Friday, January 20, 2017

To Record or Not? Using Heart Rate Monitors

The great debate between whether to use heart rate monitors to train or not has been going on for many years. Some say that heart rate monitors are the only way to truly train, while others think that heart rate monitors are a waste of time, effort, and money. Here are some benefits and drawbacks to using a heart rate monitor.

The Hard Truth

Heart rate monitors record you heart in every step of the way. This leads to hard data on your heart’s performance during training, recovery, and racing. Taking this hard data, you can plan for where you need to improve during your races by seeing exactly where your heart needs time to recover and where you need to speed up. 
Knowing exactly what your heart rate looks like during the race will lead to focusing on your pace and better training plans.

Pacing

It may seem tedious, but recording your heart rate data with the finishing times of the legs in your races will improve your knowledge of your pacing. While training, record your heart rate for all stages of your workout. After recording your data you can identify what your heart rate looks like at your normal pace. This comes in handy on race day when you feel like you are going to slow and need to speed up. Look at your heart monitor. Is your heart rate the same as in training or do you need to speed up or slow down? If your heart is already beating out of control, then you should relax so you still have energy at the end of the race. If your heart rate is too low, speed up so you can finish with a better time.

                                                                        picture courtesy of bestelectronicfitnessgear.com


The Recovery Period

A little counterintuitive sounding, but wearing a heart rate monitor and recording the data from it during your recovery will help you figure out how long it takes your heart to recover. Measure your resting heart rate first thing when you wake up after a day of hard training and a day after easy training. If your heart rate spikes on any of these days, you may need to recover for longer. This tells you that your body is overworked and to get the benefits from training, your body might need a different plan to recover. Replenishing your body fully before extreme workouts or training days will help you build more muscle and excel in your time.

Making a Plan

People who train with heart rate monitors know exactly what their body is telling them and therefore they are able to make a training plan to suit their body’s needs, while reaping the benefits on race day. Regardless of what race a person who trains with a heart rate monitor is doing, their scheduled plan allows them to train to the best of their body’s ability.

Conversely, people who have a plan without data don’t know exactly what their training schedule is improving or lacking; it’s all about feeling. Where the freedom is there without measuring heart rates, the facts are not. Having a plan based on heart rates can increase the consistency of improving your race results without stressing on what went wrong during the race. With a heart monitor you know at what point your pace or strategy needs improvement, which helps you tweak your plan.

Drawbacks

As with any technology, there are some drawbacks to racing with heart monitors. If you just want to have fun racing, heart monitor training is probably not for you. Recording heart monitor data is a discipline and if you are only there to have fun, then this might take the fun out of it for you.

There are many factors that may mess with the monitor itself or environmental factors that naturally change your heart rate. Are you not getting enough sleep? Are you dehydrated? Is it hotter today than it was yesterday? Is there extra pressure from work or home life? Are you addicted to coffee? I know I am. Is your gear made out of synthetic fabrics? If there is a possibility of yes from these questions then there is also a possibility that you will get a faulty reading from your heart rate monitor. They are not infallible and they can be finicky which means that some data will be skewed from them.

Heart Rate Versus Lactate Levels

This is the biggest argument against heart monitor training in my opinion. The lactate levels in your blood determine how well your body responds to your training program. Although there are some fancy graphs and equations to figure that out based on your heart rate, they are only averages and not based on you and your body. This means that the training zone you think you fit best into for the particular leg of the race you are on, may not be the one that your body actually fits best into.

You Decide

I recommend trying to train with a heart rate monitor plan to see if it works for you. You never know if you don’t try. If you decide that heart rate monitoring is just not your thing, record your race leg times so you can know which portion of the race you excel at and which portion may need a little more attention.


Beep Beep Happy Monitoring!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Saving Time on Your Ride: Time Trial Gear

There are many different exercises and training routines that help speed up your cycling time, but what if you could improve your cycling time without putting in training hours? Figuring out the best ways to reduce drag and become more aerodynamic on the bike can significantly reduce the time spent in the cycling portion, making you fly by people with a breeze.

Don’t Let Your Clothes be a Drag

One of the best and fastest ways to improve your time on the bike is changing the outfit you wear. Your clothing should not prevent you from getting the time you want on your bike. The outfit that works wonders for making your body more aerodynamic is an Aero Trisuit. Find a Triathlon suit that doesn’t have many areas for air to get in. This means that your suit should feel like a second skin. Your body is the biggest obstacle for the wind to overcome, which makes you slow, wearing an outfit that the wind can easily breeze over can save you around two minutes on a 40k time trial. Two minutes can make or break who gets the title at the finish line.




All About the Shoes

Chances are that spending over $200 on one item makes you panic a little, which is why shoe covers are an easy way to go. Shoe covers cost $50 at the most, and they can save you up to 30 seconds on the bike (40k TT). This is the most affordable improvement to your cycling gear that not only makes you more aerodynamic, but it also keeps you feet warm. Shoe covers work by pinning down the laces, buckles, and straps of your shoes, which makes it easier for the wind to fly past you.

