher in Tushar Training

Four years ago this month in May I got divorced and had to move out of my house and away from my kids.  I was wrecked and had no idea what to do. So I rode my bike. In the mountains. All day (on the weekends).  During that time I was able to process some things, gather my wits and figure my new life’s game plan.  Along the way I got pretty fit and after 3 weeks I was feeling pretty good so I hatched the idea for a road trip and a race. The Crusher in the Tushar was in 3 weeks, perfect.  I’d road trip to the Crusher, race my bike and then spend a few nights camping in Crested Butte mountain biking on the way back.

With this ‘goal’ in mind my riding had new meaning and that was refreshing; it was fun an it reminded me of my younger days when life was simpler. Eat sleep train. Goto work. Repeat.

Why am I telling you this? Well if you are reading this in the third week of May and you are interested in Crusher in the Tushar training, I’d like to share my six week journey and my experience training for the Crusher to help you train and prepare for this beast of a race.

Long Rides 

If you do one thing for your Crusher in the Tushar training do long rides. The kind where you head out at in the morning and come back in the afternoon. Like this one*.  The more and harder climbing the better.  One a week would be great.  Start with a 2.5 hour ride and add 30 minutes to your ride each week. In six weeks you’ll be up to a 6.5 hour ride which is just about right for the Crusher.

*this is as close to the two one hour climbs in the Crushar as I can find in Boulder, CO with the exception of using the 4 Mile Canyon to Gold Hill climb.  Long rides like this are your “Crusher Simulation Rides”.  Embrace them: prepare mentally and physically by choosing the gnarliest, most difficult climbs you can find and push your body up and over these routes.  Fortunately that’s what most of us “enjoy” anyway and now you are giving these rides meaning.   Here’s your inspiration:

Working Man’s/Woman’s mid-week Training

During your work week you gotta get specific and maximize your time. Sweet Spot climbing intervals between 20 – 40 minutes uphill are extremely effective.  One to 2 hour rides.  Don’t be afraid to take rest blocks after your long rides.  4 years ago when my life was upside down I had stretches of 2-3 days where I simply couldn’t ride.  What I learned is that those forced rest blocks helped me recover* and gave me the omphff to go big the next weekend.

*recover: as master cyclists, when we do 4, 5 , 6 hour rides – those ‘leave a mark’ and warrant more than a Monday rest day.   Don’t be afraid to take Monday AND Tuesday off.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how your power feels during your sweet spot intervals on Wednesday.

I outlined the 4 key elements of gravel grinding training here a few weeks ago.  Those DEFinitely apply to the Crusher. Use the word ‘grinder’ literally because that’s what yo have to train up steep ass long climbs.  I call it “push, pull, drag, tow” your body and machine up these climbs.

What you Eat and Drink 

I mentioned nutrition & hydration in my gravel grinder tip but it is worth mentioning again.  The best time to dial in what you eat and drink is during your gravel simulation rides. Practice how you want to play!  Personally I have had very good results with Skratch Lab’s Rice Cakes. Raspberry and Mint Chocolate Chip to be specific. Make those the day before, eat one per hour and see how you go during your simulation rides.  I try to eat my calories and drink my electrolytes, thus I use Skratch Exercise Hydration Mix and I’ll even experiment with their Hyper Hydration Mix for the long sections of time in-between when I when I run out of bottles and the next opp to fill them up with water (remote mountain gravel roads).

Treat each simulation ride like an experiment: take what worked, discard what didn’t. Refine and test out your new strategy. How much food/hydration and how frequently are the two biggest variable to experiment with.  You’ll be dog tired at the end of your Crusher simulation rides but if you are bonking you didn’t eat enough.  Try to eat more the next ride.  Power output will also decline with dehydration so drink up. Its hot and I really don’t think you can drink too much during such a grueling race and training rides. The tough part is figuring out how to carry all this food and water and where you can fill up along the way.

Weight Loss

With 10,000 feet of climbing your body weight matters. Honestly with all the training you are going to be doing, you don’t have room to cut calories because you won’t be able to belt out the watts for training. Instead cut out added sugar and beer.  I know that’s blasphemy but you are seeking glory during the Crusher and that beer can wait. I’ve seen many athletes peel off 5-6 pounds in six weeks by cutting sugar and alcohol. Try it and you’ll feel better too and go uphill a lot faster.  If you want more info on weight loss, read another training tip I wrote about sensible weight loss here.


When I showed up to the start line in 2013, I just loved hearing the race announcer heckle us as we faced 70 miles and 10,000 ft of high altitude climbing by exclaiming, “no matter what bike you’re on, you’ll be dead wrong at some point in the race!”.  Thank you Mister Race Announcer for that fear of the unknown!  I’ve had many many equipment discussions with a lot of Crusher racers, athletes and riding buddies but I’ll summarize it here for you:

You want a light AF bike that can handle a beating. First and foremost you need 36mm tubeless or bigger tires and a huge gear. Like a 34 x 32 or bigger.  A cyclocross bike or gravel grinder bike with a light, yet bomber tubeless wheelset.  Honestly a road bike would work if you could fit 36mm tires into the frame.  But since that doesn’t exist(?) a cross bike or one of the new gravel grinder bikes are great.  I see a lot of single chain set up these days and while they look like a good idea, the rear derailleurs and cogsets are really really heavy. The weight you save from a single ring setup is likely offset but heavy parts.  And you lose the versatility of and range of a double ring setup. I personally like a 50/34 with a 32t rear cassette.  There is a long paved run out at the bottom of the Col de Crushar that it helps to have a 50x 11 to chase back onto any leaders.  This also allows you to back off the speed on the Col de Crushar descent to save yourself from flatting.  With a 50 x 11 its easy to catch back on whereas I’d be worried with a 42 x 11.   Light bike, tubeless 36mm or great tires and big gears and you’ll be all set.  For further reading, BikeRadar did a fun little write up of my race last year (2016) which concentrates on equipment and how the race played out for me.

Final Crusher Thoughts and the 2017 Race

Yea, I had some time on my hands 4 years ago and kinda won the Crusher accidentally by circumstance.  But if you like riding your bike alot and want to apply yourself, the Crusher in the Tushar is a fantastically epic event to go for. It doesn’t require a high VO2 or crazy genetic talent like road racing does.  For the Crusher if you have the will there is a way and that ‘way’ is bundled up into our six week Crusher in the Tushar training plan.

If you are like me in 2017, your training hasn’t exactly been smooth or easy. Turns out life after divorce doesn’t get any simpler or easier and that impacts your training. I’m going to be doubling down and going into monk mode these next 6 weeks as I seek out glory in 2017.

If you want to do some of this:

Then you better do some of this

You get a free TrainingPeaks Premium account with a mobile app so you can see your ride data and always know what to do each and every day for six weeks leading into your rendezvous with glory.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. In 2013 Frank uncorked one to win the amateur Crusher in the Tushar and finished 13th overall against the pros.  Frank and the FasCat Coaches have been designing training programs to coached athletes for 15 years and have introduced the very same training programs for only $49 in 2017. You can buy Frank’s six week Crusher Training Plan here.


Jeremy Powers Running Stairs

Cyclocross Run Training Preparation

Walk Before you Run.  Coaches love this expression and never could it be more true and beneficial for cyclocross athletes.  Send any cyclist out on their first run since the last cyclocross race and I guarantee they come back wicked sore!  Here are 5 ‘trainings’ you can do year round especially in May, June and July to prepare your legs for cyclocross specific running.

Five Elements of Cyclocross Running to Undergo before you Actually Run:

#1 Hiking: a great way to train with the family, bring some balance to your cycling and accentuate lateral side to side movements that occur off the bike in a cyclocross race.  I have all my athletes go on at least one hike before they take one run step.

#2 Yoga: Yoga stretches and opens up your hips which will really take a beating if you don’t prepare before the cyclocross season.  When you incorporate yoga into your training the running will have less of an impact and you’ll recover better so that you can get back to on the bike intensity without being whacked. Here is a 22 minute quad and hip stretching yoga routine.  No excuses not to do this!  We also recommend YogaGlo’s Cycling Series (YogaGlo also sponsors a bad ass Cyclocross Team).

BUY a six week sweet spot cyclocross training plan HERE that has all five of these movements and summer sweet spot training for cyclocross.

Jeremy leading this group up the stairs at the 2015 Hoogerheide World Cup. Photo Credit: Molly Hurford / Aspire Racing

#3 Strength and Mobility: this is the traditional gym work that all cyclocross athletes should integrate into their pre season cyclocross training. Squats and hip thrusts are my two favs – its all about glute activation! Activate the glutes, run stronger and pedal more powerfully.

#4 Footwork: Picture in your head football players running thru tires.  High steps, light on the feet, quick quick quick.  Actually what’s better for us ‘crossers is the ladder run where you are placing your feet inside each box and moving thru the ladder with quick, short steps as fast as possible. Watch HERE (hokey video and music but the content is spot on).  This is the essential footwork that teaches short quick steps (not full strides) that will ‘save’ your legs in the cyclocross racers.

#5 Plyometrics: Explosive Movements for jumping on and off the bike, jumping over barriers and giving you legs the ability to sprint, not just run.  My favorite plyometrics for ‘crossers is the single legged split squat jump + box and depth jumps.

Once you’ve done your homework (the above five) you are ready to run in a cyclocross specific manner.  Read about that style of cyclocross run training HERE.

And don’t forget your sCX Skills! Sign Up for our Jeremy Powers Cyclocross SKILLS Camp, August 25 – 27th in Boulder, CO.

Can’t make it to camp? Buy our Cyclocross Summer Sweet Spot Training Plan that includes the movements described above + all the sweet spot training you should be doing for cross training this summer.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank is the head coach, founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.  Talking the talk and walking the walk is one of FasCat’s Core Values and you may find him hiking up Sanitas, doing strength and conditioning at REVO Physiotherapy and Sports Performance and going to the YogaPod. To talk with Frank about your pre-season cyclocross training please fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire or call 720.406.7444 to set up a Coaching Consultation.  Otherwise do your homework as described above!


Gravel Grinder Power Data

Gravel Grinder Training

There are 4 key elements to gravel grinder training that I will describe in this training tip.  Many athletes will be relieved to learn that they don’t need to hammer out VO2’s and Tabatas interval workouts to prepare very well for a gravel grinder.  This could explain their rise in popularity!  The strategy and tactics are different from road races and therefore so is the training. They 4 key aspects of gravel grinder training are:

  1. Sweet Spot Training
  2. Simulation Rides
  3. Raising your Chronic Training Load
  4. Tapering
Sweet Spot Training

Sweet spot training is specific to gravel grinder racing.  These races are true tests of endurance and there is no better way to build a hemi-powered aerobic engine than with sweet spot training. If you look at a power file from just about any gravel grinder you’ll see that the majority of time the athlete spends ‘going hard‘ is in the sweet spot.  Therefore, the limiting factor in one’s performance becomes how much time the athlete can spend in their sweet spot.  Is it 60 minutes, 2 hours or the whole race?  Read about How Much Sweet Spot Training You Should Do.   Overall take the amount of climbing or hard sections from the gravel grinder course in minutes and train to be able to do that much sweet spottin’™ !

The power data below is from the 2016 Crusher in the Tushar. There was 134 minutes worth of sweet spot climbing and *honestly I could have used 200 minutes of sweet spot.   The Crusher in the Tushar is all about being able to do two one hour climbs (at altitude) and being able to roll the sweet spot watts in-between and after the Col de Crusher for 5-6 hours.

Often times when I’m analyzing gravel grinder power data its easy to pinpoint the moment the athlete just didn’t have anymore sweet spot watts in them and has to slow down.  For me, in this race it was up the final climb the Col de Crusher.  Thus I achieved 134 minutes of sweet spot climbing and after that I was running on tempo and high zone 2 fumes.  The training conclusion is to match the power demands of the gravel grinder to your training.  Thus key element # 2:

Grinder Simulation Rides

This is the type of training where your better half tells their non cycling friends that you are crazy.  Doing a race that is 200 miles long and/or has 10,000 ft of climbing? Guess what: you should ride that long and climb that much in training. Thus the “Grinder Simulation Ride”. These rides are as diabolical as they are common sense and that’s what makes us crazy.  For the Crusher in the Tushar you face 2 one hour climbs.  Therefore my simulation rides consisted of 5-6 hour rides in the mountains at altitude with an hour long climb at the beginning and an hour long climb at the end of the 5 hours, just like the Crusher.  A ‘next level’ addition to these rides is to find climbs that are as steep as what you’ll face in the race. Finally the ultimate simulation ride is actually riding the course. Here’s one of my Strava simulation rides that I affectionately titled “Crushar in What Tushar” This was as close to the actual Crushar that I could find in Colorado.  If you have a question about your gravel grinder and simulation rides, email me:

Raise Your Chronic Training Load (CTL)

Training day in, day out, staying consistent is the single greatest ‘training technique’ masters cyclists can benefit from. By riding alot (sweet spot style) and staying consist, you should strive to push your CTL as high as possible right up until two weeks prior to your gravel grinder.  If you are behind in training and feeling good, go ahead an push your CTL as high as you can get 1 week prior. Then take a rest week to be as fresh as possible come race day.

Below is a great, real world example of an athlete who rose his CTL from 40 to 113 (by sweet spottin’ up the whazoo™ ) two weeks prior to his grinder, took a 2 week taper and achieved a true physiological peak on race day (as evidenced by reported feel and lifetime high power output).  Race day CTL/ATL/TSB was 99/73/+25.

All of our coaching and training plans use TSS (Training Stress Score) to measure CTL and project future CTL (as in our 6 week training plans) using the Performance Manager Chart in Training Peaks.

Overload > Taper > Peak

As mentioned above if you have been raising your CTL for 12 weeks or more to levels that you haven’t been to before, you are eligible for a ‘taper’. I say eligible because athletes can’t peak from a taper unless they’ve put in a significant overload.  What is significant? That is a ‘whole nuthar’ training tip but generally values greater than 80/90/100 can elicit a peak.  One of the greatest benefits from the Performance Manger Chart in Training Peaks is that you can plan your training and rest in TSS and the PMC will calculate your Training Stress Balance (TSB) on race day.  What is a good TSB? I’ll add that to the ‘whole nuthar’ training tip mentioned 3 sentences ago.  Generally in my 14 years of experience using the PMC (I helped develop it in 2004-5) I have seen peak performances from TSB’s ranging from 20 – 50.

If you cannot get your projected TSB to be +20 or greater with a 2 week taper, forget the two week taper, train another week and take an epic rest week leading into your gravel grinder.

Lastly: What you Eat and Drink + Recovery

Now that you are going to put the 4 key elements of gravel grinder training together, the fifth dimension is dialing in your nutrition and hydration for this massive ride.  Plus your recovery in the 6 – 18 weeks spent training.  The best time to dial in what you eat and drink is during your gravel simulation rides. Practice how you want to play!  Personally I have had very good results with Skratch Lab’s Rice Cakes. Raspberry and Mint Chocolate Chip to be specific. Make those the day before, eat one per hour and see how you go during your simulation rides.  I try to eat my calories and drink my electrolytes, thus I use Skratch Exercise Hydration Mix and I’ll even experiment with their Hyper Hydration Mix for the long sections of time inbetween when I when I run out of bottles and the next opp to fill them up with water (remote mountain gravel roads).

Technically that’s 5 key elements which is alot to process, so if you’d like a single turnkey six week gravel grinder training solution for only $49, I have designed one (actually three: basic > intermediate > or advanced) for only $49.  You get a free TrainingPeaks Premium account with a mobile app so you can use the Performance Manger Chart and always know what to do each and every day for six weeks leading into your grinder.


