Category Archive: News

Live Like a Local Triathlete — Austin, Texas

Traveling to Austin, Texas for our 2016 Life Time Tri CapTex? We’ve gathered a list of the best Austin triathlete hotspots so you can have your most memorable racecation yet.

The must-stop coffee shop. Juan Pelota Café, located inside of the famous Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop is known for serving “high-fives and awesome coffee.” Here you’ll find every type of cyclist and triathlete, and it’s the perfect stop for pre- or post-ride caffeine.

Quick, reliably healthy eats. While eating at Whole Foods may be a no-brainer to some, Whole Foods Austin is a whole other experience — the company’s flagship store features every kind of healthy cuisine imaginable. Post up at the Bowie BBQ counter for some classic Texas barbecue, enjoy fresh seafood from their 5th Street Seafood menu, or even swing by their Tartinette Test Kitchen food truck to taste the latest and greatest in food trends and seasonal flavors!

Where to get outside. Austin is known for being an active city, which provides lots of options for those looking to head outdoors and work up a sweat. Hit the Parmer bike trails for a popular out-and-back ride featuring beautiful rolling hills, or go for a run around Zilker Park. If water sports are more your speed, try kayaking or SUP-ing down the Colorado River and Lady Bird Lake.

Your local tri shop. Austin Tri Cyclist is one of the country’s oldest and largest specialty bike shops that caters to the triathlete community. Here, you can count on the knowledgeable staff to help you find last-minute race gear, or swing by to talk shop and get great recommendations on where to ride!

It’s not too late to register for Life Time Tri CapTex! Join us on Memorial Day and kick off summer in the heart of Austin.

My Journey to Boulder Peak: Q&A with New Triathlete, Adam Ragsdale

Adam Ragsdale, longtime runner and Brand Manager for Athlinks (part of Life Time Fitness) is taking on a new challenge in 2016: Life Time Tri Boulder Peak presented by Voler on July 10. We sat down with him to discuss training, the triathlon community and how he manages to work full-time, raise a 2 ½-year-old and be a new triathlete.

Life Time Tri: What motivated you to take on a triathlon after participating in running events for years?
Adam Ragsdale: I’ve been a passionate runner for 10 years and have participated in a handful of half marathons, my first being the ING Georgia Half Marathon in Atlanta.

While training to do my first full marathon, I broke my foot on my second 20-mile training run, and coincidentally, my physical therapist strongly suggested cycling as a form of cross-training, which was my first entrance into the cycling world. This was about the same time I started working for Life Time Fitness, and was surrounded by a community of cyclists and triathletes that made the transition into sport appealing.

From there, I volunteered at the Life Time Tri Boulder Peak in 2015 and recognized that I was already regularly running and biking, so all I needed to do to take on a fun, new challenge was to incorporate swimming.

LTT: How do you fit in training while working full time and raising a 2 ½-year-old?
AR: First and foremost, I have a really supportive wife who appreciates my lowered stress levels that come with staying active and training throughout the week [laughs]. I’m also very lucky to work in an environment where fitting in personal fitness and training into your workday is not only accepted, but encouraged.

On top of that, I have a lot of access to things at the office like stationary bikes and treadmills, showers, which are a lifesaver after a long lunch run, and incredible trails to run and ride on right outside the doors.

Lastly, for the first time in my life I have become a real planner — each night I’m packing my meals and snacks for the next day, as well as my training clothes. Then all I have to do is wake up in the morning and head to the pool before work to get a swim workout in.

My goal is to do two swims, two bikes and two runs per week, yet of course there are times when you miss a workout. Just move on from it, if you can get two workouts in the next day, great; if not, it’s not the end of the world. And I’ve definitely been that dad who runs with the stroller and tows my son behind my bike on rides, which hopefully will prove to be a good training technique come race day.

LTT: Which discipline do you like the most?
AR: It’s a toss up between the swim and the bike right now because they’re both new to me and I can track my progress and see myself improving week to week.

That being said, I’ve fallen in love with the swim workouts. I’ve never swam before except for fun, and while I’ve always felt very comfortable in the water, I had never strapped on a pair of goggles and a swim cap until deciding to do a triathlon. I’ve found the process of starting my day off with a swim to be really meditative.

