Mountain training

So after I got the results from my VO2 Max test, Tony & I went over what the prescription to increase those numbers would be. I’m not a fan of Time-Trialing. But I am a fan of being a Strong cyclist. So, to get the training started I went to the North Georgia mountains and did a ride known as the gaps – well, a variation of the gaps. Climbing the mountains will allow me to get my Heart Rate in my zone for the prescribed period of time and allow my legs to increase strength by climbing these mountains!

I drove up and parked at the Turner’s Corner store and headed up Neels Gap – aka Blood Mt. I haven’t ridden my bike in the gaps for at least a year now & it showed on the first ‘warm-up’ climb. I seemed to be in my largest cog almost as soon as the climb started. There is no cheating the Mountain, The mountain can make a bad day worse.

I was hoping that after the warm-up/re-introduction to climbing that my legs would loosen up and feel good for the 1st actual climb – Nope… wrong again. I basically played mental games against my body, for about half of the climb up the mountain – brain saying we have to keep doing, keep pedaling, at least get to the top…. the body was on defense. Stop, hold it right here, I need a break.

I was suffering and I was hurting, and honestly your reading this blog and this test was part of what kept me going to the top. Each subtle relief in the terrain is a test – do I take a relief from the pain, or do I keep my heart rate at the prescribed intensity?!

I wanted a 12×25 cassette to make the climb more bearable – I usually always start my training season on that cassette then switch to a 11×23 later in the season as my legs no longer needing the 25. And my brain was angry for not finding it this morning, and the body was paying the penalty.

Out of the saddle through the hairpins, flop back down in the saddle on the straights. I keep my Heart Rate between 165 & 170 for the duration. The body is again in conflict, it is burning fuel & creating lactic acid & now must flush it out as fast or faster, as it is creating it. This is the prescribed workout.

Slowly I dragged myself upwards until I could see the sign for the AT (Appalachian trail) – only a 1/4 mile to go. I get to the top and soft pedal as I catch my breathe and check out the view.
Aw, the Mountains are calling me!
I hydrate, and ingest some fuel as I debate going home or pushing on to climb another gap, taking me further from the car. I finally decide to attempt the next gap, Wolf-Pen. This is a climb that is always tough for me. For me it is a little deceiving. At first the switch backs seem to allow for some acceleration, but the next section feels a little steeper each time. The uphill sections keep my heart rate maxed out. Slowly I make my way to the top.

There is a section on this climb that always ‘seems’ like it should be easier than it is – but today, although it is tough, I am taking it steadily. Slowly crawling my way up. There isn’t much speed involved, but that is ok, I’m going purely off of Heart Rate today. 1 switch-back at a time.

Top of Wolf Pen Gap

If you watch old stages of the Tour De Georgia, about the only reason you know this is a climb is they are out of the saddle…. not me. I’m in anguish in these hills, however there is the other side of the coin today, the downhills will be my REWARD!
After reaching the top, and take a brief break, I turn around and descend what I just finished climbing.

Thanks to my buddy ‘HillBilly’ for the video:

Now, I still have 1 more climb to make it back to the car, back up Blood Mountain. On this climb, I am feeling better, the body is working more with me, but I also feel fatigued. I do what I can, and stay in my target HR range and make my way to the top.

Although I can feel the fatigued setting in, I am trying to keep up with the gel & hydration. The legs are responding fairly well, and this climb actually seemed easier than I had thought it would be. This is only the 2nd or 3rd time I had climbed it in this direction. It seems to kick hardest early on, then mainly level off more than the other climbs. With a little speed to keep the HR up, I can now kick little with each incline – then settle back into a decent pace.

View 3 Gap! 2011-03-23 1 in a larger map

After the final descent I do a little exploring on some roads that were fairly early in the ride. I always seem to be curious what is around the next bend.

VO2Max test reading results

Read what it was like for me to go through the TEST

Before I even get off the bike Tony is going over some of the results.
He (again) stated something that I was surprised about – you have a fantastic base – you would be a type of person that would waste their time doing base work. Because of the graph, he could see that I was able to stay very aerobic throughout a lot of the test.

SO, then he says – I bet you hate time trialing, don’t you? Yes. Tony says ‘well guess what you most need to do to see improvements…. tempo work just above your threshold’.

