Summit Cycle Coaching

 

The key to improving your endurance performance

 

There are so many things to look at in training. I find it all extremely interesting and spend a huge amount of time listening to podcasts, reading and attending seminars on training, physiology and anything I think will help my athletes.

When you listen to all the ideas, tips and tricks you have to remember, ‘how does this affect today’s training, this weeks training, this months training etc’.

As I’ve learned more and more, the one word that all the advice points back to is ‘patience’.

It began to crystalise as the root of almost all of the advice as I was on a lovely Z1 ride in the Jura Mountains.

It’s the most important thing, yet is almost absurdly simple you could miss it. I’ve read cycling magazines for years and even though occasionally there are articles that allude to this; it is massively overwhelmed by the ‘get fit in 4 weeks’ programmes and the ‘boost your FTP in less than 4 hours a week’ high-intensity training articles.

I do understand it; it’s not sexy to say you. need to be patient, you need to get on your bike regularly, keep intensity under control and make sure you occasionally go hard and occasionally have a day off.

There’s clearly a lot more to it in fairness, but all the high-intensity stuff is really not the key. 

The Key to endurnace performance: Patience!

I also think there are many layers to patience. You need to be patient on a micro level, meso level and macro level.

Have patience in the ride you are on; what is its purpose? If it is an easy Z1 ride (3 Zone model), then use your gears, keep it easy and don’t go chasing that rider that just overtook you.

If it’s a hard ride with quality intervals, be patient and work through the intervals as prescribed…don’t go out all guns blazing and blow up before the end.

That brings me on to another area where patience is key; be kind to yourself when you make mistakes! If you did blow up before the end of your interval session, don’t beat yourself up. Learn from it and try and do better next time. If you keep making the same mistake all the time, that’s a problem. If you make mistakes and learn, you are getting better.

On a meso level, you need to be patient to let the sessions build. Be patient in the week, if it’s an easy ride, ride easy, don’t chase a Strava KOM that day or your planned hard session the next day will be of less quality and not create the desired adaptation.

 

Also, be patient on a macro level. Don’t take shortcuts to try and get fit quick…it doesn’t work in the long term. We’re in an aerobic sport, training the aerobic system is what gets you the gains. Being consistent over time, managing your intensity and building a powerful engine all comes back to being patient. So simple,  but ultimately the key to endurance performance.

Given that we are close to the end of the summer season and many will be planning a bit of time off the bike before setting about their winter training. So first on the list of being patient Is giving yourself a suitable amount of time off the bike or at least off hard training.

Don’t get sucked into the rubbish about losing all your fitness and getting behind on your training!! It really is rubbish, have confidence and patience in your process, if you aren’t racing until next April…why would you want to be fit in November/December anyway?

I’ve heard some physiologists and coaches talk about how the body may not necessarily need a break if training is well designed. However, the mind definitely needs a break. It will be different for everyone, some will have a few weeks of no bike and no training. Some will choose to get a few easy rides, but. much. lower frequency, volume and intensity.  Some. may choose a different activity to stay active,  but not train as such. A great time to spend with family and give back if you’ve been away for a lot of racing.

It’s important you get this reset. The biggest you can make is train too hard now.  The great shame of this is that it’s a mistake that can be made so easily. That’s mainly because your body can cope…at least for a while. 

The tragedy is that you will cope for long enough that by the time you realise your mistake and start burning out the season will actually be in sight…but your motivation will be rapidly running out. I can speak to this from personal experience!

Be patient, focus on the appropriate intensities. Spend time with your family and friends. Spend time fixing any niggles you might have with some good off-bike training (More in for on that here).

It’s a good time to focus on things like getting a bike fit, which means you can make any changes needed and have plenty of time to adapt to them before you have to start pushing hard on the pedals again.

Here’s an example of a case study that involved a masters rider having the patience to control intensity, completely changing their riding over an offseason and getting the rewards in their results.

Case study

A Masters rider who used to train for cycling with a lot of Z2/3 riding (in a 3 Zone Model). A typical week of training consisted of 2-3 sweet spot rides on my turbo trainer, 1 threshold ride/race and 1 long ride.

 

 
This resulted in a pattern of regular colds, particularly after a ‘peak’. Nothing too bad, but it would always knock them back a couple of weeks.

Progress was good for a few years but in the 3rd and 4th seasons stagnation and burnout. Towards the end of this period, I started seeing this pattern of frequent illness and stagnation.