What the Results Look Like: 

Go into “Monk Mode” for the next six weeks, train hard, follow our gravel grinder plan, recover harder and this could be you:

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. In 2013 Frank uncorked one to win the amateur Crusher in the Tushar and finished 13th overall against the pros.  Frank and the FasCat Coaches have been designing training programs to coached athletes for 15 years and have introduced the very same training programs for only $49 in 2017. You can buy FasCat’s six week interval Gravel Grinder training plan that Frank designed here.


Coach Jake Rytlewski

Tulsa Tough Training

Tulsa Tough training is all about anaerobic intervals.  Zone 6 intervals 20 – 60 seconds in length + sprints will prepare you optimally for this style of bike racing.  When we designed a training plan for Tulsa Tough, we started by analyzing the power and physiological demands of the race. Check out the power, heart rate, elevation, speed and GPS data from the last 5 laps of Cry Baby Hill below:

This athlete was making greater than 500 watts for 14 – 18 seconds each time up Cry Baby Hill!  For the 1 hour race, this athlete did 30 laps, thirty times up Cry Baby Hill and 30 times making over 160% of his Functional Threshold Power. So do you do thirty 15 second intervals to train for the Tulsa Tough? Not quite, that would be cruel and unusual punishment.

Instead here are three bread and butter interval workouts that are the core of our six week Tulsa Tough training program, starting April 28th!

  • Tabatas
  • “1 minuters” (Zone 6)
  • Sprints workouts.
Recovery Days: Monday & Friday

In our Tulsa Tough training plan there are always going to be 2 Recovery Days where we prescribed recovery techniques such as Foundations, Yoga, Foam Rolling and general lying on the couch.  These days occur Monday and Fridays to rest from the weekend (Mondays) as well as Fridays to rest up for the weekend’s training.

Tuesday Tabatas!

Therefore,  Tuesdays are for hard interval training days like Tabatas or a training crit.  We start athletes off ‘gently’ with only 2 sets of 6 twenty second Tabatas but progress week to week to 3 sets and 8 reps per set. In the 5th week athletes are ready for the most diabolical Tabata workout of them all: 3 sets of 8 forty second reps.

Wednesday Work:

Since we know you have to make the most of your time we prescribe intervals in 2 day blocks to help you get the most out of your body and your limited training time. Thus Wednesday is for VO2’s or anaerobic intervals aka 1 minutes but sometimes even more powerful 30 seconders. Both are highly effective, we mix up the durations to bring more variety to the training plan.

Thursday Sprint Work:

Sprint training is vital to your criterium success and we have designed sprints into the training plan nearly every Thursday.  Think in terms of one max effort for only 5 seconds every ten minutes during a 60-90 minute zone 2 ride.  With the zone 2 you are getting a “2 fer” 2 workouts in one.

TGIF Fridays:

If you are not tired on Fridays you probably are not pushing yourself hard enough Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays.  Thus a well earned rest day; you’ve earned it.  Put your feet up, eat a great meal(s) and get a good nights sleep, you are going to need it for the weekend.


For most of us with jobs, mortgages, kids, spouses, Saturday is the goto training day.  We like to think our plans help you achieve life balance as well as getting faster on the bike.  Therefore expect a hard training day on Saturdays in the form of intervals or a training race. Racing is good training but sometimes intervals are even better.  Here’s why: in races you don’t always go as hard as you can for tactical reasons but with intervals we advocate FULL GAS

Slow Sundays (except!)

Even though criteriums are short and fast we prescribe aerobic training in our criterium training plans. As my friend Dr. Andy Coggan likes to quip, ‘its an aerobic sport, dammit”.  Sundays work great because the legs are tired and you are probably sick of performing intervals.  We do like to keep your legs revving with sprint work.  These types of training rides may be done with teammates and like minded training partners.  If you choose to go harder than zone 2 on Sunday and can’t quite make your power output the following Tuesday or Wednesday, guess what? You went to hard Sunday 🙂   You’ll achieve your best results if you follow the plan as close as possible. FtFP!

Periodization: 3 Weeks “ON”, 1 week “OFF”

All of our training plans have periodization built in. We have found that a 3 weeks “ON” 1 week OFF” format works very well physiologically and psychologically. You just can’t kill it every day and every week.  Therefore every 4 weeks we have “Regeneration Weeks” built in where your training is to rest, chill and get faster.

Our periodization comes in the form of harder and harder workouts from week 1 to week 3 AND more volume.  For example 6.5 hours in week one, to 8 hours in week 2 to 10 hours in week 3.   Then we design our Regeneration Weeks at 50% volume of the prior overload in week 4. Thus only 5 hours which will put you into week 4 rested, more powerful, and mentally motivated to keep training hard.

Week 5 is for Winning

This is where you’ll find your most difficult workouts of the entire plan. You can do it – remember your goals and the bragging rights.

Week 6 is for Resting

Let your CTL go down, TSB go over and remove any residual fatigue from your legs. Rest is best, all the hay is in the barn. Use the extra time you have to get more sleep, eat better and dial in your bike.  Relax and trust that you’ve put in the hard work and with a little luck on race day you may be up there on the podium!

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. Frank and the FasCat Coaches have been designing training programs to coached athletes for 15 years and have introduced the very same training programs for only $49 in 2017. You can buy FasCat’s six week interval Tulsa Tough training plans for here.


4 minute VO2 Power Data

How to Perform VO2 Max Intervals with your PowerMeter

By Frank Overton, Owner & Founder at FasCat Coaching  (originally  written for VeloNews)

When the hammer drops on your next group ride it is likely a VO2 effort. I see it all the time in reviewing my athlete power data: the crux of getting into the break, making the selection, or the race winning move lasts between 3 – 6 minutes.  This is raw VO2 power and requires that you ride full gas.  We can mimic the physiological demands of those moments in our training with VO2 Max Intervals.

Here is a simple VO2 workout to improve your explosive power and ability to deliver in those make or break moments in your group ride or race:

VO2 Max Intervals: Zone 5 (105 – 120% of Threshold Wattage): 2 sets of 2 x 4 min ON 4 min OFF; 8 min in-between sets.

  • Warm Up easy for 15 – 30 minutes
  • Perform these Intervals on a climb (if available)
  • Begin each interval by modulating your wattage between 105% and 120% of your FTP power

With an accurately set FTP, 105-120% should be as hard as you can go for 4 minutes (and any 3-6 minute VO2 interval).

  • Hold your wattage in Zone 5 for 4 minutes
  • After the first 4 minute interval turn around and coast back down the hill (or pedal in Zone 2 if on flat terrain).
  • Turn around again and reposition yourself to begin the next interval from the same spot after 4 minutes of recovery.
  • A properly paced interval should feel moderately hard at first, difficult in the middle and a max effort at the end.
  • Tip: use your PowerMeter’s readout as motivation to hold the effort between your Zone 5 wattages for the full four minutes.
  • Don’t let your wattage dip below your Zone 5 wattage!
  • Try to maintain your power output above 105% but not above 120% (that is too hard and physiologically unrealistic).
  • After two intervals, take an 8 minute set break to spin around, recover and prepare for the final set.
  • After you complete both sets ride around in zone 2 or cool down.
  • Upload your data to TrainingPeaks and analyze your average interval wattages!

Find the perfect six-week interval plan: Buy One Here!


“Make the power” any which way you can; it does not have to be pretty. Dance on the pedals out of the saddle or try spinning seated. Be aggressive, get after it! I recommend alternating between sitting and standing. Position your hands out on the hoods for maximum leverage to rock the bike back and forth as you pump up and down on the pedals. With the real time wattage feedback from your power meter, you’ll quickly see which climbing technique enables you to make the power.


These are difficult intervals (some of the toughest) so come into the workout rested, motivated, fueled and ready to suffer. The payoff is that you will be a more powerful, faster bike rider. Imagine you are charging up the race’s climbs with the taste of blood in your mouth and the podium is within your grasp! If you have snot coming out of your nose, or drool coming out of your mouth at the end of the last few intervals you are doing them correctly. For the goal-oriented athlete, there can be a tremendous amount of satisfaction in the successful completion of such a difficult workout within the prescribed zone 5 wattages.

Power Data Analysis

The graph below is an athlete’s power data from the VO2 Intervals described above (Zone 5: 4 x 4 min ON 4 min OFF, FULL GAS. This particular athlete is training for a road race with 3 climbs that last approximately 4 minutes each. Not only is this VO2 workout great for his fitness and power output, but it is specific to the power demands of his race course.

Notice the distinct plateau shaped power vs. time graph for each interval and the relative steady wattage output.   Theses intervals were well paced with averages of 340, 331, 331 and 332 watts, respectively.


Since you are motivated and hungry like the wolf, don’t go out too hard for the first 1-2 intervals.  You want your last interval to be as good as your first.  There’s the Right Way and the Wrong Way to perform intervals.   In other words don’t start each interval at 150% of your FTP only to struggle to hold 95% in the 2nd half.  Use your powermeter to also not go too hard.  By modulating your effort in real time with a powermeter, you can execute your intervals much better than you can by heart rate.  Use the display to pedal harder into your zone 5 but not above.  In that case back off so that the watts fall in your zone 5 wattage.  Not too hard, not too easy, just right like Goldilocks.

Pro Power Analysis Tip

Calculate your average 4 minute VO2 Interval power by adding up the average of each interval and divide by 4 (or # of intervals).  Use this number to measure improvement against future 4 minute VO2 workouts.  For example if you averaged 283 watts April 16th, 2014 for this VO2 workout, repeat the intervals in 2 weeks under the same rested conditions and analyze your average interval power to see if you eclipsed the 283 watts from April 16th.

Advanced VO2 Workout

If 2 sets of 2 intervals for 4 total VO2 intervals is not enough for you, try 2 sets of 3 [2 sets of 3 x 4 min ON 4 min OFF]. However, remember to focus on the quality and amplitude of the power first before moving onto the quantity. Finally, if 24 minutes of VO2 work is not enough for you, try the grand-daddy VO2 workout off all time: 2 sets of 3 x 5 min ON 5 min OFF with 10 minutes in-between each set!

Progression from introductory VO2 intervals to more advanced and more challenging interval workouts may be found in our six week $49 interval training plans.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. Frank and the FasCat Coaches have been prescribing VO2 intervals to athletes for over 15 years.  To get VO2’s prescribed into your training, you can email , call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to schedule a Coaching Consultation.  Or you may buy one of FasCat’s six-week interval training plans for $49 here.  Either way, look forward to increasing your VO2 Max Power at crunch time!


Criss Cross Threshold > Zone 6 3 x 15 min

Criss-Cross Intervals for Road and Mountain Bikers

Criss-Cross intervals mimic the power demands* of road and mountain bike races. In this training tip, we’ll describe the how, what, where, and why of criss cross intervals and give you some example workouts plus a 4 week interval progression to follow.

*surges in the peloton, steeper pitches up climbs, switchbacks, and technical singletrack

Criss-Cross  intervals are structured tempo intervals with a “cross” up to harder intensities for 60-180 seconds, every 2-5 minutes during the tempo interval. After the “cross” the athlete returns to tempo wattage until the next “cross.” Here is an example Criss-Cross workout:

Criss-Cross, Tempo > Sweet Spot: 3 x 10 minutes ON 10 minutes OFF  with a 1 minute “cross” at 4 & 9 minutes

As the athlete and training progress, one can increase both the length of the interval and the intensity of the “cross” from Sweet Spot to Threshold > VO2 > Zone 6/Anaerobic. Here’s the same 3 x 10 Criss-Cross interval workout as above except the “cross” is now at FTP watts:

Criss-Cross, Tempo > Threshold: 3 x 10 minutes ON 10 minutes OFF  with a 1 minute “cross” at 4 & 9 minutes

Criss-Cross, Tempo > VO2: 3 x 10 minutes ON 10 minutes OFF  with a 1 minute “cross” at 4 & 9 minutes

Criss-Cross, Tempo > Zone 6/Anaerobic: 3 x 10 minutes ON 10 minutes OFF  with a 1 minute “cross” at 4 & 9 minutes

I like to take athletes through the above Criss-Cross workouts once a week as they progress and are finishing up their base and CTL build. The intensity from the “crosses” is just enough to bridge the gap from base training to full on, full gas high intensity interval training. Criss-Cross intervals are also great for:

  • bridging the gap from base training to high intensity interval training (the crosses)
  • generating larger TSS’s than traditional Sweet Spot and Tempo advance aerobic endurance training, and thus raise CTL even higher
  • help the time pass quicker during indoor training sessions!

Additionally, Criss-Cross workouts may be ‘enhanced’ by increasing the length of the “criss” interval, number and intensities of the “crosses. For example, progressing to a sweet spot interval that crosses up into Zone 5 and even Zone 6.  There are so many possibilities I encourage you to customize & diversify your Criss-Cross intervals.

The most diabolical Criss-Cross Interval workout I’ve ever prescribed is the following:

Threshold > Zone 6, 3 x 15 with three 1 minute “crosses” in Zone 6 at minute 4, 9 and 14 minutes. Note how the 3rd “cross” of each interval is full gas (150% of FTP!) to mimic a race winning move.

If you’d like to buy a $49 training plan with the 4 week Cris-Cross interval progression I detailed out above, we’d love for you to give them a go and crush your goals!


Copyright 2017, FasCat Coaching

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To talk with a FasCat Coach about Criss-Cross intervals for your training and racing, please fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a complimentary coaching consultation. Additionally nearly all of our road and mountain bike $49 training plans have criss cross intervals designed in an easy to follow weekly training calendar.


Cheetah Demonstrating Proper Recovery Techniques

Recovery Techniques for Improved Cycling Performance

Sleeping and eating are the two best recovery techniques for athletes.  From beginners to pros, sleeping longer and eating better will improve your cycling performance in training and racing. After sleeping and proper nutrition, massage, compression garments, stretching, active recovery and hydrotherapy are the best (1).  Before you train harder use these recovery techniques to improve the quality (and power output) of your training and racing.


Proper nutrition is paramount when you are training and racing hard day to day and week to week. From pre, during, to post workout intake, all have repercussions on how the body handles training/racing. Athletes should make sure their bodies are getting the appropriate nutrients in every meal, at all times of the day. Athletes should drink 1 ounce of fluid (water, electrolyte drink, coconut water) per pound of body weight

Recovery Snack 

After a race or workout you have 30 – 45 minutes where your “glycogen window” is open and you should consume a recovery snack that’s  3:1 – 5:1  CHO to Protein (2) 

Examples are Skratch Labs Endurance Recovery Mix or a good old fashioned turkey sandwich.  I also like yogurt and granola or chicken fried rice when I come home from a training ride and ice cold Skratch Recovery Mix when I’m away from the kitchen at a race.


After proper nutrition, sleep is super important. Studies have shown, the more you get, the better you’ll recover (3) and consequently, perform.  Life stress of a job, family, etc often leads to a lack of sleep.  Many athletes are required to workout in the early morning or late evening due to these other life stresses, which makes rest and recovery that much more important. All athletes should shoot for eight hours of sleep or more a night. Unwinding by putting away technology in the hour or two prior to bed will also help get to sleep faster. On the weekends, when you aren’t working, try to get in a mid-afternoon recovery nap after your long ride for 20-60 minutes.

I like to have athletes track their sleep with a FitBit, Garmin Vivosmart HR, Whoop or similar device to become more aware of the amount and quality of sleep.

Active Recovery

If you have time, an active recovery ride in zone 1 for 30-45 minutes will bring oxygenated blood to muscles and help them recover more . “Coffee Shop Rides” are only beneficial if they do not take the place of sleep or the rest of your life’s responsibilities.  After your short active recovery ride use a foam roller to ‘roll out’ your glutes, quads, calves, and hamstrings.  An epsom salt or ice bath is ‘next level’ and will do wonders.  I also like the Normatec or the more affordable Rapid Reboot compression boots for 30-60 minutes.

