Colorado Safety Stop

New Colorado Law Allows Cyclists to treat stop lights as stop signs and stop signs as yield signs

Every spring, I send out a newsletter with bike safety tips. Road cycling can be dangerous and it is important that we all make sure we know the rules of the road so that we can stay safe while we’re on them. This year, there is an important update to share. Colorado just passed a new law dubbed the Colorado Safety Stop.

The Colorado Safety Stop basically gives cyclists the right to treat stoplights as stop signs and stop signs as yield signs. Intersections are dangerous places for cyclists – it’s where the majority of accidents occur. With the Colorado Safety Stop, cyclists still need to stop or slow down at intersections, but if traffic is clear, then they can proceed to get away from the intersection instead of waiting at the intersection while traffic potentially congregates.

Specifically, if you are biking and approach a red stop light, you still need to stop. Once you do stop, if traffic is clear, you may proceed through the intersection. If traffic is not clear, you still need to wait for a green light. If you can’t tell if traffic is clear because you can’t tell who has the green light (ex. turning traffic or traffic going straight), then just wait until you get the green.

If you are biking and approach a stop sign, you should still slow down so that you can confirm whether or not there is traffic. If there is traffic, you still have to come to a complete stop. If there is not traffic though, you can proceed through the intersection without making a complete stop.

There are a couple caveats to keep in mind here. All of the rules regarding right of way still apply. As stated above, you can only proceed through the red light if traffic is clear (meaning no other cars have the right of way). You can also only proceed through a stop sign without stopping if traffic is clear plus you need to slow down enough to still be able to stop if traffic isn’t clear.

Keep in mind how much faster cars travel than bikes. If you are going to proceed straight through a red light, make sure there is no traffic coming down the street you are crossing or that there is a significantly large enough gap in traffic that you’ll be able to get through without any trouble. Do not try to squeeze through when there isn’t a large enough gap. Remember that you’re coming from a stop and will slowly accelerate across the intersection and that those cars might be coming faster than they seem. When in doubt, play it safe and wait.

Also keep in mind, this is just a Colorado Law. If you travel to a different state or live in a different state, the laws may not be the same. If you don’t know a given state’s laws regarding cycling, then assume that everything is the same for bikes and cars until you can confirm otherwise.

Stay safe and happy riding!

Bike Safety

Happy Spring! If you’re like me, you’re excited to be getting off the trainer and biking outside more. The weather is warming up, the days are getting longer, and we can ride outside more consistently. Enjoy the nice weather, but keep in mind a few things to make sure you’re being safe.

#1 Wear your helmet.

Please, please, please wear your helmet! That should be the first thing you always check to make sure you bring when you’re going out for a ride.

#2 Leave your headphones at home.

When you’re riding outside, you need to be alert to what’s going on around you which means you need to be able to hear. Leave your headphones at home for the trainer rides.

#3 Pick a good, clockwise course.

Get to know the area you live in and ride in. Where are the good roads to ride? Look for bike paths, marked bike lanes on streets, and roads with wide shoulders. Look for roads that are well-maintained with minimal potholes and debris. If you’re riding a loop, ride clockwise. A clockwise loop means that you’ll be making mostly right turns which means you don’t have to cross in front of traffic to turn, so it’s much safer.

#4 Check your blind spot – way back.

If you do need to merge across traffic, make sure you check your blind spot. Remember that cars are going significantly faster than any of us on bikes, so they come up fast and from a long way back. When you check your blind spot, you should be looking a few hundred yards behind you to make sure it’s clear – not just a couple car lengths like you do when you’re driving.

#5 Signal with your left arm.

Always signal with your left arm. This keeps your right hand on the handlebars and your back brake – if you need to hit only one brake in a pinch, you want it to be your back brake because your front brake would send you into a front flip. Cars will also be on your left, so it’s easier for them to see your left arm. Pointing up signals a right turn, pointing left signals a left turn, and pointing down signals stop.

#6 Ensure you can see and be seen.

Ride with a headlight and taillight on your bike. I know they’re not aerodynamic or lightweight, but most lights clip on easily, so you don’t have to keep them on for race day. It’s amazing how big a difference it makes in drivers’ perceptions of a cyclist when the cyclist has a taillight. Especially if you ever ride in the dark or at dawn or dusk, but even during the day using lights can make a big difference. You want to be proactive and make sure drivers can see you well and that you can see well. Think about what you’re wearing too and try to wear clothing with reflective paneling.

