Tuesday, May 27, 2008


"This is the most blantant case of overtraining I've ever seen. God, I love it!"
- David Brainard, to me, climbing Old San Marcos Pass during '98 Tour simulation

Yesterday I woke up with my heart racing. I was overtrained. This was expected, at least to a point. If you never overtrain than you're never pushing yourself hard enough. Sure, being 1% overtrained is worse than being 25% undertrained but you've got to walk that line, and step over it, if you ever want your training to get close to its potential.

During the '98 Tour de France simulation I hadn't ridden a bike in 8 years as I'd basically been climbing full time. I dusted off an old bike and began riding daily. During the two mountain stages in week 3 I was riding most of the peloton's mileage and destroying myself. Sometimes the aim is break mental barriers and let the physical stuff catch up. That was my plan then. This time, not so much.

This time I'm far more calculated. The aim is to improve a lot more than to finish my simulated Giro goal. My hope was/is that I could do both. After 2 weeks of the Giro and P90X (while recovering from a surgery) I've been right on the edge. This weekend I knew I'd be pushing it, as I was upping my riding from pedestrian mileage to racer mileage. Could I handle real training with X? I'd find out.

Sat: Big Cottonwood and Mill Creek

This isn't an easy day even in shape but daunting when you're not. I chose it for its panache—a perfect simulation for with they were riding in Italy. I rolled out under threatening skies. It had been raining on and off and the top of the peaks were cloud covered. Since they were racing in the rain in Italy it seemed fitting, but not particularly fun. I warmed up into a headwind out towards Big. If it meant a tailwind later things would be perfect.

I begin up Big spinning my smallest gear. I suck, but didn't I just see Contador riding a 34X27? Forget tradition; I’m breaking down and getting a compact crank.

The first steep section. There's a rider up ahead. Don't look. Don't chase. It's way too early to blow. I stand and watch the road ahead. Zone out. Don't chase. Long day ahead.

I glance ahead. Sure enough, I'm gaining. I don't want anyone pushing my pace. Should I slow down? Look down. Ignore it. Could I be fitter than I think?

She’s right up ahead. That’s right; I’m not fit. But wait, climbs equalize gender, since it's all strength to weight ratio. Maybe I’m going okay. Maybe it’s Kim Anderson.

Getting closer. She’s old. Well, not old, but in her 40s. Probably my age. Jeannie Longo? No? I’d better pass her quickly; act as though I’m on a recovery ride. But my breathing is too hard. She’ll know. I suck.

I give my best nonchalant “bon journo”. No response. Her eyes are glued to the road; in full concentration. She’s suffering. Maybe I don’t suck after all.

In the false flat, mid climb, I’m cruising. Maybe I’m ready to ride with the team. No, can’t be. It’s too soon. But I’m flying, right? I glance back. Two riders, steadily moving up. Ride smart. Don’t accelerate.

A casual hello. They spin past smoothly. It looks so easy. Must be Louder and Zabriskie to be passing me so easily. Gotta be. But where’s the moustache? Must have shaved it.

Now I’m gaining. Maybe they weren’t going easy after all. Getting closer. Wait; I’m not gaining. They’ve hit the steep section. I’m on it to. They quickly disappear.

I’m standing and using my weight to turn the pedals. Mashing. Old school. I feel like Greg LeMond. I look like him, too. Except that I’m turning a 39X24 instead of a 42X15.

Near the summit someone passes me descending. Wearing a moustache. Zabriske, for sure. No one else would be up here on such a day. But isn’t he injured in Europe? Never mind. It’s gotta be him. That must have been Swindlehurst riding with Louder earlier.

At the summit I see the two guys who passed me, looking decidedly recreational except for their team kit. Will I ever be fit again? But those sure are nice bikes. And one guy’s sporting a $2,000 wheelset. Maybe they can ride a little. They’re waiting for some friends. I think about waiting to get some help on the descent but think 4” rims will be squirrelly in the wind—reason enough not to let this guy pull me. I head down alone.

Spin over to Mill Creek with a tailwind. Nice. A guy passes me as I’m eating and speeds off. I see him turn into my canyon. Another arbitrary rabbit. But who’s racing?