All our Training Plans are balanced with just the right amount of training to recovery

Recovery Routine:

Here is a good post race or ride recovery routine, in this order:

Recovery Snack > Foam Roller or Normatecs > Ice or Epsom Salt Bath > 20-60 minute Nap > Nutritious Meal > 8-11 hours of sleep.

Here in Boulder, CO in the summer, I like to end rides with a 10 minute dip into the Boulder Creek, which rushes by at a therapeutic 65 degrees. Once home, I grab my recovery snack and get horizontal on the couch either in Normatecs or compression tights like RecoFit.  This usually leads to a short 20 – 30 minute nap (that’s all I can nap for).  After that I just try to chill on the couch and plan for a nice nutritious dinner followed by 8-10 hours of sleep.

One of the biggest mistakes I see athletes make is they do all that but then get up an go Go GO whether its yard work or errands or standing up or walking around.  I can’t emphasize enough the recovery value of chilling out on the couch.

Additionally if you have the means, sports massage is an incredibly beneficial recovery technique.  Once a week, a month of whatever you can afford, massage is money well spent.  Lastly, Yoga is a recovery technique that I can’t advocate enough. Its stretching, core, relaxation, meditation all wrapped up in one. Try it on your next recovery day!


Training hard to get faster generally is the easy part for athletes, but implementing these recovery techniques are where next level performances come from. With quick attention to detail using proper nutrition, sleep, and active recovery techniques, athletes can get that extra 1-2% benefit out of their bodies to keep productive training days, weeks, and years. Proper recovery and staying injury free is a gold standard requirement of succeeding goals!

1 “Recovery Techniques for Athletes, Dr. Shona Halson, Ph.D, Australian Institute of Sport, Aspetar Sports Medicine Journal

2 Dr. Allen Lim, Ph.D, “Endurance Recovery Mix“,  Skratch Labs Blog, 2016

3 “Sleep, Recovery, and Performance: The New Frontier in High-Performance Athletics”, Dr. Charles Samuels, MD, CCFP, DABSM, Centre for Sleep and Human Performance

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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To talk with a FasCat Coach about incorporating the recovery techniques described above into your training, please fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire or call 720.406.744 to set up a Coaching Consultation.  Additionally you may find our $49 Training Plans helpful.


How to Complete Time Trial Intervals

How to Perform Time Trial Intervals

Time trial intervals are simple yet complicated at the same time.  The simple part is going as hard as you can. The complicated part is at what wattage? We coach athletes to do both simultaneously, with real time power data and post workout analysis. Thus, blending the art and science of how to perform time trial intervals properly. The keys to performing time trial intervals (and thus time trials) is to be motivated, to concentrate, and to use your powermeter.


A time trial is called “the race of truth” for a reason. They’re hard. You are by yourself.  It is just you and the bike, paving the lonely road. You’ve got to really want it and be ready to suffer. Only you can push yourself to the limit and those that can concentrate mentally are the best time trialists. Books upon books have been written on motivation and the best coaches are motivators. From this training tip, simply know that you are your best motivator. Motivation comes from within. When you do these time trial intervals you are practicing for the real deal. Be motivated, go hard and ask yourself after the workout how your motivation affected your power output.


It helps to have something to think about to stay focused when time trialing  For example, concentrate on keeping your cadence greater than 90 rpm’s, keeping your head in an aero tuck, or not letting your wattage drop below a certain number on your powermeter (that you know you can hold). For the more zen athlete practice visual imagery. Not surprisingly, when I was on the time trial circuit, I used to visualize myself as a cheetah chasing his next meal (thus the name of our three coaching plans: hunt > chase > kill). That meal was my 30 second or minute man, a carrot to chase, catch and try to catch the next one.  I’d also concentrate on my cadence  striving to pedal > 90 rpms. If my cadence dropped, no worries, I’d re-focus an concentrate on raising my cadence.

The more motivated you are for your time trial intervals and the more you concentrate during them, the stronger your mental game will be for the race of truth.

Head low, aero, full gas.


The most important part of a time-trial, especially the longer ones is to make sure you don’t go out too hard and blow up. With a powermeter, discipline, and the knowledge of your functional threshold power you can prevent this from happening. We take data from athletes’ 10 and 20 minute TT threshold intervals and use that to give athletes their pacing wattages. We also teach that you should time trial by feel and because when you are peaking you are going to be making power that is higher than you’ve ever made before.

Go as Hard as You Can but know what that is from the Power Data Analysis

The graph below is an athlete’s power data from the time trial threshold workout: 3 x 8 minutes ON 1 minute OFF, FULL GAS. With the recent introduction of individualized zones in WKO4, we’ve been calling these “Fatigue Resistance Intervals” or FRC’s. The wattage of what an athlete can hit for 8 minutes with only 1 minute of recovery is much higher than what this athlete could achieve for 26 minutes (3 x 8 min + 2 minutes of recovery). That’s what makes these intervals such good training!  But how much higher? Well that is the experiment the athlete needs to bring to these workouts: go as hard as they can, concentrate, and feel the edge between what is as hard as they can go and not blowing up.  So the “iLevel zone” is ‘as hard as you can go’ aka Full Gas.

As far as pacing goes, that too is an experiment for athletes to find out during the first few workouts.  Again, the athletes ‘only’ have to go as hard as they can, be motivated and concentrate for each and every interval.  The post workout data will then answer the question of what wattages the athletes can hit and hold. Therefore, after the intervals have been performed and the data has been analyzed, coaches and athletes will have a scientific understanding of what wattage they can hold for the duration of the interval and thus the time trial.

In the power data graph below, notice the distinct plateau shape from each of the three 8 minute intervals.  These intervals were well paced because the athlete did not go too hard to start nor did the wattage drop off towards the end of the interval. Additionally the third interval was as good as the first (actually better). From start to finish, including the two 1 minute recovery intervals, the athlete achieved 349 watts normalized.  From talking with the athlete, they reported this was as hard as they could go (‘saw god’) an thus for this athlete’s upcoming ~24 minute short time trial the wattage to pace off of will be 350 watts.

 The Art of Pacing and Optimism:

By ‘pace off of’ we mean, for the first two minutes of the TT , the athlete will use the powermeter to go 350 watts, not harder and not easier.  However, after the first two minutes when the effort has risen and can be felt in the body, the athlete will goes as hard as they can by feel* with the occasional glance at their power during the effort to keep them in check because we are glass half full coaches and believe motivated athletes are good for some additional watts on race day. Plus if they are truly peaking they will be eclipsing prior seasonal power data.

*the athlete will also know (from power data analysis and learning) what is physiologically unrealistic and therefore too hard.  Therefore even though they are time trialing by feel they are still using the powermeter.

Putting it All Together during your Threshold Intervals
  • Warm Up easy in your Zone 2 for 20 – 30 minutes
  • Perform these intervals down in your aero position on terrain similar to your race course
  • Begin each interval by modulating your wattage between 100-108% of your FTP power*
  • After the first 2 minutes of the interval, check your effort level. Can you go harder, or is the pace just right? Find your edge.
  • Finish the interval pushing similar watts at the end as you did in the beginning
  • A properly paced interval should feel moderately hard at first, difficult in the middle and a max effort at the end
  •  Use your powermeter’s readout as motivation to hold the effort
  • Don’t let your wattage dip below what you averaged for previous intervals
  • Try to maintain your power output above 100% but not above 108% (that is too hard and physiologically unrealistic)
  • After you complete your intervals ride around in zone 2 and cool down
  • Upload your data to TrainingPeaks and analyze your average interval wattage!!
  • Use the data to determine what your full gas wattages were/are

*With an accurately set FTP, 100% should be as hard as you can go for 60 minutes. And thus 108% is how hard you can go for shorter 8 minute TT intervals.

In summary, time-trial intervals should be completed as hard as you can go for the duration of the effort!  You should concentrate during the interval and be motivated. Practice how you play! Use the data from the first interval workout to pace yourself for your next TT interval workout and then bring that data to your actual time trial race. Good luck and go fast!

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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To talk with a FasCat Coach about training for your next time trial and nailing  your Time Trial intervals, please call 720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation. Consultations include TrainingPeaks historical data reviews! Otherwise you may find our Time Trial Interval Training Program for $49 very helpful.


Maximal Lactate Steady State Testing

The FasCat Maximal Lactate Steady State Protocol

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away we had a physiology lab and used the gold standard maximal lactate steady state (MLSS) protocol to determine athletes’ Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and corresponding Heart Rates.  By measuring steady state blood lactate concentrations and identifying workloads that elicit greater than 1mMol blood lactate concentrations changes we know the maximal sustainable power outputs that cyclists can sustain for a 40k time trial or 1 hour maximally.

The maximal lactate steady state (MLSS) is defined as the highest blood lactate concentration (MLSSc) and work load (MLSSw) that can be maintained overtime without a continual blood lactate accumulation. [1, 2, 4]There have been numerous studies describing and proving the relationship between MLSS and endurance sports performance. [3, 8]  At FasCat we use the concentration of blood lactate at the MLSS to determine the power output at MLSS.  We then use the average power output and heart rates to prescribe training intensities and set benchmarks of athlete’s training progress.


To determine the MLSSw, we use a single day MLSS assessment protocol originally described by Palmer et al in the 1999 Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise journal.   This protocol was validated five years later by Kuphal et al in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness [9].

After interviewing the athlete and monitoring his or her warm-up via RPE, HR & wattage, we select 3 workloads in 10 watt increments to measure blood lactate, average power output and average heart rate.  The athlete holds each workload for ten minutes and blood lactate is sampled at 4 & 10 minutes during each ten minute stage.

During the ten minute stages we are looking for increases in blood lactate > than 1mMol.   If lactate remains “steady (increase of less than 1mMol) we move onto the next nine minute stage.  When we see > 1 mMol blood lactate increase, the maximal lactate steady state has been exceeded and therefore the previous stage and average power is the athlete’s MLSSw aka Functional Threshold Power.   In other words, the MLSS occurs at the greatest power output that does not elicit a greater than 1mMol rise in blood lactate concentration between the 4 and 10 minute samples for each stage/workload.

This power output is the point in exercise metabolism that defines the maximal lactate steady state and is the greatest wattage athletes can sustain while their lactate levels remain constant, aka a steady state.

MLSS identifies the balance between Lactate accumulation & clearance:

By measuring how an athlete’s blood lactate responds to certain workloads over time, we are able to pinpoint the greatest wattage and average heart rates the athlete can sustain as it relates to their endurance cycling performance.   For example the MLSSw we determine is equivalent to the average power the athlete could sustain in a 40K time trial in the days following the testing.

MLSS protocols are more appropriate for power based training to other methods of Lactate Threshold Testing such, L4 mMol & Dmax:

Other lactate threshold protocols do not measure blood lactateresponse to workloads over time.  Just because one identifies the wattage where an athlete hits L4 (4mMol) doesn’t mean they cansustain that workload as it relates to their endurance cycling performance.  In other words the athlete may be making more blood lactate than they are clearing which is not sustainable for long.  In such a case the athlete’s MLSSc would be < 4mMol.

Conversely, at L4 or the Dmax, the athlete may be clearing more lactate than they are making and capable of sustaining greater workloads.  In this case the athlete’s MLSSc would be > 4mMol.  This is why traditional exercise graded tests report ‘threshold’ power that does not synch up with their power data.

In the scientific literature MLSSc among athletes has been found to range between 2-8mMol/L and that blood lacate concentrations are independent of perforance [4].   In cycling it is the work load at MLSSc that determines endurance cycling performance [7].   Cyclist A with an MLSSc @ 3mMol may have a greater power output than Cyclist B who’s MLSSc is 4mMol or even 6mMol.  Therefore methods of determining power and heart rates at “threshold’ via using 4mMol are not as accurate inaccurate as an MLSS protocol that pinpoints that power output.

MLSS Testing is superior to a 20 min Field Test:

While a 20 minute field test is a good estimation of an athlete’s threshold power, it is not an accurate representation of the point at which an athlete’s body balances blood lactate accumulation and clearance.  In our experience, athletes are able to ‘bury’ themselves to exhaustion to set the highest average power output.   After all that is the goal.  However, data from the 20 minute Field test in the graph to the left shows how blood lactate concentrations increase from 4.4 mMol to 11.6 mMol at the end of the 20 minute test.  This athlete’s 20 minute Field Test power was 7.5% greater than his MLSS power (240w vs 222w) and his MLSSc was 2.75mMol vs. 7.67mMol for the 20 minute Field Test.

Bentley et. al studied the relationship between  20 & 90 minute Time Trials to lactate threshold in the 2001 Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise publication “Peak power output, the lactate threshold, and time trial performance in cyclists”. Not surpisingly they found that maximal power output changes depending on the length of the time trial.

As a result, functional threshold power set from a 20 minute Field Test in our experiences are too high and overshoot the important physiological breakpoint between the balance of lactate production and clearance.  In other words, athletes train too hard using power based training intensities set with a 20 minute field test.


1.     Billat VL, Dilmay F, Anlonini MT, et al. A method for determining the maximal steady state of blood lactate concentration from two levels of submaximal exercise.  Eur J Appl Physiol 1994; 69: 196-202

2.     Billat VL, Sirvent P, Py G, Koralsztein JP, & Mercier J. The Concept of Maximal Lactate Steady State. A bridge between biochemistry, physiology, and sport science.  Med Sci Sports Exerc 2003; 33 (6):407 – 426

3.     Billat VL use of blood lactate measurements for prediction of exercise performance and for control of training. Sports Med 1996; 22: 157-75

4.     Beneke R. Methodological aspects of maximal lactate steady state: implications for performance testing. Eur J Appl Physiol 2003 Marc; 89 (1): 95-9

5.     Beneke R, Hütler M Leihauser R, Maximal lactate steady-state independent of performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000 Sep; 32 1335-9

6.     Bergman BC, Wolfel EE, Butterfield GE, et al. Active Muscle and whole body lactate kinetics after endurance training in men.  J Appl Physiol 1999; 87: 1684-96

7.     Bacon L, Kern M. Evaluating a test protocol for predicting maximum lactate steady state. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 1999; 39: 300-8

8.     Coyle EF, Coggan AR, Hopper MK, et al.  Determinants of endurance in well-trained cyclists, J Appl Physiol 1988; 64(6): 2622-30

9.     Kuphal KE, Potteiger JA, Frey BB, Hise MP. Validation of a single-day maximal lactate steady state assessment protocol. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2004 June; 44(2):132-40

10.  Myburgh KH, Viljoen A, Tereblanches S.  Plasma lactate concentrations for self-selected maximal effort lasting 1 hour.  Med Sci Sports Exerc 2001; 33:152-6

11.  Lajoie C, Laureneelle L, Trudeau F.  Physiological responses to cycling for 60 minutes at maximal lactate steady state. Can J Appl Physiol 2000 Aug; 25 (4): 250-61

12.  MacIntosh BR, Esau S, Svedahl K.  The lactate minimum test for cycling estimation of the maximal lactate steady state. Can J Appl Physiol 2002 Jun; 27 (3): 232-49

13.  Palmer, AS, Potteiger JA, Nau LK, Tong RJ. A 1-day maximal lactate steady state assessment protocol for trained runners.  Med Sci Sports Exerc 1999 Sep; 31(9) 1336-41

14.  Bentley DJ, McNaughton LR, Thompson D, Vleck VE, Batterham AM. Peak power output, the lactate threshold, and time trial performance in cyclist. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2001 Dec; 33(12) 2077-81

15.  Morris DM, Shafer RS Comparison of power outputs during time trialing and power outputs eliciting metabolic variables in cycle ergometry.  Int J Sports Nutr Exerc Metab 2010; 20(2):115-21

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

Frank Overton is the owner, founder and head coach at FasCat Coaching, a cycling coaching company  in Boulder, CO.  To talk with Frank or a FasCat Coach about this maximal lactate steady state protocol or any laboratory testing, please call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation.  Additionally, check out the Training Plans for only $49 that Frank and the FasCat Coaches have designed for DIY athletes.


sweet spot training

How To Sweet Spot During a Group Ride

Nearly 12 years ago,  I wrote the original sweet spot article and it is nice to hear how many athletes have added it to their training and benefited. Sweet Spot Training is incredibly effective! Since then I’ve written the “How to Sweet Spot” and “How Much Sweet Spot” training tips based on questions I’d get from athletes, friends, journalists and other coaches.  In the How To Sweet Spot article example #2 was “Group Ride Sweet Spot” but here now that technique deserves it’s own training tip. Why? Because group rides in the sweet spot are an incredibly beneficial form of training. I’ve been coaching athletes how to train in the sweet spot on group rides for years an I’d like to describe that here so you know how to as well.