#7 Establish yourself in the lane.

As I write this one, I know it will be the recommendation that is the most contentious. When there is not a shoulder or bike lane – and there won’t always be one – I believe it is important to establish yourself in the lane. Many cyclists will try to ride to the far right side of the road, literally tiptoeing the edge of the pavement. I don’t. When there is no shoulder, I will ride to the right side of the lane but still with a few feet on my right before the edge of the road. I do that to leave a margin of error on my right before the edge of the pavement – basically, space to swerve if a car passes too close. When I see other cyclists completely hug the right side of the pavement, I also see cars pass them dangerously close while trying to share the lane. By establishing yourself in the lane, but on the right side of it, it communicates to drivers that they need to cross over to the next lane/oncoming traffic in order to pass you. If oncoming traffic isn’t clear, then they need to be patient and wait. Some drivers don’t particularly like being patient and I have been honked at many times in situations like this. I would rather have them honk than have them pass dangerously putting my life in danger. Better yet, review #3 above, and avoid this situation entirely.

If you want to get technical on this one, Colorado Law states, “…a bicyclist shall ride far enough to the right as judged safe by the bicyclist…” As the bicyclist, you’re in control of what you consider to be safe. Familiarize yourself with what the law is in your area if you live outside Colorado. Bike laws do tend to vary by state.

#8 Follow the rules of the road.

Stop at stop signs/stoplights and signal your turns. Doing something like running a stop sign or red light on your bike not only puts your life in danger, but it also builds animosity between you and any driver that just saw you break the law. As cyclists, we need to show drivers that we respect the rules of the road, and they’ll in turn respect us. I know it can be frustrating if you hit a stoplight right in the middle of an interval. I’ve been there too. Regardless of what you’re training for or what workout you’re doing, it does not justify running the light. Plus, look back to #3. In picking a good course, you should also consider things like whether or not your ride includes higher intensity intervals and if so, try to hit those intervals on sections of the course without stops and intersections. 

Have fun and enjoy the nice weather, but above all, stay safe!

Goals for the New Year

By Coach Nick Morrison

Have you started thinking about what goals you have for the new year and in what events you want to participate? Most of you probably are making plans for the new year and that’s great to hear! As you look ahead, keep these tips in mind when making your goals.

Strive to make your goals challenging yet realistic. That’s often easier said than done. Try to use your past experience to project your future performance potential to help strike that balance. For example, we often use Jack Daniel’s VDOT calculator and race projections to help our athletes. Plug in your best times across various distances and see what VDOT the calculator gives and what times it projects for different race distances. You might find that your shorter distances like 1 mile or 5k project a higher VDOT than how you have performed in longer distance races like the marathon. A challenging yet realistic goal could be to run a marathon at the equivalent VDOT pace that your shorter races project.

Another way to strike the balance of challenging yet realistic is to make A, B, and C goals. If you’re making a time-based goal, break it up into 3 targets with A being the best performance, B being a little less, and C being a little less than that. There are so many variables outside of your control on race day, that it’s good to have A, B, and C goals so that you can still push yourself even if something like the weather doesn’t cooperate on the day of the event.

Make goals that are not timed-based/performance-oriented too. So often as athletes, our first thought with regard to goals is I want to finish in X time or I want to place at a certain spot in the results. Those types of goals are great, but you should also make other goals that are focused on your growth as an overall athlete and include things like knowledge, skills, and enjoyment. For example, you could challenge yourself with learning all of the competition strokes in swimming if you currently spend most of your time doing front crawl. You could challenge yourself with learning to mountain bike if you spend all of your time on the roads. Setting goals like this will not only help you get more enjoyment out of your training, but you will likely even find that it helps improve your performance.

Once you make your goals, the next step is to make a plan to meet those goals. What are you going to do in individual workouts that will help you reach your goals? How is your annual training plan structured to help you meet your goals? This is also where we can help as your coach. Make sure you coordinate and communicate with us so that we can come up with challenging yet appropriate goals for you and so that we can make a custom-fit training plan to help you achieve them. You’re going to do great in the new year!