Tony explains to me that the results show that the strength and the aerobic base is there, but my blood system can not keep up with delivering the oxygen and flushing the lactic acid as fast as my muscles are creating it. So, on the trend plot you can see that my Heart Rate stayed above my VO2 for nearly the whole test…. not ideal. My body needs to get used to flushing the lactic acid more efficiently & for that to happen, the body has to be creating it also….. so that means, I have to ride at a high Heart Rate for a duration of time, ala Time-Trialing, or what I like better extended climbs.

Now, we are talking about how/why of genetics, strengths and weakness that I have, how that reflects what the graph shows & and how that will effect the events that I can do well in and the one’s that I will have more trouble with and may just get discouraged with trying to attempt. Which is funny, a good friend once said to me, I’m not built for climbing – once I stopped trying to race all the little climbers and focused on the races that suited my body, I became a much happier bike racer. She ended up placing in US National Crit championships that year.

Train your weakness, race your strength!


Results and REVIEW of MY VO2 Max test is:
So, you can see from the graph that my anaerobic threshold is 166.
My VO2 maxed out at 55. Not bad, not great – and room for Improvement with the proper workouts!

PRO: Very Good aerobic base – again, I’m shocked. But the numbers don’t lie.

Good power at Lactate threshold – over 400 watts.

Needs Improvement: Pulmonary system can not keep up with the effort that the muscles are doing.

Needs Improvement: RECOVERY. look at the 2nd chart, the drop off of Heart Rate is too slow. For competitive cycling, you want your recovery rate to be much quicker so that you can attack, recover and attack – repeatedly. My HR took a little too long nearly 2 minutes to get back down from 180 to 120. Although this will easily change with intown group rides and interval training.

The GOAL: More efforts at Threshold. Or I can do more long Hill Repeats, mountain climbs.
It almost like cheating, but not really. I can do the same workout if I go to the North GA mountains where I can do long climbs of 10-20 minutes at my target heart rate.

Knowing where your baseline numbers are is a Huge benefit for cycling. A VO2Max test will show you where your strengths and weakness are, and from that you can find out the workouts that will best benefit your riding and racing! This is the way to train more effectively and more efficiently in less time.

Up Next: My workouts to change my VO2 Max!

my VO2 Max Test

Now that the group rides & races are getting geared up, I thought it would be a good time to get a true baseline check of where my fitness is truly at – not just guess based on how I do amongst others – but truly where I am at.

The dreaded VO2 Max Test: 1 of the best 10 minute workout that everyone HATES! And endurance athletes use to gauge their fitness.
VO2Max: is your ability to uptake AND utilize O2. The benchmark test of pulmonary (lung) capacity.

So, I got Tony at ATS to get me onto the schedule. The day came and after the instructions I hopped on my bike, which was on the Computrainer. The breathing mask got strapped on (not the most comfortable thing, but the ride will make you forget it), and after some calibration – I started pedaling.

VO2 Max Test setup

Oh, it wasn’t too bad at first…. In fact, it was just a little spin. Tony reminded me to keep up my cadence, ‘doing good, let’s bump it up a notch‘. Now I’m starting to feel some resistance on the pedals. Ok, buddy, settle in – doing great! Then, I think to myself – Why am I here? Why am I doing this? I remind myself I’m doing for me and you the reader & right then, I re-focus – any negative thoughts are heard, and just as quickly as they are there, they are forgotten. I focus on the pedal stroke, relax the body, deep breathing. Negative thoughts are always around, it is a matter of how much you focus on them is when they linger. In training, I hear them and push them aside & Move on!

I opened my eyes and dared enough to take a peek at my Heart Rate, then my eyeballs bulged – 160’s already?! Now the reality of the effort and wattage creeping up and all I could hear was Darth Vader breathing through the mask. This is going to be B-A-D….. and getting worse every slow painful minute, that passes. Again more encouragement from Tony – “You CAN do this!!” This is why people come to his spin classes year around! I continue my efforts. I grip the handlebars a little tighter & bear down on the pedals even more – steady cadence – push/pull, push/pull.

VO2 Mask

I remember when they asked Jackie Joyner what she thought about when running hurdles. She said: “1,2,3,4,5,6, JUMP!”
I closed my eyes again and worked on ‘spinning’ my legs more smoothly, but it seems it is not going to happen, the wattage is too high, legs are mashing. Deep diaphragm breathing. I’ve been here many times, and suddenly I find myself here again – My lungs are heaving, Legs are screaming, lactate is in Friday afternoon rush hour – all routes are bottle-necking and the brain screams: NO MORE! I fight back the agony and hold on, hoping to push out some big wattage numbers.