What is Sweet Spot Training?

It’s zone and a training technique – both combined together.  In the graph below, the sweet spot is located between high zone 3 and low zone 4: between 84% to 97% of your FTP (power at threshold). For the non powermeter user I would call it “medium hard” – below your 40k time trial race pace, but harder than a traditional tempo workout.

You can buy our $49 Six Week Sweet Spot Training Plan with the Sweet Spot Group Rides that are described in this training tip.  It’s designed for the athlete that have 4 – 8 hours to train per week with periodization. Or choose an intermediate or advanced plan if you have 8+ hours/week to train.

Our $49 Six Weeks to the Sweet Spot Training Plan has weekly Sweet Spot Group Ride prescriptions. Figure courtesy of Dr. Andy Coggan, Ph.D

How to ride in the Sweet Spot on Group Ride

From the How To Sweet Spot tip its example # 2: “ride on the front in the wind, take longer more frequent pulls. Do more work, be aggressive. While all this is going on, use your powermeter to confirm that you are indeed sweet spottin’. Or participate in a group ride with stronger riders that force you to ride harder just to stay with the group.”  Let’s break that down with several of considerations.

The “hard” group ride:

One of the best training techniques that’s been around long before sweet spot training is to train with stronger riders. Girls go ride with the boys, Cat 3’s ride the the P1/2’s, and old guys with the young guns.  By doing so, you are forced to keep up and in order to stay in the group you are probably riding in your sweet spot!  When the group’s pace pushes you just right (in the sweet spot), this is one of the best sensations you can experience on a training ride.  I mean you can literally feel yourself getting faster (haha).  How can you tell? Two ways: by feel and with your HR and powermeter data, primarily post ride.  During the ride, ask yourself, “am I riding 84-97% of my race pace? Just under threshold?” If the answer is yes, you are riding in the sweet spot. A quick glance at your wattage will often confirm whether or not you are in the sweet spot.

Back home in front of the computer, analyze the durations during the ride when it was ‘on’ and look for heart rates and/or normalized power (> 10 minutes) between 84-97% of your Functional Threshold HR and Power (FTP).  That is the sweet spot.  I like to calculate how much time was spent in the sweet spot with a manual analysis of normalized power for the sections of the group ride where it was ‘on’.  For example, in the file below you can see once the group got going there were 5 sections where the athlete rode in the sweet spot for a total of 64 minutes in sections of 24 > 9 > 9 >10 > 12 minutes.  That is a great training day, the athlete had fun an would not have been able to conjure up that amount of sweet spot volume of on their own.  Plus the athlete got some skills practice by riding in a group, drafting, holding wheels and maneuvering in the bunch.

Go with the Flow

Often times when an athlete implements this technique (training with stronger riders) he or she is at the mercy of the group’s pace.  Sometimes the group may go too hard and the athlete is dropped and other times maybe the group doesn’t go that hard.  In these cases, I’ll encourage riders to simply go with the flow because the pro’s outweigh the cons.  Many public group rides follow a route and a script.  In other words, the group rides the same route and goes hard for this section, slower thru that one and then its game on for the final section.  I like these group rides for athletes because you can coach them thru the group ride by introducing strategy and tactics before the ride and then analyze the data and quantify the amount of sweet spot training they achieve.

The “medium” group ride

What if you are riding with a group that may not push you near as much as the hard group ride?  For example a team ride where most everyone is equal in ability and power output. In this case there are two ways to ride in the sweet spot:

  1. Take longer pulls on the front
  2. Ride out in the wind

Approach these rides by taking longer than normal pulls on the front (in the sweet spot).  Then rather than dropping all the way back to the very back of the group, only drop back a few wheels so that you can take a pull sooner (like 1-3 minutes) with less coasting from sitting in.  When you take sweet spot pulls that are truly in the sweet spot and don’t go harder (use your powermeter to double check during the ride to not pull too hard) you can drop back for 1-3 minutes, catch a breather and hit the front again for another long sweet spot pull.  Depending on your ability level and the dynamics of the group ride, you may be able to take  sweet spot pulls over and over again for 1, 2 even 3 hours or longer.

What if you can’t make it back up to front after you’ve recovered? Then simply slot out to the right of the wheel in front of you to catch more wind and less draft*.  Modulate your draft and the speed of the group will put you right up in the sweet spot. Check your powermeter during and data after.   Experiment and adjust. This is where windy days in crosswinds tend to promote good sweet spot training. Plus skills.  The next time it’s gusting sideways for your group ride, relish that you’ll probably get in more sweet spot training because of the cross winds.

*slot out to the right towards the edge of the road and never to the left where cars from behind are coming.  Sharing the road goes both ways and the group is already presumably two abreast.  Making the group 3 riders wide is not safe nor good group ride etiquette.

“Train Dumb, Race Smart”:

Leave your ego at the coffee shop when using these two sweet spot techniques because it’ll be easy for your teammates to attack you from behind.  Plus when you arrive at a hill where the group goes for it or a ‘game on’ section you may not be able to respond. Riding hard in the sweet spot on the front of a group ride is an old school training technique that has been around much longer than sweet spot training.  Your teammates or the riders behind you in your draft have have been sitting in while you’ve been slogging away getting good training in.  Yes, you know you’ll be attacked, and potentially dropped (this is the ‘dumb’) but the ‘smart’ is that you are getting good training in to use later on in the year when it matters the most: at the races. An there you’ll be sitting in (the ‘smart’). Don’t be a group ride hero sitting in all the time attacking your teammates – take longer pulls and ride out in the wind.  You’ll be a much faster and better teammate when it comes time to race.

Group Ride Sweet Spot Metrics: TSS, CTL & Normalized Power and Time Spent in the Sweet Spot:

Back in front of ye ‘ol computer post ride, you’ll want to confirm that you were riding in the sweet spot first and 2nd, measure how much.   Confirming is easy: normalized power and heart rates between 84 – 97% of your FTP.  To quantify and measure the total ‘sweet spot load” (as described above) I mark up the data file manually and add up the time in minutes.  This will give you a single number (64 minutes) to try and achieve or eclipse the next week and the next.  For this athlete’s training (data above), I’ll recommend the same group ride with a goal of 75 minutes of sweet spot this coming weekend and then 90 the next.

Upon opening up a power file, Training Stress Score (TSS) is my goto metric when answering the question “how much sweet spot did the athlete achieve?” When I introduced sweet spot training in 2005, it was a training technique I was using to generate large TSS’s day after day.  Because remember, we were using our own data to develop the Performance Manager Chart (aka TSTWKT).  Thus we learned and showed (with power data) that sweet spot training is wonderful for generating large TSS’s that raises an athlete’s CTL ,that leads to higher power output (we measured that too).  And circling back to the topic of sweet spot training on a group ride, I was doing that to.   I just haven’t thought to write the training tip until now!

From the data above, this athlete achieved a TSS of 240 in 4 hours ands was able to back that up with a 260 TSS ride the next day.  In doing so he raised his CTL from 789 to 86 over the weekend.


Sweet spot training during a group ride is a terrific training technique for building a huge aerobic engine. Winter/Spring for the roadies and mountain bikers and Spring/Summer for the cyclocrossers. The bigger the base you build (as measure by your CTL) , the faster (more powerful) you can be. In summary there are three primary ways to ride in the sweet spot during a group ride:

  1. Join a group ride with stronger riders that push you up into the sweet spot
  2. Take longer “Sweet Spot Pulls”
  3. Ride out in the wind for less draft and more watts (sweet spot)

As a side note one of my favorite sweet spot training rides is one where I ride with the younger guns and train dumb to race smart, using all three techniques above.  I regularly achieve TSS’s of ~150 in less than 2 hours of riding. For all three use your powermeter and heart rate to verify during the ride that you are in fact in the sweet spot and post ride when you analyze your data.

Lastly, I have designed a Six Weeks to the Sweet Spot” Training Plan for $49 with the Sweet Spot Group Rides described above.  Choose between a basic, intermediate or advanced plan depending on your ability level, age and how much time you have to train to raise your threshold power as much as 5-20% (depending on several factors).

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

Frank Overton is the owner, founder and head coach at FasCat Coaching, a cycling coaching company  in Boulder, CO.  To talk with Frank or a FasCat Coach about sweet spottin’ on your group rides, please call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation.  Additionally, check out the Sweet Spot Plans for only $49 that Frank designed!


Expected Physiological Adaptations in Sweet Spot

Training Zones for Cycling

How to find your training zones for cycling

Training zones enable athletes and coaches to achieve precise physiological adaptations from their training.  In essence, training zones tell the athlete how hard or easy to pedal in a workout or on a training plan.

FasCat uses the seven training zones below and really there are two types of intensities within those seven: as hard as you can (zones 4-7) and not as hard as you can (Training Zone 1 – Sweet Spot).  It’ easy to train in all these zones with a powermeter, a heart rate monitor (or both) or without either by using your rate of perceived exertion (RPE).

Training Zone 1 / Active Recovery / Easy:

Most often referred to as training zone 1, this is the recovery zone, easy riding, conversational pace, low heart rate, power, etc.  The purpose of a recovery ride is to deliver oxygenate blood to tired muscles and carry away by-products of exercise metabolism (like lactate).

Compared to complete recovery (a.k.a. not riding) an active recovery ride increases lactate clearance after maximal exercise (Martin, 1998).  So by riding easy between intervals, or the day after a hard effort, recovery is improved compared to complete rest.

My rule of thumb for active recovery rides is that they last 1 hour or less, are over flat terrain and involve the small ring only. They may be done on the way to a coffee shop and should never be ‘forced’ i.e. ridden in ‘not fun’ weather.

If you are an athlete with a family and career, don’t stress about finding the time for an active recovery ride. Instead, devote your rest days to other areas of your life and in the long run, your riding will benefit just as much as it would with an active recovery ride.

Training Zone 2 / Endurance / Base:

Training zone 2 is your all-day endurance pace: 59-75% of your FTP [FTP  =Functional Threshold Power] and is extremely valuable for your training.  Being able to ride 2-6 hours in Zone 2 is the first step in an athlete’s training for being able to compete in races or events of similar duration.  By riding in zone 2, athletes can train their body to burn fat in preference of muscle glycogen.

Substrate utilization (i.e. fat vs. carbohydrate) varies individually, but as a rule of thumb, as intensity increases energy supply from carbohydrate increases, while supply from fat decreases.  Therefore it is important to not go too hard in zone 2 training. For long zone 2 training rides, often the magic and ‘fat adaptation’ doesn’t begin until the last hour of the ride ( hour 3 of a 3-hour ride).

Training Zone 3 / Tempo:

Tempo training is prescribed as sustained 7 – 60 minuted efforts. An example tempo workout is 3 x 10 minutes ON in Tempo and 5 minutes OFF. It’s more difficult than training zone 2 training and therefore achieves more physiological adaptation (see table above).  Often times road races begin with a lot of tempo and therefore athletes need to be able to put out 60-240 minutes of tempo power while still being able to go harder afterward.  For more rationale on tempo training read the blog post we’ve published here.

Take the guesswork out of your training: Click here to browse our $49 training plans!

Sweet Spot:

Sweet Spot training occurs between 84 – 97% of your FTP and there are many many ways to achieve “the sweet spot”.  Sweet spot training achieves more physiological adaptations than tempo (see above table) with less need for recovery than threshold training.  The intensity balances training benefits and recovery time, thus ‘the sweet spot’.  While sweet spot training achieves less training adaptations than threshold training the recovery consequence

While sweet spot training achieves less training adaptations than threshold training, recovery is generally easier, and therefore, athletes can do more training as a whole. More “bang for your buck”. Prior to sweet spot training, riders would perform threshold intervals and be too tired the next day for meaningful training.

With sweet spot training athletes can repeat the next day and therefore achieve more training adaptations over the course of a training block (2-4/5 days).  Like tempo, brisk road races contain a lot of sweet spot, therefore athletes need to be able to race at sweet spot intensities and then still be able to make higher power during or later on for the crux moments of the race.

For details about how much sweet spot various levels of riders should be able to do in a race and therefore incorporate in their training please read “How Much Sweet Spot“.   I’d put the upper limit of sweet spot at 5.5 hours based on 2016 Paris-Roubaix winner Matthew Hayman’s race data!

Training Zone 4 Threshold : FULL GAS

Maximal sustained efforts 8 -30 minutes in length. Threshold intervals come in the following forms:

  • 3 x 10 min ON 5-10 min OFF
  • 2 x 20 min ON 5 min OFF
  • 3 x 15 min ON 7.5 min OFF

Threshold intervals are beneficial for all cyclists especially time trialists, mountain bikers, and climbers.  Read how to perform threshold intervals here.  This training tip keys in on the importance of going as hard as one can but also using their powermeter or interval ‘pacer’ to do them properly from start to finish.

Training Zone 5 / VO2 Max : FULL GAS

These are very intense efforts, characterized by maximal power ranging anywhere from three to six minutes, 106 – 120% of FTP. The efforts are extremely hard, generate fatigue, but are also some of the most beneficial and race specific. VO2 Max intervals are full gas max efforts and should follow rest days on one’s training calendar. Our classic VO2 interval workout is:

Training Zone 5: 2 sets of 3 x 3 min ON 3 min OFF; with 6 minutes of rest between sets

All of our $49 six week training plans include workouts using these zones:

Training Zone 6 / Anaerobic Capacity : FULL GAS

Anaerobic intervals are critical for racers all cycling disciplines especially mountain bikers, criterium racers, track and road racers. Often times the difference between a cyclist and a bike racer is their ability to deliver short bursts of power anaerobically.  Fortunately, with this training, a ‘cyclist’ can become a good ‘bike racer’ by incorporating anaerobic intervals.

Similar to threshold and VO2, anaerobic intervals are maximal, full gas efforts performed greater than 121% of one’s FTP.   A beginner, intermediate and pro level Zone 6 interval workout looks like the following:

  • Beginner: training zone 6: 3 x 1 min ON 1 min OFF
  • Intermediate: training zone 6: 2 sets of 4 x 1 min ON, with 5 minutes OFF in-between sets
  • Pro Level: training zone 6: 3 sets of 7 x 1 min ON 1 min OFF, with 5 minutes OFF in-between sets

I have personally done the later and to this day remember the hill, time of year and taste of lactate in my mouth!  In-between the beginner, intermediate and pro level zone 6 interval workouts there are several possibilities, each one specific to the athlete.

