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Triathlon Training: 9 Things Triathletes Can Learn From Cyclists

Written on September 11, 2014 at 11:00 am , by

You don’t need to be a pro cyclist to do well in the second leg of your triathlon. That being said, you do need to know the basics and feel comfortable on your bike. Zoot Sports sponsored athlete Jennifer Vogel and I didn’t get into triathlon from a biking background, but before long, cycling quickly became our favorite sport. We teamed up to offer you the tips we wish we knew when we got started on two wheels.

When Buying A Bike…

Know what your max budget is. It’s best to get the most out of the bike that your money can buy because it’s going to have better components, so don’t be afraid to splurge a little up front. You can always upgrade your components later, but buying a good bike to begin with will be a better deal than buying better pieces down the road.

Decide what kind of cyclist you want to be. It’s important to know what you want to do with your bike. You can do a basic noncompetitive triathlon on a road bike, but if you want to be a competitive age grouper, you definitely need a professional triathlon bike. If you want to ride with cyclists on a group or club ride, you cannot use a triathlon bike in a pace line—it’s very dangerous. If you’re not sure where you stand, opt for a road bike, which is much more practical and likely to fulfill a variety of your needs.

Find a good bike shop and make it yours. If you can get a recommendation from a friend, that’ll help a lot. You want a place that will really take a look at your size, the length of your arms and legs, and how flexible you are. Make sure the bike fits you, and not just your budget. It doesn’t matter how cheap or expensive it is, if it doesn’t fit you, you’re going to end up having serious alignment problems, which can lead to injury. Then build a relationship with the staff at the shop. You’ll make plenty of visits for repairs, tune-ups, supplies and gear, and you’ll have a better experience if you’re cool with the people there.

If You Have a Bike…

Graduate to clipping in. This is always the scariest part for beginners, but it’s incredibly important for efficiency and power. If you’ve taken spin classes with clip-in shoes, then you have an idea of what it’s like. Only it’s totally different because the bike is not stationary. For the most part, everyone falls on their first try, so don’t feel bad if it happens to you. To ease yourself in, think about getting an indoor trainer—it’s great for at-home workouts, and you can practice clipping in, grabbing your water bottle and getting in and out of aero position if you have aerobars while the bike is stationary.

Learn how to change a flat. Check in with your local bike shop to see if they offer basic bike maintenance classes. Many have them for free or charge a small fee. This will give you an opportunity for hands-on experience without the panic of sitting on the side of the road with a flat. If that’s not an option, YouTube has a wealth of information. Check out this video on how to fix a flat by Trek Bicycle.

Work on your core. Core strength is incredibly important in cycling and triathlons overall. When you’re in aero position there are no brakes, so you need to be able to get in and out of them quickly without losing control. Walking planks or clapping push ups are great exercises that simulate the same type of movement.

When You’re on the Bike…

Make sure your seat is comfortable. Let’s face it: when riding a bike, your bum is bound to get sore. Of course there’s an initial adjustment period when your sit bones adapt to the saddle, but after that you should never be in pain. Most of the pressure should be on those bones since they can handle it, not on the delicate soft tissues down the center of your lady parts. If you are experiencing pain, the solution could be as simple as adjusting the angle of your saddle or swapping it out for a different option. I personally have a cut-away saddle and find it to be extremely comfortable.

Remember to fuel. Vogel suggests taking in 50-75 calories, in the form of liquids or gel, every 15 minutes during a race. She also finds it easier to have an aero bottle in between your aerobars so it’s right in front of your face and easier to remember to drink. But whether its race day or another training ride, you want to make sure you’re eating and drinking at regular intervals and not waiting until it’s too late. You can do a sprint without taking in anything for a bit, but as you go longer, you don’t want to go an hour without eating anything.

Don’t forget to relax. On race day, it’s easy to feel pressure and get uptight. But one of the best pieces of advice a more experienced cyclist gave me was to just relax.Trust the bike and trust yourself on the bike. When you do, you’re awesome!

