The huff and puff of a workout builds more than just muscle. People exercise for a wide variety of reasons ranging from weight loss to bodybuilding to racing. All of those training goals focus on developing cardiovascular and muscular strength but what if all of that work is doing more? What if I told you that exercising builds your brain function? The affects of exercise on the brain often go overlooked but actually are a crucial aspect of exercise. While working out you might bulk up the body but you also build brain mass, balance out neurotransmitter levels, and increases learning capacity. I just finished reading the book Spark: The revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey and Eric Hagerman. This book takes the leading proven psychological and physiological research to illustrate what is happening during and post exercise.
The book starts off telling the story of a small school district in Illinois. This school district had struggled with the state and national standardized tests for years. It took a revolutionary approach by one gym teacher to flip the results leading to the school becoming one of the highest scoring schools on the famed Program for International Standards test. What did it take to make this giant leap? Running one mile before school and a slight reorganization of classes. The goal of gym class was switched from the typical sport oriented teaching method to the fitness and health based program. The program went by the name Zero Hour because of the fact that kids would run a mile prior to starting the day. So why did running a mile prior to the school day make such a large impact? The answer is simple; exercise increases Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. In simple terms, BDNF encourages the survival and growth of neural connections. BDNF is key in learning, memory, and critical thinking which are critical for education. BDNF, while a major part of the success, is actually just one benefit of exercise.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor increases the ability to learn and remember but this increase is only temporary post exercise. During exercise, neurotransmitters are increased like glutamate, serotonin, and dopamine. In order to take full advantage of the increased BDNF you need to immediately go into cognitively challenging tasks. BDNF leads to the creation of new neurons and glutamate increases electrical signaling for these neurons. Left untouched these neurons will just fade away. According to Hebb’s theory of activity dependent neural plasticity, if neurons go unused then they will “die.” This goes to the saying “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” the Zero Hour program took this knowledge and applied it by placing challenging classes early in the morning or immediately after recess. These classes provided the actual material for the brain to fire signals to the neurons. Due to the increased glutamate the signals were stronger which lead to the strengthening of the neuron and axon. When the signal remains strong the brain will begin to strengthen that connection by insulating the axon in the mylon sheath (white matter). This insulation insures that whatever you are learning will stick.
Next thing to cover is serotonin and dopamine which are the key pleasure and focus neurotransmitters. Most of the athletes reading this can relate to the old “Runner’s High”. This is that feeling of euphoria and pleasure post workout. Dopamine and serotonin are key players in this phenomena. Serotonin’s purpose in the body is to modulate mood, appetite, and sleep. I just want to focus on the mood aspect though. Serotonin has the ability to increase one’s ability to feel happiness and overall well-being. This adds to the longer lasting aspect of runner’s high. The immediate feeling of satisfaction and pleasure is actually due to dopamine levels increasing. Activity in dopamine neurons, called the nucleus accumbens AKA pleasure center, increases and peaks immediately post exercise. The increased activity is also what happens when someone takes drugs. One theory about why drug addicts keep coming back for more is that it comes down to motivation. The strengthening of the pleasure center leads to increased motivation to return to that stimulated state. While drug addicts are motivated to use drugs again, people who activate the center using exercise become more and more motivated to continue with that exercise regimen. Pairing the increased dopamine levels with learning will translate some of that motivation towards learning, making it more exciting. Another cool aspect of dopamine is its ability to control neural noise. Dopamine reduces neural noise; taming down inputs in your environment allowing you to focus.
Alright, so one thing that I remember seeing in college a lot was students bringing their study material to the gym. It was their attempt of utilizing every moment they had available to study. I can’t blame them for that! What I didn’t know at the time was that this was actually hindering their ability to absorb the material! During high intensity exercise (80-90% max heart rate) blood flow is significantly decreased to the prefrontal cortex, crucial aspect in learning. Additionally, glucose levels are significantly decreased in the prefrontal cortex during high intensity exercise. This means the strength of neural firing is reduced. While most of the people trying to study during exercise are actually at a much lower heart rate, there is still going to be a shunting of blood to this area of the brain. Luckily, blood flow and glucose levels are restored immediately after conclusion of the exercise. This means it is probably just best to leave the studying to after the workout. Use the exercise time to clear your mind and increase those critical neurotransmitters.
It is amazing what goes on in the body during and after exercise. Everyday I learn about some new amazing aspect of what the body is doing during exercise. The incredible thing is that to get the benefits I just described it really only takes 10 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise. 10 minutes a day gives you the ability to be a smarter, healthier, and more stable human. All you have to do is just get started. Find a tool or routine that gets you moving. Buy a jump rope and bring it wherever you go or walk briskly to your next meeting or class. Take advantage of what your body wants to naturally do!
