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Train Smarter, Not Harder

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Train Smarter, Not Harder

Written by Jennifer Sharp of ALP Cycles Coaching

“How many of you have overtrained?” ask Dr. San Millan to a room full of 25 coaches and athletes.

Every single person raised their hand. 

Everyone, at some point in their athletic lives, will overtrain. In the summer time it’s easy to throw in extra mileage even though you’ve done 15 hours of riding that week and it’s only Friday - what’s the harm? And while it’s okay to pile on the extra miles every once in a while, making a habit of it means you’ll eventually find out why rest days are super important. And that lesson could cost you a week, a month, a season or a full year.

Fact: Cycling is painful. You frequently push your body to extremes and keep going.

Myth: Overtraining only happens to professionals.

Fact: Overtraining can happen to anyone who is not building enough recovery into their intense racing and training regime.

Myth: Overtraining is curable in a few days.

Fact: Overtraining causes neurological, mental, hormonal, emotional and nutritional imbalances and the effects can be long reaching. 

It’s actually pretty easy to over train. We’re bombarded with TSS and CTL and ATL charts and graphs. We’re obsessed with tracking our upward growth and it’s hard to not be a slave to a performance manager chart. We get used to pushing through pain. But what those CTL’s, ATL’s, TSS’s and TSB’s don’t show in flashing red lights: “CAUTION - OVER TRAINING AHEAD” until it's too late.

The Performance Manager Chart: where's the caution sign?

The Performance Manager Chart: where's the caution sign?

Can you tell when an athlete is prone to overtraining?

As coaches, we’re constantly monitoring our athletes data. Thankfully power coupled with heart rate data can paint a picture of that individual athlete’s reaction to training stimulus on a daily basis. We watch for trends and see if we can explain patterns. And we’re also reliant on our athlete’s feedback to clue us into things we may have missed on first glance. Like decoupling of the heart rate,  lack of motivation, stress, insomnia, or mood swings. All of these factors come into play for each individual in their own unique way. Unfortunately in regard to overtraining, there’s no one specific marker that is the cause. Rather it’s a combination of factors.

So, how do you track different metrics to see if you’re headed down the path of overtraining?

One suggestion is to do a blood test in the offseason to obtain a baseline measurement. You could include this into your annual physical requesting your hematology, biochemical and hormonal markers. Then about  1-1.5 months prior to your peak event, do another test. Have a trained professional compare the results and determine if you should back things off if needed or continue the training as prescribed. 

Another cheaper method of tracking is through daily monitoring of your resting heart rate. You can expect to see a 5% fluctuation from day to day heart rate but anything above or below that could be a sign of overtraining. If you see a big outlier in your heart rate, play it safe and smart and call it a day.

How do you avoid overtraining in the first place?

First of all, listen to your body. If you’re tired, rest. Use a heart rate monitor, as mentioned above, to track your resting heart rate.  You can use the metrics portion of TrainingPeaks to log your sleep quality, overall feeling, soreness, menstruation, fatigue, weight and more. Use it! Eat a well balanced diet and stay on top of hydration. If you have a prescribed off day - take it. It pays to train smarter, not harder. 

Metrics located in TrainingPeaks are a great way to track various markers that paint a clearer picture for your coach.

Metrics located in TrainingPeaks are a great way to track various markers that paint a clearer picture for your coach.

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Train Smarter, Not Harder

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Train Smarter, Not Harder

Written by Jennifer Sharp of ALP Cycles Coaching

“How many of you have overtrained?” ask Dr. San Millan to a room full of 25 coaches and athletes.

Every single person raised their hand. 

Everyone, at some point in their athletic lives, will overtrain. In the summer time it’s easy to throw in extra mileage even though you’ve done 15 hours of riding that week and it’s only Friday - what’s the harm? And while it’s okay to pile on the extra miles every once in a while, making a habit of it means you’ll eventually find out why rest days are super important. And that lesson could cost you a week, a month, a season or a full year.

Fact: Cycling is painful. You frequently push your body to extremes and keep going.

Myth: Overtraining only happens to professionals.

Fact: Overtraining can happen to anyone who is not building enough recovery into their intense racing and training regime.

Myth: Overtraining is curable in a few days.

