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RACING IN THE ZONE
 
The phrase in the zone is used a lot in sport, but what does it mean? My take is that it is a heightened sense of awareness in which the athlete is focused, performing optimally, and in tune with their body physically and mentally. In short, they are on top of their game. So how does one get into their zone during a triathlon?
 
There is only one optimal pace for each athlete; basically, the quickest means to get from point A to B. The first step is determining what that pace is. This is going to be predicated on your experience, knowledge of conditions, tactics, and, most importantly, training. Do not expect to race substantially faster than you have been training, as your fitness level will determine your pace and speed. Your pacing system may be based on your heart rate, power on the bike, or speed and it will vary with course, race length, and event type. Once you have your pacing strategy figured out, the most important thing is to adhere to it. Situations may arise that may cause you to adapt your pacing strategy, but if you are chasing down every athlete who passes you, you are off your game and into theirs. An athlete who is in the zone controls their own race.
 
Every athlete is nervous, excited, or mildly anxious before a race. An athlete that is in the zone knows how to mitigate this anxiety and use it to their advantage. They take some time to visualize their success, how the race will unfold, and practice transitions in their head. They control and channel this energy and put it to productive use. They stay positive and remove all self doubt or conflict.
 
Once the starting gun goes off, the zone athlete is on autopilot to some extent. They react but do not overreact. They keep their emotions at bay and are in the moment. They remain focused even if things do not go as planned and are intrepid and unshakable. There are numerous examples of athletes who have crashed or had a mechanical or some other mishap happen out of their control and go on to win the event.
 
During the race, the zone athlete follows a process. This means carefully monitoring heart rate, cadence, power, form, and nutrition to use the right amount of energy at the right time and not have anything left over at the finish line. Their economy does not fade as much as other athletes. I can often determine if my athlete stayed in the zone by their post race data. If it is very stochastic or faded on the run, I know they did not pace correctly, chased other athletes, or generally did not stay focused. The athlete in the zone moves quickly but methodically through transitions without fumbling. They do not forget to eat or drink, but fuel and hydrate precisely according to their plan.
 
Racing can be a very emotional experience but emotions can work against you, or even defeat you. It is a skill to channel your emotions and mental energy into speed. And, like any other skill, it must be learned and practiced. Successful athletes are very adept at using mental skills such as visualization and positive self-talk to put themselves ahead of the pack. This starts by identifying mental limiters just as you would your physical limiters and then converting the negative into a positive. Set a reasonable expectation level and measurable goals. It is okay to dream big but your goals should be specific, performance-related, and attainable. Create a race mantra for yourself to play over and over in your head. Consider the personal reasons you race, what drives you, and what your reward will be; then go doggedly pursue them. Another characteristic of successful athletes is that they enjoy racing and have fun. This perhaps is the greatest reward of all.
 
Matt Russ has coached and trained athletes up to the professional level, domestically and internationally, for over 20 years. He currently holds the highest level of licensing by both USA Triathlon and USA Cycling, and is a licensed USA Track and Field Coach. Matt is Head Coach and owner of The Sport Factory, and coaches athletes of all levels full time. He is also free lance author and his articles are regularly featured in a variety of magazines and websites. Visit www.sportfactory.com for more information or email him at coachmatt@sportfactory.com
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My wife and I drove in from Alabama for VO2 tests and it was worth the trip. I receive a wealth of information and will be back in six months.
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PROGRESSIVE, GRADUAL, AND QUANTIFIABLE- THE TRAINING PROCESS
 
By Matt Russ
 
Random training produces random results. You may get faster, you may get slower, or you may make no progress at all. In order to increase your fitness level a few basic and key elements need to be in place. These elements are crucial to your athletic success and should be considered in designing your plan. 
 
The first element is progression. Your body reacts to a stressor (work out), recovers and adapts to that stressor in the form of increased strength, speed, endurance, or power. If you apply the same stress load week after week you will not progress. This is intuitive in regards to endurance; you have to increase mileage or duration each week in order to get to your race goal. Strength, power, and speed work require a similar progression. You must add greater stress loads each week, and recover, in order to move forward. 
 
If you add too much stress too quickly, or with inadequate recovery, you will overload your system and degrade your performance rather than increase it. A gradual progression in stress load is the next key element. In considering weekly increase of total stress load or volume, try not to increase more than 10% with a goal of roughly 6-8%. Weekly volume includes intensity and duration. It is also important to note that an increase in intensity will require greater recovery time even if duration stays the same. As intensity comes up, volume should come down. This progression may seem slow, but even a 1% increase in fitness per week is enormous progress through a season. 
 
