The Never Going Pro Podcast – Episode 3

I’ve just gotten an upgrade and gone from near top of one cat, to near bottom of the next…how can I get competitive again?

Available on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and SoundCloud

Show Notes:

Performance Management Chart (PMC) background + Differences in training between athlete levels:

-TSS = Training Stress Score = Developed by Dr. Andy Coggan + Hunter Allen: Allows athletes to objectively quantify their workouts based on their relative intensity, duration, and frequency of workouts. Example – 100 TSS at 100% FTP at 60 minutes. Using RPE – Think of intensity as an RPE value on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the hardest. If you exercised at a level 5 for two hours, then you would accumulate 50 TSS/hour or 100 total points.

-CTL = Chronic Training Load = Fitness = an exponentially weighted average of your last 42 days of training stress scores (TSS) and reflects the training you have done over the last 6 weeks. However, the workouts you did 15 days ago will impact your Fitness more than the workouts you did 30 days ago.

-ATL = Acute Training Load = Fatigue = An exponentially weighted average of your training stress scores from the past 7 days which provides an estimate of your fatigue accounting for the workouts you have done recently.

TSB = Training Stress Balance = Form = Yesterday’s Fitness (CTL) – Yesterday’s Fatigue (ATL) represents the balance of training stress. A positive TSB number means that you would have a good chance of performing well during those ‘positive’ days, and would suggest that you are both fit and fresh. They’re “On Form Today!” means high fitness + low fatigue.

Long story short, there is no short cut to fitness and becoming competitive ‘quickly’. “It never gets easier, you just go faster”

Greg LeMond

Personal Insights:
-The more fit you are, the greater the training stimulus needs to be to continue to improve. Also, the more fit the athlete is, they typically have a better handle on nutrition, hydration, sleep, recovery, etc. i.e. if you want to get to the “next level” you can’t be living the “dad bod” lifestyle.

-Higher level athletes tend to become more specialized and hone in on a certain discipline, then again at a class in that discipline, and more importantly they train what makes them good in that class. I.e. a IM triathlete wouldn’t do well against a track pursuiter (typically), and vice versa. VERY FEW athletes are good at everything – and they can thank their Mom and Dad for that ability.

Helpful Links:
How to Plan Your Season With TSS –…-stress-score/

Response to Training Differences –…-198805020-00001

Episode Transcript:

Ken: You know, I got a story I wanted to tell you guys.

Shayne: Oh yeah?

Chris: I’m all ears.

Ken: Yeah, did you hear about the time I overdosed on Viagra?

Chris: Gosh, no.

Ken: That was the hardest day of my life, man. All right and here we go.

Shayne: [inaudible 00:00:21] that’s perfect.

Chris: Now there’s only six people listening.

Ken: Now there’s only six people left. Welcome to the never going pro podcast by dads inside riding trainers featuring GC coaching. It’s a podcast about riding bikes and parenthood and trying really, really hard at both. I am your host Ken the badger [Knowles 00:00:47] and with me is Shayne Gaffney owner of GC coaching and Chris Gorney fellow team dirt made passionate cyclist and all around outstanding dad. So how is everybody doing this week?

Shayne: Doing well man, doing well how about you?

Ken: Good. Going through Tour de France withdraw. What an exciting year it was to watch the tour.

Shayne: For sure. That mudslide was insane the last one on the ultimate climb-

Chris: The act of God clause in the contract.

Ken: Not sure it really would have changed the outcome much, but still it made for some good dramatic television and some good debates among my cycling friends.

Shayne: And the French don’t win again, unfortunately.

Chris: Hey man the French have not won in my lifetime.

Ken: Yeah it’s been 33 years, you’re a youngen.

Chris: I know. It’s close, it’s barely but now I’m kind of rooting for that. I want to see how long they go without winning now.

Ken: I mean pretty good at putting the race on. You think they could win it every now and again.

Shayne: I’m from the Boston area so I went through the Red Sox not winning the World Series for however many years that was. So we’ll see if they can maybe match or beat them.

Chris: The curse of the Bambino.

Shayne: That’s right, the curse of the Bambino, yep exactly right.

Chris: This is the curse of the, I don’t know.

Shayne: Galla Phillipe or something.

Chris: Yeah.

Ken: Who knows man.

Chris: We’re all idiots.

Ken: Chris you were telling us that you went to Bentonville, Arkansas to go mountain biking.

Chris: Yep, rode with some people from my office there. We have a little satellite office in Bentonville and one of the guys was riding a hard tail and crashed on his way to the trails and got terrible road rash down his arm and his leg.

Shayne: Oh, no.

Chris: Ironically rode the trails wonderfully and just tore it up, but tore himself up on the turn on a sidewalk. He looked like he powerslid into home with his bike. He just hopped right back up.

Shayne: Yeah, yeah.

Chris: So anyway.

Ken: So for those of you in our listening audience, Bentonville, Arkansas has become a mecca for mountain biking. The Walton family, the Walmart people they’ve put like 80 million dollars into the trails down there?

Chris: Something silly.

Ken: Yeah something ridiculous like that and it has become pretty incredible.

Chris: One of the guys I rode with said that Slaughter Penn is trash and you should ride the new trails at [Koler 00:03:24].

Ken: Okay. So you’ve all heard it.

Chris: Well it’s not my opinion. I’ll blame, I’m going to leave his name out of it. But it was not me. So anyway.

Ken: Well I’m glad you got some trail time in.

Chris: Just so fun.

Ken: Yeah that’s a good deal. So a couple things that we’ve got going on this week. We’ve got a dad interview with one of our teammates, his name is Graham [Partaine 00:03:52] he lives down in Florida and he’s a guy I met online. As a matter of fact what he did is he gave me a PC to set up in my shed, a very nice gift from him and we’re going to put him on here in a few minutes and listen to what he gets out of training inside with a big group of like minded people. So I hope you enjoy that. We also have our focus question for the week. Shayne would you like to introduce our focus question?

Shayne: Sure. Let me just find it quickly. Oh, there it is. So the focus question is, I’ve just gotten upgrade and gone from near top of one catch to near bottom of the next. How can I get competitive again quickly? Competitive again quickly? So you can’t, but I’ll explain why.

Ken: You can’t get competitive again quickly.

Chris: I reject your answer immediately, podcast done.

Shayne: More donuts for Chris Gorney that’s what you need.

Chris: Dude, I had some amazing ice cream last night that replaced, anyway keep going.

Ken: So it’s a conundrum and for one a lot of us feel ourselves tickling up against the edge of the next cat up and it just feels like we will get lost in the bottom of the next wrung and I went through that. When I started racing C and I started winning some races and I got categorized up and and it was Zwift power and here I am. I’m at the bottom of B and I suck all over again.

Shayne: Yep and we should define categories for Zwift too before we go further. So there’s A through D, so D is one to 2.4 watts per kilo. C is 2.5 to 3.1. B is 3.2 to four and then A is four to five. There’s also an A+ category on Zwift power which I believe is-

Chris: What? I did not know that.

Shayne: Five plus. It’s either 4.5 or five plus I can’t remember.

Ken: I think it might be 4.5 and above. I don’t remember. But yeah you’re right.

Chris: All right we need to call confess what grouping we are in so people can know that and judge us about it and then look us up later and see if we’re lying.

Shayne: Okay. You go first.

Chris: Ken what are you?

Ken: Come on man.

Shayne: I will if you will.

Chris: This is good. I’m upper B towards the lower of A. That’s where I’m at.

Ken: Okay.

Shayne: I am the same. I am upper B towards low A. Previous A+ though.

Ken: No kidding, you made it all the way up there?

Shayne: I did, I did but then I had a kid.

Ken: Yeah baby will knock you back a couple of categories.

Chris: Think you’re a dirty, dirty liar.

Ken: Yeah I’m starting to race in the upper level of the B as well. Haven’t quite made that consistent 4.0 watts per kilogram.

Chris: I have a friend who was racing Mr. Dustin Elliot out of Philadelphia to give him a little shut out, shut out and shout out, both of them. It’s been a long day. A little shout out. He is the guy I’ve had in mind as we’ve been talking about this topic for the last week because I … well it was probably about six months ago he went from B and got into A and started just like racing against a whole other class of guys and he was kind of demoralized. He was winning races all over the place and then all of a sudden we’re rolling with these guys that were putting out 4.8 watts a kilo for an entire race and he’s just gassed. So it was pretty frustrating. He actually kind of worked himself into a hamstring injury.

Ken: No kidding.

Shayne: Oh, that’s not good.

Chris: Yeah. So his legs just fell straight off.

Ken: Wow. I was wondering what happened to Dustin.

Shayne: You only have a span of six watt per kilo in C. Eight watt per kilo in B and then a whole, sorry I should say .6 watt per kilo in C, .8 in B and then you have a full watt per kilo in A. That four to five is a humongous difference in talent and ability versus 3.2 to four isn’t that much difference. But four to five is like going from a cat three to a cat one. So that’s a different category too so maybe we should define those two. So the road category is USS cycling has cat five which is entry level beginner to cat one and then they have continental pro and then they also have world tour pro. World tour pro is the Tour de France guys you see on TV. So those guys are the best of the best.

Chris: That’s like the badger.

Shayne: Just like Ken the badger.

Ken: Pretty much. Yeah when I was younger five years ago. So one thing that I found interesting is the disparity between the different categories and how much training volume they’re putting in. So what Shayne does every week for our audience is he puts up some notes and some case studies and we get to look through it and pick out and decipher as much of it as we can. I was just amazed. These cat one, two guys are training what are we seeing, 14 to 20 hours a week annual training stress of a lot. Yeah.

Shayne: Yeah.

Chris: Does anyone else hope that those guys just have no friends? When I hear that people ride that much I’m like I just want there to be one thing wrong with them. They can’t be great people, they can’t be great dads and they can’t be freaks on a bike. They need to at least be the guy who doesn’t mow his lawn or something you know what I mean?

Ken: Yeah.

Chris: He’s got to be something.

Ken: Yeah well this podcast isn’t for them.

Shayne: Yeah I would probably argue not dads of young kids.

Chris: That’s true. If you’re an A+ rider please stop listening right now.

Shayne: I do work with one A+ rider now with a kid, but he’s a genetic superstar and he’s got a huge volume of training in his history. So he can get away with six to 12 hours a week.

Chris: He can keep listening.

Shayne: But yeah, most of those guys or gals are typically kidless or older kids and they have the time to actually train those hours. So if we run through the hours quickly, so a cat five which again entry level you’re talking three to eight hours per week on average. A cat four is six to ten. Cat three nine to 14 and then as Ken was saying cat one/two is 14 to 20. Then typically what I’ve seen is continental pro is 25 and the world tour is 25 to 35 per week give or take. So as you need to increase your fitness you have to increase your training density like we’ve talked about a couple times not on this podcast. So the easy way to do that is just by making more time to train. So that’s why you should see that disparity between the categories.

Ken: Sure and I guess the thing that amazes me is that you could even ride a bike and absorb anymore training at 25, 30 hours a week or more.

Shayne: For sure, yeah.

Ken: What is going on? What is the nuancy stuff going on with the body at that point that is even yielding any sort of benefit from riding that much?

Shayne: Yeah. That’s when you get into nature versus nurture argument.

Ken: Okay.

Shayne: So a lot of those world tour guys are genetically designed to ride a bike where the average person wouldn’t be able to A, tolerate and absorb that much training stress and B, they’re response to that training wouldn’t be nearly as good. So which we can get to later in the podcast because I have research on this too. But trainability is a big thing where if you give 10 athletes the same program you’ll get one athlete that responds ridiculously well, one athlete that responds not at all and you’ll get six or eight that respond somewhere in that bell curve even though they’re all doing the same amount of training and the same training stress. So you have to have a good setup to that.

Chris: Where would you if you were saying we’re taking cat five through pro, where would you say the line per, this is going to be purely subjective I’m sure. Where do you think the average line if you’re going to compare that to Zwift categories. Clearly the upper one, two pro all those guys are going to be A+. But in your opinion where do you think B lands? Is that cat four do you think?

Shayne: I think that’s cat four and bottom three. Then A is like you were saying one, two. Then C, D is typically four, five.

Ken: Sure.

Shayne: That’s what I would say. ‘

Ken: Sure.

Chris: So let’s come up with a case study here. So you are let’s say a guy is C category and he’s been doing pretty well, been winning some races, feeling good at it. He gets online and goes, oh, surprise I’m now looking at Zwift power and I’ve been bumped to B and now he’s in the B races getting up early, racing those he’s just dogged. What do you say here? He’s like how do I get back to the top of the heat?

Ken: Lose some weight.

Shayne: That might help yeah. Lose some weight. But to a point because Zwift tends to penalize people that are lightweight, at least in my experience where most of Zwift races are relatively flat. So you want to have semi-weight behind you so you can keep the momentum going. So for me I’m only 142 pounds, so if I do volcano flat I have to put out four watts per kilo plus to stay with a guy that’s putting out 3.2 watts per kilo that’s 60 pounds heavier than I am.

Chris: You only weigh 142 pounds?

Shayne: I do, yep.

Chris: You’re like a small little, very cute.

Ken: For our international audience what’s that in kilos?

Shayne: 64 kilos I think.

Chris: Ken, how much do you weight? What’s your kilo?

Shayne: Yeah 64.4.

Ken: Just a few tenths below 70 kilos right now. So 154, 155 and I’m carrying a little extra weight right now. I’m trying to get back to that race weight which is closer to 150.

Chris: Well I am the Clydesdale of this group. So that’s good.

Shayne: How much do you weigh?

Chris: I’m like a buck 60, buck 65.

Shayne: That’s not bad. That’s not bad.

Chris: I like to think I’m more powerful than both of you though, so.

Shayne: Yeah you’d probably smoke us in a flat race you know?

Chris: Yeah we’ll see, we’ll see. That’s a weird conversation. A bunch of men talking about how much they weigh.

Shayne: Well that’s very appropriate for cycling though.

Chris: Very appropriate.

Shayne: More [inaudible 00:15:09].

Chris: So what do we do here? I’m 160 pounds, I just got into B and everything is terrible.

Shayne: Yep.

Chris: So losing weight is not really an option.

Shayne: Yeah losing weight’s okay but it depends if you have weight to lose honestly. The most hard part is what we’ve already spoken about is just don’t let the psychology of losing races get to you because you’re at a new category and a new level of fitness. So that’s probably number one, don’t beat yourself up about it if you’re getting dropped consistently. Then number two is as you get more fit, as you get to and the cream continues to rise people will typically specialize in their role for a team or what events they compete in. So that’s why you have domestiques, you have rollers, puncher, you have the GC guy, you have the climbers, the sprinters. You have those guys that train for their ability and that’s really what they specialize in. So as you get closer to B and A you may want to start to target and actually train your strengths and actually race the races that will adhere to those strengths best, as opposed to be 160 pounds and doing Alpha Zwift you’re probably not going to do very well there. But you may do really well at volcano circuit or something like that.

Chris: I’d like to tell the world that when I got married to my wife I weighed 145 pounds and she made a comment that I was scrawny. So I started doing CrossFit for like four years just to gain weight. So I feel less scrawny, but I’m a little slower on a bike.

Ken: Yeah well you can throw your bike a lot farther than you used to.

Chris: Yeah that’s true when I get mad it’s perfect. I just crush my bike in half.

Ken: So Shayne one thing I’m looking at here is I’m looking at these volume guidelines for cyclists and I think that there’s probably some wisdom that can be gained from this. You probably got up to a category C by riding your three to eight hours a week and now you’re tickling at the bottom of a cat B and you’re frustrated. Well one thing that I did when I first did my first couple of mountain bike races and I just got hammered by these guys is I peeked at all of their Strava profiles and I was like, huh every single person that beat me rides a bike more than I do. Yeah so I think that this specialization is certainly one piece of it, but also getting right sized with how much training volume you’re doing. I feel that it’s realistic if this is important to you and it’s a hobby you find worth pursuing, I feel that the average parent can find six to ten hours a week if they’re dedicated, if they’re willing to turn Netflix off and get into bed a little bit early to set the alarm a little bit earlier and just to make training a priority.

Ken: You can do that without taking away from the other important things in your life, but there’s almost always slack and fluff in everybody’s lifestyle that they can get rid of to find something more meaningful.