I catch him at the first steep section. “Hello.” “Hi again.” Good spirits all around.

I’m feeling good. Really good. Could I actually have some fitness? I can’t believe I’m this strong. What’s that sound? A guy flies past. “Beautiful day, eh?”

Surviving now. Just a few steep ramps, then it’s over. Up ahead, could it be?

He’s coming back. For sure. I get close. He stands and pulls away. At the next steep section I’m gaining again. Damn. Legs are way too sore to get into it. I slow. He’s still coming back.

I stand, shift, accelerate past. “Hi again.” Jesus that hurt.

It flattens out. I’m alone. A bathroom. Cool. I slow to pull over. The guy flies past. Head down. No hello. Must be going for the time bonus up ahead.

Sun: East Canyon, Little and Big Mountain

Dustin calls and cancels. He’s overtrained, too, and suffered in his race on Sat. He’s needs some time off—a mid-season break while I’m still hairy-legged and getting ready for any season.

Last night I slept like I was dead. Haven’t been so tired in a while. I was surprised how strong I’d finished the day. No bonk. Solid all the way home. Until that night when I was light’s out about 5 minutes into a movie—a boring husband on a Saturday night.

A late afternoon start means I’ve once again missed the rain. Cool. The first pedal stroke singes my thighs. Not so cool.

I nearly turn around on the warm-up. I’d eaten plenty but the tank is empty. At least get to the first real climb. This doesn’t help. I want to turn around. I tell myself how easy this climb is. I still want to turn around. Just turn the cranks a few more times. When can I go home? It’s a stunningly beautiful afternoon; just do some sightseeing. My legs are on fire. Romney’s fasting. For sure she’s suffering worse then I am. I keep going.

Halfway up Big Mountain I cash it in. I’m struggling. This can’t be doing my fitness any good. I’m only still here to get my percentage of the Giro’s climbing in. With under 5,000’ I’m about a third of today but I’ve got plenty in the bank from the last few days. Now to survive the ride home. I do. Barely.

Mon: Mill Creek Time Trial

My heart rate won’t drop; a clear sign of overtraining. Maybe the Giro simulation is too much too soon. Keep a cool head. I don’t need to finish if it’s worsening my fitness. I wake up slowly. Drink water. More water. Plenty of coffee. Feeling better.

It’s pissing down rain. Ugh. That’s okay; plenty of work to do today. Romney gets called into a training session at the last minute. This means she needs to break her fast so we hit the coffee shop. Still raining. It’s getting late. It’s snowing on the top of Mill Creek, for sure.

P90X is on the agenda. Chest & Back would be an interesting “warm up”. Romney heads to Gym Jones. Tony starts yappin’ at me. Still raining. Doing P90X in full kit, waiting on the weather. That’s it, folks. The mother of all P90X workouts. Yeah, great warm-up. I’m about to puke on my first pedal stroke. The rain has stopped.

I can’t believe how well my home stages have mimicked the Giro. Mill Creek is ridiculously similar to today’s time trial. The upper part of the road is even closed, so it hasn’t been cleaned, which makes it more like the gravel section.

I’m dying but at least the weather is nice. Gorgeous, in fact. Still super wet but I can’t complain. Except for that burning in my thighs. Wish I had some dope. Or at least a compact crank. I can’t wait to get home to my wife.

I think about Contador but I can’t spin. I think about Levi. The Giro’s been too much. That’s more like it. Just surviving. Now I’m Bosisio; in the pink jersey on day one of the Dolomites and now missing the time cut and getting kicked out of the race. Sad. That’s me. It sure is beautiful out.

