Monday, April 30, 2012


This Thursday, May 3, Professional Cyclist and Olympic medal hopeful Zach Bell will be in Waterdown, Ontario coaching a clinic on climbing and descending.  From 6-8 pm he'll provide tips and tricks from the pro peloton, learn how to gain speed going up and down.  From 8-9, over dinner, he'll be available to ask any questions about cycling; what it's like ride in the pro peloton with all the big names, how many watts does he put out as one of the best track riders in the world, what advice does he have to increase speed and power ...

There are a few spots left, cost is $100 + HST.  E-mail to register.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Dr. Jeff Weekes from Dynamic Health and Performance  visited our group and had a few tips to offer on recovery, a subject that has been mentioned several times in this blog.  Here are some of the things that he touched on.

Cyclists need to stretch their pecs and work on posture.  A good stretch is to use a foam roller (the denser the material the better).  Lay on your back with the foam roller parallel to your legs so your head and back are supported.  Open up your arms to make a cross, palms up, and feel the stretch in your chest.  The foam roller is also great for stretching out tight legs.

Another good exercise to do is with your back against a wall, head, shoulders, back, and butt touching the wall, feet can be a few inches away from the wall.  Place your arms against the wall with your upper arm parallel to the floor, 90 degree bend in your elbow and hands against the wall with the fingers pointing up.  All of your arm, wrist, hand and fingers should be flat on the wall.  If you can do this part, then raise your arms over your head keeping everything flat on the wall.  This is a great exercise to do throughout the day to stretch out the shoulders, especially for those who work at a desk all day.

We've talked about the importance of stretching and hot/cold showers, which was enforced by Dr. Weekes.  Stretch after warming up the muscles with a foam roller, the stick or rolling pin, or exercise to iron out any kinks and hold each stretch for 20 seconds.

Arnica and Traumeel are natural products to help with recovery and to reduce inflammation.  Aspirin and ibuprofen seek to mask the pain, so use caution, we are often sore for a reason and by eliminating the pain we are able to train harder which can lead to injury or make an injury more severe.

Active recovery is something that I am a big believer in and Dr. Weekes touched on as well.  If you do a hard ride or run in the morning, then go out for a very easy ride, walk, or gentle activity in the afternoon, and/or the next day.  Activity helps the blood pump through our bodies which is what eliminates the toxins, including lactic acid which is what makes our muscles sore.

The most important thing is to know your body, when something feels off, uncomfortable, wonky, or painful, then deal with it immediately.  It might be that you need to take a day off, stretch more, hydrate, take a supplement, or see a therapist (massage, osteopath, physic, chiropractic).  Think of your body like a car, keep it tuned up and well cared for and it will keep on riding smoothly, pun intended.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


On Thursday, May 3, professional cyclist, two time World medalist, and Olympic medal hopeful Zach Bell will be hosting a session on how to climb and descend like a professional rider.   Geared towards cyclists  planning a trip to the big mountains in Europe, an upcoming Centurion event, or riders looking for tips to become the strongest in their riding groups, this clinic will help cyclists of all abilities gain more confidence on their bikes.

Zach Bell races for the professional road team Spidertech, recently won Silver at the Track Cycling World Championships, is a favourite for a medal at the London Olympics, and has raced in the pro peloton all over the world.  His full bio can be read here:

Starting at 6 pm in Waterdown, Ontario, 2 hours will be spent on the bike with instruction and feedback, learning the tricks of the trade and gaining insight to becoming a better cyclist.  Learn how to change gears efficiently, correct body position, how to get the most benefit from standing, how to descend at speed, technique in taking corners at speed, and much more.

From 8-9 we will be off the bike enjoying tasty snacks and have the opportunity to ask Zach questions about what it's like to be a professional bike racer riding alongside the biggest names in the sport - Cavendish, Leipheimer, Schleck, Voigt.  What does it take to be ranked as the best track cyclist in the world like he was in 2011?  Looking for answers on how to stay with faster riders, when to attack a group, how to train to increase power thresholds, how to recover from a fall or a hard training day; Zach can answer those questions too!

The cost is $100+HST and will help support one of our favourite Olympic athletes.  The group size will be limited and people can register by e-mailing

Monday, April 23, 2012

With the Cycling Centre winter training program coming to an end, and with riders going outside and testing their new and improved cycling selves, I've been hearing a lot of good things about the results from the training that all the athletes have put in.

