Archive for November, 2017

3 Things You Need to Do Before Setting Your Next Race Goal

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In the 1960s, Stanford professor Walter Mischel set out to do an experiment. He tested hundreds of 4 to 5 year olds on what turned out to be a key component to future success in work, health and life. Researchers brought each subject (a 4 or 5-year-old kid) into a private room and set a single marshmallow down on the table directly in front of them. The researcher then let the child know that they were going leave the room and if they didn’t eat the marshmallow sitting in front of them, they would get another marshmallow when the researcher came back into the room. The researcher then left the room for 15 minutes to let them decide: one marshmallow now or two marshmallows later?

Delayed gratification

In the past couple years you’ve probably noticed an inordinate amount of articles, podcasts, and TED Talks on the topic of happiness and life satisfaction. When people talk about being “happy,” there two different aspects to this concept.

There is happiness that we find on a daily basis through joyful activities, and then there is the happiness we find in having a greater meaning in our life that contributes to overall life satisfaction. There is feeling happiness in your life and then there’s feeling happiness about your life.

Happiness about your life sometimes includes going after bigger goals. Pushing yourself to see what you’re truly capable of. Working toward something that brings you both joy (because you enjoyed the pursuit) and satisfaction (because you had to work hard to get it). At some point when you go after a big goal you will be required to trade the immediate perceived reward right now for the bigger reward down the road. Big goals can mean big sacrifices; like not eating the marshmallow sitting in front of you.

If you’ve ever had an unfinished goal, you know how frustrating and heartbreaking it can be. You were on the path to your goal, took an unexpected side trip, and never found the road leading back to it.

What athletes don’t always know is that when they don’t accomplish a goal, they didn’t necessarily fail at the goal—they more likely failed at their goal-setting strategy. Here are three essential and research-proven goal-setting techniques for delaying gratification and holding out for the bigger reward:

Have a plan

You need to know exactly what you want and exactly how you’re going to get it. It’s worth putting in the time to formalize your goal and get specific with your strategy. The more specific you are with your vision and your plan, the more likely you are to take action on it.

Write it down and share it with friends

Athletes who do these two things increase the probability of actually accomplishing their goals. Telling people about your goal and writing it down are added accountability factors that can increase the likelihood that you will follow through with your goals.

Know your why

Why this goal and why now?
Why is this important to you?
How does this goal connect to your values and the person you want to be?

When you think to yourself “I don’t know if I can do it today” and you’re trying to find your motivation, connecting to your why can be a powerful reminder of what’s really important to you and helps you make a decision from that place. It helps you hold out for two marshmallows.

And speaking of marshmallows—you might be wondering what the kids did when the researcher left the room:

Some kids had no problem at all waiting patiently for their second marshmallow. Others immediately grabbed the marshmallow and shoved it in their mouths. And then some of the kids came up with strategies like covering their eyes and sitting on their hands to try and hold out for the bigger reward.

What’s really fascinating are the follow-up studies. Over the course of 40 years after the initial experiment, some interesting differences emerged between the children who were able to delay gratification and choose two marshmallows later versus the children who chose one marshmallow immediately.

The research from this study and subsequent studies on delayed gratification are pretty clear; the ability to delay immediate gratification is essential for success. You set goals to fulfill dreams, to move from wishing something would happen to making it happen. And when you are truly committed to your goal, there is no amount of marshmallows that will derail you. You know that the bigger reward is waiting for you down the road.

Want to learn more about how to set your goals and get that second marshmallow? Check out Carrie Cheadle’s online course “Get Your Goals: Effective Goal-Setting Strategies for Athletes” to learn how to set yourself up for racing and training success. For a limited time, use the code FeedTheAthlete50 to receive 50 percent off the cost of this course.

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Report: The Impact of Running Cadence on Running Economy (ECOR and RE)

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Running cadence is a very interesting aspect of the running form as it can be easily measured with running watches, pods and smartphones. This opens the opportunity for runners to experiment with different cadences to find an optimum.

