Ask a FasCat #14

Welcome to another Q&A session of the FasCat Podcast, where we gather questions from our forum, website, and social media to help you understand training plan design and to help you get even faster on the bike. This go around we touch on a range of topics, including TT fits, fueling indoor workouts, and how strength training increases your FTP! Here are the questions and answers from the podcast:

  1. Neil:I’m just over 50 years old and I would love to continue to get better. But as i do that my question is this: Every training plan I see for progressing involves 5-6 sessions/wk. With my job I can only do 3: one long (up to 5 hr) and 2 short ones at about 90 min. How do I adapt a standard plan into my schedule for maximum effectiveness?

  2. Well, I guess you could simply skip the workouts that you can not do because of work. However, I feel compelled to share this an old coaching expression I heard at a USA Cycling Coaches Conference years ago: 3 to train 4 to gain - talking about # of days per week it takes to improve. I think your 3 days a week even with the 5 hour ride will be ok but you’ll be stuck like Sisyphus pushing the rock uphill and having it roll back downhill each week with those off days. If you can’t carve out an extra hour a day (do you work all day?) to hit 4 or 5 workouts per week you are 100% a candidate for a custom coaching solution. That or maybe taking some strategically timed vacation days to help you achieve the desired amount of training to improve.

  3. Rob Davis (FasCat from Erie, Colorado): Last year was my 2nd year doing the offseason plan. About halfway through, things were feeling easy. I decided to keep the # of reps the same but up the weight incrementally for the hypertrophy and strength phases. Was pushing my limits a good idea? Or would it be more beneficial to FTfP to a Tee even if it felt easy?

  4. Why on earth would you ever want to not FtFP ;-) Remember, you are not a weight lifter, you are a bike racer and you don’t need nor want to feel demolished walking out of the gym. Bank those adaptations without the extra physiological stress and you’ll have higher quality on the bike workouts on the days afterwards. Combine the two together an you’ll get faster, aka increase your power output, FTP, endurance, etc…. So for this year - do a good Adaptation phase and set your 1 RM accurately and your next 3 phases should be just the right amount of lifting. It could have been last year you improved so much that your 1 RM increase during and that’s why it felt easy.

  5. Josh Richardson (FasCat Athlete & Winning in the Kitchen Meal Plan User, Rhode island): Indoor trainer sessions: Is there a need to fuel at say the half hour mark with a gel for these sessions or if I am winning in the kitchen should I be covered?

  6. It depends on the length of that training session and what type of workout you are doing. Really you should treat indoor workouts the same as you would outdoors. So if you are doing an hour of zone ⅔ and are winning in the kitchen you could go without fueling. But if you are doing and hour and a half of SS you should be aiming for 25-40g of carbs per hour. Remember… the term winning in the kitchen captures all of the fueling you do both on and off the bike. That is why all of the meal plans include that allotment for ride fuel!

  7. Hydration: How much, how often, mixes, no mixes, carbs, electrolytes, etc. We have gels, blocks, bars covered pretty good in the, “what to eat on the bike episode”.

  8. 2 water bottles per hour when exercising strenuously and sweating a lot Indoor training is a great opportunity to hydrate 100% fully bc ‘hydration logistics’ aren’t difficult as opposed to outside rides. Water, electrolytes for short easy Zone 2 rides Water and GU Energy Drink Mix for intensity harder than zone 2 Roctane for your 200+ TSS and Simulation Ride

  9. Nat Orpen-Palmer (FasCat from London): I had a TT fit with a new fitter recently who recommended I do neck strengthening exercises to be able to hold a ‘turtle’ position for extended lengths of time. Do you have any advice on this or could you point me in the direction of some resources?

  10. Here’s how I have my time trial athletes practice their ‘‘turtling’: while they do their threshold intervals. That means 1) Practice while you are doing your TT specific threshold intervals 2) Get down in the aero position 3) Scrunch your shoulders up to your ears to punch as small of a hole in the wind as possible. 4) Lower your head as low as possible - look at the ground directly in front of your wheel - eyes down. 5) Use a mirror to visualize this body position aerodynamic optimization 6) Now - this is the turtling part: because your head is so low your eyes can’t see in front of you - crick your neck back as much as you can without raising your head. Use a mirror for this in front of you indoors while you are on the trainer. 7) Then to keep your head as low as possible look out of the tops of your eyebrows to see as much of the road ahead of you. 8) This is where you’ll actually be exercising your eye muscles and may be a tad sore the next day. You’ll be practicing getting your neck in the right position too - probably what your fitter was talking about. 9) Use a mirror to hold this position for the entire threshold interval session. 10) Once you start going hand the natural tendency is to pop-up and be less aero - see that and concentrate on getting back down low. 11) I don’t have athletes perform any neck strengthening exercises, rather practice while performing their threshold TT intervals

  11. Adam DeVoe (FasCast from Denver, Colorado): I know you highly recommend squats on a regular cage, but is the smith rack a reasonable alternative? What are the downsides to the smith rack?