A new year and a new season means new a new bike! You’ve been drooling over those professional bike pictures for month. Now the time has come to purchase your first frame, or upgrade! I have had a couple clients recently ask where I begin when buying a bike. These days there are so many options muddled up by online retailers, directly buying from manufacturers, or the tried and true local bike shop. On top of that there are frame sizes, components, wheels, cockpits, full integration, superbikes! Ah! I am going to break this whole bike buying process down into easy steps. At the end I will post a checklist you can print out to fill in prior to shopping. Let’s dive in!
First thing is first, check with your significant other that a new bike is approved ;). Seriously, we need to first establish a budget for this purchase. How much can you afford to buy with the CASH you have available at that moment. You don’t need to actually pay cash for the bike purchase, because we all like those credit card points, but bikes are expensive and American’s already have enough credit card debt. Also, a good rule of thumb is to only buy what you can replace without too much difficulty. For example, I could buy a $2k frame and if I happen to crash or need to repair it I could afford a new one within a very reasonable period of time. This can become a grey area and I am not a financial advisor, just giving a general rule of thumb. Alright, so what is the entry point for this sport? If you need to buy a complete bike to begin with you are looking at around $1500-2500 USD. That range is for used as well as new. My research shows that new bikes are starting out around $1800 and going up to $2800 for entry level, with the average cost of a complete new bike around $2400. Every company has a different idea of what entry level is though. Cervelo and Trek had the highest starting points and Cannondale and Giant having the less expensive starting points.
What comes with these different price ranges? A lot of the difference in prices has to do with stock wheels and components. The frame materials and layups will stay the same through the different levels. The highest model might have some more integration at the headset and slightly different carbon layup for reduced weight. Some of these things are important but for the most part, aerodynamics is king. Integration of the headset and cockpit is nice but isn’t a killer in buying decisions.
What do you need with that bike purchase?
There are a couple of routes you can take. You can always buy a new frame, and then go searching for used wheels and components on online marketplaces. You can also purchase a complete bike but the lower end models usually come with “training” wheels. Most of the companies today require you to go up to the third tier for aerodynamic wheels, which is important for triathlon. My recommendation for this is to buy the lower bike model and go searching the online marketplaces for used wheels (Slowtwitch Classifieds, Facebook Marketplace, Ebay). If you go this route just make sure you check compatibility of hub with your desired gearing? For example, 11 speed wheelset for 11 speed shifters. Additionally, if you purchased used wheels make sure you take them to your local bike shop before your first ride. There are times where the hub needs to be tightened or spokes are loose or worst case there is a crack in the wheel.
The final part of buying a bike is the groupset. There are currently three major players in the market; Shimano, Campagnolo, and SRAM. All three companies offer electronic and mechanical groupsets. Mechanical groupsets are cable tension based groupsets. These groupsets tend to be more durable, less expensive, but require more maintenance. The maintenance aspect requires some basic bike knowledge or a trip to the Local Bike Shop (LBS). Electronic groupsets are more precise, lighter weight, require less maintenance (except for the occasional charge), not as durable, and more expensive then the mechanical counterpart. I use the word durable in the above descriptions but what does that mean? The best example is if you get in a minor crash, it is easier to repair the mechanical groupset to fully a fully functional part. If something goes wrong with the electronic groupset it is a lot more challenging/impossible to repair during a ride or even after a ride.
What is the difference between all of the groupsets? Which one is right for you? If you have the money to purchase an electronic groupset, get it. They are the way of the future, more precise shifting, and lighter weight. These groupsets are easy to maintain and never require adjustments (unless you crash). Campagnolo is always going to be the most expensive groupset. You pay for that Italian quality control when purchasing their groupset. Shimano is the most common groupset manufacturer which means reduced replacement parts and wider variety of products to choose from. SRAM is a great company and one I have been using for the past 4 years. Campagnlo’s and Shimano’s electronic groupsets are still wired so that means you need to feed small wires through your frame. This isn’t too challenging but just something to be aware. SRAM’s ETAP product is completely wireless. All components connect through Bluetooth signals which makes setup extremely easy! The only downside is that ETAP is quite pricey (at the time of writing this).
There is a quick budgeting tool in the file below. Use this to determine what you can afford BEFORE going out and spending your money. This part was the basics behind purchasing a bike and the required components. The next section will be how important bike fit is to your performance and frame selection.
Hello all you athletes or aspiring athletes! I wanted to take a quick dive into this new and exciting project. I have been working with the other coaches at IREP Athletics to develop your one stop shop for research based training plans. The motivation behind The TrainingPlanSource is simple; we wanted to provide as close to a 1:1 coaching experience as possible but at a budget everyone can fit into.
