Strategies for Staying Motivated During Ultra Cycling Events

September 19th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Jared Dunham

Ultra-Cycling is challenging by nature, but in return, these events can be highly rewarding to complete. However, there may be times during an event where your motivation to continue riding is low. It can be very tempting at times to quit but, not finishing an ultra-event can be difficult and occasionally emotional depending on how much time and effort was put into preparation. While most of my experience is with events that are 24 hours or under, here are some tips that I have for staying motivated during the challenging times of an Ultra Event. These are strategies that I’ve followed and are backed by my own experience.

Break the ride down into different sections

This is very similar to goal setting; you will be more successful if you set small goals that are steps to your larger goal. In an ultra-event, you shouldn’t think of the entire route as one long race, but instead break the event down into manageable portions and focus on getting to the next section of the course. Rather than counting down the miles to go on an event, count down the miles to the next portion/section/checkpoint of the course. 

 

Examples:

  • Landscape: Divide a 100-mile course into two portions. Half of the course is in a national forest; the other half is on farmland. Your first goal is to reach the farmland, then your next goal from there can be to finish.
  • Gas Stations / Stores: Create a mental checkpoint for each of the four gas stations on a 200-mile route. This makes the distance 50 miles before starting a new portion of the course.
  • Road Conditions: Take a Bikepacking Route and divide it into different sections based on the type of road/path you’re on.

Be flexible with your plans & goals

It’s very important to do thorough planning for an ultra-event and having goals can provide something to motivate you. However, it is important to adapt your goals/plans as you ride. If you can’t sustain the average speed you’d like or won’t make it to the next checkpoint at your goal time, then adjust your goal. If you don’t, you might start thinking about how you weren’t able to follow-through with your plans/goals, which can sap motivation. Instead of being disappointed, adapt your goal to one that is obtainable, or continue a less specific version of your original plan.   

Examples:

  • EX: You aren’t going to meet your goal time for reaching the next checkpoint.  New Goal / Plan: Set a time that is close to the original goal, but still obtainable.
  • EX: You were going to ride all grades lower than 8% in the Aerobars, but now are having back pain from that riding position.  New Goal / Plan: Ride in the drops of the handlebars instead if that feels better. Otherwise, stop and move your bike stem higher on the steering tube to raise the handlebars for a more relaxed position.
  • EX: You didn’t drink as much water as you should’ve during a hot portion of the ride.  New Goal / Plan: Drink extra water at every stop that you make.

Know what to do when a Plan Falls Apart

We’ve all had those rides that make you wonder what else could go wrong, hopefully one of those rides isn’t your event. But if it is, you need to know how to handle it. Having the knowledge of how to get out of challenging situations gives you confidence, which will help to keep your morale high. The ability to continue riding despite setbacks is one that requires experience, but this experience can be gained through preparation.    Examples:

  • Know how to repair mechanical issues with your bike
  • Understand how to remedy gut issues that you could have during the event

Focus on the Good

Know how to recover from dehydration during a ride.  Ultra-events are known to have moments of mental “highs” and “lows” for their participants. If you’re in a “low”, then practicing mindfulness may help reclaim motivation for your ride. To practice mindfulness during an event is to not worry about the past or future and focus on the now. Focusing on the now (specifically what’s good right now) will keep your mind off mistakes that were made earlier in the ride or how intimidating the remaining portion of the ride may be. 

 

 

Examples:

  • Taking in your surroundings as you ride
  • Savoring a pop/soda at the next checkpoint rather than downing it quickly
  • Enjoying each pedal up-stroke, where not much work is required

Other things to keep in mind:

  • The midpoint of the race is the hardest, and if you can make it past that then you can finish.
  • Understand that there could be “highs” and “lows” and that these feelings are normal.
  • If temperatures are high during an event, it’s common to experience more dips in motivation as the conditions are difficult.

Reward Yourself for Persevering

If you’re really in a difficult spot during the ride, then it may be a good idea to grant yourself rewards for continuing the event. A reward can be the “light at the end of the tunnel” that keeps you going.   

Examples:

  • Coast the descents of hills: Depending on what the event is, it may not be as efficient to coast the descents. But allowing your legs to rest a bit may grant the motivation needed to continue riding.
  • Give yourself a break off the bike: At the next checkpoint, whatever that may be, take some extra time off the bike. Don’t wait too long though, as you may need to re-warmup your legs again before getting back into a rhythm.
  • Food: Thinking about that Snickers bar or Coke at the next gas station or C-Store can be a great motivator. However, I would caution you to only eat things that you know work for you during a ride. Additionally, if a large portion of your nutrition is coming from candy bars, then your performance is going to reflect that.
  • Slow your pace: If you made it through a particularly difficult section of the course then you could slow your pace for a moment to reward yourself.

