Month: May 2016

HRV4Training App and Coach App – track HRV, recovery and more

Today I wanted to share a technology I am having good success with for tracking athlete readiness and also for guiding my own training.

HRV is essentially a measure of the variability of time between each of your heart beats (learn more here). Especially at lower heart rates, at rest, the time between each beat will vary and by tracking how this measure changes over time it is thought that we can get information about any changes from our ‘normal’ due to stress from sources such as work, sleep, travel and training.

Tracking athlete recovery, or readiness, is quickly becoming a hot topic. While the technology has been around for decades to track Heart Rate Variability (HRV) the ability to do so with low cost, easy-to-use equipment is relatively new.

What is even more important is being able to put all the data together and analyze it. In the past you required some high priced equipment and some pretty solid computer knowledge to put the data into tables and charts.

With the rise of smart-phone technology and ‘wearable’ technologies, like watches, we are seeing an influx of consumer oriented resources to track our training.

HRV4Training is a Phone app I have been using for over a year now after experiments with many other HRV apps simply because it was easy to use, had customization options for measurement time and how to collect, plus also collected subjective measures (e.g. soreness etc). These subjective measures are very well supported for tracking signs of over-training so I wanted a way to collect the data quickly but then also watch for trends, like decreasing amount of sleep or multiple poor days of training. In addition tracking these subjective measures helps to see where HRV might be predictive, and ultimately if it is worth the effort to collect it!

Another key is integration with other networks and data collections. HRV4Training syncs with strava and training peaks and a host of other services.

*Disclosure – I purchased the athlete app and used on my own and with athletes for quite some time, I have since been in contact with Marco Altini about the app and he has been quite helpful with my understanding and also let me try the coach app. This blog post is of my own interests/motivations.

 

1) Get Daily insight into your readiness. How you compare to your baseline.

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2) Finger Tip Camera recording -> 1 minute provides insight into recovery specific to your baseline &  includes recommendation for intensity

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I have always used a Heart Rate Strap, most recently a blue-tooth model that worked well, however having to carry an extra heart rate strap is annoying and it is so much easier to do the quick recording with the phone in the morning.

*Check out the analysis of finger-tip/camera reading valadity 

Get the most out of your camera measurement with these tips

 

3) Track Daily Metrics – Soreness, sleep, motivation, nutrition , training load … you choose !

You can compare these to HRV and Resting HR over time to see how things compare today but also how things are evoloving over-time with insights and baselines

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4) Guided Breathing – basically you get guided meditation while the app collects that data, it is multi-tasking at its finest!

Even if all the metrics and data are bunk the app has a simple breathing guide during the readings that can be modified for speed and duration and that provides a graphic ‘breathin IN / Breathe Out’ cue. This guided meditation is worth using the app daily in itself.

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http://www.hrv4training.com/blog/hrv-measurements-paced-breathing

You can set the time of reading, they have done some work to show that 1 minute readings are reliable so I went with that to, again, minimize time invested and ensure I do it daily with no excuses

5) Coach App – Coaches can actually see the data ! This is HUGE .

They have introduced a Coach-App that lets coaches see how an athlete is feeling in terms of more objective HRV (I.e. it is a reading from body not their choosing) and also subjectively by how they rate their soreness, sleep, motivation etc.

The price is per athlete, at $4 at this time I believe paid monthly in-app. For a next-level communication and ability to tailor training and track training/recovery progression this is very fair.

*The app will also upload basic HRV rating number and resting Heart rate to training peaks and will take in data from Strava.

 

Get the Apps !

 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hrv4training/id686923970?ls=1&mt=8

Get the Coach App if you are a coach who wants to communicate more and get more insights into your clients daily subjective feelings.

 

Like this post ? Want to hear more about what I am using with athletes and in my training ?  Let me know on Twitter  and be sure to subscribe to the Smart Athlete Newsletter and Consummate Athlete Podcast 

How to Race Your Bike in the Mud – An explanation, cautions and take-a-ways from my ability to run beside a bike

I won a race on the weekend. This has happened a handful of times in my career, and only once before on a day with any mud (Crank the Shield 2008!).