Some are riding away from their cycling friends, not on purpose, they're just faster. Keeping up with the fast guys in their group and being able to react to attacks.  Riding at a higher cadence and not tiring out as quickly.  Having energy and feeling great after a long week-end ride.  Averaging a higher speed on the same route ridden last summer.  Feeling stronger on the hills, changing gears more efficiently, being more confident.  I've heard lots of other positive comments too, but thought you would enjoy Veronica's poem which is shared below.

Thank you to everyone who joined us this year, even on the days when you didn't want to be there.  It is your energy, company, and enthusiasm that make the program what it is; a fun atmosphere with encouraging peers, and a positive environment that results in everyone pushing each other to try new things, push a little harder, and reward improvements.  Well done everyone and I look forward to riding with you out on the road!

Ode to Petrina – a Cycling Coach Extraordinaire

Early last September I wrote out my cheque,
I wasn’t sure why…but oh what the heck!
Little did I know what challenges lay ahead,
Some days I would think “should I just stay in bed?”

But with a fuzzy goal in mind I endured each saddle sore,
Soon I was enthusiastically crawling back for more.
I kept up with running, weights & yoga,
By 8pm most nights I was sound asleep on the sofa.

She explained our 1st time trial with her dimpled smile,
Oblivious to our suffering, was she in denial?
We were shown “the bucket” in case we should puke,
Just the thought of such atrocities was enough to spook!

As our training progressed, we looked forward to recovery week,
The next cycling technique we got ready to tweak.
With orders of “knees in” & “one gear harder”,
Petrina guided our training with focus & ardour.

“90 @100” was code for “bust your ass”,
My goal was not to be at the bottom of the class.
We played games, won stickers & enjoyed many a treat,
Six months of intense training was easier to complete.

From the energy bar challenge we learned about nutrition,
With snacks on the line, there was no class attrition.
The post Oscar party we were George Clooney & Meryl Streep,
Never a dull moment in class, we followed like sheep.

As I pack in my trainer & pause to reflect,
To our amazing coach Petrina, I have an abundance of respect.
I’m now looking forward to the outdoor season,
Why I wrote my cheque last fall, I now know the reason!

With thanks for 6 months of coaching & fun!

Saturday, April 21, 2012


The last few weeks of the Cycling Centre this year are full of reminders about what we've learned inside to apply to riding outside.  The workouts haven't been as hard as I think of this time of year as a transition phase to prepare for the summer season, which brings me back to a question I get asked quite a bit, why do we work so hard in the winter months?

A lot of cycling literature emphasizes the importance of base training and long easy miles over the winter months; however, I believe that winter is the time to focus on improving weaknesses, technique, and thresholds.  If we continue to do the same thing all the time then our bodies get used to doing the same thing, at the same speed, same cadence, so we begin the summer season where we left it in September with little improvements.

I'm not saying I don't believe in base miles, in fact, I'm a big believer in the benefits of riding long easy miles; however, I do believe that it should be combined with intensity; and when people are short on time due to jobs, family, and social lives, then intensity becomes more important.

The benefit to base miles, or long slow easy rides, is that we can ride at that pace forever, it builds endurance and stamina, and trains the body to use fat stores as fuel.  It is a good place to be for people trying to lose weight, but if you want to improve on the speed that you climb at, or challenge a group sprint, or to improve your heart rate and power thresholds, or any other number of improvements, then you have to increase the intensity.  The caveat is that in doing hard efforts, whether it's winter or summer, you risk over training and injury; this is where the Cycling Centre program is a benefit.

We started the season in November, so theoretically, everyone had finished their summer season and had taken the month of October off, or at least done other activities and easier rides, base miles if you will.  So when we started in November, people where ready to get back on their bikes, excited to meet new people, and to go back to basics.  The focus was on technique, smooth pedal strokes, equal pressure on the pedals the whole way around, angle of the feet, relaxed shoulders and arms, and riding at higher cadences.  Lesson to apply to outside:  pedal in circles with equal pressure on the pedals for the whole pedal stroke.