On the other hand, I’ve really been enjoying the bike, as I have a lot of friends and co-workers who ride, so it’s become a fun, group thing to do on the weekends that brings about a sense of community.

LTT: What’s your average swim workout?
AR: Honestly, I kind of make them up as I go along. This morning I started with a warm up of 200-300 meters of a freestyle swim, then did 8×250 meters with 30 seconds of rest in between. My goal is to work up to the endurance level required for the full 2,000 meter swim so, come race day, I won’t be surprised.

LTT: What surprised you in training for your first tri?
AR: I haven’t come across too many surprises, as I’m fortunate enough to work with and have friends who are all experienced triathletes, so I’ve had a lot of guidance along the way.

LTT: Do you have a goal for race day?
AR: Not yet. I will absolutely have a time goal come race day, even though that probably goes against people’s advice for a beginner triathlete. It’s not enough for me to just finish, in all honesty, so I’ll have a pretty specific time goal dialed in by the time race day hits. I may share it, I may not [smiles].

LTT: What general tips would you give to those interested in trying a tri?
AR: Some valuable advice that I haven’t fully taken on myself is to probably seek out some kind of professional coaching. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been surrounded by friends/amateur coaches who have filled that space for me, but it’s not enough to try and take on this new training regime totally alone. I’ve been thinking pretty seriously about getting a swim coach to help me work on my mechanics before I develop bad habits.

Next, just go get in the pool or hop on a bike. Triathlon tends to have this incredibly intense reputation because of IRONMAN, but not all triathlons are that intimidating.

A sprint or Olympic distance tri is attainable, and it’s really, really empowering when you start to believe in yourself and see that you can actually do it. There really is so much information out there and the triathlon community as a whole is a really welcoming one.

I would also highly recommend doing the Indoor Triathlon Hour, which I did in January. It’s a huge confidence booster and a really reasonable amount of time. The 10-minute swim, 30-minute bike and 20-minute run sets you up really well to experience what the transition from sport to sport looks and feels like.

Lastly, seek out all the resources you can. Whether it’s through Life Time Tri training clinics, talking to different experienced coaches or friends or even researching online, you’ll be able to find the training path that works for you.

Learn more about Adam’s first tri, Life Time Tri Boulder Peak, and consider joining him! Individual and relay team options are available.

7 Ways to Eat More Mindfully

by Heidi Wachter

Strategies for learning how to eat with awareness.

Each of us makes more than 200 daily decisions about eating most of them unconsciously, according to behavior scientist Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of Mindless Eating and Slim By Design. Clueing in to these decisions can help make them work for you rather than against you. Increase your mindfulness factor with these strategies:

Snack wisely before shopping. Grab an apple or some veggies before grocery shopping. Wansink found that healthy noshing primes you to buy healthy: Study participants bought 25 percent more fruits and vegetables than those who didn’t eat such a snack beforehand.

Don’t supersize it. Keep smaller dishes — like appetizer plates and juice glasses — front and center in your cupboard. Researchers discovered that diners at a Chinese buffet piled 52 percent more food onto large plates and ate 45 percent more than those who used smaller ones.

Make healthy food visible. Wansink’s research found that people who wrapped healthy leftovers in plastic wrap were more likely to see them and eat them than those who used foil. On the flip side, people ate 2.2 more pieces of candy a day out of a clear bowl than an opaque one.

Keep a clean kitchen. In a Cornell study, people ate 44 percent more snacks in a cluttered kitchen than they did in a clean one. “If your environment is out of control, you may feel that you don’t need to be in control of your eating either,” says Wansink.

Put food away. Researchers discovered that women who kept a box of cereal on the counter weighed 20 pounds more, on average, than those who put it in the cupboard. Keeping food out of immediate sight and reach helps reduce temptation triggers.

Plate it up. Even if you just want a snack, put it on a plate: Plating food increases your awareness of portion size. “Dishing out a ration makes you see exactly how much you are eating,” Wansink explains.

