Author: Peter Glassford

I Quit Coffee: Convenience, Routine & Dominoes

This post has been updated in November 2017 as I undertake another break from Coffee. I hope you find it useful in motivating a small tweak of your own — PG


The key takeaway from today’s blog is that small changes can sometimes have large, domino effects that we can’t anticipate or foresee. Given enough time, these changes can be meaningful and paradigm-shifting. I am not suggesting you stop drinking coffee, but rather, I am sharing this story of my last month in hopes that you will tinker with small changes in your life to see if something better is possible.

Coffee had become central to my daily routine, many friendships and to my identity as a coffee lover (my twitter profile pic has coffee in it). As May came to an end, the time seemed right to tinker with this apparent touchstone in my daily life and central tenant of my identity. Between two of my biggest coffee-loving friends moving away, the 3-day stomach virus that had me off food/drink for 3 days, and no major events ‘requiring’ caffeine for a month, the time was right to take this out and see what changed. Despite being a coffee lover, I had generally rotated my stimulants and dosages daily (green tea one day, coffee the next, nothing another day). I was able to avoid caffeine and vary dosage with stress (e.g. travel, high training load). I have periodically stopped for days and weeks to ‘come down,’ for convenience or to try for a performance bump. With all that said, these periods without coffee were rarely more than a couple of weeks and seldom without decaf coffee.

Changing habits is tough. Getting started and interrupting the routine is a big part of that. I have had good success changing habits personally by using sickness as the jump-off point. Basically, whenever I get sick, I try to change something (e.g. bedtime, cutting out a certain food etc.). This past month, I turned a stomach virus and 3 days without food/drink into the first 3 days of my coffee abstinence. Like any addict, I insist that coffee doesn’t affect me and that I don’t need it, but if I am honest there was a low-grade energy dip for the first 1-2 weeks followed by the expected, and clichéd, sensations of steady energy, focus and clearing fog (that, or I was recovering from a 7 day stage race and 3 day flu). What I did not expect was how other habits and routines would change with the exclusion of my coffee habit.

I used to think that my coffee habits were part of my routine and that they helped me get my daily work/train/recover routines rolling. I thought that they helped me get out the door and enjoy long drives. I now believe that my coffee prep was actually delaying all these things and taking time from working, training, recovering and fun. I remember when I started drinking coffee, I never prepared it at home. I would have a cup with friends at a coffee shop, on a long ride or at a friend’s house if they had a superb method of preparation and good beans. This slowly transpired into me owning a large percentage of the methods for coffee preparation and making coffee (several times) daily just for myself at home often, when I could have been recovering, relaxing, napping, working, socializing or riding. Somewhere along the line, the original purpose of the coffee, klatching, was lost. Having coffee at home was not accomplishing what I originally started using coffee for.

Interestingly, this past month, without a conscious choice, I fell into a routine of going to bed early (9-10 pm) and waking with the sun (6-6:30 am usually) feeling well-rested and motivated to work. I would do my normal morning routine of HRV testing/meditation, bathroom, maybe start some slow-cooking breakfast and then with a big glass of citrus water with sea salt. I would sit down to my biggest, most daunting task of that day, which I chose the day prior. I would spend 30-75 min on that task (pre-determined time/deadline) and bust it out. Then around 7-7:30 am, I would have a relaxing breakfast before resuming work on the other tasks, which were so much easier. It seemed that coffee was like the first hard-to-move domino that started a chain reaction of positive choices. Being up and getting the big task done, no distraction from emails, coffee prep/cleaning seemed to set the rest of the day into motion. All of the other daily tasks (email, work, train, eat, nap, work, train, eat, house stuff) seemed to fall into place much smoother.

Stopping this month, locking up the coffee-making tools, made me realize that the time spent making/prepping coffee and cleaning a white kitchen could be spent on way more productive things that then domino into bigger and better output and better life experiences. If nothing else, it is simpler, and this lessening of ‘to dos’ is certainly a nice feeling.