Suddenly Tony starts the countdown – finally, but it’s too slow – I’m trying to mash the pedals, rock the body, yet all I can think of is “I wish someone would stop pouring hot liquid lava onto my thighs”. He ups the wattage again and suddenly I feel very like someone looking for help… about to fall into the lava flow and be melting away. As much as I’m pushing, the pedals slow, and my cadence drops like I just ran into a Hor’s Category climb.

And just like that, Tony says, DONE & presses a couple buttons on the computer, unhooks the mask and then drops the resistance on the computrainer – but I’m not done – I have to come to a complete stop. We are now checking my recovery rate from a very intense effort. So, here I am sweat going everywhere I’m taking in gulps of air, and I’m thinking ‘I just want to spin out my legs and flush the lava out of my blood stream. We wait until I get back under 120 and finally done.

Results here

What is VO2 Max

VO2 max is the maximal oxygen uptake or the maximum volume of oxygen that can be utilized in one minute during maximal or exhaustive exercise. It is measured as milliliters of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight.

VO2 max or maximal oxygen uptake is one factor that can determine an athlete’s capacity to perform sustained exercise and is linked to aerobic endurance. It is generally considered the best indicator of cardio-respiratory endurance and aerobic fitness.

Elite endurance athletes typically have a high VO2 max. And some studies indicate that it is largely due to genetics, although training has been shown to increase VO2 max in untrained athletes up to 15-20 percent, but well-trained athletes are unlikely to realize an increase in VO2max of greater than 3-5 percent. A major goal of most endurance training programs is to increase this number.

Maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) is the maximum amount of oxygen that can be used by the body for maximal sustained power output (exercise). Since the body uses oxygen to convert food into energy (ATP), the more oxygen you can consume, the more energy, power, or speed you can produce. VO2max defines an endurance athlete’s performance ceiling, or the size of his or her “engine.” Research has shown that VO2max significantly determines performance in endurance-based events such as cycling, triathlon, running, and Nordic skiing.

Track Elite National Points Champion Daniel Holt getting his VO2 Max Test:
VO2 testing

How is VO2 Max measured?
Many endurance athletes already have some idea of what a VO2max test entails: an incremental increase in exercise effort until the participant is unable to continue increasing his or her workload. The athlete can perform the test using any number of exercises: running, cycling, rowing, and even swimming.
Read what I thought of this experience Here

Because VO2max will vary between sports for various individuals, athletes will generally perform the test in his or her preferred sport. Regardless of the testing modality used, all the tests do the same thing. They take a happy-go-lucky individual and turn him or her into a grimacing, suffering, and most importantly, gasping test subject. As exercise intensity increases, a machine calculates oxygen consumption (VO2) by collecting and analyzing the test subject’s inspired and expired air. With each incremental increase in power output by the athlete, more muscle mass is employed and more oxygen consumed. VO2 will thus increase linearly with exercise intensity until the body reaches its maximum ability to consume oxygen. At this point, oxygen consumption will level off, or plateau, when the subject reaches his or her VO2max.

The VO2 max test will nearly pinpoint your lactic threshold, which is the heart rate you will be able to sustain during a timetrial.
A test will also show you exactly where your Heart Rate Zones efforts are for training – this takes the guess work out of estimating your zones!

VO2 Mask

A great thing about a VO2 Max test is that it gives you a gauge of specifically where your body is at and where your efforts will give you the best results. For instance, some people go anaerobic quickly and thus, need to do more base (Long Slow Distance) miles.
Or maybe you have a good base and need more hill repeats, or maybe you need more high intensity intervals.
Some people have good lung capacity, but not enough leg strength while others have great leg strength, but not enough lung capacity to supply the necessary oxygen to those legs and need to do Time-trial efforts.

The VO2 max results will give you a graph of evidence where you are doing well and where you could improve with the proper intervals.

Just send an email via the contact page to get an appointment!

Four Hour Body review

Jim at Hodgson Co Marketing suggested a book to me, that he is reading.

Take a look at some of the mixed reviews in the comments section on Amazon!

Although it isn’t going to drastically change my eating – I lean towards Paleo diet, eating mainly meat, veggies, it has me cutting back on cheese & sugar [just in my coffee & replaced with Cinnamon], so far.
Also, I have added much more vegetables than I would normally eat, including Sauerkraut, Kimchee, and spinach.

