Archive for the TrainerRoad Blog Category

Does Anaerobic Training Hurt FTP, Glycolysis, Meal Timing and More – Ask a Cycling Coach 326

09/24/2021 0:02

Anaerobic training is important for many athletes, but does its high-sugar burning nature lower your FTP? We’ll dig into the science of anaerobic training, lactate threshold, glycolysis, meal timing and much more in Episode 326 of the Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast!

More show notes and discussion in the TrainerRoad Forum.




Topics covered in this episode

  • TrainerRoad launched a Free Trial!
  • How much is too much anaerobic training?
  • What anaerobic training does to your body
  • Does anaerobic training hurt FTP?
  • How does your body break down, store, and use sugar?
  • How to time your meals for ideal performance
  • Easy recipes for athletes
  • Should you hire a nutritionist?
  • Pairing nutrition with load and deload phases

Resources mentioned in this episode


Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast

Successful Athletes Podcast

Science of Getting Faster Podcast


For more cycling training knowledge, listen to the Ask a Cycling Coach — the only podcast dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. New episodes are released weekly.


Categories:TrainerRoad Blog

6 Steps to Make the Most of Your TrainerRoad Free Trial

09/24/2021 0:02

Our new free trial lets you easily join the many thousands of athletes who’ve become faster cyclists with TrainerRoad, with no commitment, risk, or credit card info required. But trying new things can be daunting, and with all the features we have to offer it can be hard to know where to begin. We’ve got you covered! These 6 steps can help you make the most of your TrainerRoad free trial, and start you on the path to cycling success.

Step 1: Download the App

First things first—the basics. The TrainerRoad app works on every mobile and desktop platform, and quickly syncs with all your training devices. By downloading the app and connecting your devices in advance, you make it easier to jump on the bike and get training as soon as you’re ready.

You’re prompted to do this during your initial signup, but you can do it any time. Click below to download the app, then sign in and you’ll be ready to go.

Click here to find the latest TrainerRoad apps for desktop and mobile.


Step 2: Pair Your Devices

TrainerRoad can work with almost any training setup. Head over to our Equipment Checker to quickly find out in advance if your devices will work.

To pair your devices, open the TrainerRoad app and select the “Devices” tab in the main menu. Make sure Bluetooth or ANT+ is set to “ON”, then pedal for a few moments to wake up your device. Once it appears in the menu, click on it and wait a moment until it’s highlighted green. That means your device is paired!

There are lots of other things you can do from the device menu, like calibrating your power meter, activating Virtual Power to estimate power data, and using PowerMatch 2.0 to control your smart trainer with your power meter. If you ever get confused or need assistance, simply click “support” in the main menu and our team will be happy to help.

Click here for full instructions on pairing devices.


Step 3: Set Up Your Equipment and Connect Other Apps

Setting up your equipment properly is an important step towards success. It removes external obstacles, so you can devote all of your energy and attention to completing your workouts. 

– Sync with other Services

Start by syncing your TrainerRoad account with other fitness services you already use, such as Strava, Wahoo, or Garmin Connect. Navigate to the “Account” tab in the main menu on the TrainerRoad app or website, then scroll down to “Ride Sync”. From here you can connect the services of your choice to import and export data.

Click here to learn more about connecting with other apps.

Set up Your Equipment for Indoor Training

If you plan to train indoors, set your bike up on the trainer ahead of time and have your shoes, kit, and supplies ready to go. 75% of your energy goes towards temperature regulation, so a good fan is absolutely essential when training indoors, so is ample hydration and a towel for sweat. Get some food ready to fuel your work, especially if your workout is intense or longer than an hour. Last but not least, have your preferred entertainment ready to go, whether it’s movies, music, or even a good book.

Click here for more advice on Indoor Training.

Set up Your Equipment for Outside Workouts

TrainerRoad workouts can be exported to Garmin and Wahoo head units to complete outside. It’s fun, effective, and especially enjoyable during nice weather, and you can even do them by feel if you don’t have a power meter. We recommend using custom display settings on your device, to efficiently show you the information you need without distractions. Plan a safe route for your workout, and bring plenty of food and drink. Most of all, have fun!

Click here for detailed instructions on all aspects of Outside Workouts.


Step 4: Take a Ramp Test If You Don’t Know Your FTP

TrainerRoad uses your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) to set the overall intensity of your training. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your FTP is accurate and up-to-date.

If you haven’t tested your FTP recently, we recommend taking a ramp test as your first workout. It usually only takes about 25 minutes to complete, and it’s only difficult for the last few minutes of the test. Once you complete the ramp test you can be confident that every workout will be perfectly suited to your abilities, so your training will be as effective and sustainable as possible.

Click Here to Learn More About the Ramp Test


Step 5: Try Some Short, Interesting Workouts

Effective training includes all different types of workouts, from gentle recovery spins to high-intensity repeats. But if you’re just trying things out, prioritize fun. Choose short, varied sessions that will be exciting and time-effective introductions to structured training.

TrainNow is a great way to find these workouts. TrainNow analyzes your abilities and recommends perfect individual workouts. Simply head to the main menu in the TrainerRoad app, click “TrainNow”, and specify your preferred duration. TrainNow offers suggestions in 3 different styles; we recommend trying out a 45-minute Climbing or Attacking workout. These generally include lots of variation and some challenging intensity, at a very manageable length. 

Click Here to Learn More About Picking Workouts With TrainNow


Step 6: Explore The App and Other Advanced Features 

Beyond pairing devices and completing workouts, there are a ton of cool things you can do with TrainerRoad, so take the time to experiment and explore these features during your free trial. From easily-adjustable scheduling with the Calendar, to powerful performance Analytics, to the insights of Adaptive Training’s Progression Levels, you have the most advanced training platform in cycling available at your fingertips. Take advantage and see how these features can all work together to make you a faster cyclist.