Somehow I’m feeling okay. Must be the nature. I’m 2 minutes faster than I was last week. Astonishing. I run out of ride-able road. Plant my bike in the snow and take a picture. Three “rest days” ahead. Bliss.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Weekend Plans

When I planned the virtual Giro I had no idea that the weather would cooperate so well. It's gone back and forth from hot to cold just like we're on the continent. I've been pretty lucky. It's rained the last three days and I've hardly gotten wet. Today I even began in the rain and it cleared. Now it's looking bad again. With my two biggest rides of the year planned this weekend I'm hoping for some virtual luck

Dustin sent a link today:


Though one of the major roads around here isn't working for some reason (perhaps I've not got it sorted yet), it's a generally great tool for concocting rides, especially if you're trying to mirror something that's going on elsewhere. Tomorrow, for example, my ride is very similar to what they're doing in Italy. Albeit much slower and shorter, I'll being doing a similar amount of climbing. Sunday I'll mimick as well but I'm not going to attempt to come anywhere close to all that elevation gain. That, at this state, could be asking for some knee trouble. Sunday's stage is an absolute monster ride. I wish I could mimick their scenery. Check it out:


Today's "flat" ride banked some elevation. Flat is difficult since I live above the flat area of town. According to the above site I did 1,300' of climbing over just under 30 miles. Tomorrow I'm riding Big Cottonwood and then Mill Creek. According to the site, it's 8,200' of climbing in 65 miles. Sunday I'll tag along with Dustin out East Canyon, so we'll do those climbs in both directions. Two longest days in the saddly, back to back. Should be fun, especially if it doesn't rain.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Legs & Back

I think this is my new favorite X workout. I switched my schedule this week so that I could work my legs today and rest them before my big rides this weekend. It's an odd combo from a traditional training standpoint but, to paraphrase Tony, I climb rocks and I ski (and I ride bikes and I run). So what do I need to train? Legs and back.

My legs are mega sore from the Giro/X double. This week could be horribly painful. But having just finished L&B I'm feeling better than I did before the workout. Giro rest day might have helped but so did the slow balancy movements of L&B. The first few legs sets were hard. I did worse on them than ever. Then I began to loosen up and finished feeling good. I did, however, also benefit from a rest day over in Italy.

Tony had a great line that's cut out because, well, it's not all that PC. Halfway through he's fired up and says, "This is not #$%(. This is something serious." Unfortunately, I'm not at liberty to disclose what it was but it was classic Tony. I hear, though I've never actually asked him, that he came to LA to do stand up. The guy is funny; no doubt about that. But, as is the case with many comdeians, his material is far more suited to a comedy club than family home video. Rehearsals with Tony are a non-stop stream of politically incorrect observations. One of our crew members, Stef, kept saying "wow" at the audacity of some of these. Finally, he made a cue card that just said "wow" whenever Tony was walking the line with a joke. He even used it during the real shoot. I think the only place you might get hear some lines like this are in his "One on One" workouts, if they get released.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

No Pain No Gain

This morning I'm extremely sore. It's a good sore--the kind of blissful all over soreness that comes from a big day out. The problem; I had no big day out. The old no pain no gain adage is a misnomer for most aspects of training. But the adaptive phase always causes soreness. Working through this phase is the hardest thing for people trying to change their body composition. They hear that exercise will make them feel better. During adaptation you feel worse, which often forces the uninitiated to quit. Unfortunately I'm not adapting as quickly as I'd hoped. Fortunately, I've been through it so much that I actually like it.

Looking ahead at the race and other summer projects seemed absurd yesterday as I struggled on the friggin' approach trail. Then I did three routes in the sun and pretty much melted (nothing melts you like granite cracks off the couch in the direct sun). The skin on both my hands and feet were so bad that I could barely stand. They recovered enough for an easy spin later and a couple of dog walks but it was a slap in the face on how far I've slipped. Hopefully, my years of experience will make this adjustment happen quickly. But as has been my war cry all this year goes, it's going to get worse before it gets better.

Week one of the virtual Giro was "easy". Not a single hard ride. Yet each day I'm sore from my one hour or so spin around town. 90X has still been abridged. I'm back to about 3/4 workouts. Certainly not recovered from my surgery--and this certainly is why I'm not recovering as well as I should--but it's making progress daily so I don't think I'm overdoing it. Therefore, I'm ramping up on all fronts. Yesterday's issue were certainly exacerbated by the hot weather. It was my first day in the heat this year and my first time climbing since I got married. All providing myself with a fine array of excuses for this morning's pathetic hobbling. But still...