Many authors, coaches and runners believe that a higher cadence usually improves running form, running economy and performance. A cadence of at least 180 steps per minutes is frequently mentioned as goal, but this number may vary for individual runners.

Recently, we investigated the impact of cadence experimentally in the physiological laboratory of Professor Maria Hopman at the Radboud University of Nijmegen (RUN), the Netherlands. A full scientific paper on the project has been submitted to the Journal of Sports Sciences and Medicine.

In order to share our results with the running community at large, we have written four short, popular papers on the main findings, which can be downloaded from our website, The Secret of Running. These four papers investigate:

The (close) relationship between Stryd power and VO2
The impact of speed on the running economy (ECOR and RE)
The impact of cadence on the running economy (ECOR and RE)
The physiological differences between trained and untrained runners

This article will look at the impact of cadence on running economy. The pictures below show the authors during the treadmill tests as well as some of the laboratory equipment at RUN. The left picture also shows the primary investigator, MSc-student Rick Sniekers.

Trained runners need less power as well as less oxygen than untrained runners

The project included measuring simultaneously the VO2 (in ml O2/kg/min) and the Stryd power (in Watt/kg) of 21 runners (11 trained and experienced distance runners and 10 untrained students) at a moderate speed (lactate threshold minus 2 km/h).

All runners first ran for three minutes at their self-selected cadence, followed by three minutes at a 10 steps per minute higher cadence (the runners were assisted in doing this by a metronome) and finally three minutes at a 10 spm lower cadence. This means that we got a total of 21*3 = 63 data of VO2 and power.

From the power data, we calculated the mechanical Energy Cost of Running (ECOR) with the formula:

ECOR (kJ/kg/km) = P (Watt/kg)/v (m/s)

From the VO2 data we calculated the oxygen cost of running, commonly referred to as the Running Economy (RE) with the formula:

RE (ml O2/kg/km) = 60/3.6*VO2 (ml O2/kg/min)/v (m/s)

We have summarized the results for the two groups and the different cadences in the table below.

One of the most striking findings is that trained runners were consistently more economical than untrained runners, both in terms of the mechanical energy (ECOR) as well as the oxygen consumption (RE).

At the self-selected cadence, the average RE of untrained runners was 242 ml O2/kg/km which was 8 percent higher than the average RE of the trained runners (224 ml O2/kg/km). The average ECOR of the untrained runners was 1.05, which was 4 percent higher than the average for the trained runners (1.01 kJ/kg/km). Based on these results, we hypothesize that training may result in two important benefits:

The running technique improves, which explains the 4 percent lower ECOR
The metabolic efficiency (ME) improves, which explains the even greater reduction of the RE (8 percent)

We note that the self-selected cadence of the trained runners (170 spm) was significantly higher than that of the untrained runners ((152 spm). It is intriguing to question to what extent this difference might relate to the observed differences in RE and ECOR.

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ECOR declines consistently with cadence, RE is usually best at the self-selected cadence

Next to the big difference between untrained and trained runners, the tables show the momentary impact of the deliberate changes in cadence.

As cadence increases, the ECOR reduces slightly but consistently. For trained runners the reduction is 3 percent, for untrained runners it is bigger (7 percent). This reduction of ECOR is probably related to the reduction in vertical oscillation, which occurs simultaneously when cadence is increased at the same speed.

Regarding RE, the impact is less consistent. A lower cadence always leads to an increase in RE, but a higher cadence does not always lead to a decrease in RE. This complies with earlier reports in literature, where researchers have also found that the self-selected cadence is usually best in terms of oxygen use and RE.

We found this discrepancy between the responses of ECOR and RE quite difficult to understand. It seems that the only logical explanation is that the metabolic efficiency (ME) is not constant. This might be related to the findings of some authors that the human body has habituated itself to the self-selected cadence, as a result of which the ME is optimal at the self-selected cadence.