Running in the Heat

Summer weather has arrived and with it comes some hot, sweaty runs! We need to adjust both how we train and race in the heat to continue to improve as runners and to stay safe.

My rule of thumb which I have found to work well for most runners is to slow your pace 1 minute per mile for every 10 degrees over 70 degrees. That means if you were planning to run a 9:15 min/mile pace and it’s 80 degrees out, you slow down to 10:15 min/mile. If it’s 85, slow down to 10:45 min/mile. That holds true for both training days and race days.

If you follow my rule of thumb, what you should find is that the adjusted pace feels like a similar intensity to what the original pace would have felt like in more ideal conditions. You should also notice that your heart rate at the adjusted pace will match what you would have expected your heart rate to be at the original pace in more ideal conditions. That’s important because it confirms that the stress that we’re applying to your body (as measured by your heart rate) is the same.

On a hot race day, this means that you’re going to have to slow down. I know that’s disappointing to hear and accept, but we simply can’t expect our bodies to be able to perform at the same level on a hot day. Unfortunately, the temperature is a major variable that impacts our body’s ability to perform and it’s completely out of our control. The good news is that most races start first thing in the morning and may be cooler at least at the start. Then as the temperature warms up, you might find that you need to adjust your pace accordingly throughout the race.

On a hot training day, you need to make changes too. The same rule applies, slow down 1 min/mile for every 10 degrees over 70. That likely raises the question, “Am I getting the same benefit from training at the heat-adjusted pace?” Probably not. Your heart rate will be elevated to the level the workout prescribed, but that’s because it’s doing overtime trying to cool your body, not because of its response to the workout itself. If your goal is to get the intended benefit of a given workout (likely some type of performance benefit), then you should really be trying to avoid the heat.

What about heat acclimation? In my experience, athletes tend to over-emphasize the acclimation benefit they might get from working out in the heat. Acclimation is more about the conditions you live in than the conditions you exercise in. Instead of focusing on heat acclimation, your workouts should be focused on making you a better runner. The best example I have of that is when I see Ironman athletes doing their long brick workouts. They often do their bike leg first and then by the time they finish that and are ready to run, it’s the hottest part of the day and the run becomes a sufferfest in the heat. Finishing your long run by shuffling or even walking in the heat is not helping you become a better runner. Instead, try to avoid the heat so that you can actually expect your body to be able to perform at the intensity level that we want.

There are a few ways to do that. First, check the weather forecast and plan ahead. Plan to run during the cooler parts of the day like first thing in the morning or when there might be some cloud cover. Second, pick a good route that has some shade or is near a body of water which can help the air stay cooler. Third, for you triathletes, consider doing a reverse order brick where you run first and bike second. This will allow you to do your run earlier in the morning before it gets too hot and then you’ll be biking in the hotter part of the day. You can’t completely ignore the heat on the bike, but heat is much easier to manage biking because you’re traveling at a higher speed and that airflow helps cool your body. Finally, if you do get stuck in the heat, do everything you can to keep your body cool – pour water over your body, jump in a cool creek/lake, dump ice in your hat or sports bra. All of these things will help.

Enjoy the nice summer weather and keep these tips in mind to make sure you continue to get the most benefit from all your hard work training.

Bike Safety

Happy Spring! If you’re like me, you’re excited to be getting off the trainer and biking outside more. The weather is warming up, the days are getting longer, and we can ride outside more consistently. Enjoy the nice weather, but keep in mind these few things to make sure you’re being safe.

#1 Wear your helmet.

Please, please, please wear your helmet! That should be the first thing you always check to make sure you bring when you’re going out for a ride.

#2 Leave your headphones at home.

When you’re riding outside, you need to be alert to what’s going on around you which means you need to be able to hear. Leave your headphones at home for the trainer rides.

#3 Pick a good, clockwise course.

Get to know the area you live in. Where are the good roads to ride? Look for bike paths, marked bike lanes on streets, and roads with wide shoulders. Look for roads that are well-maintained with minimal potholes and debris. If you’re riding a loop, ride clockwise. A clockwise loop means that you’ll be making mostly right turns which means you don’t have to cross in front of traffic to turn, so it’s much safer.

#4 Check your blind spot – way back.