Over six weeks athletes may progress from beginner to intermediate or intermediate to pro with a dedicated training plan.  The term ‘capacity’ comes from the athlete’s ability to do more and more anaerobic efforts.  The more anaerobic capacity and athlete possess the better they’ll perform and race. As a coach I strive to improve athlete’s anaerobic capacity measured by their ability to complete & improve from one anaerobic workout (3 x 1 min = 3 min total)) and to a greater anaerobic capacity workout like 2 sets of 4 [ 2 sets of 4  x 1 min = 8 minutes]

As a coach I strive to improve athlete’s anaerobic capacity measured by their ability to complete & improve from one anaerobic workout (3 x 1 min = 3 min total)) and to a greater anaerobic capacity workout like 2 sets of 4 [ 2 sets of 4  x 1 min = 8 minutes].

Training Zone 7 / Neuromuscular : FULL GAS

Sprinting and efforts just beyond a sprint, up to 20 seconds. Training zone 7 efforts are very short, under twenty seconds, and of the highest intensity.  I/we prescribe them as sprints or 20 second Tabata Intervals.   Sprint training forces the physiological adaptations to increase neuromuscular power, recruit more motor units, hypertrophy of more type II fibers, and improve recruitment synchronicity (Lucia, 2000)[see table above].  Sprinting is a technical skill so sprint training is a 2 for one workout.


Interval training is highly effective training for bike racing. It should be custom tailored to the type of event(s) the athlete is training for.  I/we call that race specificity. However, sometimes you just can’t design workouts to achieve everything you will face in a race and that’s why racing is the ultimate form of training.

Bike racing is also done with one zone and one workout…in fact, most races are a combination of all zones 2-7. Therefore do your sweet spot and base training but also incorporate anaerobic and sprint intervals.   Make your training well rounded.  In addition to structured zone based intervals, group rides and motorpacing rounds out the best training plans.


LINOSSIER, M. T., Dormois, D., Perier, C., Frey, J., Geyssant, A., & Denis, C. (1997). Enzyme adaptations of human skeletal muscle during bicycle short‐sprint training and detraining. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 161(4), 439-445.

Lucía, A., Hoyos, J., Pardo, J., & Chicharro, J. L. (2000). Metabolic and Neuromuscular Adaptations to Endurance Training in Professional Cyclists. A Longitudinal Study. The Japanese journal of physiology, 50(3), 381-388.

Martin, N. A., Zoeller, R. F., Robertson, R. J., & Lephart, S. M. (1998). The Comparative Effects of Sports Massage, Active Recovery, and Rest in Promoting Blood Lactate Clearance After Supramaximal Leg Exercise. Journal of Athletic Training, 33(1), 30–35.

Perry, C. G., Heigenhauser, G. J., Bonen, A., & Spriet, L. L. (2008). High-intensity aerobic interval training increases fat and carbohydrate metabolic capacities in human skeletal muscle. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 33(6), 1112-1123.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. Frank and the FasCat Coaches have been prescribing intervals to athletes for over 15 years.  To talk about your interval training, you can email , call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to schedule a Coaching Consultation. Additionally all of our six week, $49 training plans have workouts prescribed with the wattage and heart rate zones described above.


Field Test: 20 minuter

10 Reasons Train with a Powermeter

by Frank Overton, PowerMeter user since 2000

Powermeter training: you’ve heard about it, but why?  Here are our Top Ten Reasons to Train with a Powermeter.   Bear in mind we have 16 years experience training, racing, troubleshooting and selling powermeters.  I bought my first SRM powermeter in 2000 following on Greg Lemond’s heels when he started training with power in the early 1990s. The power demands of road cycling were just beginning to be understood.  Sixteen years later the knowledge of how to train with power has filtered down from the upper echelons of sport science into mainstream coaching and cycling.

As training with power continues to evolve, the prices have continued to come down as well. In the early days, an SRM was the only available portable powermeter with a cost well in excess of $5,000 US. In the last 5 years, “cost per accuracy” has come down considerably and an accurate, reliable, validated powermeter may be purchased for under $600.

So without further ado, here are our top ten reasons to train with a powermeter:

10. Rationalize the purchase by letting “it be known (to your better half)” that this will be the last bike computer you will ever need.  You can display and record Power Output, Heart Rate, Cadence, Wheel Speed, Distance Covered, Altitude, Ambient Temperature  and Energy Expenditure. Plus you can upload your ride data to popular GPS sites like Strava or MapMyRide and best of all TrainingPeaks to compare yourself to others and explore your route.

9. Calculate your training load and emphasize quality not quantity. The saying goes, “I used to train 20 hours a week until I got a powermeter”. A prime example is illustrated by riding Sweet Spot. Achieve greater physiological adaptations than by riding in zone 2 alone and have the data to show for it. Know how much training you’ve done and how much more you need to go.

Six Week Sweet Spot Training Plan for advanced aerobic endurance training.

8. Test your fitness “fo’ free” anywhere, anytime with a field test. Show up on your group rides and wow your arch nemesis by exaggerating your power at threshold in watts/kilogram of body weight.

7. Optimize your aerodynamic position. Yes, a powermeter is an expensive proposition but it can also be a cheap man’s wind tunnel. A powermeter can be used to optimize the rider’s aerodynamic position aimed at reducing aerodynamic drag. In a nutshell, ride at 45kph on a track and look for a reduction in power output from various body positions.

6. Lose weight by figuring out your daily nutritional requirements by converting energy expenditure (kilojoules) into calories. Read how here.

5. A powermeter is the ultimate way to incorporate sweet spot training into your program. Take what works from an old school training technique and see why with new school technology.

4. Perform intervals properly with more consistency, precision, feedback, and analytical ability. A powermeter displays wattage in real time (i.e. instantaneously) so you know how hard to go and it’ll keep you honest during your intervals!

3. Completely dial in your overall training load with power based performance modeling. Training by duration and distance is good. However, the ability to prescribe, execute and manage a scientifically designed training plan by measuring energy expenditure in kilojoules and overall training stress with Training Stress Score is more precise.

2. A powermeter takes post race analysis to a whole new level by giving you and your coach something to analyze and serving as a common language for discussion. There is no more, “I got dropped.” A powermeter is brutally honest and now it’s “I got dropped when you you doing 280 watts”. And since we like to be positive, power data will show you your improvement independent of your peers.  Most importantly it paves the way for adjusting your training to overcome those deficiencies and to continually improve.

1. Model out your training: You’ve been hitting the sauce hard, training 8, 10, and upwards of 12 hour per week. But what is the cumulative effect all those hours, kilojoules and TSS combined together? With a power meter it’s possible to use The Shit That Will Kill Them a.k.a. a power-based impulse-response performance model. Boil all of your files, an entire season’s worth, down into three numbers: Chronic Training Load, Acute Training Load and Training Stress Balance or “form”. You’ll be able to figure out if you are training too much, not enough, and most importantly “just right”. Use the model to arrive on the start line of your most important races(s) in “peak” form.

Most importantly, a powermeter gives athletes and coaches data to exchange and use as a tool for getting faster. The power data + athlete feedback is the ultimate form of communication. And communication is the MOST important part of coaching. For example, the common question ‘how are you feeling?’ becomes ‘how did you feel while you were making 300 watts?’ The coach knows that 300 watts is 10% less than the athlete’s threshold power and wants to make sure that this feels easy. If not, it’s an indication that the athlete needs to rest to avoid overtraining.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. Frank and the FasCat Coaches have been training with power for over 15 years.  To begin training with power, you can fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to schedule a Coaching Consultation.  Or you may buy one of FasCat’s power-based six week training plans for $49 here.  Either way, look forward to increasing your power output on the bike!


Transform your Cycling in 9 Ways

A year ago my new year’s resolution was to double down and make 2016 my year to have a great cycling season. You know, ‘get serious’.   This motivation came from two cyclocross seasons of getting my ass kicked. That was not fun at all. Like cross the finish line, go back to your car, get in and drive away.  So I woke up on New Year’s Day 2016 and went for a ride. Then the next day I went for another ride and the next day and so forth. Training consistently was my first goal and I knocked that out in January – I got back to being a cyclist, just like you. As I look back on 2016, I more than accomplished my goal to have a ‘great season’ and as a coach I want to tell you how I transformed my cycling so you will know how coaching can help you this coming year!

Here are 9 Ways I transformed my cycling and 3 things I learned about myself I’ll use to have another ‘great season’ in 2017:

#1 Consistency: I made getting on my bike a daily priority, whereas before I let work, kids and weather be an excuse. 1 hour a day Tues/Wed/Thurs, indoors or out.

#2 Zwift: speaking of indoors, I hadn’t trained indoors in years. Maybe it was that 4 hour roller session I did as a youngster that scarred me?  Enter Zwift. Try it, its fun and you’ll no longer use weather and daylight as an excuse. Last winter was the first winter in a long time where if it was sloppy cold outside or I couldn’t ride till after dark due to work, that I would move onto plan B and get on the KICKR and Zwift. Fun and productive, 1 hour: one and ‘dun’ where I whole heartedly went for KOMs, rode hard and made a lot of sweat, aka TSS.

In January I established consistency and in February Zwift enhanced that consistency. By March, I stepped it up group rides. And you know what, this is where my training an goals became fun.

#3 Group Rides: by March I had 2 previous months of fitness to propel me on the group rides.  I also had the cyclocross season in my back pocket where the fitness carries over.  This gave me the ability to not just hang on, but to take pulls and ride harder without having to worry about getting dropped.  You know what’s not fun? Hanging on for dear life on a group ride.  I was able to generate more TSS, raise my CTL higher and higher but most of all it was genuinely fun. Hard as heck, shattered afterwards but Fun with a capital F.  I kept going and the training snowballed from consistency, Zwift and the group rides.

#4 CTL: Speaking of CTL , I took mine from 22 on 1/1/16 to 113 on 6/23/16 (2 weeks prior to my first A race). This was all made possible from 1, 2, & 3 and of course sweet spot training.

#5 Cleaned up my diet. I’ve always eaten well but I knew eating better was key to my performance and the lofty goals I had set. Better nutrition was going to help me lose weight. Back in my younger days I used to race at 148 – 154 lbs but over the 10 yrs since my ‘retirement’ the weight had crept up. So I resolved to eat better on January 1st, 2016. I ate more veggies and started making my own ride food, ditching gel chews and energy bars. I primarily used Skratch Labs rice cakes and bananas. I also cut sugar completely out of my diet and cut back on beer. The sugar was easy; the beer was tough. But there’s 3-500 empty calories in every beer and going down to a few a week instead of 1-2 every night made a weight loss relatively easy. Oh and I started planning out my meals and cooking more: more nutritious meals. The girl I was dating was gluten free and that helped too. In the end I’d say I went gluten reduced because going full GF just didn’t work, like that relationship. Haha, I like my Moe’s Bagels too much. And the occasional beer. But I noticed my snot rockets went down which was a relief. That could have been from cutting out ‘dairy’ by way of choosing a more nutritious breakfast (like eggs and spinach) instead of my previous goto milk and cereal.

All these dietary changes took me from 168 to 158 lbs by Memorial Weekend and I felt great, setting Strava PR’s because my power to weight ratio was way up. Overall, I lost a little less than 2 lbs per month for 5 months. Not dieting per se, just cleaning things up. Better food choices an eliminating empty calories.  Basically practicing what I’ve always preached as a coach here. My threshold power was up too and my confidence really began to sky rocket. Then during the Tour inspired by Chris Froome, I took my diet and weight loss to the next level:

#6 Ketosis: cut all carbs and went completely fat and protein only. 6 weeks, the first 4, straight an narrow. Man was that tough to shop for! Basically, I ate a ton of fish, veggies and salad. In July and August I went from 158 to 150 lbs, super lean and was absolutely crushing it on the bike. I started intervals in August so my power went up even more buoyed by the CTL I built up thru June. Less on the denominator and more on the numerator = significant power to weight improvement. Like back to where I was 10 years ago when I was racing NRC’s at the professional level. Ketosis was hard so if you want to try it and don’t mind some crappy training rides here and there, a good coach with personal experience can help shepard you thru this transformation. The best time to ‘ketose’ is during low intensity ‘base’ phases when you aren’t racing or doing full gas intervals. To recap, I lost another 8 lbs (ontop of the 10 lbs by Memorial Weekend) and went from 12-14 % body fat to roughly a 5% lean, mean, cyclocross racing machine . 18 lbs total since January – had to buy a new belt!

Not surprisingly the cyclocross season went well and I had the season I’ve always wanted to have. Hanging out after the races and swapping war stories. I podiumed in my first 6 race weekends, winning one race and nearly missing out on 2 other ‘w’s’. Wow. New year’s resolution complete.

#7 Yoga I had taken yoga classes in years past and remembered how good I felt after the classes and how it helped with proprioreception for better bike handling. So I started again and sure enough, it was helping with my recovery (like stretching) and I started handling the cyclocross bike better especially leaning the bike over in the corners. I started with YogaGlo on the iPad at home and then upgraded to studio classes. At first once a week then up to 2-3 times per week, primarily on my off days when I had a recovery day on the bike. Along the way I found my ‘breath’ and when I was doing intervals for ‘cross, I could literally slow down my breathing and ‘relax’ during the interval and in the race. Yoga is like meditating while moving and the benefits spilled over to my mental toughness during the races.

#8 Strength and Conditioning: I enlisted the help of a personal trainer with a studio (where a lot of the pros here in town go, like Taylor Phinney) to put me thru the paces in Sept and October. I saw amazing gains in my explosive power which I put to use with the accelerations I needed for cyclocross. It was all about getting the glutes engaged and utilizing this muscle group for power production.  This year (2017) I’ll integrate this work + squats, hip thrusts & plyometrics into my cyclocross off season Feb/Mar and then again July/Aug – earlier than this past year so I can recover and still deliver the power on the bike.

What else? Sleep. Oh yes, sleep – the best recovery aid there is.

#9 Sleep. I got a Fitbit with my daughter Christmas of 2015 and what I found most helpful was tracking my sleep hours. 8 hours a night and I’m good, nine and I’m gold. 7 and I feel it and 6 or less and I’m absolute garbage the next day.

Lastly: all the stuff you already know: intervals, motorpacing, training hard, life balance and working on my cyclocross skills with our annual cyclocross camp. Overall I mostly trained 8-12 hour per week with the occasional overload 14 – 16 week before a regeneration block. I did do one 20 hour week over  the Memorial Day long weekend.

I made some mistakes along the way because I was self coached but I have the data and experience that I’m going to correct and use to my advantage in 2017. For example:

#1 Not raise my CTL so high by Memorial Day (I was 109) – rather a more gradual ascent this winter and spring. And that means less forcing training days and more time snowboarding over the winter. I was pretty cooked from training so hard in June that I didn’t quite have the snap for my A race that I had in May. Patience – it takes time and consistency. As I age I may set a CTL of 100 as the high end of what is good and beneficial to my goal events.

#2 Ketosis – start earlier with three 3 week cycles over from April > August. Go back to carbs for power in September during the CX season.

#3 Prepare for my A race by doing a training race. Probably the Haute Route – its a great overload and timed perfectly to end 2 weeks before the Crushar. I’ll simply recover and taper into peak form.

Coaching is so much more than a training calendar and power files.  Its a relationship with an expert invested in your goals ready to share their experience to help you. Granted a well thought out scientifically designed training calendar and power based training are fundamental but the 9 items I described above are next level.  Its like the home depot commercial, “You can do it, we can help” . It takes time and it was hard but ho. lee. moo. lee. it was worth the effort and every single bit of TSS. And the podiums.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. Frank and the FasCat Coaches have been talking the talk and walking the walk [FasCat Core Value #7] for over 15 years.  To talk about transforming your cycling and having your best season, you can email , call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to schedule a Coaching Consultation.


Field Test Workout

A 20 Minute Power-Based Field Test

by Frank Overton, January 2015

One key question we ask ourselves as coaches at FasCat, is if the athlete is responding to the training we have prescribed. Aka, are they getting faster? Our favorite “experiment” to answer this question is a good old fashioned 20 minute power based field test, which is free and can be conducted anywhere and anytime appropriate.