Shayne: That’s the thing too. This podcast is geared toward parents that tend to be time crunched. So it may just not be in the cards right now for you to actually train that nine to 14 hours per week which is okay. You may just have to deal with being at that category for a little bit longer, or just maybe expect the gains and the changes to happen a little bit slower, not as rapid as they did when you first started training which I think is true for everybody. The more fit you get, the slower the changes become and the more you have to work for those changes.

Ken: Gotcha. So we talked about the volume piece here from going from category from a category C to a category B. Well what about the intensity factor?

Shayne: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You mean the training stress?

Ken: Right. So in other words so maybe you take a good look you’re like okay I’ve been a cat C and I’m already riding eight hours a week, now I need to take a look at what I’m going within those eight hours and seeing how can I make that eight hours more fruitful?

Shayne: So yeah intensity factor is one where you can generate more TSS per hour. But like we’ve talked about I think the first episode where if you’re just grinding yourself down day in, day out that’s not really good for longevity in training and also in the sport where you tend to see more burn up that way. So typically I’ll see once athletes get to a .85 to .87 IF average for the week that’s basically all the intensity that they can tolerate. Very few can tolerate a .90, .92 IF average for eight hours per week. That’s basically doing VO2 max intervals every time you get on the bike which are horrible. So it takes a very special person to do that.

Ken: Right, right, right.

Chris: That’s the only way I ride. Just get out of my house, I just sprint as hard as I can until I pass out. That’s all I do.

Shayne: So intensity if one way to do it, but it’s okay to do it. But it’s not going to be able to maintain for awhile because you’re just going to get burnt out because VO2 max intervals are horrible. That’s why people do them usually once a week, not five days a week.

Ken: Gotcha.

Shayne: So you know the true best way to do it is by increasing volume.

Ken: So we’ve talked quite a bit about training stress and we’ve defined it, or TSS and we’ve defined it as your training stress score. But you actually broke it down further in your notes for this week’s podcast and explained exactly what that is relative to FTP and I never knew this. So if you wanted to tell our audience about just exactly what it is I think it was definitely illuminating for me to read it.

Shayne: Sure so TSS is an important metric to understand if you are looking to get a little more serious and train with power especially. So TSS like Ken said is training stress score. It was developed by Andy Coggan and Hunter Allen. You probably all know Hunter Allen from Peaks coaching group. He’s a celebrity type coach and Andy Coggan you may not know. If you don’t know him he’s a great google. He’s done a lot of the grunt work and the science behind the cycling. So he’s a great google. But anyways TSS is a way for athletes to objectively quantify their workouts. So you do this based on intensity, duration and also frequency. So if you were to ride 100% FTP for 60 minutes that would be 100 TSS for that hour. You can also think of it as rate of perceived exertion or RPE where if you exercise at level five for a couple hours you would accumulate 50 TSS per hour or about 100 TSS in total.

Ken: Gotcha. So simply put the 100 TSS is one hour at FTP. Yeah, good luck with that right? It’s much easier to do a 90 minute or two hour long workout and try to accumulate that same training stress. I don’t know anybody that can really hold their FTP for an hour. We spoke about that earlier. You’re like wait a minute functional threshold power, you should be able to do that for an hour, but that’s not exactly how it works.

Chris: Right.

Shayne: Correct, correct. Yeah so the true definition is FTP is your maximum power you can maintain in a semi-quasi steady state for approximately one hour. That’s the true definition. So the other thing is time to exhaustion or TTE. So that’s how long you can truly hold your FTP for. So you can do that through WKO with the model say, or you can see what you’re FTP is and then see how long you can hold it for. That’s truly what your TTE is at FTP. Some athletes are 30 minutes, some athletes are 45 minutes. Like you said very few athletes are over an hour.

Chris: That’s crazy. That just makes me want to … just remembering doing FTP tests is the worst thing in the world.

Ken: So coach Shayne how do you test your athletes? I think I’ve seen you basically say that there are shortcomings with doing a ramp test and a 20 minute power test like the 20 minute power test it’s hard to pace it. With a ramp test it may benefit certain physiologies more than others. So how do you run somebody through? So say for instance I call you up, I’m like, “Shayne let’s do it. I’m going to sign up to have you for the next three months. What’s day one look like?”

Shayne: So day one will be typically an FTP test if you haven’t done one in awhile. So I like to test one minute, five minute and 20 minute power all in the same session. So the one minute power gives me an idea of what the athletes anerobic capacity is, or their FRC which is their functionally reserved capacity. The five minute power gives me an idea of what their VO2 max is and then the 20 minute power is at the end on purpose because I’m trying to reduce their anerobic contribution to FTP which is what I spoke about in my article is what I’m testing and things like that. So you’re trying to pre-exhaust the athlete a little bit that way their FTP test is being generated aerobically as much as possible. So reducing anerobic capacity or sorry reducing anerobic contribution doing FTP is crucial.

Ken: So that’s similar to I think I’ve seen that the suffer fest does something along those lines.

Shayne: Very similar.

Ken: Gotcha. So with that data, so you’ve got the one minute, the five minute and the 20 minute power test. Like how do you determine the FTP from there?

Shayne: So I plug it into WKO and then WKO plugs me a modeled FTP.

Ken: Okay.

Shayne: Then I judge that against other charts and other models in there and then if that looks all good and it all jives then that’s what the athlete’s modeled FTP is. Like I said WKO also gives me what their TTE is or their time to exhaustion. So I’ll know approximately how long they can hold their FTP for. So I think that the question is going to be if they can’t access their WKO what would they do?

Ken: Gotcha.

Chris: Right that’s what I was going to ask.

Shayne: So if they don’t access the WKO then you want to do an either longer duration FTP test. So that was my next thing. If I have athletes that are doing iron man or doing really aerobically based stuff, I won’t test one minute power because I don’t really care too much about the FRC and if anything I’m trying to reduce their FRC because I’m trying to up regulate their aerobic capacity. So I’ll do five minute and then I’ll do a 30 or even 40 minute long FTP test and then vice-versa for the track athletes I don’t really care too much about what their FTP is. I care about what their pursuit is or their sprint is or whatever. So I’ll do a 15 second test, I’ll do a 30 second test. I’ll do more testing in the short ranges to build up power duration curve better. So the testing has to meet the demands of the athlete. But most athletes can get away with one minute, five minute and 20 minute tests.

Shayne: If the athlete doesn’t have access to the WKO then make sure you’re doing a hard effort before you do the FTP test. I think Zwift has a three minute effort at 115% FTP before the FTP test and that effort is there to basically decrease the inter contribution you have to the FTP test.

Chris: Interesting. I’ve always wondered that because the first time I did one of those I just looked at the profile and saying bad words to myself. Like I’m about to do this 20 minute effort but that actually is trying to give you a more honest 20 minute effort.

Shayne: Exactly yep. So your FTP is comprised of anaerobic and aerobic energy sources. So you might have on one minute 80% anaerobic and 20% aerobic and then as it goes out you’re going to get less and less anerobic contribution and more aerobic contribution. So the key with FTP test is making it as aerobic as possible. So that’s why you do that initial effort that is quite challenging because you’re trying to fatigue that anerobic system. So you want to start the effort slightly tired, but that’s good because that means you’re going to get a more accurate FTP test.

Chris: Well that’s what we’re here for is accuracy.

Ken: Right and some ways do you think that in the cycling world that it seems to me that we’re falling short by not spending more time talking about time to exhaustion.

Shayne: Yeah I mean it depends on the goal. If the goal is to do time trialing then TTE is really important. But if your goal is to increase your 20 minute power then that’s totally fine. Some athletes goal is to make their FTP higher and what’s wrong with just basing FTP off of just the 20 minute number? So that’s when you get into the argument of how serious do you want to get into this whole ecosystem? How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go? You can go really far down the rabbit hole or not.

Chris: Really what you’re doing is based on the athlete’s priorities. You’re saying let’s come up with a standard unit of measure, use that and judge everything against that. If you’re just trying to get stronger on Zwift with FTP it’s okay to listen to everything you say, say hey that’s really interesting, put it on a shelf and go take a 20 minute FTP test and just use that as your comparative. And yeah see I’m thinking about our audience and what people are talking. If I’m saying I’m going from C to B and my FTP is I don’t know, my FTP is 300 or whatever, I have no idea what my FTP is right now. You’re saying well hey as long as you know that’s your standard and you’re seeing that go up appropriately than it’s fine to use that even though that’s not super accurate. If you’re a professional but for us dads that’s fine.

Shayne: Yeah exactly. I mean I’m not going to train my pros the same way I train my cat fives. That would be kind of foolish. So the different strokes for different folks and I try to mold myself to the needs of the athlete not the other way around. So I try to treat everybody as individual as I can because if I gave a cat five a 45 minute FTP test they would not work with me very long, and also it wouldn’t be worth it. It would be just way too much … you can get away with a much fun way to test it which is one minute, five minute and 20 minute power.

Ken: Right and that’s the whole point of having individual coaches because they drill down exactly on what you need rather than the commodity style downloading a training program online or which works well for some. But not well for everybody.

Shayne: Yeah I’d say it works well for the majority of the population.

Ken: Sure.

Shayne: Then you can just critique it or tweak it if you need to see something different.

Chris: Or skip the hard workouts is what I just heard you say.

Shayne: Yeah, right.

Ken: So Shayne when you work with the pros are they mainly … I mean do a lot of these folks have day jobs or just jobs that have a lot of flexibility or they’re getting paid just to ride bikes or do triathlons?

Shayne: A little bit of each. Some you’re getting paid just to ride a bike. Some are getting paid to ride bikes and also work and some have very flexible jobs. So a little bit of each.

Ken: Right so I know a lot of fast, competitive runners that they might be considered pro but I’m not sure. But they work in running shops and stuff like that or they work as running coaches and that seems to be they’re always in that ecosystem. They have something to do with the fitness industry that keeps them close to the ability to train.

Shayne: They’re more ingrained and down the rabbit hole you go, typically the more you absorb the culture and you become totally enthralled with it. Kind of like Zwift, people get obsessed with Zwift and they become enthralled by it. So it’s the same thing with the IRL guys too I guess.

Ken: Sure.

Shayne: But typically the athletes that are getting paid to do their sport are technically professional and the level of when you get paid to do it is I guess different. But technically if you’re getting paid to do it then you’re a pro, you know?

Ken: Right. Right, I guess for all of us that have read cycling on $10 a day by Phil Gaimon just the brutality of working from the college ranks all the way up to the pro ranks and that he was at one point making a few hundred dollars a month and I don’t know how he was feeding himself. But it was just insanity. He got free bikes and kits which would be amazing, but definitely not enough to live on.

Shayne: No. It’s not a sport you want to make your millions off of unless you’re the top one percent of the world tour guys. Otherwise you’re not getting paid much money. But one of my favorite sayings ever is it never gets easier, you just go faster. So it’s true. It never gets easier. Each category upgrade or each workout or each FTP bump it never gets easier, you just go faster. So it’s the same amount of work if not more work.

Chris: That’s a good life motto also.

Shayne: Yeah for sure.

Ken: Yeah that was Greg Lemond if I’m remembering.

Shayne: Yep.

Ken: Well thank you for all your feedback and research on that stuff. I think that you’re seeing how it plays out and I’ve seen folks that have become masterful in staying just within their category. So there’s definitely some tricks around that and the main thing that I can tell you is stay in the pack. If you want to win without busting category then learn how to sprint.

Chris: Or just continue to change your weight and never get high enough where they have to actually test your weight in person, which I have for sure seen some people who’s weight … you look at their weight listing you’re like how did that change so quickly? You’re seeing it go up and down just a little bit. I think we’ve all probably seen that on there. It’s a little shady. A little dirty Zwifting.

Shayne: Yeah for sure. My favorite recent one is the height thing. Did you see that? People were adjusting their height.

Chris: Really?

Ken: So tell me about how height plays into the algorithm? I was talking about this earlier but it makes a big difference in your drafting doesn’t it or aerodynamics?

Shayne: Huge difference, yeah. The shorter you are the more aerodynamic you get on Zwift and then vice-versa. The taller you are the more drag you experience. So people were instead of changing your weight because weight has been tracked on Zwift power for a long time, they would just change their height and get away with it Scott free. So people would be like two feet shorter for some races than they were other races.

Ken: Yeah that’s a big difference. So it looks like a bunch of five foot tall body builders that are all 160 pounds.

Shayne: Yeah.

Chris: Well that is one advantage that I have.

Shayne: Now they’re all being tracked on Zwift power.

Chris: I am short. I might not be as light as you guys, but I am short and compact.

Ken: Well there you go, you’ve got the draft advantage.

Chris: I love it. That’s good, so summarizing. If I went from C to B not going to get any easier, I’m just going to have to keep working harder, take my time, be patient if I don’t have more hours.

Shayne: Yeah that’s right.

Ken: Yep.

Shayne: Then ideally increase your hours first and before you increase intensity because intensity is a little bit of a fickle beast where you can do it, but you can’t do it for a long time and it stinks doing VO2 max workouts every day of the week or races every day of the week. So try to increase volume first if you can.

Ken: Right. Gotcha and I think for a lot of folks out there and I think racing all the time you just getting the same stimulus over and over again and eventually you’re just not going to make those improvements. So for me when I took a step back from racing three days a week to doing three training workouts a week I started to just see big improvements in my fitness.

Shayne: For sure.

Ken: Yep.

Shayne: That’s where a sweet spot comes in which is my favorite thing for our time crunch guys and gals.

Ken: Yeah and that’s mainly what I do sweet spots and over/under and that’s about it.

Shayne: I love it. So I will link all those articles and pretty charts and stuff to the show notes like I did last week.

Ken: Great.

Shayne: If anybody is curious and wants to learn more about it.

Ken: Sounds good.

Chris: Does this put us into the dad story Ken?

Ken: All right. So this is the never going pro podcast and we are interviewing one of our team dirt members and his name is Graham Partaine, he lives in Florida. So Graham and I met on Zwift and we’ve done a lot of racing together and we’ve become pretty good friends. One of the reasons I wanted to reach out to Graham is because we’ve talked a lot about balancing work and fitness, family, business. Graham has his own business and often times keeps regular hours, has some travel involved too. So we’re going to get Graham to join us and tell us a little bit about himself. So Graham hello where you joining us from today?

Graham: Hey, yeah in my office at home in Gainesville, Florida.

Ken: Fantastic. So I hear you got the day off today?

Graham: Well I’m running into vacation. We’re getting ready to leave for a trip to head up to Atlanta to go to the Atlanta Aquarium and then Great Wolf Lodge.

Ken: Awesome.

Graham: So preparing.

Ken: So basically Great Wolf Lodge is a giant indoor waterpark and hotel right?

Graham: Yeah it is one heck of a workout too.

Ken: Yeah I think I remember after you said you felt like you had done a triathlon the last time you went.

Graham: Yeah you got to run up and down stairs all day and there’s really not any lines, so there’s no break and the kids are so excited that they don’t slow down. I don’t know where they get their fitness from but they challenged me.

Ken: Sure. Well so how old are they?

Graham: My girls are nine and 11.

Ken: Nine and 11, man I bet they are wide open.

Graham: It’s such a fun age, it’s the best.

Ken: Yeah gotcha. Well so I guess some of my questions for you are so how did you get into riding Zwift and what does it add to your lifestyle?

Graham: You know it’s funny. I’ve always been into the gaming stuff a little bit. I mean growing up and I always thought it was interesting. So I remember seeing on Strava some guys I know it looked like they were riding in the middle of the ocean somewhere on this island and I was trying to figure out what’s going on and where are they? This is when Strava, I mean Zwift was still really new and was still in Beta. So I got in touch with one of the guys and he started telling me about it. I was like man, I got to try that. So I had a dumb trainer with a power tab wheel set up this funky rig in my garage and started doing it. It just fit and I was at a time in my life, you know this was probably five years ago when I was trying to figure out how to stay fit, how to get rides in, how to work and be a dad and it was this awesome thing. I just started having fun with it. Been there ever since.

