Food but not for cyclists…

28 04 2009

Peaking to race by Joe Friel

28 04 2009

A good article on the thorny subject of training and resting. I must say i usually err on the side of resting just because its easier! BUT i am strating to see the benefits of actually training and not just tipping the legs. The other question that is on my mind is if a race is on is it better to do it or to train for something specifically that you need to work on ie. endurance or sprints? 

This weekend will be a test of this when i spend it training instead of racing. Conclusion will be posted in the coming weeks!

Peaking to Race

© 2006 by Joe Friel

An issue that most athletes find mysterious is coming into competitive “form” at

the times in the season when their most important events are scheduled. Form is

a vague concept used by athletes in some sports to describe when they are

ready to compete. The word has its roots in eighteenthcentury

horse racing

when sheets, or “forms,” would be provided for race track bettors showing the

past performances of each horse.

Exercise scientist Andrew Coggan, Ph.D., defines form as the timely combination

of fitness and freshness. Fitness has to do with how well the body’s many

systems function at a given point in time. A fit endurance athlete has optimized

the cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory, muscular and nervous systems. A

fresh athlete is one who is rested and ready to go. It’s possible to be fit but not

fresh due to lots of heavy training but not much resting leading into an event.

You’re tired. It’s also possible to be fresh but not fit. You’ve been taking it easy

for too long and are undertrained. Bringing fitness and freshness together at the

same time is called “peaking” and is the underlying purpose of training for the

competitive athlete in the last few days and weeks before a race.

To increase freshness as you get closer in time to the competition you cut back

on the training workload by reducing the duration and frequency of workouts. You

include more easy, recovery workouts or days off each week. As a result you

become more fresh. To maintain the fitness created over the previous weeks and

months of training you do a few key workouts at race intensity and otherwise

train easily between them. Getting the intensity of your workouts right is why your

heart rate monitor, powermeter and/or pacing device is so critical to peaking.

How Peaking Works

Actually, sports scientists don’t fully understand the physiology of why tapering

the training load by increasing the amount of rest over a few days or weeks

before a race results in increased fitness. But they do know of several changes

that occur in the body with such reduced training. The most notable is an

increase in strength and power. Others are reduced blood acidity, increased

blood volume, greater red blood cell concentration for oxygen transport,

increased carbohydrate storage in the muscles and sharper mental skills.

Although tapering the training load before important competitions is widely

practiced by top athletes, many are afraid that cutting back on training will cause

a loss of fitness. They are wrong. There are numerous research studies that

support reduced training. Several using athletes in many sports have found that

reducing training by more than half of what was normal for two to three weeks

produced no losses of fitness or performance. Others have shown improvements

in performance when the taper was done in a certain way.

In a classic study conducted at the University of Illinois a group of runners and

cyclists who greatly cut back on their training by reducing the frequency and

duration of workouts while keeping their intensities the same improved their

aerobic capacities, an important measure of fitness, and endurance performance

significantly. Those who reduced intensity but kept frequency and duration the

same lost fitness. Do not decrease the intensity of training as you approach your

most important races.

Take special note here of the ingredients for a successful taper according to this

and similar research studies—reduced weekly volume (freshness) and an

emphasis on intensity (fitness). So the key to tapering is keeping workout

intensity—heart rate, power, pace effort—at high levels while resting more.

The tapering of duration and frequency occurs during the final two periods before

the competition—the Peak and Race mesocycles.

The Peak Mesocycle

The Peak mesocycle typically begins about two or three weeks prior to the

competition. The length of this mesocycle varies by sport, fitness level and nature

of the targeted event. Sports that are orthopedically stressful, such as running,

require a long period of tapering. Reducing frequency and duration starting three

weeks or even more before an important competition is common for runners. A

sport such as swimming that does not have any hard surface pounding

associated with it can benefit from a shorter taper period. For swimmers seven to

fourteen days of tapering is common. Other sports, such as rowing and cycling,

will fall between these two extremes. A triathlete will taper each of the three

sports at different rates.

The greater your fitness is the longer the taper should be. Another way of looking

at this is that if your fitness is poor due to, perhaps, getting started late in

preparing for your event, you need all of the time you can get to build fitness. So

in this situation the Peak period is shortened in favor of a longer Build period.

The taper may only be for ten days.

The longer the event is you are training for the longer the taper should last. For

example, a runner may taper for three weeks for a marathon but only taper ten

days for a 5km race. Longer races usually mean greater training loads with an

emphasis on longduration

workouts. Long workouts take a greater toll on the

body than short workouts and so more time is necessary to recover and rebuild


During the Peak mesocycle reduce training volume by twenty to thirty percent

every three to four days. The shorter the taper length is, the greater the reduction

should be. Again, do not decrease the intensity (heart rate, power, pace, effort) of

your workouts, only the duration.

The frequency of your workouts, how often you train, may also be slightly

decreased while tapering so long as you have been doing at least five or six

workouts in a sport in a normal week during the preceding Build mesocycle. A

triathlete, for example, who has been doing three swims, three bike rides and

three runs weekly should not decrease the frequency of these sessions as it is

already marginal. When the frequency of training gets too low you may

experience a loss of economy—how efficiently you move. Essentially, your

movements may become sloppy as the muscles forget how to move

economically. Swimmers call this losing their “feel” for the water.

The basis of the training structure for the Peak period is to simulate the intensity

of a portion of the targeted race every 72 to 96 hours until seven days before the

event. To do a simulation workout you select a segment of the event that is

critical to your success and practice exactly how you will gauge output (power or

pace) and input (effort and heart rate) for that segment. For example, there may

be a hill on the course that is critical to how well you perform on the day. Find a

similar hill, warm up and then simulate the intensity you plan to use in the race.

