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How Cyclists Can Sleep Better

Sleep is a problem for many athletes. Sometimes this is just after a hard workout or race but sometimes sleep disruption is more regular and requires some concerted effort. These are a few things that can help.

Sleep after a hard race or late workout

Many athletes like doing a weekly hard race or group workout. If you find that you can no sleep because you are wound up than trying a cold shower, more food (or less food) and/or some foam rolling and deep breathing (or meditation) can help improve this. If you find that this is a consistent trend than you may be wise to avoid these late night events most of the time to preserve sleep, especially if you can train earlier without as much travel. This is a difficult situation but may help you achieve your main season goal so maybe worth considering if the cold showers and tweaking of pre/post meals and bedtime routine do not help.

Or Are you just a ‘bad sleeper’?

 

SLEEP POSITION

If your goal is to stop tossing and turning it may be that a pillow under your knees for back sleepers, between your knees for side sleepers or under your shoulder/flexed top leg for stomach sleepers can help put you in a comfortable position that you won’t need to adjust from to get out of a position you can’t maintain. For many cyclists laying on your back with your hips open results in some sort of movement to let the pressure off the low back. Check out this mobility wod talking more about sleeping in extension and considering a softer mattress or foam pad if finding it hard to get comfortable.
I like the sleep posture that is proposed in this image for stomach sleepers especially. It can also help with neck pain from twisting your head into an odd position relative to your torso.

SLEEP HYGIENE

  • Clean your sheets and vacuum and dust your room today. Do it again or a week or so. Clean sheets (and a clean room) can be a nice way to go to sleep.
  • Winding down – You could try yoga and journaling before bed if you find you are waking up a lot (does not seem like that is the case from your watch ‘awake’ time) = This ‘awake’ time is when you move around a lot and go to bathroom etc (ie. watch shakes a lot) 
  • Make your bedroom dark and try to minimize bright lights in the couple hours before bed. Dimmers and room shades are handy.
  • Brush your teeth right after bed so that is done and starts you on the bedtime routine early.
  •  Having earplugs/eyeshade/dark room and cold room (SLEEP HYGIENE) may also help to avoid extra wakings or a disturbed sleep.

               ** PRO-TIP FOR TRAVELING = Use earplugs/eye shade every day so you are ready to be comfy when traveling **

  • I also believe (but admit it is kooky) that having wifi/phones ON in room (and perhaps just in the room as a temptation) has an effect … so TURNING THEM OFF is also wise
  • Using any screens with low brightness (also use night shift on iPhone and an APP called F.LUX for PC/Mac computer to take some of blue light and brightness out of any screens you need later in day 
  • Try to eat at regular intervals during the day to avoid a huge evening meal and try to have that meal a few hours before bed. A common recommendation is to be done eating by 7:30 pm and be in bed ahead of 10:30 pm.
I find the bed-time function on the iPhone (in timer/clock app) is nice as it reminds me to get ready for bed about 45min before and helps illustrate how long I will get given my wake time. The F.lux app has a similar reminder about the fact you are waking up in 8-9 hours so you should go to bed!

 

More Resources

1) Amy Bender on Sleep on the Consummate Athlete Podcast

2) How sleep relates to your cycling performance

This is an article I wrote for Canadian Cycling Magazine with some basics on sleep and quotes from the podcast we did with PEAK PERFORMANCE AUTHORS BRAD STULBERG AND STEVE MAGNESS 

3) insomnia Guide from PainScience.com

If your sleep is really disrupted definately go see a doctor. To help you start to understand the issue and perhaps find a few other ideas that you can review with your doctor check out this guide from Paul Ingraham of Painscience.com. He put together an article about his insomnia and does a good job of working through many of the factors that can contribute to insomnia.

Read his Insomnia Guide HERE

5 Little Things that Make a Big Difference

As an endurance athlete, you are always looking for that little bit extra speed, comfort, safety and/or power. You want to get faster at cycling. While huge changes, fad diets, and crash-cycles of superhard intervals are tempting, it is often the small changes done over time that elicit the results we want. These 5 areas are relatively simple to change and make improvements, especially if you use them for long periods so that the small benefits can compound. This compounding concept is important to understand when looking at your habits and training. Not every interval will register its benefit immediately today. Often it is the consistent practice at a relatively low and manageable level that gives us results, not one hero day or super strict week of dieting.

Read on for the 5 areas:

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Looking for a Summer Goal?

 

Many athletes are looking for a late summer cycling goal in Ontario. Some have missed the Leadville Lottery, while others have waited to see what spring fitness is like and now are looking for something to build towards this summer.

May I suggest the new improved Crank the Shield, which is back after a 3-year hiatus!

 

This new edition moves from it’s Haliburton roots northward to Sault Ste. Marie/Algoma Country and includes a scenic train ride to kick off the 3-day weekend, where you will experience some of the best scenery Canada has to offer. The route includes a chance to climb one of Ontario’s highest peaks, King Mountain, which is a bucket list accomplishment in itself!