Changing to a polarised training approach in late 2018 delivered a more consistent winter and build into the 2019 season. You can see the difference in intensity in the graph on the right.

The biggest difference was a feeling of freshness almost all of the time and when the racing came so did the PB’s. FTP had been about 305 for 2 years and now it was 323.

Here’s a summary of the time trial PB’s:

  • 19:57 for 10 miles (down from 20:56)
  • 50:46 for 25 miles (down from 54:55)
  • 1:49.45 for 50 miles (down from 1:56.42)

There were no episodes of illness, allowing training to be more consistent and more PB’s would surely have happened if there had been racing in 2020!

 

 

 

 

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Stay Healthy

Meaning both not getting injured and not getting ill.

If your training is too hard or too frequently intense you will get little illnesses and injuries that break your consistency.

Keep your easy sessions easy, for most athletes, this means around 80-90% of your training is below 78% of your max heart rate.

Be Consistent

Once you are disciplined with your intensity, you will stay healthier and consistency will come.

Getting on your bike as much as you can, in balance with the rest of your busy life, will be the thing that impacts your fitness the most.

Sustainable rhythm

All this put together means that you can put together long stretches of sustained endurance training stimulus that creates greater adaptation and performance gains.

It’s important to remember to keep life in balance, fit the training in around everything else and don’t dig too deep into your energy or your partner or families ‘good will’. Find a balance.

 

 

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British National Para-cycling championships

This weekend I had the honour of piloting a tandem for para-cycling athlete Chris McDonald. We’ve ridden together previously, but not for about 2 years. So with only a few weeks to practise, we went to one of the PDQ cycling sessions at Odd Down Cycle Circuit as that’s where the road race would be held. We also competed in a DB Max 10 mile time trial at Castle Combe,  managing a PB of 20:49. So we were quietly confident going into the Para-Cycling Nationals weekend on the 5th/6th of June.

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Chris McDonald – PDQ Cycle coaching

Neil poulton (pilot) – Summit cycle coaching

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Time trial – 5th june

The TT was based on a course near Castle Combe and can definitely be described as sporting!! Very hard to settle into a rhythm with all the rolling hills, some very long drags and one extremely steep hill before the final very long, very fast finishing segment.

Preparations and warm-ups went well and we went to the start-line feeling great. We paced it well through the rolling early sections and negotiated the highly technical section through the villages, we were flying! But then our luck ran out! In the narrow twisting lanes, there was a steep down into steep uphill, we were doing 39mph only to be brought to a screeching halt by tractor and a car blocking the road…disaster, though at least we avoided a crash!!

We were stationary for about a minute at the base of the steepest hill. I had to dismount the bike and get Chris to lift the back wheel while I got us out of the 53-12 and into a gear we could get up the hill in from a standing start!! Not ideal 🙁

Obviously, the time spent stationary and the loss of speed going into the hill meant it was over for the win. We kept up the best pace we could over the remaining 5-6 miles, but it was over. Really proud of our effort and we were proud to get the silver medal. Congratulations to Simon and Matt, taking the National Champions Jersey and Brad and Tim for a great ride for the Bronze.

Road Race – 6th june


Dusting ourselves off after the TT, we warmed up for the National Para-Cycling road race at Odd Down Cycle Circuit. It’s a really tight and twisting circuit with some really fast sections. With a stiff breeze blowing across the circuit it was going to be hard for everyone. 

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Just after the race, shaking like a leaf, but really happy to get over that line first!!

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Proud to be wearing the National Champions Jersey and share the moment with Chris’s Son and Niece and my two boys Andrew and Nico.

The Race

I was really concerned about the steep corner with 4 nervous tandems going into it…8 pairs of fresh legs and a tight corner didn’t sound like a great idea and I didn’t want another incident to stop us today. So as soon as the neutralised zone finished I put the hammer down, it wasn’t really planned and so I hadn’t talked to Chris about it, but in the moment it felt like the right thing to do. Chris is an awesome tandem rider and immediately felt the pedals and responded matching my effort. We went flat out for about 3 laps, didn’t ask for any help and didn’t really look back, just wanted the race strung out.

As things settled it was us and the TT champions Matt and Simon at the head of the race and a small gap back to 3rd. We started working with Matt and Simon, taking a lap each on the front allowing us to build a lead. I was planning to keep this going for most of the race, but Matt and Simon had other ideas. After about 20 minutes they attacked hard, putting the hammer down after every corner, forcing the pace and forcing us to respond. Luckily our bike handling and power were able to keep us with them. They continued to attack us repeatedly for the rest of the race, trying to surprise us or bolting out of the slow corners, but as the. lap board started counting down into the last 10 laps we were still there.