Minimize distraction. People who dine while watching TV, reading, or working have a harder time keeping track of what they consume — and routinely eat more.

Distracted eating is a problem for two reasons: “First, you don’t pay attention to whether you’ve had 14 or 40 potato chips,” Wansink says. “Secondly, you often won’t stop eating until the end of the show, regardless of whether you’re full or not.”

Such eating patterns become mutually reinforcing, meaning it becomes hard to watch TV without eating, he explains.

Heidi Wachter is the staff writer at Experience Life. This article originally appeared in Experience Life, the no gimmicks no-hype health and fitness magazine. Learn more at ExperienceLife.com

Charity Entries for the Sold Out 2016 NYC Tri Up For Grabs via Women For Tri

Five charity entry slots for the sold out 2016 Panasonic New York City Triathlon on July 24 are up for grabs via Women For Tri fundraising efforts.

As part of an ongoing effort to increase awareness, raise funds and support women in the sport of triathlon, Women For Tri, an initiative founded by IRONMAN® and Life TimeSM – The Healthy Way of Life Company, announces five slots—three individual and two relay—up for grabs to the sold out 2016 Panasonic New York City Triathlon.

Applications for the fundraising slots are available now through May 11. Any woman who is able and willing to complete the New York City Triathlon is invited to apply. Primary consideration will be given to the applicant’s demonstration of commitment to triathlon and her compelling story of personal and life experiences that have impacted her participation in triathlon. Applicants must also commit to fundraise or donate a minimum of $2,500 per individual entry, or $3,600 per relay entry to Women for Tri.

The objective of offering these Women for Tri charity slots at the New York City Triathlon is two-fold. First, to highlight female triathletes who support and embody the spirit of Women for Tri at the event. And second, to raise funds for various Women For Tri programs that support its mission to identify and diminish barriers to entry, and mobilize triathlon advocates to encourage and engage female athletes across all distances and representing all athletic abilities.

Click here for more information regarding the Panasonic New York City Triathlon slots.

Athlete Requirements/Eligibility
Athletes must commit to personal athletic preparation in order to safely compete in the 2016 Panasonic New York City Triathlon, and agree to individual fundraising minimums: $2,500 for individual and $3,600 for relay teams. Additionally, athletes must demonstrate a commitment to the values and spirit of Women for Tri. Please see our detailed athlete requirements.

Submissions/Deadline
Applications must be submitted on or prior to May 11, 2016. Applicants will be notified by May 23, 2016.

> APPLY TO REPRESENT WOMEN FOR TRI AT THE NYC TRIATHLON

Information on the 2016 Panasonic New York City Triathlon can be found at www.nyctri.com.

Just BREATHE!

by Sarah Hankel, Life Time Endurance Coach

Swimming is the most physically demanding aerobic activities for the primary reason of finding time to BREATHE! Often times we feel as if we are choking, panting, or gulping water instead of getting in a nice, relaxed and fluid breath. The battle of proper breathing for novice swimmers is often 90% of the problem when learning the great skill of swimming.

Since swimming is a full-body, coordinated effort we need to find proper time to get oxygen to our working muscles and cardiovascular system. A proper breathing pattern occurs as part of your long axis of rotation.

Physiology 101
As most of you may know, swimming is an aerobic form of exercise. In some cases, it will become an anaerobic event when we are depleting all the oxygen from our working muscles. Often times we will feel breathless and worthless in the water due to oxygen debt. This is partially true. Along with the body trying to recover more oxygen to the work demand of swimming, carbon dioxide is accumulating in our musculature. Sadly, this is not the most ideal situation to be in as a swimmer. The carbon dioxide buildup will be more pronounced the more aerobically conditioned we become because we simply have a higher oxygen demand. This type of metabolic function will be measured by our heart rate and rate of perceived exertion (RPE). Having the ability to utilize more oxygen to our systems when doing work is a great metabolic function for our body to become conditioned to.