How/Why

I’ve been asked how I went so fast this past weekend numerous times over the last 24 hours.  While I tend to avoid talking about my racing too much (well, apart from that 10 years of blogging about it … ) I believe that a few coaching clients and ‘questioners’ are missing the practical ‘how-to race in the mud’ skills/concepts and expecting that I had some sort of mechanical advantage or super secret PAM spray that kept mud from sticking to my ‘Blak Majik’ Trek Fuel.  [Insert Technological doping, top tube and slippery tube jokes here to save time later]

I’m sorry to disappoint, but there isn’t any one magical thing that I used in the mud, cold and snow at the race, but there are a few things you can practice in your training and keep in mind next time the weather turns with the key items (explained below) being run more, move in a variety of ways, learn to dismount/mount and grab your top-tube if you are off your bike.
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Photo of one of my most awkward moments in race. AVOID unexpected dismounts / dead-stops
by Hans “solo” Clarke on the Facebook (gallery here, need to be friends with her to view)

But before I get into it, I want to start with a caution: if you are an aspiring XC racer, the sport has changed. These days of mostly running disguised as mountain bike racing —are very niche and increasingly do not result in world championship titles, although they might be a small part of some high level races, the front runners are not running much usually. I am not getting overexcited by my win, I assure you that I am aware of my place in the sporting world and that many people would have beaten me had yesterday been a world cup or more lucrative points/money race. With that said, I have some sort of knack for running beside my bike, and you may find yourself in a race where that skill and the associated concepts help you achieve a result: they did just that for me at Bonelli this past March where I got UCI points in an UCI-HC event that had many very talented and motivated athletes… many of whom I ran past holding my top tube in the final few laps as several climbs turned to peanut butter, bikes got heavy, running became more important, and weather (motivations) worsened.

 

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​Experience​:

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2005 Transrockies – This stage was one of the craziest days of my life, with the Mayor of Singhampton

An important background is that this ‘Snow-Cup’ at Highlands Nordic this past weekend aligned a lot of things I do often in training into an event. In my training, I am fairly specialized to mountain biking, but my rides typically involve sketchy sections, stairs, fences, giant logs, bush-wacking, significant hike-a-bike and frequent mounting (how to video) and dismounting (how to video). Clipping in without loosing speed and while on variable terrain is also part of this and worth practicing. Many of the people who know me well will describe certain sketchy rides that include those elements as rides that I would like or a “Pete ride.” Case in point, on the day after the race I was on my Trek Boone cross bike and tippy-toed across a river, was on gravel/grass for a bunch of the ride, scaled a sketchy barbed wire fence and ran through a wet ditch then remounted my bike with a cyclocross mount (onto my thigh) . It is just how I ride. I like to explore and put together crazy routes.

I run most days for 5-20 minutes in the morning, walk 5-20,000 steps a day, and Ride 12-18 hours most weeks. I think biggest week was maybe 25 hours this winter while down south. Strength is 1-3x a week and for last year has been mostly just some variation of my ‘anywhere core’ routine due to inconsistency of equipment with our travel. I also use a HIGH:LOW:OFF three-day cycle, meaning I go really hard on day 1, then long on day 2 and then off day 3 (walk/hike/light run/ light core routine/outdoor work). I Spiro-Tiger (respiratory training device) a couple of times a week and usually as part of race warm-up: it is most of my warm-up on crappy days to avoid getting cold and trashing my bike before the start.

 

My bike warm-up was about 15 minutes with 3 x ~1min efforts up grass hill by the start, getting HR >85% MHR (strava link to race/warmup).  I also wear a lot of clothes to try and get sweating and warm before I get to the start-line, as we would for any race.

This video (LINK) also embedded below, explains “Grab the top tube” (And this one for hike-a-bike in stage racing might help you see where seconds to minutes can be lost)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rq-2cjh-nQ]

In terms of specific training, running is a very large part of ‘riding’ well in the mud. Skills to descend (attack position!) and pump/flow terrain on downhills is very important, if you over-brake you will be off your bike a lot more. If you have a smooth pedal stroke and seated power than you can stay on your bike more (I do not have this).

Should you train like me? It depends what your goals are. I obviously believe that we should all be able to move really well in a variety of ways–Molly and I did start a podcast on that topic–but if you are trying to be world class, you will need to focus on that disciplines key skills and not on finding swamps to run through while holding your bike. If you want to do an MTB stage race, like La Ruta or Transylvania Epic, then I would suggest working on your running, hike-a-bike, remounts and gravel road riding in addition to ‘standard’ mountain bike skills. (If you like ‘hacks’ then check out 10 ways to go faster at Leadville without training more). Being able to run, move well in a variety of ways (gym work helps) and perform in a variety of conditions is generally a good idea (and as shameless plug, the point of the Consummate Athlete Podcast…)

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One of the athletes I coach and my TrekCanada team-mate, Sarah Fabbro, won the Junior Expert Women’s category. As I passed her, it was evident (to my delirious and biased mind…) that she was moving efficiently. Smooth dismount and running with her hand on the top-tube, using the bike to help keep her up on off-camber and not stressing that her tires were rubbing and/or that her chain was falling off. We had a laugh as we ran through a section together mid-race, the fun/smile is key. Run the flats/uphills and Coast/Pump the downhills. Clean the drive-train while you’re moving when long sections of pedaling arrive.