Try TrainerRoad Free, No Credit Card Required


Categories:TrainerRoad Blog

Cycling Sprint Workouts: How to Improve Your Maximum Sprint Power

09/22/2021 0:02

Peak sprint power is a combination of fitness and technique. Just because you wouldn’t label yourself as a sprinter, doesn’t mean you can’t have a powerful snap. With the right combination of cycling sprint workouts and drills, you can increase your peak sprint power. 


For more information on sprint training, check out Ask a Cycling Coach Ep 262.


Sprint is a unique cycling skill as it relies just as much on fitness as it does a proper technique. On the fitness end, you’ll be using all three energy systems but typically sprinting the job of the neuromuscular system. Also called the phosphocreatine energy system, it uses stored ATP and creatine phosphate (ATP-PC) for maximum efforts lasting less than fifteen seconds. 

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The problem is that rest or low intensity is required for the neuromuscular energy system to recharge, so peak sprint power reduces with repeated sprints. This is why cyclists try to protect their sprint, saving it for the most decisive moment. However, recent research suggests that aerobic fitness can influence the rate of recovery. 

What is Peak Power Output

Peak Power Output is more than just pushing hard on the pedals. Yes, the amount of torque applied to the pedals is important, but cadence is another critical component of power. Simply put, power is torque x cadence

To increase your peak power output, you’ll need to train the amount of torque and your rate of cadence change. In terms of sprint power, it’s helpful to think of torque as how you recruit all your available fast-twitch muscle fibers and cadence as the speed that you apply it. The good news for anyone who wants to increase their maximum sprint power is that both of these things are highly trainable. 

Benefits of Sprint Workouts

Training the neuromuscular system for maximum sprint power is different from training the aerobic or anaerobic energy systems. The reason for the difference is that the neuromuscular energy system is the least adaptable of the three. Does that mean there’s not any benefit for sprint workouts? There’s plenty to be gained from cycling sprint intervals.

Foremost, sprint workouts help you establish and strengthen your neuromuscular pathways, which leads to increased coordination. In turn, your technique will improve. Additionally, these types of workouts can increase your anaerobic capacity and repeatability.

Cycling Sprint Workouts

Cycling sprint intervals come in all shapes and sizes, but the primary objective is to increase muscle fiber recruitment. These sprint workouts are not for full power, all-out efforts where you are rocking the bike as hard as you can. It’s best to complete those outside to avoid damaging your frame or trainer. 

This is the cycling sprint workout Fuji. It's one hour long with 67 TSS with an IF of .82. It shows nine sprint intervals.
The cycling sprint workout Fuji.

Fuji is 9×20-second all-out efforts at 200% FTP, each separated by about 4 minutes of active recovery at 65% of FTP. The primary aim is to increase the amount of force you can apply to the pedals. In between these cycling sprint intervals, you’ll accumulate a fair amount of aerobic endurance riding.

By effectively increasing your ability to drive the pedals, one-half of the strength-endurance combination is satisfied, paving the way for higher power during short efforts and a higher FTP due to greater muscular capabilities.

This is the workout chart for McDuffie. It's one hour long with 74 TSS and a .86 IF. The chart shows five sets each consisting of three sprint intervals followed by four minutes just above FTP.
McDuffie combines sprints and suprathreshold intervals.

McDuffie consists of 5 sets of sprint intervals, comprised of 3×12-second sprints at 200% FTP followed closely by a slightly suprathreshold, 4-minute effort at 105% FTP. Recoveries between sprints are about 50 seconds long, and the recoveries between sets are 3 minutes each.

This workout’s primary objective is to increase muscle fiber recruitment via all-out sprint efforts and reap the reward of this additional muscle activity to power through a demanding, leg-searing 4 minutes of work slightly above Functional Threshold Power (FTP).

This is the chart for the cycling sprint workout Door +4. It's one hour long with 78 TSS and a .88 IF. It shows four intervals that begin at 200% of FTP followed by two minutes at 110% of FTP.
Dorr +4 is a hard start sprint workout.

Dorr +4 is 4×30-second hard starts way up at 200% FTP followed by 2 minutes of suprathreshold work at 110% FTP. Nine minutes of recovery falls between each effort. 

This sprint workout offers a few chances to test and fine-tune your initial acceleration capabilities. Go out too hard and risk blowing up; go out too softly and risk losing position. Still, if you use these repetitions to learn the sort of efforts, you can perform at the start of a race, and perhaps more importantly, repeat during later stages of a race, you’ll stand a far greater chance of not only surviving these hard kicks but making them work for you.

Strength Training Workouts to Improve Your Sprint

One of the more significant ways to improve your sprint power is using strength training. The only way to increase ATP-PC stores is to increase muscle mass or supplement with creatine. Adding in some resistance training can help you add muscle mass if you need to. Additionally, strength training will increase the amount of muscles fibers you recruit and how forceful they contract. 

There are three different approaches to strength training workouts to improve your sprint power. The first is the classic use of heavy weights. This would include lifts like the squat or deadlift for 3-5 reps in 3-5 sets at 85-95% of your one-rep maximum. You can do this 2-3 times per week. Another form of strength training is plyometric exercises. These are explosive bodyweight movements. The classic box jump is a great example. However, if you are new to plyometric exercises, start slow until you have mastered the movements to avoid injury. 

Finally, you can combine traditional strength training with plyometrics. Ballistic training adds light weights to explosive movement. A good place to start is with jump squats. Use 30% of your one-rep max and focus on the velocity at which you can lift the load. 

