Essential Sports Nutrition


Bike trainer tips and recommendations

Last year I interviewed Karel to help me with an article on bike trainers.

Over the past 10 years, Karel and I have had the luxury of spending most of our "winter" bike training, riding outside. There were always a few cold days each year when we would bike indoors on our Cycleops Powerbeam Pro but typically we would bundle up to brave the 40-50 degree chilly mornings in Florida (yes, I realize it's all relative!).

But now we live in Greenville, SC. We no longer live close to a beach but by the mountains. We now have two trainers (we added a Computrainer to our bike gear family) and we are learning to embrace the cooler fall days which will turn into cold winter days.
However,  we aren't complaining as we just love our bike friendly community which is also filled with great hiking trails and beautiful fall colors. 

But with the cooler temps does come a shift in the riding environment for triathletes, cyclists and anyone who enjoys riding a bike.

So I thought I would share the post that I did last year (thanks to Karel) but Karel would like to add one more trainer to this list of  Bike Trainer recommendations
According to the website: 
The LeMond Revolution eliminates the need for a rear wheel setup by connecting the bike's drive-train directly to the Revolution's cassette.  The large, weighted flywheel effectively mimics the inertia of a bicycle in motion while generating progressive wind resistance. Set up is simple, just remove your rear wheel, attach the rear drop outs to the spindle and away you go. It works with both 130mm (Road and Cross) and 135mm (MTB and Cross), quick release bicycles. Also, installing the WattBox to any Revolution trainer allows you to display both speed and power (watts) to your ANT+ device. The WattBox will turn on and off automatically; just get on and start pedaling. If you wish to display cadence on your device, an ANT+ compatible cadence sensor will need to be purchased separately.
The Revolution is ready for Shimano/SRAM 9-11sp cassettes. 9-11sp adaptors and upgrade kits are sold separately for each trainer.

Bike Trainer workouts: 
Riding indoors is an effective way to make good use of your riding time because you can do it anytime, rain, cold or snow. Also if you train with power, you can monitor your watts so you are giving similar efforts for each workout (pending the main set) There is no guessing as to how much work you are applying to your pedals. Just keep in mind that your power indoors will differ a bit from riding outdoors so always be consistent with effort inside and consistent with effort outside (the numbers do not need to be the same). 

Riding indoors can be a bit boring if you don't have a fun set so here are a few workouts to keep your legs entertained while riding indoors; 

Descending intervals

Speed pyramid

20 Trimarni bike trainer workouts

Trainer room suggestions: 

Every bike-loving athlete needs a good trainer room. You want an environment that you enjoy going into when you are going to sit your butt down on a bike for x-minutes (not to mention suffer a bit too). 
Here are a few suggestions for setting up a good trainer room in your house, garage or basement:
-Good entertainment - a big TV placed at eye level or slightly above is essential if you want some visual entertainment. Install a DVR, DVD player or plug in your computer for your pick of inspiration when you are riding. Music is also helpful. If you need to be considerate of your family if you are riding early mornings, you may want to invest in a good pair of headphones.

-Table - Water bottles, food, gels, phone, iPad, workout, take your pick as to what you need during your workout but you need something near your bike to place the important things that will help you have a quality workout.

-Space - just like when you ride outside, it's nice to have your space. Make sure you have room around you so you don't feel claustrophobic as it will likely get a bit stuffy in your room (especially if you do not have window's to open). If you have multiple equipment in your trainer room (stability ball, treadmill, trainer, etc.) you will want to make sure that everything is functional.

-Mat  and fan - You are going to sweat a lot on the trainer  so it is good to have a clean floor mat. Also, a fan is helpful to keep the room cool, especially if you do not have good ventilation in the room. Keep in mind that when you sweat a lot, your sweat can corrode your bike parts. You want to wipe off your bike as soon as your finished riding and also more frequently do a detailed tune-up of your bike so that the small parts are removed and thoroughly cleaned.