Ken: Yeah I think I feel part of the same thing. Part of my story was I was always a gym rat, I did a lot of CrossFit and after an elbow injury it just left me so I couldn’t go to the gym. The summertime wasn’t a problem. I would ride my mountain bike before work and then after that happened and it started getting dark and cold outside here in North Carolina I was just really struggling looking for something to do and that’s when I got set up on Zwift. But for me a lot of it has been about meeting this group of people, most of them obviously dads inside riding trainers and it became this huge and unexpected support network for guys that are really going through a lot of stuff. Whether it’s changing jobs, newborn kids, going through a divorce. I mean we see a lot of it.

Graham: Oh, for sure and that was part of it for me. I’m on my second marriage and my first marriage ended I would say is my selfish attitude about my fitness. I was doing iron mans and training like crazy and there’s a lot that went into it. But it was a big blow going through that and I realize now this opportunity I’ve been with my wife now 12 years. But five or six years ago I was running into the same problems and I realized if I go down that path again I cannot imagine going through that with my girls and being responsible maybe with my selfish attitude which I tend to have. So I was not only going through refocusing on my marriage, but I was spiritually trying to refocus myself in a way where I could be a better dad and this all fell into line. It was interesting, when I ran into [inaudible 00:41:10] riding around on Zwift, like “hey man join our team. Bunch of dads riding bikes.” All of a sudden this community came around me that were all trying to do the same thing. We’re imperfect people trying to stay fit.

Graham: We do want to stay fit, it’s great. We want to ride our bikes, but also man being a dad is like the hugest privilege and a lot of work and I found this community that they are doing it with me and I got all kinds of cool support and met great people, met you. It just grew from there. I immediately became attracted to the group.

Ken: That really I think has been the story I’ve heard over and over again. It’s funny to me when you say you were selfish in any way because I’ve never seen that side. I mean you’ve always been willing to put it all on the line for the sake of the team and have always been in that helper role in a lot of ways even though you’ve got the engine, you can definitely win some of these B races. You’re often taking one for the team and I think that is a really cool thing, even if it is just a video game. It is fun to have that opportunity.

Graham: You kind of forget it’s a video game sometimes.

Ken: Yeah, right I know.

Graham: We get so serious. We’re on our headsets, my wife comes out of the garage and talking to each other and it sounds really weird from her side of it. But it’s really great, you know? It’s a lot of fun and it’s definitely made me stronger on the bike. I mean it’s no doubt. It’s up to my fitness level because we’re burying ourselves for each other trying to win races in this awesome game.

Ken: So it is true. So I have a couple of questions for you. What is your next big fitness endeavor? I hear you’re doing some running.

Graham: Yeah there’s some guys that are runners. It was funny when they discord they started a running channel on our discord channel I was like this is a horrible idea. Nobody is going to be okay with that and all of a sudden we had an opportunity to start conversing about the running side of our fitness. I’ve always wanted to run a sub 25 5k and I came three seconds close to it 15 years ago. I was like you know what I want to do this. I started talking with a couple of the guys and one of the guys is a running coach and I was like I really want to try to do this. I’ve actually lost some weight thanks to your help and some of your advice on nutrition. Down 15 pounds.

Ken: Wow.

Graham: Was like this is an opportunity to really go for it. So my goal is this winter to run a sub 25 k. I just got done with some intervals this morning, it’s hard.

Ken: Well if you stick with it you certainly have the aerobic base from all your Zwift training.

Graham: Let’s hope.

Ken: So well Graham best of luck with your 5k and thanks for jumping on with us today and we will see you in Watopia.

Graham: I’ll look forward to it, thanks buddy.

Ken: All right thanks Graham. Thank you again Shayne and Chris for joining us tonight. Shayne really appreciate all the research that you do for these articles and also again thank you for dirt dad Graham Partaine for sharing a little bit about what his experience is like training indoors. I also want to give a shout out to a gentleman named David who is on our team. He put a lot of work into getting our dirt in real life kits put together. We now have a pack Temo store. I think I’m pronouncing that name right. Anyway you can go to and pick out all kinds of variety of different branded clothing with our dirt team name on it. Anything from arm warmers to nice cycling bib shorts and jerseys. So check that out. We need to get an order in by August the 5th, so a little bit of urgency there. Check it out. I think you’ll like what we have to do. Thank you everybody again for tuning into the never going pro podcast and we will talk to you again in two weeks. See you in Watopia.

The Never Going Pro Podcast – Episode 2

When your training schedule gets derailed by work or family commitments – what’s the best way to get things back on track?

Listen on Sound Cloud –

Now Available on Stitcher and iTunes!

Show Transcript

Ken: So, you guys like jokes?

Chris: I like jokes.

Ken: Okay, cool. Well I got a joke I’m about to drop on you. So a thief … It’s so bad.

Chris: It took everything inside of me not to click on that link you said do not click on.

Ken: I know, don’t click on the dad jokes link. A thief broke into my house last night looking for money.

Chris: Oh yeah?

Ken: So I got up to join him.

Shayne: What? Wow.

Ken: That’s a classic dad joke.

Chris: Yeah, yeah, that’s a classic dad joke. So it just sort of reflects everything about dads inside riding trainers. Just a bunch of cheap dads cobbling together systems like this is not your peloton photo op when you look at the photos of where these guys are getting it on with their trainers every morning.

Ken: Getting it on with their trainers every morning.

Shayne: Yeah, I get it on with my trainer every morning.

Ken: Yeah, that’s great. All right. Welcome everybody to the Never Going Pro podcast featuring dads inside riding trainers featuring GC Coaching. It’s a podcast about riding bikes and parenthood and trying really, really hard at both. I’m your host Ken the badger [Nowell 00:01:10] and with me is Shane Gaffney owner of GC Coaching and also Chris [Gorney 00:01:15] fellow dirt team mate and our marketing consultant. So let me just take a few minutes to catch up with everybody, see how everyone’s week is going. So guys, how is everyone?

Shayne: Everyone’s good here man.

Ken: Kids good?

Shayne: Chris has a sick one at home.

Chris: Yeah my daughter is a champ until things don’t go her way. Then it’s like two legos that don’t connect the right way. It is the world ending. So no, she’s got a fever. She’s fine. I think she’s smart and realizes that when she’s sick she gets to eat all the cheese crackers and blueberries she wants.

Shayne: Oh, boy, yeah.

Chris: She’s not dumb. But no she’s fine. A sick kid at home is often worse on the parent who is watching said sick kid, than it is for the kid.

Ken: I tell you I never minded it too much when I would call in sick and my daughter, she was the most cuddly thing all day. We would just cuddle up on the couch all day and watch silly shoes and maybe the occasionally mountain bike video. So anyway, how old are your kids guys? I’m sure our audience would like to know.

Chris: That’s great, go ahead Shayne.

Shayne: I have an almost three year old named Finn. He’ll be three in September and I have a five month old, well almost five month old named Grace.

Chris: that’s great, I actually thought your kids were older.

Ken: Yeah five months old already. I remember when you were going on paternity leave there for a little bit.

Shayne: Yeah that was back in February, so that was awhile go.

Chris: Ken, you were there at the birth right? You caught the child?

Ken: I wasn’t so lucky. I was down here in North Carolina. I missed the whole event. How about you Chris, how old are your kids?

Chris: I have kid.

Ken: Kid?

Chris: I have a nearly two month, two month old, way off. Terrible father. Nearly two year old little girl named Charlotte.

Ken: Awesome.

Chris: We call her Charlie.

Ken: Okay.

Chris: We live on Charlotte Street, which was an accident but is not everyone the joke they tell us is if they’re the first people to say it. So that’s our thing now. Oh, Charlotte on Charlotte Street. We’re like yeah that stinks. That’s like dad joke number 11484118910 now or whatever.

Ken: Yeah well I’ve got a little girl. She’s almost six years old. So we kept her for an additional year in a five preschool class. So she’ll be starting Kindergarten here soon. Got a birthday in two weeks and yeah, just living the dream man.

Chris: Hey can we briefly, I know this is a podcast about dads, parents, moms which we’re all equipped to talk about of course. Featuring, well we’ll have moms on here soon and training. But can we talk about the Tour de France?

Ken: We can talk about the Tour de France for a few minutes, assuming everyone’s seen today’s stage. Congratulations to Caleb Ewan his first time in the tour I believe.

Shayne: Yeah, yeah.

Chris: Huge. Inches, inches.

Shayne: That is very unfortunate. I haven’t watched one second of the tour this year.

Chris: That’s because you don’t know anything about cycling.

Shayne: Not too much.

Ken: I mean that’s actually a good question is Shayne, are you a big cycling fan or it’s just work to you these days?

Shayne: I’m a huge cycling fan and yeah it’s just work between GC Coaching, Zwift and then obviously two very young kids. I just don’t have a lot of free time on my hands to watch the tour. So I’m hoping to catch up on it this weekend if I can.

Ken: Cool. Well-

Shayne: There’s this sports gold app and it’s really nice because it has a lot of nice recaps of episodes.

Chris: Well it’s not actually nice. Here’s the thing. Here’s my opinion on that which everyone needs to know. It’s not that it’s good, it’s that this year it sucks slightly less than it has.

Shayne: You mean the app?

Chris: Than in previous years. And so, the app. I mean NBC has got to have money, right? They just need to hire one good app developer who’s hopefully not listening right now. Anyway, every time I put it on my sole goal is to not have the stage ruined.

Ken: The first year they came out with that app I actually sent a message to NBC. It was the year where I was like yeah, as soon as … like most of us can’t watch this until we get off of work if you’re in the United States and I jumped on and saw that on the front page or on the home page Wiggins won the time trial with Froome in a close second and they were one and two and I was like, thanks. Good job.

Chris: Thanks guys. Well hey full confession, I have watched nearly every minute of the tour so far. I realize how boring that is, but what I do is I put it on in the background while I’m working and I listen for the words attack or crash and then I go back over to it and back it up 15 seconds and it is an amazingly soothing way to watch the tour.

Ken: Yeah, that’s true. It is a good way to watch the tour and I did that in year’s past. But being the cheap dad that I am, obviously you’ve heard my sense of humor. I now use a different app called Reddit where I go on the peloton community, ourpeloton and just watch the highlights everyday about an hour after the stage ends. That’s it.

Chris: That’s probably a much better use of your time.

Ken: Yeah I actually get stuff done in July now.

Chris: Yeah actually when we got married we didn’t have a TV for a bunch of years because we just wanted to give that a shot. Then my wife got tired of me being sad every July. So one July I got a surprise gift and we have a TV solely so that I can watch the Tour de France.

Ken: That is awesome.

Chris: Which shows you how awesome my wife is and how unhealthy I am. Cool, well it is a good tour. It’s like a changing of the guard. You’re seeing some guys, some older guys seemingly final performances maybe and then some new guys. A lot of cyclo cross guys that are just monsters.

Ken: Yeah I’m seeing a lot of that. But I think the really exciting thing for me is to see how exciting cross country racing has gotten watching the let’s get France race last week and Andora I guess one or two weeks before that and this woman Kate Courtney if you’re not familiar is just probably the most dominant American cyclist right now and maybe one of the most dominant cyclist in the world.

Chris: She’s a phenom.

Shayne: For sure.

Ken: Yep she is amazing. She came out of the NICA system which is basically a high school mountain bike league and it’s proliferating throughout the entire United States. It’s National Interscholastic Cycling Association. So if you are looking to get involved I’ve been coaching as a NICA coach for a local high school for the last season. It was a very rewarding experience and I just love it.

Chris: That’s why you’re always posting stuff with high school students going mountain biking? Makes a lot more sense now.

Ken: Yes.

Chris: I just thought maybe you didn’t have anybody else to ride with.

Ken: Yeah I don’t just show up at the high school and you know.

Shayne: You guys want to go ride bikes?

Ken: It’s a volunteer position but I love it. I pay to do it. It’s awesome.

Chris: I’m sure they would let you pay.

Ken: Oh, they do. Well cool, so this week, so last week we talked about a couple of topics. I can’t remember the exact questions or I want to say two weeks ago. But the focus question for this week is when you’re training schedule gets derailed by work or family commitments, what is the best way to get back on track? So I know that Shayne has done quite a bit of research on this and he’s about to drop the knowledge on us. So Shayne we’re going to turn it over to the brains of the outfit, hear what you got to say.

Shayne: All right.

Chris: We have research. You did research and have citations, is that right?

Ken: Yes.

Shayne: I do. Yeah I try to make sure I can back up what I can hopefully say.

Chris: One of us should.

Shayne: When I read that question I thought of two forks, I guess one fork. One prong of the fork is to talk about detraining and the other prong of the fork is to talk about how to get yourself back on track again.

Chris: Could we call that detraining and retraining?

Shayne: You could, yeah.

Chris: Or is that just stupid?

Shayne: No, not at all. I would say that’s retraining or getting back into shape again. However you want to say it.

Chris: I like the alliteration.

Shayne: So detraining is essentially you’re losing aerobic, anaerobic sprint, endurance, strength. Basically all the things you’re trying to build up with training you’re slowly and steadily losing that. So long story short is as you detrain you lose your high end performance first and you lose your strength and endurance typically last. So that’s why you may have noticed if you do a Zwift race after a long time off you get completely smoked out the gate but you can go out and ride for a couple hours without too much of an issue.

Chris: Okay just to clarify your high end performance, are we talking our one or three second sprint wattage here or something a little longer?

Ken: That’s a good question.

Shayne: I would say something a little longer. So I would say somewhere between the 30 second to five minute range.

Chris: Hm, okay.

Shayne: You actually maintain your strength and your sprint fairly well, the short sprints like five to ten seconds. But once you start to extend that out into the VO2 max range that’s when you really start to see the differences between the detraining.

Chris: So how would I know I have entered, because I’m always thinking every man terms and things like that. How would I know if I have entered a VO2 max effort when I’m out on the bike so I even know if I have it or don’t have it?

Shayne: So typically VO2 max is something you can sustain for five to eight minutes and by the time you get to that five to eight minutes you are completely smoked. So you literally can’t turn the pedals any further.

Chris: What if that’s everyday I get on my bike and I feel it? Is there a problem? Am I doing something wrong?

Shayne: I don’t think so, no.

Chris: Good.

Shayne: Typically you can establish what your VO2 max is in a lab doing a ramp test or you can also use things like WKO software models think your VO2 max is. What your VO2 max is that power, you can sustain that for like I said, five to eight minutes typically depending on your level of training. With the more trained you are, you can sustain it for longer and then vice versa. The less trained you are you sustain it for less. So the big change is in the VO2 max. So VO2 max changes happen because you have decreased blood volume which is essentially your blood plasma, your red blood cells. So you lose your ability to carry your oxygen throughout your body. You also lose your leg strength and your heart can actually shrink in size too, which means the muscles don’t pump as efficiently. You also lose your fat utilization during your training and you become more reliant on carbohydrate which is a big issue because you have a very finite supply of carbohydrate on board and you have practically limited the supply of fat on board.

Shayne: So we train to become … it’s a buzzword to become fat adapted. So we train to ideally increase the amount of fat we use in substrate and then we ideally try to reduce the amount of carbohydrate we use just to maintain it for longer.

Chris: Okay I want you to create me a training manual.

Shayne: Okay.

Ken: Good you just earned another client.

Chris: Hired.

Shayne: You also become less insulin sensitive which means you lose the ability for your muscles to uptake glucose in your bloodstream. It’s like a double-edged sword where you burn more carbohydrate for every pedal stroke, but you also absorb less carbohydrate that you’re intaking.

Chris: Wait, say that again.

Shayne: You become reliant on carbohydrate and then you also reduce your insulin sensitivity which means that your muscle’s ability to uptake glucose into them decreases.

Chris: Oh, so it’s really a two-fold thing. So you can’t get the glucose, which is carbohydrate into your cells.

Shayne: Right.

Chris: But your body is now requiring that you burned more carbohydrate to fuel your efforts. So now it’s like oh, no man your body is basically saying I’m going to burn through these carbohydrates super fast and there’s nothing stored in the tank to keep me going. Okay, okay got it.

Shayne: You got it.

Chris: So donuts is the answer?

Shayne: Donuts is great, yeah. As long as your stomach can tolerate them when you’re going at full gas for sure.

Chris: It’s interesting. As I’ve gotten older my ability to go out and just eat crap food has for sure gone down as it does.

Shayne: Yeah.