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Following the example of the young riders who brave colder temps and often worse weather early in the morning

Mindset:

​I have a rule that I don’t quit, and that I start if I register. The rule has been broken perhaps twice, three times at most. This rule of  ‘the only way out is the finish line’ eliminates hesitation about the sanity or rationality of what we are doing and on days I feel like crap, it eliminates the option to quit. While I did cringe as we looked at the course before the start; thinking about what the race would cost in bike repair. We had committed to the day and so motivation to do the best I can, to see how my training experiments are going, is high. Eliminate hesitation, the only way out is the finish line.

I am also fortunate to have the support of a great mountain bike Ontario (and beyond) community. Highlands might be considered my ‘home course’ as well, indeed I have won another Ocup there and narrowly missed provincials last year. I have developed a reputation as a hard-man–I am not sure I deserve it given my affinity for the trainer and California–but when the race organizer and several racers are calling you for the win, there is a certain level of ‘social motivation’ where you need to/want to defend your ego/identity. I feel all of these things worked in my favor but are also possible for you to leverage by telling yourself and others that you like riding in the rain, that a race will be good for you and by committing to race/warm-up as you would expect someone who does well would. No complaining or hesitation in your routine.

​GEAR​:

I have the fortune of many years of great support from the Trek Store​ of Toronto/Barrie/Aurora and Trek Canada. We are a small team largely supported by “mom and dad” so while the store makes sure we have great equipment to minimize the chances of things like broken chains, flats, chain suck, etc. it is important to not use that as an excuse. I prepped my own bike, changed to bigger tires the day before a race and did a test-ride to make sure the discs didn’t rub and tires seated. I’m not sure that any of my equipment was that much different or specialized for the conditions. As I go through the results, perhaps there is something in the frame:tire clearance in the Trek vs. other brands, but I am not sure as many riders had good days for them on other brands: Liam on a dually Scott in second for Pro-Men as an example, where he (in his own words) had many new experiences on Sunday and was motivated to have another podium in his first year elite. Liam also has a cross-country running background. Even tires are debatable as many people did well with smaller/dry weather tires (e.g. Bontrager XR1).

The tires I used we​re Bontrager XR2 ​2.2 width, but I suspect a 2.0 or even classic mud tire with 1.8 and big knobs may have been tire of the day if you could find one. In a perfect, free bike world, I​ think a hard-tail would have been faster strictly because of less surface area for mud to grab onto and less overall bike weight.

Single-ring setups and drive-trains generally were an issue for both big component brands. We run SRAM and I had my chain come off a couple times. I wiped the ring with my hand and sprayed the cogs/derailleur and carried on. I believe not pedaling while spinning on low traction mud is a mistake that causes excess accumulation around the BB and rings and that is why so many people had problems. I dismount quickly to move forward faster for same energy if I am sliding. So this means many remounts/dismounts in sketchy areas and a lot of running. Many people rode more than I did, but if running is not efficient for them than that might have been their best option.

 

 
I tend to over-dress always so on inclement days I am usually wearing 1-2 more layers than others, so I am very used to performing (usually moderately) while wearing arm and leg warmers so I have ones that don’t fall down, fit well and that I am used to. During this weekend’s race I wore an undershirt, 2 jerseys with a vest in-between to keep the wind out, a trick I use this more often then I might admit to stay warm and not obviously wear a vest.

 

Technique:
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TextBook!! Grab your top-tube and run, lean on top tube as needed (Hans Clarke Photo)

The biggest thing to focus on is dismounting and grabbing the top tube quickly every time: traction is lost (basically any flat single track or uphill) and running for all you are worth. I rarely picked up bike the whole race, occasionally would lift rear wheel by lifting top tube and pushing on left grip/handlebar to keep rear wheel out of sticky mud areas. Having your right hand on the top-tube gives you something to lean on when running so when you slip you don’t fall. When tires got really gummy, I would jam my hand between the tire and frame at BB and seat stays while pushing forward and then hop on and mash until wheels rolled. Kyle Douglas of 3Rox, rode more than I did and was doing similar mud clearing while riding his bike.
I hit every puddle/wet area of dirt (look for rivers / puddles). All my water bottles went on drive-train, at key portions of race course where pedaling became more possible/efficient.
 
If I could race again today: 
I would have put in the mud cleats into my shoes as it would have boosted my speed and prevented a few painful slips. I think narrower tires, 1.8 or 2.0 might have been really good given the mud accumulation / wheel rotation issues. Throwing down a gel might have added some extra pop for last 20 min of race, but at 1hr20 minutes and equal lap times it is hard to think fueling was huge issue.

