a journal - cycling, sociology, social media

Sunday, 1 August 2021

Oh ye I remember - bike racing !

Finally ! it's back and on May 31st I raced for the first time in over 14 months, a BMCR (British Masters Cycle Racing) Covid Test Event, just over an hour of racing on a closed circuit at Darley Moor Sports Centre in Derbyshire. Even though it was only a test event there was a big field of sixty age 60+ riders.

       Some of these fellas can't be over sixty surely ?

It was great to be back racing at Darley Moor as by coincidence my last race pre-pandemic was here on March 6th 2020. I have previously posted of my of age group racing exploits here Too Old For Racing ? here In the Pain Cave and here In Memory of Johnny P

BMCR races are always very competitive with a lot of attacks especially in the early part of the race and the first one of my 2021 season was no exception. I was comfortable in the bunch from the start and very happy with my fitness and it was good to confirm that the quality structured training I had done in the last couple of months had got me to the right level after such a long break from competition. It was also good to know that my approach to riding during the pandemic that I wrote about here Pedalling Through The Pandemic had maintained my base fitness well. So my fitness wasn't an issue but the race did remind me of something fairly obvious, positioning is key ! especially on the last lap and at Darley Moor the position that you enter the final corner is likely to be the position that you finish the race and it was ... 20th. 

I had to wait until 24th June for race two at the UCLAN circuit in Preston, Lancashire, a long trip of 115 miles each way for me for an hour of racing which under normal circumstances would be a bit too far but with the race calendar still looking a little sparse and the British Cycling Masters National Circuit Championships on the 3rd July this was an opportunity to get a quality work out in a warm up race.
Unfortunately despite there being no rain whatsoever in the forecast it rained, a lot, but at least it was warm rain and the track was grippy even in a downpour so I managed to stay upright but unfortunately my brand new white socks didn't survive, bike racing it's certainly not for everyone that's for sure.

Next up was a trip down to Leicester and my first time racing at the New College Circuit, which was flat and fast and a little bit dull to be honest. No wind at all meant that nothing was going to get away despite attacks coming what felt like every lap and the race finished in the inevitable bunch sprint.

                                                                           Link to my Strava
When the race is going to be decided in a sprint and you are not a sprinter the chances of a result are slim, especially with some of the best guys in the country present. So I knew that I needed to spend a lot of my remaining pennies getting to the front on the last lap to have any chance of getting anything from the race. Despite knowing what I needed to do and having the legs to do it I left it too late to move up and entered the last corner about 6th and finished 6th. Fitness is there it seems like it's the execution that needs work !

Race four was back at UCLAN the following Thursday and another long drive to find that I didn't take any legs with me and as a result had an absolute shocker ! I won't bore you with the details but I did eventually understand why, I was seriously dehydrated and had been since the previous weekend in Leicester. 

A warm night at UCLAN a strong field and I suffered like a dog. The experience has prompted me to make big changes to my hydration strategy before during and after training and racing. This is a topic for a blog post in itself as to be honest I can't believe how badly I have neglected my hydration, especially since the weather has got warmer. My only defence is that as you get older thirst sensitivity is significantly reduced but I knew that so it's no excuse really - more on this another time.  
Something else that I have been paying a lot more attention to which has a big potential impact on performance is sleep and rest more generally, another element of recovery that I haven't paid enough attention to. I have been using some wearable technology in the form of this smart watch from Amazfit so that I can better understand health markers such as my resting heart rate, and sleep patterns which should/could (along with my new hydration regime) help me to improve my performance and more importantly maintain good health. The Amazfit watch uses PAI (Personal Activity Intelligence) that measures the impact of any physical activity on heart health and provides a rolling seven day average.

I have also been using these ZenBuds ear pod from Amazfit  they mask distracting noises and can play soothing sounds to block out the outside world to help you to fall asleep more easily and by monitoring sleep patterns allow analysis of sleep quality. I haven't used them much yet but I have been sleeping a lot better although that might be because Mrs Rees has put the summer duvet on the bed ... who knows ?  