A few other important tips:
-It is recommended (and safer) to invest in a trainer wheel and tire and also have an outdoor wheel (with a separate tire). Your training tire (the tire on your wheel that you use on your trainer the most) will get run down and if you ride the trainer a lot, you will notice a soft spot on your wheel which can become very unsafe when riding outside (especially when making turns). Although an occasional ride inside and outside is no big worry, just be mindful if you are riding on your trainer all winter, you will need a new tire for when you take your bike outdoors for your spring/summer training. Many athletes are now investing in trainers where you remove the back wheel and simply connect the wheel's drive-train to the trainer's rear cassette to eliminate the need to use a rear wheel on the trainer. 

-Don't forget your towel when you are on the trainer. Did I mention you will get sweaty on the trainer?

-On/Off drills are an effective way to warm up quickly. When you only have an hour to ride your trainer before/after workout, you don't want to spend 30 minutes warming up. I recommend to incorporate 3-5 x 30 sec ON (high cadence, 95+ rpm) efforts w/ 30 sec OFF (EZ efforts) to wake up your legs and to get the blood flowing. 

-The trainer is a great place to work on your pedal stroke, especially if you have any weak spots in your pedal stroke. In our transition plan we focus on single leg drills where you unclip one leg and use the other leg to pedal around with a comfortable cadence and gear. If you notice a clicking or dead spot in your stroke (on the top of the stroke), this is something to work on so that your glutes work better throughout the entire pedal stroke. We typically do 3-5 x 30-60 sec single leg drills (with time in between to unclip and clip in with the other food) in our workouts. You can also do these outside on flat, safe roads. Do not ride aero with single leg drills, but instead sit up and on the trainer you can also remove your hands from the bars to use the core for more stability work. 

-We encourage a short dynamic warm-up to loosen up the hips as well as a few minutes of foam rolling on the quads, back, hamstrings and calves to get the blood flowing before your workout. Additionally, post workout (after all bike workouts) you should spend a few minutes opening up your hip flexors (and psoas) which can be rather tight after being crunched on the bike. I recommend doing a bridge exercise, plank and sitting on a stability ball and then rolling yourself over so that your back lies on the ball, feet on the ground and you are looking behind you with arms above the head to really stretch out the hips. Other yoga moves can be included here. Just take a few minutes before/after every workout to ensure longevity as a cyclist/triathlete (tight spots only get tighter over time so it's better to stretch out before you really need to stretch out). 


A meaningful body


Just a few years ago there was a study that included 1,800 U.S. Women over the age of 50 years. Every individual was asked a series of questions pertaining to the body.
Of the participants, 27% were obese, 29% were overweight, 42% were normal weight and 2% were underweight.
Here are the results of the study:
-4% binge eat
-8% purge
-70% diet to lose weight
-36% dieted ~50% of the time in last 5 years
-41% check body size daily
-40% weigh themselves at least twice a week
-62% report body weight negatively impacts their life
-79% report body weight affects self-image
-64% think about their weight daily
(source: Environmental Nutrition Sept 2012, Vol 35, No 9.)

We are getting close to the holiday season which often makes individuals (not exclusive to athletes) very vulnerable to their body image due to the drastic shift in food choices associated with holiday food and the realization that another year has gone by.
Come the New Year, it only takes one trigger event for an individual to rapidly and drastically change eating habits and exercise behaviors. Such a strong desire to change body image for athletes can often lead to unhealthy mechanisms like undereating, underfueling and restrictive eating. Ultimately, if an athlete feels as if her/his body weight is/was a limiter for performance, she/he can often seek quick fixes and extreme methods which turn a fit, healthy body into an unhealthy and weak body.

For many, the bathroom scale gets a lot of action around the holiday season. Whether the scale is seen as an enemy or supporter, I highly encourage you to not put all your energy into a scale when it comes to the best method for improving health and performance. 
(Karel and I are not scale-users and we have never changed our eating in an effort to achieve a race weight)

For athletes, we want to focus on how we perform, how food makes us feel inside and how we use that fuel to gain the competitive edge. Relying on a number on a screen does paint the big, beautiful picture and many times  a number on a scale triggers unhealthy eating and compulsive exercise behaviors. 

Never forget that developing a healthy relationship with your body (and food) is a vital component of living a quality life AND improving health and performance. Your performance and longevity in your sport is based on how you take care of your body. 

