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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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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/

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.

Pick a Big Crazy Goal

What is Your Big Crazy Goal this Season and Why did you pick it? 

I did an Ironman last weekend. It was my first triathlon, which is sort of a crazy way to start doing a triathlon, but I like a good challenge and I had a lot of relevant experience that made a challenging (CRAZY), but doable goal.

 

I thought a post on WHY a mountain biker would decide to spend time away from his mountain bike to learn to swim, ride hunched over in aero position and run for extended durations on the pavement.

IMG_1162

Why and How can we pick BIG, CRAZY GOALS that will serve us well in the run up to the event, provide a great experience during the event and provide skills/experiences we can use in life and future adventures?

 

Do our goals serve to let us grow or do they create stress at home because we miss too many important family parties, picking the kids up at daycare, missing dinner with your family? Do our goals move us further away from other bigger, longer term goals?

 

For me, this meant considering if the time spent on swimming/running would hamper my ability to qualify for races or take me further away from being a ‘Consummate Athlete’, or have too much risk to health (ie. long term ankle/foot injury from running).

 

Crazy GOALS TO BOOST YOUR GOAL FITNESS

psyched for triathlon - peter with speed concept

For a mountain biker, it might be worth scaring yourself by signing up for a big 200km Gran Fondo. The time on the road building endurance and speed skill will boost your fitness off-road. For a road cyclist looking at Leadville or a marathon MTB race the pedal stroke, technical skills and time spent climbing will often make road riding seem more comfortable and easier to focus on the steady road efforts.

 

MEDIUM VS. LONG TERM

Goal setting can be belabored, it is easy to spend too much time dreaming of ‘when we get there’. A goal in the long-term, dream stage might be intimidating but if success is achieved along the way, as a consequence of striving for excellence there are many wins before the ‘big-crazy-day’.
Giving thought to the process that you will take to get to the big-crazy-goal will help you decide if it is a goal worth chasing. It is, after all, largely about the journey.

 

WHY did I choose Ironman as my Big-Crazy goal? 

 A) scare myself into learning to swim, not just ok but sufficient that I could swim for extended periods, save my life, adventure at something like a Mudrun/OCR, Otillio Swim-Run, go surfing or just float down a river. Swimming WAS a basic human movement I lacked and one I wanted to really learn … anything short of an Ironman didn’t scare me enough to learn.

 

DSC05040
Molly on bike during Ironman Canada

 

B) Molly (my wife) wanted to do another Ironman. She had done one about 5 years ago, but very narrowly avoided DNF and was a wreck for much of it and for a while after. She was a second test subject to design/adjust training for, and since we had a similar goal this also meant we could do more adventures (err… training) together.

 

The social side of the goal and the fact we were stacking some learning/coaching with some social/relationship time made this big-crazy-Ironman goal make sense. We were able to go to the pool together and take over a lane, do a lot of running/walking together, some strength and a little bit of riding. This is not to mention the comfort of traveling to and navigating the hectic race-week environment and logistics!

 

Most importantly I was able to run and swim with a few friends in preparation and we have made a big summer trip out of MTB Nationals, the Ironman and a CX clinic in Virginia that we have been planning and looking forward to for many months. This is a big part of why goals and goal-setting with consideration on the process are important!

 

 peter aero (2)
C) To Refine my aero position and look into tri/TT possibility and also understand demands for clients doing either discipline. Aero is becoming big in many disciplines, including mtb-xc, so why not force me to learn more. If a 2nd go at Leadville is in the cards–I am not saying it is–this will be very important as well.

 

** BIG thanks to Trek Toronto for helping get me on a very fast SpeedConcept for the event, I am going to have a post on all the gear I used in the coming days (will link here)**

 

IMG_5542
Getting my position assessed and working on aero with Scott Kelly / Dundas Speedshop

 

D) Coaching I like to know what athletes are going through. I can’t know every event but I pride myself on the range of movements I know well and this helps me build better training for clients. With more clients coming to Smart Athlete from the Tri-world to develop their bike/run I wanted to immerse myself in the training, literature, tools, tactics and race environment.

 

Through the Consummate Athlete Podcast, we had several guests provide really great information about doing your first Triathlon, going faster in one of the sports or learning the sports. Carolyn Gaynor talked about guiding visually impaired cyclists through Ironman, Rich Pady walked me through each sport and transitions, Terry From Total Immersion talked about learning to swim for beginners and

 

   Check all the episodes that mention Ironman HERE

Being able to chat with new coaches I wouldn’t usually chat with (i.e. swimming or tri specific) was a great experience. There are always concepts, technologies and, well, awesome people, in areas outside our usual. Pushing our boundaries in sport and being open to learning is awesome if you think about it this way.

 

tribike pumptrack
Specific Ironman Bike training in Bromont, QC

 

So that is the story. I did it, I am done with triathlon but the year of adventures, skill acquisition, reading, new contacts/friends and training methods I can carry forward into new adventures, challenges and projects made this Big-Crazy goal well worth the investment and discomfort. Hopefully, this post will help you choose a great-big-crazy-goal this coming year.