This leads to the intriguing question whether increasing the cadence beyond the self-selected value, may lead to a lower oxygen use on the long run. As shown by the ECOR data, this will definitely reduce the mechanical energy cost of running.

One might hypothesize that in the long run the human body will adapt to this higher cadence, so the oxygen cost will be reduced as well. For this reason, we have started a follow-up project into the long term impact of increasing the cadence.

Conclusions

The results confirm our earlier findings that the Stryd power data and in particular the ECOR can be used very well to optimize training and running technique on a daily basis. In this research, we have found a significant and consistent difference between the trained runners and the untrained runners. The results of the trained runners were superior in two aspects:

They needed on average 4-percent less mechanical energy (ECOR 1.01 vs 1.05 kJ/kg/km)
They needed on average 8-percent less oxygen (RE 224 vs 242 mlO2/kg/km)

We note that the self-selected cadence of the trained runners (170 spm) was significantly higher than that of the untrained runners ((152 spm). It is intriguing to question to what extent this difference might relate to the observed differences in RE and ECOR.

The momentary impact of a deliberate change of cadence on ECOR and RE was more puzzling:

ECOR decreases slightly and consistently with cadence (by some 3-7 percent)
RE is usually best (minimal) at the self-selected cadence

We expected that the reduced mechanical energy cost (ECOR) would also lead to a similar reduced oxygen cost (RE) of running. It seems that the only logical explanation for these puzzling results is that the metabolic efficiency (ME) does not remain constant.

This might be related to the findings of some authors that the human body has habituated itself to the self-selected cadence, as a result of which the ME is optimal at the self-selected cadence.

This leads to the intriguing question whether increasing the cadence beyond the self-selected value, may lead to a lower oxygen use in the long run. As shown by the ECOR data, this will definitely reduce the mechanical energy cost of running.

One might hypothesize that in the long run the human body will adapt to this higher cadence, so the oxygen cost will be reduced as well. For this reason, we have started a follow-up project into the long term impact of increasing the cadence.

Meanwhile, we have started to increase our own cadence in training to habituate our body and hopefully improve our performance. We realize that this will not be easy and may take a long time. But with time and concrete data, we are confident we will be able to get some improvement.

We hope that many readers will join us in this effort. Let’s share our data and conclusions on how we can improve our running form! We are curious to the reactions and experiences of the readers, we welcome you to share these at www.thesecretofrunning.com.

Thank you to the co-authors Ron van Megen and Maria Hopman.

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Surviving the Holidays: 5 Quick Tips for Healthy Eating

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It’s that time of the year when friends and families get together in love and fellowship to enjoy the holiday season and to usher in the New Year. It’s a wonderful time that, unfortunately, can wreak havoc on our eating habits. But don’t despair! Here are five quick and simple tips for navigating the nutritional minefields we inevitably encounter around the holidays:

1. Don’t change your normal diet, especially if you already have good eating habits.

For example, don’t skip a meal in anticipation of a big holiday spread. This is a very common mistake. Eat your normal meals at their normal times and you will find that you eat less at the “event” meals (e.g., Thanksgiving dinner).

2. Eat prior to arriving at a family or social gathering.

With the large amounts of food available at most holiday gatherings, it is very easy to overeat. One way to minimize this is to eat a small meal prior to arriving at the event. Because if you are not hungry, you will be far less likely to overeat.

3. Avoid drinking calories.

You might be amazed at the number of calories in many holiday beverages. For example, a 12-ounce soda typically contains about 150 calories. A packet of hot chocolate contains about 120 calories. And that’s before you add whipped cream or marshmallows! This may not sound like much but it can add up very quickly, and these are some of the lower caloric values. That old holiday standby, egg nog, can have 340 calories in a single 8-ounce glass! So, try drinking lots of water instead.