If you do need to merge across traffic, make sure you check your blind spot. Remember that cars are going significantly faster than you, so they come up fast and from a long way back. When you check your blind spot, you should be looking a few hundred yards behind you – not just a couple car lengths like you do when you’re driving – to make sure it’s clear.

#5 Signal with your left arm.

Always signal with your left arm. This keeps your right hand on the handlebars and your back brake – if you need to hit only one brake in a pinch, you want it to be your back brake because your front brake would send you into a front flip. Cars will also be on your left, so it’s easier for them to see your left arm. Pointing up signals a right turn, pointing left signals a left turn, and pointing down signals stop.

#6 Ensure you can see and be seen.

Ride with a headlight and taillight on your bike. I know they’re not aerodynamic or lightweight, but most lights clip on easily, so you don’t have to keep them on for race day. It’s amazing how big a difference it makes in drivers’ perceptions of a cyclist when the cyclist has a taillight. Especially if you ever ride in the dark or at dawn or dusk, but even during the day using lights can make a big difference. You want to be proactive and make sure drivers can see you well and that you can see well. Think about what you’re wearing too and try to wear clothing with reflective paneling.

#7 Establish yourself in the lane.

As I write this one, I know it will be the recommendation that is the most contentious. When there is not a shoulder or bike lane – and there won’t always be one – I believe it is important to establish yourself in the lane. Many cyclists will try to ride to the far right side of the road, literally tiptoeing the edge of the pavement. I don’t. When there is no shoulder, I will ride to the right side of the lane but still with a few feet on my right before the edge of the road. I do that to leave a margin of error on my right before the edge of the pavement – basically, space to swerve if a car passes too close. When I see other cyclists completely hug the right side of the pavement, I also see cars pass them dangerously close while trying to share the lane. By establishing yourself in the lane, but on the right side of it, it communicates to drivers that they need to cross over to the next lane/oncoming traffic in order to pass you. If oncoming traffic isn’t clear, then they need to be patient and wait. Some drivers don’t particularly like being patient and I have been honked at many times in situations like this. I would rather have them honk than have them pass dangerously putting my life in danger. Better yet, review #3 above, and avoid this situation entirely.

If you want to get technical on this one, Colorado Law states, “…a bicyclist shall ride far enough to the right as judged safe by the bicyclist…” As the bicyclist, you’re in control of what you consider to be safe. Familiarize yourself with what the law is in your area if you live outside Colorado.

#8 Follow the rules of the road.

Stop at stop signs/stoplights and signal your turns. Doing something like running a stop sign or red light on your bike not only puts your life in danger, but it also builds animosity between you and any driver that just saw you break the law. As cyclists, we need to show drivers that we respect the rules of the road, and they’ll in turn respect us. I know it can be frustrating if you hit a stoplight right in the middle of an interval. I’ve been there too. Regardless of what you’re training for or what workout you’re doing, it does not justify running the light. Plus, look back to #3. In picking a good course, you should also consider things like whether or not your ride includes higher intensity intervals and if so, try to hit those intervals on sections of the course without stops and intersections.

Have fun and enjoy the nice weather, but above all, stay safe!

Goal Time!

By Coach Nick Morrison
USAT and RRCA Certified Coach

Have you started thinking about what goals you have for the new year and in what events you want to participate? Most of you probably are making plans for the new year and that’s great to hear! As you look ahead, keep these tips in mind when making your goals.

Strive to make your goals challenging yet realistic. That’s often easier said than done. Try to use your past experience to project your future performance potential to help strike that balance. For example, we often use Jack Daniel’s VDOT calculator and race projections to help our athletes. Plug in your best times across various distances and see what VDOT the calculator gives and what times it projects for different race distances. You might find that your shorter distances like 1 mile or 5k project a higher VDOT than how you have performed in longer distance races like the marathon. A challenging yet realistic goal could be to run a marathon at the equivalent VDOT pace that your shorter races project.

Another way to strike the balance of challenging yet realistic is to make A, B, and C goals. If you’re making a time-based goal, break it up into 3 targets with A being the best performance, B being a little less, and C being a little less than that. There are so many variables outside of your control on race day, that it’s good to have A, B, and C goals so that you can still push yourself even if something like the weather doesn’t cooperate on the day of the event.