There are a lot of benefits to 1 on 1 personalized coaching experience but the big hurdle is always cost. Everyone doesn't have $200-300 a month to spend on a coach, and we understood that. One thing we kept seeing from other coaches in this space is that the training plan was a simple way to make money. They didn't care too much about the athlete that was purchasing the plan. We were frustrated so we set out to change the industry and with the we created www.thetrainingplansource.com. One thing that we pride ourselves on at TPS is our communication with the customer. If you purchase a plan from TPS you will always receive an email from one of our coaches. We want to make sure that applying the plan to your TrainingPeaks account went smoothly. We also want to make sure you are ready to begin training and answer any questions you might have about the sport.
TheTrainingPlanSource.com website launched at the end of this summer(2017) after almost half a year of planning and work. Currently, we have trainingplans and planned guidance for:
One other part of TheTrainingPlanSource.com is The Academy. This section uses podcasts, articles, and Youtube videos to pass on our knowledge and have a better informed customer. Knowledge is power and the more an athlete knows about their body and mind the better they will perform. We will continually be adding content to this section so keep checking back!
One final aspect that I wanted to cover is our Youtube page. Currently, TheTrainingPlanSource has uploaded over 150 videos that breakdown every exercise you will see in our training plans. An example of a video is our Functional Movement Screen series. In this video series, Coach Scott and Coach Anthony take you step by step through our movement screen. We put this screen at the beginning of our training plans in order to figure out if there are any joint impingement that could be limiting your performance or lead to injury. We have also been working through a list of supplementary exercises to make our video library the most robust in the industry. Every day the coaches of TPS are uploading videos to the page.
This time last year I was struggling to find the energy to move. I went from an elite athlete to a couch potato. I couldn't figure out why I didn't have the energy or motivation to workout. This is when I stumbled upon InsideTracker. I think I heard about it on one of the many fitness podcasts. So armed with a discount code and a problem I went testing. I got the results back from my first test and my jaw dropped. My testosterone levels were off the chart they were so low. No wonder I didn't have any energy! I had dug myself into such a hole by overtraining and not enough recovery.
I frantically emailed Mike and began to talk through options on recovery. We had a solid 60 minute phone call talking about what got me to this point and how to climb out of the hole. InsideTracker showed me what was actually going on inside of my body. Sometimes it takes a little blood.
Use my code THANKSCK to discover whats going on inside of you, because #BloodDontLie.
What I am about to explain is nothing like your typical apron food delivery service. The big players in the market just end up being glorified grocery delivery services. A lot of people go to these services for convenience because of busy lives or stressful workdays. The problem is that the time requirement with most of the services still require 30+ minutes to get food to the table. They also require measuring, cutting, chopping, and mixing. These are all things that remove the convenience of the delivery. On the other hand, one thing that was always appealing are the variety they provide to weekly meals. My wife and I always find ourselves falling back into a never ending repeating menu of Naan Pizza and Salads. When you are feeling lazy or suffering from decision fatigue you can just rely on one of these meals to get you through. My wife and I did not want to pay $10 for a meal that I still have to prep and cook though so we never committed. This was when I met a man named Mark Rigdon while coaching my athletes at Ironman Chattanooga. He told me of his sister’s Nashville based company MyVeggieChef. Kristie Holdren, a certified Nutrition Health Coach, uses her expansive knowledge to build a colorful vegan meal delivery service.
I got home from Ironman Chattanooga and figured why not give this one a try. The prices seemed reasonable, the variety was there, and most importantly it was plant-based. Plant-based meal delivery is where the other players fall short. I went to a couple of the providers and while their menus were bigger there was only one true vegetarian meal. Other criteria that my wife and I had were ease of prepping or cooking, time to table, and taste.
Ordering from MyVeggieChef is made simple through the combination of pictures and a few select words. Under the menu page there will be this week’s menu and the upcoming menu. At the top of the page you will see an easy button to “order now”. MyVeggieChef gives you the option to order through subscription or week by week. This first order I was not ready to fully commit so I went with the week to week option. The cool thing is that they don’t add on any stupid charges for doing it week to week. The price of the meals is the price of the meals whether you have a reoccurring subscription or order week to week. If you go with the subscription option you can choose to have meals delivered every 1, 2, 3, or 4 weeks.
Once you decide which path you want to take you will land on a page with pictures for this week’s menu. This screen will allow you to mix and match the quantity of each meal. For example, let’s say there is something on the menu you know you won’t like then you can increase the quantity of another. If you are Mark then you can just have all 5 of your meals be the butternut squash and black bean burritos! My wife and I liked the prospect of all 5 recipes the week we ordered so we just stuck with the default 1x quantity. Saturday morning the FedEx man showed up with a big box. Inside was a cooler that had all of the frozen meals. We took one of the meals out and placed in in the fridge to thaw and the other four meals into the freeze for a later date.
Note: Just order before Tuesday the week of delivery in order to get that menu. You can’t screw this up.