4. Develop an eating plan.

Don’t leave your nutritional choices to chance, especially on the days of family gatherings. Figure out in advance what and when you will eat. Then stick to your plan. Make sure you incorporate foods you really enjoy. Now is not the time to try to eliminate your unhealthy eating habits. There is very little chance you will be successful. Just try to eat sensible portions and incorporate lots of healthy and nutritionally-dense foods like vegetables as well.

5. Don’t be afraid to indulge—a little!

It’s the holidays, have a good time. Don’t stress yourself out by trying to avoid all “bad” foods. If you want a piece of pie, eat it. It you want some cookies, help yourself. Just don’t overdo it. If you are worried about overdoing it, make a deal with yourself to hold off on the desserts until your last meal of the day (instead of eating them throughout the day). You’ll be less likely to overdo it at this point.

Follow these simple tips and you will make it through the holidays without significant weight gain or the guilt that follows. Have a safe, peaceful and enjoyable holiday season!

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3 Trainer Workouts To Beat the Holiday Madness

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The holidays are a busy and tiring time for us all, but it doesn’t mean your workouts need to be sacrificed. Stay focused on quality over quantity, consistency in workouts, and always remember something is better than nothing—even if it’s just 15 minutes of core work or 30 minutes on the bike trainer.

The bike trainer is ideal for time-crunched athletes since there is limited prep time, and you’re constantly pedaling on the trainer. When you are pressed for time, high-intensity intervals will give you the most bang for your buck since they help maintain your base aerobic conditioning, your power or pace at lactate threshold, and your ability to push maximal efforts.

If you have 40 minutes, you can get in a great workout by doing some upper-end work. Try the “Turkey TT,” which will mainly work your lactate threshold and have you wondering how 10 minutes can feel so long!

Turkey TT

10 min warm up easy
5 minutes build to hard
5 minutes easy
10 minute time trial – best effort for the duration.
Pace the 10 minute effort so that you’re able to finish strong. In the final minute, push hard and sprint the last 20 seconds.
10 min cool down

Upload this structured workout directly to your compatible device:

[FIT] [ERG] [ZWO]

If you have 45 min, try some “Boiling Frogs” where you gradually build your effort across 40 minutes.

Boiling Frogs

*All sets at 85-95 rpm

Ride 10 minutes zone 1, easy
Ride 10 minutes zone 2, steady
Ride 10 minutes zone 3, moderately hard
Ride 10 minues zone 4, hard
5 minutes, easy spin to cool down

Upload this structured workout directly to your compatible device:

[FIT] [ERG] [ZWO]

If you have an hour or more, try a “hilly” trainer ride with constant changes in position, like this “Santa’s Ride.”

Santa’s Ride

Warm Up

30 minutes, building gradually from easy/Z1 to steady/Z2, keeping cadence 90-95 rpm.

Main Set A is 3×8 minutes done as:

2 minutes 90 rpm Mod-hard/Z3 effort;
1 minute standing Hard/Z4 effort;
2 minutes TT position, low cadence (60-70 rpm), mod-hard/Z3 effort.
3 minutes Easy/Steady between reps

Main Set B is 3×20 minutes done as:

15 min Big Gear (TT position, 60-70 rpm), mod-hard/Z3
5 min easy spin between each.

20 min, bottom of steady/Z2, 90-95 rpm

Cool down 10 min, easy/Z1

Upload this structured workout directly to your compatible device:

[FIT] [ERG] [ZWO]

You can also add some core work before or after your workout, or at intervals during your ride to break up the time.

Make it easy to hop right on your trainer without having to take the time to set it up. If you have a space, like a basement or garage, where you can leave your bike set up on the trainer—that’s ideal. A TV or radio or computer to play podcasts in front of your trainer will help pass the time.

I have a music stand set up in front of my trainer where I read magazines (Triathlete, Ultrarunning, Runner’s World, etc.) which helps pass the time and motivate me. It’s typically the only time I get to read since I have two young kids—so I look forward to my time on the trainer!