Fact: Overtraining causes neurological, mental, hormonal, emotional and nutritional imbalances and the effects can be long reaching. 

It’s actually pretty easy to over train. We’re bombarded with TSS and CTL and ATL charts and graphs. We’re obsessed with tracking our upward growth and it’s hard to not be a slave to a performance manager chart. We get used to pushing through pain. But what those CTL’s, ATL’s, TSS’s and TSB’s don’t show in flashing red lights: “CAUTION - OVER TRAINING AHEAD” until it's too late.

The Performance Manager Chart: where's the caution sign?

The Performance Manager Chart: where's the caution sign?

Can you tell when an athlete is prone to overtraining?

As coaches, we’re constantly monitoring our athletes data. Thankfully power coupled with heart rate data can paint a picture of that individual athlete’s reaction to training stimulus on a daily basis. We watch for trends and see if we can explain patterns. And we’re also reliant on our athlete’s feedback to clue us into things we may have missed on first glance. Like decoupling of the heart rate,  lack of motivation, stress, insomnia, or mood swings. All of these factors come into play for each individual in their own unique way. Unfortunately in regard to overtraining, there’s no one specific marker that is the cause. Rather it’s a combination of factors.

So, how do you track different metrics to see if you’re headed down the path of overtraining?

One suggestion is to do a blood test in the offseason to obtain a baseline measurement. You could include this into your annual physical requesting your hematology, biochemical and hormonal markers. Then about  1-1.5 months prior to your peak event, do another test. Have a trained professional compare the results and determine if you should back things off if needed or continue the training as prescribed. 

Another cheaper method of tracking is through daily monitoring of your resting heart rate. You can expect to see a 5% fluctuation from day to day heart rate but anything above or below that could be a sign of overtraining. If you see a big outlier in your heart rate, play it safe and smart and call it a day.

How do you avoid overtraining in the first place?

First of all, listen to your body. If you’re tired, rest. Use a heart rate monitor, as mentioned above, to track your resting heart rate.  You can use the metrics portion of TrainingPeaks to log your sleep quality, overall feeling, soreness, menstruation, fatigue, weight and more. Use it! Eat a well balanced diet and stay on top of hydration. If you have a prescribed off day - take it. It pays to train smarter, not harder. 

Metrics located in TrainingPeaks are a great way to track various markers that paint a clearer picture for your coach.

Metrics located in TrainingPeaks are a great way to track various markers that paint a clearer picture for your coach.

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The Ups and Downs of Injury

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Written by ALP Cycles Coach, Jennifer Sharp

I wish I had a better story tell. Maybe a story that includes a death-defying feat of cycling out-maneuvering or how I was going for the win and my back wheel exploded causing me to fall. But the truth is, I was just sitting down and twisted wrong. I felt my back slip and my symptoms went from limited mobility to worse.

Injuries come in many varieties: both acute and chronic. As an athlete, they’re inevitable. As a cyclist, they’re almost a rite of passage. No matter how you end up on the road of injury, the results are the same: healing takes time.  

In my case, my lower back instantly inflamed and put me on mobility lock down. I couldn’t twist or move, let alone think of riding a bike. Thankfully the day I injured myself, it was pouring rain outside. I wasn’t even tempted to ride. But what about the day after that? What about the big criteriums this weekend? What about the rest of my season?

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Everything was put on hold.

 

That night, things went from bad to worse. I could barely get up in the middle of the night and get to the bathroom. I called a chiropractor the next day and tearfully made an appointment.

 

Eliu Hernandez of MountainView Chiropractic Center checked my range of motion in not only my back, but my neck and the strength in my arms and legs to see the extent of my injury.

 

“Yep, you’re back is inflamed,” he said. And as he was checking to see if he could isolate the pain, he added “Some people ask if it’s in the joints, the muscles or spine. And in this case, it’s in all three.”

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Got it. When can I get back on the bike?

 

“Normally I tell my patients to take it easy for two weeks and then check back in. But as a competitor, and while I don’t advise it, if you have a race this weekend, just please don’t crash.”

Would racing in this weekend’s crits really be worth the risk? That’s something every athlete must ask themselves. If you’re in that delicate recovery window, is it worth potentially injuring yourself more? Previous experience with a hamstring injury wizened me long ago – if your body needs rest, then rest. No race is worth a potential long term injury.