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Vogel 

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We Tried It: Trek’s Silque Bike

Written on July 28, 2014 at 10:39 am , by

I recently got the chance to hit the road with Trek Bikes and Trek Travel to tour miles of Vermont countryside on two wheels. (Check out some of their luxury cycling vacations here.) I’ve been road biking for a few years now but never really had the opportunity to completely immerse myself in the sport—until now. For our adventure, we hopped on the Trek Silque (prices vary, trekbikes.com), one of the women’s-specific road bikes nicknamed the “Smooth Operator” for its unique ability to smooth out even the roughest of roads. After riding nearly 90 miles (including one killer climb to Smuggler’s Notch in Stowe) on the bike, I got a good sense of everything this whip has to offer. Some of the highlights include:

  • The “IsoSpeed decoupler,” which isolates the movement of the seat tube from the rest of the frame, so the seat tube is free to absorb more forces from the road. Basically, your bike soaks up road shock so your body doesn’t have to. (Take it from me, you can immediately tell the difference compared to other bikes out there.)
  • A women’s–specific design (WSD) geometry that’s made for your body and is tuned at every size, regardless of frame size, to fit a female rider to the best possible level. This will put you in a position of power for a faster, more stable ride.
  • An electronic gear-shifting system, which offers elite shifting performance so you don’t have to be a pro to adjust to the terrain. (It’s very user-friendly, perfect for beginners.)
  • The trendy colors and designs—As soon as I saw this bike, I was swooning over the white, lime and aloe green color combo and chevron accents. I mean, just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I want to ride a pink bike. And wear pink everything (just saying). But if you’re into pink, that’s cool too. They’ve got tons of options. In fact, you can even customize your own bike design here. Trek’s graphic designer hits up Fashion Week in Berlin every year to be one of the first on the scene of the hottest color and design trends. So no matter what you pick, you’re always going to get something that’s stylish and cool.

All in all, the Silque was an incredible ride and it really struck me how important it is to saddle up and try out some bikes before you buy one. If you want to test-ride one yourself, click here to find a demo coming to a location near you or check in with your local Trek retailer to see if you can take one for a spin.

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Cyclists, Rejoice! A Low-Cost Bike for A High-Quality Ride

Written on July 23, 2014 at 9:50 am , by

Written by Anna Hecht, editorial intern

Too many times I’ve been in a rush to get to work with cyclists zooming by as I power walk at a fraction of the pace. Other times you’ll catch me jogging alongside cyclists in Prospect Park, wishing I, too, could ride around the entire city in just a matter of hours.

But I’ve always held off on buying a bike for one major reason: They’re either affordable and don’t last, or extremely pricey and for more serious riders. There’s no middle ground for a casual rider like myself. So when I heard about a new company, Priority Bicycles, and the fact that they’ve created a lightweight, low-cost, “maintenance-free” bike, I practically jumped in the saddle right then and there.

Now, if you’re anything like me, the first thought that popped in your head was, “Can there really be a maintenance-free bike?” After all, most any bike is bound to show some wear and tear eventually. But after talking with David Weiner, the founder of Priority Bicycles, I’m convinced this ride is as good as it sounds.

“Our most exclusive feature is our belt drive,” explains Weiner. “Most bikes have chains that rust, require lubrication and are susceptible to weather. Belt drives are more durable. We also use the rear hub to contain the gears and brakes, which isolates features that traditionally require maintenance on other bikes.”

On top of all that, the bike has puncture-resistant tires and the seat is held together with bolts, not quick release levers, in order to deter theft. And when purchasing the bike, Priority Bicycles sends a tire pump, assembly tools and a water bottle cage right along with it (usually those all come at an extra cost). Oh, and the bike looks good, giving you three different color options and a sleek, classic design.

When it comes to the low price—ahem, $399—Weiner explains that most everyone in the bicycle industry has “two markups,” meaning the bike company buys it from a factory, then bumps up the price to sell it to the retailer. That retailer turns around and does the same thing, marking it up a second time to the price you see in stores.

Thankfully, Priority Bicycles skips all that. “Our model is to sell consumer-direct only. We buy from the factory using our unique design and send it directly to the consumer. That effectively means you’re getting an $800 bike for $400,” says Weiner. Cha-ching!

Weiner came up with the idea a few years ago, after constantly doling out advice to friends about what bike to buy for their experience level. When he couldn’t find a company that offered high-quality equipment at an affordable price, he hopped onto Kickstarter and created a campaign.  Weiner had a modest goal of raising $30k, but clearly everyone wants a bike like this—the company is over $250k, and there are still 27 days left.  Once the campaign closes on August 14, the bikes will be sold directly from Priority’s website for the standard $399. But if you jump on to Kickstarter, you’ll score a special price of $374 and free shipping.

So hop to it because if you order now, the bike will be made and delivered before the holidays. Christmas gift, anyone?