Make goals that are not timed-based/performance-oriented. So often as athletes, our first thought with regard to goals is I want to finish in X time or I want to place at a certain spot in the results. Those types of goals are great, but you should also make other goals that are focused on your growth as an overall athlete and include things like knowledge, skills, and enjoyment. For example, most triathletes that didn’t grow up swimming spend every workout swimming front crawl and only ever swim front crawl. Make a goal to learn other strokes or to get better at flip turns. Setting goals like this will not only help you get more enjoyment out of your training, but you will likely even find that it helps improve your performance.

Once you make your goals, the next step is to make a plan to meet those goals. What are you going to do in individual workouts that will help you reach your goals? How is your annual training plan structured to help you meet your goals? This is also where we can help as your coach. Make sure you coordinate and communicate with us so that we can come up with challenging yet appropriate goals for you and so that we can make a custom-fit training plan to help you achieve them. You’re going to do great in the new year!

Keys to a Strong Underwater Pull

By Coach Nick Morrison

When we talk about swim technique, it can quickly get overwhelming because there are a hundred different things to think about. Point your toes, keep your core engaged, rotate from the hips, keep your hands toned but not too tense. It’s a lot to think about! In order to make sense of it all, we need to focus on one thing at a time – preferably the one thing that will be most impactful in our stroke. The one thing that every swimming should focus on is developing a strong underwater pull.

A strong underwater pull is made up of three parts (I know, I know – I feel like I’m contradicting my ‘one thing’ statement already). Those are: 1) an early catch, 2) a vertical forearm pull, and 3) a late finish.

Early catch and late finish go hand in hand. Together, they make your distance per stroke as shown in the picture. The longer the distance you can cover with each stroke, the better. The catch is the point where your arm first grabs the water. You want this to be as early in the stroke as possible. The finish is the end of your stroke when your arm is fully extended and your hand is down past your hip.

Swimming - strong underwater pull

Between the catch and the finish is where the underwater pull happens. The key to a strong underwater pull is a vertical forearm. Think of your elbow to fingertips as your paddle which is propelling you through the water. You need that paddle to be vertical. This ensures that you are generating power in the right direction.

The most common mistake I see athletes make is rushing the catch. They will be so excited to start the pull that they forget to catch water first and their paddle won’t be vertical in the water until their arm is even with their shoulder. This causes a couple issues. First, it dramatically shortens your distance per stroke. Second, instead of propelling their body forward through the water, they are actually lifting their shoulders out of the water toward the surface because their paddle is not yet vertical when they start to pull.

So remember, be patient at the catch. Give yourself time to get your paddle vertical in the water. Then start your pull. Maintain that vertical paddle through the pull and finish all the way down past your hip. Finally, keep in mind that every incremental improvement helps.

Pacing and Variability in Cycling

By Coach Nick Morrison

If you ride with a power meter, one of the most beneficial metrics to analyze after you ride is your variability index (VI). VI tracks the fluctuation in your power output. Low fluctuation means you held a relatively constant power output during the whole ride and the VI score will be in the 1.00-1.05 range. Lots of fluctuation means you were constantly changing your power output – at times going really hard and at other times going really easy. These are two very different approaches to riding – sprint/recover/sprint/recover vs. pace evenly. As shown in the example variability chart below, these may still end up with the same average power. So, which approach is more appropriate for you?

Variability Comparison

If you are training for time trial style (non-drafting) triathlons or for endurance cycling events like century rides, low variability is the way to go. These events are all about pacing. In triathlon, you need to look at your bike portion not only to look at your bike split, but also to make sure you set yourself up for a good run. Riding with low variability will set yourself up for a great run while riding with high variability will make you struggle through the run (even if you get through the bike alright).

Some courses and conditions will challenge you more than others. On nice calm days with a flat straight course, it’s pretty easy to ride with low variability. You’ll barely even need to change gears. If it’s a windy day or if you’re riding a winding or hilly course, the conditions will be more challenging to keep a low variability. When you’re riding in those challenging conditions, keep an eye on your power output and try to keep it constant. Shift frequently. Avoid the temptations to attack hills (even short ones) or accelerate aggressively out of corners – both cause your power to spike. Challenging courses and conditions are just that – challenging. But if you’re smart about how you approach the ride, you can still do well.

