In Episode Ten of the Virtual Velo Podcast, Ken, Joy, and Chris discuss the state of the cycling off-season in today’s multi-discipline and platform climate with Level 1 USA Cycling Coach and founder of GC Coaching, Shayne Gaffney.
Shayne has created 85% of Zwift’s training plans and guides the performance of a host of virtual and real-life athletes.
The VVP crew peppers the coach with everything they want to know about training and performance but are afraid to ask. Shayne followed the “tangents” to touch on several hot training topics, including the mental side of cycling and reconnecting with your “Why!”
Clip-in and take a conversational ride with us!
Welcome to the Virtual Velo Podcast, powered by the Zommunique. We are exercise and nutrition scientists, physical therapists and performance coaches. Most of all, we’re passionate about cycling and immersed in the virtual cycling community. Our goal is to inform, inspire, and challenge you. So come take another conversational ride with us today. Today we have Ken Joy and Chris the core. Nathan Garra could not join us today, so we’re gonna catch up with everybody, see how everyone’s been doing, and then we’re gonna introduce our special guests, which I’m sure you’ve heard of before. And let’s go ahead and start with Joy. How have things been in your life? Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Are you cooking up a storm?
no. <laugh>, I’m gonna make eggplant, Parmesan and <laugh>. That’s about it.
Is that a Florida thing?
It’s, yeah. That’s what we do in Florida is we make vegetables for Thanksgiving. Gotcha. Nope, nope. Nothing big. gonna hang out with my kid. Probably actually go mountain biking and make eggplant Parmesan.
Nice. So I think the big mountain bike park that I know of is Santos. Is that near
You? Nope. I wish it was. I love Santos. It’s probably one of my favorite places. We camp there at least once a year, and it’s my favorite trails, but it’s a few hours from me, so we’ll just do you know, some trails around Jacksonville? We have a, we have a lot of smaller trails which is fine for my 10 year old. He doesn’t wanna do much more than that anyway.
Yeah. Santos has some pretty crazy wooden features. As a matter of fact, there is a guy who founded Ray’s indoor bike parks. You’ll find him in some of the colder cities of the country. Cleveland, yeah, Cleveland. And I wanna say Milwaukee. There’s one unfortunately he had a really bad spinal injury a couple of years ago, so I don’t, I haven’t heard much more about him since then.
Have you not ever been to Santos?
No, I’ve never been mountain biking in Florida, or I’ve never ridden a bike in Florida.
You had, you’d like Santos, Santos does have a lot of it’s got the vortex, which the Vortex Trail is a pretty advanced double black diamond trail. And then all the wooden features in the middle pump tracks. It’s, I mean, it’s pretty intense. I don’t do any of that part. I don’t do any of that section. But then it’s got a lot of easy trails, a lot of flowy, a lot of miles, I mean, miles and miles of trails, which I like. I like the, the flowy miles of, you know, single track.
And it’s, yeah. Yeah, most roadies do Joy,
<laugh>, <laugh>. It’s got a nice little campground, so I I like to go there and camp out once a year. Nice. Nice. And so we also have Chris, Chris, how are things,
Things are going well. I, I knew you were gonna ask me this question. I’m like, I, I really don’t have much going on, but I, once you brought up the, the Thanksgiving topic. Yeah. You know, I have, I have adult kids and my, my daughters home from college, so that’s always exciting. the having adult kids around the holidays adds a totally new dynamic to the family celebrations, if you know what I mean. It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a different kind of a situation, but it allows me to relive my college days, which is always fun.
Awesome. Well, I’m glad to hear that. Cool. Well, everything is okay with me. We had a bunch of people in the office for our quarterly, quarterly all hands gathering. And I got sick unfortunately, so I’m just on the tail end of that and can’t taste much. So Thanksgiving is just gonna be, you know, sampling the textures of a bunch of different casserole that have been dropped off by my family. And that’s, yeah. Hanging out with my wife and daughter. other than that, I hope to get out on a little bike ride today. you know, clear the system out, get it moving again. And so I’m really, really happy today that we have a special guest. If you’ve ever listened to the Never Going Pro podcast this is the co-host Shayne Gaffney. He’s with us. So this is me, him and Chris Schwenker, we got together and we made that podcast for a number of years. Maybe we’ll pick it back up again one day. But we’ve got him with us today. So Shayne, how are things going? Yeah,
So I think Chris Gorney is who you meant, but I would probably like Chris Schwenker better than Gorney
On the podcast, if I’m honest with you.
Yeah, probably so. Right. I mean, that’s kind of why I pivoted over here to these guys.
The Delta headphones, the constant lateness to the podcast. Yeah. What else does, does he always have something going on in the background?
Yeah, something going on in the background. Babies, you know, you had another baby that was hard for us,
Shayne. There’s only one thing I can say is you have to be careful for what you wish. Okay.
<laugh> <laugh>. Well, we did the podcast with you and it lasted, what, five days? That was a long recording.
Yeah, that was nice. Six days.
No, I was kidding. That was a long way though,
Speaking about myself as my favorite topic.
So yeah, one topic that lasted about four hours, so it was good. Yeah,
Very Schwenker. But yeah, happy to be here. Thanks for the invite. Hopefully we can make more of these in the future.
Yeah, absolutely. and so we’ve even come in pre-production today, we’ve even come up with another really good idea. We’re not even gonna talk about it today. It’s so good. We don’t wanna spoil the surprise. So what’s been going on with you, Shayne? Well, we, the audience who has listened to Never Gone Pro may know that you were over it. Zwift officially. Yeah.
