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A little more on FTP: there’s more than one threshold!

By: Heather Nielson

I wrote about FTP awhile ago and its’ relationship to heart rate and fitness in a previous post and thought I should write a little more about different kinds of thresholds. The last several years, threshold, FTP, LTH and the like have been written about, talked about and thrown in everyone’s face so much that I feel like a lot of cyclists and bike racers have become overly obsessed with that power number and have come to think of it as the magic number that would suddenly win them bike races or get them that new PR at their next century ride or strava KOM; but that just isn’t true.

There are so many factors that go into winning a bike race or putting in your best time at an event or hill climb, not JUST having a fantastic FTP or high watts/kg (which is actually a far more valuable ratio than just the raw FTP power number). Of course having a competitive (for your event) FTP is a great indicator of your overall fitness level and fatigue rate but if you haven’t trained for your specific event that will inevitably include other power thresholds then you’ve left out the other higher level fitness factor that will lose you the race or event.

A good example is, let’s say you’ve been able to stay with the front group of riders in that long road race or century ride and there’s one last hill to climb and someone attacks and you either can’t follow the attack OR you can follow the attack but your ability to hold their wheel going up the hill leaves you in the dust and chasing until the finish because they were able to put out higher watts/kg than you up the hill and ‘win’ doesn’t mean they necessarily have a higher FTP than you. In fact, their FTP could very well be lower than yours! However, if they were able to conserve more energy than you throughout the race and have trained their 3 or 5 minute wattage threshold at the end of a race because they trained specifically for that event then they will have a better result. Who cares what your FTP is if you didn’t train specifically for that event?

To continue to use that example, if you know that your key event that you want to do well in has several climbs throughout the ride that are between 3-5 minutes then your training should include your ability to climb at competitive (for your field) wattages for that period of time inside of a pace that is at race pace; so probably very near threshold or tempo. Remember, it takes time to build your overall fitness or threshold and then it takes more time to build your ability to ride over that threshold and then come back to recover and ride at tempo again. Make sure you are training with specificity for your events, that  you are consistent and as always, allow for proper recovery!

Remember, it’s not just brute strength that wins a bike race or that next KOM. It’s putting together the right combination of strength, power, speed, tactics, mental toughness, weather, terrain and many more factors that get you the best possible result for you!

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Training food recipe that’s real food! Coconut raisin rice cakes

By: Heather Nielson

Last night while teaching my last (!) ICE class for the season I think I spent as much time answering questions about balancing nutrition for training & weight loss as I did giving count downs for the work out! I really enjoy helping people where and when I can to reach their fitness goals and many times that includes more than just giving someone a prescribed work-out on the bike. My educational background includes a double minor in chemistry and nutrition and so I can usually answer a lot of questions for people when they feel like they’re ‘stuck’ in trying to get the most out of their training and weight loss goals. Most people generally know how to eat healthy and they know they need to exercise; but it’s not uncommon for someone to reach a plateau in their training and weight loss goals and it requires additional expertise to change a few details in their regimen to jump start their body to another ‘level’. The fact that once you’ve been eating the same way and training the same way for quite awhile, your body adapts to that energy input and output makes the human body both amazing and annoying at the same time! It takes another change or shift in your habits to shift your body to a new normal. When it comes to making or breaking habits, I’ve always been a big proponent of small changes, life long sustainable habits; not short term ‘crash’ diets that require unsustainable lifestyle habits. I’ll write more in future posts about details on the above but my main point for this post is that change takes time, lifestyle habits need to be sustainable over the long term and that diet isn’t necessarily about restricting certain foods but about timing them. Who doesn’t love a cookie, ice cream or dessert? Is it really wise to say you’re never going to have dessert….ever again?! If you want that dessert, or ‘quick carb’ go ahead! My suggestion: time it with your training. Eat those simpler carbs before, during and after work-outs and leave the rest of the day to produce and protein as much as possible.

With the sheer amount of ‘gu’s’ and other syrupy fuels I go through during the race season, I get really sick of that kind of food and so when I’m not racing I prefer real food when training. I decided to try making rice cakes for the first time last weekend, with success! I was sharing this with my ICE students last night and they suggested I post the recipe. So here is my version of Coconut raisin rice cakes

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  • 2 C white rice cooked until water is gone. Rice should be starchy sticky
  • 1 C organic shredded coconut
  • 4 Tbl coconut oil (melted if not already liquid at room temperature)
  • 1 C raisins
  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until thoroughly coated
  2. Spread out onto a 9×5 baking dish and pat down
  3. Refrigerate overnight
  4. Cut into squares and wrap in foil
  5. Stack in fridge, grab and go!
Blog, Training, Uncategorized

The Art of Climbing – Unlock your best

I have dedicated the last 15 years of my life to help people improve their cycling, and climbing is almost always at the top of their lists of challenges.  Every rider I work with needs to improve their Climbing, from Century rides, Gravel Grinders, Cyclocross to RAMROD to STP, it is the focus for most riders.  I was lucky to learn to climb early when I moved to Colorado and began racing road in the mountains, everyone who races there is a great climber.  My 2nd race was the Mt. Evans hillclimb (highest paved road in US over 14,000ft) and when I was a pro mountain biker I won a WorldCup medal for 3rd place with the best in the world racing up Mammoth Mountain, so climbing has been my cycling “thesis” and major area of study since 1987.

Climbing requires more than just fitness, I have coached some of the fittest riders around and often is is more subtle techniques like mental “fueling”, pedal stroke or fueling correctly that makes the biggest difference.  Climbing will test you and *can* bring out the best in you, it can also allow you to find ways to give up early.  

If you are trying to unlock your best climber, start with where you are with your fitness now and accept your ability and limitations as starting points.  You have a pattern of how you climb, and if you want to improve there are a number of things you can look at BESIDES your training/fitness level to be sure you are climbing as well as you can:

1.  Pedal stroke optimization

2.  Breathing techniques for steady and hard climbing

3.  Posture and hand position

4.  Bike fit to allow full power

5.  Pacing tools to fit terrain

6.  Shifting smooth transitions and cadence

7.  Standing skills, recovery and full-gas

8.  Fueling precision 

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Variations on the Jicama salad theme: Pineapple Jicama Salad

By: Heather Nielson

I will freely admit I’m on a Jicama kick lately. Food addictions or rather, food repeats are a ‘thing’ for me. Once I discover a recipe or a food that I like I tend to hit ‘repeat’ like I would on a favorite song for….awhile. I discovered pho over the winter and after every long, hard wet ride I went straight to get me some pho….a lot. Naturally I got bored of it after awhile and haven’t touched it in a few months. Another normal thing for me. Experimenting with summer salad recipes are as fun for me as fall and winter soup recipes (obviously you can see the ‘repeat’ theme in my life). I used to use celery to add the ‘crunchy’ element to my salads but after a long time, obviously got bored of celery (#repeattheme). Then I discovered Jicama! I’m sure it will be replaced with something else after awhile; but for now, you’ll be blessed with yet another summer salad Jicama-themed recipe: Pineapple Jicama Salad:

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  • 3 Tbl lemon juice
  • 2 Tbl olive oil
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro chopped
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2 C diced pineapple (fresh is waaaayyyyy yummier)
  • 1 C diced jicama
  • 3/4 C chopped red onion
  • 3/4 C chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeno chopped
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl
  2. Mix well
  3. Refrigerate overnight before serving