This is where MyVeggieChef really stands out against its competitors. If you are really looking for that convenient and tasty meal service, you can’t go wrong with MyVeggieChef. All of the meals are delivered frozen in Ziploc bags or disposable/reusable Tupperware. The first step of meal prep is to take the meal out of your freezer and place it in the fridge the night prior. Kristie recommends 24 hours of fridge time to thaw out the food. A couple of times we took out the bag in the morning and left it on the counter to thaw. By the time I got home from work it was thawed out and I just placed it into the fridge to stay cool.
One thing that made this service stand out was that all of the chopping and mixing was completed prior to delivery. The only requirement on our part was to cook! A couple of the recipes had diced veggies that required some sautéing. After that you just needed to add any other ingredients to the pan and boom, food is ready. All in all, the meal would take around 15 minutes to cook and clean up. There was one meal that took a little extra time to cook because it had rice and some of the ingredients need to simmer for additional depth of flavor.
My wife and I were very hesitant about serving size. We both just assumed that the portions were going to be small. We both imagined the ridiculous serving sizes most packaged products recommend. We were both extremely surprised after cooking the first meal. When MyVeggieChef says you get 4 servings per meal you really get 4 solid serving sizes. Every night we had plenty of leftovers for lunch later in the week. Keep in mind that I am an athlete and I eat a lot. Even during my heaviest training blocks there would still be leftovers.
Taste… extremely important aspect to the meal delivery service. This was one thing that I was not afraid of when ordering. I could tell from the pictures, ingredients, and the experience of the head chef that the meals were going to be tasty and satisfying. My wife and I were not let down the slightest. This Nashville based company plays off of the southern roots to keep the flavor high as well as satisfaction. Every meal, I mean every single meal, was absolutely top notch restaurant flavor filled food. The great thing is that since MyVeggieChef does all of the mixing and chopping the experience for every customer will be similar. You can’t mess it up by using the wrong ingredient like those other services.
I was honestly and surprisingly satisfied with the entire experience. MyVeggieChef gave my wife and me an easy meal to cook and enjoy. We ended up using the prepared meals on days we knew would be stressful. It prevented numerous pizza deliveries and cheap Chinese food filled nights. In the end we loved MyVeggieChef’s variety, convenience, and colorful menu so much that we decided to sign up for the subscription. I recommend everyone to give MyVeggieChef a shot. MyVeggieChef has been gracious enough to offer all of my readers a 10% discount! This will make shipping free and make the serving cost only $6.00!!! That is half the price of the competitors. You might as well try it once…
10% COUPON CODE: coachcolinlovesmyveggiechef
So part of this blog is to just capture my current thoughts and beliefs. My hope is to come back at some point and compare how I think that day to how I think today. I want this to essentially serve in part as a public journal. There is an inherent vulnerability in making thoughts and beliefs public. How will people interpret my thoughts and how will that change relationships? I don’t want to ostracize anyone as I am one always open to the other side. I might have a differing set of beliefs but that doesn't mean you are wrong and I am correct. So with that said this past weekend I got to drink some beers with my wife and my great friend. At the end of the night my wife went to bed leaving the friend and I to discuss topics on our mind. With an upcoming deployment, a lot of existential thoughts have been passing through my mind. I am always grateful to have the friends I have; friends that allow me the ability to discuss the big questions. Two of the many topics, in the middle of many beers, that my friend and I covered was what is our purpose and what happens when we die?
Here it is, I believe that we don’t have a purpose in this world. I don’t want to come off as depressed, because I am happy with everything in my life. This is about being free from ties to the very distant future, beyond any conceivable lifespan. So let’s look at the facts. There have been about 107 billion people that have lived on Earth. How many of them have actually made an impact on furthering humanity? Being generous, I would say that about 0.00000009% of people who have ever lived made an actual impact on furthering humanity. So what about the other 99+% of humans to ever live? Did their lives have no meaning, no purpose? Honestly, not really. There was the assistance of growing the population, for the ones who did reproduce. Other than reproduction, how many people are actually remembered? Very few. Everyone else just fades away as time moves on. It’s a terrifying thought and I understand that; to live but have no purpose.
So my friend and I were talking and I said that I don’t have a purpose in this world. I understand that my life is insignificant to general humanity. When I die, and my body has decomposed back to the Earth, chances are that nobody will remember me or my name. Now, I hope that I can be part of that significantly impactful population, the remembered, and I will always strive to challenge thoughts and to better humanity but as a scholar of statistics I understand the odds. I am not afraid of fading away or not having an impact on humanity. Why? I am lucky and grateful just to be able to breathe today. I have discussed this before but the odds of being born are about 1 in 400 trillion. I just want to enjoy that gift that was given to me. I want to live a present, fulfilling, and giving life.