Keeping spirits high and remaining disciplined throughout these events is a sure sign that you will be able to complete them. As with most things, you will likely need to discover what exactly works for you. However, I hope this list has sparked some ideas or even allows you to finish your next event.

 

 


Metabolic Testing for the Average “Jo”

September 14th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  JoAnn Cranson

I’m always trying to learn more about my body and how to manage staying healthy, burning fat and keeping my weight in check. I’m not a pro racer but I do like to exercise and compete. My latest bucket list item is to run my first Marathon.

Well, the first thing I’m discovering as I increase my miles is that I am not fueling enough during my run. The best way to figure out fueling is to do Metabolic Efficiency Testing.

Metabolism is how your body converts food into fuel to power your body. When you breathe, oxygen is carried to your muscles where carbohydrates and fats are used as fuel to create energy to keep the muscles working. Your body’s preferred fuel source is fats. It relies on oxygen (aerobic) and produces more energy. Alternatively, carbohydrates don’t rely on oxygen and provide quick bursts of energy.

However, your body only has a small storage of carbohydrates, so this is why we need to fuel adequately and frequently with carbohydrates during endurance exercise (Over 2 hours). Ideally we don’t want to have to rely on carbohydrates for all our fueling if we can train our body to use our fat stores for longer periods of times and increasingly higher intensities.

Your metabolism is unique to you! It not only refers to the way our body regulates our weight but also includes all of the chemical processes within our bodies that help to maintain normal function.

What I wanted to know what is my Metabolic Efficiency? In other words, how much fat am I burning and how many carbohydrates do I need to take in during my Marathon to run my best? Plus, I want to teach my body to burn more fat so I preserve the carbohydrate stores. This test will tell me at what heart rate, pace or power my body burns fat the best, and how I can improve that over time. The less I need to eat while I’m running the better it is for me and my digestion, yet not enough could potentially allow me to bonk!

I went to Athletic Mentors gym in Richland, Michigan to get this testing done. They had some questions that I answered ahead of time and I had the option to run on a treadmill or cycle on a trainer for this test.

I fasted for 12 hours and arrived for my test in comfortable running clothes. Jess was so friendly and helped me feel at ease by explaining everything as we got started. She checked my blood pressure, pricked my finger to measure my glucose, I put on a heart rate strap and she fitted me with a mask until I was comfortable in it. The mask and tubing were attached to a KORR machine and her computer setup.

Each test is tailored to your specific goals of what you want to learn about yourself. Some people want to know exactly how metabolically efficient they are while others are specifically looking for a fueling strategy at a certain target race pace. We started with a slow walk and very gradually eased into a run. Each phase was clearly communicated and she was always making sure I was comfortable and communicating my energy output before going to the next step.

After the test is complete, you will have a personal consultation about your results. My results showed I do burn a decent amount of fat vs carbohydrate at my 9:22/mile run pace. The information also shows me how many grams of carbs I should consume every hour for my long runs.

My long-term goal is to improve my body to preferentially use fats as the main fuel source for as long as possible. From the test, I know my target zone (heart rate and pace) to gradually get my body to use more fats as a fuel source for as long as possible. As my body adapts to using fats more, I’ll see an improvement in this speed and heart rate. Along with this, I need to be aware that I’m eating a balanced diet of healthy fats, protein and complex carbohydrates.

Check out Athletic Mentors and set up your Metabolic Efficiency Test. (Click the link and it will explain everything along with the reasonable cost to have it done.) Whether you want to learn more about your personal health or you have an upcoming goal race, it’s so worth it to learn more about how your body operates.

This average “Jo”Ann is enjoying learning more about staying healthy and being more prepared to check off another item (Running a Marathon) on my bucket list!


Racing Without Volunteers is Just Another Training Day

September 11th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Dawn Hinz

We are athletes and we are here to race. Yet, we cannot do it alone. Races whether they be triathlons, cycling, running or another sport give us the opportunity to test our personal fitness on that particular day. While we’re out there pushing ourselves to our limits there are volunteers supporting us. They give us kayaks to rest on, safety on the road (traffic doesn’t stop on its own), and provide quick nutrition and hydration. They are the biggest cheerleaders to each and every athlete; from the Leader to the Average Joe to the Back of the Packer. They are there to support and encourage all athletes from start to finish.

What if Volunteers weren’t there? No kayak to rest on? No intersection coverage to stop traffic? No one to hand you nutrition or hydration? No one to cheer you on when you’re slowing down? No one at the finish line to keep you from crashing or to provide medical support if needed? In my opinion that would make racing just another training day and we’d never know how far or how fast we could really go if we had support.

