In my last article, I looked at the issue of sports confidence by comparing and contrasting two recent days I had on the bike, one full of fire and confidence and the other the opposite feelings of self-doubt and thoughts of quitting. But enough about rank amateurs like me, what about the top professionals?
When cycling, we are all seeking the Holy Grail of peak fitness and form, that “no chains” day where riding seems effortless. But besides optimal physical preparation, the other important and often overlooked ingredient is effective sport psychology, and the role that confidence plays in peak performance.
For amateur cyclists, one of the best reasons for cycling is the big appetite you can satisfy after a big ride. For pros, eating can be just as much a part of the job as the hours on the bike itself. We all know that part of proper recovery involves the right nutrition after a workout, but what factors affect post-exercise appetite and how might it impact recovery and weight control?
Tullio Campagnolo’s derailleur completely revolutionized the modern bicycle, giving us up to 22 gears to play with in an effort to find that ideal combination of cadence and resistance to maximize our power output over a range of terrain. But when it comes to training, does training with specific cadences have their benefit?
Much of our training for cycling revolves around what we do on the bike. However, without a strong brain and psychology, the strongest body can be like a sleek and aerodynamic time trial bike with the front brakes rubbing hard against the rim. To unlock your cycling potential, it pays to spend some time this off-season thinking through the mentality that can make you faster on the bike…
Time trials will always be the race of truth, where you cannot hide in a pack and your fitness and willingness to suffer is there for all to see. While fitness remains paramount, the smart racer will still be at an advantage if they can figure out the optimal and most efficient way of putting that power to the pedals and onto the road…
Over the past decade, non-round chainrings have made big inroads in the pro peloton and in the mass cycling market, led by Rotor and O-symetric. Given the complex muscular coordination required by pedaling, the theory of non-round chainrings of facilitating a smoother pedaling stroke can make sense, but what does scientific testing tell us about their performance?
Cycling is a big business and pro cyclists are rolling billboards for their sponsors. However, to a sport scientist or a discerning coach or athlete, top cyclists are also rolling labs on two wheels. That is, by analyzing their training and racing data, we can gain valuable insight into what contributes to their elite performance.
While power training may be all the rage, the high tech toy of choice for the majority of cyclists is the heart rate monitor. One important question to ask is exactly at what heart rate should one be working at to optimize training time and efficiency? The first thing to understand is the different ways by which scientists and coaches base their heart rate training zones.
While the “work hard play hard” philosophy may be a great approach to striking a work-life balance, the motto cyclists and all athletes should subscribe to leans more towards a “work hard rest harder” philosophy. Many recovery modalities have been suggested and adopted, but how well do they work for recovering between hard training bouts?
There is the old saying that ”Everything old is new again” and this can apply to much of sport science and training. While power-based training and dissecting every micro-watt in multiple permutations appears to be the dominant “new wave,” do not forget that there are other ways to monitor fatigue and predict performance that have been around for a long time and that can be much simpler, cheaper, and potentially just as effective…
Every parent, at some time or another, probably has given the “when I was your age” speech to their kids. And within any sport, an ageless argument is always how the current generation of stars match up to the titans of the sport’s history. With so much technological change in the sport, how do you go about making a scientific comparison?
Last week, we gave a general overview of a valuable set of basic testing to perform in order to obtain your general power profile. The next step, of course, is to dissect that data further to gain deeper insight into out strengths and limitations. From there, we also need to develop a plan to move forward and achieve our cycling goals. So let’s do a bit of analysis using my example to see how you can analyze yourself.
To get to where you want to go this year, you need to know where you are now in terms of your fitness. Information is power, and the whole point of training with power is to provide as much information as possible to guide your training. One important path towards this self-knowledge is through regular testing and determining your power profile.
August has been sweltering for much of North America and Europe, and we know that hyperthermia can have a major negative impact on our performance and even health. Many different methods have been suggested for pre-cooling prior to exercise, but some are limited by their practicality in the field. One simple solution may be to cool from the inside out by ingesting cold drinks, ice, or ice slurries. Pre-race slurpee, anyone?
Carbohydrates are known to be an important fuel for peak cycling performance. It’s the preferred fuel for the high-intensity efforts, and its availability is often seen as a limiter for performance. Carbohydrate drinks are therefore often used to deliver both fluids and energy during cycling, but can carbohydrates serve as a special ergogenic aid by tricking you into riding harder?
The intent of this week’s Toolbox is two-fold. As always, the primary goal is to explore an interesting scientific question. In this case, can you predict ultimate success in cycling based on test scores? Secondly, it is to honour Pez-friend Dr. Aldo Sassi and to wish him the best in his health battles.
Time trials are all about “leaving everything on the road.” You want to pace yourself so that you hit the finish line with nothing left in the gas tank. Many strategies for achieving this have been proposed in the scientific literature. The other question to ask is what the effects of ability are on pacing strategy, and whether such strategy is ingrained or learned.
Many ergogenic aids, both legal and illegal, have been touted as the magic bullet that will improve cycling performance. What about something that many of us take on a regular basis to relieve minor aches and pains after cycling? What about taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) BEFORE cycling to reduce the pain associated with hard efforts?
One of the continuing themes in cycling science, and therefore a continuing theme here in Toolbox, is the optimization of pedaling dynamics and especially of the question of cadence. Is there an optimal cadence, and how do factors such as mountains and climbing ability affect cadence selection? As often in sport science, the best thing to do is to start out by observing professionals at work…