The second topic we covered was what happens when we die. Different religions provide their own stories and opinions one what happens to our soul. The common theme is that they all have a similar conclusion; that we go on to do more things. Whether we die and go to heaven (or hell) or are reincarnated as a powerful stallion they all believe in some continuity. What about people who do not have faith in the religious theories? I believe when we die, we just cease to exist. Along the way there might be this bright light moment and a decompression of memories but after this extremely brief moment the screen goes black. The curtain falls and we no longer exist in mind, only body. This is another terrifying thought to hold. It is another thought though, that shows that our existence needs to be all about our present moment. Once you are dead, there is nothing left. So worry, but don’t worry too much. Be angry, but don’t hold grudges.
We end up giving ourselves too much power to believe we are worthy of more than we have. This is exactly what leads to war, hatred, and greed; worrying about our lasting impact. Instead, let’s all live in the present moment. Don’t get caught up in the lasting effect of your name, because most likely your name will disappear only a handful of years after you die. Don’t take what you have now for granted, worrying about the future (or the past).
Dreams, a magical place created by our own masterful mind in order to secede from the day. It is a world to connect to things we thought was impossible during our wakeful hours. They are a time where we all become directors of our own films. These rolls of collected film have fascinated civilizations since civilizations existed. The Greeks and Romans believed that dreams were a time to connect to the Gods! (Linden 2011) Psychologists, the profession dealt with gleaning some sort of meaning from the nightly pictures, have been focused on dreams since Sigmund Freud in the early 1900s. Dream analysis has evolved from the Roman’s interpretation to the ability to map active regions of the brain using imaging technology. Even with that evolution of technology, we still seek the meanings of dreams. The question is still out on why we actually dream.
In order to dream, we must sleep. Humans pass through five stages while sleeping. The first two stages are light sleep. This is where we can get those sensations of falling, random twitches, and begin to lose control of our body. The third and fourth stages are dominated by delta waves which are low frequency but high amplitude waves. At this point in sleep it is difficult to wake the person. We are paralyzed and relaxed. During stage three and four our heart rates drop and our breathing is more relaxed. From this point we enter, briefly, the stage called Rapid Eye Movement. REM sleep is a very interesting phenomena of our body. This is the stage in which we are really dreaming. The brainwaves replicate Alpha waves, similar to what we experience while awake, but we are completely paralyzed. Our brain stem is blocking muscle activation, except for our critical functioning muscles like the heart and diaphragm (Openstax, 2017).
Our bodies enter and exit these sleep states in a cyclical pattern; aptly named the sleep cycle. The sleep cycle time, under normal conditions, averages between 70-120 minutes (Natural Patterns of Sleep). This means during an average night we will go through four to seven cycles, each containing that dream filled REM sleep. This does not mean we will remember every dream of the night. In fact, we can rarely remember one dream we had the night prior! At this point I want to focus on the sleep cycles and how we can measure them, without any advanced laboratory grade technology.
Today’s wearable technology allows us to track our sleep cycles by using heart rate in combination with motion. Sleep tracking technology varies from mattress covers (Eight) to rings (Oura) to wrist wearables (Garmin, Fitbit, Withings). The ability to track sleep is a powerful tool for all humans because sleep correlates with performance. That performance can be in the workplace or on the field but it is known that we, adults, require between seven and nine hours of sleep every night (National Sleep Foundation). In this exercise I utilized a Garmin Vivosmart HR device to monitor sleep cycles. The Garmin Vivoactive HR was released in by the navigation giant Garmin in the middle of 2016. The watch was designed as a full functioning activity tracker. Included with the watch was an optical heart rate monitor, located on the back of the watch. The watch can automatically track when you fall asleep and when you awake. The watch then uses heart rate analysis in conjunction with movement data from the accelerometer to determine what sleep state you are currently in.
Now that I have explained what I use to track sleep the next important thing is to describe my sleep setting and circadian rhythm. My wife and I try to get our room temperature down to around 67-65 degrees Fahrenheit, because of leading sleep recommendations (Ware, 2014). We also have blackout blinds in order to make our room as dark as possible, which tends to be pitch black. In addition, we make sure to turn our cellphones onto airplane mode. We do leave our phones on, in order to play calming white noise. This helps us fall to sleep faster and stay comfortable. Finally, one of our two dogs sleeps in the room with us, always on the floor. Setting a proper environment to sleep in is critical for a healthy sleep cycle.