Chris: But I think because I’ve both been training on a bike, but also including so many café stops with pastries over the years, that I’ve also been training my body to be able to continue to eat tons of trashy pastries. So I might not be able to go eat fast food anymore, but I can still hammer a ton of donuts without getting a stomachache and I think it’s because of cycling.

Shayne: Sure.

Chris: Which is an amazing joy.

Ken: Yeah that’s good. So I guess Shayne what are your thoughts on fueling with stuff like donuts? Is the fat content too high in them to be really ideal?

Shayne: Yeah the fat content would be too high and it’ll be more-

Chris: Don’t ruin this for me jerk.

Ken: You’re adapted, this doesn’t apply to you.

Shayne: How heavy the food is. The more heavy, the more rich, the more dense the food is the harder it’s going to be for you to digest it. So, that’s why things like easily absorb foods like gels or shoplocks things like that have become popular and also just eating bananas, kind of a more easy to digest foods are popular too. But I think a donut is fine or a pastry is fine or whatever if you’re at a rest stop because it’s something that you’ll enjoy to eat and something that’s going to be absorbed relatively quickly because it’s pretty high in sugar, then I don’t see any problem with it you know? But for a race, probably not good.

Chris: Plus café stops. I know it’s not riding indoors on trainers like we do.

Shayne: For sure, yeah.

Chris: But café stop I think is a crucial part of outdoor cycling and I think everyone’s got their mileage. Ken do you have a mileage minimum you have to ride before you allow yourself to have a café stop?

Ken: Man, no not really. Usually my bike rides being a dad with a tight schedule I rarely get the luxury of doing the café stop. I usually have just enough time to … and for me it’s not road riding anymore. I can tell you a little anecdote about why here in a minute. But I threw my bike in the back of the truck and go to the trail and I ride for as long as I can and then drive back and fortunately I’m close to having some really close single track trails to my house. I’m mainly just a mountain biker or riding on Zwift. I can ride my bike straight to the trail head from here. But yeah, one morning about it was almost two years ago I was out mountain biking. Had just hit a whole bunch of PRs and was segment seeking for Strava and got some top tens and just cruising back through town in a bike lane and somebody pulled out in front of me and sent me over their hood.

Ken: You know ever since that day I just have not had the desire to go out on the road and I’ve only been on the road maybe a half a dozen or ten times since then and that was two years ago.

Shayne: I can’t blame you at all for that one.

Chris: Those are scary things man.

Ken: This is not for anybody, I’m not trying to use scare tactics. That’s just my reality and my risk assessment. I haven’t missed it. Once I got onto Zwift it was so engaging the way dads inside riding trainers or DIRT had set it up with the voice chat and we started creating our own races and it’s such a rich community that it’s very engaging. Then I get my outdoor fix by going out on my mountain bike when I can.

Chris: What a funny ad to the discord, like the target audience. They started this thing and they’ve got it all built around video game chats and all of a sudden thousands and thousands of strangely and awkwardly fit middle aged people all of a sudden get on discord to talk about cycling at five in the morning. I’m sure they’re just sitting in their office going, “I mean okay I don’t know what this is about maybe it’ll make me more money sure.”

Ken: Yeah this is fantastic. Who are these guys? Yeah.

Chris: Yeah seriously.

Ken: No that would be great. So Shayne I was looking under your notes and there’s some really shocking things that I saw that what you mentioned you typically see a fitness decrease two to three times as fast as it is regained in sedentary people?

Shayne: Yeah sedentary people.

Ken: Okay, so tell me a little bit more about that versus somebody like you mentioned Miguel Indurain later in the article and so explain the difference between your couch potato that’s just been riding for the summertime and has gone back to the couch versus Miguel Indurain.

Shayne: Sure. Yeah so I wanted to take two different athletes types because Zwift is very encompassing and hopefully the podcast listeners are too where some athletes are going to be very highly trained and some athletes are going to be more of a summer fair-weather type riders. So the big thing with detraining is the more fitness you have the less the detraining is going to affect you and the slower the decreases are going to be. So this one study I found published by Nolan he took a group of sedentary individuals and he had them do a 13 week training routine and then he separated it out into two groups, one group didn’t do anything for a month and the other group did a decreased amount of exercise for a month. So both groups lost a considerable amount of fitness because I think, I can’t remember the exact number, but it was a 60% decrease in training for the group that still trained. But what was shocking was the group that didn’t do any training after just one week of doing no exercise, all of their response training was abolished completely. So it was almost like they never had never trained before a day in their life.

Chris: Wow that is crazy.

Shayne: Remember we’re talking sedentary. So, if you’re the kind of rider that rides from June to September and then you put your bike away, you’re going to lose all that fitness you’ve gained in about a week or two weeks believe it or not.

Chris: Damn.

Shayne: That’s why it’s really key to, which we’ll get to later, is to keep yourself going ideally all year around doing something. It doesn’t have to be necessarily cycling, it could be cross training, but something that’s going to be cardiovascular demanding for you to do.

Ken: So did you say there was a second group that just trained less, like they lowered their volume down?

Shayne: They trained 60% less than they did during the 13 weeks and they also had decrease in VO2 maxes, things like that. But their diminishes were nowhere near as bad as they were for the group that did one week of nothing at all.

Ken: Gotcha. So the key is just don’t go back to the couch completely, just keep doing something.

Shayne: Exactly. Yeah, especially if you are a sedentary type where you’re getting into things because by the time you get to the 13th, 14th week you’ll have some decent fitness built up. But the fitness is going to be very fleeting where you only have about a week before you lose it all if you don’t do anything at all.

Chris: So essentially if you’re someone who’s relatively fit and staying active in some way then you’ll maintain a decent base is really the terminology we could maybe use?

Shayne: Sure, exactly. The more fit you are and more importantly the longer you’ve been fit the better it’s going to be for your longevity in terms of fitness where you’ll lose fitness a lot slower than the average person that is more sedentary, more sitting for work, things like that.

Chris: I tried to pull up some of the graphs you sent us while you were talking but then I quickly gave up because I know absolutely what none of this means. So I mean I feel like we could do a podcast on you describing how to read these graphs, but no one would listen to that.

Shayne: Yeah I don’t want it to be like that either. I want to give the information in a digestible and understandable format. I know when I get into physiology, biology all that stuff because that’s kind of boring.

Chris: Would you say that your description of this study would be like a simple carbohydrate that you could digest easily for quick absorption, not a donut.

Shayne: Not a donut yeah.

Chris: Perhaps.

Shayne: But like I said too, I mean if you like donuts then live life man, enjoy it.

Chris: Okay, I should be clear. I’m using donuts as a cloak wheel, shorthand for pretty much all pastries. But, that’s a different podcast.

Ken: Yeah okay so tell us what happened. Tell us the story about Miguel Indurain, we’re dying to know.

Shayne: So the other side of this coin is an elite athlete and Miguel Indurain is obviously a freak of his time. So just to give you some-

Ken: And for our audience he won the Tour de France five times.

Shayne: Right.

Ken: He’s one of three people that have ever done that.

Chris: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It’s like ’90 or ’91 to ’95 or something like that.

Shayne: Yeah.

Ken: Right, right.

Shayne: So I’m going to give you numbers from testing he did in 1996 and then I’ll compare that to testing he did with this test which was I should know that number. What year that was done. It was 14 years after his retirement. So he’s 46. So let me pause here just so I can get what that year was.

Chris: I also want to share with you because I wanted to pull it up and look at photos, he and I have the same birthday.

Shayne: Oh, you do?

Chris: Miguel Indurain and I have the same birthday, which was yesterday.

Ken: Oh, man that’s awesome.

Shayne: There you go.

Chris: Put that on the fun facts for the podcast.

Shayne: Let me start that over again. So on the other side of that coin you have professional athletes and I found a very interesting study of Miguel Indurain which was produced by [Moochica 00:25:32] I don’t know how you say his last name. Sorry if I’m butchering that. But he compared his testing from 1996 to a testing he did 14 years after his retirement in 2012. So just to give you an idea of the differences. So his VO2 max in 1996 was 80, which is off the scale freakish.

Chris: Sure.

Shayne: His FTP, which this scientist measured it for the onset of black lactate which is about four millimoles was a 505 watts which put his-

Chris: Oh, my god.

Shayne: Which put his-

Chris: So that would be 20 minutes. 20 minutes of that.

Shayne: Well we’ll get into that later, but FTP isn’t necessarily 90% of your 20 minute power, but we can go into that later.

Chris: Sure.

Shayne: So 505 was his FTP, that put his watt per kilo at 6.23.

Chris: Geez.

Shayne: We talked before the carbohydrate to fat reliance. So, his FTP as a percentage of his max power was 88% in ’96 which means he can work 88% up to threshold by burning primarily fat, which is huge.

Chris: Wow.

Shayne: So he can work up to very high zone three tempo zone, almost into low threshold with burning primarily fat or carbohydrate. Then his last minute for his ramp test was 572 watts. So you can tell just an absolute freak.

Chris: That is a freak man.

Shayne: The testing basically said that he did … you know he still rode during the 14 years between the tests and the current test but it was obviously nowhere near what it was before. So the test he did in 2012, his VO2 max went from 80 to a 57, but a 57 is still superior for his age. His FTP went from a 505 to 360 and his watt per kilo went from 6.2 to 3.9. So even with relatively low training, being detrained he’s still a very solid B, if not A racer.

Ken: Right so that would still put him at, you said that was 92 kilos which I believe is about 200, 205 pounds. So he’s not a little dude.

Shayne: No. He was 81 kilos during his test in ’96. So he’s about 11 kilos bigger.

Ken: Wow he’s a big boy.

Chris: So I mean part of that was with him eating some more cheesecake and drinking a little bit more wine between those two times.

Shayne: Sure.

Chris: Wow.

Shayne: The big thing I said was the carbohydrates. So his FTP as a percentage of max power went from 88 to 80% FTP. So now you’re talking 80% FTP that’s when the transition between fat and a carbohydrate starts. So he’s burning primarily fat at 8% less than he was in ’96.

Chris: Gotcha.

Shayne: So just less “fat adapted.” But the point being he didn’t do jack nothing, well he did. I can’t say he did jack nothing, but he did way less training for over 14 years and he’s still a solid B+, A- racer relative to a sedentary individual who does three months of training and they take one week off and they lose everything that they’ve gained.

Ken: Right, right. He was probably training 20, 25 hours a week for a decade.

Shayne: At least. Probably, if not more.

Chris: You know he could still dig and find a gear and just hammer for a few minutes.

Shayne: For sure. Yeah I mean his last minute of the ramp test was still a 450 watts. So there was 572 in ’96.

Chris: That’s just stupid.

Shayne: It was still a 450 in 2012.

Chris: A couple weeks ago I was on a group ride and there were these two older guys whose names I won’t share, but they, wow they were probably both 60 plus, both of them were Olympic medalists in different cycling events from years gone by and holy crap. It’s exactly what you’re talking about. These guys were just leading the train and I mean they were working hard, but even if you didn’t know … I mean if you would have just joined the group and you didn’t know that these guys were Olympians you’d be asking like who the heck are these guys? It was just a different-

Shayne: It’s a different animal.

Chris: It’s just a different level.

Shayne: Yes, absolutely.

Chris: Yeah it’s unbelievable.

Ken: So Shayne let me ask you this, so I’m somewhere in the middle between Al Bundy and Miguel Indurain-

Chris: Yeah just like everybody else.

Ken: … right exactly. So I’m detrained. So let’s say I’ll give you an example. A couple years ago I got the flu and then I got a sinus infection and then I had a reaction to Penicillin it took me out for like a month. What does getting back on track for our typical listener look like?

Shayne: Before we do that let’s talk a little bit about the differences in zero to two weeks, four weeks, nine weeks and 12 weeks. So for a trained athlete the first two weeks he really won’t lose much of anything and if anything, you’ll actually probably absorb and adapt to the training you’ve done before as long as you were coming into that illness or that time off pretty fatigued. So you’re almost using that.

Chris: Almost like a taper?

Shayne: Exactly, almost like a taper.

Ken: Yep.

Shayne: So the biggest changes I see with the research is two to four weeks where VO2 max can decrease anywhere from six to 20% in two to four weeks which is crazy. That’s where you lose all the blood values. You start to lose your ability to carry oxygen, your stroke rate decreases, all those really unfortunate bad things change. So zero to two weeks you’re in the clear. Two to four weeks is where everything really start to cap and go downhill. Then nine plus weeks that’s when you’re talking a 20 to 25% loss in VO2 max.

Chris: Wow.

Shayne: So it’s almost like if you can salvage it within two weeks you’re pretty good and you definitely want to try to salvage it within four weeks. After four weeks you’re going back, not to ground zero like the sedentary group would, but you’re losing about 25% of your aerobic capability at that point. It’s going to take about two to three times the time you were off to rebuild what you lost.

Ken: Wow.

Chris: Wow. That’s depressing.

Shayne: So everybody don’t take a four week break.

Ken: Right, don’t take a four week break by choice. Obviously things happen.

Shayne: Right, sure. Don’t take it by choice if you can predict it. As far as getting back on track, yeah I like to first take a step back and reevaluate how long have you been off for? What were you off for? I had an athlete this year who got the flu in February and he literally wasn’t able to breath deeply until about May. So even though he could train, he really couldn’t dig because the flu attacks your lungs. So he couldn’t breath deeply because he just had scratching in his lungs from the flu. So it depends on what you had going on, why you took that much time off. Then once you do that then come up with a plan to rebuild the fitness that you lost. Again the plan depends upon how long the break was. The biggest issue I see is people try to jump right back into where they were before their time off and that typically can lead to injury or really burnout because if you can’t hit the same numbers you were hitting six weeks ago and you come back and try to do a workout you could do six weeks ago and you fail it over and over and over again, that’s not going to really be great for the psyche and the overall motivation.

Chris: I was going to say I’ve heard it said many times and Ken, you and I were texting back this yesterday or the day before. If you’re trying to ramp back into a training plan maybe been at rest or whatever and you start finding that you’re failing workouts, isn’t the smart thing to do to decrease your percentage and finish well rather than redline it and fail every time. That’s kind of what you’re saying. If you’re entering back into it, maybe you need to say take a long term perspective and say my goal is fitness not just some sort of idle inside my own heart about feeling a certain way or I’m the hard cyclist. But saying actually I want to get stronger the right way, smart.

Shayne: Right.

Chris: And maybe that means riding less hard for awhile.

Shayne: Yeah I would agree. Ideally you want to rebuild volume first and then intensity second. But, if you’re time crunched then you’re going to have to do what you have to do. But typically I like to rebuild volume first if I can with my athletes and depending how much time they have available to train and maybe zone two, three for the first couple weeks to a month and then maybe throwing in some sweet spot and then maybe going up into more of a VO2 max type efforts after that. But typically I like to play with the train load based off training stress core or TSS, which we talked about last week. Typically you want a TSS decreased by about 50% of what you could tolerate before. So if you were tolerating 800 TSS per week and you took a month off, I would probably come back around 400 to 500 TSS the first week you come back. I actually did this with Eric [Slain 00:35:38] he was another DIRT member, linked this into show notes too as long with the articles.

Shayne: But he went on a two week holiday and his CTL which is his fitness was an 83 and he came back. He left the week of March 18th. He came back the week of 4-8 and his CTL dropped by 20 points. He was tolerating 700ish TSS per week in March and I started him off at a 530 the first week he came back and then you want to slowly rebuild the CTL that you lost.

Ken: Let’s just give a quick shout out to Eric. He is the founder and I guess editor and chief of Zwift Insider.

Shayne: That’s right, he’s my man.

Ken: An awesome Zwift blog, probably the most popular one. So that’s our guy.

Chris: He’s going to write all kinds of great articles about this podcast.

Shayne: Yeah let’s hope.

Ken: He did. He posted an article about our first one. It was a good article.

Chris: So you were talking about TSS score and these guys they talk all the time about peaking and being in good form and why some guys, they’re saying well if they’re going to ride the Giro they’re not going to ride the tour and all the things like this. Why the Dauphine is so important. Is that a metric of them doing a ramp up and they probably have this all graphed out and mapped out of them trying to peak and then not lose because you said that two week window. So that just starts to overlay a beautiful complexity to these training plans. It’s like wait, even me as a normal guy I can apply some of that to my life too. You’re demystifying it a little bit, which I appreciate.