Let’s blow bubbles, shall we?
Believe it or not, blowing bubbles in the water as your exhale is the best way to develop a proper breathing pattern. This is especially beneficial if you find yourself holding your breath as you move through the water. By blowing bubbles, you will also be preoccupied on something else so you can further help get all the other mechanics of swimming in check. Standing at one end of the pool, place your face in the water and count to 5 and pivot your head to the right or left side, whichever is your personal preference. Do this about 5-6 times. Remember to inhale through your mouth and exhale through both your nose and mouth. As you are standing with your head in the water, practice and focus on the control you have with a relaxed, full breath into your system. Be patient, swimming takes practice as does learning how to control and develop a proper breathing pattern.

Where are the fish?
As your body rotates with forward movement, you should need to turn your head only slightly to get a full comfortable breath. Your gaze should be about 5 degrees above the imaginary line of the water that your body is swimming on. Your head should not have to be forced to rotate when taking a breath. The turn of your head should be at a 90 degree to the bottom of the pool or whatever type of body of water you are swimming in. Each time your head returns back to the water, exhale completely. As your head rotates for a breath, there should be a full and smooth inhale. The shorter the breath, the quicker you will put yourself into oxygen deprivation. Try to visualize yourself as a relaxed as possible just like those fish in the lake you will see this summer!

“Bilateral” what?
With freestyle swimming, there are two types of breathing patterns: single-sided and bilateral breathing. Single-sided is always breathing on the same side. Bilateral breathing means turning alternately to the right side, and then to the left, for a breath of fresh air. Once you are comfortable with a breathing pattern, you will find there are some advantages of bilateral breathing-aids in evening out your stroke, rotate evenly on both sides and limit the amount of drag you are producing in the water. I encourage you to use it as often as possible in both training and competition! Your breathing pattern will further set your pace for your race!

Practice makes Breathing E-Z
Learning proper breathing patterns will be your biggest challenge for a more efficient swim pattern in the water. Be patient. Practice. Practice. PRACTICE! It takes to build proper technique and efficiency. If you have a lot on your mind when you enter the pool, don’t let your breathing pattern become one more thing to worry about. Make sure your breathing is smooth and fluid with each stroke you take. Remember, you can only get better. Don’t create more work for yourself!

Breathing Drills

  1. Single-side breathing
  2. Bilateral breathing
  3. Hypoxic breathing (only do this once you are confident and efficient with your current level of breathing pattern! Don’t create more work for yourself!)

Increase your breathing pattern to every 4, 5, 6 strokes instead of alternating as you would with bilateral breathing. This should be done in 25’s or 50’s as speed work in your swim workout.

Sarah Hankel is a Level III Personal Trainer at Life Time Fitness in Plymouth, MN, a USA Swimming Certified coach and a LTE Coach. She has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Kinesiology and Coaching. 

Triathlon Strong in 6 Weeks

by Andrew Heffernan

Gearing up for a big tri event? This quick, effective, six-week strength training program will improve your overall fitness, help you avoid injury and have you crossing the finish in record time.

If you’re preparing for a triathlon, it probably seems like the last thing you need is more exercise. With all those swimming, biking and running workouts packed into your schedule, the only elements you’re tempted to add to your routine may be a cold drink and a long nap. But by sliding just two 30-minute strength-training workouts into your weekly regimen, you’ll not only make your pending race easier and more enjoyable, you’ll also guard against injury and become a leaner, stronger and more athletic competitor. You might even improve your finish time.

“Triathlon training develops plenty of endurance, but lacks some crucial components for developing muscular strength and balance,” explains Troy Jacobson, director of endurance training for Life Time Fitness and coauthor of Triathlon Anatomy (Human Kinetics, 2012). Typical tri-training programs also underemphasize some muscle groups while overstressing others, he adds. Over time this can lead to functional imbalances — and, ultimately, to pain and injury. Not a great payoff for all your hard work.

The solution? Get stronger. Just a little bit of resistance training on top of your cardio work can develop the hamstrings, upper back and other areas that are often neglected during endurance training. The resulting strength can help guard against some of the more common triathlon-related overuse injuries in the hips, knees, lower back and shoulders.

More head-to-toe strength and muscle mass will also help you burn fat around the clock — whether you’re on the bike or on the couch. And strength work ensures that you’ll maintain a broad base of fitness even as your training becomes more triathlon-specific.