An interesting observation occurred during consecutive nights of reduced sleep hours and quality. One weekend I joined my friends for some time camping in the mountains of Virginia. At night the temperatures dropped into the mid 30s and my sleeping bag was only rated to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This caused me to shiver most of the night and drastically affected my sleep. Both nights of camping I was only able to get about five and a half hours of sleep with about half of that time in deep sleep. One of the nights I had a vivid dream that melted into reality. While I was falling asleep I heard Coyotes howling in the distance. I also heard small creatures rustling leaves around the tent. This melted into my dream in which I heard dogs and humans moving around outside of my tent. I became aware that I was sleeping when I looked up, during the dream, and I was in a tent that did not match mine and that it was also daylight. Even knowing this knowledge, I still had a fear reaction when I heard footsteps coming closer to my tent. Eventually, the footsteps stopped over my tent and I looked up and saw two men. This startled me and this is when I woke up. At the moment I woke up one of my friends was walking around the camp with his daylight flashlight. The light from his flashlight would hit my tent which probably led to me waking up from the nightmare. These nights of little sleep sleep led to negative physiological effects, like increased resting heart rate. On the final day, my resting heart rate was 20 beats higher than normal. I believe the sleep debt that I had accrued in combination with the physiological demand of hiking led to the higher resting heart rate. A higher resting heart rate shows inhibited recovery, which sleep is known to be a big part.
Sleep is important for recovery as well as other mental aspects like memory. Without sleep the mind begins to melt away and we begin to die. Science and biology has proven that we need sleep, in fact certain ages need certain amount of sleep to be most effective. But sleep science as well as psychology are relatively new sciences and there is still a lot to learn. Most of the theories behind why we sleep are just that, theories. We are still trying to prove out why we sleep and the function of dreaming. On top of that, we have fringe theories like lucid dreaming. What effects does lucid dreaming have on the quality of sleep? I can tell you that I am extremely interested in what the future holds for dream and sleep analysis.
OpenStax CNX. (2017, August 2). Psychology [5.101]. Retrieved October 8, 2017, from https://cnx.org/contents/Sr8Ev5Og@5.101:F_mjYFfh@15/Preface
Natural Patterns of Sleep. (2007, December 18). Retrieved October 08, 2017, from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/science/what/sleep-patterns-rem-nrem
National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/content/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need-0
Ware, A. (2014, November 10). Best Temperature for Sleep. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://sleep.org/articles/temperature-for-sleep/
I am a soldier and I am ok with kneeling during the national anthem because this country is more than words sung before a football game. This country is supposed to represent the dreams of the world. It is supposed to be a safe haven for people to share their beliefs. It is supposed to be a land to be free. The land to protest what is wrong. You know, this country began with violent protests. Those people did whatever it took to get the attention of mother Britain. Was it orthodox? Do you think the loyalists believed in what the protesters were doing?
I am not here to tell you how to think. You have the right to your own opinions; how people should act. You are allowed to have your own thoughts about the meaning behind American symbols. But what is not ok is publicizing your opinion, unrelenting in your opinion even when new information is brought forth.
It is easy to be angry when ignorant. Did you know Colin Kaepernick pledged to donate $1 million to communities and organizations, and continues to donate even though no team will sign him (http://kaepernick7.com/million-dollar-pledge/). He graduated from the University of Nevada with a 4.0 GPA, something a lot of you did not do. He is not just another stupid human looking for attention. Colin took the risk to bring attention to a problem in our country. He doesn’t want to make America worse. He could have easily hidden in the crowd or behind social media.
Did you know that 724 Americans per 100,000 are incarcerated in America? We lead the world for most people incarcerated. Even Russia has fewer people in jail at 581 people per 100,000! Is this the land of the free? Did you know that 21% of the 2,220,300 people in prison haven’t even had a trial yet? Yes, that means almost a half million people are currently in jail without being proven guilty. Is that the land of the free? Did you know that 38% of prisoners are black even though only 12% of Americans are black? Is that the land of the free?
Seeing those numbers pains me so much. I just want people to be given the chance to succeed and reach their potential. Waking up every day hearing gun shots, seeing red and blue flashing lights, listening to the constant sirens does not help the children succeed in life. Two important things to remember are you become the average of your community and if you spend enough time looking for something you will find it.
So with that said, what does this country actually mean to me? I love America and the opportunities it can provide. Yes, we have problems but that comes with the territory of having a large population where people are free to speak their mind. I love that everyone in America has an opportunity to succeed, just some people have an easier path than others.
‘Tis the star-spangled banner - O long may it wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
It has been awhile since I last posted a race report. I planned on going all the way back to write a report on the Cascade Classic but it’s too far gone. Instead, I am going to put some thoughts into how this past weekend went at the River Gorge Omnium in Chattanooga, TN. This race marked the second weekend in a row for racing bikes in Chattanooga. This weekend was a US Military Endurance Sports focus event which meant I had some teammates at the race. Sam Curlee flew in from the perfect weather of California to race in the CAT 2 Omnium. Our hopes were high for this race and we were determined to represent USMES in a positive manner.