Reality Cycling

In a former life and career, I conducted hundreds of experiments in a medical and biotechnology as a research scientist in laboratories designed to answer specific questions about the research projects I was working on. Spinal cord research, cancer, and novel cancer cures to name a few.  At FasCat, we still perform “experiments” designed to evaluate our athletes’ current physiology as it relates to their cycling performance.  Still to this day the most practical, most relevant test of all is a 20 minute power based field test. With the exception of a full gas 40k time trial.

In the past we have conducted MLSS tests in an exercise physiology lab, but the reality is that cyclists need to test two to three times per year which is cost prohibitive for many athletes.  Plus indoor power tends to be slightly less that outdoor power.  A properly conducted field test cuts to the core of cycling performance and gives a great physiological assessment of the athlete (1), making it an indispensable tool for our coaches or the self coached athlete. Here’s how to perform a field test:

How Do I Conduct a Field Test?

In essence, a 20 minute power based field test is still riding as fast as hard as you can for exactly 20 minutes.  Just like a 20 minute time trial. Record your average power output and use that number as a benchmark and to determine your wattage based zones*.  When available we’ll recommend a steady grade hill free of stop signs, descents and any section of road that requires the athlete to stop pedalling.  Ideally a 2-3% steady grade hill like this Strava segment.  Steeper climbs tend to bog athletes’ cadence down which skews the test results.  Conversely, some athletes make greater power uphill than they can on the flats. Whichever you choose, it is absolutely imperative that you ensure your test is repeatable, accurate and reliable.

Here’s how: For the road cyclist and mountain biker an all out effort similar to your time trial pace of 20 minutes elicits a physiological response that has been found to be “the single greatest determinant of cycling performance in mass start cycling events” (1).  We have experimented with 60 minute Field Tests and honestly not that many athletes can sustain that sort of mental effort for the full 60 minutes.  If they can its a mental match we don’t want to burn.  On the other hand if we know the athlete can do a 60 minute field test once a year, it is the coaches discretion to prescribe one.   It is especially beneficial to compare 60 minute field test data to ~ 60 minute 40k time trial data.

When choosing the roads for your field test let the terrain you have available dictate the specifics of your test (working within the 20 min range). After all, going for it from the bottom of a climb all the way to the top is more stimulating than working off your stopwatch. It may even be specific to your target event(s). For instance, a climber targeting a race with a decisive climb will want to specifically perform their test on a climb similar to the one found in the race. Heck, if you live nearby the race course, test on the race course! Conversely you may not even see a climb longer than one or two minutes where you live. That’s cool; then find a stretch of road to measure how far you can ride in 20 minutes. If this is the case, pay special attention to the wind and humidity which will affect your aerodynamics and thus time. As long as you come back to the very same piece of road and start from the very same spot, under the same test conditions, your test will be repeatable.

*We take the average 20 minute power and subtract 5 – 10% to arrive at an athlete’s 60 minute “Functional Threshold Power” or FTP. As a generally rule of thumb we use 5% for slow twitch aerobic athletes and 10% for athletes that have a well developed anaerobic system.  We’ll subtract 7.5% if we don’t know about the athlete’s anaerobic capacity.


Whatever you have nearby, find a stretch of road free of stops signs, intersections and corners — anything that would slow you down. In essence: go as hard as you can! Don’t hold back one bit, go for it! Now here’s the catch: remember everything about this test and duplicate it for your next test.

Items to keep the same (& ensure repeatability) include:
  • Your powermeter! Calibrated of course. Different powermeters unfortunately produce different results
  • Your bike: weight (including water bottles), body position, tires, tire pressure.
  • Your kit: jersey, shorts, helmet – – essentially you want to have the same aerodynamic characteristics from test to test.
  • Wind and weather conditions: test on a windless day under the same humidity – air density affects aerodynamics too!
  • Temperature: avoid testing between extreme temperature differences.
  • Come into the test rested, properly fueled, well hydrated with tons of motivation (you gotta go full gas!)
  • Perform the exact same warm up before each field test.
  • In a nutshell keep everything the same except for your fitness.

Being able to compare tests and controlling for all other variables except your physiology or fitness allows you and your coach to interpret the efficacy of your training. These details may seem picky but are necessary to draw accurate comparisons.

Your results:

Test at the beginning of your training and then again after 8-12 weeks to measure your improvement. If your power goes up, guess what? Your training is working, keep going.  If your power goes down or stays the same, guess what? Your training is not working and you need to change what you are doing.  Its as simple as that.

All of our Six Week $49 Training Plans culminate with a field test so you can measure how much faster you’ve become!

Test not once, but twice, or more

If you have a new powermeter or are beginning a training program, perform a “baseline” field test for two reasons:

• To determine your wattage based training zones
• To establish a benchmark to measure future improvement

For a good test ‘performance’, approach the day with a minimum of 24 hours rest and go absolutely as hard as you can during the test.  If you don’t, the results will be inconclusive.  Record the average power and continue with your next training cycle. Come back to the very same field test in 6-8 weeks under the same rested conditions and go for it again. By comparing the two average power outputs,  you will be able to draw useful conclusions about your training. i.e. is it working? Test periodically throughout the year (we recommend no more than 3 times*) and carefully record your results in your training log. This will paint a big picture that is extremely useful when plotting out your next move and planning your next winning season.

Regular testing is THE BEST way to track performance and we do not recommend using mean maximal, mFTP or power profile charts that cull non “as hard as you can go” power outputs. By performing 20 minute tests, you’ll also be able to compare this data with race data.  For example, time trials where you went as hard as you could for 20 minutes or breakaways and long climbs.


• Go as hard as you can for the full 20 minutes
• Upload your data and analyze the average power output
• Make sure the test is 100% repeatable to eliminate all variables except your average power output improvement
• For indoor 20 minutes tests, see our indoor cycling 20 minute tip

Finally, testing yourself is a great start, but remember the ultimate measure of performance is performance itself. So get out there in a race, go hard, and duke it out!  For further reading, please read the “Determining Threshold Power” training tip on VeloNews.


E.F. Coyle, A.R. Coggan, M.K. Hopper and T.J. Walters, “Determinants of endurance in well-trained cyclists.” J Appl. Physiol 64:2622-2630, 1988

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

Frank is the founder,  owner and CEO of FasCat Coaching  in Boulder, CO.  He is a full time professional USA cycling certified Elite level coach, former category 1 road racer; semi-pro mountain biker and nowadays a ‘master’ category cyclocross racer. Frank & FasCat prescribes field tests all over North America and Europe and locally chooses Lefthand Canyon in Boulder, CO for FasCat Athletes to test up. To talk with a FasCat Coach about the same testing described above, please call 720.406.7444 or fill out a  New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation. Additionally all of FasCat’s training plans have field tests prescribed for optimal performance.


Tabata Intervals Power Data Graph

Tabata Intervals

In the cycling world, the ability to go extremely hard for a short period of time often determines the outcome of a race. From a 10 second finish line sprint at 60kph, to a 30 second, 10% steep climb; raw wattage wins races! When it comes to Anaerobic Capacity, there are countless options for improving your ability to produce top end power, but do they all have the same effect? Japanese exercise physiologist Izumi Tabata suggests that interval training workout is superior to all others.

All of our Interval Training Plans include Tabata Intervals designed in a proper training calendar

Find the perfect six-week interval plan: Click here to browse our $49 plans!

The Science:

Dr. Tabata determined that many athletes do well at improving their economy (Vo2 Max) or the ability to utilize available oxygen, but were not really tapping into their ability to improve anaerobic capacity. Anaerobic energy occurs when the body has no oxygen available to fuel the muscles, and at this point, the metabolite Phosphocreatine (PCr) is necessary to keep functioning. PCr is a finite resource, and takes time to “re-load”. Dr. Tabata found that most intervals didn’t stress this system enough to make sure physiological gains. Traditional anaerobic exercises of 30 seconds to 2 minutes were effective, but not intense enough and included too much rest to create proper adaptations. Through his laboratory research, Dr. Tabata found a protocol effective enough to achieve the anaerobic gains he was searching for.

The study conducted used cyclists and two forms of training. The 1st group used an aerobic method of training (70% of Vo2max), while the 2nd group did 4-min of high intensity work, consisting of 20 seconds @ 170% of Vo2Max and 10 seconds of easy recovery (Tabata, 1). The 2nd group improved their anaerobic capacity by 28% while the first group did not show significant improvement. Dr. Tabata concluded, that very short amount of work and decreased rest, prevented the body from obtaining oxygen to fuel energy, staying anaerobic, and truly adapting the body’s ability to utilize lactate and PCr for energy.

Training Application:

So, now that you are an expert on the science, what does it all mean? If you want to make headway in your ability to work at the anaerobic capacity and above, as well as recover quickly,Tabata intervals are a must to take your cycling to the next level!

These intervals should not be taken lightly, and need to be completed when the body is the most recovered, after a rest day or a couple easy days on the bike. In order for the intervals to be effective, cyclists should use the following guidelines:

  • Identify your FTP [Functional Threshold Power]
  • If no powermeter, these are completely Full Gas efforts, as hard as you can go efforts, Heart Rate will lag behind and not represent your effort.
  • Identify what value is 170% of your FTP**
  • Be well rested, fueled, motivated and hydrated for your workout
  • Find a quite / flat stretch of road that is free of stop signs / stop lights / or cross traffic.
  • Intervals are best done in the drops for optimal leverage and effort.
  • Go as hard as you can for these efforts! Don’t look at your powermeter until after your intervals, and if you went hard enough, the average power for your intervals should be correct.

**In the lab setting, many of Dr. Tabata’s subject couldn’t complete the full set of repetitions, or failed on the last (Tabata, 2).  From a training and coaching aspect, we want our athletes to get the most out of each workout and design them to be achievable, so we decrease the wattage requirement slightly so athletes may finish every rep.

The Tabata Interval Workout for Cycling:

3 sets of 8 x 20 seconds ON @ 170% FTP, 10 seconds easy, with 10 minutes of rest in-between sets.

This is only a 4 minute effort, but you should NEARLY be falling off your bike by the end!  One has to be tough as nails mentally to push thru the last 6th, 7th & 8th tabata of each set. As you see the power & heart rate data graph above, notice how the heart rate continues to rise even with 10 seconds of rest, and how it stayed higher for about a minute after the set was complete. This is the body truly in anaerobic capacity and working hard to receive oxygen.  The average power for all 20 second intervals was roughly 170% of this athlete’s FTP.


You want to hold back a teensy-tiny bit on the first two – three 20 seconders so that you don’t crater for Tabatas 6, 7, & 8.  Remember 170% of FTP is difficult but doable.  Ideally the average power of the final tabata equals the average power of the first tabata. In other words you hit 170% of your FTP for each effort. Avoid being so pumped up mentally that your first efforts are significantly greater than the last.  For example 200% of your FTP then 125%.    If you start out at 170% and are going as hard as you can and then fail to hit 170% two consecutive Tabatas in a row, you have reached exhaustion and should cease and go home and begin recovering.


Anaerobic capacity efforts are the bread and butter workout for being able to produce peak powers during and at the end of races. Tabata intervals are one of the most effective methods for increasing the body’s Anaerobic Capacity. These intervals should find their way into everyone’s training program at the appropriate times, and done when the athlete is fully rested. These efforts are extremely difficult and Full Gas! Tabatas produce massive performance gains with as little as 4 to 8 minutes of effort in a workout, making them a highly effective interval training workout!


  1. Tabata, Izumi, et al. “Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max.” Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, vol. 28, no. 2, 1996, pp. 1337-1340.
  2. Tabata, Izumi, et al. “Metabolic profile of high intensity intermittent exercise.” Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, vol. 29, no 3, 1997, pp. 390-395

Copyright 2016 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. To talk with Frank or a FasCat Coach about integrating tabata intervals into your training, please fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire or call 720.406.7444 to set up a Coaching Consultation.You can also buy FasCat’s Interval Training Plan’s here which all have Tabata Intervals prescribed in an easy to follow calendar format. Otherwise go as hard as you can, 170% of FTP as described above!


Jeremy Powers cyclocross running

Cyclocross Running

You may or may not love running, but your cyclocross running should be skill to focus on during cyclocross season. Building a progam for cyclocross running that is specific to your abilities as a cyclist is the key. You’re not Usain Bolt and shouldn’t try to be!

Yes, you should train for the run in cyclocross, but we recommend that you do it in a cyclocross specific way.  Cyclocross running includes short, explosive deliberate ‘sprinting’, just like what happens in a race. Run training for cyclocross is not a 30 minute (or longer) ‘jog’ especially if you are not a runner. It may be if you are…. more on that later in the training tip.

We checked in with National Champion Jeremy Powers to ask about his cyclocross running and here’s what he said, “Start slow and build a base, don’t go out thinking you’re Prefontaine. Build a base like anything, then add intensity. Train for what you’re actually going to do. No need for 1 hr runs when you run maybe 10 to 20 seconds all out in a cx race.”

Jeremy leading this group up the stairs at the 2015 Hoogerheide World Cup. Photo Credit: Molly Hurford / Aspire Racing

Here are 4 progressive 30 minute cyclocross running workouts to perform once a week this summer before the season starts.

BUY a 6-week sweet spot cyclocross training plan HERE that has these weekly run workouts balanced around sweet spot training specific to cross >> exactly what you should be doing this summer.

These cyclocross runs start gradually and become more advanced by integrating a cyclocross skill in week 3 and beyond.   We’ll describe the workouts first and then go back to the preparation you should do in training before converting your cycling legs into cyclocrosser legs.

To quote JPows Cyclocross Coach John Verheul of JBV Coaching, “For the majority of American races (Jingle Cross’ Mt. Krumpet is probably an exception), there are no long runs where you can gain or lose a lot of time. So the focus is less on being a strong runner, and more on not spending a lot of energy on the run. Dismounts, remounts and proper carrying technique are elements you should incorporate into your running drills once your legs are used to running for ‘cross.”

Cyclocross Running Workout # 1

Ride your bike to a grassy park with a hill and/or stairs (see image above). Be in your running shoes. Ideally, this is a 10 – 30-second hill or 25 – 45 stairs.  This is the core workout the next 3 workouts will build off of.  So finding a hill or set of stairs is super important!   If not then we are talking about a grassy park.

Stretch first, do some jumping jacks, burpees, and single legged leaps. Above all warm up.

Begin with a slow 5 minute ‘jog’ (yes I know I said no jogging).   Now you are warmed up and ready to run specific to cyclocross,

From the bottom of your hill or stairs run up fast just over cyclocross race pace.  Focus not on full strides but shorter steps. Tap tap tap, accentuate your footwork.  Repeat 3 -5 times walking downhill/ down the stairs in between each run-up.

For the off the couch cyclist (hasn’t run since last cx season or in over 6 months), start with 2 sets (3-5 stair repeats) for the first week.  This workout would be in week 1, just once a week.  Short and sweet.

Jeremy Powers running his way to victory at the 2016 US National Cyclocross Championships

Cyclocross Running Workout # 2

Perform Cyclocross Run Workout #1 but instead of 2 sets, we’ll go four.  The first 2 at cx race pace (from workout # 1).  Then the 2nd two FULL GAS, sprint, as hard as you can. Remember to maintain your footwork but keep the speed high!  The key is running UP quickly, not forward quickly. This workout would be in week 2, also just once a week.

Cyclocross Running Workout # 3

Now, let’s integrate your cyclocross bike into the workout so we can practice the all-important skills of dismounting and remounting.  From here on out all your cyclocross run workouts will include the bike and a skill. We call them “2 fers” – two aspects of cyclocross at once, which is so much of what cyclocross is.