What you won’t do with these tri-prep workouts is build huge amounts of bulk. “The program isn’t designed to pack on muscular size or weight,” Jacobson says, so there’s no need to worry about extra mass slowing you down. On the contrary, you’ll be building the kind of sleek and shapely physique that puts you across the finish line faster.

PUT SOME MUSCLE IN YOUR RACE
Jacobson recommends scheduling your strength training around your regular triathlon workouts. If this means you’ll need to do strength and endurance workouts on certain days, make sure you do your endurance or sport-specific training first. The following plan is designed to start six weeks before your race, so you peak as your race approaches, and involves two lifting sessions — “A” and “B” — on nonconsecutive days. Warm up with at least five minutes of dynamic stretching, easy jogging, cycling or rowing. Unless otherwise noted, rest 60 to 90 seconds between sets.

The last two weeks before your race, you’ll see that you actually do fewer sets and reps of each move. That’s by design. “The quickest results from any training program come after four to six weeks of consistent training, depending on the individual,” explains Jacobson. “Then you’ll want to deload, or taper down, your strength training so you’re as fresh as possible on race day.”

WORKOUT A
1) Speed Pushups

May13_wo_speed-pushups

  •  Assume the standard pushup position: hands slightly wider than shoulder width, balls of feet on the floor, body in a straight line from your heels to the crown of your head.
  • Without letting your hips or head sag toward the floor, bend your arms, pull your shoulder blades together, and lower your body, keeping your elbows at about a 45-degree angle to your torso.
  • When your chest is a few inches from the floor, quickly push yourself back up to the starting position.

Easier version: Perform the exercise with your hands on an elevated surface like a bench or countertop: the higher the surface, the easier the move.

Harder version: Perform the exercise with your feet elevated.

Why it’s good for triathletes: Improves upper-body pushing power; useful for the swim start and steep climbing on the bike.

Sets and Reps

  • Week One: two sets of as many reps as possible in 20 seconds
  • Week Two: three sets of as many reps as possible in 20 seconds
  • Weeks Three and Four: three sets of as many reps as possible in 30 seconds
  • Weeks Five and Six: two sets of as many reps as possible in 20 seconds; slow down these weeks and focus on perfect form.

2) Chin-Ups

May13_wo_chin-ups

  • Take an underhand, shoulder-width grip on a chin-up bar with your palms facing toward you.
  • Lift your feet from the floor and allow your arms to straighten fully.
  • Pull your shoulder blades down and back, bend your arms, and pull yourself up until your chin is slightly above the bar.
  • Lower yourself slowly back to the starting position.

Easier version: Perform the same exercise using an assisted chin-up machine, or have a partner give you a boost as you perform the move.

Harder version: If you can bang out 12 to 15 reps of body-weight chin-ups with no problem, try the same exercise while squeezing a dumbbell between your legs.

Why it’s good for triathletes: Develops the upper-back musculature necessary for a strong swimming stroke and for maintaining good posture throughout the run.

Sets and Reps

  • Week One: two sets of 12 reps
  • Week Two: two sets of 15 reps
  • Weeks Three and Four: three sets of 12 to 15 reps
  • Weeks Five and Six: one or two sets of 10 reps

Can’t do a Chin-Up? No Problem! See ELmag.com/pullup.

3) Alternating Dynamic Lunges

May13_wo_dynamic-lunges

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, then step your left foot forward about a stride-and-a-half, allowing the heel of your right foot to lift an inch or two off the floor.
  • Keeping your back straight and your eyes looking ahead, slowly bend both legs until your right knee lightly touches the floor.
  • Reverse the movement, stepping your left foot back, and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the opposite side. That’s one rep.

Easier Version: Lower your back knee only halfway down to the floor on each rep before coming back up.

Harder Version: Hold dumbbells at your sides.

Why it’s good for triathletes: Keeps the hip flexors limber and develops the glutes, helping to prevent lower-back pain and injury that can sometimes result from too much time in the saddle.