Between attacks, we kept a solid pace on the front as I felt a faster pace suited us and we could make them work out of the corners and hinder their recovery from their attacks.

After what turned out to be their last attack with 6 laps to go I felt we had an opportunity to counter, and we did…we hit the front hard and clipped a few pedals in the corners (on a tandem, that’s really scary!!) and though we got a small gap, with about 10-11 minutes left to race, I felt it was a risk to go all in…I’d rather trust our sprint.

The four of us were back together for the final 5 laps and I wasn’t planning on letting the front of the race go. We kept the pace high by kicking hard out of the corners meaning to take the lead would mean a massive effort. Our pace was enough to put off any further attacks and coming out of the last steep corner I shouted to Chris, asking for a long sprint through the last sweeping corner and all the way up the hill to the line. Thankfully it was enough… British Champions 🙂

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Thank You

Big thanks to all our supporters both on the day and in preparation. Thanks to Jason of PDQ cycle coaching for helping us out at the training session a few weeks back, it really helped to see the circuit in advance and getting my confidence with those tight corners.

Thank you to the other tandem teams, great racing over 2 days and great performances all around.

Biggest thank you to my wife Anna, who puts up with me and my cycling obsession!! Couldn’t do it without you 🙂

Finally, a massive thank you to Chris for trusting me as his pilot, massive congratulations for the win, you were super strong. I hope we get to see you in the Olympics one day 🙂

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What is Time Trialing?


Time Trialing started about 130 years ago when bunch racing was banned in the UK. Competitive cyclist instead met up in secret and raced pre-determined courses, individually. Usually starting at 1-minute intervals, riders were then ranked in time order. 

Time Trialing is a contradiction…on the one hand, it is probably the most accessible form of cycle racing; a club TT is only £3-4 to enter and you can do it on whatever bike and with whatever kit you have. This is brilliant, and a great way to get your competitive juices flowing. On the other hand, it can be extremely technical, expensive and obsessive!!

My first TT’s were done while at University on a road bike with some borrowed clip-on TT bars. I. think it was 10 miles and took me about 26-27 minutes; I was hooked!!! I went faster every week for a few weeks as I learned to pace myself better and suffer more.

I loved going hard on the bike and this gave it meaning. I also loved the kit, some of the club members had really fancy bikes, wheels, skinsuits and aero helmet…I had none of that, but you are only racing yourself and last weeks time, so it didn’t matter.

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S

Getting Started

To start with all you really need is a serviceable bike. Can actually be any kind of bike, hybrid,  road, time trial…I remember my brother doing them on his mountain bike many years ago. Though clearly, some bikes will be quicker than others, as I said, you do it one week…then come back and race yourself, so the bike really doesn’t matter.

When you turn up to time trial

To race, make sure you are there early, sign on with the organiser. This basically means signing the start sheet and paying the fee to get your race number and start time. If you are new, you’ll probably be off early. The general trend is to put the slowest riders off first and fastest off last. It means the overall time of the event is as short as possible.

Then, you go get ready, bike, kit, go do your warm-up. I use a turbo when allowed, but road warm-up is fine, just don’t get in the way by going on the course/past the start-finish line. I like about 30 minutes warm-up and then get to the start for about 5-minutes before your start time. DON’T BE LATE!!!!

 

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Your start time and race

Your number will correspond to the minute after the hour that you will start. So if the event starts at 7 pm (common for club events on weekdays) and you are number 5…your start time is 7:05 pm….like I said, DON’T BE LATE!! 

Most of the time you will queue up in starting order, starter calls you up after number 4 has left, you have a minute to go. Make sure you double-check you are in the right gear and your bike computer is set the way you want it and on the right screen.

3-2-1-GO!!!!

You’re off!!! 

Adrenaline pumping, full of energy and feeling fresh…It is crucial you don’t go too hard here…it’s the easy mistake in the world to make, almost every time trialist has done it!! It’s probably a trap you will fall into at some point…it hurts, but you learn!!

One of the more famous phrases in time trialing:

“Don’t go looking for the pain, it will find you!”

This is very true, be patient, especially in the first 3-5. minutes, you won’t know it was too hard until it’s too late. The key is to start relatively easy, there’s plenty of time to work harder later…once you get into it you can find your rhythm. It’s a big advantage if you know the course and wind direction ahead of time, but it’s not essential when you are starting out.