Forever the optimist – I immediately asked myself, how can I take this time and make it useful? Just a little bit of digging revealed a bunch of small improvements I could make on my own. And while singularly, they may not make a difference, added together they can make an impact.

Below are some tips on things you can actively due to improve your recovery.

1.     Just as in sport, nutrition and hydration impact your ability to recover. During the initial phase of injury, inflammation occurs as the body’s natural response to heal the injured area. Pain, swelling, redness and heat occur. Focus on anti-inflammatory foods such as olive oil, avocados, flax oil, oily fishes, and mixed nuts and seeds while avoiding processed foods high in saturated fats, vegetable oils and foods with trans fats.  You can also include garlic, curry powder, and berries. Icing those tender areas for 15 minutes every hour can greatly reduce swelling and get you on the road to recovery.

2.     Once the pain and swelling has reduced, your body enters the prolifteration and remodeling phases. Your metabolism can increase 15-20% from being sedentary so it’s important to fuel yourself enough protein, balanced dietary fat, eating a diverse mix of fruits and vegetables and eat enough whole grain minimally processed carbs.

3.     Have extra down time now that you’re not doing the sport you love? It’s time to sharpen those often neglected mental skills. My favorite book of all time is, “Thinking Body, Dancing Mind” by Jerry Lynch. And another favorite by Steve Peters: “The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Program for Confidence, Success and Happiness.” Stay off social and educate yourself in the meantime!

4.     Get body work. Massage, acupuncture, and cupping. If you’ve had trouble finding the time to fit these into your schedule, now you can. Find out from other cyclists who their favorite body work person is and give it a try.

5.     Be diligent about your physical therapy. If you’ve been shown various exercises to increase your mobility – do them!

It’s now been two weeks since my back injury. Since I stopped and sought help, rested and focused on those recovery techniques, I’m happy to say things are headed in the right direction. Did I miss racing at Velorama? You bet! But I’m able to ride my bike again, pain free, and I’d happily miss any race if that meant a lifetime full of doing what I love. 

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How To Deal With The Heat

Written by ALP Cycles Coach, Jennifer Sharp

It’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere and temperatures are hotting up. While each person responds differently to heat (some thrive, others wilt) there are a few things you can do to beat the heat and ensure you have a good performance.  Below are several tips that you can start using immediately that may benefit your performance.

When should I ride? Keep in mind the time of day it’s the hottest. In Colorado, that means from 11am - 6pm is HOT. We highly recommend getting up early (at daybreak, if possible) and getting in those big miles early before the heat of the day. 

ALP Cycles Racing athletes beat the heat with cold water and Breakthrough Nutrition's NBS.

ALP Cycles Racing athletes beat the heat with cold water and Breakthrough Nutrition's NBS.

What should I drink? While water is the obvious choice, athletes also benefit from a sports drink of some sort. As you exercise, you lose water and electrolytes through sweat. Hydrating before you head out on a ride is one way to combat this loss of valuable fluids. I’ve personally had great success by drinking a preload hydration mix (that has an increased amount of sodium) 60 minutes before an intense effort like a crit or short track race, or even a long, intense training ride followed by a bottle of cold water (we like Breakthrough Nutrition's NBS line of hydration, pre load, and recovery mixes). 

How do I stay cool? Two words: ice socks. Yes, it might seem a little weird when you by a box of knee high panty hose at your local pharmacy but filling it with several handfuls of ice and tying it up and putting it on your back between your shoulder blades will give you instant relief from the heat. Why panty hose? Because when the ice melts, you’ll have a small, discrete carrying case that you can reuse. In really hot conditions (85 degrees and hotter) Alison said she’s also emerged her jersey in a cooler full of ice water and then puts it on just before she raced. I also recommend carrying an extra water bottle full of ice and dumping it on your head throughout the effort to stay cool. Or get someone out on course to douse you with some water. 

Benjamin Sharp (Jennifer's husband) douses her with cold water at the top of the Snake Alley climb. Photo by Erika Fulk.

Benjamin Sharp (Jennifer's husband) douses her with cold water at the top of the Snake Alley climb. Photo by Erika Fulk.