Finally: I now have a YouTube channel that you might want to take a peek at (it's just like the sort of stuff you find on here but in video form) It's early days and I am very much starting from scratch and on a very steep learning curve with video but you have to start somewhere. I have lots of ideas for YouTube content so check it out and maybe hit the  subscribe button  TERACEFORTHECAFE  as there is some good stuff coming up. Here's a link to the story so far How I started my YouTube channel

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 11 April 2021

From sheets of MDF and rolls of wallpaper to a YouTube Channel in 3 months.


In January on a bit of a whim I decided that a good lockdown project would be to start a YouTube channel, theraceforthecafe cycling so I ordered five sheets of MDF a few rolls of wallpaper and I got to work. I have always enjoyed the luxury of having a double garage for my bikes and stuff but any decent YouTube channel has a studio so some changes had to be made. 
 I had convinced myself that sacrificing half of my bike storage space to build a YouTube studio was a good idea and that it would be worth it in the long run ... hopefully.
Video is definitely the future and although you could reasonably argue that there are already too many cycling YouTuber's around it's also true that YouTube viewing has grown hugely during the last year and that the viewing habits of millions if not billions of people around the world have probably changed for ever. So the audience is definitely there, the challenge of course is producing the content that they actually want to watch, while at the same time building an audience from scratch.
This has definitely been a project that has evolved significantly since I had the original idea which is another way of saying that I have been making it up as I've gone along. Sometimes it's best just to crack on and see what happens which is what I've done, but I did do quiet a bit of research before I started (watching YouTube videos) so I managed to convince myself that I had a handle on what would work and what I needed to do to create it.
I have never been a big YouTube viewer and I have deliberately not spent any time watching other  YouTube cycling channels because I wanted to try to do something original. The videos that I have watched during my 'research' have all been instructional videos on setting up a channel, and on video making and editing. If you think of YouTube as a huge search engine you really can find out how to do almost anything on there.
It has been a really steep learning curve and I have learned a ton of stuff but I will be the first to admit that there is still a huge amount that I am bluffing my way through. Although I have spent some money on building the studio I decided not to throw too much cash at the project by investing in a lot of new equipment. A good quality video camera is something that I will need in the future but to start with I decided to do everything with my phone. I use the Iphone 11 Pro Max so the camera quality is really good, add a tripod, an external microphone and ring light from Fovitec and a cheap soft box studio light and that's basically all the equipment I have. To edit the videos and add any text or music I have just used a free app on my phone called inshot which is excellent and can do everything that I need for the moment, although I have needed a bit of practice. 
The plan was to launch the theraceforthecafe YouTube channel with eight videos to give viewers a range of topics so that hopefully they would find something that interested them, I decided to start with videos that are all around the five minute mark in duration just as a way of encouraging people to watch them all the way through. 

I wanted the channel to look the part from the start so I got a channel banner and some graphics made on the website fiverr. I've never used Fiverr before but what an excellent site it is, just like Ebay but for creative projects, all turned around in just 24 hours - brilliant. 

What's the channel going to be about ?... cycling obviously, the content will be really varied so hopefully there will be something for everyone. Try to imagine the YouTube channel as a combination of this blog and my theraceforthecafe Instagram content, combined in video form and you are on the right track.

I soon realised that making eight videos (even five minute ones) in the time that I had available was going to be too much work so the plan evolved again. I reached out to some of my Instagram friends for help and sure enough they stepped up and the Cafe Collective was born.

The new launch plan became five videos from me and one each from my three Instagram friends. Who are Julian a photography expert and mental health advocate from over in Berlin on Instagram   pedallingthroughlife  Gus a charismatic 'California Boy' Instagram gusgoescycling who does his riding in London and Rahul from Newcastle Instagram projectsunrisecycling who is a super keen cyclist and bike builder, if you hit the links to their IG accounts you will see the sort of stuff that they do. All three guys came up with their own ideas and although they have a mix of relevant experience from their day jobs we were all learning together and each of them brought something different to the party. Also coming up on the channel are some mountain bike/off-road videos from someone else I know from Instagram calvin.berger from North Carolina who is only fourteen but a cycling star in the making ... I'm certain of it.

The priority at the start has been content over production quality and we have been learning by doing which was another reason to start with short videos, as our skills improve we plan to move on to longer more challenging projects and we have loads of ideas.  