There are times where high variability is the norm. The biggest factor here is if it is a draft-legal event. Drafting completely changes race strategy because riders can tuck in behind the riders in front of them or the full peloton and save a ton of energy while maintaining speed with the other riders. Then when it comes time to try and create separation from the other riders, you must be able to produce a tremendous amount of power to sprint ahead and lose others on your tail.

Take a look at these two power files: Rigoberto Uran’s 2017 Stage 9 Tour de France win and Lionel Sanders’ 2016 Ironman World Championships. Both had impressive power outputs – Uran’s normalized power was 291 watts and Sanders’ NP was 306 watts. The big, big difference is that Uran’s VI was 1.24 while Sanders’ VI was 1.02. That clearly and dramatically shows the difference between a Tour de France ride and an Ironman ride. Uran spent much of his day drafting, but then when the time came to create separation from the pack, he opened up! Sanders on the other hand needed to set himself up for a good run and didn’t have anyone to draft behind nor anyone drafting behind him that he needed to create separation from.

Keep this info in mind next time you’re out for a ride. What is the appropriate pacing strategy for your workout or event?

 

Special thanks to Training Peaks, Rigoberto Uran, and Lionel Sanders for making these power files available!

Nutrition Basics in Daily Life

What you eat in your daily life has an impact in how well your body will be able to perform in training and on race day. Many athletes we coach are either trying to lose a few pounds, looking to optimize their performance, or simply seeking a healthy, well-balanced diet. This article outlines some key nutrition information and builds from very basic to slightly more intermediate levels. At the end, I also address some common misconceptions that I see causing confusion.

Level 1: Quantity and Calories

At the most basic level, we can think of food in terms of quantity which is most often measured in calories. Calories are a unit of energy. Food provides us the energy our bodies need to survive, move around all day, complete workouts, and build muscle after workouts. We need to keep our total caloric expenditure (everyday life + workouts) in balance with our total caloric consumption (how much we eat). Or, if you’re trying to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your total caloric expenditure. If you find yourself eating more calories than you’re expending, you’re likely going to gain weight.

Level 2: Macronutrients

Protein (target 10-25% of your diet): Protein is used to build muscle. The best times to eat protein are during meals, after a workout, and just before bed. You do not need to eat protein during most workouts since it is not used as energy to fuel workouts. Small amounts of protein can be beneficial during longer exercise (over about 3 hours).

Carbohydrate (target 40-65%): Carbohydrates are used for immediate energy, with higher intensity exercise, over shorter duration. Your body is still burning carbohydrate for energy during longer, moderate and low intensity exercise, but it becomes the secondary fuel source. The best times to eat carbohydrates are shortly before, during, and after exercise and during meals. You should avoid eating carbohydrates in the couple hours before bed since you’re about to be sedentary. When your body consumes carbohydrate, it immediately converts it to glycogen and stores it in your muscles. Our bodies have a limit to how much glycogen they can store (typically around 1200-2000 calories), and any carbohydrate you consume beyond that limit will get converted to and stored as fat.

Fat (target 20-30%): Fat is used as energy in longer, moderate to low intensity exercise – it’s the main fuel source we use in endurance sports. The best times to eat fats are during meals. You should avoid eating fats shortly before and during exercise as it can cause GI issues. It also takes your body 10-12 hours to metabolize fat, so keep in mind that the fat you eat now won’t be ready to fuel exercise for 10-12 hours.

Level 3: Simple and complex carbohydrates and their impact on blood sugar/glycemic load

Blood sugar (glycemic load) is just that, the amount of sugar in our blood. Our blood sugar levels will naturally fluctuate throughout the day as we eat, digest, and exercise. Our goal needs to be to try and keep those fluctuations gradual and small instead of rapidly rising or falling to extreme high or extreme low levels. Carbohydrates are sugars, so we need to focus on what types of carbohydrates we’re eating in order to manage our glycemic load.

Simple carbs: Simple carbs are high glycemic foods which means they are digested quickly and cause a very fast and very high rise in blood sugar levels. This is a bad thing, so we want to avoid simple carbs in our diets. Simple carbs include foods like desserts, table sugar, soda, candy, white bread, and others.