Sets and Reps

  • Week One: three sets of 12 reps
  • Week Two: three sets of 15 reps
  • Weeks Three and Four: three sets of 12 to 15 reps
  • Weeks Five and Six: two sets of 12 reps

4) Stability-Ball Speed “Olympic Diver” Crunches

May13_wo_stability-ball-olympic-diver-crunches

  • Sit on a stability ball, walk your feet forward, and lie back on the ball until your torso is parallel to the floor.
  • Extend your arms overhead, interlace your fingers, and squeeze your upper arms close to your ears.
  • Keeping your arms in this position, blow out forcefully, contract your abdominal muscles, and squeeze the bottom of your rib cage toward your pelvis.
  • Return to horizontal position.

Easier Version: Perform the movement sitting toward the front of the ball so the ball supports your back, and your hands are higher than your knees in the starting position.

Harder Version: Hold a light dumbbell in your hands.

Why it’s good for triathletes:
Unlike conventional crunches, this stricter version keeps your spine long as you work the core, which translates into better form on the run and a more streamlined shape in the water.

Sets and Reps

  • Week One: two sets of as many as possible in 20 seconds
  • Week Two: two sets of as many as possible in 30 seconds
  • Weeks Three and Four: three sets of as many as possible in 30 seconds
  • Weeks Five and Six: two sets of 12 to 15 reps, focusing on form

WORKOUT B
1) Stability-Ball Dumbbell Overhead Presses 

May13_wo_stability-ball-dumbbell-overhead-press

  • Sit upright on a stability ball, holding two moderately heavy dumbbells at shoulder height, palms roughly parallel.
  • Keeping your lower back in its natural arch, smoothly press the dumbbells upward until your arms are fully extended overhead and your upper arms are close to your ears.
  • Slowly reverse the movement and repeat for the appropriate reps.

Easier Version/Harder Version: Adjust the weight accordingly.

Why it’s good for triathletes: Improves shoulder stability and strength — both invaluable during the swim and bike stages.

Sets and Reps

  • Week One: two sets of 12 reps
  • Week Two: two sets of 15 reps
  • Weeks Three and Four: three sets of 15 reps
  • Weeks Five and Six: two sets of 12 reps

2) Seated Cable Rows 

May13_wo_seated-cable-rows

  • Attach a parallel-grip handle to the low pulley cable at a seated row station and set the pin at a moderately heavy weight.
  • Sit on the seat, place your feet against the platform, and take hold of the handles.
  • Sit up straight, arching your lower back and lifting your chest slightly.
  • Without allowing your head to push forward, bend your arms and strongly retract your shoulder blades, pulling the handle back until it nearly touches your abdomen.
  • Slowly extend your arms and return to the starting position.

Easier Version/Harder Version: Adjust the resistance accordingly.

Why it’s good for triathletes: Protects against “swimmer’s shoulder” and other issues caused by overuse of the shoulder joint.

Sets and Reps

  • Week One: two sets of 12 reps
  • Week Two: two sets of 15 reps
  • Weeks Three and Four: three sets of 15 reps
  • Weeks Five and Six: two sets of 12 reps

3) Dumbbell Front Squats

May13_wo_dumbbell-front-squats

  • Holding two moderately heavy dumbbells, stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and your toes pointed slightly outward.
  • Lift the dumbbells to shoulder height and rest them on the fronts of your shoulders throughout the movement.
  • Keeping your feet flat on the floor, your eyes looking ahead and your lower back in its natural arch, slowly squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor.
  • With your weight on your heels, return to standing, keeping your chest up throughout the exercise.

Easier Version: Use body weight only, and, if necessary, only squat halfway down.

Harder Version: Use heavier dumbbells and squat as deeply as you can while keeping your lower back in its natural arch.

Why it’s good for triathletes: Builds strength in the lower body — especially useful for sprinting and climbing during the bike and the run.

Sets and Reps

  • Week One: two sets of 12 reps
  • Week Two: two sets of 15 reps
  • Weeks Three and Four: three sets of 15 reps
  • Weeks Five and Six: two sets of 12 reps

4) Knee-Ups

May13_wo_knee-ups

  • Take an overhand, shoulder-width grip on a chin-up bar, palms facing away from you, allowing your legs to hang straight down toward the floor.
  • Keeping your feet together, lift your knees as high as possible.
  • Pause for a moment in the contracted position, slowly lower your knees back to the starting position, and repeat for the appropriate number of reps.