Sprinting uses muscles throughout your body, so a well-rounded regimen is recommended. Of course, you’ll want to target the lower body. But the upper body and core strength are just as important. Below is a sample of two days per week of strength training workouts to improve your sprint. If you’re new to weight training, remember to take it slow. For more on how to get started with strength training, check out Strength Training Basics for Cyclists.

Day 1

Exercise Sets Reps
Squats 3 5
Bench Press 3 5
Military Press 3 5
Planks 3 30 sec.- 2min.

Day 2

Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlift 3 5
Barbell Row 3 5
Pull-ups 3 5
Planking Row 3 10 (each side)

Sprint Technique Drills

Once you’ve built the fitness and strenght for sprinting, it’s time to practice your sprinting technique. You can increase maximum sprint power by improving your cadence and torque. Here are some drills that you can complete on any ride outdoors.

Training Cadence for Sprint Power

Developing your ability to apply torque quickly requires plenty of practice. When you practice rapid cadence changes, you establish and strengthen neuromuscular pathways, leading to increased coordination and effective torque application.

One of the best ways to practice on the bike is by completing jumps or form sprints. This low-power drill is simple to do. Just pick a mid-range to light gear and then wind your cadence up as quickly as possible. Your goal is to go from a normal cadence to your max cadence in as little time as possible and then hold it for about ten seconds. Practice them seating and standing.

Training Torque for Sprint Power

Training for peak torque is best done with strength training and drills on the bike. Strength training helps develop muscle capacity, while the drills will help you apply it to the pedals. High-force stomps are the best drill for applying your gym strength onto the bike. These standing-start sprints consist of slowly turning over a big gear as forcefully as possible to recruit as many muscle fibers as you can. Done from a near stop, pick the hardest gear you can turn over without exceeding 90rpm in 12 pedal strokes.

Aim for five stomp efforts during your ride. These should last 10-12 seconds, with plenty of rest in between. You can complete these drills sitting or standing. While standing, hold onto your handlebar drops and drive each foot down as hard as you can while retaining excellent form. When seated, try to stabilize any lateral movement.

Putting It All Together

Every cyclist has strengths and weaknesses. One of the best ways to discover yours is to take a look at your power curve. Your power curve shows the work you’ve done plotted against time. On the TrainerRoad Personal Records page, you can view your power PRs on three different levels. Let’s look at an example. 

This is a cycling sprint personal record chart. It shows a blue line starting at 1000 watts then decreases downward to the right.
With the right training and practice, Nathan can increase his peak sprint power.

This example is of my colleague Nathan’s power curve set to the sprint level (1-30 seconds). His all-time peak one second power is just above 1000w and falls to about 900w at ten seconds. Typically when discussing peak sprint power, we look at the one-second mark. You can track your peak power easily from the Personal Records tab to track your progress. 

Unleashing a great sprint is more than just power and acceleration. Body position and rhythm play a critical role. Sprint technique is something that requires consistent practice to master. And if you are racing against others, the right strategy is just as important. Here is a list of resources for improving your sprinting. 


For more cycling training knowledge, listen to Ask a Cycling Coach — the only podcast dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. New episodes are released weekly.


Categories:TrainerRoad Blog

Cross-Training, Raising Power While Dropping Weight and More – Ask a Cycling Coach 325

09/17/2021 0:02

Cross-training is not usually considered as necessary for cyclists, but should it be? We’ll cover the science of cross-training, how to raise power while dropping weight and much more in this episode of the Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast!

More show notes and discussion in the TrainerRoad Forum.




Topics covered in this episode

  • TrainerRoad launched a Free Trial!
  • How to raise power while losing weight
  • Why some athletes drop power while losing weight
  • The science behind cross-training and why cyclists should do more of it
  • Rapid Fire questions
  • How to level up your sprint skills in a week
  • Is pre-workout weight training a way to get more adaptations?
  • Is it better to focus on the effort or distract yourself?

Studies mentioned in this episode


Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast

Successful Athletes Podcast

Science of Getting Faster Podcast


For more cycling training knowledge, listen to the Ask a Cycling Coach — the only podcast dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. New episodes are released weekly.


Categories:TrainerRoad Blog

Energy Cost of Recovery, Training Camps and More – Ask a Cycling Coach 324

09/10/2021 0:02

We know we burn energy in training, but what about when we recover? What processes happen in your body and how much energy does it take? In this episode we’ll cover this and go into the do’s and don’ts of training camps with two pros from the Orange Seal Off-Road Team, Hannah Finchamp and Alex Wild!

More show notes and discussion in the TrainerRoad Forum.




Topics covered in this episode

  • Intro 00:14
  • Why do pro athletes still have elevated breathing rates on the podium? 13:07
  • What happens in your body after a hard effort 17:04
  • Is your caloric burn still elevated after training? 29:19
  • Adjusting training for high-stress situations 1:22:44
  • A guide to planning training camps from the pros 1:31:32
  • When should you increase training volume? 1:43:10
  • Is harder training actually better training? 1:50:29
  • Live questions and answers 2:01:54

Studies mentioned in this episode

Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast

Successful Athletes Podcast

Science of Getting Faster Podcast


For more cycling training knowledge, listen to the Ask a Cycling Coach — the only podcast dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. New episodes are released weekly.


Categories:TrainerRoad Blog

The Silver Rush 50 MTB: How to Prepare for Fifty Miles at Leadville

09/3/2021 0:02

While preparing for the Silver Rush 50, athlete Kate McLaughlin sustained an injury that would keep her off her mountain bike for months. Eager to keep her Leadville goals on track, Kate found a new approach to training that resulted in an all-time personal fitness and the fastest women’s time at the 2021 Silver Rush 50. Here’s how Kate trained for her first long-distance mountain bike race and her tips for success at the Silver Rush 50. 