Once I had the new logo and branding it made sense to organise some raceforthecafe merchandise, caps hoodies and tee shirts for when the channel really takes off, he said optimistically. I have a few of  of these items left so if you are interested just drop me an E mail or a direct message on Instagram. It's been a bit of a whirlwind few months but I have thoroughly enjoyed it so far. 

Thanks for reading and it would be great if you would check it out, it will get better ... I promise !

  theraceforthecafe cycling - YouTube Channel


Sunday, 17 January 2021

Training without training - what I learned during the pandemic.

Here are a couple of questions for our times: 

1. What is the best way to train when there's nothing to train for ?    

2. How much fitness do you loose if you don't any any 'proper' training for nine months ? 

On the 18th of January last year I was in an optimistic mood and super motivated so I had decided to get my season underway early at the Croft Motor Racing circuit and I was pinning a number on for the first round of the Velo 29 Winter Series. After four months of well structured training, including a lot of race specific high intensity efforts I was feeling good and 2020 felt like it had the potential to be a great season.   

On top of having trained well I was moving in to a new age group and was going to be racing as an over 65 in the E category. Not that the 'E' age group is any less competitive than 'D' but because of a rule change I was moving into the category a year earlier and effectively a year younger than I otherwise would have. British Masters Cycle Racing had decided on a rule change to align with other organisations and effectively class every ones birthday as the 1st of January and as my birthday is at the end of November I would be one of those to potentially benefit most from the change. So this was definitely going to be the best chance I would ever have to get some good results in age group races something that I haven't really managed to do so far. 

There isn't any sort of training that you can do that's as hard as racing, especially when you're a 3rd Cat racing in an E/1/2/3/4 on a wide open circuit and the wind is gusting at 50 mph - you know what they say about what doesn't kill you ?

On the wheel of one of my best mates and former regular training partner Darren Moody. As we waited on the start line Darren and I (combined age 115 years) were speculating on the average age of the field, we decided it was about 23 and resigned ourselves to a tough day out.

January 25th and another hard day at Croft but thankfully when the going gets tough you can absolutely rely on the British Army.

After five 'training races' at Croft on March 8th my season proper started at a different motor racing circuit, this time it was Darley Moor in Derbyshire the first round of the BMCR National Series for over 60's and what turned out to be my final race of 2020. 

Despite missing the race winning move and not picking up any series points I came away from Darley Moor thinking that I was definitely going to be competitive and feeling pretty positive for the rest of the season ... you know the rest, by the end of March it was pretty clear that their wasn't going be a 2020 season for me or anyone else. 
So what next ? racing is important to me and I definitely wanted to race in 2021 but I didn't think it was possible for me to maintain my race fitness for a full year without a race season. The reality of 2020 soon became clear and riding solo almost exclusively, which I rarely did before Covid, quickly became the norm. I decided to keep it simple, no plan, no structure, just ride every day and sprinkle a bit of quality/intensity into the mix every now and again.

Although I have a power meter I don't generally train to power, partly because I ride a few different bikes and I only have a power meter on one of them, but also after getting a power meter I quickly came to the conclusion that at my age (65) training with it is really just a way of monitoring my inevitable decline, which I don't find particularly motivating. So I train to heart rate but the power meter is still very useful for fitness testing. My riding since March has been approximately 80% low intensity and 20% of mixed duration high intensity intervals done on a very irregular basis without any sort of structure. The 80/20 Principle So how much fitness do you loose if you don't do any 'proper' training for nine months ? The answer to the question in my case is surprisingly not very much at all, in fact I got a little bit faster which came as something of a surprise.

When I got the power meter in 2018 I did some baseline testing to establish my power zones and FTP and I hadn't repeated the tests since then. I wrote a series of three blog posts on training and racing with power at the time (you can read them here Power #1 Power #2 Power #3 ) So two years older and after nine months of very little training but plenty of low intensity riding I decided to repeat the tests, on the same bike at the same time of the year, in exactly the same location and in very similar weather conditions. The tests were done on three consecutive days, the same as in 2018 and each time after a thorough warm up. Day one was 3 x 5 minute efforts with 30 minutes recovery in between. Day two was 1 x 20 minute and day three was 3 x 1 minute. 
This stretch of road I use for testing is close to home and is ideal as there's not too much traffic, it has a decent surface and an even incline with a roundabout at the end, all good reasons for using it but mainly it's because it's only five minutes from one of my favourite cafes - Caffe Italissimo 

So how did the results compare ? how much less fit was I ? and had my race form completely disappeared ? Well no, actually it hadn't, in fact on two of three tests I found that I had actually improved. To be more accurate I had lost a bit of power but I was quicker, on the five minute efforts my average power for the three tests was down by 3% BUT and it's a fairly significant but, I was quicker over each of the efforts.

