“I’m hate … (fill in the blank) exercise or drill.”
And sure enough, you have proven yourself correct. You suck at climbing, your weak leg can’t do as many reps as your “good” side, and the exercise you hate is as terrible as always.
What if you changed how you spoke to yourself? Why not try boosting yourself up with a positive thought or encouragement instead of negative? How do you think that would change the outcome?
By choosing to look at a situation (that you usually dislike) with positivity and a sense of play, you not only improve your experience, but your thoughts can and will change your reality. Look at every mountain as an opportunity to grow stronger and soon you will become a monster on hills. Imagine your “weak side” as being made of steel, impossible to break, and soon it will become just as strong as the other side. Use those “awful” exercises as a way to build mental strength and resilience so nothing can break you.
Deena Kastor, Olympic medalist in the marathon and an elite runner in almost every distance wrote an excellent memoir titled, Let Your Mind Run, which I highly recommend for any and every athlete. Deena believes that changing her mindset to become more encouraging, kind, and resilient was the key to her success. I have read many self help books on positive thinking, and I will tell you – this one is unique and interesting to read about the path of an olympian. Her journey is not only inspiring, it is full of ups and downs that, at many times, threatened her career as a runner. In many ways, each of us can relate to her experiences as they include depression, insecurity, losing focus, broken bones, and having children. Even if you do not consider yourself to be competitive, Deena’s practice of having a positive mindset works for all aspects of life.
If you want to learn more about how to change your mindset, specifically for sports and performance, the next book I recommend reading is, In Pursuit of Excellence, by Terry Orlick. The first time I read this book was in 2009 when I was training for Ironman Canada, but I believe it is timeless. This book has practical tips and tools to help you stay focused during training and performance.
Next time you catch yourself thinking, I don’t like …, see if you can reframe it into an opportunity, challenge, or even a game.
Before you can think about climbing faster, you need to make sure that you have first built your aerobic foundation. As the saying goes, “you can’t run before you learn to walk”. To read more about building an aerobic base please go back to the newsletter titled, Building an Aerobic Base.
So once you have set your aerobic base, how do you get faster on hills?
1. Ride lots. Ride lots of hills.
2. When climbing think of form: efficient pedal strokes and relaxed upper body.
3. Learn to pace yourself for the entire length of the climb. Learning what your pace should be will come after riding lots of hills 🙂
4. Give the appropriate amount of effort for the type of hill /ride/workout you are doing that day. Example: In a Spanish Banks workout of 5 hill repeats, you will likely be putting out maximum effort on each – that’s the goal of the workout. But for a long training ride, where Spanish Banks is just one of many on the ride, slow down your pace and take it easy or ride at a pace you can handle, as you still have a long ways to go.
In this newsletter, I’m going to focus on point number 4, which relates to effort.
During training it is important to give the appropriate amount of effort, appropriate for the workout.
In the Kits Energy workouts, your coach will tell you how much effort you should be exerting. If you want to get faster, and get the most benefit from the workout, it is important to follow the instructions. To improve, you need to work beyond your comfort zones into new territory, which should feel uncomfortable. Through proper and adequate (24-48hrs) rest and recovery, your body will adapt to the stress and grow stronger. It is through this process, repeated over and over, that you will gain increased strength and endurance.
BUT….. here is the caveat.
But, if you try adding intensity without a solid base, other rides to support your intensity ride, or you try to progress too quickly, you run the risk of breaking down the body, instead of building it up.
You may get away with it for a month of two but eventually, if you try to increase intensity without a solid base and other rides to support it, it will catch up with you. Your speed and strength will become stagnant and/or you may notice that you are actually slowing down!
When this happens, the tendency is to do more training, with exacerbates the problem.
You may also notice several nagging symptoms that don’t seem to go away. These symptoms are usually a combination of: loss of strength/endurance, chronic fatigue, chronic muscle pain, insomnia, depression, irritation, weight gain, and frequent illness such as colds and flus. If are feeling any of these symptoms, back off on your training for a few weeks until they subside.
When you return to training, build up slowly and create that base again. Always listen to what your body is telling you. If it is too much – back off again. Use the weekly workouts as endurance training instead of a interval training. I know it’s hard on the ego – but your body will thank you in the long run.
Remember, cycling is a lifestyle choice and one that you want to do for as long as your body will let you. Think long term.
Before you start worrying about being a fast(er) climber, you first need to develop a solid aerobic foundation or base.
This is the key to any and all endurance sports.
The time it takes to build your personal aerobic base will be different from other riders and will depend on: 1. the distance you are training for 2. how many years you have been riding 3. how much time you have to train 4. age
But generally speaking, if you are training for an event, you should be comfortable riding a minimum of 2 to 3 hours at a steady state, before you start worrying about being fast(er).
You develop this base by riding slow (HR or Power zone 1 and zone 2) steady rides, and increasing the distance by no more than 10% each week, until you get to or close to your goal distance. Through proper and adequate recovery, your body will adapt and grow stronger. The process, repeated over and over again will result in increased strength and endurance OVER TIME.