Share your success story and tell us how TrainerRoad helped you reach your goals.

Leadville’s Silver Rush 50 MTB

The Silver Rush 50 MTB is a fifty-mile mountain bike race based in Leadville, Colorado. The race is an epic day in the saddle with a start line that sits more than 10,000 feet above sea level and a course that accumulates over 7,000 ft of climbing. Every summer, hundreds of athletes are drawn to the Silver Rush 50 to conquer the challenging course and attempt to qualify for the Leadville 100.

For athlete Kate McLaughlin, personal ties to the Leadville race series and a goal to race the Leadville 100 were what drew her to the start line of the Silver Rush 50 MTB race. When she signed up for the race, Kate had already earned a spot at the Leadville 100 through Leadville’s lottery system, so she didn’t need a qualification. What she wanted was some long-distance mountain bike racing experience. Going into the 2021 season, Kate had a few seasons of mountain biking under her belt but no off-road race experience. Looking for some extra preparation on her way to the Leadville 100, Kate decided she would race the Silver Rush 50 too.

Training for the Silver Rush 50 MTB Race

Like many athletes, Kate’s preparation for her big event wasn’t without setbacks. Early on in her preparation for the Silver Rush 50, Kate injured her hand in a gravel bike crash. With surgery on the calendar and her hand in a cast, Kate faced several months away from her mountain bike. While this might deter some cyclists from a goal as daunting as racing at Leadville, it only reinforced Kate’s goals. As soon as she knew she wouldn’t be able to ride outside, Kate got on TrainerRoad and built a custom training plan with Plan Builder.

Kate’s custom training plan included a Sweet Spot Base II phase, a Sustained Power Build phase, and a Cross Country Marathon phase. The first phase in this progression, Sweet Spot Base II is composed of endurance, sweet spot, and threshold workouts aimed to increase muscular endurance and build a robust aerobic engine for long rides. The Sustained Power Build phase introduces more VO2 max efforts and harder threshold workouts to increase strength, endurance, and fatigue resistance—all necessary abilities for the long sustained climbs of the Silver Rush 50. Finally, the Cross Country Marathon plan rounds out the preparation, focusing on short, highly repeatable bursts of power coupled with efforts to increase your power and keep it there for high extended lengths of time. It’s a perfect combination for a long, distanced mountain bike race with sustained climbs like the Silver Rush 50 or the Leadville 100.

Because Kate had experience training at a higher volume, she was able to opt for the mid-volume training plan, which includes five structured workouts per week. With that said, while she knew she could handle this much-structured training, she also knew herself well enough to know that five days spent entirely indoors wouldn’t be sustainable for her. So, to get some time outside amid her injury, Kate also swapped some of her indoor trainer workouts for outdoor trail runs. Swapping her structured workouts for trail runs helped her stay on track with her training plan and keep her motivation high. 

In her preparation, Kate didn’t notice any dramatic FTP increases or shifts in performance. Instead, she saw a gradual increase in her ability to do work and push her threshold power for longer durations. By the time she got on her mountain bike for the first time in June, Kate felt fitter than she ever had. “I was going uphill faster than I think I’ve ever gone uphill…I felt so fit.”

Kate’s Tips for Racing the Silver Rush 50

When race week arrived, Kate felt strong and ready to go—unfortunately, her hand was a few steps behind her. While she was cleared to do the race, she was experiencing moderate pain in her hand. That paired with concern from her doctors that she might reinjure it in a crash meant Kate would need to take it easy if she wanted to race. Confident in her bike handling skills and determined to see her goals through, Kate decided she’d still race. Instead of racing against the field though, she decided she’d focus on these three goals: 1. Don’t crash. 2. Ride your own race. 3. Have fun.

On race day, she focused all of her efforts on pacing her own race, taking in fuel, having fun, and keeping it rubber-side down. When she crossed the finish line, she was the fastest woman of the day. Here’s what Kate learned on race day and what she recommends for any athlete who wants to do this race.

1. Watch Out for These Sections

The Silver Rush 50 is an out and back course composed of four sustained climbs and four long descents. Generally speaking, the course isn’t super technical. If you’re solid on the fundamentals, you should be in good shape throughout this race. Kate says, “The downhills are just the right amount of technical, that most can make it down no problem, and if you like the downhill aspect, you’re going to have a whole lot of fun making up time on the descents. There’s plenty of uphill and downhill that’s not technical at all, though (more so than not).”

With that said, there are a few sections Kate recommends watching out for. Particularly, some of the steeper technical uphills. “The hike-a-bike uphill sections were tough! They’re short, steep, technical stretches on the way out. There were some sections I think I would’ve been able to clear if there was nobody in front of me, but many people lost traction and had to unclip during these sections. You have to navigate other’s body language and try to anticipate this if you want a chance at clearing it.”

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The start offers some surprising challenges too. “The timing mat for the start is actually at the top of a steep hill you have to run up with your bike when the start gun goes off. Don’t feel the need to sprint up this, even if others are. I got to the timing mat a ways back, and I felt there was plenty of room to pass during most of the course. It’d be easy to put yourself into a hole sprinting up the start, but save your energy for the 8,000 feet of climbing you’re about to do.”

2. Pace Your own Race

A big part of Kate’s strategy was pacing her own race, making sure her pace up the climbs was sustainable. Because Kate doesn’t have a power meter on her mountain bike, she paced the event using the rate of perceived exertion (RPE). Pacing by RPE can sound tricky, if not a little risky, especially when you don’t have experience racing at that exact distance. However, despite not having experience racing a fifty-mile race, Kate didn’t have any trouble holding a sustainable pace. Months of completing sweet spot intervals, threshold intervals, and endurance intervals meant she knew exactly what pace she could hold on the Silver Rush 50 climbs.