As this month away from coffee ends, I celebrated with a glass of decaf espresso while recovering in the Porter Airport Lounge from a somewhat stressful ‘country boy’ journey to the Toronto Island Airport (too many modes of transit/not enough parking on grass). The machine and beans were ok, the price was right, my first ‘business’ flight experience was worth enjoying and I had some good conversation with some ‘fellow’ businessmen, which made the situation a great time to indulge. This was a good afternoon and didn’t dirty my kitchen or take time away from my day/large tasks. While this coffee experience was good, it pales to how good my days have felt after getting a big task done (e.g. this new website), or getting in a ride with a friend, or having time to relax and go for ‘beers on the beach.’ The domino that is coffee just isn’t the life I want. I will still partake when the company, location, beans, and method align, but I don’t see coffee coming back into my life beyond those good times.

Looking for help with changing routines and integrating training into your life? Or just want a few tweaks to your training plan?

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How to Hop Logs in 5 Steps

Have you been trying to get the log hop figured out? Thanks to Canadian Cycling Magazine we have some super production of my 5-step system to share.

Whether you are new to cycling or an expert, taking time to review the 5 steps we use on the trail and road to clear obstacles is worth while. There is always an element we can progress, using higher logs , more abrupt roll-overs, more speed / less speed. Enjoy the never-ending process of moving your bike over obstacles!

Beginners often need to work on level 2 and 3 (wheel lifting) while advanced riders, who can do the Level 4/5 (‘bunny hop’), often surprisingly need help with level 1 to be smooth and over terrain at speed (rolling over things smoothly / rear-wheel awareness).
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FgyJ2CeoO4]

If you are looking to progress quickly or finding you are stuck on one of the stages why not try a skill session with Smart Athlete?

You can book one now via email (peterglassford At Gmail.com  or via frontdesk ) 

Cyclocross Burnout

 

How has your season Gone? feel free to book a phone consult to tell me about it!) 

Canadian Cx Nationals have happened and the weather has turned towards fall/winter/cyclocross weather in most places. Cyclocross season is here, but where is your motivation? And who stole those fresh September legs!

Regardless of where you live and how you built or failed to build your fitness for cyclocross season, it is a bold goal to take on 1, or 2  (or more!) races for 1, or 2 (or more!) months. Most of us come out of a mountain or road season and neglect to take a mid-season break or rebuild our endurance. We jump into one or two (or more) cross practices (which are races) a week plus the early season races to test our legs, get the intensity and those coveted early points.

The problem is we get tired from the repeated back to back weekends of racing.  We miss our weekend fun rides, our endurance decreases, and the weather starts requiring more work to get motivated and prepared for. 1 or 2 (or more!) bikes need to be prepped before each race and repaired after each race. Then work comes Monday. This is tiring even typing and remembering trying to race cyclocross as an unsupported pro!

So what should you do?

If your goal was to race until a certain race then that may still be possible. Take a week off the cross practices, go to bed early and do only easy workouts all week. You will feel better next weekend. If you can take the full week easy and get some longer endurance rides in on the weekend. This should make next week and next races go much better. If there is no obvious reason to race twice weekly (including weekly races) than stop doing that and focus on the key races remaining on your calendar.

Getting your indoor training environment setup to make workouts quick and get to sleep earlier will help with short days. Keep focused and don’t forget endurance and lower intensity workouts. Skill workouts in the mud and wet, along with practicing your clothing choice will pay dividends in the late season mud races.

For the remainder of the season ride your favorite discipline most of the time for outdoor training and spend time working on your cyclocross skills. Most people need to work more on cornering, dismounts/carry/mounts much more than they think. If you seat is inside your armpit or you are not grabbing your top tube before most barriers then there are 2 pretty easy ways to boost your efficiency.

Are you racing without a goal?

If you did not have a big goal race or end date then I would end the season now. Why race yourself into deep fatigue and low motivation for no reason? Take a week, or two (or more!) off and try to grab a few more road or mountain bike rides while you can. Start looking towards 2018 and planning training gradually towards that goal after the important break. SmartAthlete.ca for thoughts on ‘when to start training for your big goal’ 

 

When Should You Start Training for Your Goal Race?

When clients are looking at starting with coaching or getting a training plan, they will often ask … “When Should I Start Training?”