Pace yourself as best you can to get all your effort out by the finish. You probably won’t get it right the first time, you won’t get it right every time anyway, no one does. Just learn from your experiences and you’ll get better each time.

 

Finishing!

TT’ing is hard because you are trying to get it all out. So doesn’t matter how fit/fast/strong. you are, it’s going to hurt!! So just dig in to the finish, you soon recover 🙂

Once you’ve done, return your number and. sign out. Pre Covid, there would be a big times board for Open TT’s or a clipboard for club TT’s and everyone gathers around to see their times and discuss the efforts of the day and the conditions etc…for me, this is a nice way to learn and ask questions. This opportunity maybe a little limited until restrictions ease.

All that’s left to. do then is change, pack up your kit and head for home…usually thinking about how you can go faster next time.

Add your thoughts, comments and questions below 🙂

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What makes a Great

endurance athlete?

 

Key Terms:

  • Robust Athlete
  • Durable
  • Metabolic Control

 

When you start. working with an endurance athlete the reasons they do it may vary, the goals may vary and the time they have to train will vary. However, there are things that stay the same;  things common to all great endurance athletes.

The priority as someone starting on an endurance journey is that you focus on the areas that get most gain long term, not short, quick hit, one-percenter gains.

My coach at the time pointed me in the direction of some podcasts by Stephen Seiler (links below). This was the first time I’d heard some of these key terms listed above, and it changed the way I trained forever.

Performance doesn’t come from a miracle interval set, or riding so hard you end up lying in a pool of sweat by your bike after a turbo trainer session. It comes from consistent, well structured, disciplined training over time.

The discipline most people struggle with isn’t actually to push hard, it’s to hold themselves back on the easy days. It’s this discipline that. forms the foundation of a great endurance athlete. Taking the easy. days easy enough means heart rate. below 78% of max (as a rough guide). This can be really hard at first, it takes discipline.

If you stay disciplined, keep your hard days hard (1-2 x per week) and your easy days easy you will get. consistent training over time and that is when you start getting sustainable, high-level gains.

It is this approach that will make you a robust, durable athlete with the metabolic control to go easy when it’s easy and hard when it’s required.

Case study

I used to train for cycling with a lot of Z2/3 riding (in a 3 Zone Model). A typical week of training consisted of 2-3 sweet spot rides on my turbo trainer, 1 threshold ride/race and 1 long ride. I used to get regular colds, particularly after a ‘peak’. Nothing too bad, but it would always knock me back a couple of weeks.

The other issue I had that for 2 seasons in a row I had not progressed my FTP. Towards the 2nd season of seeing this pattern of frequent illness and stagnation I heard a Stephen Seiler podcast and then looked for a coach with a polarised approach to endurance training.

I changed to polarised training in late 2018 and had my most consistent winter and build ever. You can see the difference in intensity in the graph on the right.

I felt fresh almost all of the time and when the racing came I was faster than ever. FTP had been about 305 for 2 years and now it was 328. I beat all my time trial PB’s:

  • 19:57 for 10 miles (down from 20:56)
  • 50:46 for 25 miles (down from 54:55)
  • 1:49.45 for 50 miles (down from 1:56.42)

I didn’t get ill, I was able to train more consistently and I could have beaten those PB’s again if I’d had the chance in 2020!

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Stay Healthy

Meaning both not getting injured and not getting ill.

If your training is too hard or too frequently intense you will get little illnesses and injuries that break your consistency.

Keep. your easy sessions easy, for most athletes this means around 80-90% of your training is below 78% of your max heart rate.

Be Consistent

Once you are disciplined with your intensity, you will stay healthier and consistency will come.

Getting on your bike as much as you can, in balance with the rest of your busy life, will be the thing that impacts your fitness the most.

Sustainable rhythm

All this put together means that you can put together long stretches of sustained endurance training stimulus that creates greater adaptation and performance gains.

It’s important to remember to keep life in balance, fit the training in around everything else and don’t dig too deep into your energy or your partner or families ‘good will’. Find a balance.

 

 

How can you do this yourself?

If you want to know how to put this plan together for you, take advantage of a FREE Coaching Call

Book my Free Coaching Call

 

 

 

Stephen Seler Podcast Link: FAST TALK Ep. 51 – Polarised Training

 

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How to perfect your pedalling


 

If you ride a bike, pedalling is something you can just ‘do’. It’s easy, you’ve been able to do it since you first jumped on a bike as a kid. However, does that mean you are good at it? Could it be improved?