Building a base takes time and can’t be rushed so it is vital that you start at least 3-6 months before your event. Sorry, but any last minute “cram training” for endurance sports doesn’t work. Once you have developed a comfortable and solid base, continue maintaining and/or increasing your distance throughout your season.
The workouts that we do in Kits Energy are designed to specifically build strength and power, not endurance. If you are willing to go there – these workouts will push you into new power/heart rate/ pain zones that you aren’t willing to do when you ride alone.
Every time you push yourself to new levels, your body recognizes that it needs to adjust and adapt. As your body gets stronger, your ability to do more work also increases. So if you are waiting for a time for when the workouts will feel easy – that’s not going to happen, because as you get stronger you continue to push yourself harder (hopefully). But, you will notice, that throughout the season your regular riding friends will be having a harder time keeping up with you! Trust the process.
Riding in Vancouver, we plan for the worst and hope for the best.
The most difficult part of spring riding is dressing appropriately. Every day it’s a bit of a gamble. Will you wear too much and have to carry it? Or will you not bring enough and feel chilled all the way to Steveston? Even when you do dress well and appropriately for the weather, it can change quickly, even within one ride.
If you are new to riding or new to riding in Vancouver, please take a moment to watch this short 4 minute video, outlining the clothing and layering you need to stay warm. In this scenario, the temperature is 6 degrees celsius or warmer, and as usual, we expect it to be wet.
With the exception of a waterproof jacket, the Kits Energy store has all of the items you need to stay warm this spring. Please watch your inbox as the store will open the first week of April, with discounts from April 3rd to April 15th. Kits Energy clothing can only be ordered online.
long dry-fit or merino wool socks
dry-fit undershirt – tank top, tee shirt, or long sleeve
padded cycling shorts or padded long bib pants
long tights over padded shorts if not wearing padded long pants
short sleeve or long sleeve jersey or dry-fit shirt
waterproof rain jacket (if not raining, carry it with you)
long finger light gloves
small beanie or headband to keep your ears warm
glasses with clear or light coloured lenses (or dark if sunny)
I understand the allure of joining a streak challenge as simple as doing one activity every day for one month, several months, or even years. And I’m all for any gimmick or trick we can use to entice ourselves to exercise more.
However, some of these challenges are not always healthy and often lead to injury.
The most dangerous streaks involve a repetitive activity or sport done every day for a total number of repetitions, distance, or time. Such as completing X number of pushups or running a certain distance or time daily.
Pushing yourself to participate in an activity every day, no matter how tired, injured, or ill you may feel, goes against all training advice. Many athletes ignore the body’s signals telling them they need a day or two off, and even more so when they have committed to a streak challenge. The constant repetition often leads to burnout, overtraining, and repetitive strain injuries. Common injuries suffered from athletes participating in a daily running streak challenge are achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, or worse yet, a stress fracture in the leg or foot.
But, not all streaks are bad.
Healthy or “good” streaks are those that allow for flexibility and encourage rest days. These challenges usually require you to complete a total distance within a specific time frame. Even better are streaks that include a variety of activities or allow you to choose for yourself, as in the case of a yoga or weight training challenge; the classes are different every day, and vary in intensity and volume.
If you are choosing a streak to help motivate you to exercise, try to pick one that allows for flexibility in how often you need to do it, and ideally some flexibility in what activities you are doing. Not only will you be healthier overall, but it will also make you faster in your preferred sport and help prevent injury.
If you want to use the challenge to get you riding more, the Strava streaks sampled in this article are good examples. However, it will still require some planning to make sure you give yourself enough recovery days throughout. As well, the challenge you chose needs to be appropriately placed within your overall yearly training program. Don’t get coerced into signing up for a challenge just because your friends are.
Many athletes get so caught up closing activity rings, counting steps, competing in Strava challenges, or reaching a distance goal, that they forget to make recovery a priority.
One form of recovery, that often gets overlooked is an Epson Salt Bath.
Especially in the cold winter months, a hot sudsy bath does sound pretty inviting. But, besides being relaxing, how else does it help you recover?
We don’t have many concrete scientific studies that support how an Epson Salt Bath helps recovery, but we do know that it works. On the most basic level, taking a warm bath helps calm the nervous system which has a ripple affect, allowing your body to direct it’s energy into repair mode.
If you want to take it a step further, if the athlete also uses this time to focus on breathing, or follows another form of relaxation technique such as listening to music or reading a novel, your brain has time to shut off and recharge. Think of your body like your iphone; it has a long battery life, but the more you use it, the longer you need to stop to recharge.
So what is it about the Epson Salts?
Dissolving epson salts in water releases magnesium and sulfate ions, which can be absorbed through the skin. Magnesium plays many crucial roles in the body and is required in more than 300 essential metabolic reactions in the body. Some of the most important roles for an athlete are:
regulates energy production aka improves performance
regulates muscle and nerve function
regulates blood sugar levels
regulates blood pressure
helps release melatonin which helps you sleep
So, instead of thinking of your bath as a guilty pleasure, you can add it to your arsenal of recovery tools to make you faster, stronger, fitter, and healthier overall.
In the summer, we will talk about ice baths and contrast baths, which also have amazing benefits in aiding recovery, but much harder to convince when it is already cold outside.