Does your Team or Club support volunteering? Do they designate races or aid stations to volunteer? This is a great way to experience volunteering with people you know. Or you can volunteer individually and meet new people. Whichever way you volunteer you’ll get to see racing from the other side. Athletes are grateful for your support and you are often the “Make or Break” to someone’s race day. You will notice a sense of fulfillment and purpose because you are there for someone else.

How often should you volunteer? This is a personal question that only you can answer. Think of it like a relationship. What would you think of someone who always takes but rarely gives back? If you love your sport you will give back to the racing community. 

Secret: the more you volunteer the more you get out of the racing experience. Sometimes the experience will be big, like the time I volunteered to lifeguard a swim under the Mackinac Bridge! What a beautiful way to spend my morning while giving others the chance to check something major off their bucket list. Sometimes the experience will be simpler like a kayaker getting to watch the sunrise over a lake or a lone swimmer who wouldn’t have finished without your encouraging words. Or like handing out water at the aid station for that last athlete who’s working their tail off to make the cutoff. Each of these experiences and thousands of others like them will renew your love of your sport.

Race Directors across the country are noticing a serious lack of volunteers. People just are not volunteering the way they used to. The day before the race they’re still asking for more volunteers. Race Directors are getting creative and providing incentives for those willing to volunteer. They’re giving cool swag, providing groups a fundraising opportunity and giving individuals discounts on future races. Can you imagine what would happen to race sign up fees if every volunteer was a paid position? Many people already complain that sign up fees are too high. Race directors aren’t sitting on their loreals getting rich and the good ones are truly there to provide the best athlete experience. Volunteers are the gateway to an awesome racing experience. 

This season isn’t over. There are still plenty of chances to volunteer. Find a local race, give back in a way that you can and see for yourself how rewarding volunteering really is. I hope to see you there.

 


What is FTP in Cycling?

September 7th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By: Raquel Torres

FTP in Cycling. Definition & Tips

Function Threshold Power (FTP) is a measure of your cycling fitness and ability to maintain a high but manageable power output for a somewhat lengthy duration. From a physiological perspective, it’s the cycling power you produce when your lactate production has risen, leveled off, and then closely matches your body’s ability to remove lactate. This just barely keeps that lactate flooding at bay. In cycling, FTP is that gray area between the power you can sustain for a very long duration, typically an hour, and the fleeting power you can only tolerate for a couple of minutes.

The term FTP it’s a measure of the best average power output you could sustain for 1 hour in a time-trial scenario.

Why is FTP seen as important? 

The concept of FTP was developed by Dr Andrew Coggan, co-author of Training and Racing with a Power Meter

“Power at lactate threshold is the most important physiological determinant of endurance cycling performance, since it integrates VO2 max, the percentage of VO2max that can be sustained for a given duration, and cycling efficiency,” says Andrew Coggan

“As such, it is more logical to define training zones relative to an athlete’s threshold power vs., for example, power at VO2 max.” 

Lactate threshold and FTP aren’t the same thing (while VO2 max is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during intense exercise). Lactate threshold refers to a specific physical change in the body. It is the point at which lactate begins to increase exponentially in your blood. Your lactate threshold can only be truly determined through blood tests.

Coggan says that lactate threshold and FTP are closely related. One is reflective of the other. FTP is the maximum power you can maintain while your body can still clear excess lactate being produced by your working muscles, allowing you to sustain your effort. 

In other words, FTP is the balance point between energy supply and demand among your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems

When you are cycling at low intensities, you are using your aerobic system. The aerobic system uses oxygen to metabolize fuel to create the needed energy. When your aerobic system can meet the energy demands of your muscles, there’s less contribution from your anaerobic energy system.

However, when cycling at higher intensities, the anaerobic system contributes more. The anaerobic system metabolizes fuel sources without oxygen. It creates energy much faster but for a shorter time. Continue to ride at a high intensity, and the byproducts of the anaerobic system (lactic acid) overwhelm your ability to clear them. So your breathing increases, the legs start to burn, and your time at this power output becomes minimal.

 Functional Threshold Power is the harmony between Aerobic & Anaerobic energy systems.

FTP and training

This context is vital for training as well because the difficulty of cycling workouts needs to be scaled to your current fitness level. A structured training plan progressively trains the energy systems needed to grow your fitness. Using cycling power zones, each workout in a plan is designed to provide just enough training stimulus to drive the adaptations that make you a faster cyclist.

What Equipment Do You Need to Test FTP?

You need a power meter on your bike or a smart trainer with an integrated power meter to measure FTP. Essentially, you just need a bike with some kind of power meter, it measures how hard and fast you pedal, giving you a figure in Watts.

There are various kinds of cycle power meters that attach to your bike and examples include SRM, Stages and Garmin. If you don’t have one of these (they can be expensive) you might consider using a static gym bike that measures power, such as the WattBike.

Another option is to mount your own bike to an indoor trainer that measures power, such as the Tacx Bushido Smart or the CycleOps Magnus Trainer.