Photo courtesy of Priority Bicycles

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My 67-Mile Bike Race: FITNESS Advisor Dr. Jennifer Ashton Recaps Her Epic Ride

Written on June 2, 2014 at 12:32 pm , by

Written by Jennifer Ashton, M.D., FITNESS advisory board member and “The Doctors” co-host

Today I completed a 67-mile bike ride. It was, hands-down, the most difficult physical thing I have ever done in my life. It was also the most amazing, fun, emotional, inspiring, frightening and exhilarating feat I have ever accomplished. I had the privilege of riding along with an incredible 17-year-old girl named Lauren Sepanske. Lauren was born with clubfeet and had so many problems with her right foot, that one year ago, she made the decision to have her leg amputated below the knee. Soon after that decision, she appeared on “The Doctors” TV show, where I am a co-host, to share her story. During her segment, she announced on national television that she had planned to ride 100 miles in the Elephant Rock Ride in Castle Rock, Colorado in June! I vowed to do it with her (even though the farthest I had ever ridden was just 21 miles).

When the time came to confirm our race registration, I had just 6 weeks to really train for this ride. I was really only trained to one hour of strenuous cardio at this time, so I decided to sign-up for the 62 mile race part of Elephant Rock. For 6 weeks, I worked with my amazing triathlon coach, Andres Herrera, doing a combo of interval rides, endurance rides and threshold rides. Oh, did I mention that I was doing all of this training INDOORS ON MY SPIN BIKE??? I knew this wasn’t wise, but my schedule and fear of being hit by a car on my road bike told me that it would have to suffice. As the race date drew closer, I was feeling confident, but also was clearly in a state of denial. This ride was in Colorado, at an altitude of 7,500 feet! It was in a very hilly area south of Denver, I was using clips on my pedals for only the second time, and it was forecasted to be a very sunny day, with temps in the low 80’s. When I contemplated all of these separate challenges, I actually wondered if I would even finish the race. In fact, I was so nervous about the physical challenges that I asked my husband, who is also a doctor, to ride with me, because I thought there was a significant chance that I would need medical attention during or after the race!

We got to Colorado 40 hours before the race in an attempt to adjust to the altitude. I pre-hydrated and carb-loaded for 3 to 4 days in advance, like it was my job! For the maximum benefit of increasing glycogen stores, increased carbs need to be consumed for 3 to 4 days prior to an athletic event. When the race started, I took one look at Lauren, with her prosthetic leg, and thought, ‘If she can do it, maybe I can too!’  Early on in the race, I decided to stay with Lauren on the 100-mile course, and just try to make it as far as possible before I had to leave to catch my flight back to NYC and return to sea-level! The race was incredibly challenging on all levels: there were very strong headwinds, steep up-hill climbs, high altitude, hot weather and glaring sun. I managed to keep up with the priority of nutrition and hydration while on the bike, but I also managed a low-speed fall on a turn while forgetting how to use my pedal clips (rookie mistake). The spill left me bruised, scraped and embarrassed, but also left my bike gears badly bent. They were so damaged that I only had use of TWO gears (and sadly not the lowest ones) for the remaining 25 miles of the race. When I had reached the time in the race when I knew I had to leave for the airport, we had made it to mile 67! It had taken us 7 hours, including 3, 15-minute breaks at rest stations to use the porta potties, refill our water bottles, and grab some bagels, bananas and more sunscreen.

According to the heart rate monitor, my HR ranged from 130 to 175 during the race, with an average around 150. I knew that this ride was a massive stress test for my heart, my kidneys, my muscles and my lungs. But it was also a test of my spirit. There were hills that were so steep, I doubted if I would make it to the top. I thought of my children, and of Lauren, and their spirit and strength. At one point, as I reached the top of a 45- minute climb, I started to tear-up thinking of what I had just accomplished.  And now, as I sit on the plane, sore as hell, I realize what an amazing machine the human body is, but also how powerful the human will is. I did something that was WAY out of my comfort zone, and I will never forget it. I am a total beginner rider but I didn’t let that stop me. I took the appropriate medical and athletic precautions, and then pushed my body to a place it had never been. I think I can hear it whimpering, ‘Thank you!’

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Sweat for Good: How YOU Can Kick Cancer to the Curb!

Written on April 4, 2014 at 10:01 am , by

“Ride it forward” is 45-year-old Janeen Parave’s new motto. That’s because the two-time cancer survivor is on a mission to spread awareness and raise funds by training for her second Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) this summer. Last year, Janeen participated in the 190-mile bike-a-thon within a matter of eight months of completing breast and ovarian cancer treatments. And now she’s back—stronger than ever—ready to tackle the Massachusetts mileage this August with a $4,500 goal. Um, can we give her a big virtual high five and “You go, girl!”?

“PMC taught me the value of setting goals and that I can accomplish anything physically and mentally beyond my cancer experiences,” says Janeen. “I learned how resilient the human body can be after being sick. When I crossed that finish line, not only did I know I did something great for others, but I did something extraordinary for myself.”

