Friday, May 8, 2009

Research Underway To Improve Training Outcomes

Bicycling Magazine’s June Issue carries an intriguing, but brief, article by Lisa Fields on improving training for fitness through sleep ( pg. 64). After reading the article, I was covering some of it’s finer points with my good buddy “Bad Axe Bob”, himself a local cyclist of absolutely no note. To the best of my knowledge, BAB still holds the record for longest finish time over the shortest course in Western North Carolina history. BAB once set out to conquer the climb to the highest point of the Blue Ridge Parkway. He figured the headline in the local paper would read “BAB BOPS BRP”. Unfortunately for Bad Axe, his training program apparently left something to be desired and he was only able to complete a short assault beginning on the Balsam side of the mountain. One trial learning taught him that a cadence of 10 rpm is slightly less than required to keep a bike vertical when climbing. I mention this only to validate Bad Axe’s unqualified stature as a pundit on matters of training and cycling.

I was explaining to BAB the generalities of the article in which Fields posits that 6 hours of sleep for cyclists in training is insufficient and that 8 to 10 hours of sleep is an aid to an overall training program. Fields goes on to discuss the different stages of sleep and their importance. Field’s article includes a suggested cycle of sleep in order to get the most out of your overall training program.

Knowing of the importance of proper sleep patterns from my 35+ years as a behavioral counselor, I thought that I might assist Bad Axe in his ongoing training by helping him to understand the importance of good sleep. The Field’s article was an excellent introduction to my conversation with BAB. I found out pretty quickly that BAB had his own thoughts on the matter and it became necessary to overcome a few of the deeply cherished training techniques that he felt led to quality sleep of 8+ hours. Here are his top 3 training tips, in no particular order,  that no one of any decent reputation would support.

  • Beginning approximately 6 hours before bedtime, consume between 8 and 12 16 oz beers leading up to a final glass of your favorite red wine 20 minutes before bedtime. The red wine assures that you are getting anti-oxidants to fight off all those nasty free radicals in your system. (Note to self: continue to fight BAB’s belief that free radicals are ex-hippies that come to your rally at no cost.)
  • After passing out and awakening in the middle of the night, recall that you must get through ALL of the sleep cycles in order to get the maximum benefit of healthy sleep. In order to return to sleep but assure yourself of the necessary time to sleep, pick up the phone and call your boss’s extension at work. Explain that you must have eaten something bad and are feeling sick. Assure him/her that you will be in to work noonish. (It is important in this step that you DO NOT confuse your boss’s work phone with his/her home phone. If this happens, much can be lost!)
  • If you feel that you must go to the bathroom at this point, DO IT even though it may harm your body’s efforts at producing melatonin. Your day will start off in a much worse state of mental health if you fail to heed your body’s call to the toilet. The risk of negatively affecting melatonin production is considerably less critical than the risk of waking your loving spouse as you change the sheets under him/her. (For more information on the importance of melatonin production, the reader is referred to Field’s article.)

As you can see, I was up against a fairly tough customer in Bad Axe Bob. In fact, at one point in the conversation, BAB lowered his early morning beer to the table, glared across the the slightly grimy surface into my eyes and said “if yer so smart, why don’t you follow that great sleep plan?” So, never being one to shy from a challenge, I immediately assured BAB that I would do so. I offer the following image only for the purposes of documenting my ongoing research project into healthy sleep patterns and improved performance. It is my strong belief that given sufficient sleep time to consider my cycling goals, I will eventually conquer my personal Rush Fork.



Upcoming items of interest! The Giro d’Italia starts today.  While Team Astana will start in their Astana kit, will they finish in it? Our local effort at creating a Bicycle Advocacy Group is only 3 days from kick-off! More to come… 

O.K., I’ve got to get back to my training. Until later,

-- Zeke

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