Keep the Core and Skip the Off-season Slump! A letter form Anne Gardiner Plan7 Coach and Yoga Instructor

Dear Plan7 Fam,

As the cycling race season winds down you may be experiencing chronic issues either on or off the bike. The most common complaint I hear after races, or the reason for not being able to keep a tempo necessary to stay competitive, is low back pain. More specifically, low back pain stems from several factors but the one I want to emphasize today is chronic abdominal disengagement or weak abs.  In yoga your core is referred to as uddiyana bandha which can be translated to "upward flying" and protects the lower back.

A weak core or disengaged uddiyana bandha increases demand on the back body and it will compensate by reaching from mid back instead of low pelvis. The weaker smaller muscles in the neck compress and injury soon follows suit. It adds up quickly! For example, picture a profile shot of many/most cyclists and you will find their spine makes a perfect "C" from pelvis to top of head. We should not exhibit this body posture unless severely fatigued and climbing up a hill.

The remedy?

Core engagement (not just pulled in but also rising up into the diaphragm) gives you lift and range of motion out of this base/bandha. Your shoulders will release and roll down away from ears. The neck is now free to curve upward creating a gentle curve in your cervical spine. Now bring your gaze down the nose or between the eyes at the road ahead!



This posture is supportive and calms the mind of it's never ending chatter as you create effortless circles with your legs. Full body engagement is inner cooperation which equals efficiency. Your upper and lower body work in tandem to relieve overworked and tired legs. You will begin to feel your entire body become able to pull yourself up the hill instead of just your legs. Upper body and lower body now balanced, strong and able to take "pulls" for each other.

When this seated variation of upward dog clicks and you can ride your bike without causing major compression in the low back your recovery will feel less intense. No more old man back, basically. Once low back is released the front and back body align. The organs are balanced and the spine supported. The ability to stay connected to your core will be a secret weapon on race day so make it a priority this year.

I am excited to be your contact point for staying connected and stable on the bike. Feel balanced in your approach to efforts and commitment to rest. This will prevent injury and contribute to feeling content with your efforts and results. Please feel welcome to reach out to me by email if you have any questions about how you are feeling on and off the bike, yoga questions or if you would like to schedule a consultation or private with me. More details on yoga and Pilates classes (with Breanne Nalder, our resident fitness expert and nutrition coach!) on the Coaches Bios and the House of Watts pages of the plan7 website. 

Thanks for reading. Your feedback and comments are encouraged and welcome as always. Let us know how we can better support you on and off the bike.

Anne Gardiner
Plan7 Coach and Yoga Instructor

Posted on August 22, 2016 .

Letter of Excellence: Scott McCullough's Journey

In April 2015 a really neat guy came into PLAN7 with some BIG goals and sheer determination to accomplish them. He jumped head first into a training and nutrition plan, trusting his coaches to keep him on track and for his season. It was beyond rewarding to watch him attack every day, every ride, every meal and see him get better, faster, stronger! Scott was so kind to send us this letter, and we wanted to share it as the first of many athlete highlights. We are so proud of all PLAN7 athletes and super excited to share their stories. So thanks to Scott and everyone that is a part of this special community. We consider you family :) 

Here is Scott's letter:

Dear Dave and Breanne,

I came to see you last April with one goal in mind - finish LOTOJA for my first time feeling good and strong at the end.  I had just come off knee surgery and you arranged a training and nutrition plan just for me, even taking me to the store to show me how to shop better.  I followed the nutrition and training rides almost perfectly (with a few cheeseburgers and lazy days thrown in), but with you coaching and encouragement I finished feeling great!  Thank you so much for your awesome help, i could not have done it without you guys and I would highly recommend you for anyone wanting to accomplish a life goal! (plus you are freaking nice).

 

Your new friend,

Scott McCullough

 

(see picture attached)

PS I would have worn my new PLAN 7 kit, but I didn't get it in time, darn it.

 

Posted on February 11, 2016 .

It's Winter...Now What? - PLAN7 Coach Sarah Kaufmann

Finishing up a long mountain or road bike season, many people feel relieved to spend some time ‘just riding’ and not training. You may not even want to look at your bike. You may be ready for running, hiking, skiing or other non-bike exercise. Racing or participating in other goal events requires dedication and commitment, exhausting but fulfilling efforts both in body and in mind.

These are all signs of overtraining or simply a buildup of fatigue after a long season. When it comes on during the season or before we are ready to take a dedicated break, it can be more complicated to manage, as a break isn’t ideal at that time. But this time of year, when most people are winding down their seasons and commitments, it is important to disconnect from the bike and let your body and mind recover. How long that break should be varies from person to person and also depends on the length and intensity of one’s competitive season.

Despite needing a break from the bike, here in the Salt Lake area we are lucky that it is possible to ride pretty much year round. With some indoor House of Watts style interval sessions and those occasional 30-40 degree sunny days, we can make it happen. HoW is awesome for building fitness through the winter and the community it builds prevents the burnout brought on by suffering alone. I also recommend mixing in some more winter-friendly off-the-bike activities, especially December through January (assuming a competitive season that begins in March) to mix things up and keep it fresh.