“I knew exactly what my legs could do over and over again, and that was the pace I went at. I don’t have a power meter, but after enough workouts on the indoor trainer, I didn’t need one to know about how many watts I was putting out. I made sure not to blow myself up during the first half, and that paid off when I pulled away from the group I had been with the entire time pretty shortly into the second half.” If you’re pacing this event without a power meter, Kate recommends really focusing on those sustained intervals in your training plan. 

Example Sweet Spot Workout: Desperation is a Sweet Spot workout in the Cross Country Marathon Specialty phase. This workout aims to continue building aerobic power while refining your climbing technique and familiarizing your body with the different stresses of climbing.

Generally speaking, when building out your pacing strategy Kate recommends taking it relatively easier in the first half, so that you can finish strong in the second half. “Play it safe in the first half. Stay comfortable, and don’t go too deep. It’s a long race with plenty of long descents and long climbs to go hard on later in the race.”

3. Keep It Fun, Stay Positive, and eat.

Don’t underestimate the value of Kate’s third goal—making the race a fun day. In fact, having fun on race day was Kate’s main piece of advice for other Silver Rush 50 athletes on race day. “HAVE FUN RACING!” she says. “I had such a blast! The energy at the race was high, and I loved every second of it. When you’re at mile 35 struggling through that last climb, remember everybody else is feeling the same way. And don’t forget to eat – if you listen to TrainerRoad, you already know all about fueling, but I focused on this on race day, and it played a huge role in my day”


Categories:TrainerRoad Blog

Leadville Champion, Air Quality, Strengths vs. Weaknesses, and More – Ask a Cycling Coach 322

08/28/2021 0:02

Keegan Swenson joins us to talk about his Leadville and Breck Epic wins and to help us answer your questions on training with bad air quality, finding your strengths and weaknesses and much more. Tune in now and get faster!

More show notes and discussion in the TrainerRoad Forum.



Topics covered in this episode

  • End of intro 0:00
  • Keegan’s experience at Leadville and the Breck Epic 00:28
  • How to prepare for long and short events at the same time 26:49
  • How air quality affects performance and health 41:08
  • Suspension for gravel bikes 1:02:13
  • What to carry in a saddlebag 1:04:24
  • Finding your strengths and weaknesses 1:39:35
  • Tips for increasing carbs without GI distress 1:47:14
  • Live questions and answers 1:58:51

Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast

Successful Athletes Podcast

Science of Getting Faster Podcast


For more cycling training knowledge, listen to the Ask a Cycling Coach — the only podcast dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. New episodes are released weekly.


Categories:TrainerRoad Blog

Five Common Training Mistakes That Stop You From Getting Faster

08/26/2021 0:02

Cyclists are constantly searching for that magic training bullet to take our performance to the next level. But we often spend so much time pondering what we should be doing, that we neglect to consider the things that we shouldn’t— and as it turns out, most of us are holding ourselves back with a few easily solvable mistakes. Which of these five common errors are you making in your training? 


1. You Don’t Practice Sprinting

If you had to name the most under-appreciated skill in cycling, sprinting would top the list. Too many of us associate sprinting with race-ending bunch finishes, and preemptively declare ourselves to be “not a sprinter”. In reality, if you ride a bike and want to get faster and fitter, sprinting is a skill you should practice. 

Sprinting uses distinct pathways in your body, activating the neuromuscular energy system to generate fleeting bursts of maximal intensity. After about 10 seconds the burden shifts to the anaerobic system, which in turn requires the aerobic system to process its byproducts. Repeated sprints thus push your body’s ability to use oxygen and muscular fuel to their limits, driving useful adaptations that can make you faster across the board.

Sprinting is also unique in how much it relies on efficiency and good form. A major limiter in sprint power is coordination between all of the muscles involved, and with practice, you can train your muscles to better act in unison to turn the pedals. This is an improvement that can pay dividends any time you need to up the pace.

So whether or not you plan to race, sprinting is a crucial skill for every cyclist, and occasionally incorporating sprints into your training can make you faster. If sprinting isn’t something you currently address, there’s no time like the present to start.

2. You Do Too Many Group Rides

First things first—group rides are awesome. They’re incredibly fun, great for building confidence in a pack, and can even offer some friendly competition. But like it or not, most group rides aren’t great training. Simply put, group rides just aren’t as productive for getting faster as spending the same amount of time doing structured workouts, and too much group riding can actually cause you to lose fitness.

Why this is true boils down to two main reasons. First, even when they feel very hard, group rides often don’t result in much time spent at productive training intensities. Second, the few hard efforts you do on each group ride tend to be very fatiguing, with the potential to leave you tired and hold back your training overall. 

Unlike group rides, structured workouts are strategically designed so you spend as much time at productive intensities as possible, without excess fatigue. Well-designed training intentionally targets specific skills and energy systems in a way that unstructured riding alone can’t achieve, and it doesn’t gratuitously wear you out. So while group rides absolutely can and should be a part of your cycling routine, don’t let them replace or interfere with what really makes you faster: structured training.

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3. You’re Over-Focused on Weight

Cycling can be a powerful tool for weight loss. But it’s all too common for cyclists to become unproductively fixated on weight, at the expense of performance and health. If your primary goal is getting faster, cutting calories should take a back seat to the simple goal of fueling your workouts.