How can I acclimate? If you really suffer in hot conditions, the best way to acclimate to them is to ride in them. Unfortunately there’s not an easy way around this. You can take it slow by starting your rides in the morning and working toward riding during the heat of the day. Start off exercising easy and slowly increase your intensity. Heat acclimation happens within 4-9 days of training and full acclimation occurs in about 14 days. Here’s a link to University of Connecticut’s Heat Acclimization recommendations: http://ksi.uconn.edu/prevention/heat-acclimatization/

When should I stop exercising? Cycling is earmarked with pain and suffering. We push our bodies to exhaustion and beyond normal warning signs. However, heat exhaustion and exertional heat stroke should not be taken lightly. If your body has a difficult time with heat and you feel like you may pass out - then stop. Using the tips above should help dealing with the heat. 

Have some tips to share? Please leave them in the comments below - we’d love to learn what works for you! 

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Don't forget about our Winter Park Mountain Bike Capital USA with an  All Star line up of mountain bike coaches, you'll learn, ride, and improve your mountain bike skills and confidence in a town known for it's singletrack. 

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Kids - don't try this at home. Jennifer is tossing a bottle back to Alison in the follow car at last year's Pro Challenge. (She caught it!)

Kids - don't try this at home. Jennifer is tossing a bottle back to Alison in the follow car at last year's Pro Challenge. (She caught it!)

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Superior Hill Climbing

Photo by ProVeloPassion, Mary Topping

Photo by ProVeloPassion, Mary Topping

Written by ALP Cycles Coach, Jennifer Sharp

The last lap took everything she had. She crossed the finish line euphoric and then slumped over her bike, weaving to a stop and bent over, exhausted from the effort. 

We all have a pain cave. The question is - how deep do you dig when you approach it? How willing are you to push beyond your perceived physical and mental limitations? And what is it you fear most that you tend to avoid because it shines a light on an area you need to address?

For me, it's hills. Hills challenge my bigger frame and fast twitch physiology. And in many ways, when the going gets tough, I crack quickly under pressure. Maybe you can relate or maybe you'd replace hills with sprinting or riding close to someone else. 

We all have fears, excuses, easy to come up with reasons why we don't practice our weaknesses. But as both a coach and athlete, I urge you to practice those weaknesses. Strengthen the skills that challenge you the most. 

A couple of weekends ago was our local highlight race of the year: Superior Morgul. It had it all: a parking lot crit, street sprints, time trial and the queen stage road race, finishing at the top of the esteemed "Wall". It's a Colorado classic. Last year at the finish, I crossed the line in tears telling my husband, "don't ever make me do this again. No matter what." The wall made me question the joy and fun I have in cycling, rocking me to my core.

So a couple of Sunday mornings ago, much to my surprise, I was leading the Omnium. And the question over breakfast became, well - why wouldn't I do the road race? The risk: Benjamin thought after last year our marriage may hang in the balance if things didn't go "well." But the gains? Well the gains far outweighed the risks: my teammate Jenna was in a close second and I could help her win; it would be great training and prep for my season goal of Master World Track Championships; and I would conquer some hill inner demons. 

Armed with 10+ hours of sleep, a fresh perspective and a willingness to go for it, I pinned on a race number. Even if the strongest climbers who only showed up for the road race danced up the wall and left me in their dust, my competition were the other omnium riders and I had a fighting chance of winning. 

So on the third lap, the climbers climbed and I found myself pushing HARD through the climb, losing contact from my rivals. Luckily I wasn't alone and finished the race with six other women. On the final climb, a rider attacked and was chased to the line while I fought an ugly uphill battle, coming close to overcoming the attacker but didn't have quite enough. Had I beat her, I would have won the overall. Me. This girl. Going from self-defeat a year before to what if's. The point total was close: Tracy at 101, Emily at 100 and myself at 100. Beating just that one person would have leap frogged me into first. Woulda coulda shoulda!

However, the biggest lesson of the weekend came the day after and seeing a photo of the race winner, Emma Grant. Just after crossing the finish line, she was hunched over her bike, gasping for air and showing signs of the enormous effort it took for her to cross the finish line first. She went all in. She pushed so hard because she wanted it so bad and she prevailed. 