Or it may be that the course is flat and you need to maintain a specific intensity to

reach your goal. Rehearse that intensity in each of the simulation workouts. That

intensity could be based on heart rate or on pace, power or perceived exertion as

compared with heart rate.

Whatever you decide is the portion of the race that is critical make the simulation

a dress rehearsal in as many ways as possible. This may be clothing, equipment,

mental approach, refueling or anything else that is a part of your raceday

strategy. One or two of the simulation workouts in the Peak period may be a Cpriority

race done as a tuneup.

Note that while the intensity of your simulation is critical to the success of your

Peak period going beyond the targeted race intensity is not beneficial and may

even be counterproductive. For example, a marathoner who sets a goal of

running a sevenminute

pace in Zone 3 should do simulations only at this

intensity—not at sixminute

pace in Zone 5.

So if you do a race simulation every 72 to 96 hours in the Peak period what is

done in the two or three days between these workouts? You do short, easy,

recovery workouts or take a day off. The idea is to be fully recovered and ready

to go again for the next simulation.

Joe Friel is the founder and President of Training Bible Coaching and the author

of numerous books on training. He may be reached at

Riding a bike up a tree? Interesting…

27 04 2009


24 04 2009

An interesting (but long) story on how us cyclists can get a hard time on the road!!!,6610,s1-3-583-19000-1,00.html

The very honourable Mr. Walsh, will you represent me?

Good article on mental toughness and great site too

23 04 2009

Mentally Tough

© 2006 Joe Friel

Why are Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan often referred to as

being the greatest of all time in their respective sports? Is it due to genetics or

opportunity? To nature or nurturing? Were they naturals destined to succeed if

they were only given the chance to appear on the playing field?

These are hard questions to answer because it’s difficult to separate natural

ability from hard work. But one thing we can certainly see in these three

exemplary athletes is their dedication to improvement. Armstrong was well

known for his daily six-hour rides, repeated practice on key routes in the Tour de

France, and weighing every bite of food that went into his mouth.

After Woods won the 1997 Masters Tournament by a record 14 strokes over

second place he set about improving his swing so he could be even better. After

winning the four major tournaments on the PGA Tour in succession, the only

man to ever do so, he again went back to work on improving his swing. And he

has single handedly changed the work ethic among most of the formerly fat and

flabby pro golfers.

After being cut from his junior high school basketball team Jordan was more

determined than ever to prove himself. Never one to rest on his laurels, Jordan is

well known among basketball fans for staying after practice to work on his


It would appear that hard work was a major component in the success of each of

these athletes. But was it the main reason for their success? Recent research

seems to indicate that the answer is “yes.” This research goes even farther by

suggesting that it takes ten years of focused work on one’s sport to reach the

threshold of greatness. That is certainly true with the three athletes described


As a coach for 26 years I’ve seen essentially the same thing—the athlete

improves physiologically for about seven years and continues to improve

performances for at least another three years just because he or she is wiser in

regards to what it takes in training, racing and lifestyle to succeed. This timeline

holds true regardless of the age at which the athlete starts training and


The key to all of this hard work over many years is more mental than physical, I

believe. Being mentally tough is what eventually produces high level

performance in athletes once they have achieved their physiological peak. What

does it take to be mentally tough? There are four qualities I look for in athletes

who say they want to perform at the highest levels:

• Motivation. Can you train alone or do you need to be with others to

complete hard sessions? Do you workout regardless of environmental

conditions such as rain, snow, wind, heat, darkness or other potential

training interruptions?

• Discipline. Do you shape your training and lifestyle to fit your goals? How

important to you are nutrition, sleep, periodization, goal setting, skills,

attitude, health, and strength?

• Confidence. Do you go into a race with a plan? Do you believe you can

succeed even when the conditions are not favorable? Which do you think

more about—the controllable or the uncontrollable variables? Do you

believe you can or question if you can?

• Patience. Do you need immediate success or can you postpone it until the

time is right for you even if that is years in the future?

My experience has been that if any one of these mental toughness qualities is

lacking the athlete will not achieve his or her lofty career goals. When I am

interviewing an athlete to see if we can work together I ask lots of questions to

measure these mental skills. Few athletes have high levels in all of them. I’ve

only coached one athlete in more than two decades who I felt was exceptionally

mentally tough. He became US Olympic team member. I am currently coaching a

young athlete who also appears to have exceptional mental toughness. But only

time will tell.

Can you improve your mental toughness? It is philosophically possible, but

unfortunately, I don’t think every athlete will. This is perhaps where the nurturing

part of the success equation is most evident. Some parents seem to instill and

refine these mental toughness qualities in their children at an early age. Others

don’t. What do the successful parents do that’s different? I wish I knew. It is

probably hundreds of seemingly insignificant interactions that take place on a

daily basis from birth through the formative years. This is beyond my expertise as

a coach.

Perhaps the best thing you could do to improve your mental toughness skills is to

work with a sports psychologist much the same as you would work with a coach.

Joe Friel is the author of several books including the Training Bible series. He is

the founder of Ultrafit Associates, Training Peaks, and Training Bible Coaching.

Joe can be reached at


Howe MJ, Davidson JW, Sluboda JA. 1998. Innate talents: reality or myth?

Behav Brain Sci 21 (3): 399-407.

Ericsson KA, Krampe RT, Heizmann S. 1993. Can we create gifted people? Ciba

Found Symp 178: 221-31.

Ref: Great book and Site

not trying to be morbib but here is a savage slo mo crash!

22 04 2009

shocking crash in Turkish race

20 04 2009

how bad is this?? did he mean it? The commisaire said no but it looks terrible! and the leader of all people! He broke bones in back neck and teeth out! Terrible!