On the twenty minute effort I was down by 2.8%  on power compared to 2018 but again I was quicker. In November 2018 I covered a distance of 6.66 miles in the twenty minutes in November 2020 I achieved a distance of 6.83 miles in the time (2.5% further) in the same neutral wind conditions on an out and back course on the same stretch of road.

                                                                    Same bike, same road, same weather ...same pain.

The one minute efforts however told a slightly different story, overall I was 8% down on power from 2018, initially I wasn't sure if this just because of poor test technique (gear selection and pacing) so a few days later I repeated the tests and the results were virtually the same. After thinking about it the loss of 8% was probably about right and was most likely explained by the fact that for several months most of my efforts had been a a longer than a minute and not at maximum. The ability to do these short efforts well has a lot to do with pain tolerance, which is trainable at any age, I decided that the most likely reason was that I was just not used to doing them, psychologically as well as physically so I decided to do a training experiment.  

For the next four weeks during my daily rides I did two or three sessions a week of max effort one minute intervals, starting with 5 x 1 min and building up to 10 x 1 min. Then I re-tested, well rested, in similar conditions, same road etc. After four weeks of structured one minute intervals I had re-gained 7% of the 8% I had lost. This came as another surprise as optimistically I was hoping to get about half of the loss back, so to get to within 1% of what I consider to be good form was a nice bonus. So it turns out very short, very high intensity interval training works ... who would have guessed ?

                                         In need of caffeine after 10 x 1 min max efforts on a gravel bike.

The test dates were: 2018: November 2nd, 3rd and 4th and in 2020: November 5th, 6th and 7th. They are all on  My Strava and some extra analysis was done from the data available on Training Peaks. 

A few things to note:

  • The 2018 tests were done after a full season, I may have been fatigued ? but on the other hand I may have had really good form from regular racing.
  • These results may be personal to me and not valid for everyone, I have 37 consecutive years of training and racing behind me so my fitness base is solid, but even so they may not be sustainable in the longer term. 
  • I am 65 and recent research points to a small amount of high intensity training being the best approach for those of my advancing years. The loss of power may have just been due to being two years older, I refer you back to my reason for not using the power meter. 
  • I also made some dietary changes during 2020. I have not been eating breakfast and I have had no alcohol at all, both have without doubt helped me to maintain my 'racing weight' and the latter has probably helped with motivation too. 
  • The other thing worth noting is that I did a lot of riding off road on gravel bikes and probably about a third of the 10,000+ miles I did last year were on surfaces other than smooth tarmac. As someone who knows about these things once said to me "you get nothing for free on a gravel bike" which is very true, particularly on the type of trails and bridleways that I ride, not much in the way of hills but not much descending either, so always pressing on the pedals albeit at low intensity.
                                            There seems to be a training benefit for me just from rolling on fat tyres 

Overall and based on the one minute training experiment and re-test I would say that I am currently 4- 6 weeks away from being ready to race. So if we get the nod to start again this year, which unfortunately at the time of writing is sadly starting to look doubtful again, I will definitely be ready. 

The final take home message has to be that consistency is key and it absolutely trumps everything else. The most beneficial thing that you can do to maintain fitness is a lot of low intensity riding, which is why I rode every single day of last year 366/366. Obviously not many people are lucky enough to do this but consistency can be just three rides a week if that's all you can fit in, as long as it's EVERY week. Most days I was just riding and not training but I went hard some of the time, probably around 20% of my ride time. I have learned that this percentage seems to be about right for me at the moment, but it will probably reduce as I get older, you may need more ... or less?  

Thanks for reading - stay safe. 


Sunday, 13 December 2020

Cadex: Ultra Performance - with heritage

I got an unexpected E mail a couple of weeks ago, one those that I had to read two or three times because not being the sharpest I thought I'd misunderstood it. It was from the marketing department at Giant UK asking if it would be OK if they sent me some of their brand new Cadex ultra performance components to try, wheels and tyres and a saddle that would go really well on my Giant Propel ... oh go on then. 