Always remember to hydrate and fuel well while training indoors. Happy Holidays!

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How to Use Best Bike Split to Plan Your Best Racing Season Yet

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We are entering the holiday season, which typically means fewer races, more (over)eating, and my personal favorite— race season goal setting.

The off-season is also a time for reflection on the last season or seasons of effort. At Best Bike Split (BBS) we’re doing some of our own reflections. November marks three years since we became part of the TrainingPeaks family. Our little startup race day planning and prediction application has come such a long way and grown in ways and directions we had not originally conceived.

As part of that journey I think it’s important to explain how BBS came to be, some of the ways it can be used today for better season planning, and what our plans are for its future.

The Dream

Four years ago I was a PhD student toiling away on somewhat uninteresting projects when I happened to stumble into the Cycling Aerodynamics and Performance Modeling Symposium/Webinar hosted by Jim Martin.

The presentations opened my eyes to the possibilities of applying my specific background of study to cycling. Interestingly enough, this past year I met Martin in Germany before the start of the 2017 Tour de France and was able to personally thank him for unknowingly creating the spark that led to BBS.

My first son was born on July 3, 2013, and during that next week (before the first individual time trial of the 2013 Tour de France) I worked—and helped with the baby—pretty nonstop to develop a prediction model.

Using prior years’ available data, courses, weather conditions, rider performance and any public power files, I created a physics-based model that included physiological constraints to estimate an athlete’s performance.

The night before the Tour stage I went to my wife with a list of predicted times from some of the expected top performers. The excitement on her face seven days post-baby was muted to say the least, but when times started coming in things started to change as the differences were just seconds off the model!

While this is interesting, it’s a ton of work to manually model things, and the outputs are definitely not sexy or really that useful. It wasn’t until I saw the stage winner Tony Martin’s race day plan for that specific race with every section broken down with targets and instructions that I knew what an app needed to do.

For me it’s not as much about the time prediction as much as it is about the plan: How do I race to my utmost ability on the specific course and day? With the growing prevalence of power meters it was obvious that a power plan was really the key. Knowing my programmatic and design limitations, I pitched the idea over fajitas to my longtime buddy and creative/dev extraordinaire Rich Harpel to make it a reality. A few months later he had made the first beta release of Best Bike Split.

The Meeting that Changed Everything

Its funny how reaching a goal often takes a different path than originally envisioned. We were approached by a couple companies in our first six months of existence, but one meeting with Gear Fisher, CEO of Peaksware, sealed the deal of our vision and where we thought things could flourish.

The team at TrainingPeaks is outstanding, and a meeting with Chief Marketing Officer Jeremy Duerksen sparked what is probably the most important feature of BBS. He said the application is great if you know where you are racing and what your goal is—but what about those who don’t? What if we could let users turn the dials and see the impact? The light bulb went off and we started work on what has become the Time Analysis Tool.

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How BBS Can Help You Set the Right Goal

When I used to race I would hear goals thrown out all the time:

“This year I’m going to do a five- hour IRONMAN bike split.”

“If I can just lose five pounds I know my times will be so much faster.”

“I should get a new bike or new set of wheels to improve my times.”

The problem with all of these is that there is usually an unknown basis to them. Let’s say you are racing IRONMAN Florida versus IRONMAN Wisconsin; the effort level to achieve a five-hour bike split is completely different on these courses.

These type of situations are where the Time Analysis Tool is invaluable. Now, not only can you show the expected time of these different courses, but you can vary power, weight and aerodynamics to see what is needed physiologically to achieve these goals.

Using this, you can then set season FTP or weight goals, or even decide which races might benefit your strengths and hide potentially weak areas. It’s the ultimate “what-if” planning analysis.

For even more fine-tuned goals, like many of our users do with their coach, a deeper study of the Time Analysis Tool can provide insight into the best places to attack a course in a road race, where a potential bike exchange in a hilly time trial might make sense, or even goal power for various sections of a long MTB race like the Leadville 100.

