"Women Are Not Small Men"

“…everything that we know in nutrition and sports science and ex-phys is based on a male model.” - Dr. Stacy Sims.

One of the most eye-opening podcasts I’ve listened to this year is an interview with Dr Stacy Sims on TrainingPeaks’ CoachCast. As a coach, I’ve always known that men and women react to training stress differently, but Dr. Sims makes it clear that the differences are much deeper than I imagined. 

Get Happier and Fitter at a Training Camp

It’s snowing or raining and cold. You’re sick of the trainer inside and wearing tons of layers outside. Maybe it’s time for a training camp. Whether with your team or riding buddies, a late winter training camp is a great way to kick your fitness into high gear and start working on that biker tan.

Camps generally work best when you head to warmer climates like the south or southwest. The sun and warmth will do wonders for your mental state, especially after the long hard winter we’ve had this year in the midwest. And if you head somewhere hillier than your hometown, you’ll build great climbing fitness in a shorter amount of time. 

For those of us who ride dirt too, a warmer destination may be the first time you’ve been on dry singletrack for months. Our local trails were unrideable for weeks due to wet conditions.

One of the best and obvious things about training camp is you have more time to train, but something often overlooked is you have more time to rest. Without work, kids, and the other demands of normal life, you can spend most of your time off the bike just sitting around recovering. And recovery time is when the adaptations from your training really occur. 

If you go with a team or friends you don’t ride with regularly, camp is a good time to reconnect and build camaraderie. The friendly competition in the group is also a great motivator to push harder than you normally would. 

One caveat though: don’t push yourself so hard you that you overtrain. If a camp is longer than about 3 days, you should build in some recovery time - this could be seeing the sites in the area you’re visiting to an easy ride to a local coffee shop. The rest of your camp will go a lot better if you’re not completely wrecked before it’s even over!

Here’s a great video by GCN about Training Camps:

Aerodynamics: Shave Your Legs, Not Your Beard!

As most cyclists know, aerodynamics plays a major role in how fast you are on the bike. According to Specialized, upwards of 80% of your pedaling effort is just to overcome wind resistance. And while many of us obsess over our watts/kg number - how much power we can put out per kilogram of bodyweight - another, perhaps easier get, is reducing our aerodynamic drag or CdA, (frontal area coefficient of drag).

You don't need a new frame or deep dish wheels to save lots of watts either. Here’s a few easy areas of power savings, (these are ballpark numbers of course- there are many variables to CdA, like how big that melon on your shoulders is!):

Riding in the drops vs hoods: 20-50 watts
Aero helmet: 10 watts
Shaved legs: 20 watts
Skinsuit: 20 watts
Facial hair: No difference

Watch this excellent Ask a Cycling Coach episode below to hear more about wind tunnel testing and CdA at Specialized’s facility in Morgan Hill, CA. Most wind tunnels are designed for cars, but their tunnel is one of the few in the world optimized for cycling.

Should Cyclists Lift Weights?

Cycling is one the last holdouts when it comes to strength training. Virtually every other sport embraced it years ago (decades for many) to improve performance and prevent injury. The thinking went that building muscle means adding weight, and adding weight is the enemy of cyclists, whose strength-to-weight ratio is paramount.

However, you can gain strength without adding significant muscle mass (hypertrophy). Powerlifters and wrestlers have to be strong, but need to stay in their weight class, so they avoid gaining extra bulk. One way is to lift more weight with fewer reps with more rest between sets. This recruits more muscle fibers and motor neurons, but doesn’t stimulate the excessive muscle growth that bodybuilders are looking for.

The benefits of strength training for cyclists includes increased muscle endurance, injury prevention - especially for older athletes as our bone density decreases, a stronger core, better bike handling skills - especially in mtb and cyclocross, and also just being a more well-rounded athlete.

The web has many resources for weight exercises for cyclists, or better yet, hire a strength coach to walk you through the routines and check your form. Form is paramount when lifting.

The article below is a great primer for the types of exercises you can start with. Virtually all can be done at home with a few dumbbells or kettlebells, and none of these will add bulk.

https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/the-best-strength-exercises-for-cyclists/?fbclid=IwAR3KYOkKqsF-vWSaJ3sE-zSVQbdD_rdkFvAlQXOqrfGryhnc8DS7i8B1Mhc

From my series: Your Body is Smarter Than You Are: Inflammation

Ice Baths and Anti-inflammatories

When it comes to exercise recovery, there has always been a lot of emphasis on reducing inflammation. Ice baths and ibuprofen were considered beneficial to faster recovery and reduced soreness. 
However, more and more research has shown that inflammation is your body doing exactly what it needs to do in order to heal faster. Which always seemed logical to me - more blood flow around damaged muscles speeds the rebuilding of muscle cells. I think one reason these practices proliferated and are still extremely common is that they do reduce pain. So by that logic, reduced pain = faster healing. Unfortunately, the pain relief just masks what is really going on with your body (meds are very good at this!). 
My advice: if it really hurts, take the meds or sit in an ice bath - severe pain is not helping you recover either. Maybe a better alternative is to take a warm bath, which feels better and will also speed recovery. Caveat - an actual injury is another story and topic for later. But for normal soreness from exercise, let your body do it’s thing.

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Welcome to Full Mettle Coaching!

met·tle

/ˈmedl/
noun

a person's ability to cope well with difficulties or to face a demanding situation in a spirited and resilient way.

"the team showed their true mettle in the second half"

synonyms: spirit, fortitude, tenacity, strength of character, steel, determination, resolve, resolution, steadfastness, courage, bravery, grit.


We coach cyclists at every level, across multiple disciplines, preparing for every type of biking event.

Whether training for your first charity ride or a 100 mile mountain bike race, we can help you reach your goals by providing weekly updates to your training plan based on your current metrics and training schedule.

What we offer:

-Individualized Training Plans
-Custom Workouts
-Zwift Workouts
-Heart Rate and Power Analytics 
-Road and MTB Skills Clinics
-Advice on Performance Nutrition
-Advice on Strength Training for Cyclists
-Advice on Tactics and Strategy