Lastly, quantify your training and progress. If your goal is simply to complete a race you need only to be concerned with endurance. A steady increase in duration or mileage will get you to your goal. Strength, speed, or power intervals should be similarly quantified. Each week gradually increase the number, duration, or intensity of your intervals. A coach can help you determine what workouts are best performed at what point in your season. Quantifiable results will motivate. Often athletes are unaware if they are making any progress at all. Make sure you write your plan down so you can see your progression. Monthly field tests are another way to quantify progress. After a rest day record your average heart rate, speed, and distance over a 30 minute time trial. Try to keep the test conditions consistent as much as possible.
 
Rest and recovery should be quantified as well. Make sure you reduce your volume every 4th week to ensure complete recovery both physically and mentally. Generally I do not train my athletes hard for more than 3 days in a row without a rest or recovery day. With multi-sport athletes the various demands of each sport can be used to balance your plan. An example would be swimming the day after a hard run to give your body a rest from impact. It is important to note that your body is weaker after a workout and only gets stronger if it recovers properly. Keep a log of your sleep, resting heart rate, and stress levels to indicate signs of overreaching or overtraining. Overloading is the normal training process. It simply means increasing the stress on your body to cause adaptation to the stress. It is typical to feel short term fatigue with overload. Overreaching occurs when you continue to train at abnormally high loads, or increase them for about 2 weeks. Performance now noticeably decreases and fatigue becomes longer lasting, but with a few days rest it is quickly reversible. If you ignore overreaching, you enter the third stage; overtraining which can take months to recover from. 
 
By incorporating these elements into your training plan you will not only get faster, you will reduce your risk of injury. I am often able to decrease athletes overall volume and produce greater results through more focused training and increased recovery. Remember to place a greater emphasis on quality of training versus quantity.
 
 
Matt Russ has coached and trained elite athletes from around the country and internationally for over twenty years. He achieved the highest levels of licensing by both USA Triathlon and USA Cycling (Elite), and is a licensed USA Track and Field Coach. Matt is head coach and owner of The Sport Factory, and works with athletes of all levels full time. He is a free lance author and his articles are regularly featured in a variety of magazines such as Inside Triathlon, and Triathlete. Visit www.sportfactory.com for more information or email him at coachmatt@sportfactory.com
 
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MENTAL SKILLS FOR TRAINING AND RACING

By Matt Russ

Being physically gifted is only one attribute of a successful athlete. There are many others that are not so easily quantified such as drive, ambition, determination, and the ability to focus mentally through adversity. These mental skills are not genetically imposed, but are learned from a variety of sources such as parents, coaches, sport psychologists and other athletes. Learning and refining your mental skills can give you an advantage over more talented but less focused athletes. The ability to focus mentally is equally important in training and racing, and can make each work out more productive. Mental skills are an often neglected part of training. It is advantageous to develop and refine your mental as well as your physical skills.

There are many internal and external stimuli that can invade your psyche and cause you to lose focus. Examples of external stimuli are weather, a chronic injury, or a malfunctioning bicycle. Internal factors that can reduce focus are fear (crash), self doubt, anger at another competitor, or simply a wandering mind. There are a variety of techniques to combat these stimuli. They include scanning, self coaching, reverse conditioning, and visualization.

Scanning is the practice of regularly monitoring and adjusting yourself as you train or race. If you use a heart rate monitor you must periodically check to make sure you are in the proper heart rate zone. Have you ever looked at your monitor and found yourself 10 beats out of your range? Scanning can prevent this from happening. Safety is a foremost concern, so make sure you are scanning the upcoming terrain, the course for obstacles or road debris, the riders around you, and traffic. Scanning your environment is especially important in a pack or pace line where you are riding in close quarters. Assuming you have a work out that considers heart rate, cadence, and timed intervals you must monitor and be aware of all these systems as you ride. Practice scanning this data at regular intervals and it will become a habit. You can also scan your riding for bad form, or to remind yourself to eat and drink. If you have particular techniques that need improvement, check your form every few minutes. "Is my back straight?" "Am I in proper climbing position?" Dehydration can drastically affect performance. You can set a watch alarm to remind yourself to drink every 10-15 minutes.