Knowing that the upcoming year will likely bring new changes, challenges and goals, I recommend to start building your healthcare team (ex. primary physician, registered dietitian, OBGYN, dentist, optometrist, dermatologist, psychologist, and/or physical therapist) to help you stay in good health.

When it comes to driving a behavior change, we need a concrete reason. Although feeling, believing and needing are often beneficial in the behavior change process, if you are feeling or needing a change in your body composition, many times you will rely on "groupthink" rather than focusing on your own individual needs based on a test result or ongoing issue.

Some of the most successful athletes who know how to balance eating and training to keep the body in good health, are successful because they focus on what works best for them. Whereas many athletes abide by athletic cultural seasonal "norms" like off-limit food lists, sport nutrition rituals and training regimes, it is important that you understand what works best for you now and for your short and long term goals.

Yes, I understand that there are many extremely lean athletes out there who have amazing looking bodies. Sure, they look good and sometimes they perform really well. But was this a result of drastic measures to improve health and performance or a natural result of training and eating smart? Perhaps we may never know the answer because every body is different.
But, let it be known and celebrated that there are a large number of very healthy bodies who perform amazingly well. Shouldn't we marvel over how a body performs and not how much body fat a person has or how defined they look in spandex?
And while you are at it, what's the point of looking at what others are doing and what everyone else looks like? Shouldn't you be focusing on your own amazing body and what is working for you and what changes you are making because they are specific to you?
Comparing does you no good because you will typically put yourself as the worse-off, unlucky, "it's not fair" individual. When was the last time you took a long look at yourself in the mirror and told your body how awesome you think it is and believed in yourself that you are making good, healthy choices for your one and only body?

In order to put meaning behind your body image, you must eat, train and live in a way that you are actually able to do amazing things with your body.

If you are currently experiencing GI issues, low energy for no reason, unintentional weight gain/loss or anything else abnormal with your body, you should consult with a professional immediately as you are wasting precious time reading forums and blogs as you overwhelm yourself with information overload that does not directly apply to you. 
Athletes are very int-tune with the body and for good reason. When performance needs to improve, an athlete will identify a physical weakness in the body or training regime. When workouts/races do not go as planned, athletes find it so easy to blame their body and weight. It's almost instinctual. But if you feel limited by your body,  restricting food (or food groups), overexercising and taking extreme measures to change your body composition is not going to help you become physically stronger, faster or more powerful. 

 It's understandable that you may want to change your body composition and over the next two months, it's very easy to feel vulnerable to your body. In an effort to reduce the chance of sickness, injury or even an eating disorder, I recommend to make an appointment with a professional, to get the truth behind your health OR to talk to someone who can help you with your body image concerns.

If you are considering taking some steps to improve your health, here are some recommended tests depending on your age and health/performance goals:
1) Blood pressure and HR (it's recommended to keep track of your resting heart rate, first thing in the morning as often as possible to monitor signs of overtraining and recovery. I recommend to take note of your HR on Monday and Tuesday morning as well as Saturday morning).
2) Weight, body fat and waist to hip ratio
3) Bone density scan (ex. DEXA) as well as vitamin D, folic acid, Iron/ferritin and calcium – for women 65+ years as well as postmenopausal women. Other individuals who may benefit from this test and may be at risk for osteoporosis/osteopenia include individuals with history of bone fractures, smoking, vitamin D deficiency, excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption, early menopause, eating disorders, low body weight/fat, physical inactivity, taking medications known to cause bone loss (x. prednisone or Dilantin), hyperthyroidism, low estrogen. 
4) Lipid profile – including cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides
5) Blood glucose (fasting plasma and glucose tolerance test)
6) HbA1C (glycosylated hemoglobin – average blood sugar control for the past two to three months) – for individuals at risk for diabetes as well as anyone with an insulin resistance/glucose-related disorder
7) C-reactive protein – to screen for heart disease risk if your lifestyle choices place you at risk for a heart attack or stroke.
8) Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estradiol test
9) Mammogram, breast exam, pap test, colonscopy, prostate and pelvic exam – discuss with your primary physician or OBGYN on how often you should be tested/screened and at what age in order to reduce your risk for cancer.
10) Dental exam and cleaning (don’t forget to floss and brush your teeth daily)
11) Eye exam by physician or optometrist
12) Skin exam by physician – if at risk for skin cancer, consult with your dermatologist.
13) Complete metabolic panel and complete blood count (CBC)
14) Food allergy or intolerance– there are many ways to identify food related allergies or intolerances, often without the need for a “test”. It’s recommended to meet with a Registered Dietitian who can evaluate, assess, diagnose and treat your symptoms and to help you create a balanced diet to fuel your active lifestyle. 