It is a reasonable question  … Why start training now for something so far away, like Ironman, Leadville, Breck Epic, Road Stage? You have lots of time to get fit and to prepare for this goal. Or, at least, it seems like that now.

I usually respond with, “Why Not Start Training Now?”

If you had to be somewhere in an hour for something really important, wouldn’t you leave with a little extra time? You could always grab a coffee, or go for a walk if you get there early. Now If you are like me, the ‘being early’ thing is tough. It rarely happens, even though I leave earlier then I think I need to. Detours, traffic, and gas-station lines seem to always conspire to make time tighter than I thought. So… it is nice to have that time in order to deal with those delays and detours.

In athletic training, it is the same: if we know we are going to have to complete a task, a goal, a race, a tour, a challenge of some type, then why not start preparing now for success? It would be very rare for training to go exactly as laid out. There are little injuries, illnesses, work trips, bad weather, winter and other little ‘stops’ that we will have to add into that perfect event preparation we envision.

I consider all of the clients that I work with as athletes. That means that there should be a year-round focus on improving some aspect of our game. In September and October, that may be improving our ability to have fun on the bike, starting to cross-train slowly and work on any mobility/injury aspects we have. Heck, we might even try some meditation or yoga to work on the recovery or mental side of sport and performance. Working on nutrition (Great book = Fuel Your Ride)  or dealing with those pesky saddle sores are other areas that work well during this ‘off-season’.

Check out a book to help with Saddle, Sores and Other awkward questions you might want to ask about Saddle Sores.  

The months go quickly.

I like the idea of ‘big scary goals‘. Sometimes we need to do something beyond what we think we can or different than we have in the past. I signed up for an Ironman last year, having never done a triathlon or really swam. I committed to it about 12 months out. I started researching and going to swim lessons and getting the gear I would need that month (goggles, road running shoes, etc). Even though I started early, there was still a crunch on time given the usual work and life responsibilities that popped up during the year! I definitely enjoyed having some extra time to let my feet adapt to running on pavement, train my brain to learn how to swim and not panic in open water, and to deal with a couple of small injuries along the way. The event went really well!

Training has many elements.

If you are doing a big race like Leadville and Dirty Kanza, and even stage races on the road and MTB, you may not do 6-hour rides in October, but you certainly could do a couple hours on the bike that you think you will race, with the gear you currently have, in order to see where the weak points are. There are lots of areas in our race day performance we can work on year-round:

  • Perhaps get a friend who has done the event to come out with you and tell you about it while your ride. This insider info is valuable to add to your own experience.
  • You could take care of any bike skill issues like cornering, flat-change, or log hops to make sure you stay upright on event day (and in training).
  • Get started strength training now (perhaps with this quick routine) will let you learn the movements and become resilient before you start being concerned about your on bike numbers again.

When considering when you should start to prepare for your event remember that it is nice to take your time and not be rushed in many aspects of life. Training is no different.

An Example: 10 months Out From August Marathon/Stage/Endurance race

( I like examples! )

  • October – Preparation phase – start strength training, assess body composition and improve if limiter, assess injuries and improve before starting training, assess skills and develop! Try Yoga
  • November – A few rides outside, start prepping further for cross-training (ski, hike, run etc.), ease slowly into these, strength progresses to moderate loads/reps. Weekend cyclocross course.
  • December – Strength is heavy and the focus this month, if no injuries are present. If you are injured, focus on injuries. Intervals should focus on most limited ranges. Take 1-2 weeks low focus/intensity/volume at holidays.
  • January – Resume training with lighter endurance, a traditional base-1 phase as the New Year kicks off. Show up daily. Keep strength/mobility progressing. Sleep a lot.
  • February – Work on limiter intensity 1x weekly, work traditional muscular endurance 1-2x weekly (tempo/threshold), build endurance time in low-end ranges (cross-train)
  • March – Progress from last month, keep showing up and progressing intensity/volume, keep sleeping. Strength should be mixed up, if adapting well some power/jumping/Olympic may be added.
  • April – Depending on early season race goals, this may include more intensity and race-specific focus. Strength in maintenance.
  • May – Start the final build for big race. Building muscular endurance, some shorter early season races, a long weekend block to provide extra endurance boost
  • June  – Building muscular endurance and race-specific preparation, equipment mostly finalized. A bigger prep race (1/2 distance, 100km for a 100 mile etc)
  • july  – Final Prep / Build – long rides with a few blocked weekends around the long weekends, planning for reduced life/work stress around the event. Final travel preparations.
  • August – Race!