Have you ever talked to yourself as you competed or trained? You can develop the voice inside your head into a self coach by preparing mental responses to various cues or situations as you ride. If you have worked with a coach he or she observes your form and gives you instant feedback which, hopefully, you respond to and correct yourself. You can recreate these same coaching responses to cues and follow them with positive feedback. Take cornering for example. When you approach a turn (cue) you may repeat this sequence "SET IT UP (meaning choose your line), LEAN (into the turn), STAND (on the outside pedal), NOW HAMMER! (out of the turn)." By repeating this sequence you go through the mental process of properly cutting a turn, and are less likely to make a mistake. You already know mentally what to do, you just follow through physically. If you have a particular technical weakness, try to come up with a word sequence or sentence to talk yourself through the process. Mainly what you are accomplishing is creating a conscious habit. Eventually it will be performed automatically, and will become subconscious. As you complete a skill, give yourself positive feedback and encouragement as a coach would such as "good climb," or "time to sprint." If you did not complete a task to satisfaction, objectively evaluate what went wrong and provide yourself specific feedback for improvement: "I hit my brakes too late in the turn." 

Just as positive reinforcement helps you improve, negative reinforcement holds you back by fixating on your weaknesses. Negative thinking is like a headwind; it allows self-doubt to creep in and allows you to lose focus. There is nothing to be gained from this type of thinking, and it can reduce your performance or shut you down completely. Take the two phrases, "I can" and "I can't." If you were to perform two challenging climbs repeating each phrase over and over, which climb would you perform better on? Everyone has negative thoughts enter their mind. When they do, reverse conditioning can help combat that negativity. Simply come up with a counter phrase to combat the negative thought. Suppose you show up for your race and it starts to rain, instead of thinking "this will really slow me down," tell yourself "this will really slow the other riders down." Have a catch phrase or word to halt negative thinking before it enters your psyche such as "nothing is slowing me down," or "forward!" Do not fixate on that which is out of your control (weather), and stay focused on the current process (not the awards ceremony). Be specific in your reverse conditioning. If you are struggling on a climb, combat "I am not a climber," with "FORWARD! Smooth, steady, keep your spin up, and watch your form." 

Visualization mentally prepares and focuses you on the job ahead. By walking through, and practicing a process in your head you are more likely to perform it properly in reality. An area I have found visualization particularly useful in is transitions. By visualizing each component of transition in order, dismounting, removing your helmet, shoes, etc., it will become more automatic in a race. Ride the course a day before the race, and then go over it in your head the night before. Where are the hills? Where are you strongest? Where should you attack? If you have a particularly difficult work out, visualize your effort and the outcome (improvement) before you start. 

Essentially, the more intense the work the more important these mental skills will become. It is far easier to stay focused during an easy foundation work out, versus a hard tempo pace. The more specific the work becomes the more monitoring and mental focus is required. Racing is the most intense work you will do. If you have yourself mentally prepared and conditioned before the race you are already ahead.

Matt Russ has coached and trained elite athletes from around the country and internationally for over twenty years. He has achieved the highest level of licensing by both USA Cycling and USA Triathlon and is a USA Track and Field Coach. Matt is head coach and owner of The Sport Factory, and works with athletes of all levels full time. He is a free lance author and his articles are regularly featured in a variety of magazines and publications. Visit https://www.sportfactoryproshop.com for more information or email him at coachmatt@sportfactory.com
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SHOULD I BUY A POWER METER?

by Coach Matt Russ

“Should I buy a power meter?” is one of the more common questions I get from our athletes, followed by “which one?” Although I believe training with power does offer a significant advantages in training accuracy and analysis, I also recognize that it is not for everyone. There are some key questions you should ask yourself before purchasing a power meter.

What is your budget? Power meters are expensive and there are not a lot of viable options under $1000. Many athletes are waiting (and have been waiting) for power meters to come down in price; however, I don't foresee a major drop in price any time soon until more competition is introduced into the market. There are some new options in various stages of development but right now the major brands (Power Tap, Stages, Pioneer, SRM) each have a fairly established niche or price point. For now, your budget largely dictates the power meter you will be able to purchase. Each power meter has its pros and cons but the more expensive models do have specific benefits. A good place to start is determining what you are willing to spend.

What is your technical aptitude? For some athletes a power meter will simply be a more expensive bike computer. Unless you are willing to take the time to learn the device, its use, and function, it will be of little value to you. If you are not technically-minded and have trouble working your cell phone, a power meter may not be a good purchase. Power training technology, like any other complex technology, has become more complex as features are added. The rewards are there, but only if the complexity does not drive you nuts first. On the coaching side we charge more for power training due to the additional time it takes in analysis and technical support. A good place to start is by reading the book “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” by Hunter Allen and Andy Coggin. If you can not make it through Chapter One, I would suggest either hiring a coach to help you in handling a power-based training plan design and analysis, or, perhaps, saving your money.