Race smart in unfavorable conditions: IMFL

As athletes, we try to do our very best to be as mentally prepared as possible for race day. Typically we think about how to be strong when our body is aching, how to stay positive when obstacles arise and how to stay tough when the going gets hard. 
When it comes to being mentally tough on race day, I am reminded of a quote that reads "When you are 90% done, you are only half way there."
As athletes we do a lot of mental training throughout training, on race week and even in the hours before the race start. I often speak about controlling the controllables and not wasting energy on things out of our control and this all comes down to the mental component of being an athlete. We can’t control the weather, but we can control our gear/clothing for race day. We can also control our pacing, attitude and nutrition. We can’t control who shows up on race day, the course, how many volunteers and spectators are out on the course or the exact start time of the race.
Although a large part of preparing for a race involves the physical training that is involved, there is a large mental component that is required to feel “ready” for race day. Often you will hear that endurance racing is more mental than physical. Although a large amount of fitness is required to prepare the human body for a specific distance, a fit body can’t perform without a strong mind. It should be assumed that a fit body will not reach its full potential unless the mind is in a good place.

I do not know an endurance athlete who is not mentally strong. I really don’t believe that you can train for an endurance event without being mentally strong. There is no such thing as an easy training plan or a perfect season of training because life doesn't stop just because you are training for a race. I also don’t believe that an endurance athlete (regardless of the fitness level) would even want an easy training plan because the entire reason for choosing to train for an endurance event is the challenge and allure of pushing the body to higher limits. Ultimately, we train our bodies so that one day (on race day) we can look back and be wowed at where we are now and where we were when we started training for an event.

While supporting our nine Trimarni athletes at IMFL, we experienced a variety of normal emotions before the race. Emotions that are expected on the day before a 140.6 mile event. However, come race day morning, just 30 minutes before the race start, the emotions shifted and our coach duties were put to the ultimate test as we had 9 athletes that were now mentally preparing for a cancelled swim and a cold, windy day on the bike which would start their 138.2 mile journey.

Because a cancelled race/sport doesn't happen a lot, we don’t believe that athletes need to go into every race being mentally prepared that the race will be cancelled. However, in the case of an all-day event, like the Ironman, there is a lot that can happen throughout the day that may be out of our control and it is possible to race smart even in the most unfavorable conditions.

Karel and I learned a lot as coaches, after the 2.4 mile swim was cancelled around 6:40am at IMFL due to dangerous rip currents. The race turned into a 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run with a time-trial bike start. After a 1-hour delay, athletes lined up in the transition area, in order of bib numbers, bundled up in bike gear (it was in the low 40’s and very windy) and in rows of 2,3 or 4, athletes walked their bikes across the mount line, a few seconds apart, to start their timing chip and then the race started. All time cut-offs remained the same (as far as I know of) and the last athlete was off around 10am.

In the case that you are put into a triathlon race day scenario like IMFL, we want to offer our tips so that you can be mentally prepared for unfavorable race day conditions:

The race still goes on – At the end of the day, your body is still fit and trained regardless if the race is shortened or if weather conditions are not ideal. In the case of IMFL, there were still paychecks to be given to the pros, awards given to top five finishers in each age group and Kona slots given to athletes who earned their spot for the 2015 Ironman World Championships. As an athlete, you will find success on race day if you can adjust to any and all situations presented to you but let it be known that not always will you like the situations that you are presented with and not always will it be easy to control your emotions.  It is incredibly hard to not be emotional when situations are not ideal so I recommend to use your months of training wisely and every now and then, put yourself into situations that are unfavorable and perhaps a bit uncomfortable. Certainly, your health should never be compromised but if you train smart, you race smart. By reducing the excuses in training, you will provide yourself with more opportunities on race day.  Recognize how to race smart in unfavorable circumstances (like forgetting goal times and focusing on pacing yourself) will allow you to be the athlete who knows how to turn a negative situation into a positive.