As an avid cycling fan it’s hard not to notice how good some pro’s are at pedalling. Vincenzo Nibali springs to mind as someone who pedals beautifully. So can we mere mortals improve our pedalling and will it make us a better cyclist?

Understanding the basics

For this article we will be thinking of the right leg, so when we talk about a clock face the numbers are relative to the right leg and the crank with the chainrings on.

Pedalling is a skill, so it can be learned and improved. Essentially, it is the muscular coordination of moving the pedal around its’ fixed circle diameter.

From a joint perspective we have the hips, knees and ankles to think about. Then from a muscular point of view we have a lot, more than it’s beneficial to worry about. So grouping things together to make things easier and picking out some of the key ones:

 

  • Hip extensors (glutes, hamstrings)
    • Big powerful muscles well capable of producing a lot of force to push the pedal during the power phase.
    • Hamstrings also engage as you pull the bottom of the pedal stroke (see below).
  • Quads
    • Muscles that are able to straighten the knee and very active during the power phase of the pedal stroke.
  • Calf
    • Though there is a little more to it, they are mainly for transferring the force produced in the hips and quads down through the ankle to the pedal.
  • Hip flexors
    • Muscles on the front of the hip that are able to pull up during the back of pedal stroke. Whether this is a good thing to do is a matter of some debate. I used to think you really needed to ‘pull up’ during the recovery phase…not so sure now.

The skill of pedalling is coordinating these muscles to get the bike moving as fast as possible. The goal is not to produce the same amount of power throughout the pedal stroke. The goal is to be efficient and economical (not the same thing!), which may be different for different people. So next we will look at the things we CAN do to improve our pedalling.

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what you should think about?

Things to think about:

  • Think about starting the power phase as early as possible. Visualise pushing forwards and down at 12 O’clock.
  • Once you have completed the early ‘push’ over the top change your thought to pulling backwards. This should start at about 5 O’clock on the right crank. Visualise trying to pull the cleat of your shoe out of the back of the pedal. This

Things not to think about:

  • Don’t worry too much about the main part of the power phase (3-4 O’Clock), that is automatic, so let that happen.
  • Don’t think about pulling up. This has often been recommended in the past, but I think is ultimately counter productive as it disrupts the pedal stroke as a whole.
  • Don’t ‘pull’ over the top of the pedal stroke. This engages the wrong muscles and ultimately delays the all important power phase.
  • Don’t scrape mud off your shoe. I remember reading this in a book by Lance Armstrong/Chris Carmichael when I first started cycling. Though you do want to pull back, the scraping action encourages you to force your heel down, which is counterproductive, you want your foot to stay relatively flat.

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What drills should you do?

Here are 3 great ways to start working on your perfect pedal stroke:

  1. Dead Leg Drills:
    • I used to do one leg drills until I heard Colbie Pearce talk about these on his podcast. I knew straight away these would work far more effectively.
    • Instead of taking the foot out of the pedal, leave it in and just don’t use it. It takes a little practise, but it keeps you far more balanced on the bike and really able to work on the pedal stroke of the ‘working’ leg.
    • Try a minute at a time to start with and build up your time, focussing on the key elements of good pedalling technique.
  2. Cadence Ladders:
    • You are trying to build skill and timing is a big part of skill. So training at different cadences is a great way to build the skill of pedalling.
    • Start a little below your normal cadence (eg 80 rpm) and then every minute add 10rpm to the target. Keep doing that until you reach a cadence where you can’t maintain good technique and are ‘bouncing’ on the saddle.
    • Then come back down 10rpm each minute back to the start.
    • Over time you will go further up the ladder. Though you can also increase the time spent on different levels to add to the challenge.
  3. Riding the Rollers:
    • As I said at the start, pedalling is a skill. Expanding on this, skill is the ability to execute an action successfully and I would argue that as skill increases there is an ability to execute under different conditions and timing, rollers creates a perfect environment to improve this skill.
    • Make sure you are safe, doorways are a good place to start. To start with, just get yourself going.
    • Then refine the skill. Make sure you are looking forwards and not down all the time. As you improve start incorporating the other drills into your roller riding. Even simple things like practising taking a bottle in and out left hand then right hand can be a challenge, so practise, make it smooth…build your skills.

Time to start perfecting that pedalling

WHat to do next?

There’s a lot of information here. Don’t be overwhelmed, pick an element to work on next time you are on the bike. Work at it consistently each time you ride and then when you are ready, pick another drill or skill to work on.

 


“Consistency is Key”

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