Perform Cyclocross Run Workout # 2 including a 30 minute Zone 2 ride. But now you are going to ride into the run section (hill or stairs) dismount and run up carrying your bike.  You are in your cycling shoes now whereas before you were in your running shoes. Depending on the run-up you are either shouldering or ‘suitcase carrying’ your bike.  Ride your bike down easy and recover for 1-2 minutes before the next set.

For workout # 3 we’ll do 6 sets (progressing from 2 > 4 > 6).   Do half the sets suitcase carrying and the other half shouldering the bike.  Perform short runs on the order of 10 seconds where you are running fast, always concentrating on your footwork.   Run as fast as cyclocross and even faster to amplify the physiological adaptation from running.  For shouldering, really pump your left arm to help propel you up the hill or stairs.  This workout would be in week 3, but you can perform it twice a week along with another cycling workout to make it a “3 fer”.

Cyclocross Running Workout # 4

By now your legs are acclimated to the intensity of running specifically for ‘cross so we can hit it harder.  All running should be in short bursts, full gas, with primo footwork, faster than the races, carrying your bike.

8 sets (3 – 5 run ups per set): warm up on the bike for 30 minutes in Zone 2

Sets 1-2: These are your warm-up sets (Cyclocross Workout # 1), focusing on dismounting smooth, timing carrying the bike, running under race past up the hill/stairs in short small steps, not full strides

Set 3 & 4: Ride into the dismount easy, focusing on timing your dismount, carrying your bike smooth and running up deliberately and controlled, not full gas, more like tempo. BUT half way up hit the gas as hard as hard as you can!  Tap tap tap, short steps like Adri van de Poel (and of course Jeremy Powers). Here, footwork is so important: by running short steps you don’t load up your legs and suffer as much when you get back up on the bike.  Think of these short steps like your cadence: spin a higher cadence and easier gear.  See Footwork training below.

Sets 5 & 6: Just like sets 3 and 4 but as hard as you can from top to bottom.

Sets 7 & 8: Ride into the dismount section with some speed and run up as hard as you can. Focusing on everything as before but at the top remount and accelerate back up to speed, ride around the to bottom and hit it one more time.  HUP HUP!!

4 Elements of Cyclocross Running to Undergo before you Actually Run:

Our bodies are adapted to a single plane pedaling movement. Send any cyclist out on their first run since the last cyclocross race and I guarantee they come back wicked sore!  Here are 4 ‘trainings’ you can do year round and especially in June and July to prepare for the Cyclocross Workouts 1 – 4 described above.

Hiking: a great way to train with the family, bring some balance to your cycling and accentuate lateral side to side movements that pedalling a bike.  I have all my athletes go on at least one hike before that take one run step.

Yoga: Yoga stretches and opens up your hips which will really take a beating if you don’t prepare before the cyclocross season.  When you do incorporate yoga into your training the running will have less of an impact and you’ll recover better so that you can get back to on the bike intensity without being. Here is a 22 minute quad and hip stretching yoga routine.  No excuses not to do this!  We also recommend YogaGlo’s Cycling Series (YogaGlo also sponsors a bad ass Cyclocross Team).

Strength and Mobility: this is the traditional gym work that al cyclocross athletes to integrate into their off season cyclocross training

Footwork: Picture in your head football players running thru tires.  High steps, light on the feet, quick quick quick.  Actually what’s better for us ‘cross is the ladder run where you are placing your feet inside each box and moving thru the ladder with quick, short steps as fast as possible. Watch HERE (hokey video and music but the content is spot on).  This is the essential footwork teaching short quick steps (not full strides) that will ‘save’ your legs in the cyclocross racers.

Plyometrics: Explosive Movements for jumping on and off the bike, jumping over barriers and giving you legs the ability to sprint, not just run.  My favorite plyometrics for ‘crossers is the single legged split squat jump + box and depth jumps.


Speaking of skills: John, Jeremy and Frank invite you to consider our Jeremy Powers Cyclocross SKILLS Camp, August 25 – 27th in Boulder, CO.  We’ll be working on teaching you the correct dismount and remount skills and performing some of these run workouts during the camp!  In any case good luck (!)and holler back if you have any questions or experiences to share with your run training for cyclocross.

Can’t make it to camp? Buy our Cyclocross Summer Sweet Spot Training Plan that includes the workouts described above + all the sweet spot training you should be doing for cross this summer.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank is the head coach, founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.  Talking the talk and walking the walk is one of FasCat’s Core Values and you may find him performing these workouts up the 5280 Stairs at the Valmont Bike Park. To talk with Frank about your cyclocross training please fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire or call 720.406.7444 to set up a Coaching Consultation.  Otherwise run run run as described above!


Using your Powermeter for Weight Loss

You can use your powermeter to help with your weight loss goals by paying attention to your work expenditure in kiloJoules.  Your ride for 2 hours producing 1,000 kiloJoules of work equals roughly 1 Chipotle chicken burrito. Ride for 5 hours and 3,000 kJ’s and that’s a lot of food!  What high octane gasoline is to a Ferrari, carbohydrate is to you, the athlete & cyclist.  Fuel your long rides but cut back by 250-500 calories per day to loss .5 – 1lb per week.   You can eat and lose weight at the same time by calculating your daily caloric expenditure and subtracting your kiloJoules.  Here’s how:

Calories required to live and breathe + calories you eat – calories you burn exercising.

A Calorie is a Calorie
First off, let’s dispel any myths out there. All food, whether it’s a hot ‘n fresh glazed Krispy Kreme donut or a plate of pasta, has a caloric value. You can figure it out by looking at the values printed on the back of food labels or consulting an online food database such as MyFitnessPal which integrates with our partner TrainingPeaks.

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)
Your resting metabolic rate or RMR is the number of calories your body needs to live and breathe. I’m talking about vital functions like your heart beat, brain activity and respiration. If you were to lie on the couch all day and barely move, your RMR would represent your total daily caloric requirements.

Resting Metabolic Rate may be measured in a lab from your respiratory gases or it may be estimated with an online calculator from your age, height and weight.

Caloric Requirements of Exercise
Your RMR represents what it takes to lay around, but what about exercise? Estimating your daily energy expenditure from walking, working, and riding is more complicated but do-able. Estimates may be made again from a variety of online calculators but all of them center around duration and intensity. The more you exercise the more calories you burn. And the higher intensity at which you exercise, the more calories or “fuel” your body consumes.

If you are fortunate enough to own a powermeter (did I mention how handy these are?) your energy expenditure is represented by the total workload of your ride in kilojoules. Kilojoule is a unit of work that by a quirk of nature handily converts in a 1:1 ratio to calories. So for every kilojoule that you ride, you’ve also burned 1 calorie of food. Ride a thousand kJ’s and that’s good for one burrito.

For those of you who are so inclined, here are the conversion factors:

Ride 3,000 kJ and that’s a lot of food. Kinda gives meaning to Eddy’s famous quote, “ride more, eat less” eh?

Putting it all together
Take the number of calories burned during exercise and add that to your RMR. Poof, you’ve calculated your total daily caloric requirements.

RMR Energy Expenditure = Total Daily Caloric Requirement

Energy in = Energy Out. Simple, right? Now what to do with these numbers?

Log it Down!
Now, take this number and eat 250 to 500 kcals or calories less each day and watch the lbs disappear. Simple huh? Yes, but you’ll need to calculate your total daily caloric requirements each day and then count every calorie you eat. That is asking a lot of athletes but it is nevertheless important to understand the numbers behind process. All the successful diets in the world adhere to these scientific principles whether it’s the South Beach diet or cyclist’s Krispy Kreme diet.

The other, more moderate method to track your energy intake is to do a three-day dietary log, where you record and calculate your food intake on a combination of weekday and weekends. If your diet is generally stable throughout the week, these three days will give you a good average value to work from. The other benefit of dietary logs is that it becomes a self-reinforcing practice. Nobody wants to look bad even to their own diaries, so you end up skipping that extra bowl of chips because it ends up looking darned embarrassing entering it into the log!

Long Term
By cutting back 250 to 500 calories per day, everyday on a consistent basis, you can expect to lose 05.-1 pounds per week. Over the course of 8 to 10 weeks or more and that’s a huge lifestyle change. And I’m here to tell you, it’s the single greatest improvement you can make for your cycling performance, besides increasing your power output. Count calories if you must but also conceptually consider your food choices. Together you have a winning recipe.

Copyright 2016 , FasCat Coaching

Frank is neither a registered dietitian nor a meal planner. But he can help you integrate a weight loss strategy into your training plan. For more information and to have a coaching consultation fill out the New Athlete Questionnaire or email


Sweet Spot Training: Advanced Aerobic Endurance

by Frank Overton

In January of 2005 I was working with group of coaches and sport scientists developing a new power based impulse-response performance model. While we were keeping a lid on it publicly, its revelations influenced my monthly training tips dramatically. Privately we coined the term Sweet Spot training described below. After we had developed the concept, below is the Sweet Spot “world wide release”.

My ‘o my, is it June already? Is the race season already half over? Good grief that means we have to think about your end of the season goals and what that means for your training. Now that you’ve smashed the competition with your best peak performances ever, what’s next for your training?

Buy our $49 Six Weeks to the Sweet Spot Training Plan

Planning for your second season’s peak
Periodization, by definition, means planning for peak performances at certain predetermined races. Most athletes and coaches can successfully nail 2 periods of peak performance each season. Now that you have achieved your first peak performance it’s time to both mentally reward yourself and begin working towards achieving an even higher peak in the second phase of the racing calendar.

The first step in this process is to take a step back and some time off the bike. It may seem paradoxical to do so in the middle of the nice weather, but it’s critical to fully regenerate both physically and mentally. I suggest taking a mid-season break for 3-5 days and forget you are a bike racer. I define this break exactly as I have before at the end of the season only shorter and with less irrational exuberance. You know what I mean!! Let your mind go from the day to day toils of training and relax. After you start jonesing to train and race, you’re ready to tackle the second half of the season.

Sweet Spot Training
After a well thought out and strategically executed taper, your overall aerobic endurance has been dramatically reduced. You sacrificed many months of work in exchange for optimal “form” or fitness. Now that your peak is over, and the form is gone; its time to re-build and I recommend starting with a 2-3 week aerobic endurance phase. The length of this phase will be contingent upon the proximity of your next “A” race(s). The more time you have the longer I suggest focusing on increasing your aerobic endurance. This phase is much like the base training that occurs over the winter months, but now that you are in mid-season shape take it up a notch.

The Evolution of “Sweet Spot” Training
Back in January, I wrote about building your “base” by riding tempo. Now the same concept applies to your training as you begin to re-load your aerobic arsenal. Out of that January Toolbox, several esteemed coaches, colleagues, and sports scientists began calling this approach to aerobic endurance as “sweet spot” training.

The underlying principle of sweet spot training is a balanced amount of intensity and volume that produces a maximal increase in an athlete’s functional threshold power (FTP). In the figure below, the “sweet spot” occurs between a high level/zone 2 and level/zone 4. It is within these ranges that you will build your base the most and simultaneously increase your power at threshold. More bang for your buck, and thus the nickname, “sweet spot”.

Figure courtesy of Dr. Andy Coggan, Ph.D

Given that you are in mid-season race shape, sweet spot training is more specific to your racing now than level/zone 2 was back in the winter. When was the last time you raced at a zone 2 pace? Wait don’t answer that! My point is that sweet spot training specifically addresses the physiological requirements during the majority of your racing. It is not, however, a substitute for VO2max, anaerobic or neuromuscular intervals. We’ll talk about that later on in the summer. For now you are working on building an aerobic engine capable of comfortably handling the large majority of power demands in your races. By doing so, you are setting yourself up well for when the smack goes down during the crucial make or break moments in a race.

How do I find my sweet spot? 
Easy there tiger; this is an all ages website! If you have a powermeter, you are in luck. If you are using CyclingPeaks software you are in the “money”. Even without a powermeter, sweet spot training defines what has worked all along with the old skool approach. Powermeter users just now have data to prove it! Fartleks, motorpacing, “brisk” group rides, and level 3 & 4 intervals all count. And who could forget the ultimate sweet spot training: racing.

Essentially any type of training that accumulates lots of Training Stress Score (TSS), kilojoules, time, hours, and miles falls within the parameters of sweet spot training. Most athletes enjoy the freedom that comes from such a wide range of training options because this is what we do best. During your sweet spot training, use as many tools and ways to quantify your workload as possible because the rules of classic periodization still apply.

At the end of the day TSS is the ultimate way to measure your training workload. In much the same way a physician prescribes a precise amount of medicine, a coach, sports scientist, or experienced athlete can plan out exactly the right amount of daily training with TSS. Here is an example 4 week mesocycle using a powermeter, TSS, and your sweet spot:

These are arbitrary numbers and will vary highly depending on how much time you have to train and how hard you ride. The table is mainly put forth to illustrate how you can use sweet spot training with a powermeter in an example mesocycle. No matter what training tools you have, everyone can plan out their weekly hours as a starting point. And if you have a powermeter you have no excuse; for goodness sakes download your files and quantify your training!!

“Pro” Applicability
For years I never knew what the pros were talking about when they spoke of finding their legs, or honing their form. When you read about the Pro Tour Euro dogs quoted as using a race, a block of races, or a stage race to find their legs, they are hitting their sweet spot by doing some steady or higher intensity work at race pace. Right now at the Tour de Suisse and last week at the Dauphine, all the GC contenders, sprinters, and domestiques are honing their form with event specific sweet spot training before the Tour de France. If we all could only be so lucky! However, a Tour de France camp or summer stage race will yield similar aerobic endurance gains relative to you, of course. Even multiple back to back long rides will go a long way towards building your aerobic engine this summer.

Consistency is Key
With the long days of summer upon us, get out there and ride your bike consistently on a day to day basis. Even if you can only ride for an hour on Monday go a little harder than you would normally. Strategically use compact spirited group rides and training races Monday thru Friday and incorporate longer rides on the weekend. Hit your sweet spot and in no time you will be well poised with an aerobic engine as good or better than the beginning of your race season. Once you’ve accomplished this, you’ll be able to sit back with all the hay in the barn and enjoy thinking about which races you want to slay in the second half of this season.

I have designed a “Six Weeks to the Sweet Spot” Training Plan available HERE for $49.  If you have 6-10 hours to train per week you can raise your threshold power as much as 5-20% (depending on several factors).

Copyright 2016 , FasCat Coaching

Frank is a full time USA Cycling Elite level certified coach, owner, and founder of FasCat Coaching, a cycling coaching company in Boulder, CO.  To talk with a FasCat Coach about implementing sweet spot into your training, please call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation


Cheetah Demonstrating Proper Recovery Techniques

Take a Recovery Day to come into Form

by Frank Overton: June 15, 2015

Now that racing has begun or is about to begin its time to go fast. You’ve lifted weights this winter, suffered through the horrible winter to put in your base miles, watched Tour de France re-runs in the basement on your trainer, and you’ve done countless intervals in Zone 5. What’s next? How about a rest day!

Cheetahs are Fast because they know how to recover!

Huh? No really, seriously, what’s next? Well, cycling fans I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s what professional cyclists around the globe are doing. Taking it easy. Yup, recovery days. With the spring classics around the corner, and the NRC calendar heating up here in the States, pros on both sides of the pond are parking their bikes and hitting the couch. It takes discipline, it takes willpower, and it takes confidence in your training plan to park it on the couch for a day or two. But taking some well earned recovery days is a perfect way to come into your form for these all important races.

Wait a minute! You haven’t read about TJ’s epic day and week on the couch just days prior to his podium at the Dauphine.  Its not glamorous to tweet about resting and its also not a good idea to make your secret weapon public information. But rest assured everybody benefits from a rest day. I betcha’ right now TJ, Talansky, Contador and Froomie are all horizontal on the couch fresh off a massage daydreaming of Le Tour de France.