Help Janeen and other cycling weekend warriors reach their goals in the upcoming months by making a donation—or what the sweat, sign up yourself! Can’t commit to 190 New England miles but still want to make a difference? Get involved with a local event like Soul for Survival or a “Virtual Ride” like Tour de Pink, which allows you to pick the location, when you ride and how much mileage you want to cover for breast cancer research. For you pavement pounders, lace up for an American Cancer Society event near you or stride for another cause you’d like to support, like assistant web editor Sam, who’s training for the New York City Marathon with Team Stop the Clot! Working your tush off never felt so good.

Photo courtesy of Janeen Parave

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McDreamy Gets Dreamier (Believe It!) for Cancer Hope and Healing

Written on October 1, 2013 at 12:23 pm , by

Run/ride like Patrick Dempsey is waiting at the finish line. Oh wait, he is! (Photo credit: Patrick McCarthy)

Known for making scrubs look sexy with ease is none other than McDreamy, and now Patrick Dempsey has fit gals like us weak in the knees by getting his sweat on in bike shorts. Why? Not that we really need a reason, but it’s for a good cause. So yes, he’s good-looking, talented, in incredible shape and philanthropic. (Insert extra swoon here.)

Clearly, biking has become more than just a joy ride for this star. It’s become a passion and family affair with his wife and three kids, plus a way to raise funds for The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing. “I’m not a big fan of running—I really love cycling and the sense that you can go somewhere,” he recently dished, while reminiscing about pedaling around as a kid, the only way for him to get from point A to B at a young age. “Growing up in the country, it was a form of escape and freedom.”

On October 12 and 13, runners, walkers and riders—including Dempsey—will come together for the fifth-annual Dempsey Challenge in Lewiston, Maine to support his center. Founded in 2008 after the actor’s mother battled three bouts of ovarian cancer, the safe haven provides free support, education and integrative medicine services for those impacted by cancer. “The last four years, we’ve raised over a million dollars in the event. It’s incredible,” Dempsey says. “It’s amazing the amount of support and commitment people have to the challenge. We’re going to have fun things around, like food trucks and entertainment, to celebrate. Plus, everyone gets lobster and beer at the end!”

Between his time on the big screen, a little show called Grey’s Anatomy and now the race track—he clearly has a need for speed—finding time to get his sweat on can be tough, the Clif Bar lover admits. (His fave flavors? Crunchy Peanut Butter and Blueberry Crisp.) “I try to balance it between going to the gym and getting a good core workout in. And then getting out on the bike for at least an hour, hour and half if I can, three or four times a week.” Hikes in the mountains surrounding Santa Monica and barefoot runs along the beach are also a part of his training. “I find that to be low impact on my body,” he says. “The sand helps stabilize your core!” Uh huh, drink in that image…

To learn more about this year’s challenge and their incredible partnerships—Dempsey raved about Positive Tracks, a New Hampshire-based non-profit that encourages the youth to get active and give back through charitable athletic efforts—be sure to head over to their website, ‘like’ their Facebook page and follow the event on Twitter.

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Cyclists Give Back: Braking the Cycle Bike Ride Fights AIDS

Written on August 20, 2012 at 1:36 pm , by

Get fit for a cause you care about, and bring friends! (Photo courtesy of Alan Barnett Photography)

Written by Dionne Evans, editorial intern

If you’re a cyclist and looking for ways to give back, think about gearing up for this meaningful ride. From September 28-30, the tenth annual Braking the Cycle event will take place in Boston, with all proceeds going to the Housing Works charity to fight AIDS.

Braking the Cycle was founded by Global Impact Productions 10 years ago so that those with AIDS wouldn’t be forgotten. The “civil rights march on two wheels” is a three-day biking event when over 100 bikers – some who have HIV, others who’ve lost loved ones to AIDS – will ride 285 miles from Boston to New York City to show that “the AIDS community is alive and well.”

Hopeful riders must pay a $95 registration fee and commit to raise $3,500 before the ride.  Each entrant receives a coach to help them with training and fundraising.

For more information on how you can contribute to the cause, or put the pedal to the medal, visit Braking the Cycle’s website.

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Entrepreneur Treks Across U.S. for American Heart Association

Written on August 15, 2012 at 1:42 pm , by

Justin plans to cycle across the country to help the American Heart Association. (Photo courtesy of Justin McClelland)

Written by Dionne Evans, editorial intern

Justin McClelland, a 31-year-old St. Lous entrepreneur, is taking a break from his usual life and moving to the open road. Today, he begins a cycling journey from New York City to Los Angeles. His mission: to raise awareness, and $10,000, for the American Heart Association.  We chatted with McClelland before he hopped in the saddle to find out what motivates him to keep going, and who he hopes to affect on this journey.