Week two I move to 25% of the Giro stages and 50% of the climbing. This means big days on the bike next weekend. 90X will get back to 100%. And after yesterday's "successful" climbing trial I can now throw a little of that back into the mix. It's a lot of stuff but I badly need the latter if for no other reason than to condition my hands and feet. Skin training should not be underestimated. In long mountain adventures it's often the key to success or failure.

pic: The Giro is the most beautiful bike race. Star of the first week, Riccardo "Il Cobra" Ricco, shadows last year's winner Danilo "The Killer" Di Luca. The Killer's form was suspect coming in but he's looking the best of all the favorites, save Ricco. But Il Cobra is untested and young and all the big time trials and mountains loom. Astana's big three, Contador, Kloden, Leipheimer are all quitely gaining form and biding their time until the first TT. Look for a huge shake up on Tuesday.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


While I was concocting the doubles routine for the 90X book Tony asked, somewhat rhetorically, "does it really do you any good to train longer than an hour or so?" He was hesitant about adding a doubles segment to something so intense and it was a good question. For most situations you can't benefit much from training more than an hour a day at all out intensity. In almost every case you can come up doing one workout well is far more effective than compromising two workouts. And if workout one is hard enough than compromising workout two is inevitable. So why did we do it?

There are, basically, two scenarios where adding a second workout can be beneficial. Both have caveats attached to them. One is to improve your body's ability to utilize stored fat for fuel. The second is to train for specifically for an endurance sport. Since 90x is designed to train for endurance sports (it's better used as an off-season conditioning program) we added it for the former.

While we were designing 90X I was running groups of our members through various programs using our existing workout programs: Power 90, Pour Half Hour, Slim in 6, Slim Series, and a few other odds and ends. During these "test groups" we found a scenario where most of our members, at one point or another, could benefit from a phase of training designed around improving fat mobilization. But keep in mind that they earned it by maxing the regular program the first time. For most people, adding doubles to the X won't be beneficial until you've gotten so good at it that you adapt very quickly. So most people don't need doubles. They should be earned by plateauing on a program first.

It's the type of training a lot of highly trained athletes will try when they need to lose weight. It's done by, essentially, adding an aerobic workout (low intensity consistant output that's always under one's AT) to a training program. This session is best done after a period of fasting (such as in the morning) when the body is low on stored glycogen. There are other ways to accomplish this as well. Cyclists will often do intense sessions sans nutrition to force the issue. While effective it's a bit more dangerous. Our version is easier and safer. The only danger is that some muscle mass will be compromised unless the diet is perfect. Doing doulbles one must always be willing to lose a little size for a trade off of building a better engine for more intense training later.

For myself, I'm doing it for sports specific training. All of my objectives are in the endurance realm. If I don't ride, run, or climb than I won't have the specific strength to do these things no matter how strong my engine is. In theory, I should only do X in the off-season. But my seasons are weird, and different each year. Right now I need build some aerobic base and I can't run, hence the virtual Giro. And while I'll certainly compromise some strength gains by adding this I need some long days to get ready for long days. One thing about training an hour intensely is that it doesn't get you ready for doing 12-24 or more straight hours of intensity. And that's what I'm ultimately training for.

pic: Romney learning the art of drafting on stage 2 of our "giro".

Friday, May 09, 2008

Virtual Giro

In spite of my precarious situation I began my virtual Giro yesterday. What this includes is riding each day of the Giro that the riders ride. This means I'll be on my bike each day but two over the next three weeks. Romney and Reed have both joined in and I imagine will put their own spin on it. My rules are as follows:

Each day I must ride a minimum of 10% of the race distance or time.
I do a time trial on TT days.
I climb on climbing days.
I ride each of my bikes at least one day per week (road, CX, fixie, SS, 69er).

If I can finish this and make progress through it will build some base for my objectives during the latter half of the year. 10% doesn't sound like much but given I can barely ride at all I'll be happy with it. Plus, this is my "second" workout of the day. Plus, as soon as I can run I have to start doing some preparation. I wanted to make it harder but after day one I'm going to be happy to just finish this.

