Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fitness Smorgasbord

I was the team photographer for the Berkeley Wheelmen while I was in college in the late 60's/early 70's. This is a picture I took of the sprint at the end of a road race. I have included it here to illustrate the concept of training rides ridden at a brisk pace (e.g. intervals.)

Even though I am not an expert on cycling or training, I do value my own experience. That said, there is an extra confidence that comes when I meet a fellow traveler who has come to the same conclusion I have. This happened to me while reading a recent column by Lovely Bicycle. I had been speculating about the efficacy of using brisk training (intervals) to prepare for long rides and she speculates about the same thing. Additionally, Bicycling magazine has weighed in on the topic. As a follower of Bicycling on Google+ (yes, somebody actually uses Google+) I am offered articles on new training plans at least once a week. Examples include "Interval Training for Weight Loss - Burn More Fat", "Ride Faster in Three Days Per Week", and now, in "Quick Cycling Workouts for Power and Endurance." The last article presents a schedule of intervals that Bicycling Magazine claims will improve endurance. Honestly, I cannot tell if they are saying these specific interval schedules are good for endurance or if intervals in general are good for endurance. I hope it is the latter, because the intervals I have been doing don't look anything at all like these.

Another lesson I think I have learned is that it is much better to slightly under-train than to slightly over-train, that when in doubt, I should train less. Recently, Bicycling published an article about Meredith Miller, a professional cyclocross racer, who claims "she doesn't train." An actual reading of the article suggests something closer to what I have been finding; a valuing of resting over training. Once again, it is a comfort when I have made a discovery on my own and I am wondering if it is true or an illusion, to read about someone else making the same discovery.

When I restarted cycling, one of my first influences was Philip Maffetone. He advocates the virtue of training at a low heart rate, roughly Zone 2 on the Zone 1 through Zone 5 system I use. Zone 2 is a relatively easy ride; the test for the proper level of effort is that one should be able to talk in complete sentences while riding in Zone 2, but not sing. Since first encountering Dr. Maffetone's ideas, I have remained both interested and skeptical. Thus, it was of great interest to me when, once again, Bicycling Magazine published an article about the great success Tour de France veteran Fred Rodrriguez had with a training plan consisting entirely of training in Zone 2.

One of the most seductive fallacies in statistics comes from failing to correct for multiple sampling. In a statistical analysis, the result can often be expressed as a P value, corresponding to the chance that the result observed could have occurred by chance. The most common cutoff for statistical significance is P=0.05, meaning that there is only 1 chance in 20 that the result being tested is due to chance. However, if you do 20 different experiments, you are likely to see such a correlation even if all of them are random. Bicycling magazine publishes so many different training plans and articles about training, I have to wonder if I could find one to support almost any training idea I ever had; is this support even meaningful? One the other hand, the article by Lovely Bicycle may well be the only training article she ever published. That one I can take to the bank!

News Flash

On of my most common rides starts at my front door, goes about a mile on city streets to the middle of the Braes Bayou multi-use trail, and then heads west on that trail to its termination at Gessner Road. This is a 17 mile ride, round trip. About four or five months ago, I noticed construction at the end of the trail that promised to lengthen this ride, a welcome change. Unfortunately, after the initial construction, everything seemed to stop. Thus, I was enormously excited today when I got to the end of the trail to see that the previously dirt extensions were now paved:

This trail extension is not yet open, but it seems we are getting closer. I can't wait!

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