I recommend 2-3 days per week on the bike earlier in the winter, shifting to 4-5 days later in the winter. Those days could be a mix of HoW training and outdoor riding when the weather allows. On your days off the bike, mix in some fun winter activities that you enjoy and that will provide similar cardiovascular benefits; XC skiing, snowshoeing, ski touring, etc. Downhill skiing and snowboarding are also great but fit in more as a strength component. Winter is also a great time to get in the gym for some strength development.

One common mistake many people make is forgoing coaching during the winter. Racing is not as immediate so it is easy to think the cost savings would be beneficial. To the contrary, well-planned base training through the winter is imperative to set oneself up for a successful season. Hiring a coach once racing has begun does not give you the time to properly prepare your body for racing and does not give the coach enough time to work their magic.  

The weather is about to turn less pleasant and daylight savings comes to an end this week. It is time to think about all of this stuff! Take a break from your bike, make your winter cycling plans, choose some alternate winter sports and prepare to ride into spring fit and ready for another season!

Posted on November 13, 2014 .

Getting ON track with off-season Nutrition using our new KORR machine with Breanne Nalder MS, RDN

The dreaded off-season… or is it? It’s the time of year that the weather changes and the schedule of training and racing are over, besides CX or mountain riding, but we all know that is conducive to eating waffles and drinking beer! Because of these things, the most common questions I get as a dietitian are about weight control. Some of us tend to gain weight over the holidays, some try to maintain “race weight,” while others strive to lose some lbs or improve power:weight. All of these things are valid, and all of them require specific calculations. So, how do you determine the amounts and types of foods to eat to accomplish your goals? You come and see me of course!

As a sport dietitian, the coolest part of my job is that I get to work with all types of people on their nutrition plans. Everyone has individual needs, food preferences, metabolic rates, amounts of lean muscle mass, treats they like to eat/drink, sleep patterns, etc. etc. It takes a considerable amount of math as well as recipe writing to create meal plans to fit individual needs. Now, I have the luxury of calculating those needs all the way to the exact calorie.

At PLAN7 we now have the KORR Medical Technologies CardioCoach machine. This machine can do VO2 max tests, but I mostly use it to measure basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is also referred to as resting metabolic rate (RMR) or resting energy expenditure (REE). Basically, it determines the amount of energy, measured in calories, your body burns at rest. I use this information to determine the amount of food energy that is required to maintain basic body functions such as heartbeat, breathing, and digestion if you are sedentary all day. Then we add the calories you exert during exercise and training and adapt an appropriate meal plan to keep you on track to accomplish your health and fitness goals.

My job is to teach you exactly what to eat to fuel your body for optimal perfomance. So it’s not just calories, but the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that are appropriate for you and your training plan. Let’s use this “off-season” to keep you on track and dialed… braaap!

Posted on October 30, 2014 .

XC Pre Ride tips from Pro MTB Racer/PLAN7 Coach Sarah Kaufmann

As mountain bike season ramps up, it’s time to fill up your race calendar! Whether you are a first time racer or are a seasoned veteran looking for new events, one of the things that can make your race is the course pre-ride. Depending on the type of race you are doing and your proximity to the race venue in the days and weeks leading up to the event, your approach for the pre-ride will vary. If you are traveling to the race and are only able to preview the course in the day or two before the event, you will probably be trying to combine the pre-ride with some kind of opener intervals. If it is a long endurance race and a course you haven’t seen, you will want to scope the most challenging portions of the course but avoid riding so much that you go into the race fatigued.

For an XC race with lap of 5-7 miles or less, shoot for two to three laps during a pre-ride the day before the event. You will want to shoot for approximately one hour of riding, 1.5 hours max. This range will depend on on how much riding you have done in the previous week, how much driving/travel you did to get to the race and how your legs feel when you start pedaling.

If you will be doing 2-3 laps for a pre-ride, I recommend doing the first lap at a super mellow cruiser pace. (If the course starts with a challenging climb, find somewhere to spin around easy and warm up, before launching into the climb). During this slow lap, pay special attention to any sections where the best line is questionable or not obvious. Sometimes the burned in line is not the best one. Look for the best places to eat and drink. Try to figure out where the spots are for your personal strengths; where you could make passes and where you might struggle. If there are any challenging technical sections, go over them a few times. I don’t like to practice these sections for too long, though. If you can’t nail it within three to five attempts, I recommend moving on. The logic here is that if you can’t master it after a few tries when you are relaxed and comfortable, it is unlikely you will get it when HR is sky high and there are other racers all around. Do figure out a viable alternate, though, like where the best spot to dismount would be and how best to run through it (best running line, which side of the bike, etc). And make it your goal to clean this section when you come back to the race next time!

During the second pre-ride lap, I recommend picking up the pace. My usual opener routine includes some three minute threshold efforts and some short sprints so I try to work these into the second and/or third laps with some terrain-based efforts. Make sure to get some recovery between efforts. A hot lap (or laps) serves two purposes as you can see segments of the course at speed as well as get your openers done.