                                                                                       The cafe whip now looks whippier than ever
 You know when you get a new IPhone or any Apple product for that matter and your blown away by the quality and precision of the packaging, every time, well I was like that a few days later when the Cadex stuff arrived, even the tyres were impressively presented and the Boost saddle was in a beautifully constructed box.
The instruction manuals for the wheels came in Cadex branded wallets and in case you're wondering what was in the cylindrical package on the right of the picture above, it contained a very carefully packed Cadex wind stopper vest ... obviously. I was well impressed straight away, even before I had paid much attention to the actual products.
The Cadex brand was launched or maybe it should be re-launched (see below) during the 2019 Tour De France, above Greg Van Avermaet on his Gold Giant TCR Advanced SL giving it full gas over the cobbles of the Mur De Grammont on Cadex 65's. The CCC team and Van Avermaet in particular played a key role in the development of the Cadex wheel system, the brand launch at the Tour was covered by GCN and you can see their video on the Cadex wheels and components here GCN - CADEX - TDF  

The Cadex brand although part of Giant is a completely separate company which makes sense because naturally they don't want Cadex products just to appeal to Giant owners. Cadex has its own engineers and designers and as it's backed by the company that first developed carbon bikes their intention is to build on Giant's existing knowledge and expertise to produce the very best in cutting edge cycling components.
I have been a big fan of Giant bikes since way back, I got my first carbon TCR for my 50th birthday, here I am suffering on it at the 2007 European Age Group Duathlon Championships. I loved that bike, I really did and I also loved those little stubby clip on aero bars too, in fact, I'm still using them on my Giant Revolt gravel bike. During my multi-sport racing years I was really lucky in that I can remember very few race days when the weather was really bad. I remember this day though for sure, going all in up Arthur's Seat in the centre of Edinburgh five times, with a run before and a run after, all in torrential rain, a painful memory that one. 
                                                                    Even on the gravel I'll take every aero advantage I can get these days
While I am being nostalgic here's another of my TCRs I loved this one too, at the time without a shadow of a doubt the best bike that I had ever owned, a fantastic machine, I wish I'd kept it. 
The Cadex brand name is by no means new and readers of a certain age may remember back to 1987 when Giant introduced the CADEX 980 which was arguably the world's first mass produced carbon road bike. These first carbon bikes were constructed with carbon tubes bonded in to aluminium lugs which now sounds a bit crude but it was revolutionary back then. Giant used the Cadex brand as a 'moonshot' a hugely ambitious project that took the Giant brand way beyond what was available at the time, which is exactly what they are doing this time around with the new Cadex components.  
Above - what ultra performance looked like in 2006, not one of mine this time but my son Jack's TCR the first with a moulded monocoque frame. I remember when he got it, we both thought it was the best looking bike we had ever seen, another one that I wish we had held on to. 

Bonding carbon tubes into lugs didn't really take full advantage of the qualities of carbon fibre so after some pioneering work by legendary bike designer Mike Burrows  Giant developed moulded monocoque construction frames. In manufacturing terms this method was extremely efficient and used far less material but it's limitation was that the moulds were extremely expensive. Giant got around this problem by introducing the Burrows designed TCR (total compact road) frame which had a downward sloping top tube and was produced in just four sizes. By changing the seat post and stem you could, for the first time, create the perfect fit for any height rider which was a ground breaking development at the time. 
Before the Cadex wheels went on to my Propel I first tried them on the dining room table (as you do) for Instagram purposes only obviously and it was bit of a risky shot to pull off to be honest but I got away with it, only because Mrs Rees or to use her official title 'The Team Principle' wasn't home at the time. 
After getting the initial E mail and even after the Cadex stuff arrived, I'm not sure why, but it hadn't actually dawned on me how high end the Cadex products were. My Giant Propel Advanced was already a great bike equipped with Giant's own excellent SLR deep rim carbon wheels but it was instantly transformed by the Cadex components, I couldn't believe how different it felt - in a really good way.
Final shot of the Cadex equipped Giant Propel at one of my regular Instagram locations. I've only done a couple of hundred miles on it since the Cadex upgrades but each time I've ridden it I've been a bit more impressed and noticed some other improved sensation. I've started writing them down so I don't forget. In the new year when I've done a few more miles I'll post a detailed review on what I have already realised are components that are of a much higher standard than anything I've ever used before.