Easier Version: Perform the same movement using a pair of slings, which attach to a chin-up bar and loop around your upper arms so you don’t have to grip the bar. Then lift your knees just halfway up.

Harder Version: Perform the same movement with your legs straight, touching your toes to the bar.

Why it’s good for triathletes:
Improves hip mobility, hip-flexor strength and core stability, for better strength and more efficient positioning during the run.

Sets and Reps

  • Week One: two sets of 12 reps
  • Week Two: two sets of 15 reps
  • Weeks Three and Four: three sets of 15 reps
  • Weeks Five and Six: two sets of 12 reps

Andrew Heffernan, CSCS, is a contributing editor for Experience Life. This article originally appeared in Experience Life, the no gimmicks no-hype health and fitness magazine. Learn more at ExperienceLife.com

Pedal Power

by Bob Townsend, CSCS

Riding a bike efficiently involves skill. In this brief article on the topic of pedaling and cadence, Life Time and USA Cycling Certified Coach Bob Townsend, goes into the basics of how to turn the pedals more efficiently. – Coach Troy Jacobson

Ever notice how the great cyclists make peddling look so effortless? How do they make it look so easy? Natural ability – absolutely. Lots and lots of miles – of course. How you pedal affects your efficiency. The smoother you can pedal the more relaxed you can keep your upper body. The more relaxed your upper body the less energy you’ll waste. One way to improve your efficiency is to improve your pedaling mechanics. This means learning to pedal smoothly, all the way from top of the pedal stroke, all the way through the bottom. Better know as pedaling in circles. Another way is to pedal at your optimal cadence.

Physiological
The make up of your leg muscles, the ratio of fast twitch muscles vs. slow twitch muscles combined with your fitness will determine your ideal cadence. Low cadence requires us to push harder on the pedals (mashing). To generate this force your leg muscles must recruit faster twitch muscles than slow twitch.

Fast Twitch

  • Burns glycogen for fuel — real short supply
  • Fatigue quickly
  • Takes a long time to recover

Slow Twitch

  • Primarily burn fat for fuel — almost an unlimited supply
  • Very resistant to fatigue
  • Recover quickly when allowed to rest

Cadence
The number of times you turn your pedals in a minute is your cadence. Cycling is a power sport. Your power is the product of the force you apply to the pedals times your cadence. You want to pedal as fast as you can with the greatest amount of force you can maintain. For many riders, going faster means shifting to a bigger gear and mashing on the pedals. This doesn’t necessarily result in greater speed because bigger gears are harder to turn over. Grinding away in the wrong gear significantly increases the risk of injury, decreases efficiency and makes riding less fun.

More riders can increase their speed thus ride more comfortably by increasing their cadence. Lance Armstrong demonstrated this with his many Tour de France wins. His cadence was much faster than those of most his pro competitors. Elite cyclists typically have a cadence of between 80 -120 while recreational cyclist pedal at about 60-80 revolutions per minute. Cadence has both a motor-learning and physiological element to it. If you pedal too fast your brain cannot coordinate your muscles so you will lose efficiency. It will be harder to pedal at 90 rpm’s in the beginning because you simply are not use to it. It will feel harder at first because you won’t be as efficient at the higher cadence. You haven’t made the neuromuscular jump. The good news is it will only take a few sessions to make the jump.

For every set of conditions there is an ideal cadence and gear ratio that will allow you to go your fastest with the least amount of effort. In general, it has been proven in studies that a higher cadence improves efficiency, reduces stress on the knees and builds aerobic fitness better than a low cadence. However, a rider’s comfort often determines the most efficient cadence. Our optimal cadence is likely a combination of the make up of our muscles and our aerobic system. Those that pedal at a lower cadence will have to put out more force than those that spin a lower gear. Faster cadence requires a well developed aerobic system to support the aerobic demand of higher cadence. Lower cadence requires more leg strength to develop the force needed to turn a higher gear.