The fixation on weight in cycling stems out of the concept of power-to-weight ratio, the idea that being lighter can make riders proportionately stronger and faster. There’s some truth to this, but in most situations, raw power is much more important than weight. Furthermore, many athletes find themselves faster overall when they aren’t at their absolute skinniest, as weight loss can lead to significant declines in muscle mass. And most importantly, fixations on weight often mean athletes deprive their bodies of the fuel required to complete workouts and make productive adaptations.

Whatever your body type, focus first on fueling your workouts and nourishing yourself. High performance is so much more than just power-to-weight!

For our comprehensive guide to cycling nutrition, click here.

4. You Do Too Much Intensity (With Not Enough Recovery)

We cyclists love to ride hard. Hard rides feel productive and push you against your limits. Hard efforts win races, get you KOMs, and leave your friends behind on the climb. But it’s actually during recovery that you get faster, and many of us overlook this fact and ride too hard, too often, to our detriment.

You may even be doing this without even realizing it. Adding extra group rides or unstructured rides onto a training plan is one common cause, chasing KOMs on recovery rides or during easy weeks is another. These efforts can be more impactful than you’d think, leaving you with significant fatigue and hindering your actual training.

So what’s the solution? Well, we hate to keep repeating ourselves, but it’s structured training and recovery. Training plans include days off and easy weeks for a reason, so treat these days with the same respect as your hard workouts—easy days should be easy! Polarized Training takes this philosophy to an extreme, and for some athletes, it’s a great option. Other athletes like to follow low-volume plans if they know they’re going to be adding group rides to the mix to avoid overdoing it. Whatever method you choose, remember that intensity is only productive if you can recover from it, and recovery is the key to getting faster.

5. You Only Set Outcome Goals

Goals keep you motivated, and for many of us, those goals are big—win a race, get a KOM, or hang on to the fast group ride. The problem is these are outcome goals, highly dependent on factors outside of our control. While these big goals are powerful motivation, measuring success off of them exclusively sets you up for serious disappointment when things don’t go your way.

Instead of only chasing outcome goals, set smaller process goals along the way. Training is a journey, and it’s the day-to-day victories that add up to big success. Celebrate these wins—examples include properly fueling a workout, getting a good night’s sleep, completing an intimidating interval, or gaining a few watts on your next Ramp Test. Progress is more apparent when it’s measured in small increments, and you’ll be more likely to reach your outcome goals if you’re guided by positive reinforcement. And even if circumstances ultimately prevent you from achieving that big, podium-topping success, the measurable wins you achieve along the way should be a real source of pride and motivation.


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How to Approach Technical Mountain Bike Terrain

08/20/2021 0:03

When a technical feature forces you off your bike, don’t skip it! Challenging sections of trail provide an opportunity for you to develop your bike handling skills, build confidence in your abilities and identify potential areas for improvement. You can safely and confidently approach challenging terrain with these six steps.


How to Approach Challenging Features

On trail rides, you might come across some features that force you off your bike. While it’s never a bad idea to skip sections of the trail that exceed your capabilities, features that are just slightly outside of your skillset or comfort zone can be highly productive to spend time on. Working through tough features can help you identify limiters, expand your skillset, and overcome mental blocks. At the least, taking a moment to analyze what forced you to stop gives you an opportunity to identify potential areas for improvement.

With that being said, it’s inherent to your safety and the productivity of your skills training that you approach challenging features confidently and with the appropriate set of skills. To mitigate risk and make the most of your time spent on the trail, try approaching technical terrain with these six steps. 

1. Stop and Evaluate

Before you “session” a section of trail, it’s important to evaluate the risk associated with the feature and the skillset required to ride it. Recognizing your skills in proportion to the level of risk can help you decide whether or not this is a feature you can safely work on.

When you evaluate a feature, try asking yourself a few key questions. First, do the surrounding features and trail traffic permit safe practice? And am I equipped with the appropriate skills to work on this feature? If not, is this a reasonable skill to try to progress in this setting? When considering skills, an easy comparison is step ups vs. gap jumps. Step-ups are a relatively low-risk skill to work on, as long as the trail’s traffic and surrounding terrain permit safe practice. Typically an athlete who wants to take on a more challenging step up is in a position to try it out on the trail. On the other hand, an athlete who’s not confident in their ability to clear jumps probably shouldn’t hit a gap jump they see on a trail ride. Gap jumps are accompanied with some significant risk, making them an inappropriate skill to challenge on the trail. Remember, it’s better to start small and work your way up!

2. Check Your Headspace 

When you feel confident that you’re in a safe setting and that you have the appropriate skills to work on the feature, it’s time to check in with your headspace. Ideally, you should be feeling calm, confident, and composed when working on any skill. If you have the appropriate skills but also have nerves, fear, or doubt, then you might be dealing with a mental block.

Mental blocks are notable because they can significantly enhance the challenge of a feature. Athletes experience a mental block for a variety of reasons. Maybe you’ve crashed on a similar feature in the past or haven’t ridden something quite as challenging. Perhaps the feature is particularly intimidating looking. With a mental block, you’re prepared to ride a feature, but your mind is standing in the way.

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If you’re experiencing a mental block, that doesn’t mean you should just ride the feature without a second guess. Progress happens when you step outside of your comfort zone and try something challenging. It doesn’t happen if you’re afraid or discouraged, though. Riding something when you’re particularly nervous or afraid can be just as dangerous as riding something without the appropriate skills. If you’re struggling with a mental block, gauge your level of fear and acknowledge whether or not you can get into the right headspace to work on this feature. If you can get in the zone, you can probably ride this feature! If, however, you’re too in your head, then it’s best to work on this another time.