And, it has gotten me over my ‘fear’ of eating too many beans. I have had a week of beans and no smelly side-effects. In fact, I notice more side effects from broccolli (your flatulence may vary).


I think a big difference maybe the regular timing of measurements. I used to take my measurements whenever the mood struck. I have recorded my baseline of where I am at, after taking a lot of the Winter off to work on this website.

UPDATE: In about 2 weeks I lost 6 pounds, and my jeans fit much better around the waist. I find that I have been tucking in my shirts much more often than several weeks ago!

I’m anxious to get to the section about sleeping also – or rather how to go on less sleep and not feel tired.

UPDATE: I downloaded the electricSleep for Droid and have been using it overnight. The main thing that this does is allow the alarm to go off when I am not in REM (deep sleep), which allows you to wake feeling more refreshed.

Speaking of sections, I like how T.Ferris tells you to read the first several chapters, then jump around and absorb what interests you most. As long as you follow the info first laid out in the book, you can then read more about specific sections that interest you. Isn’t this the way learning should be!?


UPDATE: A very interesting chapter! TFerris got an insulin meter installed into his body and watched his blood sugar changes after eating different foods… This showed some interesting information!
A) It is not what you eat, it is what enters your bloodStream!
B) The amount of time it takes nutrients to actually enter the bloodstream is different than what most have thought!
C) the length of time it takes some nutrients to actually reach the blood stream is much longer than we realized. much longer. I used to try to finish a ride with out using another gel – whoops, making my recovery worse! Get those nutrients INTO the body BEFORE you finish!

Is doing Abs a waste of time

I can’t even tell you how often I hear someone at the end of the workout say something like “I need to do more abs, I want to get that six-pack.” The truth is that passing on a sixpack is a better way to get a six-pack than six hundred sit-ups. The key to abdominal definition is the visibility of the abdominal musculature, not the strength of the muscles. You can do one million sit-ups, crunches or whatever exercise you want and it will have no effect on abdominal definition. When people ask me the best exercise for abs I tell them table push-aways. It usually takes a few minutes for them to get it. It’s not a joke, it’s the truth. If you want better abs, eat less and train more but, don’t just train your abs.

The idea of working abs to get abs is one of the oldest misconceptions in training. This goes back to the idea of spot reduction. Spot reduction has never worked and will never work. The research has been done over and over and the answer is always the same. You can’t decrease the fat layer on a particular area by working that area. That means that the guys doing sit-ups to lose abdominal fat and the lady sitting on the adductor ( inner thigh) machine are both wasting their time. Good total body work is, was, and always will be the key to fat loss.

Want better abdominal definition? Finish every workout with some hard interval training instead of extra sit-ups or crunches. Interval training or what is currently called High Intensity Interval Training (abbreviated HIIT) is the real key to fat loss and the resulting definition. Interval training burns more calories than steady state aerobic training and because it is a sprint program you get a sprinters body.

Abdominal training may reduce the diameter of the waistline but, will not do anything to reduce body fat. The truth is there are lots of good reasons to do abdominal work or core training as we now like to call it. A strong core (strong abs) is one of the keys in the prevention of back pain. A strong core will help you look better and improve performance in a host of sports but, sit-ups or any other abdominal exercise will not reduce body fat.

Another good tip: Don’t just do 100’s of crunches. A good abdominal or core program is a lot more than crunches. In fact a great deal of your core work should be isometric exercises like front planks and side planks. One of the major functions of the core musculature is the prevention of motion. What does that mean? It means that the abdominals are great stabilizers. Work on the stability function, not just on flexion and extension.

from Michael

Exercise Risk versus Reward

I know of a exercise regime that has people doing many things that are challenging exercises, however, one of the main things is that the routine doesn’t pay any attention to the Risk vs. Reward factor of exercise. And as such I found out that many people were getting injured doing the workouts.
And as an athlete “The Number 1 way to Improve, is to NOT get Injured”

Let me explain what I mean. The simple fact is there are more basic exercises that you can get as much benefit (if not more) and a fraction of the risk involved in performing them.

Some examples of low risk, high reward plyometric exercises are:

1) jumping rope.
2) squat jumps.
3) side to side hops over cones.

Some examples of High Risk with little reward are:
1) Anything involving standing on a stability ball. I’ve done it, but each time I let out a sigh after being finished – b/c I didn’t get injured. Sure, it’s a cool looking exercise, and people may stop to watch you, but the risk involved during, and finishing the exercise is way too high for any benefit that you would get from doing it.