Day One - rode a time trial up Emigration from the zoo. 36 minutes. Pathetic, yes, but I'm also super sore today and was too tired last night to ride to bike film festival. Regardless, it felt nice to be out on my bike. I'm very much looking forward to the rest of it.

The Giro course is brutal this year. I wish I had more time to do a better mimick. There are no big climbs until stage 7 so I've got a few days to get my legs going. The last week is absurd. I'm psyched to concoct some big circuits here in the mountains. Since I've never timed myself up Emigration I have no idea how much time I'll shave off but I'm thinking it will be a lot. We'll see. Right now I've just got to stay healthy and get on my bike.

Of course the US doesn't cover the Giro too well anymore. This is a shame since it, for sure, has the best field of this year's grand tours. It's going to be an epic race. Cycling TV on the web has daily live coverage for $30. Rai sport has free daily coverage on the web in Italian. The race seems more appropriate this way anyway. Check out:


for daily live streaming coverage and cyclingnews.com and velonews.com for more in depth info.

Now off to ride my bike.

Abridged Workouts

While my recovery is going a little slower than I'd hoped the design of the P90X workouts has made it easy to continue with my program. I won't be making the same progress but I'm not sliding backwards either. I'd never done abridged X worouts (except yoga) and hadn't even really thought about it since we have so many shorter workouts to choose from. But every workout in the X rotate is set up so that it works well if you can only do it in parts.

This is particularly true with the focused body part resistance workouts. I've been warming up, doing half of the sets, then doing the cool down. It's plenty of training. It ain't X, but no one is wasting away doing this many sets on the given body part. Since the more cario intensive workouts have an intensity over time component they are less effective when abridged--more like maintenance work.

All in all, my two week off period has me in a similar fitness state to where I left off. I'd be exstatic about this if I could jump back in full bore but I don't think I've recovered enough yet. Hey, wasn't I supposed to start doubles tomorrow?

pic: bikes clean and ready for simulated Giro. Am I?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Good Pain vs Bad Pain

With new clients it's generally a challenge teaching them to sort out good pain from bad. Good pain is the type associated with "no pain, no gain," while bad pain is more associated with "no pain, no brain." The former is the type that exercise induces that is your muscles and cardiovascular system working against the forces of your workout. The latter is bone, joint, connective tissue or other signs your body is giving you that you're doing something harmful to it. It's often not easy to sort out the difference. To max your body's potential you need the ability to fight through pain, but if you fight through the wrong kind of pain you'll never be able to reach your potential.

New clients often think that the standard soreness from a hard session is the sign of an injury. Conversly, seasoned athletes tend to feel that they can ignore and fight through anything with enough willpower. This often leads beginners to give up training altogether and athletes to be chronically injured or, only slightly better--to spend most of their careers in a state of being overtrained.

How hard is it to get right? Well, I've been around this block a bit and I often can't tell. Part of it is from sheer manicness. If I can't exercise I'm a bad person to be around. My doctor recognized this straight away, telling me "you're going to f@$% this recovery up, aren't you?" And in spite of his warning and my own knowledge, I'm probably bordering on pushing too far. I've regressed a bit in the last two days. It may be a normal part of the recovery but I had just inceased my exercise level as well, so I'll blame myself. Today I'm back to icing and sitting in front of a computer.

There's a saying amongst the endurance athletes that goes "it's better to be 25% undertrained than 1% overtrained." This is because 1% overtrained means injured, or at least a state of cumulative microtrauma. It means that you can't train or can't compete, productively. It means that racing someone 25% undertrained will be frustrating because they will have their emergency fibers ready for use while yours are extinguished. And then you'll be racing someone that you know damn well hasn't put the work in that you have, and they will beat you. This is a horrible feeling. It happens all the time.

