Endurance Training Recipes

I really enjoy cooking.  The act of mixing ingredients in the proper quantities at the right time to form “a whole greater than the sum of its parts” is a very rewarding experience.  For some recipes, like in baking, you have to be meticulous in measuring ingredients, temperatures, and techniques.  In others you can be a bit more off the cuff, tasting as you go, and adding in ingredients as needed.  Both are enjoyable, but completely different processes.  It is a mixture of this science and art that truly make the masterpieces.  A master chef has to have rock solid techniques, but also preserve the creativity to work outside the box to create new flavors, dishes, and experiences.  This is very similar to how we approach training athletes.

For real food recipes for athletes, this book is awesome!

For real food recipes for athletes, this book is awesome!

In endurance athletes, the ingredients are (but not limited to) the sport specific workouts, nutrition, lifestyle factors, and strength training.  The quantities of these ingredients, when we introduce them, and how they are mixed is what makes the magic happen.  Traditionally, endurance training was entirely focused on the sport specific workouts (for example: cycling for cyclists) with a bit of nutrition sprinkled in.  Now we know that the core has to be sport specific, but the other components are what can take an average athlete to a great athlete.


Change happens slowly in scientific athletic training.  Anecdotally we had been seeing how much these ancillary components were making huge differences in athletes, but it has been only recently that these results were confirmed in studies.  Part of the reason I wanted to write the Ultimate Guide to Weight Training for Cyclists was to present a modern plan for adding in strength training to a typical cyclists training plan that combined what was being confirmed in scientific studies and what we were seeing working with athletes “in the field”.  Since the book has come out we have seen more studies published that provided even stronger evidence to the effectiveness of strength training for the endurance athlete. muscle_hpage_big

Most recently Inigo Mujika et. Al. published a study in April of 2016 titled “Effects of Increased Muscle Strength and Muscle Mass on Endurance-Cycling Performance.”  In that study they concluded that “Lower-body heavy strength training performed in addition to endurance-cycling training can improve both short- and long-term endurance performance. Strength-maintenance training is essential to retain strength gains during the competition season.

This confirms earlier studies done that had shown increases in efficiency and time to exhaustion (Sunde et. Al. “Maximal strength training improves cycling economy in competitive cyclists.”).   In the last year we have seen three relatively large, well conducted studies showing the benefits strength training for the endurance athlete.

While a strength training program designed for a specific athlete to address their own weaknesses is ideal, a well-rounded strength program designed for endurance athletes that utilizes the latest techniques and strategies should result in positive results in almost all endurance athletes.  That strength program should be integrated with their own sport-specific periodized training, and should be focused on developing maximal strength.

Just as in cooking, when you add it and how much you add is just as important as what the specific ingredient actually is.  For strength training, the non-competitive season is the perfect time to add in the gym work in a relatively larger quantity. Don’t wait until the start of the new year, or when racing begins in the spring to start hitting the weights.  For most endurance athletes, the fall is the best time of the year to begin a strength program since we have the time to build a strong foundation before the racing begins.

I am a bit biased, but if you are looking for a way to add in strength training to your endurance training I can’t recommend enough The Ultimate Guide to Weight Training for Cyclists.  Since its release last winter I have received numerous stories from athletes telling me how well the program has worked for them and how much their cycling has improved.

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Even if you don’t follow my strength program, getting into the gym and working on overall strength will only help your performance and overall health.  Go lift some weights!


Lower Cost Power Meters

Powertap P1 Pedals

It may be a little late to add anything to your Christmas list, but if you have some Christmas money burning a hole in your pocket a power meter can be a valuable investment in your training.

In my Interbike coverage I talked about some new power meters that were coming out.  I recently had a few questions on lower cost options for power and the benefits of training with power so this would be a helpful guide for athletes looking to make that plunge into power training.

Winter training can be hard.  The sun sets earlier, the days are colder, and El Nino is bringing a big rain stick.  But this is when athletes can make big gains in fitness.  Maybe you have downloaded the next big training plan, worked with a coach to set up a winter program, or finally got into the gym to start a strength training program (you really should by the way!).  The big question come spring is “am I any faster?”  That can be a hard one to answer.  Sure we can look at our Strava times for any given segment but how do we really know if there was a bit more tailwind on that section or that your tires weren’t under-inflated that day.  That is where the objectivity of a power meter can be incredibly insightful.

