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.
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.
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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 email@example.com , call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to schedule a Coaching Consultation.