3. Analyze the Feature and Visualize Your Technique

Once you are confident you can safely and productively practice this feature, it’s time to take a more analytical look at the trail. What’s the grade? Is the terrain loose or tacky? What gear will you need to be in to get through the feature? Will you be able to complete a full pedal stroke? What speed do you need to hit it safely? Do you see your line? Take a moment to analyze the aspects of the feature so that you can begin to understand what it takes to navigate the section safely.

Once you have an understanding of the feature, envision how you’re going to get over it. What body position do you need to be in? Do you need easy gear and a high cadence to get up and over this rock? Or a higher speed, steadier rhythm to get enough momentum going over this drop? Create a plan and envision your success. 

How much time you spend analyzing or visualizing will depend on your personal preference. Some athletes find it helpful to look at a feature for a long time to understand it fully. Other athletes find that lingering in this phase will only psych them out. Everyone’s different, so do what you prefer. As long as you know that you can ride the feature safely, you can spend as little or as much time as you want to check it out. 

4. Session the Section!

Now that you have a plan, it’s time to start sessioning the feature! Repeating the same section of trail over and over again is typically referred to as sessioning. Attempting something a handful of times gives you a chance to work through the feature, find sticking points, and once you nail it—build confidence. 

When you session a feature, commit to trying it three times. If you don’t ride the section after three attempts, you can move on with the rest of your ride. If you successfully ride the section, don’t stop there. Go back and repeat it a few more times. Repeating a section of trail, even after you’ve successfully ridden it, can help you solidify your confidence in your ability to ride that feature or execute on that skill. 

If you have the option, some athletes find it beneficial to try following someone else’s line. Trust and skill are essential here, though. Following someone who cannot ride the section of the trail or that you don’t trust to lead you can be equally unproductive. On the other hand, if you don’t feel comfortable following someone into technical terrain, it can be similarly beneficial to watch someone else ride the line, have someone spot you, or give you tips from the sidelines of the feature. 

5. Limit Your Attempts

It can take a few tries to tackle something difficult. With that understood, it’s a good idea to put a cap on how many times you’re going to try something. There comes a point where repeating something without progressing is going to feel more discouraging than helpful. Similarly, repeating a feature with a little bit of risk can become unsafe as you cope with fatigue or feelings of frustration. 

Prevent frustration, injuries, and discouragement by putting a cap on the number of attempts you can take. If you reach your limit and still haven’t accomplished your goal, commend yourself for the efforts and move on. It takes focus and determination to try something challenging repeatedly, and you’ve achieved something by identifying a limiter. Take a quick note of what you need to work on for the future, and then ride on. The trail will still be there waiting for you!

6. Reinforce the Fundamentals

As beneficial as working on challenging terrain is, it’s not the only place where you can develop your confidence and your skills. In fact, most of the progress you’ll make as a technical rider will happen between the tricky sections when you focus on reinforcing the fundamentals. When you ride away from challenging features, continue to focus on reinforcing good technique. When you frequently touch on the fundamentals, you’ll find that those tricky sections are less challenging. 

Looking to brush up on your fundamental mechanics? Check out How To Become a Faster Mountain Biker for more information on technical riding.


Categories:TrainerRoad Blog

Masters Cycling: Training Advice for Masters Athletes

08/17/2021 0:02

The gradual toll of aging is an inescapable fact of life. But like a fine wine, many endurance athletes continue to improve their fitness and health even as the years pass by. What physiological changes do masters cyclists experience, and how can you use smart training and recovery strategies to get faster, no matter your age? 


What is Masters Cycling?

Masters cycling is bike racing organized by age group, generally open to athletes 35 years or older. Because most masters athletes have day jobs, families, and external obligations, masters races tend to be safer and less chaotic than category-based racing. That’s not to say that masters races aren’t fast, challenging, or hotly contested—in fact, masters races are some of the most exciting and impressive of all amateur cycling events. 

And while lots of masters athletes are experienced competitors, the term doesn’t exclusively apply to racers. Many masters cyclists are comparative newcomers to the sport, drawn to the camaraderie, challenge, and health benefits of riding a bike with no intention of organized competition.

Masters Cycling Age Categories

In masters races, athletes compete against their peers in 5- or 10-year age brackets. In some events, multiple age groups start together but are scored separately, while in other cases each masters field starts and races independently of one another. Masters races are generally not open to current professional athletes, even if they are of eligible age.

The majority of masters races start with a 35+ division, but some are open to athletes as young as 30+, while others may start with a 40+ field. Small local races generally offer fewer separate masters races and are more likely to group competitors in larger age ranges, or even combine masters fields with category races. Larger races and national championships usually keep masters fields separate and divide races by narrower age ranges, but some races with low entries may still be combined.

For example, the 2021 USA Cycling Masters Road National Championships offered races in the following age ranges for the men’s criterium: 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, and a combined 70-74/75-79/80+ race in which each age bracket was scored separately. The women’s criterium was offered in most of the same categories, but all racers above age 55 started together.

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Masters Cycling Training

Every athlete deals with physiological changes over time, and athletic capacity naturally declines as we get older. But apart from professional cyclists, almost none of us have reached our full potential as athletes, leaving us plenty of room left to improve. By understanding and addressing the changes that occur with aging, masters athletes can continue to and get faster and healthier overall—well into their 40s, 50s, and beyond.

Following a Training Plan

Structured training is the most effective way to improve your cycling at any age. But for masters athletes, structured training is even more essential, because it directly targets one of aging’s main effects on the body.

The body’s capacity to utilize oxygen is called VO2 max, and it’s a major determinant of athletic performance. VO2 max begins to modestly decrease around age 35 before falling more dramatically after age 50 or 60. Studies suggest this is the main cause of reduced performance in older cyclists, but the good news is that VO2 max responds to training. In fact, some evidence suggests that the decline in VO2 max in older athletes has as much to do with a reduction in training volume and intensity as it does with natural aging. The high-intensity workouts included in a structured training plan or suggested by TrainNow can help mitigate this decline, improving aerobic capacity for athletes of any age.