Yeah. So I’m a, I’ve created probably, geez, 85% of the workout and training content on Zwift at the moment. I’ve done a bunch of like media, I’ve been broadcast stuff for them as well. obviously never going pro podcast as you mentioned. And then I am also a level one USA cycling coach. I own a business called GC Coaching work with a bunch of athletes on dirt. and I’ve worked from World Tour Pro athletes right down to somebody who is learning how to clip into pedals for the first time. Nice. So I love working with just a myriad of athletes that really keeps me motivated and going. And yeah, right now it’s with the product manager for the workouts and training experience. So little bit of mixture of business with gaming and then also my passion, which is obviously training and helping athletes improve.
Nice. So in comparison to running GC coaching, which you’re doing one off training programs, I’m sure you, there’s a lot of commonality to a lot of those training programs going over into the world of tech and having to mesh with gamers and product and business. Like what has that been like?
Honestly, not terrible. I was a huge gamer growing up, especially like really hardcore RPGs or first person shooters was kind of my top two favorites. So I spent a lot of time just playing video games, as a kid, obviously the training in those kinds of knowledge and that aspect of things, I had no problem with business. I basically was baptized by fire when I decided to go full time as a cycling coach and grow my business to the point where I could support my family with it. that was terrifying. But I definitely learned a lot about products, about marketing about business, all those things without any real degree. And then product itself, I’ve done a recent certification through product school to be a senior product manager. So that was really good just to get some structure and some frameworks around what is a good pm, how do you actually lead a team all those kinds of things where I had some experience with, but not a ton. So honestly, it wasn’t a terrible transition and, it was an interesting conglomerate of all the stuff I’ve done in my career previous to this. Very cool. So it was kind of a nice transition.
Very cool. Well we’re really excited to have you on today and the title of today’s podcast is Death of the Off Season with Shayne Gaffney. And the reason for this title is there’s not really an off season for virtual cyclist who can ride year round or those cyclists that mix it up like myself. They have many, many months of the year where it’s great to ride outside and trying to mesh together indoor and outdoor ambitions and when to push hard and when to ease up. So we wanted to get into some of that and see what your, your take is. If cyclists have a new round as ZRL races, that that comes up every, you know, quarter.
Yeah, so I think this is a lot to unpack. So I think the first thing is the title Death of the Off Season rubs me a little bit the wrong way just because I think the off season is pretty important for everyone because it allows you to take a break from racing, take a break from structure, and just really enJoy and reconnect with your bike again. And I think I’ve seen this mistake a lot where people find Zwift or they find something that they really love to do and they do it until the cows come home and then they burn themselves out 3, 6, 9 months later. So I think having a natural ebb and flow is really important to long term longevity in the sport. And it really just allows the athlete to reconnect with their why for riding their bike. Like most athletes don’t say, I wanna ride my bike cause I wanna do Zwift races.
Most athletes say I ride my bike cause I love to ride my bike and I love the wind in my face or whatever it might be. And then they find Zwift after that fact. So if you kind of forget your why and your reason for riding your bike, I’ve seen that end in disaster for a lot of athletes. So I think that’s one of the main benefits of the off season is that it also obviously allows for just mental recuperation cuz Zwift racing is fun, but it’s also really hard mentally to just push yourself, hang on the wheel, get dropped over the leg snapper for the ninth time in a row this season. Right. Are things that happen to athletes <laugh>, it’s brutal. And I think it’s good too just for muscle recuperation, you know, you do definitely get some muscle and some tissue breakdown just from doing a lot of high intensity repetitive movements. So having just a break from that structure I think is important. So, long story short, I definitely don’t want to kill the off season ever, but I do understand that there are different approaches to a season for an individual athlete and it’s a lot of it depends in that situation I think too.
So I mean we we obviously established that you feel like the off season is a, is a good idea and you touched on the, the whole mental aspect of, of the, of everything. And, and I want to get back to that later on in the podcast cause I think that’s fascinating and I, we’ve had conversations about in the past. but so you know, we, the off season is a good idea, right? So what do you constitute as an effective off season for somebody like, you know, is it six weeks? Like, you know, the, the reason why I bring this up is because I I did an article with Alex Co who is a colleague of yours. He, he trains James Joseph Barnes who was one of the, the, the most successful eSports racers, you know, that, that, you know, over the last couple years he, he’s got a couple up and coming athletes like jail power and a few others.
And I did an article on him because James told me that, yeah, Alex told me to take six weeks off the bike and I’m like, six weeks off the bike, you know, what are you doing? You know, you know, it’s like it, I I sometimes feel that an off-season the longer the off season is, is kind of inversely the proportional to how good an athlete you are because I, I would, would never take six weeks off the bike because I’m that confident enough in myself to bring myself back to where I was. Like, I can barely stay away from my bike for six minutes cuz I’m afraid of that. so I’d like to get your, you know, your thoughts on that. Like what, what do you feel is the, is like the ideal off season if you could tell somebody exactly and then, you know, how do you, you know, how would you structure that?
So I’m gonna say this about a hundred thousand times this podcast. And I’m gonna say it depends. <laugh> it depends on the athlete, right? So most athletes, two to four weeks tend to be the sweet spot of an off season. And let me define off season two, cuz off-season does not mean okay you’re gonna hang your bike up for four weeks and just sit in your couch and crush Bon Bons. Do they make Bon B still?
Yeah, I hope so.
Okay. I mean they got all kinds of other good stuff now too.
<laugh> can those all have
That’s right. What I like is those Ben and Jerry’s frozen cookie dough.
Oh yeah, those are good. Those, yep.
There’s these Ben Jerry’s with like a core of jam that goes right from the top all the way to the bottom. Oh man, they’re so good.