Getting a Handle on the Race

Investing in a set of aero bars is essential to helping you become more aero dynamic. Aero bars help you get in a body position that is aero dynamic, which means your body will be less of a problem for the wind to go over. Aero bars, like skin suits, can shave off minutes of your time. Shaving off minutes in any race is necessary if you want to come in first.

Pole Position

Find a specialist in time trial fittings to help you find the most aerodynamic positioning for your body. This may be a little pricey, but this one time event will help you use your aero bars to their best potential. A combination of aero bars and learning the right way to sit on your bike will save you minutes.


Protect your Noggin

Always, always, always wear a helmet. But what if you can wear a helmet that not only protects your head, but reduces your time as well? This is where aero helmets come in. They may look like you have some silly, weird thing on your head, but they work. Like the shoe covers, helmets are one of the most affordable ways to improve your speed. Plus, you need to protect your brain anyways, why not invest in one that can also improve your speed?

Round and Round

Wheels are the last items you want to buy to save time. The reason for this is because they are the most expensive items to change on your bike to save time. If you have the funds to buy new wheels start with the front wheel, it’ll help reduce the energy you put into moving it. Save the wheels for last though. Sure they will help you save time and energy, but they are an expensive investment.

Where to Start?

Saving time and energy on a bike without training for hours can be achieved through items that improve aerodynamics. The two most important items to get to improve your time without spending too much money are aero bars and a skin suit. Focus on these items first and then let everything else fall into place so you can speed ahead into first place.

Happy Racing!



Monday, January 9, 2017

Leader of the Pack: Training in Cycling Groups

It’s the off-season, which means it’s the best time to focus on the portion of the race that is your weakest. If the cycling portion of triathlon is the weakest for you, you might want to consider trying a cycling group. Cycling in a group is an easy way to stay motivated, while having a group of people who want you to improve. There are a few things you should know before signing up for a group.

What kind of group is it?

Cycling groups usually fall into one of two categories, the no-drop, or no-drop and no-wait. The no-drop simply means that no one gets left behind, so everyone waits for the slowest rider. The no-wait combination means that everyone can ride as fast as humanly possible, but at the designated point must go back for the slower riders. Some groups are all about racing. This means that every cycling meet-up is treated like a race and whoever is first to the designated finish line wins. Of course it is always important to find what works best for you. Would you rather try to compete in a race while training or focus on a good workout with proper form?

                                                  picture courtesy of rideonmagazine.com

Communication

Surprisingly, the most important part of all community cycling, is not cycling itself, but rather how well the group communicates. Before you set off, you should know your route and your group’s dynamics, (if there is a group leader, if you are waiting for people, and at what points). On the ride it’s important to shout out possible road hazards like potholes, so the entire group can avoid them. Communication can make or break a cycling group.

Pay Attention

One of the drawbacks to a cycling group is how close together you ride. Staying in unison with the person besides you helps you avoid clanking elbows or getting hit by cars. This calls for extreme focus, which unfortunately means leaving your favorite workout jams at home. Riding with ear buds can reduce the safety of the group, because you are not able to hear directions or precautions that are being shouted to the rest of the group. Maintain focus and avoid mishaps.

Pacing and Pulling

The greatest benefit from group cycling is the pacing and pulling it teaches you. Riding in a group can help you gain insight on what your natural pace is and if you need to slow it down a few notches. One of the most common mistakes is burning up your energy before you get to the finish line on the bike. A group can help you slow yourself down and realize how much energy you spend. Pulling is something that has always been a little tricky to master, but when you train in a group you are able to practice pulling. Riding by yourself, you do not have a cyclist around you to pull ahead of, but riding in groups you are surrounded by people who pull past you and whom you can pull ahead of. This creates less panic during race time when deciding if you should pull or not, because you’ve been pulling with your cycling group.

Be Prepared

This should be common sense, but just in case it’s always helpful for a refresher. Bike tools are essential for any ride; so don’t rely on your fellow cycling members to have bike tools ready for you. It’s also benefits to know how to use the bike tools you packed, so you are not waiting for someone to help you repair your bike. Do not ride on an empty stomach. You should have enough fuel in your body to last the ride, unless you have a designated rest point to re-fuel, but no one should wait because your stomach is yelling at you to fill it.  Lastly, make sure you are on time. Not only is it disrespectful to the other riders, but they also have to wait for you. If everyone takes turns being late that means the group will never start on time, so do your best to be punctual.

The Last Leg

Find a group that suits your training needs best and watch your improvements in the coming race season. Don’t be afraid to be the slowest person in the group, because everyone has to start somewhere. While cycling in a group can be fun, remember to focus on your training and watch your results soar.


Happy Cycling!