Which device? As I stated, all power meters have their pros and cons. I do believe that a triathlete, or any athlete using multiple wheelsets, is best served by a bottom bracket-based power meter such as an SRM or Ergomo. There is a significant difference in price between a Power Tap and SRM, and you would need to purchase two Power Tap wheels; one for training and one for racing, in order to get the same value of both training and racing with a power meter. Unfortunately, the expensive carbon race wheels are not designed for everyday use; thus, the need for a training Power Tap. However, even with two Power Taps you are in the same ballpark price-wise (or under) the price of an SRM. One major advantage Power Tap has introduced is the wireless model. Wires and connectors get damaged with use; period. Eliminating them is a major step forward in technology. The bottom bracket-based Ergomo has a price point that is right in between the Power Tap and SRM, however there have been issues with the US distributer and service and support of the device in the past. Power Tap and SRM both have excellent customer and technical support departments, good warranties, and a quick turn-around on service. For a highly technical device, I believe this is a very important selling point.

What about a Computrainer or 300PT indoor cycle? Both the Computrainer and Cycleops 300PT are good power training options. However, I put these two options in a different category as you can not train outdoors or race with them. The Computrainer is a great option if you spend a lot of time indoors on your trainer. Not only do you get power data, but there are a variety of software options that allow you to ride various race courses, analyze your pedal stroke, and even create your own courses using a GPS device. The Cycleops 300PT is a very high quality indoor cycle that incorporates a power meter. It is solid, simple, and allows you to adjust it to the same fit specifications as most bikes. The 300PT head unit is fully uploadable and is almost identical to a Power Tap head unit. Both of these devices allow you to train with power and are high quality; however, if you are looking for full-time power training / race data, I do not recommend them.
How will a power meter help my training and racing? A power meter will NOT make you a better cyclist. It is an instrument and a data recorder and does not power the bike. The two main advantages to a power meter are that it acts as a “carrot” to help push you to new levels and serves as a tool for analysis of training efficacy; or lack thereof. The “carrot” is knowing what your current power levels are; and then trying to beat them. I believe this may pull that extra 5-10% out of you that heart rate or RPE (Register of Perceived Exertion) training will not. It gives you real time feedback on how hard you are actually working. It can be used as a valuable pacing tool for a wide variety of event types and distances. For sports such as mountain biking or cyclocross, it is a good analysis tool but not as useful for training or racing outdoors due to the nature of these sports.
Using a power meter every second of every ride offers data points for analysis. By plotting them and tracking them over time you will see the trends in your power throughout the season and from season to season. If all is going well, you will see a slow steady increase in your various power levels. Nothing motivates like progress and a power meter definitely indicates how well your training is progressing. There are also a great many ways to analyze power training beyond simple power increase over time. Training Stress Score and Intensity Factor indicate how stressful or intensive a ride or race was in relation to your threshold power, or average sustainable power for one hour. Quadrant Analysis and Power Profiling help identify individual areas of strength or weakness. Chronic and Acute Training Loads chart reaction to training stress over time. Some of these concepts are complicated and may be beyond what the average cyclist is willing to learn and invest their time in. However, simply knowing your power capabilities is useful. For instance, if you know your power is generally “X” at “X” heart rate this information helps indicate overreaching within your training cycle. If your wattage is particularly low on a given day or you have trouble achieving a desired wattage level, it is a simple indication that you may need a day of rest. This more than anything can drastically affect the efficacy of your training plan.

A power meter is also an effective pacing tool. You can more effectively gauge your energy output and learn how to conserve it. You can also use a power meter as a tool for fit adjustment and equipment change by analyzing how changes affect power output at a particular heart rate level.

Once you have purchased a power meter, be patient and take the time to learn its functions. That means breaking out the user manual, learning to calibrate it, and learning the various settings. Each device comes with proprietary software but there are also options such as Training Peaks or WKO for more detailed analysis. The more you learn about power training, the more value you will get out of your investment.
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My wife and I drove in from Alabama for VO2 tests and it was worth the trip. I receive a wealth of information and will be back in six months.
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CYCLING SAFETY IN NUMBERS

By Matt Russ

Cycling in a group may increase your safety or detract from it. This largely is predicated on the behavior and experience of the group members. If you are leading a group ride, you have a direct impact on your group members' safety and security; a responsibility that should be taken seriously. The risks are compounded if you are riding in an area that has heavy traffic. As a sport, cycling has the second highest incidence of injury. Many of these are serious or even catastrophic. The good news is with a little awareness, practice, and plain old common sense, you can greatly reduce the risk to yourself and those you ride with.