Great tangent. So anyway, don’t be just like sitting on your couch not doing anything for four weeks cuz that is 100% how you’re gonna lose fitness. And pretty quickly the off season should still be some semblance of exercise, but it doesn’t have to be super structured. It doesn’t have to be progressively getting longer endurance rides. It doesn’t have to be anything you’ve done in the previous nine months, 10 months, whatever it might be. So usually what I’ll do with athletes is say if you wanna ride your bike, great, but put your computer in your back pocket. Don’t even look at your computer, just use it to actually upload the data post and literally just like ride your bike to enJoy riding your bike again, reconnect with your why. I think I said that at the top of the discussion. You can also do cross-training.
You know, you can go running, you can do strength work, which I think is important anyway. yoga, you can go into whatever you want to do. Typically I’ll avoid a lot of really high intensity workouts just because I think those can sometimes be detrimental just to recuperation, especially mentally for an athlete. But six weeks is, I think on the longer side. But if the athlete is burnt out, the athlete has done a ton of work, a ton of load, they’ve done a ton of volume, then you need that to recover from that load. And you know, probably better than anybody, the body responds to progressive overload and impulses. If you are really, really burnt out and you’re strained, you’re not gonna be able to generate nearly as strong of an impulse as you would one month after recovery. So if you wanna generate higher, and stronger impulses, you need to be fresh mentally and also physically and to think, I don’t wanna get personal, but after you did the ram, not ram you did that. Sorry, I didn’t wanna coin it incorrectly. What was, what was the name of the ride you did Cross country?
Well, I called it the Dirt Dad fund across America, but basically I, I rode 4,000 miles in two months. I I know what you’re getting
Then. What did you do after that?
Oh, <laugh>, zero <laugh>. No, actually, actually I didn’t, I tried to be smart. yeah I did. I felt that with all of that very basic zone two, you know, just riding to get from one place to the other and not really concentrating on how fast or doing intervals or or stimulating my aerobic system, really, I felt like I couldn’t generate any power. So I took a week to start act, you know, feeling like a human again because I very much didn’t. and then after that I, I hit the gym, I started focusing on building up my strength and anaerobic, you know, like five seconds to to 90 seconds power. And I did that for I would say about six weeks. And I gotta tell you the if, if this ZRL season has anything is any indication, it it worked out pretty well.
Yeah. So you kind of did a little bit of a transition phase slash off season where you changed up the focus of what your stimulus was based on how your body was feeling, how your body was responding. And I think the other thing too is like you rode across the United States, which is obviously insane, but like the amount of emotional and also mental toll that must have had, nevermind physical. I think that’s something we need to all just be aware of too, where training you might be training to improve your physical ability, but spiritually, emotionally, mentally training can also have sometimes a negative impact on how you feel. At least for me, how I felt as an athlete once I was, you know, eight months into the season, I didn’t wanna do another 40 20 VO2 max set again until I recovered from it. So I think that’s something to consider too with the off Season.
You know, I know exactly what you’re saying. When I, you know, every morning I’d have to, you know, after six weeks went by, I wake up in the morning, it’s like I had to ride my bike 120 miles again today, <laugh>. Yeah. And it, it’s, it’s a real slap in the face, you know. but you know, the, the the goods outweighed the, the bad, you know, once I got going then it was, it was great and you know, the experience was incredible. But yeah, getting over that hump was and it was certainly something, you know, some of the days I’d be laying in the RV. Yes, I was in an RV for two months. just thinking about, you know, like I, you know, I got, I have an eight mile climb ahead of me tomorrow, you know what I mean? It’s, this is, this is gonna be brutal, but you know, it’s true. The mental aspect of, of sports is is extremely profound. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>
Like I know that you you know, we had spoKen earlier, you, you you, you focus on that a lot and one of the things that that we had discussed was visualization with your athletes. And I know it’s kind of like that, you know, we spoke about tangent, that’s, it’s a bit of a tangent, but, you know, I really, I really feel that’d be something valuable to discuss if you can take us through that. And even related to the off season, you know, would you be doing any visualization during the off season to make yourself better or more fresh when you come back?
Yeah, I mean, and I live in the tangents for my podcast, so any tangent, I’m always gonna go down and pursue <laugh>. So don’t feel like it has to be crazy structured. Cuz I think that makes for a good podcast too. Yeah. But yeah, I think visualization itself is exactly what it says. You’re basically visualizing how you want to perform or how you want to behave or how you want to act in some type of event. So I’ve used visualization before really large presentations to media if I’m presenting it. Or before race is obviously too for those kinds of things, but usually I use it before a really, really important event, a really important race. And it just allows you to kind of come back to center and come back to baseline again and shut your brain off. Cuz the goal is just to perform.
If we kind of boil it down, the only thing you just do in a race or an event is to perform. That’s really it, right? All the other stressors, all the other like, what if I don’t eat enough? What if I have to go to the bathroom? What if I, you know, get a flat tire? All those other things you can’t control. The goal is to basically remove those from the equation and remove those from your mind. So it pushes yours, it, it puts me at ease and allows me to focus on just what I need to do, which is pedal my bike and perform.
So a lot of people listening probably are saying visualization. What is that? I’ve never done it. You know, I’m sure that there are, I’m sure that you’ve told you you’ve, you’ve explained it to your athletes a million times. Like what, what, what is the way that you explained it to them and are there specific like exercises that you can do to get better at visualization?
So kind of depends on the athlete too. I think a good example would be if I work with a downhill mountain biker where they’ve gone through the course, they know the turns, they know where the berms are, they know where the potentials are to lose time and to gain time and literally taking their handlebar, shutting their eyes and then visualizing themselves going down the course and memorizing how their bars are set when they have to lift up and down. Those are kind of the more kind of obvious ways to visualize something. But like I said, I think underneath of all the practice is really just about mentally allowing yourself to forget about all the stuff you can’t control and really just focus on what you’re there to do, which is to perform to the best of your ability on that day.