Below is a preview video AND be sure to check out www.cranktheshield.com for details and to register

How To Train for Cycling in a City

If you are trying to train for cycling in a city you have likely become frustrated by traffic lights, pedestrians, lack of cycling routes, and/or lack of hills. You may have even decided that cycling indoors is the only way to keep up with your country or mountain dwelling competitors. While the city presents challenges it is not impossible to do much of your training within the city.

These are a few of my favorite tricks for training in the city:

 

Bike Choice and Setup

Consider riding slower tires or bikes. I often ride my mountain bike with slow tires in the city.  This lets me use all the paths and trails and hills available and has the benefit of increasing resistance so I am not going very fast by people.

Hill repetitions

Whether you are doing hard intervals or not start climbing more and you will find your cycling improves. Wanting to climb better is very common for cyclists generally, but especially for city-dwelling-cyclists. Include a couple extra reps up the hillier parts of your ride and you will find those hilly weekend rides and races are not so hard anymore.

Small loops

Rather than looking for a 20-minute loop try looking for a one to five-minute loop to do longer steady intervals. There are often parks that allow cycling, industrial areas or developing areas that you can go to and safely do longer muscular endurance (e.g. threshold) workouts.  I have a few athletes who use grass or wood chip sections (e.g. around soccer fields) to do intervals when they can’t get out of the city, this may not always be desirable but it is worth a try, even one or two times a month if you have such a spot!

Routes

You can use tools like Strava heat map (use the ‘my routes’ function then turn ‘heat maps’ on from the left toolbar). Strava also can let you see where other people are training. Find some of the top riders in your city and download the .GPX file for their routes or just get a sense of where the best loops are. Local Crit series locations may also provide a spot to go after work hours for quiet riding.

JOIN THE SMART ATHLETE STRAVA GROUP TO FIND ROUTES USED FOR SMART ATHLETE WORKOUTS 

Did you do your ride right?

If you are new to Cycling Coaching or following a Cycling Training Plan, it can get confusing, if not overwhelming. There are lots of new words like Functional Threshold Power, Zones, Intervals to learn; PLUS you have to motivate yourself to ride a functioning bicycle AND ride that bicycle safely and skillfully over whatever terrain you navigate to on that day’s training Ride.

This post helps you understand what is important in your training and a little bit about how to use tools like your bike computer and Training Peaks to quickly assess your ride goals.

It is tempting to sit and stare at your computer for hours but that is not cycling training
  • Your job as an athlete is to be motivated, prepared and focus on pushing hard when you need to push hard and riding steady and easy (enough) when it is endurance time.
  • You want to be very focused on the feelings and skills and routines you execute and use the day’s workout to develop those things. Stressing over ‘perfect’ workouts is not required.
  • Try to set up your bike computer (i.e. Garmin or Wahoo) so you can see your Lap Averages and Ride Averages.
  • Set up your device to upload automatically to Training Peaks (and Strava if you do that) => See how here
When you go on a ride, set your intention (goal)
  • If you have hill intervals planned … know what your range (zone) is for that day. This may be a distance you have covered, a Heart Rate, an RPE (Feeling), and/or a Power Number
  • It is good to attach some ‘defining moments’ from your races to these key weekly workouts … if you are getting dropped when the attacks start, practice pushing a bit harder/longer each workout. Visualize yourself riding in the race as you do these intervals and as you feel the tension in your legs and as you breathe deeply to find relaxation in the discomfort.
  • When you come in make sure your files upload and that you do a nice training diary log in training peaks or whatever you use. Note the WHO/WHAT/WHERE/WHY/HOW MANY ETC.  Thinking about what you want to work on next time is how we get better next time. Make a note that you can pull back for the next session.
To assess the ride Many athletes can benefit from putting some time into their bike computer (Garmin/Wahoo etc) Screens and Setup
  • Put a screen as ‘ride summary’ and then you can see your average HR on the ride summary screen in %MHR  (you can set avg HR by BPM or %) … so if endurance ride you can see if you averaged 65-75%
  • You can also setup a lap screen so you can assess each lap as you go. If you have a sweet spot interval you can see if you averaged the prescribed Heart rate or power zones quickly
In Training Peaks You can See your HR or Power (or other) Metrics overlaid with other metrics and also over your zones (These need to be set up and maintained for accuracy) 
  •  There is a graph view where you can view the HR tracing on top of HR zones and hide the other metrics (circled in blue below)
Also in Training Peaks, you can use the pop-up window from calendar view and navigate to this view below to see time in zone and peak HR (or power, or pace) data. 

3 Drills to Improve Balance on the Bike

This post will provide you with 3 drills to improve your cycling skills and balance. While they are not presented in the order I would always use and certainly a step (or three) beyond what a beginner may be comfortable doing they do provide you with some ideas and variations to scale back from, work towards or challenge yourself with today!