The Best Way To Test Your FTP

One of the best-known testing methods is a 20-minute test (Critical Power 20 Test or CP20). You’ll ride at your highest sustainable power for 20 minutes. Your FTP is 95% of the average power during this interval. 

This is simply a 20-minute time trial where you ride as hard as you can while measuring your average power output.

Once you know your average power for 20 minutes (for example 200 watts) you can multiply it by 95% to estimate your FTP. For example: if your CP20 power output is 200 watts, a good estimation of your FTP would be 190 watts. This method is surprisingly accurate.

Other Things To Consider After Measuring Your FTP

In addition to testing your FTP, it’s important to measure your body weight at around the same time. This is so you can look at your FTP power output in terms of your power to weight ratio. Otherwise, any gains in your power output might be offset by gains in your body weight in a real-world setting.

You can easily work out your power to weight ratio. Divide your FTP power output by your body weight in kgs. For example, if your body weight is 70kg and your FTP is 200 watts, your FTP power to weight ratio would be 2.86 watts per kilo.

Power-to-weight ratio is a measurement of your power on the bike, in comparison to your body weight. It is expressed as watts of cycling power produced per kilogram of body weight, abbreviated as W/kg. 

Larger or bigger riders tend to have more watts than smaller cyclists in absolute terms, but lighter riders require less energy to overcome inertia and propel themselves forward (especially uphill). Power-to-weight ratio thus offers a fairer way to compare different riders’ abilities than by looking at power alone. 

How To Set Your Power Training Zones

Once you know your FTP, you can set your own power training zones by using various online calculators such as online software like Training Peaks or Garmin Connect. They have training zone calculators that you can use. Or you can hire a well experienced coach. 😉

Raquel Torres, MBA

www.raqueltorres.org

USAT- Youth Junior Elite Coach Certified

Other Sources:

https://www.trainerroad.com/blog/power-to-weight-ratio-for-cyclists-when-watts-kg-matters-and-how-to-improve-it/

https://www.myprocoach.net/blog/ftp-test-how-to-measure-your-cycle-performance/

https://www.trainerroad.com/blog/what-ftp-really-means-to-cyclists/

https://road.cc/content/feature/what-ftp-7-key-facts-about-major-training-metric-268471?amp

https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/power-training-levels/ 

https://www.healthline.com/health/vo2-max#about-vo₂-max


Runner’s injuries – Tips and Treatments

July 18th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Raquel Torres

Running is a great way to get in shape!  Knowing about common injuries and how to prevent them can keep you on track toward reaching your goals, saving time, energy, money and also enjoying the limitless benefits of running with peace of mind.

8 Common runner’s injuries with tips and treatments:

1.Soft tissue injuries – such as a pulled muscle or ligament sprain.    Tip Warm up and Cool Down before and after running. Include plenty of slow and sustained stretches. Make sure you thoroughly stretch the muscles in your thighs and calves.

2.Muscle pull – this is a small tear in your muscle, also called a muscle strain. It’s often caused by overstretching a muscle. If you pull a muscle, you may feel a popping sensation when the muscle tears. Treatment includes RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

3.Ankle sprain – this is the accidental stretching or tearing of ligaments surrounding the ankle. It often happens when the foot twists or rolls inward. Tip. Sprains typically get better with RICE rest, ice, compression, and elevating the foot.

4.Achilles tendinitis– this injury is marked by dull or sharp pain along the back of the Achilles tendon, calf tightness, and early morning stiffness. Tip: Stretching can help prevent this injury. To treat it, rest and stretch until the pain is gone. Anti-inflammatory medicine may also help.

5.IT (iliotibial) band syndrome Or runner knee– this syndrome causes pain on the outside of the knee. IT band syndrome happens when this ligament thickens and rubs the knee bone, causing inflammation and pain.  Treatment includes: Cutting back on exercise, heat and stretching before exercise, icing the area after activity.

6.Stress fractures– Is a relatively small break in the bone which typically develops from a repetitive force to the bone as opposed to a single traumatic incident. This type of overuse injury can occur when the structural capacity of the bone is overloaded. Incremental damage to the bone might occur if it isn’t strong enough or if there is insufficient time to adapt to the increased loads. Stress fractures most commonly occur in the bones of the lower limb and runners tend to get stress fractures in their leg bones, feet and hips.  Tip: Eat enough, do cross training, don’t forget the calcium, and use soft surfaces like grass and treadmills.

7.Plantar fasciitis– this injury is an inflammation of the plantar fascia related to faulty structure of the foot. In runners, improper or old shoes, or/and overuse of hard surfaces. This is a fibrous band of tissue in the bottom of the foot. Tip: Proper stretching the calf and foot exercises can help prevent and heal this type of injury. Anti-inflammatory medicine and ice compresses help relieve pain.