I always tell myself that if I don't feel like training then I shouldn't. I try my best to stick to this rule; I still often fail. I just had a surgery. I hurt. But it's beautiful out. My bikes are all clean and beggin me to ride them. And I want to. I want to bad. But I'm not going to. I'm going to sit here and ice and work and read and maybe watch a movie. I'm not going to ride. And making myself do that hurts a lot more than any pain I'd face on the bike.

pic: good pain: the only thing more painful than time trialing is not time trialing.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Block II

After a recovery week of dog hikes and a few sun salutations I'm moving well enough to begin my second block of training. Today I'll ride--not for too long--for the first time in a while, which will hopefully allow me to line up virtually with the start of the Giro on May 10th. In prep for Speedgoat, some big rides and climbs I've got planned for the summer/fall, block II begins with some extra focus. In spite of the forced time off block I was successful in that my overall body condition has improved a lot. I've gained some size (probably more than I want)--enough that some of my shirts are much tighter--and evert aspect of my fitness has improved. On to block II.

This block will have a lot of double days as riding, running, and climbing will get into the mix. But the main focus will still be on the X workouts. Since block three will be even more sports specific, II will look more like a traditional block III. It's four weeks long, which is mainly because week one is going to be abridged. Rather than using different workouts to ease back in, I'll stay with X workouts and abridge them each day and only do enough as my body allows. Since most of these are repetitive circuits it's pretty simple to do this.

Here's the plan for the next for weeks. X only--sports training will vary and I'll list this plan later as I'm actually able to do some running, which I still can't.

Week 5

M - Chest, Shoulders, Tris & ARX
T - Cardio X
W - Back & Bis, ARX
T - Yoga X
F - Legs & Back
S,S - outside stuff--begin Giro simulation (more on this later but Sat begins virtual Giro--fun fun)

Week 6

M - Chest & Back, ARX
T - Plyo
W - Shoulders & Arms, ARX
T - Yoga X
F - Legs & Back, ARX
S,S - outside stuff--begin Giro simulation (more on this later)

Week 7

M - Chest, Shoulders, Tris & ARX
T - Plyo
W - Back & Bis, ARX
T - Yoga X
F - Legs & Back
S,S - outside stuff--begin Giro simulation (more on this later)

Week 8

M - Chest & Back, ARX
T - Plyo
W - Shoulders & Arms, ARX
T - Yoga X
F - Legs & Back, ARX
S,S - outside stuff--begin Giro simulation (more on this later)

Week 9

M - Core Syn
T - Yoga X
W - X Stretch
T - Core Syn
F - Yoga X
S,S - outside stuff--begin Giro simulation (more on this later)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Periodizational Dieting

Answering a question on the boards this morning I realized that I haven't talked about the P90X diet yet. This is because I haven't addressed my own diet yet at all either. I eat okay most of the time but my diet varies drastically over the year as I train for different sports and events. The bottom line is that you should always eat for what you are doing. Since most of us don't do the same things every day it doesn't make sense to eat the same foods every day.

Periodizational training has been around for a long time and most people are sold on the fact that it's the most effective way to train. You can periodize different ways but the objective is the same: to train one energy system at a time until it plateaus and then move to the next one in a way the reduces the plateau and keeps the perfromance curve moving skyward. The schedule generaly depends upon your goals. A periodized training program can be a few weeks or an entire year. Most fall somewhere in between.

"Training" your diet works the same way. The most famous phase-oriented dieters are bodybuilders but most athletes do some form of it, either planned or serendipitious. The 90X diet is just one plan that was written with our clients and this program in mind. It's not perfect for everyone but every one can use its aspects to suit their needs. Because we don't all have the same level of fitness, goals, or agenda it's impossible to write one diet that works for every single person. With X we used the most generally effective system that had worked for the largest group of our client population. There is leaniency written in, especially in regards to how long to stay in each phase.

A periodized diet, like an training program, targets different areas in each phase. With new clients I generally follow the same path. First reduce carbs until your energy stalls out, then add carbs back in until your energy peaks, and then adjust the amounts of carbs you eat based on exercise. Within the simple plans there are many variables, from obvious ones like reducing junk foods and ensuring you are getting enough nutrients from proper foods to the more subtle, like balancing weight gain/loss with performance goals. No matter what the end goal the phases attempt to work towards that goal an efficient manner. The general path is to establish a good nutrient base, target this towards a desired weight, then get the most performance out of the body at the given weight for the desired goal.

I'll talk more specifically about the X diet, and about my own diet for my upcoming goals, as the program moves along. It will all follow the above principles.