  12. YOU can do a good weight lifting program with a smith rack. It isn’t ideal but neither is 2020. The difference between a smith rack and a free squat is that the smith machine is like a crutch in that it does force you to engage your core and balance the bar in a 360 plane. Because the smith machine moves only up and down you are more likely to develop poor squat form - so use a mirror and get some feedback on your form if possible. Good luck. I used a smith machine for the first 4 years I did the weight program bc I was new to squats and was intimidated by the free squat.

  13. David Kunz (FasCat from California): I’m 36, am in school, have a full time job and family. I have ~8-10 hrs a week to train, can you make a recommendation for how many events I should do in a season and the length of gravel event that I would most likely be competitive in?

  14. Right on David - go for it. So the number of gravel events you should do is up to you! You can do whatever you want. For years, I’d do one a summer - the Crusher in the Tushar and that race was my #1 sole focus 365/24/7. It also depends on where you live in proximity to the races. Big gravel events or smaller regional ones. Being in SoCal definitely do the BWR - that’s one of the biggest baddest gravel events of all time. For distance choose the one you want - maybe the wafer to see how it goes and then the following year the full distance waffle. Maybe you dive right into the waffle - there are no rules its just whatever you want. As for # of events it really depends on your personal situation - could be just the BWR. Could be the BWR + more. Could be the BWR and then another one in the Summer/Fall. Abstain from more than one a month sustained for six months, I think. A big factor for many athletes is how much travel or not is involved to do the race. The closer it is - the more gravel racing you can do. The further away, the less.

  15. Josh Van Cleff (FasCat athlete from North Carolina): For a Training Plan athlete, what’s the best way to approach a vacation or travel week where a bike isn’t going to be along?

  16. Depends on where this vacation falls in relation to your annual training plan and the timing in relation to your goals. The most serious cyclists take their vacations after the season is over and avoid vacations before their A events. Some general guidelines is no non bike vacations 6 - 12 weeks prior to your A event. If you go on vaca 12-24 weeks prior to your A event bring the bike (who goes on vacation without a bike?!) But even still - how are you travelling with the pandemic right now? If by car - bring yo’ bike! When you take your vacations is VERY important and to answer your question - I’d have to look at your training plan in relation to the timing of your goals - inside 6-9 weeks and we’d have to take aggressive measures to counterbalance the offset of the 3 days but beyond 6-9 weeks I think you could make it up before and after. Its not FtFP’ing but you do get credit for thinking in advance and planning to make a plan.

  17. With the meal plan are the ingredients only measured in cups or also in European grams and milliliters? I live in Europe and I’m not familiar with American servings.

  18. For the meal plan, most of the ingredients are measured in cups. Adding the metric equivalent to each ingredient would cause the recipes to look overly crowded/confusing. However converting the recipes to metric is pretty simple. You can find a ton of conversion charts, but this one is pretty straightforward. Here is also a website where you can enter the quantities and it will do the conversion for you!

  19. Cooking Conversion Chart.
  20. Submitted via instagram (@vittorio_james1): If it is a nice day out and you are feeling good, can you spend additional time on the bike in zone 2 and still #ftfp?

  21. It depends. Zone 2 still carries physiological stress. So you are adding stress to a plan that was designed with a keen eye on enabling one to recover from and keep progressing. The additional riding may upset the fine balance. The bigger problem is that sometimes feeling good doesn’t mean ride more. Because you can’t go back in training when you’ve dug a hole and are feeling poopy and take back those days when you rode more. 30 minutes here and there of happiness watts are fine and especially fine if you can get to bed and achieve 8+ hours of sleep and win in the kitchen. Winning in the Kitchen takes time so if riding more causes you to cut corner in the kitchen - don’t do that. Think of the extra riding like carbon offset credits - you ride 30 more minutes if and only if you can ALSO win in the kitchen more and sleep that equivalent time more that evening or have the prior evening. If you are losing in the kitchen or not getting enough sleep each night, rather than ride more - use that time to work on your nutrition and recovery. This is where having a coach is extremely helpful but as a self coached athlete my biggest piece of advice is to pay close close attention to your recovery and ability to hit your power downstream in your plan. If your legs aren’t feeling crisp with lots of watts x-nay the extra zone 2 -ay. Pay attention to your FtFP carbon offset credits.

  22. Submitted via instagram (objektivgesehen): I purchased the foundation plan for my upcoming three weeks but I'm unsure how or even if I could integrate some running training into the training plan. Do you have any tips/ideas?

    My biggest tip, sorry, is that there is no running in this plan. In order to FtFP - no running. Now I can see Jackson rolling his eyes but seriously be disciplined.