Shayne: Absolutely. Yeah so typically an athlete will have one or two A races that they’ll want to be in quote, “peak form” for. Typically it’ll be one in the early season, one late season just so you have some time to do a little bit of rebuild and transition in between events. Some athletes just have one event per season that they want to peak for. So like we said last time, when you’re on form you have high fitness and low fatigue. So you want to be overloading the body during the base and build phases to ramp up that CTL or that chronic training load which is your fitness based on training peaks. You want to slowly ramp that up over the course of months and then the last week or two weeks that’s your taper phase where you want to try to maintain the CTL as best you can, but let the fatigue drop off so that your form rise. So high form is again low fatigue and high fitness.

Shayne: So you can do that by planning out an ATP or annual training plan and you can do that by year, you can do that by event, whatever you want to do. But it’ll give you a little bit of a roadmap on how much TSS you want to hit per week and then when your taper will be, when your transition will be. So like we talked last week about planning your yearly versus a weekly. It’s always I think better to plan yearly because you get a better idea where the hard weeks will be, where the easy weeks will be and just get a better idea of where you’ll be for your event that day.

Ken: I can see that being beneficial especially with what I’ve been tackling with structured training programs this year. Some of my goals. So I went on vacation just for a week and just ate terribly, put on like six pounds and had a race. I got back on Friday and had a race on Saturday or maybe on Sunday, but I just felt terrible. I had failed a couple of workouts. I had decided to take my old wheel on trainer to the beach with me and do workouts with a power meter instead of erg mode and it just, I lost my confidence from failing all those workouts. Then coming into that race I just wasn’t in a good head space and just got shellacked. But what I’m hearing is I probably in real life hadn’t lost any fitness. It was just a variety of other factors. Maybe bad sleep, bad eating and getting in my head with losing a few or failing a few workouts and that was a big factor.

Shayne: Yeah I think confidence is definitely an under talked about thing in endurance sport which we can talk about at another podcast too. But having confidence and having motivation and drive is I think as important as having good fitness is.

Chris: well they say bonking is as much between the ears as it is in your legs, so they say, whoever they are.

Ken: I can definitely believe that. A friend of ours did a 100 miler, Jason [Muchler 00:40:31] you may have read about him. He was wounded really badly in action and he found Zwift and it’s been really life changing in a positive way for him. But he had a solo 100 miler and one of our friends pointed out like your head is going to give up before your legs do. He suffered it out and he’s one of your clients, Shayne.

Shayne: He is, yep. He averaged 21.2 miles an hour and did it in four hours and 45 seconds. Sorry, four hours and 45 minutes, excuse me. So yeah he crushed it compared to what he was doing last year which is great. I’m stoked for him.

Ken: Yeah that is pretty amazing. So I think this week what we decided to do is really unpack this question in a lot of detail because it applies to so many of us whereas last week we tried to touch on multiple questions. I think we are starting to run a little bit short on time. I was going to get into some of the DIRT origin story, but we can save that for our next episode and have a little fun with telling the story behind that.

Chris: We’re going to start doing dad stories too, right?

Ken: Yep, we’re going to start doing some dad stories and we’re going to pick out one of our members and profile that person and so we’ll really put a human face on what we have going on with dads inside riding trainers.

Chris: Ken, can we ask for stories from dads?

Ken: For sure.

Chris: Are we allowed to do that?

Ken: We are allowed to do that.

Chris: That’s great.

Ken: As a matter of fact on the you can already read quite a few stories about some of the members of our team. Just fascinating people from around the world and they’re all just like us. They’re all doing the deal, trying to stay fit and balancing life, parenthood, work.

Chris: All of the above.

Ken: You know how it is. All of the above. Well guys it’s been an excellent episode. Thank you both for joining in. Shayne thanks for all the hard work and the research putting into this and Chris Gorney again for his marketing efforts and our logos. We will see you all again in two weeks. So everybody ride on and have a good week and we’ll talk to you soon.

Chris: Perfect, thanks guys.

Shayne: Bye everyone.

The Never Going Pro Podcast – Episode 1

In this episode Shayne, Ken, and Chris speak about advantages of planning out yearly training plans vs going week to week, and how to deal with mental fatigue when the body is still strong.

Show Transcript

Ken: Welcome to The Never Going Pro Podcast. Podcast about riding bikes and being parents and trying super hard at both. My name is Ken “the badger” Nowell. I’m on team DIRT, stands for Dad’s Inside Riding Trainers and it’s a group of dads that met on the Zwift Platform, riding early in the morning trying to get our training in and our hustle on before we got our kids ready and got to work. And along the way, we’ve met some really cool people such as Shayne and Chris, which I’ll introduce now. Shayne, would you like to introduce yourself?

Shayne: Sure, so my name is Shayne Gaffney. I’m the owner and head coach at GC Coaching. I’m a level one USA cycling coach, a certified power based training coach and I’ve done a bunch of work for Zwift with their structured training plans and the build me up training plan. Chris, do you want to go?

Chris: Yeah, I’m Chris Gorney and I’m pretty much none of those things that Shayne just called himself. I am just a regular dad. I got involved with DIRT and Zwift because a year and a half ago, my wife and I had a little girl and our time was pretty limited and our little girl got sick early on so I wanted to stay home and stay somewhat fit, so I got into Zwift and just kind of fell in love with it.

Chris: I kind of came on as a marketing consultant and kind of a strategic specialist which is what I do kind of in my regular job. And just fell in love with it. So that’s it, my role is to kind of be the non-Shayne, the guy who’s just trying really hard every day and probably taking myself a little too seriously while cycling outside with my friends.

Ken: Sounds good, well thank you both for joining up tonight and so one thing that we aim to do with this podcast … Obviously we all met on Zwift so that’s important to us and I think the biggest thing that we’ve seen that all of us on team DIRT have had in common is time constraints and really trying to balance, balance family, balance between our own ambitions and training goals. Getting healthy again, which I’ve seen lots of guys come in and lose weight and hit all kinds of fitness record. And also just having a good time and not taking ourselves too seriously.

Ken: And so what we’ve done is we reached out to some of our members and if you are familiar with team DIRT, Dads Inside Riding Trainers, we have over 2,000 Facebook members, about 1,500 Strava members and a pretty large roster, we’re one of the biggest teams in the world. So we crowdsourced some questions and we went to our members and we wanted to find out what they wanted to hear, especially from Shayne because he does have a lot of experience coaching and all of us, we have a lot of questions about how we can reach our goals. So, Shayne if you want to take a look at our questions and introduce some of them and we can start to dig in.

Shayne: Sure, so the first one that got the most kind of up votes on Facebook was the advantages of planning out a yearly training plan versus going week to week or racing and riding all the time.

Chris: You’re saying like racing versus only doing workouts, right?

Shayne: I think that’s what the question was about yeah, so it was kind of “Can I race every day of the week or is it better to do more structure and then how far out should I plan that structure?”

Ken: I mean I have a slew of questions just around this topic right here. So, for instance, what happens to somebody when they race every day? And because what I discovered, for me, was when I started racing three or four days a week on Zwift, for a long time I kept getting faster. I kept hitting power records but that didn’t last forever. I did that for about a year and kept getting better and better and then I started to hit a plateau. So I guess the question is why? What happens to the body or the mind or your system that keeps you from making gain by doing that?

Shayne: Sure. Once you expose your body to the same stimulus over and over and over again you’re going to get diminishing returns on that same stimulus. Once you’re doing a lot of intensity you can get a really good uptick in your fitness relatively early and you can keep that fitness uptick pretty consistent, as long as the races are challenging you. The problem is once you reach your peak of return on training investment doing races, eventually you’re going to plateau like you experienced and then you have to change the training stimulus by either increasing the duration, increasing the intensity again. Increasing the frequency, things like that. But if you just keep doing the same thing week in and week out, you will definitely make improvements, but those improvements will diminish over time.

Chris: Well as you say that it blows my mind because I might be the crazy person, but when I get on Zwift it doesn’t occur to me to even race. I was just blasted by a bunch of friends because they always wanted to do races and the times never worked out and so eventually I just started doing workout plans. So my goal became just get on and basically punish the hell out of myself for an hour. I might have blacked out, almost blacked out on my bike only once, which is what happens when your air conditioning doesn’t work well and your fan stops working, while you’re riding.

Shayne: Ouch.

Chris: That’s a true story. But I started getting really, really bored and then I even found out because if we’re talking about Zwift it’s not as simple as races versus workouts because the racing on Zwift actually takes game skill. If you just get on and hammer, so it’s like the difference between racing and training is actually bigger than just effort, perceived effort and gains. You have to practice both and then you only have what is it Shayne? You said the average rider, the average dedicated amateur which is what I’d consider myself and Ken, we’ve got six to seven hours a week?

Shayne: Yeah in my experience it’s usually around five to seven hours a week and that consists of three to four rides per week give or take.

Chris: I heard Ken does exactly seven hours and one minute per week.

Shayne: That’s good.

Ken: That’s pretty much yeah. If you look at the last year that’s pretty accurate. It’s right around seven to eight hours, very consistent. That’s the only slot that life allows and on these weeks where I go on vacation it’s either way less or way more. So if I’m at home or on vacation I can get 10 hours in and that might happen once a year.

Chris: So how do I pick? Where’s the balance? Outdoors is easy right? I’ve got a race on August 15th, so I’m going to throw a training plan on and I’m going to do it. But with Zwift it’s different because I can race Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. I can race anytime now.

Shayne: Right, I don’t think the intensity is a bad thing. The problem is if you overdo the intensity you can get burnt out and like Ken was saying you also will eventually reach that diminishing return point where if you do the same thing every single week, eventually you’re not going to get any return on training investment and the other issue too is if you are recovered before a race you can dig a lot deeper during that race and that’s going to create, I think, a much better stimulus train and your training response is going to be better as opposed to doing a race fatigued. You’re not going to be able to dig as deep and that’s going to result in maybe a decreased response. So your hard riding and your easy riding all turns into a moderate pace riding. So you’re losing that polarized training approach which has proven to be pretty successful for most people.

Shayne: The less trained you are, the less important it is to do really structured training because you can get a return on fitness just by riding your bike more. So once you get to a point where you’re becoming fitter and you’re getting not to your biological potential but once you’re maximizing whatever time you have available to train, that’s when it’s important to become more structured because that’s when you actually can change what you’re doing. But if you’re out of shape or you haven’t been training for years and years and years, the structure I don’t think is crucial unless you feel like you’re already at that plateau point.

Chris: So less is more, so that more is more.

Shayne: Kind of and it’s also important in the beginning to have fun because if you start off and just drill yourself with structure, because structure is very mentally demanding, especially if you’re time crunched and you have other life stress going on. You have to enter a really stressful structure workout pretty fresh mentally and also physically to get the most out of it. So if you had a busy day at work or you have a sick kid at home or whatever, then you’re not going to be able to dig as deep in that workout and if anything, you’re going to feel the workout which is going to demotivate you for the next time you do it.

Chris: So tell me this Ken, because you race way more right? What’s your best and worst race experience?

Ken: So obviously the best race experience is winning is a lot of fun and I have won a handful of races. So well I started as a-

Chris: Clean though right? Did you do an appropriate drug test before this race?

Ken: Yep, I did. Racing clean. Got a clean tattoo on my arm. But what I did is I started as a Cat C and you touched briefly on the gamification and I had a really, really hard time at first staying in the pack. I was shooting forward through the pack and then falling behind. Then shooting forward to fall. Basically a yo-yo through the pack. It was really exhausting. You just can’t do that so many times before I just popped. Even as a C racer, I never had a very strong sprint. So I could find ways to win by packing at strategic points and dabbing the whole group. But I was never really able to win very many sprints.

Ken: Then in Category B, it’s so competitive and I’ve only won a handful of really small races. For me the reward comes in being able to be helpful to my teammates because it’s such a fun field and it’s very rewarding where we’re on a discord chat channel and we can come up with strategies. My role has been a long range climber. The climbs that are over five minutes long, that’s where I really have … that’s my biggest strength and being able to make the race hard for other GC contenders I can do that in those areas.

Ken: But, one thing that I see a lot of is whether it’s comments on whip gliders or even Reddit you see people comment on the platform and they’re like, “I’m way out of shape I haven’t exercised in a long time, I’m just getting into this. What training program should I do?” I think Shayne touched on this a minute ago, basically it seems to me and I’ve had experience training athletes before as well, is you can almost do anything when you’re really out of shape, you can get in better shape. It doesn’t really matter. You can be very non-specific in what you’re trying to do.

Ken: So I think a lot of people that are new to Zwift are putting pressure on themselves to do certain events and training programs. But it’s like just ride, go have fun. Hit the like button on some people. Give people some ride-ons and make some friends and the friends will keep you coming back.

Chris: Ken you and I met on Zwift.

Shayne: We’re basically best friends now.

Chris: Everyone should know Ken we did have a miscommunication and he sent me a used kit to try on and I thought he was sending me a new kit to try on and so I started wearing it without washing it, not knowing the amount of sweat that I was just absorbing through my skin of just Ken’s funk. So I now know we wear the same size kit and I’m closer to you.

Ken: Shayne what advice do you have for somebody who maybe isn’t very fit, doesn’t ride very much and is just getting into Zwift for the first time?

Chris: That’s a good question.

Shayne: Sure. So I think my favorite national board is the Canadian High Performance Sports Institute right now. They have a really good long term athlete development framework that they use that I like to implement with my athletes too. A few different stages, but the first really four are an active start, the fundamentals and then learn how to train and then train to train. So active start and fundamentals are really when you’re just having fun, getting some interest in the sport. Maybe competing in local organizations or local sports. Once you do that for a few years, get some experience under your belt, enjoy the sport, then you want to get more serious about it then it’s actually learning how to train which is where a coach may come in at the very ground level and teach you about progressive overload, recovery weeks, how to judge your training stress, how to involve nutrition and hydration. Just the real basic, basic stuff. Then once you feel you have a good grasp on that, then it’s time to train to actually train for a specific event.

Shayne: So I feel like people that are coming in new to Zwift they jump right to level four which is train to train or even train to compete and they miss the fundamentals. They miss learn how to train and they miss just an active start, just having fun. So I think the first thing is give yourself a little bit of a break and go in, enjoy the training, enjoy Zwift for what it is. Make some friends, maybe join a team. Get some community and then once you figure out how to use Zwift if you enjoy it, then you get more serious about the fundamentals and maybe learn how to train first.

Chris: What would you say if I got onto Zwift and I’m just going in too hard. What are some warning signs if you’re saying, “hey, I’m listening to this podcast because I saw the name on Zwift, this is my third time riding ever.” People are riding right now are probably listening to this podcast. But they’re not sure they’re into it. What are some signs that maybe you need to chill out, take your time and not just dive in all the way to racing immediately?

Shayne: Well I think the biggest thing is are you actually enjoying what you’re doing right now? If you’re just going in and burying yourself from the get-go that’s really not good for longevity in this sport I don’t think. That’s number one. Then number two is if you are enjoying it, are you giving yourself time to absorb the training stress, time to relax or are you just going in day in and day out just beating yourself up every single day? One thing I’ve noticed people do is they get really motivated but they get almost too motivated and they ride their bikes for three weeks straight and then they burn themselves out in just a month.

Ken: Yeah.

Shayne: That’s true with everybody, especially January, February. New Year’s resolution this is going to be my year. I’m going to go to the gym every single day of this week. I’m going to get up at five in the morning and that’s awesome, but it also has to be sustainable, so. If you’re making changes to your life, they have to ideally be semi-flexible. They can’t be so rigid, but they also have to be sustainable too.

Ken: Shayne one thing that I’ve noticed is that when I’ve gone too deep and I’ve just had a run that seems like when you’re on top and everything is clicking, it seems like it’s never ever going to end. It’s like I’m going to be able to maintain this build up of fitness forever and smash all the segments in my local tracks and then all of a sudden I get to a point where I don’t even want to look at the bike and I feel depression. I feel, yeah. It’s not a favorable feeling. So that’s something I think this leads to a question too, which is how do you deal with the mental fatigue when the body is still strong? That’s one of the questions that was crowdsourced in our poll. So how do you get somebody to reset after hitting that? I’ve seen this happen over and over again. Guys are on cloud nine, they’re so excited maybe they’re screaming and making videos and they’re all in with Zwift and then all of a sudden they’re just gone.