 

It was a win. I cherish any I get, as there are few in most careers. Olympian Sue Haywood said something similar at this year’s Whiskey 50 rider meeting, where she was honored. Her point was to be a good person, have fun and enjoy your ability to get out there and work hard. I hadn’t really thought about it, especially for a rider of her caliber, but there has to be more to why you race than just the chance of winning, and for me, pushing my limits and riding stuff I find fun has been my goal for the duration of these 20 years. On the odd days that races line up closely with this skill-set I’ve created, I grab my top-tube and run for all I am worth, while the other races, I am content to pedal, learn something about myself and have some laughs with friends along the way.  Perhaps this article gives you some ideas or motivation to find your favorite version of riding a bike and survival skills for the next mud-fest.

Take Action on Tired Legs

Take Action on Tired Legs

This is a post from the Smart Athlete Newsletter – Get all the articles and updates on clinics – upcoming events and podcast info by signing up here

We are through some of the first big races and anyone who was stranded indoors in the ‘suffer-festival’ has been freed for long enough to accumulate some fatigue.

If you haven’t balanced your hard and/or long training with sufficient nutrition and/or recovery than your body will rebel in a number of ways, often resulting in that feeling of tired legs. It may be you haven’t increased your nutrition to match increased training or that your life has not provided sufficient sleep and down time to absorb your hard training.

Here are 3 things that you can TAKE ACTION ON to ensure your season stays on track:

1) Add Protein and Carbohydrate to each meal – if eating 3 or less meals add 1 more meal with a whole protein and carbohydrate source. MyFitnessPal is an app that can help you quantify your rough numbers but I prefer clients work from their ‘normal’ and try a week eating a bit more at each meal OR adding a meal.

2) Take 2 days per week completely off and walk for at least 30 minutes. Plan your hard training the day after so you are well rested.

3) Sleep – This is becoming almost as cliche in the media as ‘sitting is like smoking’ but if you are having trouble with energy, tired legs, heart rate depression or similar symptoms try going to bed 30 minutes earlier in a dark room with ear-plugs and an eye-shade. Those that listen never go back and see huge difference – TRY IT!

Check Out the Consummate Athlete Podcast

Molly and I have started a podcast.

The Consummate Athlete. (ITUNES)  and the podcast site HERE

We wanted a chance to talk to more awesome people who are doing multiple sports while pursuing new skills and awesome lives!

We also wanted a place we could share our learning from all these awesome people—especially as we adventure around the world and meet more and more people we admire (and secretly want to emulate).

Consummate Athlete Logo

On the podcast, expect to hear ideas for new ways to move, events to try, tricks and ‘hack’s to push your movement and life to new levels.

The name, if you’re wondering, stems from this idea of being the kind of person/athlete who can just jump into any kind of situation, whether it’s a downhill MTB ride, a trail run, an aerial silks class or kite-surfing. She doesn’t need to be great at whatever she’s trying, but we’ve realized that there’s a type of athleticism that focuses on a few key movements that can pave the way to competency (and fun) in pretty much any sport.

When we thought of the idea of a ‘consummate athlete,’ our friend from BC immediately came to mind: he’s a wilderness rescue guy who works 3 days on, 4 days off, and when he’s not in the backcountry making crazy rescues, he’s mountain biking, surfing, hiking, cross country skiing, sky diving, or walking a borrowed dog around a farmers market and having a great time. He’s basically the best guy to vacation with, because whatever activity you want to do, he’s up for it… and can probably give you pointers.

And that’s what we want to be!

That said, we also want to dial it back to the basics. Peter is a pro mountain biker, and Molly has raced multiple types of bikes and triathlon pretty seriously, so we’re test cases with a decent fitness background. But the idea of being a ‘consummate athlete’ to you might mean that you can run with your kids in a stroller to the playground, lift them up to the slide, play on the monkey bars, and jump around a bounce house with them at a party. Because the skills, movements and practices that can take someone with already decent fitness to the next level can also help make someone totally new to exercise and activity quickly gain competency.

Anyway, check it out—the first three episodes are live, featuring a couple of getting to know you interviews with Molly and I (and some cool stuff you didn’t know about us before), plus our first guest, Ryan Leech, the amazing Norco trials rider turned coach/yogi (but still crushing trials).

Also, please let us know what you think and any ideas for improving the podcast (we’re new at this!) or ideas for who to have on the podcast.

The Consummate Athlete Podcast can be found on iTunes or for download for Android and other services.

Show Notes at ConsummateAthlete.com