There are some steps you should take before the rubber meets the road. Start by making sure everyone's bicycle is in proper working order. There is usually one person in the group who is mechanically inclined and apt to help others with their equipment. Designate this person as your team mechanic and have them give a quick visual inspection to the group members' bicycles. Tires should especially be checked for wear, cracks, cuts, and road debris. Make sure everyone has a flat kit and inflation system, cell phone, food and water, helmet and eye protection, and that their tires are properly inflated. At least one person should carry a small first aid kit. Hopefully everyone in group can change a tube but that is usually not the case. At least one person should be proficient at changing flats. Discuss the route you will take, the traffic patterns, areas of danger, and rules of the road. If the route is complex, a map is a great idea. Designate one member as the group leader who will lead the ride.

Once you are rolling your exposure to danger increases and so should your awareness. The following will help you stay upright and safe.


Can the Chatter

You probably enjoy the social aspects of training with others but this reduces your level of alertness. You have to be acutely aware of what is going on around you once on the road. Catch up with your friends before the ride or grab a drink after. If you are riding in areas with heavy traffic, you need to pay attention to the road; even more so than you would when driving your car. You must be on the lookout for road obstacles and debris, dogs, your fellow cyclists, as well as traffic. You are also not as visible to inattentive drivers. Remember that your bicycle does not have seatbelts, airbags, or crash protection.


Single File, Please

Many cyclists enjoy riding side by side so that they can converse during their ride. Not only does this pose a danger to themselves, it can cause traffic to veer even deeper into the oncoming lane. It also causes bad blood between cyclists and motorists. Although it may be legal in your area to ride in tandem, avoid disrupting the flow of traffic if at all possible. No one likes to be late for work.

Signal

If you are the ride leader it is important to let your fellow cyclists know your intentions via hand signals. Road debris can cause a safety issue. You can indicate a pothole, glass, or other hazard by pointing to the road towards the hazard (left or right). If you are stopping, extend your left arm downward at a 45 degree angle with the palm of your hand facing towards the rear. The hand signals for turns are a straight and horizontal left arm for a left turn and a raised left arm, elbow bent 90 degrees and hand up for right. I have found, however, that most people do not know what the right turn signal means, and this can put you in danger. When signaling in traffic I point in the direction I am turning (left or right arm), finger extended, and move my hand up and down. Make sure everyone in your ride group knows what these hand signals mean.

Speak

If a car is approaching from the rear, call out car back. If a car is approaching from the front, call out car up. If you see glass in the road, point and call out glass, or bump, dog, etc.. If you are stopping, call out stopping. One word of caution when calling out clear is that it may be clear when you begin to cross the intersection but this can quickly change as a car approaches at 50 mph. This means that the person behind you who took your clear at face value is now heading in front of a moving vehicle. For this reason, I avoid calling out clear and advise each cyclist to stop and cross when they see that the intersection is safe and clear.

Etiquette

Keep a safe distance from the person in front of you, at least a bike length even when drafting. If you are on their rear tire, you will have almost no time to react if they stop or swerve suddenly and you may crash into them. Your visibility of road hazards is also reduced. Do not overlap a cyclists rear tire with your front tire. If they move quickly to avoid a road obstacle, their rear tire will strike your front tire sending you to the pavement very quickly and perhaps them as well. A cyclist's rear wheel is protected air space. Do not assume that that they want you back there. If you encounter another cyclist on the road, it is considered bad form to draft behind them without their consent. Either pass or drop back, but dont suck their wheel.

Pacing

Cyclists like to ride with other cyclists of similar fitness capacities, goals, and / or training objectives. This works well in small groups, but with each added cyclist the ego quotient can go up. If you are leading the ride, try to keep the pace steady and consistent. Take turns pulling or leading the group. Weaker riders may have a hard time in the front of the group and would be better served sitting farther back, whereas the stronger riders are more challenged leading. Keep your group together. If a cyclist is falling off the back, do not leave them. Stop at each intersection or turn and wait for them to catch up. If they are significantly slowing the group, politely explain to them at the end of the ride that they must keep pace next time. However, this in all likelihood will be self-evident. If a stronger rider is frustrated with a pace that is too slow, they can proceed ahead at their own pace and risk. Make sure they know they are now on their own. I have observed cyclists open a huge gap on the group only to miss the next turn. The group must chase them down in order to save them from being lost, and this does not build a lot of good will. Dont lead unless you know where you are going.