Adjust your gear – What you were on race day is extremely important to how you will perform. Cold muscles do not work as good as warm muscles so I recommend to pack clothing for your race to prepare for all situations like cold and rain in the case of inclement weather.  Being prepared for all scenarios (with practice) improves your confidence for race day and reduces worries.  Keep in mind as to the most appropriate gear that you feel most comfortable wearing while racing. Never worry about being overprepared as you can put as much gear as you want in your transition (AND special needs) bags and it is up to you if you want to use it.
A few tips for a race like IMFL which was cold and windy, with a cancelled swim: 
-Avoid the parachute –like baggy jackets (the aero helmet doesn't come in handy if your clothing is baggy and you are sitting up a lot) and NEVER tie a jacket around your waist if you decide to take it off as this can be seriously dangerous if the jacket falls off and catches in your wheel. The best scenario for a race that is 45-50 degrees to start but is expected to get warmer (even if only a few degrees) is to wear a short sleeve jersey with arm warmers and if needed, a vest. You can also use newspaper inside your jersey to shield the wind on your chest. 
-Protect the sensitive areas like your hands (inexpensive winter gloves will do the trick), ears (ear band) and toes (shoe/toe covers).
-Forget going for "the look". Focus on being comfortable on the bike. Not too cold but not too hot. 
-Other – knee warmers, tights and long sleeve jerseys are all acceptable but be sure your clothing is breathable and consider what you will do with your gear if you begin to get warm. 
-Try to warm-up before you start the bike. Standing for 30+ minutes in the cold and then riding your bike can increase the risk for tight muscles and cramping. Stay indoors for as long as possible to stay warm, then around 20 minutes before, go for a jog (with an extra pair of run shoes) and keep yourself warm by doing dynamic warm-ups. 

Proper equipment choice – I talk about this topic often with my sport nutrition posts but your fueling strategy should be simple enough to work in all weather conditions (but tweaked depending on the distance/intensity). In other words, by relying on liquid calories, you will easily meet your electrolyte (yes, even in the cold you need electrolytes), calorie and fluid needs. Be sure your hydration cages are easy to use/reach. 
On a different topic, Karel was very adamant to our athletes that they all use proper wheel choices for the windy conditions, yet flat roads. Sure, a race wheel may prove to be fast in a wind tunnel or may work for a professional or top age grouper who is riding at a speed that a race wheel will come in handy but too deep of a dish in a race wheel can often make for a slower and more exhausting ride in windy conditions. Although race wheel selection depends on your size, experience, fitness (ex. speed)  and race day conditions/terrain, keep in mind that your front wheel takes a lot of energy to control and since this is where you are placing your upper body, it will require a lot of extra energy to control a deep dish wheel in the front, in windy conditions. Karel rarely recommends disc wheels to athletes unless they are fast enough to use them and the conditions/terrain make sense that a disc wheel will come in handy.