Complex carbs: Complex carbs are low glycemic foods which means they are digested gradually, so they cause a slower rise in blood sugar and also a lower overall rise in blood sugar. These are good things, so we should try to pick complex carbs for our carbohydrate needs. Complex carbs include whole grains, whole wheat bread, potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown rice, beans, chick peas, and more. Although at a molecular level, some foods like fruits and milk are simple carbs, you can think of them as being in the same category as complex carbs since they act more like complex carbs because they have plenty of vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber which results in the same gradual blood sugar increase that you get from true complex carbs. 

Glycemic response

In practice, this can actually get pretty confusing because it’s not entirely black and white as to which category a given food falls into. It’s probably more accurate to think of simple vs complex carbs as a spectrum rather than two distinct buckets. Some clues to look for are the amount of fiber and how refined/processed the food is – you want more fiber and less refinement/processing (ex. choose whole grain breads with visible grains, seeds, nuts, etc. instead of white bread which is highly processed). Also, if you stick to natural sources of carbs like fruits, vegetables, and dairy, you’ll be good.

Read more on simple and complex carbs here.

Level 4 and beyond

There is more beyond this information! Keep in mind that additional information builds on this foundation – it does not replace this foundational information. It’s just like how we all learned math growing up. First you learn basic addition and subtraction, then you learn your multiplication tables and long division, eventually maybe you continued to more advanced topics like algebra, trigonometry, calculus, and beyond. Each new advanced topic builds on the knowledge from the prior grades. If you can get the information outlined here correct though, you’re going to be doing pretty well. Then if you want to continue to learn more, that’s great too!


Common Misconceptions: Fad Diets

We need to be careful about chasing fad diets. Fad diets typically follow the outline of, “Only eat this, never eat that.” Typically, what happens with fad diets is that when someone starts the diet they see initial success and weight loss. This is primarily because of the ‘never eat that’ part of the diet’s rules. By cutting out a significant part of the dieter’s food intake, the diet will be successful in getting that individual to initially lose weight. In the long term though, many people end up struggling with fad diets because the diet is either too restrictive or because the person finds replacement foods that technically follow the guidelines of the diet but still end up giving the person too many calories overall.

Common Misconceptions: Calories

“Counting calories alone is not enough” vs “Calories don’t matter” / “Calories aren’t a thing”

It is absolutely correct that counting calories alone is not enough if you are trying to watch your weight. Countless individuals struggle to lose weight even after significantly reducing their caloric intake because they still have a poor mix of macronutrients or are eating lots of simple carbs.

However, “Counting calories alone is not enough” is a very different statement than, “Calories don’t matter.” The first is correct while the second (calories don’t matter) is most definitely not correct. This is an important distinction to keep in mind for two reasons. First, an endurance athlete (and by endurance athlete, I don’t just mean professionals – I mean anyone completing and training for runs, bike rides, triathlons, etc. at any pace) typically follows a training plan that consists of both an off season where your volume is relatively lower (say 20-30 miles per week for a runner) and peak training season where your volume gets significantly higher (40, 50, or even more miles per week). With this type of training, your body needs fewer calories during the off season and more calories during peak training. If you aren’t able to adjust throughout the year, you’re going to find yourself either gaining weight in the offseason because you’re eating too much or struggling through workouts during peak season because you’re eating too little and your body is out of energy. Second, even if you are eating an appropriate diet of the right foods (complex carbs, healthy fats from plants, etc.) you can still gain weight if you’re eating too much of it and your caloric intake exceeds your caloric expenditure.

Common Misconceptions: Carbohydrates are the enemy

The trend right now is that carbs are the enemy. Carbohydrates are not the enemy and not all carbohydrates are bad for you. You need to include complex carbohydrates in your diet – especially if you are an endurance athlete (again, I mean all levels of endurance athletes, not just the pros). You do need to keep in mind your overall balance of macronutrients to make sure you’re not getting more carbohydrates than you need, but carbohydrates are a part of that balance.

Simple carbohydrates are the enemy. This is true and this is what experts actually mean – it just gets misstated by many other individuals. Unfortunately, simple carbohydrates are abundant in our culture. They’re hard to avoid if you eat out much, so you’re better off preparing your own meals where you can ensure you’re not dumping extra sugar in everything like many restaurants do. If you do eat out, try to be conscious of where you go and what you order.