Shayne: So I think in that case having some variety to the training I think is important. Then even riding your bike outside, that’s important too. But if you can do Concept2 row machine or an elliptical or go for a run or just do something that’s not riding your bike that is still active, I think that’s crucial. Then getting outside, I think that’s a big one too because Zwift is so good and they made it so well that it’s very addictive. But sometimes your body just needs to be and your brain just needs to be outdoors, just enjoying the sunlight and it doesn’t have to be riding your bike. It can be just going for a walk or going for a hike. So I think variety and then getting outdoors, I think that’s the two biggest things that seems to work.

Ken: Do you have times of the year with your athletes where you just them off the program altogether?

Shayne: I do, yeah. So we do at least a two week transition period after their last day race of the season. Then we’ll do at least a one week transition period after they have two races in the season. Then some of my athletes will need around this time of year when you’ve already been racing for a couple months and you’ve had a pretty long build up from February to March and April, they may need a week just for doing some kind of athlete choice rises is what I call them. So I’ll basically say go out, ride your bike but don’t worry about cadence, speed, heart rate, just literally put your computer in your cycling pocket and just go ride your bike because they need that down time and they need just to feel the wind in their hair and the sun in their face.

Chris: Wait, so hold on you’re saying that it’s supposed to be fun?

Shayne: Yeah. If I can get one thing across this podcast, cycling should be fun, first and foremost. The title is very tongue and cheek, but it’s also never going pro and it’s true. Very few people go pro at this sport. So having fun is very, very important. Granted, I’m not saying don’t take it seriously, but don’t take it too seriously either which is a hard balance to have.

Ken: Right.

Chris: Yeah. I feel you. I personally like the mental fatigue thing you talked about Ken, I mean that’s huge for me. I would get into these training plans and I used to compete in triathlons and I got up into some of the longer iron man distances and I just got into these rhythms and it was focus, focus, focus. I was the buzzkill who Friday night it was sorry guys got to go to bed at nine o’clock because I got to be in the pool at five and it seems like even just naturally like I only had that level of dedication in me for so long. Then I got to the race and I just didn’t want to do anything anymore. Even that with Zwift I’ll find that I’ll go through seasons and it’s hot or cold. So really trying to find that balance of motivation with training with trying to be productive with still racing. It’s a really hard balance. Then you throw in kids and my daughter is going from two naps to one nap and it’s like just when I get in a rhythm everything changes. It’s like a bowl full of chaos and if somebody can discover a way to continually get stronger on a bike while being a good parent and not lose your job I’d pay those people a million dollars to share their wisdom with. Maybe that’s you Shayne, maybe you’re the dude.

Shayne: Well I know a little bit, but unfortunately there’s no way to make a linear increase in your fitness month over month. There’s always going to be ups and downs to everybody and like I said in the very beginning, most athletes have five to seven hours a week to train. So, once you really get to that seven hours a week training and you’re having quality training every single hour of that week, then you have to either increase the volume and just make more time to train or increase the intensity further and a lot of times the intensity is already pretty high on the seven hour a week training plan or the seven hour a week athletes. So really they have to increase their volume and that’s really hard to do. That’s why pros don’t train seven hours a week, they train 30 hours a week, 20 hours a week whatever it may be.

Chris: Sure.

Shayne: But that’s actually a good segue to go back. Sorry we kept going back and forth. But the first question, the main question was what’s the advantages of planning a yearly training plan versus going week to week? I think you just hit it on the head where if you can plan out your training on a yearly basis you’ll know when the recovery periods are coming. You’ll know when the transitions are going to be. You’ll know when the hard weeks are going to be, when the easy weeks are going to be. I think that’s a great way to keep yourself motivated through the hard times because you know there is a vacation coming or you know there’s an easy week coming. So instead of going week to week which is a little bit helter skelter where some weeks may be hard, some weeks may be easy and you might have a month of hard workouts which can lead to burnout on the fifth week.

Chris: Sure.

Shayne: So that’s why I like training on a yearly basis. Not just yearly basis, but at least having some prioritized approach to your training and I think that’s important for a lot of reasons and I think the motivation and not having to deal with the mental fatigue is one of those big things.

Ken: So where do you get an athlete started with an annual training program. What’s square one?

Shayne: Well square one is counting backwards. So ideally they’ll have a goal then that they want to do well in and then I’ll count backwards from there to whatever day that we start with working together. So some athletes they wait until the last minute. They say hey, I have six weeks before I’m competing in X race. I say well, I hope you did your training because I’m not going to help you much in six weeks.

Chris: Unless they’re willing to write you a really big check.

Shayne: Boy, even then I don’t know. By six weeks the hay is in the barn. But it’s pretty much there. You really can’t cram too much more for that test. So ideally it would be a four to six week build. So it would be the very traditional base builds peak transition, base build, peak transition approach where we’ll do progressively overloading the body during the base phase and then we may continue that progressive overload in the build phase. But usually we’ll do a block approach where we’ll hit X TSS three weeks in a row, have a fourth week of lower TSS and then do the same thing for build number two.

Chris: All right so define TSS. You just said lots of words that make sense to me but I’m also a super geeky bike guy. So explain TSS, talk about peak, talk about overload, even base phase. We’ve got a lot of guys and I ride with some of them who are just brand new to all of this. They bought a bike two months ago.

Shayne: Sure. So base phase I like to define as the period where you increase your aerobic capacity. So basically improving your aerobic ability to generate energy and power the bike. TSS is training stress score. So that’s a way to objectify the training load on your body and it’s also a great way to plot it out on a chart over the course of a week, over the course of a month to see where your trends are and how to keep everything balanced.

Ken: Really quickly just about the training stress score. How is that calculated? Do you use … and again I know some of these things but what software do you use and what metric are you looking at to calculate the TSS?

Shayne: I use training peaks when I plan all my athletes training out. But TSS can be found in a lot of different things and if it’s not called TSS it might be called something else on Strava. I think Strava calls it training load. Then today’s plan may call it something else. But everybody has a way to measure the load on your body.

Chris: See, I’ve always had a bit of a problem with that. You get on, and I’m not saying the whole world needs to get on one boat. But, I think a lot of people out there are going to be on Zwift, they’re going to be on Strava, I also and I’m not trying to say a dirty word amongst Zwift people. But I also love trainer road and I know Mr. Frosty Badger likes trainer road as well. So each of those things has a different score and I know they’re each accurate to themselves, but I’ve always been trying to figure out. So do you have any super specific experience with some of those programs to help us navigate looking at across to translate the different language. I know for instance Strava and Zwift’s are super different. If you’ve got the Strava pro they show you your weekly progression and those scores are ludicrously different than Zwift.

Shayne: Right. So I would think the best way to do it would just be to see what your power is producing, where if you use two power meters you never know exactly how much power you’re producing because the two meters are always going to be different just like a man with two watches never knows what time it is. It’s kind of the same thing.

Chris: Hm, Proverbs.

Shayne: I would pick one program and use that program. You can use the ones like I use Strava for the social component for the pretty pictures things like that. But trainings peaks is what I use for the actual data, the actual analysis the communication things like that. Same thing Zwift is my training platform, but training peaks is my actual analysis platform. After the base phase is called the build phase and that’s where you start getting into more specific training and specific intervals for the goals and the demands of the event. So this is really where the training starts to become more individualized to the athlete where the base phase, it’s a little more general, a little bit more again just about improving aerobic capacity. The build phase is where you start to get into skills work and race specific skills or cross specific skills. Even Zwift specific skills if the athlete is doing a Zwift race.

Shayne: So after that you go into you call it your taper or your peak or whatever you want to call it. Usually it’s a week or two weeks, depending on how long the build up to it was where you decrease the volume, but maintain intensity that way you keep your legs feeling good, but you allow the fatigue to drop off which allows your form to rise up. You might have heard it on the Twitter France or whatever, he’s on good form this year or he has good form today or whatever. Form is essentially when you have high fitness and low fatigue which is what you want to have on race day.

Chris: That’s it. You just changed my life. Good form is high fitness and low fatigue.

Shayne: You got it. That’s what form is.

Chris: Man that’s it. That’s my new tattoo.

Shayne: Then after that most importantly you go into your transition phase which is when you have a one or two week athlete choice ride, whatever you want to call it where you don’t do any structure, you just go out and ride your bike or not. You can go and eat donuts and burritos all day long. Just decompress a little bit and enjoy life for awhile. Then you start back up again either with a build phase if your event is coming close, or if you go into the winter you can do your strength phase or power development phase or whatever it might be.

Chris: Ken I don’t know about you, but the more he talks the more I realize I know absolutely nothing about training that I’ve been doing my whole life.

Ken: Well one thing that I’ve decided to do is I was very confused about training and especially diet. It’s like I feel like I can get on my trainer and do this constructive stuff and follow a trainer load program or I can follow a Zwift training program and do the work. But those workouts usually stop at no more than two hours. It’s easy to eat a granola bar and a couple of Gatorades and I’m fine. But for doing a three a hour bike race in the middle of the summer heat, I was really struggling. I was falling apart. So I reached out to Shayne and he went over my diet, he went over my training. He gave me a little bit of direction that got me going in the right direction like we talked about proper fuel. There’s still a lot of room to grow there. But just having somebody who does this for a living give me some direction was really helpful, it’s worth the time.

Shayne: I appreciate that. Also let me put a giant asterisk right now where this is my opinion and what’s worked for me. It’s based on science as well, but this is my opinion so other coaches may have complete opposite opinions than I will. So take that with a grain of salt.

Chris: I actually think that’s like a huge point too. You know we’re talking about the good, the bad and the ugly. I’m surprised that when I talk to people how few people actually eat while they’re on Zwift. It’s like they’re not outside, they think I don’t need to eat. But if you’re on a trainer doing something for an hour and a half, there’s no way at least for me, there’s no way I can do that with any quality if I’m not eating something halfway through.

Shayne: Sure and it really depends on how long the ride is and how intense the ride is going to be. So as long as you have enough glycogen in storage in your liver and your muscles, you can get through a pretty strenuous 90 minute workout without too much need for extra calories or food. Once you get over that 90 minute mark or if you enter the ride in a nutrition deficit that’s when you have to start to supplement earlier. So that’s where nutrition isn’t a breakfast, lunch, dinner kind of thing. Nutrition is like a 24/7 kind of thing.

Chris: Okay. So let’s get specific. So we were talking about doing stories. Ken I asked you earlier about your funny race stories or your biggest race stories. My worst one was I had a friend from a city, I won’t name, and another guy who they became archrivals on Zwift and they became just to beat the other guy. They never even met. But I guess everybody needs a dragon to slay. This guy was like, I guess it would be funnier if I just named names. So we won’t do that. So he for the very last race for their series on Zwift was like, “hey man, you’ve got to get up. You’ve got to help pull me up this mountain et cetera, et cetera.” He’d asked me for weeks and finally I relented and it ended up with me getting up at 3:45 in the morning central time to be warmed up and ready to do a 5:30 race for eastern time. So I was on my bike at 4:30. I understand I hear the laughter. But I was dead man. I got up to try to eat and it didn’t matter. We started the climb and I was just done. I might as well have logged onto Zwift and then laid back down in my bed.

Ken: Yeah I think I was in that race and I think I know the guys that you’re talking about.

Chris: You know who I’m talking about. So you know.

Ken: Without us getting into too many inside jokes. So we had a 12 week long series and it was the closest battel between the two B guys I had ever seen. The way it played out was beautiful and yeah.

Chris: Let’s call the first guy just Dustin. Let’s just call him Dustin. Might not be his name.

Ken: Yeah. I don’t remember the other guy’s name but it was a really close race. But yeah, I have definitely seen people take Zwift too seriously, to the point their rage is like angry teenagers. Throwing the mic down, throwing the controller down and walking out the room and I’m just like guys if you ever get there it might be time to unplug for a little while.

Chris: So Shayne tell me, okay let’s say I’m going to race like an idiot at five in the morning which I’m never doing again by the way. That was my first and last ever again. I want to race at like 2pm with only retired people. They still beat me, but at least I’ve got lunch in me. So is there ever nutritionally is there even a way to get your body primed and prepped to do something that early that doesn’t require getting up at two in the morning or something? How does that work?

Shayne: Yeah you have to kind of fold your clothes the night before where you want to have a really carbohydrated dense dinner that way your body will replenish the glycogen storage in your muscles because you may wake up in a fasted state which means your glycogen in your liver, but your liver is low on glycogen but your muscles should still have glycogen in them. The fuel, like I said a 60 to 90 minute workout depending on nutrition status entering the ride. Then you can easily top off the blood sugar just by drinking some orange juice or eating a quick bagel or something like that. Typically the earlier or the sooner you have to race the less you want to eat and the more simple the sugar should be and then vice versa. The more time you have you can eat more actual food where you have two or three hours before an event.

Chris: So if I’m going to get up at five and race at 5:30 I should just eat six spoonfuls of sugar.

Shayne: Or honey on a English muffin, that’s a really good one.

Chris: Yeah that’s probably better.

Shayne: A glass of orange juice, things like that. Something that’s really, really simple to digest and something that you would ideally practice before. So the old saying, “nothing new on race day.” Even though it’s a virtual race, it is still a race. So you want to have practiced what your body can tolerate and what you can stomach before. But it’s really important to enter it recovered. So what you eat for dinner or for dessert or whatever is more important than before, because that’s when you have the time to actually make an impact in how you enter the race.

Chris: You guys did not think my spoonfuls of sugar joke was very funny.

Shayne: Sorry.

Ken: We’ll edit in some laughter after. But yeah-

Shayne: Your mic is so loud over there. Yeah I’m going to have to mute your mic. I keep hearing the gate opening.

Ken: Sounds like you’re sucking out of the top of a Redi-Whip can.

Shayne: What are you doing over there?

Chris: I’m sitting down. I’m literally doing nothing.

Shayne: Maybe it’s Ken.

Chris: Maybe I’m a mouth breather.

Ken: All right so Shayne I guess one question that I do have, if you are one of these people you are waking up and you’re on the bike within 30 minutes of your feet hitting the ground, are you just going to have to accept that you’re making some performance sacrifices that you’re never going to be 100% at that time or is possible that obviously you find that some of your athletes do perform best first thing in the morning?

Shayne: I think athletes tend to perform better in the morning, but not first thing in the morning. So they tend to perform better after they’ve had 90 minutes to drink a cup of coffee, have an actual breakfast, kind of wake up a little bit, then ride. I don’t think anybody feels great after waking up and then getting on the bike and then hammering 30 minutes after they wake up. Then the other issue too is we’re not going to bed, well typically I can’t speak for everybody, but we’re not going to bed at 8pm and waking up at 5am. We might be going to bed at 11, 11:30 waking up at 4:30, 5 o’clock. So you’re not getting 10 hours of sleep, you might only be getting six or seven hours of sleep. Also the sleep we’re getting isn’t usually, it maybe quality, but there’s always one eye open or one ear open listening for the baby monitor making sure that there’s no coughing and they’re both still breathing and all those things that go through a parent’s mind the whole time.

Chris: Breathing children are crucial to a strong Zwift race.

Shayne: Absolutely.

Ken: Yeah and I will say this looking back when I first started, when I first had our daughter and I didn’t have a shed yet it was still too cold and dark and my wife she’s a personal trainer so she leaves really early. I would have the baby monitor and watching DCN videos on my iPad and I would set my trainer up in the carport in the freezing cold. So she would wake up and I would hear her on the baby monitor. She was like one years old, two years old. It was miserable and I could maybe do that two days a week just to keep my fitness in the winter time to keep me from going to zero.

Shayne: Sure.

Ken: Is the best I could do. Then I got my shed and got Zwift and even with the most basic laptop setup and space heater next to me, it was a world better than I had ever experienced before. So one thing I think that’s important to keep the knowledge in this podcast is that we’re really in the golden age of indoor training. I mean there’s options and trying to get this across to my cycling buddies, been at it for decades. When I try to speak to them about, “hey man, try Zwift it’s fun.” They just cannot conceive of it because they’ve always done traditional rides on their training and heart rate monitor and they just don’t know better. But that start up investment of spending a $1,000 on a trainer or a power meter and downloading the software and making sure you have the equipment to run it, it’s daunting and it’s hard to see.