8.Shin splints– this injury is caused by overuse or poor conditioning. It gets worse when you run on hard surfaces. This injury causes pain on the inside of the shinbone. Tip: Shin splints are treated by rest and stretching until the pain is gone. You can relieve symptoms by using ice and anti-inflammatory medicines. Once your symptoms have eased, you should make changes in the distance you run and your speed. 

Give yourself permission to rest and heal.  We are all different in mind and body so focus on how you feel and nourish yourself based on what you are doing and training for to obtain long-term optimal performance.

Runners’ Secrets to Running Injury Free

July 8th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Raquel Torres

Run happy and smartly

Running does have a risk of injury but if you follow some simple guidelines like warming up, wearing the right gear or clothes, fueling for what you are training for and not pushing yourself too hard, most injuries can be prevented.

Some Risk Factors About Running:

Overtraining – running beyond your current level of fitness or doing too much too soon can put muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments under strain. Shin pain and stress fractures are common overuse injuries in runners. Some tips to avoid overtraining consequences:

  • Build up slowly. Don’t push too hard beyond your current level of fitness. Plan to gradually increase how long and how often you run over a few months.
  • Do Cross training. Training like a triathlete, alternating running with other low impact sports like cycling or swimming can be very beneficial in many ways and it gives your body a break, helps muscles to absorb impact and protects joints and bones.
  • Avoid running on consecutive days to allow the body to recover between runs. As a general rule of thumb, avoid increasing your weekly mileage by more than 15%. This rule applies to seasoned runners as well. Remember that the most common cause of stress fractures is doing too much too soon.
  • Keep marathons in moderation, stick to 1-2 marathons per year to allow your body to recover. 

Hard surfaces – the impact of running on hard surfaces, such as bitumen, can cause injuries including shin pain and stress fractures. Tip: Try to use soft surfaces like clear trails, treadmill, track, grass or any clear, smooth, even and reasonably soft surface. Avoid uneven surfaces and concrete. Gradually introduce surface changes and alternate hard surfaces runs with softs like dirt roads.

Incorrect technique – poor running style can increase the risk of injuries. For example, running flat-footed pulls on the shin muscles and may cause small tears.

Incorrect shoes – Before you even hit the pavement or track, boost your confidence with the right running shoes. Using the wrong type of shoe can increase the risk of various injuries, including blisters, stress fractures and shin pain. Some tips about running shoes:

  • Buy running shoes at an athletic store, where a sales clerk can help you choose a shoe that fits your foot type. This can help prevent injuries.
  • Your foot should fit snug in the heel, with a little wiggle room around your toes, experts say to guarantee the best fit, get a proper fitting at a specialty running store and wear your usual running socks when you go.
  • Track your shoes’ mileage. Worn out shoes can often contribute to and/or exacerbate pain in the ankles, knees, and hips. But it’s not enough to buy the right shoes. You also need to maintain them properly. “Experts in sports medicines recommend replacing your shoes every 400 to 600 miles, or about every 4-6 months if you run regularly. Only run in your current running shoes. 
          • Have 2 pairs of running shoes. To extend the life of your shoes, having two pairs is a great idea. Alternate your runs between the two pairs. Or, you could also have one pair suitable for longer runs and a lightweight pair for your faster speed workouts. Having two pairs is also helpful when you’ve had a rainy or muddy run. While one pair is drying, you can run in the alternate pair. Use your good running shoes JUST for running.

Did you know that  PROPER nutrition can avoid many injuries?

It’s true that proper nutrition can do little to prevent injuries caused by factors such as over training or wearing the wrong type of running shoes. But specific eating habits can be an effective part of a comprehensive injury-prevention strategy.

Eat enough

Stick to a healthy Diet. The worst nutritional mistake you can make with regard to injury prevention is to eat too few calories. That can lead to stress fractures. When your body doesn’t get enough calories to meet all of its tissue maintenance and energy needs, it will enter a catabolic state—which means your muscles begin eating themselves. Consequently, catabolism compromises your body’s ability to repair tissue damage incurred during workouts, which slows muscle recovery and increases your risk of injury.

Don’t forget the fat

Fat has a bad reputation, but it’s needed in the diet to create healthy cell membranes that are resistant to damage during exercise. A 2003 University of Buffalo study concluded that female athletes (particularly endurance athletes) who restricted their dietary fat intake had a higher risk of injury and higher levels of fatigue during training.

What’s most interesting is that the low-fat diet athletes and high-fat diet athletes ate the same amounts of carbohydrates, fiber, protein, magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, and iron. For the group that did not eat enough fat, they suffered from both low energy availability and poor nutrient absorption.

Keep the calcium coming

Bone strains and stress fractures are uncommon in swimming and cycling, but quite common in running—especially for those with low bone density.