Low carb and no carb diets are also catching on right now because the average American leads a pretty sedentary lifestyle – they drive everywhere instead of walking, they don’t get much or any exercise, and they sit in an office job all day. If you’re an endurance athlete (again, I mean all levels of endurance athlete), you’re not the average American leading that sedentary lifestyle. The average American does not run marathons, complete Ironmans, or participate in century rides. Endurance athletes of all ability levels need carbs – you don’t need to go overboard with them, but you do need them.

 

Sources: USA Triathlon, RRCA, Jesse Kropelnicki

Bike Safety

Happy Spring! If you’re like me, you’re excited to be getting off the trainer and biking outside more. The weather is warming up, the days are getting longer, and we can ride outside more consistently. Enjoy the nice weather, but keep in mind these few things to make sure you’re being safe.

#1 Wear your helmet.

Please, please, please wear your helmet! That should be the first thing you always check to make sure you bring when you’re going out for a ride.

#2 Leave your headphones at home.

When you’re riding outside, you need to be alert to what’s going on around you which means you need to be able to hear. Leave your headphones at home for the trainer rides.

#3 Pick a good, clockwise course.

Get to know the area you live in. Where are the good roads to ride? Look for bike paths, marked bike lanes on streets, and roads with wide shoulders. Look for roads that are well-maintained with minimal potholes and debris. If you’re riding a loop, ride clockwise. That means that you’ll be making mostly right turns which means you don’t have to cross in front of traffic to turn.

#4 Check your blind spot – way back.

If you do need to merge across traffic, make sure you check your blind spot. Remember that cars are going significantly faster than you, so they come up fast and from a long way back. When you check your blind spot, you should be looking a few hundred yards behind you – not just a couple car lengths – to make sure it’s clear.

#5 Signal with your left arm.

Always signal with your left arm. This keeps your right hand on the handlebars and your back brake – if you need to hit only one brake in a pinch, you want it to be your back brake because your front brake would send you into a front flip. Cars will also be on your left, so it’s easier for them to see your left arm. Pointing up signals a right turn, pointing left signals a left turn, and pointing down signals stop.

#6 Ensure you can see and be seen.

Especially if you ever ride at dawn or dusk, but also if you ride on overcast days, make sure drivers can see you well and that you can see well. Wear clothing with reflective paneling. Ride with a headlight and taillight on your bike. I know they’re not aerodynamic or lightweight, but most lights clip on easily so you don’t have to keep them on for race day.

#7 Establish yourself in the lane.

As I write this one, I know it will be the recommendation that is the most contentious. When there is not a shoulder or bike lane – and there won’t always be one – I believe it is important to establish yourself in the lane. Many cyclists will try to ride to the far right side of the road, literally tiptoeing the edge of the pavement. I don’t. When there is no shoulder, I will ride to the right side of the lane but still with a few feet on my right before the edge of the road. I do that to leave a margin of error on my right before the edge of the pavement – basically, space to swerve if a car passes too close. When I see other cyclists completely hug the right side of the pavement, I also see cars pass them dangerously close while trying to share the lane. By establishing yourself in the lane, but on the right side of it, it communicates to drivers that they need to cross over to the next lane/oncoming traffic in order to pass you. If oncoming traffic isn’t clear, then they need to be patient and wait. I will say that some drivers don’t particularly like being patient and I have been honked at many times in situations like this. I would rather have them honk than have them pass dangerously putting my life in danger. Better yet, review #3 above, and avoid this situation entirely.

If you want to get technical on this one, Colorado Law states, “…a bicyclist shall ride far enough to the right as judged safe by the bicyclist…” As the bicyclist, you’re in control of what you consider to be safe. Familiarize yourself with what the law is in your area if you live outside Colorado.

#8 Follow the rules of the road.

Stop at stop signs/stoplights and signal your turns. Doing something like running a stop sign or red light on your bike not only puts your life in danger, but it also builds animosity between you and any driver that just saw you break the law. As cyclists, we need to show drivers that we respect the rules of the road, and they’ll in turn respect us. I know it can be frustrating if you hit a stoplight right in the middle of an interval. I’ve been there too. Regardless of what you’re training for or what workout you’re doing, it does not justify running the light. Plus, look back to #3. In picking a good course, you should also consider things like whether or not your ride includes higher intensity intervals and if so, try to hit those intervals on sections of the course without stops and intersections.

Have fun and enjoy the nice weather, but above all, stay safe!