That’s really interesting, and I’ve used that technique sort of I guess unconsciously before and I had my last mountain bike race of the 2022 season a few weeks ago. And I wish that I had visualized the start of the race beforehand because I showed up. I think I was a little bit high strung. I was having a hard time focusing and concentrating and if I had taKen more time to even just look on Google Maps at a satellite view of like, okay, I’m gonna want to line up at the line on the inside on the right hand side and we’re gonna rail these turns and this is when we bunny hop onto the grass and it could be slick and all of these things. And I didn’t do any of that when the race started. I felt a lot of hesitation and backed off and I ended up, I’m usually a pretty good starter and I usually can hit the trail, you know, for second, third wheel, whatever.
And I ended up hitting the trail sixth wheel. And I also don’t think I had visualized my sensations like my body sensations and saying Don’t freak out, it hurts. You’ve done the training. You’re not hurting any more than they are. And so once we got going I sort of visualized myself just holding pace and not panicking and enJoying myself and I ended up gaining a couple of spots back to get a podium. But that could have been the difference between me getting third place and getting second place. I think first place was outta my reach for this one. The guy that won was like a league is. but yeah, I mean I think there is a lot of value in that and having that is sort of on the to-do list on race day.
Yeah. Yeah. It’s just good, good practice. I think if you go to like a cross race, which I love to do like days at a cross race where you see the cat five, cat four and look at the start line and they’re, you know, jumping around, bopping around, looking up and down talking to each other, they’re not really, a lot of those folks aren’t really like focused and then you look at a professional UCI cross start, nobody is moving. Everybody is looking down the road and basically ready to pounce as soon as that green light flashes. There is a big difference between both athletes, both in a cross race, but the level of mental preparation is entirely different from a pro athlete to a cat four, cat five athlete in my experience. And visualization is one of those ways to kind of bridge that gap and improve the mental capacity. And of the athlete.
Shayne, do you work with any triathletes and what’s your thought about working on your weakness during the off season? So for like triathletes, you know, let’s say their swim is their weakness in focusing on swim technique but even for a cyclist, if you know they have a weakness with a one minute power and focusing on something like that to where it’s not about racing but it’s more about focusing on just a weakness for a length of time.
Yeah. I do work with triathletes mostly on their bike though. cuz swimming is so difficult to improve through training peaks and just like <laugh> do the swim workout cuz I have no idea what you look like as you’re swimming. So usually if the athlete has a real weakness for swimming, I will say find a local swim coach and then take a couple classes with that swim coach so they can actually look at your form and then in the best cases, work with the swim coach, then we’ll work together to create a training plan for you. The swimming is so technique-driven and you know, for me that was always my weakness when I did triathlons. I, I always swam with like my butt way down and pretty much kicking at the bottom of s <laugh>,
You need more higher body fat will help that
Just fat around the butt, cheeks, nowhere else. Yeah.
<laugh>. But yeah, so swimming I will definitely help athletes with, but if I know, I’ll know pretty quickly like, Hey, you’re a really bad swimmer or you really need a lot of help here, go hire a swim coach. And then as far as weaknesses go, the off season for me isn’t really about working on any, anything aside from enJoyment and like, again, finding the why and enJoying and having fun doing what you’re doing. Once we get to like the base phase, if we do a, a traditional periodized plan, then we’ll figure out, okay, what do you wanna work on this year? What are your goals this year? And then here is where you are physically, here’s how much time you have to train, how are we gonna go from point A to point B and gets you to where you want to be for your venture, for your race.
And sometimes it’s a hard conversation like, oh, I want to do my first Ironman but I’ve only done a sprint and my Ironman is three months away. I’ve had these conversations with people like, well you’re not gonna do an Ironman in three months and do you have like 12 hours a week to train? Right. Plus for an Ironman, well no I have like four or five, but I really wanna do one. So sometimes it’s those really hard conversations too during that phase of training have to happen. So it’s a little bit of dreaming season, a little bit of goal setting, a little bit of like come to Jesus like you’re probably not ready for this and a lot of enJoyment and having fun with what you’re doing.
You lost, what the hell is going on in Ken‘s shed
Right now, dog. Sorry man, my dog keeps dropping this ball right at my feet.
Listen, mine’s pacing behind
Me. Yeah. And so I was like, all right, get out, get outta here. You know, like she’s not getting my eye signals and my shoe signals
And my dog is is downstairs hacking up the lung. I’m like worried about him. We got dog problems
Here. No man, she’s so sweet. I’ve got this lab that just loves swimming and loves playing fetch. So anyway <laugh> moving on. So Shayne, we have this hypothetical athlete that wants to participate in all the ZRLs and how many times a year does this happen? Twice?
Yeah, I think it’s twice.
So right. So the format is six races. So five weeks, essentially a three week break, another block, a three week break, a third block of six races, so 18 races and then some period of time off and then the whole thing all over again. How would you approach somebody who was interested in doing something like that? So essentially you’re gonna have two long periods of year of a year where they need to be pretty fit. And this is sort of what I was thinking of when I came up with the, the name, the death of the off season.