While these micro-goals and race strategy concepts do take more planning and analysis, the tools we provide allow anyone from a first time Gran Fondo rider, to the Tour de France teams, and even the coaches of the Olympic time trial champions to fine-tune their strategies for the specific goals of the event.

How Using BBS Can Help You Dial-in Your Training

No matter the distance, every race is different. One IRONMAN can rarely be directly compared to another. The total elevation change and how that elevation is dispersed (i.e. frequency, length and grade of climbs), the wind and weather—even the number of technical turns all play a big role in your specific race.

When you don’t live and train in the conditions expected on race day, the challenge of fine tuning and conditioning your body for the challenges of the course and environment become very difficult. With BBS we have teamed with our partners at Wahoo, Garmin, TrainerRoad and Zwift to mimic the rigors of racing and training for the specific course and race day conditions on the trainer.

By loading a BBS race plan (or specific section of a race) into your indoor training platform of choice you can condition your legs to feel the power needed to race in the different wind conditions or climbing situations you will experience on race day for the estimated time it will take.

Scottish triathlete Graeme Stewart used this technique to prepare for the difficult sections of the 2015 Norseman Xtreme Triathlon. Jeff Agar was able to simulate the impact of pulling his son Johnny and a 60-pound Chariot while indoors in the cold winter months in Minnesota so that he would be prepared to do it during both IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 races.

Because a race is typically not a perfectly steady-state effort, training specifically for the course on longer rides allows you to know exactly what efforts to expect and, more importantly, when in the race to expect them. Sprinkling these simulation efforts into your training provides not only a good race-pace workout, but also confidence that you will be ready for the day.

How to Use BBS to Fine Tune Your Aerodynamics

In the math-modeling world, the data going into the model must be of high quality to get optimal results. The concept of bad data in will always equal bad data out is truly apparent when you run a model and see results that are way out of scope from expectations (or previous experiences).

To this point we know that with so many variables going into Best Bike Split there are a lot of areas where inputs can be hard to fine tune. We have spent a lot of time refining our models behind the scenes to account for elevation data and weather data, but the biggest source of error for most models comes down to aerodynamic drag settings.

Without having access to a wind tunnel or velodrome for testing, coming up with a accurate drag number is a difficult task. To simplify this and allow for a more accurate model we have developed two methods for helping athletes and coaches dial in an athlete’s drag details.

The first is through modeling a previous race in BBS and comparing the model to the actual ride, in a section where you know the athlete was maintaining ideal aero form, using our Time Analysis Tool.

By setting the average power for that section of the model to that of the real ride and varying the drag slider until the times match, an athlete or coach can narrow down a better drag estimate for that position.

Our secondary method is a Beta tool we call Aero Analyzer, which analyzes the athlete’s actual ride file to determine an estimate of both an aero and relaxed position on the bike. This tool is best used with a recent race result or a test ride of 30 minutes or longer where speed and power were varied throughout the ride. As we continue to iterate the tool we expect it will allow for even more analysis and data enhancement.

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The Future of BBS

Best Bike Split has come a very long way since our humble beginnings, but as a new season approaches we are just about to explore our 2018 goals. This year is about helping athletes and coaches achieve the most accurate model possible and highlighting areas of strengths and potential weaknesses.

To do this we are working toward completing our original BBS vision, which not only includes race prediction, training specifically for the course and conditions, and providing a optimal race day power plan, but ultimately completes the feedback loop post-race to enhance future performances as well.

The goals we set today will help us achieve our dream of tomorrow—which is as true for us as it is for all you coaches and athletes out there.

Black Friday Sale! Save 35% Through November 30th

Save 35% off an annual athlete or coach subscription! Sign-up for free or log-in and use the coupon code BBSBF35 to upgrade your account before November 30th.

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