Day 1 was a double header with a 4 mile morning time trial followed by an evening criterium. Coming from a triathlon background combined with how my recent training had gone I knew I had a shot at a podium. I began by looking at last year’s time trial results and saw that 8:00 was the winning time with second and third place back 3 and 5 seconds respectively. So I hopped on over to BestBikeSplit to check out what it would take to suffer to an 8 minute result. Turns out that getting close to 8 minutes was doable. I was going to need to average 426w over the 8 minute effort but in reality there was only 6 minutes of pedal time. The other 2 minutes come from descending down a climb in the middle and near the end. The profile is shown below and then I put in the time trial plan.
It turns out that my plan was a little too conservative on the flats and too aggressive on the climb. The goal was to average 518w for 90 seconds on the climb. I only averaged 475w for the climb and put me 10 seconds behind my plan at the crest of the hill. Now, the Wahoo Elemnt Planned Workout actually had the interval switch out of the climbing interval as I crested. In my mind I thought this meant I was on track for the 8:05 finish time. While I did make up some time over the remainder of the course it wasn’t enough to get me a podium spot. My trainingpeaks file shows a finish time of 8:08 but the official results show 8:24. Officials stated that all of the times were off by 11 seconds which puts me closer to where I was planned. I ended up 8th in the standings and walking away feeling pretty defeated. I should have been a little more aggressive in the beginning of the TT and a little more conservative on the climb (in my planning). It took me 30 or so minutes after the TT to reflect on the effort and move past it. It took a lot of concentration and some venting to my teammate to accept it for what it was and change my mindset towards the crit.
The Village Volkswagen Criterium part of the River Gorge Omnium is an extremely fast non-technical four corner crit. I am going to be honest, crits always make me nervous. It is something I need to work on. I don’t know if it is self sabatoge but I always find myself starting at the back of the pack. This time I got to line up at the front of the race, and boy does it make a huge difference! Instead of spending the first 10-15 minutes “tailgunning” and spending effort moving up through the pack I could just relax and enjoy the ride. Sam Curlee, my teammate, also started with good position. We rode side by side for the first 10 minutes. At one point he could tell I was braking too much into the corner so he hollered at me to lay off the brakes. Once he gave me that little reminder I was pretty much good for the rest of the race. One corner always made me tense up which was turn 3. I don’t really know what made this corner crash heavy but almost every race ended up having a crash in this corner. It seemed that I held my breath and tensed up when I entered the corner. It took some cognitive capacity to fight through the nerves.
The Criterium was a CAT 2 specific crit instead of the typical P12 (professional) race. As a cat 2 there are not a lot of chances to race solely against your racing peers. This lead to the race being extremely fast and attack heavy. Even though we all knew that the chances of a breakaway succeeding in such a fast crit was slim to none we all attempted attacks. I gave it a go at 10 minutes in and stayed out front for a lap and a half before pulling the plug. I shuffled back into the group and pretty much just concentrated on staying in the top 15 riders the rest of the race. There were a couple of times where I slipped back to the middle of the pack but quickly realized where I was and shuffled back front. I ended up being in the top 8 riders going into 3 laps remaining. A couple laps prior there was a crash in turn three that divided the field slightly and pushed my teammate out of the race. With 2 laps to go I was still at the pointy end of the race and feeling confident. We averaged 30.2 mph over the final 2 laps which meant all of our positions were locked in except for in the corners. I anticipated riders taking risks in the corners but I knew I just needed to stay aggressive and defend my position. We came into turn 3 with a ton of speed. We smoothly went through turn 3 and 4 and popped out on to the wide road that held the finish. The second I felt I wasn’t going to clip a pedal I hopped out of the saddle and gave it everything to the finish. There was a junior racer ahead of me and I ended up passing him, mostly because he couldn’t sprint with his gear restrictions. I ended up finishing 13th which gave me the best crit result of the season, excluding the Cat 3 races. With my 8th in the TT and 13th in the crit I was just outside of the top 10 in the GC. I knew the road race tomorrow suited my racing style because of the inclusion of two major climbs.
Sam and I were greeted by Sunday morning with a clear sky, warm temperatures, and humidity. Last year the temps and humidity destroyed me and this concern plagued me over the morning. I had to tell myself that the forecast was set to be a little better than last year and that I am better adjusted to the hotter temps after a year in Knoxville. So the road race was not like the Criterium in that the cat 2 field was separated. This meant that I didn’t have to worry about breakaways or controlling the race. My goal was to just stay in the front third, stay as cool as possible, and enjoy the ride. For some reason I was very uncomfortable for the first 40 minutes of the race. I had to keep reminding myself to relax and remain calm. I don’t know where this really came from because I am usually comfortable in the pack of a road race. This was just something I had to battle through but eventually got over it.