  23. If you are a ‘runner’ I’d give you a much different answer. But the single sports cyclists I know that run, injure themselves. Myself included. And I used to run in high school! And that means time off the bike and time off the bike is not FtFP’ing :)

    Running is great especially for cross training in the winter and colder temps just be careful and start gradually and work your way up. If you are a multisport athlete that is also a different answer.

  24. Submitted via instagram (benjahughes1980): What would you suggest as a good progression of plans for a 24 hour MTB race (A+ goal Race) over 12 months? Build to 1 peak or multiple peaks in the year?

  25. A good progression is what we talk about when we say Off Season training. Lift weights and build a big aerobic engine. To do so takes consistent work and approximately 28 weeks: 10-12 weeks for the weights and 12-18 weeks for the base. All those plans are on our site. Start there and do some interval training and then 24 hour specific training. As for a 1 peak or 2 peak season - that is much much more complicated and requires a whole separate podcast to answer or really hiring a coach. My advice is to use the performance manager chart to track your training load, plan your builds, your periodization and of course your overloads, tapers and peak. Everyone pays attention to the CTL but remember the whole entire purpose of the performance model is the optimize your form on the day(s) of your event - so pay attention to your TSB - training stress balance to model out a 1 or 2 peak season. Again - a whole nuther podcast.

  26. Chad Grice (FasCat from Canada): I’m a 35-year-old male with an FTP just under 4 w/kg. I have a harder time than I think I should in my zones. As an example 2h of zone 2 is a struggle and even race files from last year don’t show a normalized power higher than zone 2. My peak 60min is also near zone 2 and I don’t believe that I could hold my FTP for an hour to save my life. I’m worried that I test well or my 20 min of suffering is really good compared to the rest of my curve. What should I do? FTfP and see when I fail or lower my FTP for the training and if so how much?

  27. Something is amiss because zone 2 is your all day endurance pace, should be a 4-5-6 out of 10 Rate of Percevied Exertion with 1 being the easiest and 10 being the hardest. I’d start by re- calibrating everything including your zones with a field test. If you can’t hold your FTP for an hour that is not your FTP.

    In the meantime, today, go back in the past 3-4 months of your power data and find your peak 60 minute power - call that is your FTP (until you test again). Then your zone 2 is 60 - 75% of that number.   

  28. William Diaz (FasCat from Westminster, Colorado): When should you stop doing repeats (intervals)? Can you do too many intervals where it's not helping you anymore?

  29. Yes, you will get to the point with interval training where you plateau out and no longer realize further gains. 6 weeks is great for example our sport specific interval training plans. After that you may want to re-load your CTL with some sweet spot training or get into an interval training plan that has less intervals and more recovery to achieve higher form. These are out ‘race n recover’ plans meant to be followed during your race season. For example right now if you are cyclocross racing or if you were doing weekly criteriums, time trials, road races and so forth - even gravel.

  30. Roston Nordell: I’m looking into starting the 32 week resistance + sweat spot base, But I’ve done some research and every thing I read says I need to maintain the resistance training or else the benefits will go away, so could I get some information on when not continuing the resistance training how the muscles will be maintained?

  31. As a bike racer it is also a matter of how your time is best spent - lifting or riding. We assume you are short on time so we’ve come up with a solution. Our approach acknowledges that after you complete the 10 week resistance training in the plan then your time is best spent riding as much as possible (sweet spot base) but doing strength and conditioning mobility exercises from your yogaglo, revo & foundation will help you maintain those strength gains and not provide so much that you can recover and ride as much as possible ;-) The full gas intervals you do after this plan will also help maintain strength gains. Then do this plan again next off season to rebuild any loses that may have occurred over the racing season. 

  32. John Michael Gray via Instagram (@Ridebikeseatfood): Will/how does strength training increase your FTP?

  33. In 3 easy steps! #1 build muscle - this is hypertrophy phase #2 trains that new and existing muscle to produce great force - strength phase #3 trains the new muscle that can now produce great force to make that force fast in speeds specific to cycling - this is your power phase. Force = mass times acceleration and Power = Force times velocity! [my 11th grade Physics teacher would be so proud] Evan with those physical equations, its not as simple as that - you need to train your muscles aerobic and anaerobically. So lift weights first, do your sweet spot and then don’t forget your full gas interval training. Combine the 3 together et voila - that’s how you increase your FTP! 

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About Frank Overton

Frank founded FasCat Coaching in 2002 and has been a full time cycling coach since 2004. His educational background includes a Masters degree in Physiology from North Carolina State University, pre-med from Hampden-Sydney College. Frank raced at a professional level on the road and mountain bike and currently competes as a "masters" level gravel and cyclocrosser. Professionally Frank comes from medical school spinal cord research and molecular biotechnology. However, to this day it is a dream come true for Frank to be able to help cyclists as a coach.

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