In all sincerity, a few well timed recovery days can make or break your A race campaign. But in my opinion there is so much more to a recovery day than not riding your bike.

Try these recovery tricks during your next recovery day:

– Plan ahead and schedule in a massage, a steam at the gym, or another relaxing activity
– Rent a DVD or video and park it on the couch for a couple of hours with your feet up
– Sleep in or try to get in an afternoon nap. Ideally, do both
– Focus on another area of your training like your nutrition: cook yourself a great meal or better yet have someone cook it for you
– Take care of all those things in life you put on hold in order to train
– Catch up on your web surfing and social media
– Take time to nurture and develop the relationships that are important to you whether it be your spouse, child, or friend. Bike racing is too hard without support!
– If you are still “crazy about the bike” try giving your second home some T.L.C. Wash it, Clean it, lube it, or take it to your friendly bike shop. Whatever you can do to ensure that your machine is good to go on race day

Things not to do on your recovery day (we’ve all been guilty of these):

Work late to catch up from those days you left on time to go out a train
Take the city limit street sprint
Tag along with your buddies on “that climb”
Shall we go on? You probably got the picture
Ahhh, the life. These fascats know how to recover!

Copyright 2016 , FasCat Coaching

Frank is the founder, owner and head coach of FasCat Coaching, a boutique brand coaching company in Boulder, CO.  Overton and his coaches have been prescribing rest days and rest weeks since 2003.  To talk with a FasCat Coach about setting up your training plan with just the right amount of rest days, call 720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a coaching consultation.


The Performance Manager Chart

The Performance Manager Chart in WKO and TrainingPeaks

Development and Beta Testing of “TSTWKT”, Introduction:
Back in the Fall of 2004, I attended USA Cycling’s Coaches Summit where I had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Andy Coggan, Ph.D present on training with power. I had seen Andy present before but during his talk he began to present on a impulse-response model he was working on.

At the end of Andy’s talk, I asked how I could use the model and hours later a complicated spreadsheet showed up in my inbox. I scratched my head and poured over it. A week later I joined a group of 12 or so athletes, coaches and sports scientists as beta testers for this 3rd generation power-based impulse-response model.

As a beta tester, I figured the best way to understand the complexities of the model was to use my own data. Everyday I returned home with great enthusiasm to download my training file and analyze how each day’s TSS affected the model, my power output & performance plus how it felt.

It wasn’t long before the beta testers all got together online and began discussing every aspect of their training and their subsequent all time best performances. Soon I began planning out my training using a TSS for each day of training and using the model to peak for the Colorado State Time Trial. The end result was a performance of a lifetime which I am very proud of to this day.

The following month in July I gave PEZCyclingNews the first look at the model in an article entitled “Finding Form: A Power-Based Performance Model“. At the time, the model was not available to the public and rather than try to tiptoe around what it was and how it worked, I decided to hype the model a tad while describing the broader purpose – – the how and why of what “good form” was.

Also during this time, I was reading Daniel Coyle’s “Lance Armstrong’s War“. Since I was a time trial enthusiast, I liked the way Armstrong called his F One equipment “The Shit that Will Kill Them”.

And so when I was writing about the model for my monthly PEZ training article it came to me, this model is The Shit that Will Kill Them. It truly is our secret weapon that we (mostly Andy) have/has developed which we are using to our competitive advantage. In the aftermath of the article someone, somewhere in one of the online power based web forums began using the acronym TSTWKT. And for the short period of time the name stuck I quietly enjoyed how it caught on.

These days (Summer 2006) the model is called the Performance Manager Chart or PMC.  I am proud of the work I did as a beta tester. What I learned from the model (and continue to do so) forms the foundation of my philosophy as a coach. Not all of it, but a large large portion. If you are serious about training and going big for a particular event start using the PMC.

If you would like to learn more about the model, below is a good start. The best way to learn how to use the model in my opinion is with your own training data perhaps your athlete’s training data.  There are three aspects to understand while you are using it:

1. CTL/ATL/ and your “Form” aka TSB

2. Fatigue and its relationship to power output and that relationship to CTL/ATL/TSB

3. How you or your athlete ‘feels’, also in relation to # ‘s 1 & 2 above.

Below is what started out as a FAQ and then turned into a Glossary which as of now doesn’t even cover everything. I don’t know if it ever will. For further reading I suggest starting with Tim Taha’s graduate thesis review linked below on Systems Modelling of the Relationship between Training and Performance. Enjoy!

The relationship between an athlete’s training load (or CTL, see below) and his or her athletic performance is one of the most basic principles of training. Without enough training, the athlete will under perform. However, after too much training, the athlete will also under perform. I like to compare this to an anesthesiologist and their job in the surgical room. I was originally turned on to this relationship way back in the day by a graduate student by the name of Allen Lim. You may have seen his microwave popcorn slide. I understood the principle but until the PMC came along, I never grasped how to put the principle into practice.

Peak athletic performance is a slippery slope and occurs with the optimal amount of training load. Prescribing just the right “dose” of training, like Goldilocks, is the key to peak athletic performance and the holy grail for athletes, coaches and sports scientists.

TSTWKT helps the user figure out exactly what that Goldilocks dose of training is. Furthermore, the model helps plan for peaks performances.

Acronym for TRaining IMPulseS originally described by Dr. Eric Banister in his 1975 publication titled “A systems model of training for athletic performance”. Banister’s heart rate based model was popularized by multisport athletes for years adding further evidence to the robust-ness of the model’s prediction of performance.

TRIMPS = exercise duration x average heart rate

Banister’s model describes the use of TRIMPS to quantify an athlete’s training load and measure the impulse:

Thierry Busso et. al
In 1990, the French physiologist Thierry Busso began publishing his work on a system model of training responses. Seven years later, Busso published data validating the systems model with time varying parameters “for describing the responses of physical performance to training”.

Of particular interest is the way in which Busso and his colleagues quantified the training load or impulse used in their study:

number of intervals performed x weighted intensity effort (power output / P lim 5′ x 100) For example, four 5 minute intervals performed at 85% of P lim 5′ was calculated by 4 x 85 = 340 training units.

Compared to TSS, you’ll notice that Busso’s method for quantifying the training load is rather rudimentary.

Power Based Impulse Response Model
Using TSS (Training Stress Score, see below) rather than heart rate data or training units as Busso did, Dr. Andy Coggan and the Training Manager beta testers have developed a third generation power based impulse response model.

Training Manager users will now be able to model their training and track their performance by using their daily TSS as the “impulse” to quantify their overall training load. The training manager and model takes the impulse and uses the algorithms previously described in the literature to predict performance in terms of the metric TSB (see below) or the response.

It is important to recognize that the Training Manager is a mathematical model which does not account for specificity of training adaptations. Just like meteorologists use models to predict the path of hurricanes we are using this model to predict peak performance. But with all models there is a certain “art” to go along with the science.

Part of the so called “art” lies in how to interpret and apply the model to the data and race results being produced. It is up to the athlete, coach, or sports scientist to correlate that prediction of performance, TSB, with actual race performance along with various length peak power outputs

Ultimately the model may be used to control the athlete’s periodization. Or more simply to plan and guide the user for peak performances on or around a specific date or event.

Chronic Training Load (CTL)
How much an athlete has been training historically. Also known as an athlete’s “training load”. CTL represents the positive gain “ascribed to training adaptations”. Since CTL is the stating point of the IR model it is often compared to an athlete’s fitness. For example, an athlete who has achieved a CTL of 110 will be able to achieve greater TSB.

In terms of power output, “fitness” and race performance, the larger an athlete’s CTL (** see CTL range below), the better poised the athlete will be to achieve a greater TSB. “Poised” being the key word because there’s a slew of disclaimer’s.

Acute Training Load (ATL)
How much an athlete has been training recently. ATL represents the negative gain in the systems model that is associated with exercise fatigue.

Training Stress Balance (TSB)
Synonym to the popularized term “form”. TSB is calculated by subtracting ATL from CTL.. TSB is the “response” from the impulse-response model. Athletes may correlate race performance and specific length power outputs to their TSB.

Training Stress Score (TSS) = exercise duration x normalized power x Intensity Factor^2

TSS is the “impulse” in the I-R model.

A superior measure of overall training load. Compare TSS to heart rate data and its known limitations; then compare TSS to Busso’s method of quantifying training load.

Time Constant

42 days.  In other words the half life of training is 42 days.  If you have a CTL of 100 and don’t train at all, in 42 days your CTL will be 50.

**Optimal CTL Range
An athlete’s optimal CTL range is going to be highly dependent on the athlete plus the amount of time he or she has to train! At the moment we believe an optimal CTL range to fall between 75 and 125. Further refinement is encouraged on an athlete by athlete basis.

TSB Event Specificity
This is a developing art like the rest of the model. The current thinking is that shorter events like criteriums and track events may warrant higher TSB whereas longer events such as road races or even ultra endurance events may favor a lower TSB in exchange of “retaining” CTL.

Sweet Spot
Originally described by Frank Overton in the Pez Cycling News training tip, sweet spot training is an effective training method to raise an athlete’s CTL.

Adjusting & customizing time constants for athletes relative to their total training load
This area of the model is also a developing art. However we are implementing varying time constants based on the athlete’s total training load as defined by CTL. We are suggesting that your ATL time constant may be shorter for lower CTL’s and longer for greater CTL’s. Individuals will vary but a good starting point is a 5d or 7d TC.

CTL Reload or “Reload”
After an athlete has managed his training to peak, he or she will have given up CTL. In order to build for a second peak in the second half of the season, that athlete will need to “reload” his CTL. That period, build, or phase is known as a CTL reload.

CTL Composition
It is important to recognize that the fundamentals of endurance training have not changed. A CTL of 120 composed of entirely level 2 rides will not result in the same performance as a CTL of 120 obtained with a well thought out scientifically designed training plan consisting of various levels of intensity.

CTL Maintenance
When the goal of an athlete’s training is to increase their CTL (in a build, for example) there are days when you too fatigued to train hard but not fatigue enough to warrant laying on the couch. A prime example of a “CTL maintenance” ride is going out for a couple of hours in Zones 1 & 2. The end results is a CTL that neither drops nor increases but is poised to continue the upward build when the athlete is recovered the following day.

The Shit that will Kill Them (TSTWKT)*
Lance Armstrong’s description of his one of a kind high tech equipment developed by the F-One project. When it comes to training with power, the “Training Manager” is the Shit that will Kill Them”.

“Coming up for air”
A term related to an athlete’s TSB becoming positive after a prolonged period of training and consequently negative values. An athlete will “come up for air” by taking the appropriate amount of rest & recovery following an hard training block. As the model predicts the athlete will experience good legs and similarly higher power outputs that validate his or her TSB.

References & Recommended Reading:
Avalos M, Hellard P, Chatard JC. Modeling the training-performance relationship using a mixed model in elite swimmers. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2003; 35: 838-846.

Banister, E.W.; Calvert, T.W.; Savage, M.V.; and Bach, T.M. A systems model of training for athletic performance. Aust. J. Sports Med 7:57-61, 1975

Banister EW, Calvert TW. Planning for future performance: implications for long term training. Can J Appl Sport Sci 1980; 5: 170-176.

Banister EW, Hamilton CL. Variations in iron status with fatigue modeled from training in female distance runners. Eur J Appl Physiol 1985; 54: 16-23.

Banister EW. Modeling elite athletic performance. In: MacDougall JD, Wenger HA, Green HJ, eds. Physiological Testing of the high-performance athlete, 2nd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1991; 403-424.

Banister EW, Morton RH, Fitz-Clarke J. Dose-response effects of exercise modeled from training: physical and biochemical measures. Ann Physiol Anthropol 1992; 11: 345-356.

Banister EW, Carter JB, Zarkadas PC. Training theory and taper: validation in triathlon athletes. Eur J Appl Physiol 1999; 79: 182-191.

Busso T, Hakkinen K, Pakarinen A, et al. A systems model of training responses and its relationship to hormonal responses in elite weight-lifters. Eur J Appl Physiol 1990; 61: 48-54.

Busso T, Carasso C, Lacour JR. Adequacy of a systems structure in the modeling of training effects on performance. J Appl Physiol 1991; 71: 2044-2049.

Busso T, Hakkinen K, Pakarinen A, et al. Hormonal adaptations and modelled responses in elite weightlifters during 6 weeks of training. Eur J Appl Physiol 1992; 64: 381-386.

Busso T, Candau R, Lacour JR. Fatigue and fitness modelled from the effects of training on performance. Eur J Appl Physiol 1994; 69: 50-54.

Busso, T.; Benoit, H.; Bonnefoy, R.; Feasson, L.; and Lacour, J.R. Effects of training frequency on the dynamics of performance response to a single training bout. J Appl Physiol 92: 572-580, 2002

Busso, T.; Denis D.; Bonnefoy, R.; Geyssant, A.; and Lacour, J.R. Modeling of adaptations to physical training by using a recursive least squares algorithm. J Appl Physiol 82: 1685-1693, 1997

Calvert TW, Banister EW, Savage MV, et al. A systems model of the effects of training on physical performance. IEEE Trans Syst Man Cybern 1976; 6: 94-102.

Chatard, J.C., & Mujika, I.T. (1999). Training load and performance in swimming. In K.L. Keskinen, P.V. Komi, & A.P. Hollander (Eds.), Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming VIII (pp. 429-434). Jyväskylä: University Press (Gummerus Printing).

Fitz-Clarke JR, Morton RH, Banister EW. Optimizing athletic performance by influence curves. J Appl Physiol 1991; 71: 1151-1158.

Hellard P, Avalos M, Millet G, et al. Modeling the residual effects and threshold saturation of training: a case study of Olympic swimmers. J Strength Cond Res 2005; 19: 67-75.

Hooper, S.L.; Mackinnon, L.T. (1999). Monitoring regeneration in elite swimmers. In M. Lehmann, C. Foster, U. Gastmann, H. Kaizer, & J.M. Steinacker (Eds.), Overload, Performance, Incompetence and Regeneration in Sport (pp. 139-148). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.

Millet GP, Candau RB, Barbier B, et al. Modelling the transfers of training effects on performance in elite triathletes. Int J Sports Med 2002; 23: 55-63.

Morton RH, Fitz-Clarke JR, Banister EW. Modeling human performance in runners. J Appl Physiol 1990; 69: 1171-1177.

Morton RH. Modeling training and overtraining. J Sport Sci 1997; 15: 335-340.

Mujika I, Busso T, Lacoste L, et al. Modeled responses to training and taper in competitive swimmers. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1996; 28: 251-258.

Mujika, I. T.; Busso, T.; Geyssant, A.; Chatard, J. C.; Lacoste, L. and Barale, F. (1996). Modeling the effects of training in competitive swimming. In: J.P. Troup, A.P. Hollander, D. Strasse, S.W. Trappe, J.M. Cappaert, & T.A. Trappe (Eds.), Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming VII (pp. 221-228). London: E&F Spon.

Taha T, Thomas SG. Systems modeling of the relationship between training and performance. Sports Med 2003; 33: 1061-1073.

Zarkadas PC, Carter JB, Banister EW. Modelling the effects of taper on performance, maximal oxygen uptake, and the anaerobic threshold in endurance triathletes. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1995; 393:179-186.

* from Daniel Coyle’s “Lance Armstrong’s War“, Harper Collins, 2005

Copyright © 2016 FasCat Coaching – all rights reserved.

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Frank is a full time USA Cycling Expert certified coach, owner, and founder of FasCat Coaching, a cycling coaching company in Boulder, CO.  To talk with a FasCat Coach about implementing the TSTWKT into your performance, please call 720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to st up a Coaching Consultation.