Rather than cramming in training, enjoy the never-ending process of improving your fitness and bike skills. Indeed, the preparation is often the most fun and remembered part of big events! 

So… Why Not Start Now?

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Survival

With the upcoming Canadian Thanksgiving and the American Thanksgiving not too far off (not to mention Pumpkin Latte Season …) it is a great time to share ideas for keeping your nutrition and fitness goals on track this fall.  Feel free to put yours in the comments below.

  1. Focus on the social side of events. Whether that is a coffee date with a friend or family Thanksgiving, you are there for the people.
  2. Don’t drink your calories – Cliche advice, I know, but it is unlikely your Thanksgiving memories revolve around alcohol or a glass of sweetened-milk disguised as coffee.
  3. Exercise that day – You will feel healthier if you move that day. Try the new Anywhere Core Video if you are unsure of what to do.
  4. Bring a dessert that fits in your goals – fresh fruit, paleo styled recipes like Apple Crumble (with nuts, not grain) and my favorite the Paleo Pumpkin Pie made with nuts, dates, and pumpkin. You could also bring main dishes or variations on parts of the meal you like. Molly at theoutdooredit.com has a few of our favorite dishes including Pico-de-Gallo, Guac, and Kale Chips
  5. Skip the white buttered-bun and any foods you don’t like that are not great choices anyhow (ie. don’t add gravy if that isn’t your big holiday treat)

Paleo Pumpkin Pie Season (this is my very rough directions – a full on recipe is linked below) 


a) in bowl slice/mash dates (with a bit of water if not fresh Medjool dates) then add 2 cups pecan (or choice nut flour) … pecan seemed to work better and not burn vs. almond/walnut mix of past
b) put in the oven for 5-10 min to ‘dehydrate’ or if you are kooky and have a dehydrator … do your thing
c) while dehydrating make the filling by combining about 2 cups pure pumpkin puree, 3 eggs, a lot of cinnamon unless you don’t like cinnamon, a pinch of cloves and nutmeg if you have it (i didn’t!) . Some maple syrup sweetens further to your taste, The dates and pecans add a fair bit of sweetness. 
    = For true chefs = a recipe that is close  https://blog.paleohacks.com/pumpkinpie-recipe/

Cross is Coming: What Workout Should You?

Inevitably or eternally, #CrossIsComing, so when you decide it’s time to get ready for CX season what workouts are best for you to do?

The best workouts for one athlete may not be the best ones for you. Your friend, or your favorite pro, may be very good at high power, sprints and spend the summer racing road while you may be a time-trialist all summer with limited time to train. You may be much older or younger, or you may have a background in BMX-racing or no cycling background at all! We need to consider many factors when choosing our key workouts to get ready for cyclocross to ensure we have worked on our limiters.
Below are three general scenarios that athlete ‘types’ that you may fit into. I have included some workout ideas that you may want to include as cyclocross season approaches. I am not suggesting all of these be done in a single week, but you may very well find yourself spending a month on each of these ‘scenarios’ as you go through the cross season and your abilities and strengths evolve.
pary barriers
1) Technically limited, struggle with continuous but undulating efforts of cross
If you haven’t spent much time off-road, especially racing off-road than cross practice will be your friend, and getting skill coaching will also be valuable. If you can get riding on a cross course frequently, or setup some obstacles around your house, this will be very helpful.
Workouts that require you to alternate your output and skills will also be great. Micro-intervals where you ride hard and easy (15 seconds hard /15 seconds easy and 30/30 are most common). Most often these are done for 10-30 minutes and should feel very much like the unrelenting hard work of cyclocross!
Including running in these micro-intervals can be another way to simulate race situations and improve technique (once you have the basics down at slow speed with low fatigue). Try building a short loop that makes you ride hard for ~30 seconds, recover on a descent or set of corners, then dismount for a barrier and do a run up a steep hill, then do a bunch of corners back to the start of the short loop for a 1-3 minute repetition.
I usually do 1-5 x 1-2 min rounds together, take a 5-10 minute break then do another 2 sets. Mix very short and maximal efforts with longer efforts in another session in the week to get really fun and specific workout.
 