Sunday, 29 November 2020

Tri Trilogy - Episode 3: - 'Big Ticket' items that make the difference.

This is the final part of a three episode Tri series, you don't have to read the others: Episode 1 How Hard Can It Be ? Episode 2 The Training, but this post will probably make a bit more sense if you do (no pressure) and as promised we are going to look at some of the things that really made a difference in the rapid transition that @jackrees1989 made from high level racing cyclist to competitive triathlete. I say final episode but we've decided to devote another post sometime in the new year to bike set up and aerodynamics which we were going to include here but it was going to get a bit too long. All three topics today are relevant for anyone who is serious about improving their performance in endurance events, from Park Runs to Ironman triathlons. So todays three key pillars of successful  race performance are: specificity, heart rate variability/health and wellbeing and running shoe technology. 

While we were working on this post I decided to dig out some of my old training diaries just to see how Jack does things now compared to how I (we) used to do things just a few years ago. I have always thought that I had recorded my training data quite well as I religiously kept 'page a day' training diaries for over 20 years however, a quick look through some of them doesn't reveal much other than distance, time and overall volume, there is very little in the way of detail at all, especially in relation to what I was trying to focus on and even more crucially on how I was feeling and if I was recovering. This has confirmed what I have come to realise with the benefit of hindsight, that basically I didn't know what I was doing ... to myself.

To say I didn't know what I was doing may be being a little harsh because from one the diaries, not sure which one, dropped this piece of paper. My only 'plan' in those days was pretty basic and amounted to just doing as much training as I possibly could, not very scientific, but it would appear from this that I was for at least some of the time following some solid training principles, that are actually just as relevant today as they were then. Having said that, in my case the R for recovery should probably have been in much bigger letters and in BOLD - highlighted and underlined ! A bit of a coincidence though  ... or is it ? that at the top of the list is specificity, over to Jack to bring things right up to date.

Specificity and Periodisation

It's a given that training needs to be tailored to the demands of the event (any event) and in triathlon that should include sessions that replicate race intensity and above across all three disciplines. The swim is a little more complex with technical guidance and practice being arguably, as, if not more important than volume and intensity. With workouts becoming more specific as the event gets closer, what do we mean by specificity ? In part it means having a plan and sticking to it, without deviation and one of the most important aspects of this is maintaining intensity discipline. With performance at middle to long distance triathlon, the 'north star metric' across the bike and run disciplines is performance at Aerobic Threshold/LT1. For this reason if you’re able to devote 15hrs+ to training, following the 80-20 polarised model is the most effective method, 80% of training volume at moderate intensity 20% at high intensity. For more on this follow this link  Polarized Training, a conversation with Stephen Seil  JR

Intensity discipline particularly on the bike is key but it must be complimented with a focus on the specific demands of an effective race day performance such as pedalling technique and pace focus and crucially maintaining the aero position whilst at the same time keeping the training stress constant. But this emphasis on the specifics will only result in peak race day performance with a taper of training volume in the lead up to the event. JR

Because competition frequency in cycling is so much higher I hadn’t really used a tapering model before, normally just reducing load and “freshening up” in the lead up to and event. However there is now a significant evidence base around the effectiveness of tapering. In triathlon, at middle to long distance, my approach will be to adopt a linear tapering model, reducing training load in advance of the competition, with a reduction in overall training volume of 40-60%, whilst maintaining intensity. Taper length will be dependant on event priority, from seven, increasing to ten days. JR

HRV /  Health and Wellbeing 

I have used a Whoop strap for about 18months well before I embarked on the multisport journey. I paid some attention to it but didn't really follow it closely but I liked that it synced my sleep duration with Training Peaks. Once I began incorporating running into my training I wanted to try to gauge the additional stress and impact it was having on me. There hasn't been much academic research done yet relating to the reliability of devices like Whoop and Oura rings and the evidence on their reliability is a bit mixed, but for me the metrics it provides particularly the “recovery score” is very reflective of how I feel day to day. JR