Trust your plan – Luckily, in cooler temps, GI issues are not as common as compared to warmer temperatures when blood is forced to cool the body and support working muscles as body temperature rises. However, one of the most common issues in cooler temperatures is cramping. It is extremely common for athletes to push harder in cooler temps (especially at the start of a race) because RPE is lower and there is a feeling of wanting to warm up quickly. Also, because muscles are cold, they do not contract/relax properly. Additionally, athletes can experience little drive to drink (unlike warm temps which often cause overhydrating and being spontaneous with nutrition intake as the race continues) which can often lead to dehydration in cooler temps. Although you may not be sweating as much in cooler temps, compared to warmer temps, and may not be losing a lot of electrolytes  in sweat, your body still requires fuel, liquids and electrolytes to support the training stress on the bike and to prepare your body for the run in an Ironman. Do not deviate from what has worked in training and stay consistent/frequent with your liquid nutrition intake every 10-15 minutes.. The only thing that may change in cooler temps is that the gut will tolerate solid food a little easier so in addition to your liquid nutrition, your tummy may want a little solid food as your body may need a bit more calories in cooler temps. 
The second issue is often the biggest problem for athletes who experience a cancelled swim in a triathlon. Can you guess it? Yep, you got it – overbiking! 
Just because you aren't swimming, this doesn't mean you are more fit to bike harder. Because your effort on the bike sets you up for the run, I recommend to keep with your game plan and no matter if you swim or don’t swim before the bike, the only way you will run strong off the bike is if you pace yourself on the bike. We encourage our athletes to break up the race into 20-30 min segments and to only focus on one segment at a time. Because all of our IMFL athletes had power meters, we gave them all specific zones (typically upper Z2) for pacing on the bike to ensure a strong run off the bike (as well as to control GI issues as they all needed to fuel on the bike so pacing is key for proper digestion of sport nutrition). We have them focus on normalized LAP power. In addition to reminding our athletes to not overbike, we also instructed them all to maintain as high of a cadence as possible (that was effective for smooth pedaling) to keep their legs as fresh as possible for the run. 

Coach knows best – If your coach tells you not to race just because conditions are not ideal, I would suggest to re-evaluate your coaches responsibilities. As a coach, my job is more than writing great workouts. Karel and I give a lot of positive energy to our athletes to keep them going. It doesn’t matter how motivated, determined and passionate our athletes are but when faced with an obstacle or a setback, it is our job to keep them focused. When emotions are at their highest (like a cancelled swim before an IM, especially for our two first-time Ironman athletes), it would be absolutely inappropriate for us to tell our athletes to throw in the towel and to not even race because the race "isn't worth it".
I hope I am not alone here but ass a coach, it didn't even cross my mind that athletes would not race at IMFL because of the cancelled swim and unfavorable race day conditions. Certainly, I would never ask an athlete to compromise his/her health just for a race but at IMFL, I saw a lot of athletes giving up before even trying and I contribute this to emotions and feeling alone with thoughts, in the moment.  In this scenario, the only way to get through this situation was to control emotions in order to see what was possible for the day.  And that is exactly what all 9 Trimarni athletes did on race day.
Despite our athletes dealing with a lot of conflicting emotions just like everyone else, Karel and I were able to remind our athletes as to the work they did to prepare for the Ironman and the training was not a waste just for 2.4 miles subtracted in a 140.6 mile event..
In a 8+ hour event, there is still a lot of racing to be done and the day would not be without obstacles to overcome and plenty of lows that would need to be dealt with in 138.2 miles of racing. And that is what the Ironman is all about!
 I am sure that the athletes who started IMFL did so because they had something to prove. The same mental training that was needed to prepare for 140.6 miles of racing was still needed for 138.2 miles. The day was not easy. There was a lot of fighting, suffering and hardships for 138.2 miles but also a lot of passion and even smiles. Correct me if I am wrong but a 138.2 mile duathlon absolutely requires a lot of training so why would an Ironman athlete feel less deserving of this accomplishment compared to 140.6 miles? Sure, it's not the same and I get that but if you can't control the situation, control your attitude.
For the IMFL athlete who refused to give up on a dream that was given 3,6,12+ months of preparing for, I am certain that success was still felt at the finish line and bragging rights were still allowed despite the slightly shortened event.
 Karel and I are a team and we both need each other. We both experience a rollercoaster of emotions with every race and we are lucky to have each other for those necessary pep talks. Regardless if you have a coach or not, be sure to surround yourself with people who give you positive energy and do not steal it away from you. Every athlete needs a teammate because when you can’t think clearly because emotions are high and negativity is filling the air, you need someone who can clear that air and put some positive thoughts in your head. 

Congrats to all IMFL finishers. You are an inspiration to many....including Karel and me!
Your courageous efforts were not ignored and to every athlete who started the race, you are now a smarter, fitter and more experienced athlete. You will remember your IMFL experience forever.