Yeah. So I think the athlete would still have an off season transition phase. It would just,
But wouldn’t they have
Two? They have two, yeah. Okay. Ideally they have two. Some folks can go through and be able to push themselves between the seasons. So it’s almost like you have one really short season, you do a race season, you do like another like rebuild and then another race season. But most folks I work with need at least a week or two just to like cool the jets a little bit between those two races. Okay. but yeah, so I would approach it ideally, again it depends, it depends on the athlete, it depends on where they’re coming from, how much time I have to train. in my experience with racing is really
Anaerobic capacity derived. That’s in my experience the folks with the largest anaerobic capacities or FRC is what I use in WKO. The people with the largest FRCs typically perform really well cuz they’re able to just blow the pack up in that one to two minute range. Obviously you have to have some aerobic capacity to recover from those efforts. Not totally gas yourself out, but usually it’s anaerobic capacity work in that like prep season, I’ll focus on that a lot for most athletes. Some athletes are naturally anaerobically strong and I’ll know that just from testing them and looking at their data. So with those folks, this kind of depends on how much time they have to train. If they’re relatively time crunched, I might focus more so on sweet spot more on tempo, that kind of higher end aerobic work. But if they have oodles of time to train, then I’ll take a very traditional like zone two focused approach where we’ll do ideally longer, longer weeks at a zone two focused to build aerobic capacity.
When you say they have a lot of time to play with, like how many hours a week are we thinking about here?
Yeah, so that, that depends on the athlete too. a newer athlete, you know, as long as you’re doing more time in zone two and more volume in zone two than you’re used to, you’ll see an aerobic benefit in most cases. So say you had an athlete that was six hours a week last year and they were pretty spent doing just zone two, we might want to aim for seven or eight hours a week this year. Just a really methodical, steady increase in overall volume. I’ve seen a good response to that. But again, some athletes don’t respond to zone two. Some athletes respond better to sweet spot, some athletes respond better to VO2 max work. It kind of depends on the athlete, what their best responses are, but structure would be that. And then during the race ZRL on Tuesdays. So most of the time, Monday would be an easy day recovery day, a good day to visualize, a good day to do some yoga, just do whatever you wanna do and let your body recover. Tuesday would be the race, Wednesday would be another easy day or like active recovery day when you might spin. Thursday tends to be a good day to do another block of intensity. And then Friday typically will be an off day before the longer rides on the weeKend, which typically are more aerobic focused. So usually it’s more polarized during ZRL season where it might be two days a week of really, really high intensity with three or four days a week of lower and longer rides, lower intensity and longer duration rides.
So you’re still shooting to have those two days of intensity a week, one being the race, one being intervals. And so if you’re looking at like I said, a five week block, two or three weeks off another and then another, are you going to have to have one of those come to Jesus conversations with the athlete and let ’em know like, you’re not gonna be as good for all of these, you need to pick where you want to be the best?
No, usually it’s the opposite. Peaking for an event usually can’t happen a lot of times over the course of a season. So a lot of times it’s building, building, building and then maintaining for those six weeks. So if you’re all familiar with like that performance management chart on training peaks like atl, tsb, ctl, usually it’s build, build, build. And then during the race season it’s usually plateau slash a little bit of a reduction in overall CTL just because you’re prioritizing performance and recovery to allow the athlete to dig as deep as they possibly can during those key days, which is typically Tuesdays and Thursdays for most ZRL folks.
Now Shayne, how have you seen a difference in your methods of coaching with Zwift in the ZRL races compared to like traditional outdoor racing where somebody has one big event every, you know, six months where they put all of their eggs in one basket compared to racing every week for five weeks?
Yeah, and I have, well I come from New England. So New England our seasons are usually three months long and you might literally race every single weeKend for three months straight. So it was interesting, the, the transition to Zwift wasn’t that much of a shock for me cuz you might do, you know, a crit one week and then a road race the next week and then a circuit race or a time trial. So you kind of cram a full season’s worth of races into three months time. and then for like the one off athlete, a lot of times it’s not you’re just doing one race and that’s it. We have a lot of times B or C type events where you, for this C race it’s just a training race, but you’re still gonna race it. You’re still gonna work on your fueling your hydration your visualization, prepare yourself as you would for your A event. For the B events
it might be a little bit fresher and you have a really specific focus of what we want you to work on. And then for the a race, it’s obviously like you’re there to set a PR you’re there to perform better than you did last year. So I still do some races with athletes and some specificity in terms of race and race specificity, excuse me, for those athletes that just do one race per season. it just depends on what kind of athlete I’m working with. So for me again, wasn’t a big transition, but it’s really important to more so feather the gas than to like floor it for the first week and then crash and burn for weeks two through five afterwards
Yeah. So you mentioned the the transition and the transforming and when I first found Zwift and then, and you talk about the, the anaerobic focus of it. When I first found Zwift I was doing a lot of outdoor, you know, hilly mountain, mountain bike, mountain biking, hilly road races in the northeast, like the green mountain stage race and the Killington stage race and you know, racing up Mount Washington and things. And I was like so super lean and I could do a constant pace for a really long time. A constant high pace for a really long time. when I got into, when I had enough of, you know, beating myself up and being cold and, and wet and became a real weather weenie, I started, you know, found the indoor racing was, you know, almost as competitive and, and more more cohesive than than racing outdoors.
You know, I was really having a rough time because I couldn’t deal with the surges that that happened during Zwift races. First of all, I couldn’t, I couldn’t even make it out of the pen with the, with the group first of all, you know, you know, three or four years ago, you know, the way that the stars were, they’re not like that anymore. But so you know what I’m, I’m trying to get at, one of the, one of the facets of, of my training that I really focused on was strength and resistance training and I, I you know, Joy and I worked together on an article for for the based on periodization of strength training. And it started with just anatomical you know, adaptation, you know, just conditioning the ligaments and the connective tissues and went, you know, spread the gamut all the way to you know, fast twitch trics. I’m wondering, you know, where you fit that into the, the training for your athletes and is that something that you would do during, you know, getting back to the off season? Like you maybe focused during that period of time as well?