Because of the increased demands of multisport training, particularly combined with a busy life, it is very easy to over do it. Using Whoop and HRV (heart rate variability) as a guide has enabled me to create a better platform for performance. For those not familiar with Whoop it tracks HR 24/7 and provides a recovery score upon waking. The score can be split into colours, red – under recovered, yellow – adequately recovered, green primed and fully recovered. Using this as a guide I adopt a flexible training schedule, doing my hardest and most demanding days when I wake to a green score, and scaling right back if I wake to a red score. JR

A one week example of of Whoop daily recovery data. I tailor my training based on the recovery score for the day. During the week above I moved the training that I had planned for the Wednesday back to Friday and made Wednesday a complete rest day and during the day I focussed more than usual on hydration and made sure that I went to bed 30 minutes earlier than normal. JR

A sleep data page from the Whoop App, one of the key findings for me from using Whoop was that I had assumed, wrongly, that time in bed equated well to time asleep and rest, it doesn't. The focus on the metrics Whoop provides has also encouraged me to implement strategies in my day to day life to improve recovery, these include, reduced alcohol consumption and pre-sleep stretching. Whoop asks for tracking of different factors as part of its journal, for me my sleep and recovery score shows a pattern of being better following a period of pre-sleep stretching, improved night time routine, waking and sleeping at consistent times, darker sleeping environment and lower bedroom air temperature along with better hydration during the day. JR

Using the Whoop has definitely helped and I have found that there is a clear alignment between doing the above and a higher recovery score. This not only translates into better performance in a training, but also in a work capacity, with noticeably improved productivity, clarity of thought and focus each day. JR

Whoop as a company have seen tremendous growth, and they recently announced a sponsorship of EF Education First Pro Cycling and reported some interesting patterns and trends from their riders competing at the Tour de France Whoop: How strenuous is the Tour de France JR

What is HRV?

HRV is a measure of the variation in time between each heartbeat. This variation is controlled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is subdivided into two large components, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the fight-or-flight mechanism and the relaxation response.

Our brains are constantly processing information in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. Through the ANS, the hypothalamus sends messages around the body, either to stimulate or to relax different functions to maintain balance. It responds not only to quality of sleep but every stimulus that we encounter and too much stimulus causes an imbalance and the fight-or-flight response is activated.

HRV is a convenient way of identifying ANS imbalances. If a person’s system is in more of a fight-or-flight mode, the variation between subsequent heartbeats is low. If in a more relaxed state, the variation between beats is high. In other words, the healthier the ANS the faster you are able to switch gears and be more resilliant and flexible. 

If you want to learn more about the benefits of HRV monitoring hit this link here Whoop Locker

Shoe Technology 

In the past two years running shoe technology has increased exponentially. Without going into too much detail (Developments in carbon plate running shoes) the advent of carbon plated running shoes, which provide stability on top and increase the shoe's stiffness, creating a smooth transition and adding a sensation of propulsion, run performances have seen a marked improvement. These shoes take some adapting to, for me it took 5 months of consistent running to adapt to the demands but on all my road runs I now train in carbon plated shoes. From an injury prevention and adaptation stand point I think this is important as there is a marked difference between carbon plated and none carbon plated shoes. Although Nike are the market leaders every major brand now has a carbon plated offering and the majority offer a race version and a training version with heavier weight and more cushioning. JR

There is a reason why many of the worlds elite runners race in these shoes and it's energy return that makes these shoes so ground breaking, sandwiched between the foam is a lightweight carbon plate and the two elements work in tandem to deliver propulsion, equating to extra distance with every stride, simply put, more speed ! JR 

Research has shown that these shoes can improve running economy by 4%. One of the first studies completed in 2017 by the Journal of Sports Medicine at the University of Colorado Boulder 'Locomotion Lab' every one of the 18 runners tested had better running economy (the energy needed to run at a given pace) in the Nike Vaporflys. Some of the runners improved by 1.59% while others by 6.26% which is where the shoe name came from, yes, the average improvement was 4%. 

The bottom line is that if two runners of equal ability were to race each other the runner in the Vaporflys would have a 4% advantage. JR

That's all for this week and thanks for reading.

You can find Jack here:  

Enso Human Performance @ensohp 

Hoao Multisport @hoaomultisport


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