Overall, the larger the group, the harder it will be to please everyone. You may be better served riding in a small group of 4-6 like-minded cyclists. It is okay to be choosy with whom you ride. One bad apple can spoil the barrel, as they say.

There are a lot of dynamics that occur with group training. Each little peloton is unique. Some are very aggressive; blowing through stoplights and wagging the middle finger. Others are very safe and consciences. Realize that those you ride with have a direct impact on your safety. They are a reflection on you and the cycling community. Ultimately, your group will affect your longevity and enjoyment of cycling.
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MOTIVATE ME?

By Coach Matt Russ

Motivation is something athletes are always looking for but it can at times be elusive.  Motivation can put a lesser skilled athlete on the podium standing over his more gifted and talented competition. It is the life blood of training. Simply put motivation is the measure of how much an individual wants to achieve a goal; but sources of motivation are as varied as athletes.

It is important to ask yourself why you are training. Is it to get physically fit, for fun, a challenge, social interaction, build confidence, to learn a skill, or to compete and win? You may train for a combination of these reasons or for a completely different reason. However, you do not want to find yourself wondering why you are working toward a particular goal. Reinforce why you train and visualize the outcome and rewards you will receive.

I often hear "I am waiting to get motivated." This implies that motivation will somehow come to a person like divine intervention. True motivation must come from within you. This is one of the reasons children who are pushed too hard by the imposed ambitions of overzealous parents often lose interest in a sport. The child has lost the internal motivation to participate (fun) and generally does not stay involved long term. People are motivated by accomplishment, self actualization, and the attainment of goals. Think of how motivated you were after you completed a race that you had been working hard towards.

Staying motivated is most difficult when you are far from your goal. This is when you have to maintain your long-term focus and regularly remind yourself of the end reward.  Athletes have a particularly hard time staying motivated during base season.  Races are the reward for training and it is hard to stay focused and motivated if you are not getting your cookie.  You may want to switch to group training during this time for some of your work outs.  Like minded athletes are great sources of motivation.

One external motivating influence, however, is inspiration. We have all been inspired by someone in our lives. Lance Armstrong has inspired many to take up the sport of cycling. You may have participated in an MS 150 event because of a friend's battle with Multiple Sclerosis. Inspiration is an emotion that causes us to aspire to even greater levels of achievement. It reinforces our own personal reasons to work toward our goals.

Motivation can be fleeting. You may find the goal you are working toward is no longer conducive to effort you are putting forth. This is why it is important to set reasonable and attainable goals that match our individual purpose to train and compete; and our lifestyles. Fatigue, stress, emotional issues, overtraining, time constraints, and injuries can all reduce our motivational levels. Often taking a day or two off to rest and refocus will help restore your training ambitions. Training should add to the quality of your life, not hinder it. It is important to balance all aspects of your lifestyle and adjust your training level accordingly.

A positive mental outlook supports and enhances motivation. Avoid negative self talk; "I will never be a climber", and focus on the positive; "I am becoming a more powerful cyclist each month." Surround yourself and train with positive-minded people who encourage and support you. Accept responsibility for, and learn from your failures as well as your successes. Blaming others will get you no where.

Motivation can be complex, but if you remind yourself why you are training hard, look to your sources of inspiration, and keep a positive mental outlook the rest should fall into line. Realize that motivation comes from within, and from accomplishment. It is also a building process. Each goal you attain builds self esteem and confidence, giving you more motivation to work towards your next objective and ultimately your accomplishments.

Matt Russ has coached and trained elite athletes from around the country and internationally for over twenty years. He has achieved the highest level of licensing by both USA Triathlon and USA Cycling and is a licensed USA Track and Field Coach. Matt is head coach and owner of The Sport Factory, located in Roswell, Georgia. He is a free lance author and his articles are regularly featured in a variety of magazines such as Inside Triathlon, and Triathlete. Visit www.sportfactory.com for more information or email him at coachmatt@sportfactory.com
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LEARN TO CYCLE FASTER AND SAFER WITH BIKE HANDLING DRILLS

By Matt Russ

In my experience most cyclists take handling skills and their bicycles' in general for granted. Most mechanical break downs can be prevented by properly adjusting, maintaining, and inspecting your bicycle. And a lot of crashes can be avoided by being aware of your surroundings and having the skills necessary to react instinctively to emergency situations. 