Strength Training

Strength training is beneficial for all cyclists, promoting bone and muscle health, injury resistance, and pedaling efficiency. But it’s even more important for masters athletes because the body naturally tends to lose muscle mass as we get older.

This reduction in muscle is known as sarcopenia. It primarily affects type II muscle fibers, crucial for high-intensity sprint and anaerobic efforts. Like declines in VO2 max, it’s likely to be partially related to overall reductions in activity and training intensity as we get older; age-related changes in hormones and neuromuscular function also probably play a role. Whatever the cause, studies show athletes who weight train preserve much more lean muscle mass than those who don’t. Weight training also helps prevent declines in bone density, which can lead to injury.

The older we get, the more important and impactful the beneficial effects of strength training, and it’s never too late to begin. For hints on how to get started, click here.

Recovery

One of the most commonly mentioned differences between masters and young cyclists is an increased need for recovery. It’s unclear why this is—some studies suggest it may be largely related to perception of effort. Other research hints it may be hormonal, the residual effects of past injuries, or related to poor nutrition in older athletes. It might even have something to do with external stress, as masters athletes are more likely to have demanding jobs and family responsibilities than younger riders. 

Whatever the cause, it’s a real factor for masters cyclists, and it’s important to cut your body some slack and give it the time that it needs. It’s far too easy to normalize a feeling of constant exhaustion, especially for experienced athletes used to pushing their bodies hard. Don’t fall into the trap of mistaking fatigue for fitness— masters athletes in particular need to be especially aware of the signs of overdoing it. Play the long game and operate under the principle of minimum effective dose, and if your body needs a day off or an occasional reduction in workout intensity, give it what it needs. The consistency, quality, and overall effectiveness of your training is likely to improve as a result. 

Adaptive Training For Masters Athletes

Masters cyclists are incredibly diverse, with widely varying needs. A 35-year old rider’s ideal training won’t be the same as that of a 60-year old, and even two athletes of the same age may respond differently to the same workouts.

Adaptive Training is designed to address every athlete’s individual needs. No matter your age or experience level, Adaptive Training responds to your unique needs and abilities and customizes your training every day to help you reach your goals. It’s the ideal solution for masters athletes in search of an optimized approach. Adaptive Training is coming soon in open beta for all athletes. Learn more at www.TrainerRoad.com/AT.

Training Tips for Masters Cyclists

  1. Accept that changes happen as you get older. Effective training as a masters athlete starts with admitting that none of us are immune to aging’s effects. But this doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to getting slower any time soon—in fact, most masters cyclists have plenty of room to keep getting faster.
  2. Let yourself recover. Masters athletes generally need more recovery time than younger cyclists. Give your body the extra time it needs, so your training can be higher-quality and more effective overall.
  3. Strength Train. The decrease in muscle mass and bone density experienced by older athletes doesn’t just make you slower—it can negatively impact your overall quality of life. Make yourself both faster and healthier with regular visits to the weight room.
  4. Pay Extra Attention to Nutrition. Studies have shown masters athletes consume less carbohydrate and protein than younger athletes. While the body may naturally respond more slowly to training with age, good nutrition both during and post-workout can have a profound impact from day to day.
  5. Train at High Intensity. Age-related declines in VO2 max can be reduced or counteracted with high-intensity training, but older athletes often skip these sessions. Though every workout definitely shouldn’t be hard, masters athletes should absolutely still train at high intensity, as long as they allow themselves ample time to recover.
  6. Play the Long Game. Cycling is a life-long pursuit with profound benefits for overall health and well-being. But it can be all too easy to chase quick improvements in fitness in the name of race results or bragging rights. This can lead to burnout, and masters athletes, in particular, should favor consistency and building fitness slowly and sustainably over time. Your performance and well-being both on- and off-bike will benefit as a result, potentially for years to come.

References/ Further Reading

Doering, Thomas M et al. “The Effect of Higher Than Recommended Protein Feedings Post-Exercise on Recovery Following Downhill Running in Masters Triathletes.” International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism vol. 27,1 (2017): 76-82. doi:10.1123/ijsnem.2016-0079

Foster, Carl et al. “Training in the Aging Athlete.” Current Sports Medicine Reports: June 2007 – Volume 6 – Issue 3 – p 200-206 doi: 10.1097/01.CSMR.0000306468.72466.af

Pollock, M L et al. “Twenty-year follow-up of aerobic power and body composition of older track athletes.” Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985) vol. 82,5 (1997): 1508-16. doi:10.1152/jappl.1997.82.5.1508

Tanaka, Hirofumi, and Douglas R Seals. “Endurance exercise performance in Masters athletes: age-associated changes and underlying physiological mechanisms.” The Journal of physiology vol. 586,1 (2008): 55-63. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2007.141879

Tanaka, Hirofumi, and Douglas R Seals. “Invited Review: Dynamic exercise performance in Masters athletes: insight into the effects of primary human aging on physiological functional capacity.” Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985) vol. 95,5 (2003): 2152-62.

Tanganelli, Fet al. ” Type-2 muscle fiber atrophy is associated with sarcopenia in elderly men with hip fracture. Experimental Gerontology vol 144 (2021). doi:10.1016/j.exger.2020.111171 

Tayrose, Gregory A et al. “The Masters Athlete: A Review of Current Exercise and Treatment Recommendations.” Sports health vol. 7,3 (2015): 270-6. doi:10.1177/1941738114548999


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