Power on the bike is synonymous to weight in the gym.  If you go to the gym today and squat 150 pounds and go back a week later and squat 160 pounds than you know you have lifted more weight.  The same applies to wattage on the bike.  If you do a maximal 20-minute effort at 250 watts today and then do 260 watts for the same 20 minutes next week, then you know you improved and did more work for the same time period.   In other words, you got faster!  Having an objectifiable measure of performance is extremely valuable when changing or adding new aspects into your training. After all, we are all a sample size of 1 and what may have been shown to work for a group of cyclists many or many not work for you.  For example, weight lifting has been shown to be beneficial and can improve performance for a lot of cyclists but power would allow you to quantify how much strength training is really benefiting you.

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OK, blatant post for a really good guide on weight lifting for cyclists.

Thankfully, power meters have been coming down in price and at this year’s Interbike trade show we saw lots of lower cost options for those cyclists wanting to make the plunge into power.  One brand new product shown was the Powerbeat by Wattteam.  It is a user installed, dual sided power meter, that is set to retail for $499.  The Powerbeat is compatible with almost any crank on the market including carbon cranks, and is both ANT+ and bluetooth compatible.  It features a rechargeable battery with about 40 hours of ride time.  The install process is quite interesting given that 4iiii (more on them below) decided on not following through with their original plan of letting users or bike shops do the install.  I didn’t get to see the install process first hand but the tools and videos online look to be pretty straight forward.  They are set to start shipping near the end of the year so expect to see some real world testing soon.  I am hoping this product lives up to its claims as it could be a very affordable way for athletes to get into a dual sided power meter.

Powerbeat by Wattteam

Powerbeat by Wattteam

Stages has been on the market for a few years now and continues to be a good lower cost entry into the power meter market with their left side crank arm strain gauge system.  They essentially use a strain gauge attached to the left side crank arm and then double that power to account for the right leg.  While this is not quite as accurate as a dual sided system, Stages has shown to be consistent and reliable allowing athletes to train with power and track changes in fitness with confidence.  This year they released a carbon crank option as well as dropped the price on their entry-level units to $529.  The carbon crank arm (with an interchangeable bottom bracket spindle for SRAM and FSA) starts at $629 for the crank arm and $70 for the bottom bracket spindle.  The carbon products are set to begin shipping this winter or early spring.  Full pricing and options are available on their website stagecycling.com.

Along the same concept of the Stages Power meter is the 4iiii Innovations Precision Power meter which is also a strain gauge attached to the left side crank arm.  The main difference with the Precision is that you send in your aluminum crank arm (no carbon option yet) and they will install it for you. While this is a minor difference it can result in some cost savings since you don’t need to buy an additional crank arm.  The cost of the 4iiii power meter is $399.99 and takes between 2 – 3 weeks turn around to have it installed.

Well known electronics maker Pioneer entered the power meter market a few years ago and has continued to be a very good option for athletes.  Their dual sided, 12-point sided analysis power meter is only $1000 if you already own an Ultegra or Durace crankset, and this year they introduced a left side only option that starts at $800 including an Ultegra crank arm.  The system can also be upgraded to a dual sided system later for a reduced cost.

Pioneer Power Meter

Pioneer Power Meter

Powertap has been making power meters for about as long as most of us have been riding bikes and this year they added a few new options to their time-tested power hubs.  New this year was power measuring chain rings and brand new pedals. The Powertap C1 chainrings are only offered in a 110mm 5-bolt spacing as of now.  This is somewhat limiting but there are still multiple crank options that are compatible.  There is a full list of compatible options on their website.  At $699 these enter the market as a good lower cost option for a dual sided power meter.  Power tap also released their new P1 pedal system.  This is a dual sided pedal based power meter system that has overcome some of the complexities of other pedal based systems.  It is literally an install like any other pedal without the need for torque wrenches.  It uses AAA batteries with approximately 400 hours of ride time.  The cost for the P1 is $1199 which is a bit higher than the other options presented here, but the simplicity of use and dual sided function of the pedals make them a solid bargain.