By practicing these skills in a controlled environment you will become a faster and safer cyclist. The first thing you need to do is find an open area where there is no traffic such as a parking lot. You will need some orange cones (water bottles can be substituted), and a partner.

Braking: Begin circling your course. Have your partner randomly call out stop. You should immediately bring you bike to a quick, safe controlled stop. Have your partner stop quickly as well and look at the distance between your bicycles. If you have good reflexes and reaction time the distance between your bicycles will be close. Practice braking in a variety of situations such as cornering and braking with your partner in front of you (be careful). If you are a beginner cyclist apply both brakes with even pressure. As you get more experienced apply slightly more pressure to your front brake.

Cornering: Choose your line through each corner. If you corner correctly you should clip the apex of the turn. Make sure your inside crank arm is in the vertical position so that your pedal does not touch the ground. Practice cornering inside and outside in both directions and try to pick up your speed each time. Start to sprint out of corners. Set up a slalom course and also practice 180 degree turns.

Looking: When on the road a key element of safety is being able to see what is going on around you and behind you. Beginners have a tough time looking over their shoulder while keeping their bike strait. Have your partner ride several bike lengths behind you. At regular intervals look over your shoulder and call out how many fingers they are holding up. Have your partner give you feedback on if your bike veered or stayed strait.

Bumping: This needs to be performed on a grassy field using a mountain bike. Have your partner bump you slightly and touch shoulders simulating situations that occur in pack racing. You should get used to contact with other riders and not panicking in these situations.

Riding Position: Practice transitioning smoothly from various riding positions such as sprinting, climbing in and out of the saddle, and descending.

Drafting: Have your partner vary their speed over the course and try to maintain a constant distance from their rear wheel.
Performing these drills a few times per season will not help you much. You must take what you learn and apply it constantly while you are on the road. Good habits must be practiced thousands of times before they become good form.

Awareness is your greatest asset when riding in traffic situations. Try to anticipate what drivers are going to do. Eye contact is very important, as is visibility. Constantly check what is going on around you and stay focused on what you are doing.
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The Sport Factory

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HOW DO I ACHIEVE MY ATHLETIC GOALS?

By Coach Matt Russ

I have enjoyed my coaching career for many years now and have had the opportunity to work with and know hundreds of wonderful people. I have trained, coached, and counseled teen angers and golden-agers, athletes and career couch potatoes. Over these years I have modified and improved my techniques and approaches, and tried to stay abreast of the latest techniques and methods in the field, and I will continue to do so. But most of the wisdom I have gained has come from observing human behavior and how people modify it. I have seen all types of people accomplish great things; perhaps more than they ever thought possible. The following are a few observations I have come to over my training career. I hope you can draw from these characteristics that have helped my clients be successful in achieving what they set out to do.

Success starts between your ears. The barriers you are facing are largely psychological. Very few people have actual physical impairments that prevent them from exercising, and most can be overcome. Think and act positively.

Consider yourself and athlete. The only difference between an athlete and anyone exercising for fitness, is that an athlete competes formally with a specific race objective in mind.  It is a small step to become an athlete.  Athletes are focused, driven, and goal oriented. They will do exactly what it takes to succeed. They learn from each and every set back, and overcome adversity. They sacrifice. Athletes (and coaches) plan and analyze. Attain this same mindset and you will become an athlete.

Outline and Plan. I simply help draw the map; the athlete makes the journey. I require regular information and feedback such as eating habits, exercise duration, intensity, heart rate, medical data, etc.. The more specific input the athlete gives me, the more accurate and efficient the plan. It is important to be structured and accountable.

Objectives and Goals, Goals and Objectives. Daily, weekly, monthly, set little objectives that lead to big goals. Every work out, every meal can be building block, an objective that will add up in the long run. You have to set your own goals and objectives, otherwise there is nothing to accomplish or work towards.

Do not wait for divine intervention. I often hear "I am waiting to get motivated." Motivation is internal and comes from accomplishment and achievement. Inspiration is gained from others, and is external. Look for sources of inspiration, use them to achieve your goals, and then you will earn your motivation. Do not say "I can't." Try, you can, I know it, and I have seen it done many times, end of story. Eliminate negative self-talk, it gets you no where is destructive and wastes our time.