Have you done anything like this before?

I’ve never been a cyclist. I grew up liking BMX, but the bike I have right now is the first I’ve ever known.

How are you preparing, then?

The trip is 3,300 miles, so I’ll be traveling for 33 days – I plan on riding 100 miles per day. I’ve only done a couple of long rides so far, but I primarily do two-a-day workouts each day: I run for 30 minutes, get on the stationary bike for another 30 and jump rope for a final 30 minutes. I also do weight training for my upper body, lower body, and core. I’m conditioning myself to be active daily, but I don’t want to burn myself out on the bike before the actual ride happens.

Were you really active before taking on this challenge?

I’ve always been very active. The last three weeks hasn’t been that big of a jump for me. Before, I worked out once a day. I’ve lived a pretty active lifestyle for as long as I can remember.

Do you know what your stops will be, or can people follow along?

I’m going through the midwest, mostly on back roads and rural highways. I don’t have a strict schedule because I didn’t want one to get in the way of enjoying the ride.  But for some semblance of order, I’m aiming to cover 100 miles a day. I’ll be tweeting and blogging throughout the trip at my website, iHeartCardio, and then I’ll compose a documentary about the entire experience after it’s all done.

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The Reve Project: Six Women Get Ready to Tackle the Tour de France

Written on June 26, 2012 at 11:00 am , by

Powilson (third in line) rides with her teammates. (Photo Michael Robertson/VeloDramatic)

Before the boys hop on their bikes Saturday, June 30 to compete in the 2012 Tour de France, six women will already be completing the course a day before them. Enter the Reve Project, a group of six women ranging from mothers to business owners who are riding the 2,162 mile route to help raise funds for Bikes Belong, the largest cycling advocacy group in the U.S. to get more women involved in the sport. We got the chance to chat with teammate Kate Powlison on her training, diet and nerves leading up to race day.

What is the goal of the Reve Project?

The basic goal is to inspire women to ride bikes more often. We figure by riding the Tour de France together and covering every mile of a highly male dominated sport, we can prove that women can do it too.

What made you decide on the Tour de France? Why not another shorter event?

The Tour de France is one of the most visible events for cycling. When you ask the average person about the sport, it’s the Tour de France and Lance Armstrong that usually comes to mind first. So it’s a perfect platform to reach a large amount of women. It’s a way to show women who perhaps used to ride and stopped or have never even hopped on a bike before that it’s not too late to get started.

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How Cyclist Evelyn Stevens Went From Wall Street to Olympic Hopeful

Written on June 4, 2012 at 12:46 pm , by

Stevens is planning to train at altitude for the month or so prior to the Games. (Photo courtesy of BMW Performance Team)

Some athletes aim for sports glory from a young age. Cyclist Evelyn Stevens is not one of them. In 2007, when she was seeking a casual way to stay fit as a Wall Street associate, Stevens discovered—and fell in love with—cycling. Within three years, she was racing on one of the best female teams in the world and had finished first at the U.S. National Time Trial.

This year, as Stevens is gearing up for London, she was voted onto the BMW Performance Team, which helps Olympic and Paralympic athletes focus on making the team and reaching their goals. “It’s allowed me to continue to focus on making the Olympic Games, but also because it shows I have fan support,” Stevens says.

In her own words, here’s how Stevens made the transition from trading to training in one year flat.

  • “When I first started biking in June 2008, I absolutely fell in love with it. I found it to be the most freeing activity, plus it got you fit very quickly! A year after I bought my first bike, I decided to take a big risk and make a big change by following my heart, passion and dreams.”
  • “I am fueled by challenges and immediately I was driven to become the best cyclist I could become, I didn’t know if that would just be at the amateur level or at the professional level, I just knew I wanted to push my limits”
  • “I will always remember my first 10-day stage race in May of 2010, as my body was suffering, I couldn’t help but think that only a year ago I was spending my day in front of a computer, instead of racing up mountains in the Pyrenees!”
  • “In order to thrive in cycling and in finance, you have to be driven and competitive. You have to be able to work well with a team and in stressful environments. Also, attention to detail is hugely important in cycling as it was during my career in finance—all of the small things make a big difference.”
  • “I love my Specialized Amira SL4 road bike, and a comfortable saddle pair of shorts are an absolute must. If you are just getting into riding, definitely take the time to find a saddle that is comfortable and don’t be afraid to try out a variety of different ones in a shop. And I never get on my bike without my helmet.”

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