Yeah, for sure. So most athletes I work with, we do about a two month focused block of strength work. So if we start from, say we go from the race season to the transition phase, the transition phase is usually two weeks to six weeks and that athlete’s goa is pretty much no structure, just literally reconnect with yourself and your bike again. Then we move into like the general preparation phase, which is where the strength work comes in. some athletes I’ll have them go into the gym and do like very traditional like squats, deadlifts like presses, those kinds of things. Some athletes can’t make it to the gym so it might be lunges with dumbbells or goblet squats or single-leg deadlifts, whatever you have the ability to do. So as long as you are providing some stimulus and you’re breaking down your muscle tissue to rebuild it stronger, that’s kind of all that we’re after with the strength phase.
And then this might be a little bit counter to what other coaches would do, but I do see benefits to lower cadence work on the trainer. So usually it’s two weeks or so of off the bike strength work and then two days a week of on the bike lower cadence work where we’re really working on applying force to the pedals. And I also might do some single leg drills which are also like counter like “I hate single leg drills, they don’t do anything for me”, but I disagree. And it’s just some other general cadence specific and pedal work just to, again, kind of improve the athlete as a whole entirely. And then from there usually it goes into the base phase and then build phase, peak phase, et cetera. so yeah, I see some hands up
So well during the build and base phase, do you continue to do any kind of strength work with your athletes?
I do, yeah. So typically it’s the heaviest in the, the core focus during the general preparation phase is strength training and then as we get close to the base phase and through the base phase, the focus becomes more so on aerobic conditioning for the athlete. So instead of the focus of two days a week to even three days a week of strength work, it might reduce to two days a week and the reduced down eventually to one day a week just for maintenance. And the goal is not to really create any soreness or like really kill yourself with the strength work. The goal is to just maintain the gains that you’ve made over the off season.
So does the the workouts themselves change from the standard deadlift squat rack to like more functional or would you still keep it the same type of workout base with the traditional squats and deadlifts?
I do a combo of functional with like general during the off season too. And then some athletes, I’ll say most athletes they need like a couple really individual or really specific things, especially if they have like lower back pain or tight hamstrings or whatever it might be. So a lot of times it’s some general work, a little bit of functional work and a little bit of specific work for that athlete cuz everybody is obviously unique in their own needs. And then the base phase, it’s still focused mostly on like traditional squats and deads and like presses, things like that. Once I get to the build phase where the focus is now purely on specificity and really getting the athlete ready to compete or to ride or whatever they happen to be doing during their season, then it reduces down to mostly functional and mostly body weight type stuff because I don’t want to have any real energy dedicated aside from the bike at that point.
I do have one more question for you, Shayne. Is how much I’m trying to do the math, how much weight is that on your squat rack behind you
<laugh>? not enough. I usually have a couple people on each side of my squat as I do them. So
That’s some serious weight there.
Totally kidding. Looks like two 20 some big, it looks like 2 25 to me.
You know, those, those foam weights to use in movies. Those are just those behind me,
<laugh>, they just, sure it is.
So one thing I’ve been noticing is I do squats, deadlifts leg press if I’m not going twice a week and if I go once a week I’m sore every single time and maybe it’s just because I’m trying to continue using the same weights. I usually do, you know, somewhere around body weight for squats and a little over that on deadlifts. Is that the mistake that I’m making and should I just be, or at least be moving another day a week? I, I, I’m kind of trying to balance that when I go down to one day of weightlifting a week, then that one day makes me really sore.
Yeah. So I think to unpack that when you’re strengthening, you’re working your muscles eccentrically as well as concentrically. So eccentric load is when the muscles have to lengthen under tension, and most of the research states that that’s when the muscles actually become torn, broke down. You get micro tearing within those muscle fibers and that creates the soreness that you experience. The concentric load is really cycling, right? Cycling is all concentric. There’s no eccentric loading and that’s when the muscles are actually having to shorten under tension. So for some athletes that have like extreme soreness, I, first thing I do is reduce the weight cuz I don’t want you to be dead for three days after you lift. If that isn’t working, then I might do some modifications and just focus on concentric movements. So you might do a squat from a seated position and you’re just focused on going from sitting to standing.
So you just get in that concentric load. and then a lot of times once a week, I’ve noticed the same thing, just anecdotally I don’t have any research to back this up, is you, I haven’t seen a lot of benefits from strength training as far as increasing weight at once a week, twice a week tends to be the sweet spot where like best bang for your buck and three times a week is great if you can kind of squeeze it in. But twice a week for me seems to be the sweet spot for athletes of doing enough weight, having some soreness but not like crazy soreness. And then seeing consistent and steady progress in their overall volume each week.
Now I have a, a popular question that I know a lot of people debate is weights before cycling or cycling before weights
I typically don’t combine the two. Usually I’ll do a warmup or something, but then let’s conserve your energy for what the focus is that day. So if the focus is strength training, then you should be warmed up but fresh for the weights and the vice versa. If the focus is cycling, then you should be fresh for the bike. I’ve seen very few athletes do that successfully. And that’s also where like the focuses, which I mentioned before, the focus is each phase or purposely. So the focus during like the prep phase is strength work, not so much on cycling versus the focus on base build phases or less so on strengthening and more so on cycling. yeah, the, what that is called is escaping me at the moment, but there is some research around that like, what’s that called Chris, interference?
I know there’s a, I have heard of an interference effect where if you’re trying to do the aerobic and strength work too close to each other, they can interfere with each other or you’re not gonna get the same bang for the book. So like, just because of my schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I would usually ride and strength train, but I would do one before work and one after. So there’s a good 10 hour gap between the two.