There are no free lunches. If it is easy and quick it is probably does not work and may be unsafe. It takes discipline, work, deferred gratification, and time, but the payoff is huge.

Your victories and defeats are your own. You own them both equally.

Matt Russ has coached and trained elite athletes from around the country and internationally for over twenty years. He has achieved the highest level of certification by both USA Cycling and USA Triathlon, and is a licensed USA Track and Field Coach. Matt is head coach and owner of The Sport Factory, located in Roswell, Georgia. 
shop now for your triathlon running cycling swimming products at The Sport Factory we are a USA Triathlon Certified Performance Center
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The Sport Factory

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Getting The Bicycle Fitting Process Right

Your fit starts by purchasing the right bicycle size. This may mean doing some research and measurement on your own, or going to a reputable bike shop. Sizing is not the same as fitting.  Fitting is a post sale process that adjust the bike to your individual parameters.  Sizing simply ensures you are on the best frame size for your body.  

Each manufacturer may measure the frame from different points and there is no continuity or standards in frame sizing from brand to brand. It is important to know how the manufacturer sizes the frame; often this is based on your height and inseam. Remember, that great deal on the used bike you purchased may not seem so great when you find out you purchased the wrong frame size.  Getting this right is not only the first step in fitting, it is the most important step.

There are a wide variety of fitting systems that use ratios, formulas, algorithms, computer programs, etc.. These are even available online and each of these has its pros and cons. The most important thing to remember is that every fitting system simply gives you a starting point. No computer can tell you how your bike should optimally fit because no computer knows your riding style, biomechanics, injury history, etc.. This is where the art of bike fitting begins and it requires interaction on the part of the athlete. I use a variety of methods in fitting a cyclist but my favorite tool is a device called a goniometer that measures joint angles.

If you are experiencing joint pain or have an overuse injury, do not wait for it to go away. Overuse injuries seldom resolved themselves if you continue to place the same stress on the afflicted areas.  When working with an injured athlete I live to get a medical diagnosis as the first step.

Experience counts a great deal when it comes to fitting.  Some brand based fit systems are designed for retailers to move customers in and out quickly; and to be able to train employees quickly.  A good bike fitting may take several hours or more and will likely cost over $100 per hour.  But this is money well spent if it keeps you on the road pain free for years to come,  or makes you a faster cyclist.
shop now for your triathlon running cycling swimming products at The Sport Factory we are a USA Triathlon Certified Performance Center
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720 Hembree Pl Roswell, GA 30076
720 Hembree PlaceUSGeorgiaRoswell30076
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4.7
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"I;m completely satisly with the service i got at this place."
"I responded with a long email explaining customer service."
"I was very impressed with the vast selection of parts and sporting accessories."
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Kellye Mills's profile photo
Kellye Mills
in the last week
Excellent Customer Service! These guys are knowledgeable, super helpful, and offer a great overall experience with everything you need triathlon related! Products, Coaching, Services... these guys are the best!
ariella moor's profile photo
ariella moor
3 months ago
AMAZING customer service! I just needed to have my disk brakes adjusted but he worked on my ENTIRE bike, and adjusted everything. Works perfectly now
Aditi Poddar's profile photo
Aditi Poddar
2 weeks ago
Went above and beyond for me. Recommend
Yuri Savchuk's profile photo
Yuri Savchuk
7 months ago
100% improvement in my bikes comfort and climbing power. I highly recommend for your bike fit!
Orange Imm.'s profile photo
Orange Imm.
2 months ago
These guys have a nice selection of bikes, bags, and other biking gear. The staff are very helpful and everyone seems to be having a great time in the shop.
melanie lobston's profile photo
melanie lobston
3 months ago
I;m completely satisly with the service i got at this place. Experienced some issues with my bix, they fix it right a way and also gave me some tips for the future. That's the only one place i truct to bring my bike in Atlanta. Thanks guys
Benny Ashurov's profile photo
Benny Ashurov
6 months ago
My wife and I drove in from Alabama for VO2 tests and it was worth the trip. I receive a wealth of information and will be back in six months.
Response from the owner - 6 months ago
Pleasure working with you Benny
Bender Dundat's profile photo
Bender Dundat
a year ago
I was very impressed with the vast selection of parts and sporting accessories. I strongly believe maintain your bike is very critical to having a safe and productive ride. I had me and my son's bikes fitted in the time it took other places to do one! I highly recommend them for all your cycling needs.