2016 0813 Eager Beaver 100 2.0

2016 0813 Eager Beaver 100 2.0

2) Struggle with ‘going all in’, starts, attacks, sprints 
This is common in endurance mountain bikers, gravel-grinders, Fondo-riders or time-trialists. Putting yourself into some criteriums, hard group rides or short cyclocross practice races will be helpful in developing the love of going hard!
Many times cross practices will include some start repetitions, which really help develop your ‘starting routine’ and your starting power. On your own, you can do this by practicing 6-10 short (10-20sec) start efforts from standing at the beginning of a few workouts each week.
If you are not a sprinter or struggle with maximal short efforts, it is worth putting a focus on this by doing a focused workout on sprinting or very short efforts with full recoveries (8+ minutes). It is quite valuable to get skill-coaching for standing and sprinting as your power can increase simply by learning the technique of sprinting.
These start efforts might be paired a workout that puts you on your limit and then makes you attack over that intensity. These might be called ‘over-unders’ or ‘threshold with bursts’ depending on the coach but basically, we want to ride at a hard pace and then surge for 15-60seconds before returning to that hard pace.
Start at 2-3 reps of 11 minutes (1 minute hard/4 min threshold/1 minute hard/4min threshold/1min hard). Use longer recoveries 5-10 minutes of light pedaling to ensure you will push the pace. While it is tempting to do this on cyclocross course it is best done on the road to ensure your power output is hard alternated with very hard, and to track your progress.
 IMG_5935
3) Great technical skills, low fitness, or tired/sick from a lot of summer racing
Did you spend the summer in the bike park, racing BMX, winning every criterium, or were you off the bike a lot for injury or vacation? If you believe you will be limited by your engine more than your driving skills then bias towards extended road-endurance sessions 2-3x a week. If your technical ability is sufficient this can be polished or maintained around the focused intensity days and/or at a weekly cross practice, which could be included after intervals, or for fit athletes with a lot of cyclocross skills, after some endurance road riding.
*If you are racing twice on a weekend during the cross season this can also be a nice way to spend your weekdays to provide enough recovery between weekends while maintaining some training load.
Once you are back to feeling good on the bike during these endurance sessions you can start to include 1-2 sessions of threshold intervals per week. Progress a set of 3 x 10 minutes towards a burly 2 x 20-minute session over 4 – 8 weeks keeping an eye on your intensity (more is not more). Recovery is 5-10 minutes typically.
sarh cross racing
In all of these scenarios, the focus/interval days will vary but these in all cases these couple of days should be surrounded by sufficient rest, cross-training and low end, steady endurance. 1-2 days of focused training (intervals/skills) with lower intensity and recovery will ensure you make progress in the desired areas. Work hard on the hard days then recover and allow yourself to improve!
Have a great cyclocross season!
Want to re-energize- Unplug, put airplane mode on, and immerse in nature's finest.

The 3 Essential Cyclocross Skills (VIDEO)

I worked with Canadian Cycling Magazine on 3 videos to help enhance your cross experience. These 3 foundational concepts are key to review for the beginner and advanced rider to ensure you are getting the most out of your efforts.

Book a one-on-one Cyclocross Skills Session with Smart Athlete Today

Email to setup with Contact Form HERE

1) Dismount – http://cyclingmagazine.ca/sections/news/how-to-dismount-your-bike-for-cyclocross/

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUTUqG3YoSw]
2) Mount – http://cyclingmagazine.ca/sections/news/mount-bike-cyclocross/
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOi6OdV3zj8]

3) Shoulder – http://cyclingmagazine.ca/sections/news/how-to-shoulder-your-bike-for-cyclocross/

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5Qh_nKcGU8]

Want to re-energize- Unplug, put airplane mode on, and immerse in nature's finest.