Right? Give me a second, gentlemen. I am looking it up cuz I, the interference effect, that’s exactly what it’s called. Robert Hickson, a scientist at the University of Illinois in the 1970s is one who coined that term. I wrote an article about it. <laugh>. Yeah. But yeah, it’s, and then it was it’s since kind of been debunked, but Hmm. It’s it’s, it’s very much a debate because you know, if you, if you had to like, the way that I kind of structured it in my article was that you, if you have no choice, you have to do them both on the same day, then which would you choose? Like obviously you want to, if if if everything was ideal you would do weights on one day, you’d do your, your your, your heavy riding, intense riding on another. But if you are time-crunched until other people are especially that are in, you know, in the situations that we’re in, we have families, businesses, whatever.
sometimes you have the one day, and you gotta put ’em both in there. So you know, the consensus that, you know, with the research that I found was that whichever one you think is more important, that’s the one that you do first because you’re obviously gonna have more, you know, there’s no real scientific, you know, they, there are studies that show yeah, if you, if you do this then you’ll have a better workout strength wise or you know, but there it’s very, you know, it’s, it’s contradictory in a lot of ways, but yeah, that’s what’s called the interference effect. Very interesting. So anyway, I you said that tangents were okay and Yeah, when, when when I knew that we were gonna have you on, I was thinking to myself, what question would I wanna ask Shayne if I had the ability to ask him?
So what’s, let’s go back to the zero. So yesterday we had a zero race and it was pretty intense, six laps of that two bridges loop. And did, did you race Ken? You probably didn’t cuz you weren’t feeling well. So basically it was, you know, we’re talking about the, you know, the, the if and, and then you know, everything else the, there was, it was basically 13 anaerobic efforts over the course of an hour. Yes. And my, so I’m just looking at my stats now. I did, I averaged 225 watts and I’m 67 kilos. My normalized power was 300. It was, it was crazy. My if was 1.14 for the race
So what I’m trying to get at is, the question that I want to ask you is, and this is a total tangent and you can say, Chris, you’re outta your mind, I’m not gonna answer that question, but should I be eating during this?
Now, now take, I do a half hour fairly, you know, somewhat, you know, intense warmup ahead of time. Mm-hmm.
<affirmative>, are you eating breakfast?
Yeah, I eat a pretty hefty breakfast, but I do get up to, so for, for them, it’s, it’s, I’m, I’m a crazy man. Then, the race for me was five 30 eastern time. I was up at 3:00 AM getting something in my body so that I would be able to pedal the bicycle at five 30.
Yeah. So, no, I typically know 90 minutes tends to be that point at which you wanna start to eat for me, in most cases and athletes I work with but you should have enough glycogen on board in your liver, in, in your muscles to last about 90 minutes at least. So even if it’s really, really intense, you shouldn’t find much an issue with it. But that’s a good experiment where if you felt like you were getting lightheaded or you just felt those pretty common low blood sugar symptoms, you might want to have an extra serving of carbohydrate for dinner or get up at 3:00 AM and have an actual carbohydrate-rich meal before the race itself.
Yeah. That, that I certainly do, but I need the two hours to metabolize it and, and to be ready. Yeah. The reason why I bring it up is because, you know, I I I interview these these premiere guys and some of the elite guys and a lot of them are, are pounding the gel for every 20 minutes that they’re on the bike.
What about even just like liquid, you know not even like food or gel so much is like with liquid you can scoop out a certain amount of calories, so it may not even need to be much. It’s just a little bit to where you can take a few sips that’s gonna hit your system a lot quicker when you’re drinking it. And with the studies that have shown with just having them, it is like you can just have the sugar hits your tongue and it, and it affects your brain. And so something like that to where you don’t have to actually eat, but you could just have a sip of something.
Yeah. Victor Campanaerts did that for the hour record in an interesting video of him. He didn’t actually take anything, he just would swig it in his mouth and then spit it out. Right.
But like, but and it’s, it’s supposed, I mean I think these are some newer studies that show just having sugar in your mouth Yeah. Affects your brain and, you know, stimulate you to increase your power or pace, whatever it may be. For runners, they do it too to prevent the gi distress of consuming them, the carbs or whatever it may be, but still gives you the energy.
So were these premier guys, I’m gonna go back to that. Were these premier guys doing it every 20 minutes during like a three hour race or for like a 40 minute?
The this with Grand Prix isn’t three hour, you know, they, they’re not doing those long scratch races anymore. Now it’s just a series of well, you know, you know, I’m I’m telling you I shouldn’t have to tell, you know, you know more than I do. But now it’s all, it’s, it’s just basically a series of mini races for the most part. You know, they’re, they’re 20 minute to a half hour races, but they will, there are, they are extended over a period of time, but even the scratch races they, they you know, from, you know, the, the times I’ve spoKen to ’em, they’re, they’re eating something fairly frequently.
I’d be curious once we start to see more of those like Super Sapiens type things come into play and once we get to see some more normalized data, I’ll be curious to see if we all are eating enough, eating too little. What am I trying to say? Like what is the optimal range of your blood sugar to be in during that type of competition and that type of event?
Go ahead again. Yeah, no, tell us what Super Sapiens is Shayne
Super Sapiens is a blood glucose monitor that you got it attach to.
We did the podcast with Pete
Butler. Got it, got it. I didn’t the name brand. Yeah.
Yeah. But they all work on Freestyle Libre I think as the sensor, which is the pretty common diabetic sensor. So it’s taking the same sensor but applying it to a different audience, which is obviously athletes. But yeah, that’s like the next, I think that’s one of the next big things, quote unquote is like blood sugar modulation and blood sugar monitoring 24 7 and seeing
I think so too, because so many people get that wrong. Yeah. Just in, in general, you know.