After all, your diet creates the building blocks of your body structure. Just as a well-built house is more likely to survive an earthquake, a properly nourished body is better able to withstand, say, a rigorous half-marathon training plan. That said, here a tip nutrition habit that will help you reduce the risk of injury:

Train, shower, eat

When you eat is every bit as important as what you eat when it comes to preventing injuries. Muscle and joint tissue damage that occurs during a workout is repaired most quickly in the two hours immediately after the workout—provided you eat during that time. 

The most important nutrient to consume for post-exercise tissue repair is protein, but research has shown that consuming protein with carbohydrate is even better, because carbs stimulate muscle protein synthesis as well as restock depleted muscle glycogen stores.

Conclusion:

Be moderate with the loading distance and the volume with intensity, this is like cooking, too much of an ingredient (aka: volume, intensity, frequency or surfaces) can be much worse than too little. 

Don’t ignore pain, a little soreness is OK. But if you notice consistent pain in a muscle, bone or joint that doesn’t get better with rest, stop the activity and see a health care provider.

Most research on strength training for injury prevention in runners focuses on hips. Strengthening the hip muscles (hip abductors and external rotators) does help keep the knee in line with the hip. This is good advice to prevent mild knee pain from patellar tendonitis and shin splints. At the same time, if a runner only works on hip strength, ignoring core stability they haven’t gained the full benefit.

Create a smart running plan: Before beginning a running routine, talking to a good experienced coach or trainer can help you create a well balanced running plan that is in line with your current fitness abilities and long-term goals.

 


Finding Balance from a Junior Athlete

May 9th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Nya Caldwell

Hello, my name is Nya Caldwell and I am 14 years old. Currently, I’m a 9th grader at Milford High School. I have always been a multi-sport athlete and have been riding bikes for as long as I can remember. This past fall I was on my high school’s scholastic mountain bike team, which is a combined team made up of cyclists from surrounding high schools.

In the winter I transitioned to boarder cross, (or snowboard cross). Boarder cross is a snowboard competition, where 4-6 competitors race down a course simultaneously. This was an exciting new sport for me, which allowed me to expand my snowboarding skills along with providing a different racing experience.

Everyone in my family either races, or rides for enjoyment. When I was 9 I joined Huron Valley Mountain Bike Club. We met every Thursday night for rides and to work on skills. This experience introduced me to MiSCA and mountain bike racing. That fall I had my first race, and it was at Island Lake Recreation Area. I didn’t know what to expect, but it ended up being really fun. That was the start of my love for racing. In 7th grade I was the MiSCA Middle School State Champion, and in 2021 I achieved the MiSCA JV State Championship title.

For the upcoming school year, I will be competing on HVUR’s Varsity team, and my goal is to have a strong season with a few podium finishes. I am excited to be competing alongside a great group of friends and cyclists.

This is my first year with Team Athletic Mentors. I first became aware of the team a few years ago, through my cousin Kellen. His success has inspired me to reach a higher level in cycling. My goal for my high school cycling career is to keep progressing to the next level in the sport. I love riding trails, so I would love to become better at skills. I want to challenge myself mentally and physically, which will help me in many aspects of life outside of cycling. Coming into this cycling season, I am hopeful that the demands of my other sports activities will allow me to transition smoothly back into cycling. I wasn’t able to put many hours into off-season training on my bike, but have confidence that my other athletic endeavors will help me get up to speed.

Last month I participated in my first gravel race, Barry-Roubaix. This was also my first race as a part of Team Athletic Mentors. It was a freezing cold day, with temperatures dipping into the 30’s, strong winds, and snowy weather conditions. Before the race we gathered as a team for a warm-up ride. Right away, I knew that I didn’t have the proper gloves to keep my hands warm. My hands were getting stiff, and painfully stinging. This was after only being on the bikes for 4-miles! This wasn’t going to work for an 18-mile race in winter-like weather. Luckily, a very helpful gentleman in the team tent lent me his gloves, which worked much better for me. Lesson number one, come prepared for everything and try out your gear before race-day!

It was so cool to line up at the start as a team. There were a lot of juniors in black and yellow kits and we were all experiencing the race-line jitters together. Everyone was so supportive of one another, offering advice and positive words of encouragement. It was such a great experience and all of my teammates were so supportive. The race was a huge success for the team, winning the junior team division. I managed to pull off a first in the 18 and under female category, which was an unexpected result. I was happy with how the race went and look forward to coming back next year.

The thing that I enjoy most about racing is the rush that I get after the ride. Often butterflies and anxiety can be distractions leading up to a race. I like to listen to my favorite playlist beforehand to help calm my nerves and get me hyped up. Once I take off from the start line I try to focus on a good cadence and any riders ahead of me. When the race is over, I always have a feeling of relief knowing that no matter the outcome I tried my best.

