June 22, 2012

Sprint Technique

One of the best things ever is when a couple of sprinters, should I quotes that(?), "sprinters" get in a huff off. It happens every few months on a blog I follow and it's a riot every time. Thanks for the entertainment, did you ever decide who was the fastest Cat 4 world threat?

Alas, while sprinting may come down to hubris and elbows, in the end technique trumps the day.

Good sprint drills are ones that challenge you to deliver power in a variety of ways.  Before I knew much about power as a training tool I wrote an article about delivering power that is an interesting perspective in the discussion of technique. The focus was on technique and rider bike connectivity rather than watts production - and although incomplete for not discussing the high cadence end of the equation, I've posted it below...

First a sample workout that you might like:

FTP Coastdowns - As easy as it sounds...ride 2:00 at your Threshold Power with your average power screen visible and intervals view on. After 2:00 at FTP soft pedal and coast your AVERAGE power down 10Watts then SPRINT it back up to the FTP average and repeat the 10W Loss/Sprint sequence for an additional 8 minutes (10 minutes total on interval). Rest 6-8 minutes between and repeat. Do 2-3 reps the first week and add a rep or additional time to the interval each week. Here are a few graphs that break it down a bit:
1. Full Interval - 1h16m at 0.94 IF (288Wnorm/FTP 300) - you can see the 2:00 start off interval each time and the high variability of efforts. VI was 1.3 for this workout - not quite steady state, yet a circa threshold effort for the duration

2. Interval Detail:
10:00 @ 1.10 / 1.03 VI / 88rpm avg overall

3 Individual Effort Detail
Lots of short and crisp efforts in the 12 - 15s range, and a nice block of 1:20 averaging 341 @ 96rpm early in the interval when power spikes higher and return-to-average times are shorter. As the interval continues the peak power values drop, the efforts take longer to return to FTP:

Throwing those efforts all together we get a quadrant analysis that looks like the one below and reflects the Neuromuscular/Quadrant 1 inclination of the efforts, with a solid foundation of Type II muscle fiber recruitment in Quadrant 2:

Thanks for reading...the reward is my 1998 Intro To Power...

POWER! It means different things to different people, but rest assured if you want to be a better cyclist you
need to have more power. Yes, endurance work, planned recovery, lactic acid work, and VO2max efforts are all important components of a complete training program, but in the end power is what drives the bike forward. In assessing your power you must ask yourself these questions:
1. How much power do I have? We offer a couple of otions to assess your current power
2. Where is my power best? Flats? Steep climbs? Downhill at high rpms?
3. Where is my power worst? Focus on improving these areas first
4. How do I get more? Read on faithful scribe...

Watch top World Cup riders in both Cross Country and Downhill. They rely on and deliver power with
amazing grace and blistering efficiency. They apply power throughout the pedal stroke, at all different RPM’s and across all conditions. They have mastered the technique with brutal effects. To help you develop this type of focus try these three easily adaptable techniques:
*Note: If you haven’t done the requisite base training then don’t attack power efforts with too much vigor in the early season or you will pay for it through injuries and overtraining.

  1. Big Gear Efforts: Riding a big gear at high RPM is a great way to increase power. First, get comfortable turning a big gear at low RPM’s. Try 50-65RPM in your largest or second largest gear for 2 minutes. Focus on applying pressure throughout the pedal stroke in a smooth and circular manner; literally pedal circles. These efforts help you improve your muscle fiber recruitment and increase the total number of muscle fibers involved in each effort, making your pedal stroke more efficient. Once you’ve developed base level competency at low RPM, it’s time to work with higher RPM efforts. Start with 30 second to 1 minute efforts at 80-90 RPM (RPM efficiency varies from rider to rider but is usually highest around 90 RPM). Use manageable gears to begin with (53x19 road, 46 or 48x17 MTB) and work up from there. Spend a few weeks adapting to this new form of training and begin increasing the duration of your efforts. You only want to attempt focused power intervals 1x per week, although you can incorporate power into much of your regular riding too.
  2. Rider/Bike Connectivity: This is the relationship between you and your bike. Sorry, but you won’t need to buy it new tires and a bell to get it. What you need to do is ride your bike. Learn how it reacts to your inputs and commands. Practice riding your bike with little or no upper body movement. Watch your favorite professionals, emulate their strengths and overcome your weaknesses. When climbing click up one gear before you stand, this helps you maintain the same rhythm and speed. Practice riding wheelies, jumping objects and skidding the front and rear tires (yes, you can skid the front tire). All of these techniques will make your application of power more supple and responsive. Get to know your bike and feel you are part of the same symbiotic relationship, because you are.
  1. Ride with Stronger Cyclists: If you can’t find anyone to ride with who really pushes you, get out and broaden you circle of riding partners! Seriously though, riding with people stronger than you helps develop power across a spectrum of conditions and tactical situations. Hard accelerations uphill, long gear wind-ups for the finish line, sprints to single track, all of these tax your power systems in different ways. When you’re with stronger riders, attack them! Don’t be afraid to go hard because you might “blow up.” What’s the worst that can happen? You blow up, get dropped and have to ride the rest of the 50 miles home into a fierce headwind by yourself? Hey, great opportunity to work on your low RPM power!

That's It For Now!

June 05, 2012

H.I.T.oo Early

H.I.T. - a current buzzword for lighting it up....High Intensity Training is all the rage! It seems that most everyone has a workout or class that is HIT...and given the nature of exercise physiology one must ask why?

What's the nature of physiology? Well, high intensity - anaerobic (despite the misnomer) efforts are produced via fairly straight forward pathways..namely the ATP-PC system (very short term) and Glycolysis (up to several minutes)...these capabilities - capacities, are the result of developing the infrastructure needed to support them whether by volume of 'stuff' that facilitates energy production or the aparatii that allows sufficient recovery, neither of which I have currently.

As I have both terrible fitness and occasionally surprising power on rides during the last month or so, it seemed like a terrible idea to do a HIT workout on Thursday, but I did it anyway as I was riding with a client and it was on his schedule. The workout is called FTP Coastdowns and it consists of riding 2:00 averaging FTP and then letting that rolling average drop 10 watts or so by softpedaling for 10-20 seconds...then sprinting the average back up to FTP before letting it again drop 10W...and repeating for 8-12 minutes total interval time. Rest intervals should be at least 1:1, but we cut it short a little...anyway, here is what the workout looks like in both macro and up-close views:

Close up of a coast down - 2:00 at FTP'ish (in this case 330W - which is really about 110% of my current FTP) followed by a block of efforts between 5 and 15 seconds at between 400 - 880 watts...usually with about 17-20 seconds at ~180 Watts for recovery.

The upside is that I could do 7'ish minutes of it..the downside is that it was a 10-12 minute interval, and I was DONE by the third block! That I could consistently turn out 5-15s efforts at better than 500W is probably more about Type II muscle mass and genetics than training - but I'll be curious to see what I can do when true fitness returns. True fitness requires taking the time to actually build those systems mentioned above...so that is my goal these next months, but I can't say I'll swear off the hard stuff completely. Here is the workout macro view - 34 efforts like the ones above:

Would I improve by doing just these types of efforts - or doing more of them..probably, but my hypothesis is that I'd plateau much earlier than if I take the time to build a more efficient engine and improve my overall endurance and capacity. Guess we'll see. I need to do some more reading to better understand how this all falls together...