 

Covered today
1) The Outrigger – Putting a Foot Out for balance and to ‘dab’ versus falling over or putting out your arm
2) Ratcheting – use a partial pedal stroke and move your body around while STANDING
3) The bump and run – a fun challenge that progresses your ratchets and moves you towards the track stand

Let me know what you think of these 3 drills!

Bike Fit and Setup Mistakes

When I hear that bike riding is causing pain, I think of these few things first.

  1. You brake with any finger except your index finger – modern brakes do not require multiple fingers or middle fingers. Use your index finger. Many wrist, forearm and shoulder pain is aggravated, if not caused by this. At best you are using a lever in a different way than it was designed. Use all the fingers you can to hold onto the bar!
  2. Your cleats are not jiggly – replace cleats at least once a season (more if you ride more or dismount a lot, or only ride one bike/set of shoes). Watch for them to click, or feel jiggly during higher rpm or bumpy sections. This can cause lower leg and foot issues and also I have seen knee pain. When you install your cleats try the farthest back setting (on mtb cleats especially).
  3. Your seat is very far back on the rails or pointed up  – position yourself more forward (knee cap over pedal spindle or slightly ahead) so you are setup to lean forward and pedal up hills. A pointed up saddle is never indicated and is a frequent cause of numbness and saddle sores.
  4. Your suspension is not setup well – read your manuals or ask for help!
  5. Your saddle doesn’t agree with your pelvis – don’t settle for sores and numbness, look into bikefit help, try loaner saddles
  6. If you have knee pain in the front of your knee, try raising your saddle. If you have pain in the back of your leg (hamstring) try lowering your saddle.  Do this by taping your seat post and lowering 2mm at a time.

Losing Weight, Fueling Performance, Altitude and Heat – Stacy Sims

This episode of the podcast deals with so many awesome topics. These are common questions about extreme conditions like altitude and heat, and well just enduring all the crazy events that you do as an endurance athlete. Stacy has so much experience as a researcher, business person, and endurance athlete so this episode is a great one to listen to if you want to hear a simple, yet research backed answer to these difficult questions.

  • How to lose weight but fuel performance and not get sick?
  • How to be ready for altitude if you aren’t at altitude.
  • How to use a sauna or hot-tub to increase your endurance and heat tolerance.
  • Does your menstrual cycle affect training? How to improve your training by paying attention to your cycle? Working with your coach and including notes about your period in training peaks or the HRV or other apps.

Find the post notes and other links on the ConsummateAthlete.com or stream it below!

3 Drills to Corner Better

These are 3 drills that will help you progress your cornering skill

Cornering is a multi-faceted skill with unlimited variations. Just think about how many conditions a cyclocross racer would face, and then multiply that by how many bike types and styles of riding there are! Cornering a mountain bike in B.C. Canada will require different positions, braking techniques, and different tires than if you are in a more desert location like Sedona.

Like many sports, it is wise to do isolated drills to increase your number of repetitions and practice the exact skill you want to use in your adventures. By minimizing distractions and time spent getting to that perfect corner in the forest you can make a lot of progress.


These are 3 of my favorite corner drills.

  1. off bike – practice leaning the bike while holding your body position and while looking with your lean
  2. Leaning the bike while riding in a straight line – practice shifting your hips back and forth
  3. Cone Drills – Slalom and Figure-8 – these are common ‘bike drills’ but using them in tandem with the above and really focusing on your bike LEANING and your hips/gaze shifting will help you make huge breakthroughs

3 Podcast Episodes that Will Make You A Better Cyclist

The Consummate Athlete Podcast is a Podcast I run with my Wife, Molly Hurford (theoutdooredit.com)

The show has athletes, coaches, experts and, most importantly, regular people doing a variety of awesome things involving movement.

The goal of the show? To explore new and different ways to move that will make you better at your main sport(s) and a healthier and happier person. We have had parkour, biathlon, xc-skiing, and even dance! But who are we kidding? We are both avid cyclists and many of the people we know and many of the people we dream of talking to are cyclists.

If you want to be a better cyclist try these three episodes first. If you like the show we would love if you subscribe and try a few others that are more out of your cycling ‘safe zone’!

Geoff Kabush – How to be super fast on any bike (and set a beer+pushup record)

Download and notes: http://consummateathlete.wideanglepodium.libsynpro.com/mtb-coffee-sport-development-geoff-kabush

Stephen Seiler on Periodization, Polarized Training Concepts

Download and notes: http://consummateathlete.wideanglepodium.libsynpro.com/polarized-training-hiit-athletic-needs-steven-seiler

Frank Overton – Beyond Sweet Spot Training

Download and notes: http://consummateathlete.libsyn.com/beyond-sweet-spot-frank-overton

Subscribe to the Podcast on Apple Itunes – or – Google Play – or – Follow on Facebook – or – Check out our Webpage