Jan 7, 2011

Doing it by the book

My history in sport began relatively late, at around 11. Some may say that's not late at all, but in fact, it is. My niece and nephew started playing various sports when they were 5 or 6. Some of my friends put skis on their kids as soon as they could walk, others had their children doing gymnastics, soccer, swimming and a variety of other activities I wasn't involved in as a young child. Come to think of it, I'm starting to wonder what the hell I did all day, but that's really not the point of this blog. My involvement in sport began with martial arts, something I enjoyed and did for over a decade. In addition to martial arts, I played soccer in high school and wrestled. And for a very long time - well over a decade - I was a gym rat. 

In everything I did, however, I tried to be the best I could be. I read as much as I could and took as much advice, from those I thought new better, that I could handle. When I was seriously weight training, Joe Weider's books were my bibles. When I was doing martial arts, I studied things by George Dillman, Dr. Wally Jay, and of course, there were my teachers to whom I remain eternally grateful. The result of all of this was that I became very good at training myself. I learned to listen to my body and to take from literature what I thought would work best for me. I'd like to think that it worked - I did end up setting my high school deadlift record, after all. That was before I realized that lanky 6ft+ dudes weren't really the type who went far in power lifting, generally. 

So now, years later, I find myself in a similar situation - having desire to succeed and turning to books to figure out how I can do that. Following the advice of Eddy Merckx - ride, then ride some more, and then ride again - is great, but it's really not the most efficient way to get to where I want to go, especially with a full-time job. I don't mind long rides, in fact, I enjoy a double century here and there as much as the next guy (no, really, I do!), but when I only have a couple hours in the morning to train, I want to make sure that every minute is spent in a productive way. 

I feel that at this point, there are three things that I need to do. First, I need to get light, but at the same time fuel my body sufficiently each day so I have energy to train, race and still conduct my other daily activities. And I seriously don't want to re-live Wednesday again. So after searching far and wide, I've found a neat piece of literature by Matt Fitzgerald - Racing Weight. Frankly, after having read about 80 percent of it, I can honestly say it is the most intelligent thing about dieting and exercise that I have ever read in my entire life. I turn page after page and with each flip, I can't help but say to myself, "this makes sense!" The concept is incredibly simple - find your ideal performance weight for whatever endurance sport you do. You might need to be light, or you might need to be a bit heavy; more muscle or less muscle; lots of carbs, or not as many. This book explains it all in a very non-BS kind of way. So if you're the type to use hashtags "raceweight" on twitter - I know who you are - this may be of some benefit to you. 

The second part of my self-coaching puzzle was the coaching itself. I need structure, I need a system, I need to logically understand why I do what I do and how it all comes together. Yes, riding hard helps. Yes, riding hard builds power. But ride after ride, I kept asking myself, could I have done more? Or, did I do too much? Or, should I have done this after that, or that after this? Reading Bicycling Magazine and online resources helped, but I felt that I needed something to tie it all together. That's when I turned to Joe Friel and The Cyclist's Training Bible. I've read a good chunk of this book, but not as much as Racing Weight - mainly because the physical dimensions are about twice the size and it's not as easy to drag it around with me and read on my commute and during lunch at work. However, from what I've read so far, it offers very frank advice about what needs to be done and how - an approach I like and appreciate. From the tone, you can easily tell it was written by a coach. I have a feeling that I'll be writing more about it as I get further into my training, but I just wanted to mention it as one of the tools I've armed myself with in preparing for this season of racing and self-coaching. 

Lastly, after picking up a Powertap Wheel, I figured I might as well learn how to use it. So the last piece of literature I got was Training With Power. Not much to say about this one, other than it's a great read if you want to know how to get the most out of the tools you own - specifically, the power meter. 

I know that reading all of these books isn't going to make me a better or a faster cyclist - using them effectively, however, will hopefully allow me to at least figure out what works for my body and what doesn't. Frankly, if all that I will be able to figure out is what doesn't work, that's a good start too - it means there will be much fewer errors to make going forward. 

Finally, I'd like to note that the blog will be getting a slight facelift over the weekend, so if the next time you visit it looks a bit different, don't be alarmed and think you ended up elsewhere.


  1. I followed Friel's triathlete bible last year and pretty much let him dictate the entire six month program from June to December. I felt like he recommended hours upon hours of training and I've been reading a lot about the "myth" of spending months in "base" mode. I think I'm going to make some adjustments, scale back a few things and spend more time doing intervals and focused work than I did in '10.

    I also want to pick up a Powertap. Word.

  2. I think a very long base period is mainly for people who are forced to take a lot of time off due to weather. Since last January, I've been off the bike only 4 weeks the whole year, though the intensity went way down starting in October. So I think I'm going to go by feel as far as base goes - frankly, I think I'm there.

    As far as powertap, talk to M2 and then check out aebike.com. I told M2 that I got my wheel there, and at first he seemed upset that I didn't get it through him, but when I told him the price I got, he kind of shrugged his shoulders and said that's about what he would be able to do.