When I think back to those final moments as I battled toward the finish line, I know I sat up just enough, settling. What I'm inspired by and can't wait for is to push so hard that I collapse from the effort. That even those that can climb (or sprint, etc.) push as hard as they can despite the risk. Because if you're not pushing 100%, then are you still chasing the dream?

Even after coaching and racing for many years, I am always thankful for the lessons that teach you about strength and vulnerability. Thank you Emma, for showing your courage. And thank you to my competitors for allowing competition and areas where I can test my ability. And most of all, thank you Universe for gravity and hills.

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3 Tips On The Art of Suffering

Standing on top of the podium makes all of that suffering worth it. ALP Cycles Race Team athletes Cory Popovich and Sandy North's smiles say it all. 

Standing on top of the podium makes all of that suffering worth it. ALP Cycles Race Team athletes Cory Popovich and Sandy North's smiles say it all. 

Written by ALP Cycles Coach, Jennifer Sharp

Shhhhhh…. Don’t tell anyone new to the sport but cycling is based on suffering. A lot of suffering. You have to push your body to the extreme to overcome gravity, inertia, strong winds, and at time physical ailments just in order to cross the finish line. It can be painful, gut wrenching, exhilarating and 100% satisfying.

When I first started racing back in 2004, I stumbled upon CyclingNews mental tool box. I was fascinated with how the mind worked and how something as simple as changing your perspective toward any obstacle could make a huge difference and decrease your suffering.

By decrease your suffering, you can increase your joy of the experience.

So how do you do that? Here are my top three mental tools that I find myself going to over and over again.

ALP Cycles Head Coach Alison Powers discusses bike handling techniques to give riders the tools they need to ride their bikes confidently.

ALP Cycles Head Coach Alison Powers discusses bike handling techniques to give riders the tools they need to ride their bikes confidently.

1.     USE POSITIVE SELF TALK. The voices in our head can make or break you. Cycling is hard enough. If you don’t make the break, can’t keep up with the group, or hit a certain power threshold, then it’s really easy to let the negative voices creep into your head and take over. It takes a conscious choice to break the pattern and snap out of that funk and focus on the positive. Olympic Training Center sport psychologist Diana McNabb once shared with me her rubber band trick: put a rubber band around one of your wrists. If you find yourself traveling down a path of self-doubt and negativity – snap that rubber band and tell yourself, you CAN do it. The act of snapping the rubber band can break the pattern of negativity and work like a charm.

2.     KEEP PUSHING. Say you’re climbing a hill and it just keeps going and going and going. You’re pushing your body to the limit – your heart rate is through the roof, your muscles are screaming at you and you know you could just pull over and the pain would quickly stop. This is where you really have to fight the urge to back off. Acknowledge the pain. Tell yourself that you know it hurts, but you’re going to keep pushing to the next tree. And once you get there, you keep pushing to the tree after that and the tree after that. Each time you push your body that much further, you build confidence that you can go further even when everything hurts. Our minds are often the biggest limiter.

Surround yourself with positive coaches, teammates and friends and enjoy the process.

Surround yourself with positive coaches, teammates and friends and enjoy the process.

3.     SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE PEOPLE. This applies to all faucets of life. If you want to focus on positivity and growth, then finding positive like-minded people can make a huge difference. They’re your support system and cheerleaders. These are the people who make mistakes, learn from them and can laugh about it later.

Have a tool that you use you’d like to share? Please add a comment below. 

 

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Week in Review: Marian University Spring Training Camp

2017 Marian University Spring Training Camp Athletes

2017 Marian University Spring Training Camp Athletes

By ALP Coach Jennifer Sharp

Last week I had the privilege of joining the Marian University collegiate cycling team for their 5th annual spring break training camp representing ALP Cycles Coaching as a coach. Roughly 30 fast, young, and incredibly quick to recover collegiate athletes took to Smokey Mountains of Tennessee and rode 10,578 miles, climbed 899,792 feet, burned 413,915 calories, and ate 36 dozen (!!!) eggs. 

All smiles at the top of Happy Valley climb at the Top of the World on Day One. 

All smiles at the top of Happy Valley climb at the Top of the World on Day One. 