Powertap P1 Pedals

Powertap P1 Pedals

The power meter market has been growing like crazy and I am sure there are other options I missed on this list.  I purposely left off “pseudo” power meters that use wind resistance and body metrics to measure the forces resisting a rider instead of the force created by a rider, or mysterious HR straps that somehow estimate power output.  I have found these to not be very reliable and near impossible to use for training and measuring improvement in riders.

Let me know in the comments if there are other systems I missed.

Successful Holiday Strategies for Endurance Athletes

How is it even the holiday season already?!  Seems like it was just yesterday we were up in Truckee for road cycling nationals…

The holiday season can be stressful and hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  You have more demands on your time, the days are shorter, and there are the social gatherings with tempting sweets.  With all these stresses and opportunities to splurge, it is pretty easy to slip away from your healthy routines and skip a workout here and there.  While some indulgence isn’t necessarily a bad thing, letting that snowball into weeks of missed workouts and chocolate turtle cookies for breakfast can be problematic and set you back once spring rolls around.  It is possible to lose a lot of those hard-fought gains you worked for throughout the year with 3 – 4 weeks of missed workouts, cocktail parties, and cookie trays.


The good news is that there are easy strategies to prevent that from happening.   When it comes to workouts, I like to emphasis frequency and consistency with my athletes, not volume.  That essentially means more frequent shorter workouts is better than less frequent longer workouts even if your weekly volume is the same.  For example, a 30-minute trainer workout done 4 times a week is better than 1 two-hour ride on the weekend.  This is also a good time of the year to focus on some strength training.  There are a lot of body weight programs that only take 15  – 20 minutes that could be done a lot more frequently.  Hip bridges, body weight squats, planks, side-planks, and pull-ups are all great exercises for endurance athletes.  If you have access to a gym, getting in three 45 – 60 minute higher intensity strength workouts can do wonders to retain fitness as well as give you an opportunity to work on weaknesses that have been neglected throughout the year. (Blatant plug)  Weight Training for Cycling: The Ultimate Guide is a good resource in setting up a strength program for this time of the year.

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Using an indoor trainer to maintain cycling fitness can also be a good strategy for getting in quick workouts.  Getting your bike setup and leaving it ready on the trainer is a good way to eliminate excuses from getting in that quick spin.  When you get on the trainer you should have a plan for how you are going to use your available time.  Don’t just get on and spin your legs away.  Here are a few workouts to get you started:

  1. Micro-burst intervals: Warm-up for 5 – 10 minutes.  Then complete 1 blowout effort for 30 seconds at a hard effort (9 out of 10 perceived exertion).  Spin for 2 – 3 minutes then start 2 – 10 minute efforts where you ride at maximum intensity for 30 seconds, and then spin easy for 30 seconds, repeating until the 10 minutes is done.  Spin easy for 5 minutes and repeat the 10 minute effort again.  Cool down with at least 3 – 5 minutes of easy spinning.  Total time can be as short as 35 minutes.
  2. High Cadence Efficiency Drills: Warm-up for 5 -10 minutes.  Then start 4 x 5 minutes at the highest cadence you can maintain without bouncing in the saddle.  Recover at your normal self selected cadence for 1 minute between efforts.  Your intensity for the high cadence efforts should be close to your normal endurance pace.  Cool down with at least 3 – 5 minutes of easy spinning.  Total time can be as short as 30 minutes.
  3. Threshold Intervals: Warm-up for 5 – 10 minutes. Then complete 3 x 10 minutes at aerobic threshold or a perceived exertion of 8 out of 10.  This should be close to the max intensity you can maintain for the duration of the interval.  Recover for 2 minutes between efforts and cool down for at least 3 – 5 minutes after last effort.   Total time can be less than 40 minutes.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Interbike 2015 Part 2

Open U.P.

In case you missed it, I covered the latest on power meters and a few other technical items from interbike earlier this week here.  This is the post on of the other fun things seen at interbike plus a few other bits of tech.