This Spring, I am on my school’s JV lacrosse team and on the Athletic Mentors Junior Development Team. Balancing multiple sports throughout the year, and the academic demands of high school can be challenging. However, participating in many different athletic disciplines is a lot of fun and I enjoy them all. The key to success is finding the right balance.


What I Learned About Heart Rates & Training

April 21st, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Christina Vipond

Before I started racing, I used a bicycle computer to tell me how fast I was cruising and how many miles I had ridden. I never wore a heart rate monitor. When I started racing, I began wearing a heart rate monitor, using a power meter and using Zwift for off season training. My data showed my heart rate would quickly pop up to the 180s and even into the 190s during hard efforts. According to exercising heart rate zones, 220-your age, my max heart rate should only be 175. 

I was amazed at the number of people who looked at my heart rate during rides (on STRAVA or Zwift) and commented on the numbers; “Look at your heart rate!” “Why is your heart rate so high?”  Several people had advice for me, I heard “you haven’t trained enough” (8000 miles a year apparently isn’t enough training), “you are overtrained”, “you are working too hard”, “your heart rate shouldn’t be that high”, “you should go to the doctor to get that checked”. I was assured that my heart rate is just naturally higher when I am riding. Still, I would question how I felt when I was riding with a heart rate of 183. I was definitely working but I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out. I was also embarrassed as others would say, “man, my heart rate is only 130”. 

I am now into my third year of training and racing. My heart rate still pops into the 180s with hard efforts. As I was researching “normal” heart rates, I had the opportunity to talk with Mark Olson, Athletic Mentors co-founder and expert in the field of strength and conditioning.  I was relieved to hear we have similar heart rates. He explained heart rates are very individual and that there shouldn’t be any comparison to anyone else’s heart rate.

Mark defined the lactic threshold heart rate for me. A simplified definition of Lactate threshold is the level at which the intensity of exercise causes lactate to accumulate in the blood at a faster rate than it can be removed, making it the border between low- and high-intensity work.  According to various research articles, lactate threshold for an untrained person usually coincides with 50-60 percent of VO2 max, ranging up to 85-95 percent of VO2 max for an elite athlete. Mark explained that the lactic threshold heart rate is how hard an athlete can ride for an hour.  The number is individual and should only be compared to that athlete. For example, if an untrained athlete does a test, trains then does the test again, it is expected the lactic heart rate will improve and increase. Once an athlete is trained, there will be little movement in the heart rate number.  He said that the lactic threshold heart rate is really an input number, the power created is the output number. The heart rate number alone is useless.

Together, we looked at my FTP (Functional Threshold Power) rides that I had done over the past 3 years to estimate my lactate threshold. The data from these tests showed that while my heart rate did not change at FTP, my power went up, reiterating that my heart rate number by itself is meaningless and that my training is improving my fitness.  This information has given me confidence and the ability to explain that my heart rate is okay to those who have shown concern. I also have insight to the reasoning behind, as well as the importance of training rides of lengths, power and cadence parameters. This information has piqued my interest in the “why” and “how” of training. There is still so much more for me to learn.


Challenges of Spring Racing in the Cold

April 15th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Cate Wittman

My name is Cate Wittman, I am 15 and a member of the Athletic Mentors Junior Development Team. I primarily mountain bike race but occasionally race gravel. And I understand how hard riding can be in the early part of the year!

Winter training is the time to build up for the season. It is the factor that determines how your year is going to go, yet it can be difficult to manage. All cyclists have experienced the weird feeling of going from indoor riding to outside cycling. For instance, my legs always feel like jello and my arms as stiff as a chopping block. But here is how it’s been so far…

This winter season, I have been training on rollers and a trainer. I personally like to train inside since the cold can affect my breathing. Of course I do the usual sprints, long rides, spinning, etc, but for mountain bikers, how do you keep your technical skills over the winter without fat biking?

When it finally warmed up, we rode as much as possible to take advantage of the “nice” riding weather. I’ve found myself riding sloppy gravel roads, pavement and even some dry trails. As soon as I hopped on the seat and put my hands on the handle bars, I thought I was going to crash. My whole body tensed up and every little movement made me think I was just going to tip over. There was a very noticeable difference between the trainer and the road.

After riding for about a week in warmer weather, I got used to outdoor riding. Sprints felt unsustainable and long. Spinning felt like I was moving a foot in an hour compared to the rollers. But now I’ve gotten used to my legs spinning, the wind blowing in my face and the road moving underneath me. However, there will still be the weird feeling of not being able to grab a snack from the tableside next to you.

Getting ready for Barry Roubaix was a challenge, going from the comfort of my basement to the intense, muddy, hilly pavement and gravel roads. What made training for the race even better was the cold, icy air of the month of March. It’s hard to breathe in the thick air and I would hyperventilate and cough to try to inhale as much as I could to get a little oxygen to my lungs. It felt impossible.