There were a couple early attempts at breakaways and eventually one succeeded which contained two Gateway Harley Davidson riders. They were one of the stronger teams at the race with the other being Palmetto State Medical Elite team. There were a couple riders from the Hincapie Conti team, and they attempted to get away but the peloton obviously never let that happen. Once the the breakaway got a gap of over 90 seconds the Palmetto guys moved to the front and started to control the race. I was still in the front third of the peloton at this point and pretty comfortable. We ended up missing a turn out on the Jasper loop which pushed me towards the back of the group. I was never able to move back to the front by the time we reached the Sand Mountain climb. The run into Sand Mountain was actually very tame. I was expecting riders to really be fighting for position. Some of the riders around me were taking risks breaking the yellow line rule but the speed of the group was relatively low.
I was in the middle of the pack when we arrived at Sand Mountain. This sucked because once the grade really started to increase there were some attacks and an increase in pace by the Hincapie guys. A gap quickly opened between the front group and the rest of us. I was too far back to jump to the group. I set sights on a couple of Cat 2 riders in front of me and just controlled my effort to the top. I averaged 375w or 4.75 w/kg for the 10:20 climb proper. I made the left turn at the top of the climb in a small group of two Novo Nordisk riders, one other cat 2 rider, and a random cat 1 rider. We quickly went through the feed zone and set our sights on chasing down the lead group. We could see the peloton just up the road so for the next 5 minutes we chased. The Novo Nordisk guys ended up being useless, as usual, and the work was mostly done by me and the other two riders in the group. We caught back up to the peloton just before the non-technical descent down Sand Mountain. Our max speed while descending was 53 mph while we averaged 37 mph for the 7 minute descent. We made the right turn on to TN 156 and there were a couple of small gaps to shut down due to the difference in descending skills. It only took about a minute to get the group all back together. From this point on it was just about staying protected from the wind and letting the “big guys” control the race. We still had four climbs left and I knew that it was going to take some serious effort to stay with the group. The hardest climb ended up being the long gradual grind to the second feed zone. This climb was 11 minutes of 3.5% on a wide open highway. It was hot, windy, and very tough. Somehow I managed to stay attached to the group. I knew at this point I was going to at least make it to the final climb.
In between the second feed zone and the final climb up Raccoon Mountain there was a small kicker. I made it over the climb with the group but began to feel twitchy and crampy. So I made the decision to hold on and see if the situation got any better by the time we reach Raccoon. My situation didn’t improve a ton in the short time between the two climbs so I decided I would rather control my effort up Raccoon then try to respond to attacks and blow up severely. So that’s what I did and ended up averaging 300w and completed the climb in 19:02 which was actually the fastest pro time up the climb last year. But I was off the back of the group and only ended up catching one of the Hincapie riders while climbing. I ended up finishing 8th out of the CAT 2 riders and 27th in the P12 standings. I finished 9th in the omnium which is extremely good! I am proud of how the race went, even with the TT result. It was a great way to end the season.
This weekend I plan on writing up a complete season review. Let me know of any metrics or thoughts/reflections I should include in my season wrap-up!
One day at practice your coach tells you to see yourself scoring that touchdown or crossing that finish line. Some of you have heard of the practice of visualization. Visualization, or Imagery, is walking through a future event using all of your senses in explicit vivid detail but in your mind. You are essentially tricking your mind into thinking it actually living in that moment. The end goal is to prepare your mind for that future event while building confidence and a motivation bank for the present.
There is no way to debate that your mentality has an effect on you performance. No matter how small or large it could be there is something to work on; more than that 1% or marginal gain you will get from buying Nike’s new shoe or that $500 Ceramic Speed derailleur cage. As you will hear from any sports psychologist, the mind is too often overlooked for its performance capabilities. Imagery has a lot of benefits, but just like aerobic capacity and FTP it requires training to develop.
Imagery is a rehearsal for the real thing. The beauty of imagery or visualization is that there are no real world consequences! All you have to do is run through the event again and learn from the last time. For example, you are racing in Ironman Louisville and you suddenly find your rear tire getting squishy. The resistance builds on the road and you begin to feel the vibration of the hard carbon rim rolling on the ground. You slow down and begin to freak out because you have never head to change a tire in a race. If this was prior to the race and you had walked through it a couple of times through imagery you would adapt to his situation and repair the issue calmly and quickly. Brain mapping shows us that even though we are not physically completing the task, we can trick our brains into thinking we are actually there. The brain can learn from just imagining the situation or task. For example, Natan Sharansky visualized chess games while held in prison for spying. He later went on to win the World Championships.
So where do you begin? In a quiet and comfortable location. I recommend quiet because it allows you to focus on the task at hand but Dr. Nate Zinsser of West Point’s Center of Enhanced Performance says some calming music to begin the session can help you calm the mind. After you are calm it is time to enter the event you wish to perform. You want to go through this event in the first person and being as vivid as possible. If you find that you are struggling to get a vivid environment then you can try out this little exercise. I recommend picking out a simple event that recently happened to you, like last night’s dinner or a summer rainstorm. Put yourself in that event and begin to work through all of the senses.