This is the biggest camp I’ve been a part of and I learned a lot not only as a coach, but also as a working athlete. Good friend and head cycling coach Dean Peterson had already dialed in the logistics of getting all of the kids down to the Townsend, TN area, arranged lodging, picked up groceries and had someone create a shift schedule so that the kitchen wasn’t overloaded with dirty dishes and all the while keeping everyone well fed. 

With a group this size, it’s important to lay some ground rules otherwise chaos ensues. For some kids, they’re still learning how to function without their parents cooking or picking up after them. (Wait - you mean dishes don’t just clean themselves?) Below are some of the highlights from camp that can be applied to both training camps and setting out for longer rides. 

The Senior/Junior squad heading out to ride the Cherohala Skyway. 

The Senior/Junior squad heading out to ride the Cherohala Skyway. 

1. Be on time.

If the ride is scheduled to leave at 10am, that means we leave at 10am. Making sure you’ve got the appropriate layers, nutrition, hydration, tires inflated, etc. all needs to happen before the start of the ride. Cycling is a team sport and respect toward your teammates is demonstrated by your ability to show up on time. 

Wednesday's Cherohala Skyway ride: 115 miles with 10,015 feet of climbing. The pavement was recently resurfaced once you cross into North Carolina. Perfect for descending for 15+ miles at 50 mph! 

Wednesday's Cherohala Skyway ride: 115 miles with 10,015 feet of climbing. The pavement was recently resurfaced once you cross into North Carolina. Perfect for descending for 15+ miles at 50 mph! 

2. Riding in the mountains can be dangerous.

It could be a sunny 70 degrees down in the valley and then have freezing rain on the mountain passes. If you’re planning on climbing to higher elevations, being prepared means taking a rain jacket and additional layers to prevent hypothermia. It’s easy to underdress and what goes up must come down. So while you’re comfortable on the climb up due to the heat you build, you can easily get chilled on the descent. Be smart - always take a jacket, especially in the mountains. 

A well stocked pantry means fueled muscles!

A well stocked pantry means fueled muscles!

3. Eat and drink regularly.

I cannot stress this enough. Day one of the camp saw one of the kids with severe cramping to the point of where he had to back it off a lot and limp home. A great rule of thumb is a water bottle with some sort of electrolyte every hour (sipping every 10 minutes) and eating 100-150 calories every 40 minutes, accompanied with water/mix. This applies to all rides over an hour - and should continue throughout the duration of the ride. You’re not only fueling for that day’s effort, you’re also setting yourself up for the following days. Get behind on your calorie intake and you’ll quickly be off the back. (Speaking of, the day before our 115 mile ride, we made four batches of Benjamin’s chocolate chip, craisin oatmeal cookies. I prefer solid, homemade foods for the longer endurance miles. And any excuse to eat cookies is a good excuse to me! YUM!)

Thomas aka "Mini-Shleck" demonstrates how to dress a salad with tomatoes. Knife skills are important too! 

Thomas aka "Mini-Shleck" demonstrates how to dress a salad with tomatoes. Knife skills are important too! 

Cooking for 30 is easy when you have access to a commercial kitchen and helpers!

Cooking for 30 is easy when you have access to a commercial kitchen and helpers!

4. Research your routes.

Make sure your group leaders as well as the riders have a general idea of where they are going that day. Should an emergency arise, you’ll be able to make smart decisions knowing the group knows how to get back to the lodge as well as any shortcuts back to safety.  

 

5. Tell stories face to face verses Chat Snap.

I know, I know. It’s SnapChat. There’s something to be said about social media having an impact on the art of conversation. I walked into the recovery lounge room multiple times to see about 10 kids relaxing next to each other but all on their phones. During our nightly meeting, phones were required to be piled on the coffee table, face down. We then shared our favorite scents, vacations, grade in school and more. The stories we heard said a lot about individual values and their dreams of who they want to become. 

As is tradition, Head Coach Dean Peterson snaps a selfie with the graduating seniors.

As is tradition, Head Coach Dean Peterson snaps a selfie with the graduating seniors.

6. Go to sleep.

Getting 8+ hours of sleep is important for recovery. Everyone was expected to be in their room by 10pm each night and lights out by 10:30pm. Breakfast was somewhere between 7-9am (Dean put a big pot of oats on and athletes could cook their own eggs). Pro tip: Lodges tend to be loud - so make sure to pack some ear plugs to quiet out the creaky floorboards.