Luckily, there are techniques that I’ve learned this season to help control things and calm me down. Things like breathing exercises, positive self-affirmations and more can help with my riding. When I can’t breathe, I try pushing all my air out as much as possible rather than in as much as possible. And when things start getting tough and I start thinking I can’t do it, I start talking out loud to myself saying I am able to do it. By doing things like this, it has helped my training and riding this early season. It can even help my mindset which therefore helps my ability to ride as well as I am able to.

At the start of everyone’s season, it feels weird and uncomfortable. Something that you’re not used to. But it’s important to remember that everyone feels this. Calm down if possible; take a few deep breaths, say some kind words to yourself, and try your best. I still need to work on these things, but I know that it takes time and patience. Making racing more enjoyable starts with your own mindset and base training.

 


Triathlon Training in Tucson

March 29th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Paul Raynes

Predictable sunny weather, beautiful mountains, and abundant training opportunities, all reasons why Tucson Arizona became my home for the first two months of 2022.

At 2400 ft. of elevation, the valley of Tucson is a caldera, and the surrounding mountains the remains of an ancient collapsed volcano. Because of the beauty, weather, and available outdoor activities, Tucson has been my winter destination for the past four years.

Tucson has an expansive and highly accessible recreational parks system. Just down the road from my Airbnb casita, a large 158 acre indoor and outdoor recreational facility, Morris K. Udall Park.  Udall Park became my primary destination for biking, running, and relaxed evening walks.  The desertscape of the back half of Udall Park was a great place to run, and practice transitions off the bike – just me, a few rabbits, birds, roadrunners, and that one coyote that would trot by, stop, and stare at me like it was assessing my running mechanics.

From there, I had a direct link to the Chuck Huckleberry Loop (The Loop), nearly 140 miles of well-maintained interlinked paved trails – approximately 55 miles to circumnavigate the metro Tucson area.  You’ll find exit points for gravel or mountain biking on certain areas of The Loop. Or, if desired, travel to one of the many specific off-road cycling destinations. Most major roads have wide bike lanes, however, for non-stop riding and safety reasons, I chose to stay on The Loop.

South Loop

Tucson has a robust cycling community, great bike shops and features the annual November event, “El Tour De Tucson.”

Like many of the larger parks, Udall had an outdoor lap pool. Regrettably, it was not open during the winter months. I did find at least four outdoor pools with winter hours. The pool at William M. Clements Center, was a short drive from my casita. A drive well worth the 82-degree water, no reservations, and there was always a lane open. A mere $2, for out of towners.

Mount Lemmon is a must-see destination. A 9000 ft. mountain regularly used by the cycling community, sight seers, and hikers. If you’re so inclined, you’ll find a ski resort near 8,500 ft. of elevation. If you do visit Tucson, make sure to take Catalina Highway up the mountain. There’s hiking along the way, and great overlooks, like Windy Point. If you make it to the top, you’ll experience a significant change in eco systems, and have an opportunity to grab a bite to eat in the quaint little town of Summerhaven, some 26 miles up the mountain.

Apparently, I prepared for an Octathlon: road bike, running shoes, hiking shoes, swim gear, 20lbs. dumbbells, elastic bands, self-massage tools, and golf clubs. I used it all, including the golf clubs – I completed a ton of base training, and feel healthy. The sun and hikes into the mountains helped with the sense of health and wellness. After all, it’s not just about the physical being.

Udall Park

My thoughts have been on the purpose of the 2022 season, and during my stay, I received notice of an age group national qualification. Some of the reasons and excuses for not pursuing past qualifications no longer exist. So, why not take advantage of being the youngster at the bottom of the 65-69 age group?

A question to myself, a question of motivation…   Questions of ambition regarding competitive endurance sports surfaced during my soul searching.  Can passion transcend a waning competitive spirit?

It’s been a long journey, and as I enter my tenth age group, I question where my heart is, the desire for intensity, the intensity and discipline it takes for me to be my best.

I’ve learned over the years, if you want something, hangout with people on the same mission, and mind set. Place yourself with the right people, in the correct environment, and the energy will come.

Here in Southwest Michigan, we are also fortunate to be integrated into a large active community.

These communities don’t manifest on their own, and we are especially privileged to have organizations, athletic families, our Athletic Mentors Team – creating the environments where people are motivated to express their passion through athletics and healthy community engagement.

I’m going to do something this season, I’m just not sure what that something is…  I do know, staying healthy and enjoying the moment is important to me.

Staying connected to the athletic community and team, will help me with that vision.  The truth, I can use a nudge in the right direction, a word of motivation, and perspective…

To a safe and purposeful athletic season…



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