Between the fit symposium, technical power meter reviews, and discussions over new fitness products we are able to sneak in some time to check out some cool new bikes and products.  This year didn’t disappoint either.  There was plenty on convention floor that count our attention and we were stoked on to try.  There were a few other things that had us shaking our heads as well.  Here is a little bit of both.

Open U.P.

Open U.P.

Open’s U.P. (unbeaten Path) 650b cross bike with full 2.0 mountain bike tires, or 700c x 40 cross tires, was one of the first bikes to catch our attention.  Not only was the concept of an adventure cross bike with more capable tires pretty rad, the attention to detail on this bike was amazing.  Direct mount disc brakes, fully internal cables and hydraulic lines, top bag adventure mount, and through axles to keep the frame stiff all made this bike one of the top of the show for us.  

Merckx EM525

Merckx EM525


More on the road side, the Merckx EM525 was another bike that really caught our attention.  The disc brake DI2 bike had swoopy clean lines, with internally routed cables and hydraulic lines, as well as direct mount disc brakes (which is thankfully becoming the standard).  


One of the more awesome displays was Bradley Wiggins hour record-setting TT bike on display at Pinarello.  This had to be one of the sleekest TT bikes I have seen.  Every detail was meticulous on this bike down to the 3-d printed custom aero bars used by Wiggins to set the record.  _DSC5568

A bit more on the tech side, new GPS computers were everywhere at the show with Wahoo, Lezyne, and Garmin showing off new bar mounted units.  The new Wahoo Elemnt is their first computer that can work as a standalone unit and doesn’t have to be paired with your phone, although there is some pretty awesome features on this one when you do have it paired including map integration with third-party services like Strava, and direct upload of workout files to Garmin connect, Training Peaks, or Strava.  The Elemnt can also pair with power meters and heart rate straps via ANT+ or bluetooth.


Lezyne debuted a full suite of GPS computers including the mini GPS (10 hour of battery lift and 40 hours of recording), the Power GPS (22 hour battery life with 200 hours of recording time), and the Super GPS  (22 hours of battery life with 400 hours of recording time).  The Mini GPS is just a simple GPS cyclometer with no power or HR integration, the Power GPS has bluetooth connectivity but no ANT+ (ironically making the Power GPS not compatible with a lot of power meters on the market), and the Super GPS can do both bluetooth and ANT+.  All of the Lezyne computers look like a nice option for a small, simple computer that can give you solid core functionality.  


Last but not least, Garmin was showing off the compact 25.  This being the smallest GPS computer I have seen, it was nice to see that it still has bluetooth connectivity for heart rate straps and works on the more sensitive GLONASS GPS system for better accuracy.  At this point it doesn’t have any power meter integration (though they indicated that might happen for bluetooth enabled PMs through a firmware update at some point) not ANT+ integration.


One of the more ridiculous things I saw at the show was WTBs new lock on grip system that requires cutting your bars at a 45 degree angle to allow for the locking mechanism.  To cut your bars you will need a special tool that fits into a standard Park Tool steerer cutting guide.  Alternatively, WTB makes a special bar to use with these grips as well.  I still don’t know why this is any better than a standard clamp on grip…  A close second in the ridiculous category is Rotor’s hydraulic drivetrain.  While impressive from an engineering standpoint, electronic drivetrains is where it is at…


A few other quick notes in general:

  • Electronic integration in bikes is continuing to progress.  Electronic drivetrains, wireless drivetrains, electronic wireless mountain bike dropper posts, and electronically controlled lockouts for dual suspension mountain bikes have continued to progress and finding their way on to more and more bikes. _DSC5591
  • As a whole, the cycling industry has really stepped aerodynamic technology.  No doubt driven by Specialized who has led the industry in aerodynamic advances (it helps having your own wind tunnel).  
  • Matte paint (preferably high vis and black) for road, cross, and mountain bikes is definitely the new trend.  Norco bikes had some of the best looking bikes all with matte paint treatments. _DSC5574
  • The better the shoe, the brighter the colors.  At least that is the theme at Sidi, Scott, Giro, and Shimano.  Also, laces are rad!
  • Lastly, Cross Vegas is awesome and this year was made all the better with it being the opening round of the UCI World Cup.  20150916_220555


Full gallery of photos here!