 

So what is your next Big Crazy goal (and what are the benefits of completion and the process)? 

Feel free to tell me about it here, if you have questions or doubts. With some planning, many wild goals become much more accessible than you may think!

Troubleshoot Popular Power Meters

One of the trade-offs with power is that we must deal with having electronics strapped to bicycles that undergo tremendous forces and extreme conditions (temperature, precipitation, altitude, dirt, sweat and a few other possible bodily fluids …) You wouldn’t expect your iPhone to survive so be ready to deal with some device troubleshooting and do your best to protect your power devices.

Trouble-Shooting for Power Meters

  1. DO NOT take it into bad weather – cold and rain especially, just leave it at home.
  2. If it gets wet dry it out ASAP, take any covers off and put in front of a fan for a few hours.
  3. Calibrate daily – yes daily.
  4. Change the battery
  5. Calibrate again
  6. Calibrate with another device (use a friend’s)
  7. Connect it to the internet and see if there is an update to the firmware.
  8. submit a ticket to the company to have it refurbished (usually not that pricey)

Power Tap Wheels

Power Tap Wheel Links / Support 
https://www.powertap.com/support/faqs/hubs-wheels
 
Manuals for Power Tap Hubs => https://www.powertap.com/support/user-manuals#hubs-wheels
 
Send back to Powertap => 
  1. Call or email PowerTap Customer Service (1-800-246-5975 or support@powertap.com)
  2. Warranty Info https://www.powertap.com/support/warranty

Stages Crank Based Power Meter

1) have you re-zeroed torque and got offset number?
 
2) updated firmware?
 
3) replace battery
 
4) Submit a ticket for repair/refurbish 

Heart Rate low in cold weather ?

I usually have a couple of clients get frustrated in the fall and winter that their Heart Rate does not go up as high as they think it SHOULD.

 

I put the word SHOULD in capitals because that is always a red-flag in training (and life) when we assume things should be a certain way. It is always worth stepping back and asking if there are reasons it SHOULD NOT be that way, or whether you need to be maxing out your heart rate every day, especially in the fall/winter when races are further away. Remember that most workouts have a range for power, heart rate or other metrics and being at the top of the range does not earn bonus points, large trophies or strava kudos.
   *check out the book ‘the myth of stress’ for more on this 

 

A first consideration when Heart Rate is low relative to the expected is that a low heart rate with poor performance is to be taken seriously and countered with some very intensity exercise (ie. under 100 bpm) and/or complete time off with only relaxing yoga and other rejuvenating activities. This expected value is usually based on one or both of how we are feeling (RPE) or power (Watts). If you are feeling pretty good for a cold ride outside (you won’t feel as amped as sunny day) and/or your power is in the expected range then a low heart rate is not an issue. Care should be taken not to drive the heart rate higher in the range and risk riding too hard, even pushing watts out of the endurance range. This can ironically result in heart rate depression due to overtraining.

If you are not over-training or tired than you are set to learn more about training in cold weather and troubleshooting some more. You are likely familiar with Heart Rate going higher during warm/hot weather. You may also have seen a higher Heart Rate while at altitude. So enviroment can make your heart have to work harder, or make the heart rate HIGHER. For hot environments this is due to the shifting of blood to vessels at the skin’s surface to cool core temp. This means more blood to more vessels and so more work for the heart to maintain output to working muscles.

  *these situations that challenge the heart can be great training stimuli and should be sought out to increase your fitness.

 

If we consider this shifting of blood to surface and increase in Heart rate and work for the heart in hot conditions than assuming a decrease in work for the heart and more blood in the vessels in cold weather is a pretty safe assumption. So our Heart Rate will be lower when it is cold.

 

There are a few other considerations for cold weather heart rate beyond the physiological reasons above. We may wear more clothes, pedal at lower RPM  and/or just go slower in these situations so heart rate may just be lower because you aren’t putting out the same workload or changing your cadence and, in both cases, decreasing the work the heart has to do.

 

A good way to test and overcome these last few reasons for lower HR is to do a periodic sprint or high cadence drill (like a spinup) to get some more activation and ‘wake body up’. You may even find this helps you stay warmer, and perhaps increase the cooling needs to the heart and normalize your heart rate to your expected range.

What Bike Bag or Bike Box to Travel With

Fancy Options – these are used often by those that travel a lot

Cheaper route

is the cardboard box route -> I still use this and breakdown is not huge … handlebars have to come off but that is usual with all bags I believe. Advantage is it is cheap, light (ie. pack other gear in it) and can be broken down to store easily in your rental car etc.
 *if you can get a Trek Madone Box from a local Trek Dealer they are very big and open like a shoe box, which makes packing very easy !

The ‘Canadian’ Solution = Mid-Range with some Advantages

can also get a hockey bag (goalie bag – needs to be very big) and use that. Often Hockey bags travel cheaply or free!
=> Generally requires a bit more bike breakdown as fork has to come out usually.
  -> I use this one I think key measure is 44cm or larger (often custom order)

Once you have it – How do you get your bike in it?

If you need help with getting your bike boxed GCN has a video here to box your bike