The Absolutely Stunning Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. 

The Absolutely Stunning Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. 

7. Have fun!

Training camps are all about learning about your teammates and continuing the foundation of trust. After spending six days with these kids, I know whose wheel I can count on to set a steady pace, who I need to be next to when the hills point up and who I can scare on the descents (sorry Blodgett!), and who I can count on to help with a cookie bake off (thanks Marta and Gabby!). I'm already looking forward to next year's camp.

We made 4 batches of cookies - enough to feed this small army of cyclists! Thanks Marta and Gabby.

We made 4 batches of cookies - enough to feed this small army of cyclists! Thanks Marta and Gabby.

Happy to have found a dog in Tennessee that doesn't chase... and instead gives kisses. 

Happy to have found a dog in Tennessee that doesn't chase... and instead gives kisses. 

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Train Smarter, Not Harder

Written by ALP Coach Jennifer Sharp

“How many of you have overtrained?” ask Dr. San Millan to a room full of 25 coaches and athletes.

Every single person raised their hand. 

Everyone, at some point in their athletic lives, will overtrain. In the summer time it’s easy to throw in extra mileage even though you’ve done 15 hours of riding that week and it’s only Friday - what’s the harm? And while it’s okay to pile on the extra miles every once in a while, making a habit of it means you’ll eventually find out why rest days are super important. And that lesson could cost you a week, a month, a season or a full year.

Fact: Cycling is painful. You frequently push your body to extremes and keep going.

Myth: Overtraining only happens to professionals.

Fact: Overtraining can happen to anyone who is not building enough recovery into their intense racing and training regime.

Myth: Overtraining is curable in a few days.

Fact: Overtraining causes neurological, mental, hormonal, emotional and nutritional imbalances and the effects can be long reaching. 

It’s actually pretty easy to over train. We’re bombarded with TSS and CTL and ATL charts and graphs. We’re obsessed with tracking our upward growth and it’s hard to not be a slave to a performance manager chart. We get used to pushing through pain. But what those CTL’s, ATL’s, TSS’s and TSB’s don’t show in flashing red lights: “CAUTION - OVER TRAINING AHEAD” until it's too late.

The Performance Manager Chart: where's the caution sign?

The Performance Manager Chart: where's the caution sign?

Can you tell when an athlete is prone to overtraining?

As coaches, we’re constantly monitoring our athletes data. Thankfully power coupled with heart rate data can paint a picture of that individual athlete’s reaction to training stimulus on a daily basis. We watch for trends and see if we can explain patterns. And we’re also reliant on our athlete’s feedback to clue us into things we may have missed on first glance. Like decoupling of the heart rate,  lack of motivation, stress, insomnia, or mood swings. All of these factors come into play for each individual in their own unique way. Unfortunately in regard to overtraining, there’s no one specific marker that is the cause. Rather it’s a combination of factors.

So, how do you track different metrics to see if you’re headed down the path of overtraining?

One suggestion is to do a blood test in the offseason to obtain a baseline measurement. You could include this into your annual physical requesting your hematology, biochemical and hormonal markers. Then about  1-1.5 months prior to your peak event, do another test. Have a trained professional compare the results and determine if you should back things off if needed or continue the training as prescribed. 

Another cheaper method of tracking is through daily monitoring of your resting heart rate. You can expect to see a 5% fluctuation from day to day heart rate but anything above or below that could be a sign of overtraining. If you see a big outlier in your heart rate, play it safe and smart and call it a day.

How do you avoid overtraining in the first place?

First of all, listen to your body. If you’re tired, rest. Use a heart rate monitor, as mentioned above, to track your resting heart rate.  You can use the metrics portion of TrainingPeaks to log your sleep quality, overall feeling, soreness, menstruation, fatigue, weight and more. Use it! Eat a well balanced diet and stay on top of hydration. If you have a prescribed off day - take it. It pays to train smarter, not harder. 

Metrics located in TrainingPeaks are a great way to track various markers that paint a clearer picture for your coach. 

Metrics located in TrainingPeaks are a great way to track various markers that paint a clearer picture for your coach. 

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