If the laps at your race are more in the 8-15 mile range, you’re best bet is probably to take only one pre-ride lap. It will be worth it to stop and check out technical features a little more carefully (as you’ll only be seeing them once before the race). Use the second half of the lap to pick up the pace and do some terrain-based efforts.

For a longer course in a (non-repeating or non-lap-style) endurance race, the pre-ride protocol will be a little different. You will want to connect with locals or other racers who know the course or who have done the race before and find out where the ‘cruxes’ of the race will be. These may be especially challenging technical sections, make-or-break climbs or both of the above. (Undeniably, they could also be confusing intersections that may or may not be well-marked. These will be worth knowing, in addition to keeping your head up while you are racing!). Based on the advice of locals and other racers, as well as your knowledge of your skills and weaknesses as a racer, you should decide what will be most important for you personally to preview on the course. Locals can also probably help you determine how to drive to various parts of the course or how to take strategic shortcuts so you can see more important sections and cut out straightforward ones. Sometimes in these races, a long climb or other section will be on a road you can drive, allowing you to preview parts of the course without fatiguing yourself. You will still want to shoot for an hour or so of riding on the day before the race with some similar style tempo/threshold openers and/or shorter sprints.

On a longer style endurance race course, each individual technical move will be less important but you will want to be prepared for the general riding style. Again, talking to locals or people who have done the race previously will help you get a solid understanding of the type of terrain to expect. Since this isn’t something you can master in the days just prior to the race you will want to do this type of recon weeks or months ahead of time and incorporate that type of riding into your regular riding routine.

Whether you are prepping for a short XC race or a longer endurance race, after you have finished your pre-ride, cool down, eat, drink, check your bike, put on your number plate, prep your bottles and put your feet up. Now get ready to charge it tomorrow!

Posted on April 23, 2014 .

Specificity

Training Specificity. What does that really mean? If you want to be good on the TT bike, make sure you are riding the TT bike and building in threshold efforts that are steady and strong. Becoming a better climber will take work on the climbs. Sprinting faster requires producing force for as long as possible.

I had a chat with a teammate today about climbing. I was headed out on a ride and planned to do a lower elevation climb where there is no snow. He suggested a route with a more difficult climb on the way. I thought about it for a moment and agreed. I've always wanted to be a better climber but haven't always put in the dedicated time on the hills. Generating watts while climbing in a low gear is much different than generating watts on the flats in a high gear.

So I headed for that more difficult climb on the way out and focused on my body positioning more than my output. My focus was right where it should have been, neutral back and strong leg extension using the powerful glutes to their maximum. Imagine this...my output was right up there higher than I would have anticipated.

As I watched the power I noticed that with conscious focus on a strong and stable position my perceived effort was lower for a given wattage. However, as soon as my attention was not on neutral and stable positioning the watts would drop.

Lesson for the day: practice the skills you hope to improve. Ride the TT bike. Climb hills. Sprint at high speed. Focus on cadence. Ride trails that challenge your ability.

Posted on March 11, 2014 .

Tayler Wiles and Cortlan Brown join PLAN7 coaching staff

PLAN7 Endurance Coaching is excited to announce the coaching staff additions of Tayler Wiles and Cortlan Brown. Tayler and Cortlan will be taking on roles as Associate Coaches working under the supervision of PLAN7 Founder & Head Coach Dave Harward. These additions follow the recent implementation of PLAN7 Nutrition led by Breanne Nalder MS, RDN.

Tayler and Cortlan hope to share their passion and expertise with PLAN7 athletes. They are USA Cycling Level III licensed coaches and intend to seek Level II licenses later in 2014. Both are committed to learning the trade and look forward to helping athletes of all levels reach their individual goals. 

Tayler rides on the Specialized lululemon professional women's cycling team. She was the 2011 U23 U.S. National Time Trial Champion and has finished on or near the top of the podium at many of the major U.S. races as well as helped her team secure overall victories domestically and on the international stage. Tayler is based in Fairfax, CA, and is excited to bring PLAN7 to NorCal.

Cortlan rides as a Continental Pro on the Astellas Cycling Team. He was the 2012 Division 2 Collegiate National Road Race Champion. He returns to the Astellas Cycling Team for a second exciting year as the team has stepped up to a Continental Pro level. Look for Cortlan to be out mixing it up at NRC races around the country. Cortlan is based in Bountiful, UT.

Welcome to you both!

Posted on March 11, 2014 .

More to come...

PLAN7 junkies, we are out here thinking of ways to apply training load so you can crush the souls of your ride partners and racing competitors. Yes, we still want to be friends post-ride/race. It's all about the process of making things happen. Our Founder, Dave Harward, always races with a smile on his face...or is it. Watch for useful tips on training, skills, nutrition, holistic bike fit and lots of fun on two wheels. We will dish it out for you to enjoy.

Stay tuned!

Posted on March 10, 2014 .