Chris: Yeah and it’s a hurdle.

Ken: Yeah it’s a hurdle. It’s hard to say like, “hey listen training on an indoor trainer just always sucks. You’re not going to get me to pay $1,000 to start doing it more.”

Shayne: Right and I can also say that same thing for cycling coaches and triathlon coaches that thought this was just going to be a fad and it was never going to last and why a I involved in Zwift so heavily and why am I involved? It’s the day to days well look at it now. What other cycling team or what other cycling program got 120 million dollar round B evaluation or investment?

Ken: Right.

Chris: Well from my perspective I mean I used to just watch Netflix and be on a stupid fluid trainer and I hated life. But I really felt like I was just trying to hang onto fitness.

Ken: Sure.

Chris: I wasn’t growing at all. But then I started using Zwift through this last winter and I came out of the winter strong and I’m out riding with my buddies and it was let’s be real, it’s more fun when you’re the guy causing people to suffer versus the one who’s at the back of the train suffering. That was just Zwift doing races and doing some soft training plans. I came out of the winter not tired, but I felt strong. So it’s worth it. I think it’s worth the investment.

Shayne: 100%. 100%.

Chris: Free infomercial.

Ken: Yeah hopefully my friends will listen to this podcast and get with the times. Oh, yeah absolutely. Thank you everybody for taking the time to join the never going pro podcast about riding bikes, being parents and trying super hard at both. Thank you both Chris and Shayne for going today and for all of the folks that put forth questions. We really do appreciate it and we hope that you’ll come back and listen to more. So that’s it for tonight and thank you for joining and we will see you next time.

Keto (fat) vs. Carb Loading

Carb-loading before events such as marathons and triathlons have been a popularized and heavily utilized strategy for probably as long as these events have existed. And this is for good reason too. Many studies, beginning as early as the late ‘30s, were examining the phenomenon of how higher glycogen (usable form of glucose) stores in the muscle played a key component in exercise bouts lasting longer than 90 minutes [1]. Researchers then began to discover that higher carbohydrate intake, specifically timed around endurance competitions, improved common endurance parameters such as time to exhaustion (TTE) and VO2 max in cyclists [2]. It’s a tried-and-true method to improving your performance in these long-distance, long-duration endeavors.

Or is it?

As time has gone on and our understanding of sports performance has improved, has a more superior method of fueling before competition emerged?

Well, with the ongoing trend of the ketogenic (keto) diet over the past few years, it looks like carb-loading may have met its match. Let’s dive into both carbohydrate and fat fueling before endurance competitions and see which one reigns supreme.

Holding On To Our Commonly-Held Beliefs

Sports nutritionists have advocated high-carbohydrate diets for endurance athletes for quite some time now. These recommendations are made mostly because of studies that were released between the ‘70s and the early 2000s, indicating that low-carbohydrate diets impair endurance performance by increasing perceptions of fatigue in the athlete [3,4,5].

However, just like anything in science, there are very few things that have such black-and-white answers to them. One study measured the level of intensity of elite cyclists after following 6 days of a low-carbohydrate diet [6]. They found that levels of fat oxidation (the utilization of fat for energy) were increased significantly in the cyclists even after this short-term, low-carbohydrate diet. What this entails is that the athletes were able to more efficiently utilize fat for energy production, even in the absence of carbohydrates.

Another interesting finding by researchers is that long-term adherence to a low-carbohydrate diet (9-36 months) may be just as effective as a high-carbohydrate diet, while also providing various metabolic advantages to the athlete, such as reduced appetite, and a decrease of blood sugar [7]. It was found that when elite cyclists followed a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet (keto), time to exhaustion was not affected as compared to a standard high-carb diet [8]. Surprisingly, even though the cyclists had lower levels of muscle glycogen after following the low-carb diet, their levels of muscle glycogen were similar to the high-carbohydrate group post-exercise. This indicates that a high-fat diet may be just as effective in providing fuel for the body during endurance activities are carbohydrates are.

Could Keto Possibly Be Even Better Than High-Carbs?

It turns out that those who are “fat-adapted” (those who have been following the keto diet for at least 6 months) may perform better than those on a standard high-carb diet. Because those who follow the keto diet have a higher fat oxidation rate, this causes something called a glycogen sparing effect [9]. What this basically means is that the keto-adapted athlete would be able to maintain a high standard of intensity, while having the ability to preserve their muscle glycogen for when they really need it, such as when they need to sprint to the finish line at the end of a race. However, this is only speculation, as the research on keto and athletes in general is quite limited.

The Problem With a High-Fat Diet

The keto diet has been around for decades, being utilized for primarily for children who suffer from seizures, caused by something called GLUT1 deficiency, which is when the body lacks the ability to metabolize glucose as it crosses the blood-brain-barrier.

However, the keto diet is still in its infancy in the athletic world. Most of the studies have not started to develop until the 90s and 2000s. While on the other hand, the traditional high-carbohydrate model has been studied ever since the ‘30s.

Because of this, there are still many aspects of the keto diet in conjunction with endurance performance that remain unexplored. This includes how being “fat-adapted” affects one’s central fatigue and their perception of fatigue during exercise, the optimal composition of the types of fatty acids to eat on the diet, such as saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats, among many other variables.

Lastly, most of the studies that actually are out there are focused on utilizing the diet as a means to control body composition over the long term. There aren’t many out there that utilize it in a shorter time frame, such as replacing carbs with fats in order to see how “fat-loading” would differ from a traditional “carb-load” before an endurance competition.

The Bottom Line

Fortunately, with keto being a popular trend for quite some time now, this creates a higher demand for research regarding its application in endurance activities.

But for now, you have to do what all true scientists do, and that is to use yourself as your own guinea pig and test it out on yourself. Before one event, use a carb-load, and before the next event, use a fat-load, and see how each one affects you.

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  7. Volek JS, Noakes T, Phinney SD.. Rethinking fat as a fuel for endurance exercise. Eur J Sport Sci. 2015;15:13–20.
  8. Phinney SD, Bistrian BR, Evans WJ, Gervino E, Blackburn GL Metabolism. 1983 Aug; 32(8):769-76.
  9. Langfort J, Pilis W, Zarzeczny R, Nazar K, Kaciuba-Uscilko H.. Effect of low-carbohydrate-ketogenic diet on metabolic and hormonal responses to graded exercise in men. J Physiol Pharmacol. 1996;47:361–371.

Supplementation for Endurance Athletes

When we’re training, we want to bring our best. We want to make sure we’re giving it our 110% each and every time we’re going into our training sessions. You make sure that your diet is on point as well, always hitting your calorie and macronutrient targets for the day. With all those set in proper working order, is there anyway else that we can increase our endurance and power during our training sessions? The answer to that is yes. 

Enter supplementation… And no, I’m not going to try to sell you on some magical formula that has even been shown to give the slightest benefits in the scientific literature. I’m going to present you with only what’s worth your investment. These supplements that I’m about to present to you have actually demonstrated their worth in the literature. And to top it off, they’re quite affordable as well. Let’s get right into it. 


An amino acid that is the building block of another amino acid called carnosine, this supplement has proven its merit time and time again for being a fantastic endurance builder. 

A meta-analysis on beta-alanine showed a median increase of 2.85% in exercise bouts that lasted between 60-240 seconds [1]. This was primarily measured by a variable called “time to exhaustion.” The subjects who took beta-alanine were able to last 2.85% longer than those who didn’t during exercise bouts that lasted 60-240 seconds. Although it may not sound like much, this figure is quite impressive for a supplement working on its own accord. 

An important thing to note here is that the benefits of beta-alanine greatly diminish when utilized either below or above the preceding time frame. So bouts under 1 minute or over 4 minutes won’t see too much of an improvement. 

Dose: 5 grams pre-workout


Unfortunately, there’s little evidence to support that creatine is all that effective for muscular endurance performance. But, what we definitely do see is a dramatic increase in anaerobic power.

One study took recreationally active men and took them through 5 sets of 2-minute bouts with 1-minute rest in between on a cycle ergometer. After multiple testing sessions, it was shown that the creatine group increased by 6.72% compared to the placebo and control groups, which, again, is quite dramatic for a supplement protocol [2]. 

This next study fits in perfectly with our previously discussed supplement beta-alanine. They tested for strength via bench press and squat, power output via Wingate anaerobic test and 20-minute jump test, as well as body composition measures [3]. They observed a mild but significant increase in testosterone, which was attributed solely by creatine. The researchers also saw positive adaptations in fat mass and lean body mass as a result of the synergism between the two supplements. And as for the power testing, the increase was mostly attributed to the effects of creatine. Remember, beta-alanine is only effective for bouts in the 60-240 second range, so that can be hypothesized as the reason why we didn’t see a contribution from it here. However, as future research is released, we will most likely see the benefits of supplementing with both of these ingredients together. 

Dose: 5 grams pre-workout


A staple in many people’s lives already, whether it be through diet such as coffee or supplementally through pre-workout products. This timeless stimulant has proven time and time again that it is a major player in increasing both endurance and power.

As it pertains to power, subjects witnessed increases in their power output on the squat and bench press when given a dose of 3mg/kg of body weight [4]. However, improvement was not seen when subjects only consumed 1mg/kg of body weight. So it’s important to experiment with the dosage, as tolerance to this stimulant is widely variable among individuals. 

As far as endurance performance goes, it shows us its magic as well. This is illustrated in a study with 16 elite cyclists; where both 3mg/kg and 6mg/kg doses were given. Both doses showed improvements over the placebo group [5]. What’s interesting about these dosages are that the higher dose didn’t create any greater of an increase in performance than the 3mg/kg dose did. In fact, the 3 mg/kg dose showed a 4.2% improvement while the 6mg/kg dose showed only a 2.9% improvement. Again, as mentioned earlier, this is most likely due to differences in tolerances between individuals. Plus, this proves to us that more is not always better. 

Dose: Experiment with what works best for your body, but 3mg/kg seems to be the sweet spot for most athletes.

Sodium Phosphate

You don’t really hear much about this one, at least in the sports supplement world anyway. But it works quite well for increasing endurance performance, so take notes.

Talking about elite cyclists once again, one particular study used this supplement to test their performance on a 16.1 km cycling time-trial performance [6]. They took 1 gram 4 times a day before the time-trial. What they saw was a slight elevation of VO2 max and mean power output. The researchers believe this supplement works by enhancing the red blood cell’s ability to get oxygen to the working muscles, in this case, primarily the quadriceps. 

Other studies have noted in maximal oxygen uptake; between 6-12%! [7]. Again, what we must remember here is that although these figures may appear small, these are not drugs! Supplements on their own that show improvements even above 1% above normal are something I’d keep in my arsenal for sure! 

Dose: 4 grams per day split into separate doses throughout the day about 1 week before your endurance event.


There you have it. Four supplements that are definitely worth a try if you haven’t given them a shot already. Remember, proper training and diet comes first! Then, and only then, you should add in these supplements. When all that is in order, then you’ll see that these supplements will give you that marginal gain you need over your competition.

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  1. Hobson, R. M., Saunders, B., Ball, G., Harris, R. C., & Sale, C. (2012). Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: A meta-analysis. Amino Acids, 43(1), 25-37. doi:10.1007/s00726-011-1200-z
  2. Kendall, K. L., Graef, J. L., Fukuda, D. H., Smith, A. E., Moon, J. R., Beck, T. W., . . . Stout, J. R. (2010). The Effects Of Four Weeks Of High-Intensity Interval Training And Creatine Supplementation On Critical Power And Anaerobic Working Capacity In College-Aged Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24, 1. doi:10.1097/01.jsc.0000367145.78325.43
  3. Hoffman, J. R., Ratamess, N. A., Kang, J., Mangine, G., Faigenbaum, A. D., & Stout, J. R. (2006). Effect of Creatine and β-Alanine Supplementation on Performance and Endocrine Responses in Strength/Power Athletes. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 38(Supplement). doi:10.1249/00005768-200605001-01454
  4. Coso, J. D., Salinero, J. J., González-Millán, C., Abián-Vicén, J., & Pérez-González, B. (2012). Dose response effects of a caffeine-containing energy drink on muscle performance: A repeated measures design. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(1). doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-21
  5. Desbrow, B., Biddulph, C., Devlin, B., Grant, G. D., Anoopkumar-Dukie, S., & Leveritt, M. D. (2012). The effects of different doses of caffeine on endurance cycling time trial performance. Journal of Sports Sciences, 30(2), 115-120. doi:10.1080/02640414.2011.632431
  6. Folland, J. P., Stern, R., & Brickley, G. (2008). Sodium phosphate loading improves laboratory cycling time-trial performance in trained cyclists. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 11(5), 464-468. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2007.04.004
  7. Czuba, M., Zając, A., Poprzecki, S., & Cholewa, J. (2008). The Influence of Sodium Phosphate Supplementation on VO2max, Serum 2,3-diphosphoglycerate Level and Heart Rate in Off-road Cyclists. Journal of Human Kinetics, 19(1), 149-164. doi:10.2478/v10078-008-0012-z

CoachCast: Time-Crunched Athletes with Shayne Gaffney

Thank you to TrainingPeaks for giving me the opportunity to speak about working with time-crunched athletes on their CoachCast podcast! I think things went pretty well considering I have been sleep deprived with a 2 month old – did someone mention being time-crunched!?

The episode is available on the web, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play Music, and Apple Podcasts. If you would like to give it a listen, please click the picture below and let me know what you think!


Pocket-Sized Cycling Snacks

As a cyclist, or endurance athlete, you are probably already snacking mid training in addition to fueling up both before and after your training session. But, what are you fueling your body with? If you find it difficult to find healthy food options that also fit into your cycling jersey pocket, then it may be time to make some recipes yourself.

I am often asked how much and what to eat both before during and after exercise, but there is also a lot of confusion surrounding store-bought “healthy” sports training snacks. Things like carb-rich gel packs, jerky, or sports bars may be packing in more added sugar and artificial ingredients than you would actually want in your diet.

I have come up with a list of five homemade foods that you can make with minimal effort, and with just a handful of ingredients, that will fit right into your cycling jersey pocket. You can ditch the store-bought sports snacks, and refuel with these options instead.

Five Homemade Foods to Refuel During Training That Fit Into a Cycling Jersey Pocket

#1 Homemade Exercise Bar: Sports or other granola bars are notoriously known for having tons of added sugar not to mention artificial ingredients. Some may even contain gluten, dairy, and soy which are three of the most common food allergens. So, if you are on the lookout for a dairy, soy, gluten, and refined-sugar free sports bar, try making this recipe yourself.

Makes: 8 bars


  • 1 cup of raw cashews (you can swap these out for almonds as well)
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • ½ cup almond butter (use Sunbutter for a nut-free version)
  • ½ cup unsweetened dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. hemp seeds
  • 1 pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt


  1. Add the raw cashews, rolled oats, and almond butter to a food processor or high-speed blender and blend until combined.
  2. Add in the remaining ingredients and blend until the mixture comes together.
  3. Scoop into an 8X8 baking pan (greased with coconut oil) and refrigerate for about an hour or until hard.
  4. Cut into small bars that will fit into your cycling jersey pocket.
  5. Wrap in unbleached parchment paper and store in the fridge until you are ready to head out for your ride.

Nutritional Breakdown (Nutritional information is for 1 energy bar and this recipe makes a total of 8)

Calories: 237

Fiber: 4g

Carbs: 26g

Net Carbs: 22g

Protein: 8g


#2 Bite-Sized Energy Bites: Energy bites are a super popular way to refuel the body after an intense workout or just to enjoy as a filling snack. You can make smaller energy bites than what you would typically make in order to fit a handful into your cycling jersey pocket. Here’s an easy recipe to help you get started.

Makes: 10


  • 1 cup of raw cashews
  • 20 pitted Medjool dates
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup raw unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 tsp. Pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt


  1. Add the cashews, dates, and pure maple syrup to a food processor or high-speed blender. Blend until the mixture comes together.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients blending until combined.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a large glass mixing bowl and refrigerate for about 20 minutes or until the dough is easier to work with.
  4. Form into small bite-sized bites that you can wrap in unbleached parchment paper and toss into your cycling jersey pocket when you head out the door for a ride.