Okay, you’ve been sold on the value of high cadence vs. low cadence. But what is the optimal cadence? If you’re relatively new to cycling (triathlons), you probably riding at a cadence that is below your optimum. During a normal ride aim for smooth pedal stroke between 85 – 100 rpm’s.

You always want to be “quiet on the bike.” A still upper body, not jerking your upper body around or swinging side to side to generate power. A still upper body means your energy, focus and concentration is on your legs, where they need to be. Try to choose gears that allow you to pedal as fast as you can and still feel some pressure on your pedals.

Some training programs prescribe low cadence to train your body to push harder on the pedals. Although there is a place for low cadence, consider the training principle of specificity. If you want to bike faster at 90 rpm’s, then you need to ride your bike faster at 90 rpm’s.

Bob Townsend is a veteran triathlete a two time Ironman finisher with 13 years of triathlon experience, nearly 30 years of running experience and 40 years of cycling experience. He is a certified triathlon coach by USA Triathlon and a certified cycling coach by USA Cycling. He also holds certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and a Personal Training certification from American College of Sports Medicine. He has been coaching both runners and triathletes for nearly 7 years. He currently is an Endurance Coach and Personal Trainer for Life Time Fitness. 

Indoor Triathlon Hour is Back for a Spring Session

We’re bringing our Indoor Triathlon Hour powered by Life Time Tri and IRONMAN back for Spring! Join us in April at 21 select clubs and locations for a 10-minute pool swim (all swim strokes allowed), 30-minute bike and 20-minute treadmill run to become a triathlete in 60 minutes.

STARTING LINE 101 CLINICS
Learn the fundamentals of triathlon training and racing to help maximize your experience at the Indoor Tri! Presented by your local Life Time Tri coaches, the clinic includes a comprehensive overview of training for swim, bike and run in a comfortable classroom setting, as well as time for Q&A. It’s free, and it’s for everyone, so join us and bring a friend!

Starting Line 101 Clinic Locations for Saturday, February 20

For confirmation, please email Troy Jacobson at tjacobson@lifetimefitness.com.

TRAIN WITH THE LIFE TIME TRI TEAM!
At select Life Time Fitness locations, join the Tri TEAM for a weekly workout to hone your skills and build your fitness. Starting on Monday, February 29 through race week, you’ll receive the coaching and motivation necessary to have a great Indoor Tri race day experience… all for only $120! To learn more and to see if there’s a program near you, contact Troy Jacobson at TJacobson@lifetimefitness.com.

Women for Tri Announces 2016 Kona Slot Application

The Women for Tri Board of Advisors has released the application for one slot to compete at the 2016 IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Women for Tri will select one woman who embodies the spirit of triathlon and women in tri through her personal life story and life experiences, and who commits to raise at least $25,000 for Women for Tri’s charitable efforts.

In 2015, Women for Tri raised $100,000 in charitable funds, making 23 grants to triathlon clubs throughout the country averaging $2,500 per club, and five $5,000 scholarships to female collegiate triathletes. Women for Tri has announced two grant cycles for 2016, doubling its financial commitment to supporting women in triathlon. The 2016 Women for Tri Kona slot will raise awareness about the extraordinary women who participate in triathlon, and raise at least $25,000 to support Women for Tri’s efforts.

> WOMEN FOR TRI IRONMAN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP SLOT 2016 APPLICATION

Adult women worldwide are eligible and encouraged to apply. Applications close on May 15 and recipients will be notified by May 23.

Become a Life Time Tri Coach

Are you passionate about helping others reach their athletic goals? Would you like a rewarding career in the field of personal training and endurance sports coaching? Then we’re looking for you!

We’re searching for qualified and experienced triathlon coaches to grow our Life Time Tri TEAM programs throughout the country. Tri coaches will be charged with delivering quality training programs and giving training and racing advice to athletes of all abilities, from beginner to advanced. Become a leader in the Endurance coaching profession, join our coaching team today.

Follow these simple steps to apply:

  1. Choose a Life Time location nearest you that has a job opening.
  2. Complete the online application.
  3. Submit the application, and wait to hear back for a scheduled interview.

> APPLY NOW