In December, we worked on increasing strength to build a base for what we would work on after Christmas.  Big gears, low cadence, low heart rates, but building big muscles was the focus of this phase.  I find that this is how most people like to ride when they start the Cycling Centre program.  By pushing big gears they feel like they are working harder and believe that means they are going faster; so although they are happy to be done with the high cadence we worked on in November, they do start to realize that their legs don't get as tired in the higher cadence and their speed is the same.  During the month of December we also work on a power position, so the lesson to apply outside is: when looking for more power push your butt back in the saddle,  arch your back a bit and lower your body for a strong and stable position, elbows in, and lower your heels to push forward with all of your foot.  Should feel like you're doing a leg press and showing your front quick release the sole of your shoes.

After a good break at Christmas time we come back and work on increasing the aerobic base and finding each rider's optimal cadence.  Heart rates go up and legs feel smooth and strong.  Then we add in even harder efforts with less recovery.  This is when I start to see the actual heart rates that can be sustained by each rider as they don't hold back as much, they gain confidence in their abilities.  They also learn what their 30 min sustainable heart rates are and the cyclists are surprised that they can hold high numbers longer then they thought they could.  Lesson to be applied to outdoor riding: hold a higher cadence, keep a smooth rhythm, and know what heart rate you can sustain.

Moving in to March we worked on anaerobic capacity and lactate tolerance, this was the toughest phase.  The workouts were hard, the rest was sometimes minimal, legs and lungs burned and just when riders thought they were done and the tanks were empty, I'd ask for more; and despite the looks of death, sneers, grunts, and 4 letter words, every athlete dug deep and surprised themselves with what they were capable of.  Lesson to be learned:  "I know how to suffer!" 

Which brings us in to the last month of the program, the month of April.  As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I believe in working hard in the winter to see maximal improvements come spring, but I would also like to emphasize that the last 6 months have consisted of building blocks to minimize injuries and maximize ability, as well as having recovery weeks to give the body time to heal and build itself up stronger.  Riders should be feeling confident and strong as they start to head outside to ride with their clubs and friends, which is why April has been a transition month, not too hard, a few weeks of "base miles", and reminders, tips, and Q&A about riding outside whether it's a group ride, race, or simply riding faster on your own.  Lesson learned:  apply what you learned inside when you are outside!

So what's next?  Over the next 4-5 months, most riders will meet their groups for rides where they will ride hard and fast, at their limits, pushing themselves to be the fastest.  I would like to remind everyone that rest and recovery are still very important and to remember to take an easy week every 3 or 4 weeks.  Active recovery rides are also important, which will be touched on in a later blog post.  It is common for riders to feel burnt out come the end of July or beginning of August because they do the same rides every week with the same groups and forget to take some time off to recovery, regenerate, rejuvenate, and help the body build itself up stronger.

Have a great Spring, ride smart, ride efficiently, conserve energy as much as you can, remember the importance of recovery, and kick some butt!

Monday, April 9, 2012


After our energy bar tournament we seemed to have been going through some withdrawal, but luckily Wesley from KronoBar heard about our challenge and provided us with samples.  We had the cherry coconut (which everyone seemed to enjoy), the choco-banana, and the apricot cranberry which was quite tasty.

The pros were that they are not overly sweet, like many other bars.  Since they are sweetened with apple juice, they could be eaten for longer periods of time without upsetting stomachs, or simply getting tired of the sweetness as tends to happen on long rides and events such as Ironman.

The texture was hit or miss with our group.  It is a fruit bar, so it is not crumbly, which means it is easier to eat on the go then a cookie or crunchy granola bar.  Those that liked it were ready to purchase more and one athlete claimed it was the best bar she'd ever had.

KronoBars are just starting to come in to Ontario.  They are a Canadian Product made with natural ingredients and can be purchased on-line.  I encourage you to try them and see what you think.

We have also had other goodies brought in to our class, including blueberry muffins and marathon cookies, both were very good.  By popular request, here is the recipe for marathon cookies:

1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup all natural crunchy or smooth peanut butter
1 cup honey or maple syrup
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup millet
1/4 cup flax seed
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup TVP (textured vegetable (soya) protein)
1/2 cup wheat germ
3/4 cup chocolate chips
** 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts (or dried cherries, almonds, apricots, pecans, coconut, walnuts, or any combination of these)

Cream together canola oil, peanut butter, and honey.  Add eggs, vanilla, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt , and baking soda.  Mix well and add rolled oats, millet, flax seed, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, TVP, wheat germ, chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and peanuts.

Drop rounded tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 350-370 F for 12-15 minutes depending on how chewy/crispy you like them.  Yields approximately 4-5 dozen cookies.