Well it’s hard to do unless you have the data to validate and support it. It’s all just being based off feel like I feel like this is the right amount of food or I feel like I’m performing well, which is obviously important, but the data validation is gonna be interesting to see once we start to see some stuff come out. You can’t get ’em stateside yet. Yeah. They’re only available in Europe. I think it’s an FDA issue or something. I don’t know. Yeah.
Pete Butler knows the owner and was able to test it and so we did a podcast with him and it was pretty fascinating all the data that he had.
Yeah. Really, really cool
What alcohol does.
Yeah, well you can wear some kind of HRV strap to see what alcohol does and <laugh> data pretty much immediately, at least for me, destroys my sleep when I drink alcohol.
Yeah, that’s what I commonly hear. I was actually listening to a Whoop podcast the other day and they were talking deep diving on sleep and alcohol is one of the number one offenders for causing bad sleep.
Totally. Yeah. For me it was, alcohol was the number one and temperature was my number one benefactor. What’s the opposite of detractor?
A track? promoter.
Promoter, I dunno. Yeah,
<laugh>. Well I know like, so anyway, if you work for a SaaS company, they send out net promoter score and you’re either Okay.
So it might be,
Yeah, promoter and detractor
NPS score is always increased when I have a low, a cool temperature when I sleep in, I always get terrible when I drink alcohol.
Nice. Nice. Very good. Well, any other untouched topics on this? So what I’m getting is the title Death of the Off Season is there, that is not something that we should strive for. We should strive for having some sort of off season. Like even if we, if if it’s sort of this time of the year, once in the spring, once in the fall between your zero seasons take a little break and I think Chris has something he wants to add to.
Well, I just, you know, the, the, the reason why, you know, I brought the, the cast together to create the virtual all podcast was because of the dirt ad fund, you know, a charitable organization. I wanted to raise awareness and, you know, not everybody knows that you have a a cause that’s really near and dear to your heart Also, Shayne, and maybe you can tell us a little bit about it and, you know, whatever we can do to raise awareness and you know, get to get the word out there.
Yeah. let me close because that’s gonna be a huge transition. Yeah. So I think the, the death of the off season is it, it’s a great title cuz you’re gonna get lot clicks for sure. If you post
So marketing is not above one. That’s great.
We were trying to beat that other never going pro podcast.
Yeah, those guys are a bunch of gibronis. So you don’t have much worries there. There won’t be much of a challenge for you to do that. Don’t worry. I know all those guys. but yeah, I think the off season is really just, it’s important and I think general, general introspection, I guess that’s a good word to say. General introspection and like listening to your body, listening to your mind, and then really taking care of me, myself and I, I think that’s really, really important and that’s gonna lead to more compliance, stronger workouts, and ideally longer longevity in the sport if you’re able to take care of yourself and not just pounding yourself into the ground because you have to do ZRL race number six where you just mentally burnt out from doing it. So yeah, I think there are benefits to the off season.
yeah and the transition, big transition here. Yeah. So my daughter Grace was born with this thing called CMV, or cytomegalovirus. it’s, it’s actually congenital cytomegalovirus and congenital means that she was born with it and it was passed from her mom to her in the womb. And CMV is really, really common. about 80% of kids have it before they’re the age of four and, and most kids that have it after birth, it’s just a cold, nothing really crazy. However, for congenital kids, it leads to a lot of neurological issues because essentially it attacks the brain in the developing fetus. So for Grace, unfortunately for her, she got it really early in her development. she was born profoundly deaf. She had some issues with her vision, cerebral palsy and seizures and a G tube for food. She has a lot of unfortunately a lot of issues and she’s pretty severely disabled as a result of it.
So what I’ve been doing is, trying to raise awareness for CMV. So hopefully this podcast will help me do that. And then also try to pass legislation in Massachusetts to get CMV on the universal screening list for newborns. Because most newborns born with CMV. They aren’t like Grace, Grace is a pretty rare case, fortunately for other kids, but most kids that are born with CMV, they pass all their hearing exams at birth, but then we don’t know they have CMV and they gradually lose their hearing. So by the time they’re two or three, they could be profoundly deaf as a result of CMV activity. And if you don’t screen kids for CMV in the first 21 days of life, you can’t know if it’s congenital. So you can’t actually do any treatment for it, which are some kind of antiviral treatment, which actually has been shown to maintain and preserve hearing for the long term.
So that’s the main benefit of that bill is we’re trying to get universal screening for kids in Massachusetts as well as prenatal education. Cuz you know, an ounce prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say. And prevention techniques are really simple. It’s basically every other virus on earth. So like, try not to exchange fluids with newborns or with toddlers. Like, don’t kiss a baby on the mouth, don’t share food with your kids. If you get pee on your hands after changing a diaper, wash your hands before you touch your infants or before you touch a pregnant woman. It’s just kind of basic techniques and stuff to control. But nobody is talking about CMV prenatally and nobody is being educated about CMV in their prenatal appointments. So I’m trying to change that as well in Massachusetts.
Great. Good stuff. Yep. And Chris, do you have a Dad Fund update
Now? I just I think the last, the last podcast I just told everybody to get there or is in, and I’m just hoping now that the orders get out to everybody in time. Just keep your fingers crossed. But anyway, no, it’s very, the the, their community is always extremely generous and gives us the opportunity to help people. you know, we’ve had some members that have had you know, children that, that have special needs and, and they need things and we’ve been able to help them. It’s kind of a, it’s kinda like a full circle thing like, like Shayne had mentioned. So yeah, it’s yeah, it’s what it’s all about.
Yep. Well, it’s been a pleasure meeting with all three of you again, and happy Thanksgiving to our audience. Thank you for joining the Virtual zvelo Podcast and we will be back again soon with another interesting topic. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.