I heard that Juan Carlos Santana tore an ACL getting off a ball at a seminar – that was enough to make me realize that it was a little risky too do.

2) Increased box size while doing box-jumps. Just because you use a taller box, does not mean that the proportion of benefit from jumping is increased, infact there is an inverse relationship. The taller the box, the less increase in benefit, and the greater increase chance of injury.

For example, if you are doing box-jumps onto a 24″ box, going to a 36″ box is going to barely increase the body’s ability to create more power, however, there is a much greater risk involved.

3) Using ‘the smith machine’ to do squats. I understand the reason people use the smith machine to do squats, but what I don’t think that people realize the hidden risks of using the smith machine. The risks are that:

A) you are loading lots of weight onto the back of your neck, and then attempting to squat that weight, during the course of doing this, you are likely to cheat in any way possible to raise that weight – pushing your neck further into the smith machine.

B) If you have bad mechanics while squatting & then add much weight to the squat (again, on the back of the neck), then the bad mechanics are going to be magnified – and at some point cause an injury.

Want a better exercise that will still challenge most athletes – Single Leg Squats! You don’t have to double the load on your neck, to double the load on each leg, just use 1 leg and your bodyweight.

Another difference is unlike basketball or volleyball, where the power creation may have to come from different muscle length during the course of an event, for cycling, the legs power creation goes through the same cycle (no pun intended, but hopefully appreciated) either seated or standing. So, because the pedal is attached to a crank-arm, your foot is going to do the same circle for every revolution of that crank.

Therefore, we use Plyometrics so that the Power Creation uses a similar muscle length tension relationship of squatting low and jumping, then landing back in a similar squat, then immediately jumping again.

Now before you race to the gym or the basement to hammer out a plyometric workout, please read this first and keep in mind that a risky exercise does not mean it has the most reward!
The biggest reward is to stay injury free.

Windtraining Workouts for Cycling

Each season I would come out to the group rides in great form – and now that I am no longer racing, I am releasing my winter windtraining workouts that I did for so many years to prep my body for group rides and for racing Pro1,2.

These workouts will make you
1) Leaner!
2) faster!
3) stronger!
Bike WindTrainer

Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

The Winter Wind Training classes is a series of on the bike workouts that will best prepare you for the Spring rides and upcoming race season. The workouts have been laid out so that you will come into the season in your best possible shape with out being burned out or fatigued. The workouts Build from one week to the next.

– These workouts can be done on the Windtrainer or outside!

What to expect:
-Heart rate based intervals of varying length and time each week.

-Steady state intervals for climbing and Time Trialing

-Individual Leg Training (ILT) for forming perfect pedaling circles

-Spin-Ups to increase leg speed

Get the down-loadable workoutsSupport independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

My Tracks GPS Droid App review

Today I got out for a Mountain bike spin with my dog Apollo. We headed out for a ride around Chicopee woods before the storm hit the Atlanta area.

The great thing about taking Apollo Mt biking is that we both get exercise for the day. I can do a loop with him, then head back out for a bigger loop by myself. After riding/running both of us are more relaxed. In fact 1 of my favorites sayings is “A tired dog is a good dog!”. And I guess that goes for all dogs, ha!

Tired trail dog

I have a strong like for maps! I can go over maps before going somewhere & after getting back. I guess maybe it is a orientation thing, from when I used to explore as a kid?

Anyway, here is the GPS from the Droid app ‘My Tracks’. I recently downloaded it & have been using a couple times now to orient myself with it. So far, I really like the app, however, it does eat up the battery.

The cool side is I can still post up to different websites that I may want to update.
The downside is that although it is on my phone, the elevation does not show up on the websites that I post to.

View 2011-02-28 Mt Bike in a larger map

I really like the look and set-up of the Garmin website that you can post your data too. The summaries for the stats of a ride are much clearer & more information is offered.
I did finally find that if you click the ‘end’ link, it will pop-up a summary for you – which is best viewed in Google Chrome.

I do like the price of ‘My Track’ better – FREE. Since I don’t see the need to dish out over $300 on the Garmin (that I would want, if I got 1) then this free app will do just fine for now.

Some previous video of the Chicopee trail…. why do I always put the crashes at the end of the videos?

Any suggestions for a similar/better app to Garmin for a Droid, please let me know!