Nutritional Breakdown (Nutritional information is for 1 energy bite and this recipe makes a total of 10)

Calories: 166

Fiber: 4g

Carbs: 25g

Net Carbs: 21g

Protein: 4g


#3 On-the-go Trail Mix: Trail mix makes for a great fuel source during training as you can pack in a healthy dose of carbs, protein, and fat. Trail mix can also easily be packed in a resealable bag and stored in your cycling jersey pocket when it’s time to refuel. Here’s a healthy trail mix recipe you can mix up before your next ride.

Makes: Approximately 3 ¾ cups one serving is ¼ cup


  • 1 cup of raw almonds
  • 1 cup of raw cashews
  • 1 cup of pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup of dried unsweetened cranberries
  • ¼ cup raw cocoa nibs


  1. Add everything to a large mixing bowl and toss to combine.
  2. Store in a glass jar, and pack a handful in a resealable bag to bring on your ride for a healthy and energizing mid-ride snack.

Nutritional Breakdown (Nutritional information is for ¼ cup serving, and this recipe makes a total of 15 servings)

Calories: 143

Fiber: 2g

Carbs: 6g

Net Carbs: 4g

Protein: 5g


#4 Mini Raw Pecan Cookies: You can make these delicious raw pecan cookies without the use of refined sugar, gluten, or dairy making them a guilt-free, and healthy way to fuel the body during an intense ride.

Makes: 12 mini cookies


  • 1 cup raw pecans
  • 20 pitted Medjool dates
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. ground flaxseeds
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut butter
  • 1 tsp. Pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt


  1. Add the pecans, pitted Medjool dates, and pure maple syrup to a food processor or high-speed blender and blend until the mixture comes together.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until well combined.
  3. Place in a glass jar in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
  4. Roll into mini bite-sized rounds and then flatten to shape like a cookie.
  5. Store in the fridge until ready to head out on your ride. Wrap in unbleached parchment paper and place in your cycling jersey pocket for a quick nutritious and energy replenishing snack.

Nutritional Breakdown (Nutritional information is for 1 mini cookie and this recipe makes a total of 12)

Calories: 228

Fiber: 4g

Carbs: 19g

Net Carbs: 15g

Protein: 3g


#5 Roasted Chickpeas: Chickpeas are an excellent source of plant-based protein and a great complex carbohydrate choice for endurance athletes. This crunchy snack will serve as a convenient option you can store right in your cycling jersey pocket to snack on mid-ride.

Serves: 3 (approximately ½ cup per serving)


  • 1 (12 ounce) can of chickpeas
  • 2 Tbsp. melted coconut oil
  • 1 pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and pat dry with a paper towel.
  3. Pour the chickpeas out onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and drizzle with the coconut oil and season with the salt.
  4. Bake for about 30 minutes, checking at the 20-minute mark to make sure that they don’t burn.
  5. Store in a glass jar until ready to pack in a resealable bag to take on your ride.

Nutritional Breakdown (Nutritional information is for a ½ cup serving)

Calories: 221

Fiber: 5g

Carbs: 27g

Net Carbs: 22g

Protein: 6g


The Takeaway

Snacking during a long training session or during a race is essential for keeping your energy levels up to fuel your workout. Try one, or all of these, homemade snack options instead of the processed and sugar-filled options you would find at the store. These snacks will conveniently fit into your cycling jersey pocket so you can easily prep these snacks, grab, and go and refuel as needed throughout your ride.

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Post-Workout Nutrition

One of the most frequently asked questions I get when it comes to nutrition and endurance training is what to eat after a training session. Between all the mixed information out there it can be confusing to figure out whether you should be eating a snack immediately after a workout, or if you should hold out until your next meal where you can fuel up on something a little more substantial.

Read on to learn about exactly how to nourish your body best after a training session as well as when exactly you should be eating to promote post-workout recovery.

What Should You Eat After a Workout?

This is the question that so many endurance athletes ask, and something I want to break down. What you eat after a workout matters, and it matters in a big way. What you eat after working out is going to play a role in your body’s ability to replenish glycogen stores as well as support energy levels and muscle recovery. For this reason, you are going to want to focus on getting enough complex carbohydrates, and protein in your post-workout meal. Adding some healthy fat into the mix is also helpful to support energy levels and boost the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.

Let’s take a look at each macronutrient and break down which foods are best post-training.

Carbs: Carbs are essential both pre and post training to help support energy levels. Carbs are going to be what fuels your body during training and what gives you that immediate source of energy. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all carbs are created equal, so you don’t want to go fueling up on super sugary foods. Instead, you will want to refuel on complex carbs post-workout, read on for specific food recommendations.

Studies have found that combining carbohydrates with protein within 1-3 hours post-workout supports better muscle protein synthesis. So, it is best to pair a complex carb with a high-quality protein source after your training session for optimal recovery.

Protein: As we just talked about, pairing protein with complex carbs after training can improve muscle recovery, so you will definitely want to add some high-quality protein into your post-workout meal. Getting enough protein after a workout is also important to help with muscle growth. Studies have shown that getting just 20 grams of protein after training is enough to promote muscle protein synthesis. You can easily get this in a post-workout meal, or a protein shake made with a high-quality collagen or grass-fed whey protein powder.  

Fat: Last but not least is fat. Fat often receives a bad reputation for inhibiting the absorption of nutrients in your post-workout meal, but this really isn’t the case. Adding fat to your meal may slow down the absorption of the meal, but it will not take away from all of the benefits of those nutrient dense foods you are consuming. So, adding some healthy fat to your meal after your workout can be beneficial, and may help give you an energy boost while also helping the body absorb any fat-soluble vitamins present in your post-workout meal.

When Should You Eat After a Workout?

In addition to what you should be eating after working out, another big question is when. Should you eat immediately, or is it ok to wait a little bit?

Timing is important because you need to replenish those glycogen stores you burned through during training. These glycogen stores are often depleted pretty quickly with endurance training, so you will want to enjoy a carbohydrate-rich meal or snack within two hours of your workout. Eating within an appropriate amount of time plays a super important role in restoring those energy reserves as well as rebuilding muscle tissue.

A meal rich in carbohydrates that is easily absorbed and digested right after intense exercise can also help support what’s called glycogen resynthesis which involves glycogen replenishment post endurance training. Studies have found that endurance athletes can achieve total muscle glycogen resynthesis within 24 hours when consuming an average of 500-700 grams of carbohydrates over that time frame. 

Since glycogen resynthesis tends to be at its peak within the first two hours after training, you can boost glycogen resynthesis by consuming 0.70g glucose/kg body weight every two hours. 

However, chances are, you are going to be hungry and want to grab something to eat much sooner than that two-hour mark, so listen to your body.

Post-Workout Food Options

To help break this all down, here is a guide for some great post-workout recovery food options. You will notice there are options for a full post-workout meal, and some will serve best as an easy to prepare post-workout snack. If you only have time to make a shake, or enjoy a grab and go snack, that’s okay, just be sure to fuel up on a balanced meal within that two-hour time frame after training.

  • Post-Workout Shake: Make a post-workout shake with almond milk (or any other nut milk of choice), a frozen banana, one cup of frozen blueberries, one scoop of collagen protein, one cup of unsweetened full-fat Greek yogurt, two teaspoons of raw honey, one tablespoon of almond butter, and a sprinkle of hemp seeds.
  • Eggs & Fruit: Three hard-boiled eggs with a side of fresh fruit and a handful of almonds.
  • Oats & Berries: One cup of rolled oats, One Tbsp. almond butter, One cup of blueberries.
  • Avocado Toast: One slice of toast with ½ avocado, a sprinkle of hemp seeds, and a pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt.
  • Chicken Breast & Veggies: Grilled chicken breast with bell pepper and cubed sweet potato.
  • Hummus with Veggies & Pita Bread: ½ cup hummus with mixed veggies (bell pepper, cucumber, carrot sticks, celery stalks) and a gluten-free pita.
  • Quinoa Bowl: One cup of cooked quinoa with ½ sliced avocado, ½ tomato, and a drizzle of tahini with a pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt.

The Bottom Line

Refueling your body with the right foods within the right time frame after training can make a huge difference in your body’s ability to recover. It can also significantly help with new muscle growth as it’s important to replenish the muscle tissues with enough protein to repair themselves. Nutrition after an intense training session can also be the key to support an increase in energy levels, so if you find yourself completely fatigued after a workout, you may need to amp up your post-workout meal with added carbs, protein, and healthy fat.

Try out a few or all of these post-workout food combos to see which ones work best for you, and which ones make your body feel the best. Once you find which ones work, alternate them to diversify your diet and provide your body with the nutrients it needs for optimal muscle and energy recovery after each training session.

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Ramp Testing: Yea or Nay?

The ramp test has been regaining popularity for the past couple of years, and for good reason: it takes less time, is slightly less painful, and yields similar results. However, is it a better way predict FTP compared to the 20 minute version? Why do some people have a drastically different ramp test results compared to their 20 minute results? Which one should you use? This blog post will attempt to answer all of those questions, and provide some of the science behind ‘why’ there is a difference.

What is a Ramp Test?

A ramp test is exactly what it sounds like – an athlete starts at a given wattage (typically 100w) and ‘ramps’ up their power every 1 to 3 minutes (typically in 20w increments) until failure is reached. Here is what I do with my athletes:

  • Warm up for 10-15 minutes.
  • Having a smart trainer makes life much easier here.
    • I start my athletes off at 60% of their FTP, and increase by 8% every minute or 2 (based on athlete fitness), until failure is reached.
    • Once you settle into a cadence of your choice you must maintain that cadence, or pedal faster, throughout the rest of the test. For instance, if you ride at 90 RPM for the test you can’t then have your cadence fall off to 85, 80 and eventually 75 RPM in the final stages. Once you can’t maintain your cadence the test is over, but you must push to the point of failure and not give up!

You are looking for a heart rate inflection point for this test.  The inflection point signals the anaerobic threshold (FTP) and can be very hard to see in my experience.  Another way is to take the last COMPLETED step of the test, and multiply this by .75.  This test is also called a Conconi Test.

This seems simple enough to get right, but the research around the ramp test is inconclusive. Furthermore, the majority of the “results” are inaccurate with Carey (2002) finding “a rather low correlation coefficient (r = 0.458), high standard error of estimate (SEE = 10.7 b·min-1), and high total error (TE = 16.7 b·min1)” compared to a computer-assessed decoupling point.

So, the ramp test has issues in terms of validation, and overall accuracy for some athletes, but why is that?

A Crash Course in Energy Systems

The 2 main energy systems at work during an FTP test are the aerobic and anaerobic – also called oxidative and glycolytic. Well-trained endurance athletes have a very high VO2 max (aerobic system), which enables them to ‘oxidize’ fat at a very high percentage of their FTP. There is always a flip side to the coin though – having a well developed aerobic system results in a down regulation of the anaerobic system. This anaerobic system, or the maximum rate of energy production by the ‘glycolytic’ system is sometimes designated by the term VLamax, or maximum production of lactate. In reality this is the maximum rate of production of pyruvate and lactate but since lactate is what is measured “La” has been used for this term. Clear as mud, right?

You’ll remember from a recent article about the Sweet Spot vs. Zone 2 debate in which I detail the change in lactate production from aerobic to anaerobic energy production:

This down-regulation of the anaerobic system means an aerobically dominant athlete will not be able to sustain supra-threshold work for long, but can sustain around FTP for upwards of 60 minutes. In comparison, an anaerobically dominant athlete will be able to push much further over FTP, and not crumble due to their ability to produce a ton more ATP (energy) via glycolysis. Think of a Tour de France climber compared to a track sprinter – they both ride bikes, yes, BUT are completely different ‘under the hood’.

Fortunately, we now have an ability to closely model the amount of work an athlete can perform above their FTP via WKO4. This is called FRC, or functional reserve capacity.

What is FRC?

FRC can be defined as:

The total amount of work that can be done during continuous exercise above FTP before fatigue occurs.

Dr. Andrew Coggan

We measure this ‘work’ in kilojoules (kJ), or J/kg. Below, are the approximate standards for FRC.

Credit: Dr. Andrew Coggan

As you can see from above, the range of ability to perform work above FTP is massive from one athlete to another. With the range in males being 9.0 kJ-35.1 kJ, and females being 6.2 kJ-24.2 kJ. Also, this range can change over the course of a season, which is why it is important to track it, as well as manipulate your training to up-regulate or down-regulate it based on the demands of your target event. You want a relatively low FRC for more aerobically demanding events, and vice versa for more and anaerobically demanding events.

Putting it Together

Hopefully you can see why some athletes ramp tests are extremely low compared to their 20 minute FTP tests, and also why some athletes 20 minute FTP tests are much lower compared to their ramp test. Let’s create an example athlete to drive this point home, but first let’s talk energy conversions:

The energy E in kilojoules (kJ) is equal to the power P in watts (W), times the time period tin seconds (s):

E(kJ) = P(W)× t(s) / 1000

So, kilojoules = watts × seconds / 1000

or, kJ = W × s / 1000

Our athlete, Manny Watts (get it?!), has an FRC of 20 kJ with an FTP of 260w. This means once he breaks the 260w barrier, he has 20 kJ of work he can do before fatigue sets in, OR once he surpasses 260w on a ramp test, he will feel fatigued after performing 20 kJ of work. To make things simple, let’s have the ramp test increase by 20w increments every 1 minute, and let’s come into the test at 270w right after he bumps up from 250w:

270w x 1 minute = 270 x 60s /1000 = 16.2 kJ

So, Manny will feel fatigued around 18 seconds into the 290w step. This doesn’t necessarily mean total failure, just fatigue. At what point total failure will occur is hard to predict as there are a lot of factors at play, especially psychological, but this shows the size of the glycoloytic engine makes a huge difference for the ramp test results.

Utilize the Correct Test

If you have absolutely no clue what your FTP is, or are returning from injury or a long hiatus off the bike, you can use the ramp test results to predict a sustainable pace for the 20 minute FTP test. If you are testing what your Maximum Aerobic Power (MAP) is – which is beneficial to predict how well you would perform during a lead out, long sprint, or short ‘power’ climb – then the ramp test is also beneficial. Knowing what your MAP is, you will be able to better predict how hard you can push at the end of a race (when to start your sprint, and what power to target based on time til the line), how much power you can lay down and for approximately how long to create a breakaway, and if you can utilize the short and steep climbs during a race to your advantage.

However, if you are looking to see what your anaerobic threshold is (FTP) then the ramp test isn’t the way to go as it doesn’t take into account the individuality of what an athletes power is at their VO2 Max, and as discussed above, can overestimate FTP for the anaerobically strong cyclist, and underestimate FTP for the aerobically strong cyclist. Said another way, why would you use a test to predict your short duration power and try to extrapolate that out to what you can sustain for a longer duration?

The best testing protocol would be to incorporate all of the energy systems, test them individually, and create training zones based off the results – which is possible with a skilled Coach and using software like WKO4. The ‘perfect’ test has been attempted by many physiologists and coaches, but has not been perfected yet. However, I must give credit to Apex Coaching for their Sufferfest ‘4DP Test’ as that test is, in my opinion, the closest protocol yet to being able to get a look under an athletes ‘hood’ in less than an hour. Just like anything though, individualization of training, and testing protocols, makes the difference. So, I will test my sprinter-phenotype athlete’s short power more frequently, and my TT-phenotype athlete’s long duration power more frequently to ensure the training zones are correct based upon their individual metabolic system strengths. And, if I am brand new to an athlete with minimal data (which is rare these days) I will use a multi-day testing protocol to ensure they can perform each test at their maximal effort – but even this has conditional caveats like sleep, nutrition, stress, etc. from one day to the next.


The ramp test has its place, but in my opinion, it is not the best way to predict what your FTP is due to the myriad of factors discussed above, but mainly because of the individual variation for shorter duration power outputs. Besides that, the ramp test was designed to see what an athlete’s Maximum Aerobic Power (MAP) is. However, as discussed above there is no ‘perfect’ test, even in a laboratory, as everyone is different and can change by the day, week, month, and year. The best testing protocol is the one that provides the most accurate representation of the metabolic system you’re looking at, and the ramp test isn’t the best option for predicting anaerobic threshold – in my humble opinion of course.

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