Wednesday, December 21, 2011

You're a Week. I'm a Machine.

It's officially been well over a month since I began winter training. In this post I'm going to share with you, dear reader, a glimpse into my weekly regiment.

Training plans are precarious. As a rule, training cannot be done properly without a plan. One must also record information of what is done every day to effectively understand patterns in developing fitness. With this said, plans are not written in stone. Humans are inferior biological machines, and life has a curious way of altering/modifying even the most robust plans. From this I've derived an equation:

(Training + Recovery + Nutrition) / Life = Progress.

Without regimented training, without focused recovery, without proper nutrition, progress cannot be obtained maximally. Yet, as previously mentioned, we must account for life, and there it is hanging nebulously below the division line, waiting to have it's say.

Life is necessary. Fostering friendships, holiday dinner parties, and chats at a cafe are all fantastic parts of life and are relatively low 'Life' numbers that when administered properly don't affect the important numbers on top. When you throw in a drunken all-nigher, a stressful day at work, a shitty nights sleep, and/or some unnecessary relationship drama, that's when the 'Life' number gets big and starts affecting the Progress outcome. Cut out useless bullshit and your training will improve significantly.

Don't be alarmed. Simply put, I've found that the more you have your shit together the less life seems to get in the way. This requires blinders. This requires judgment and intuition (a little bit of growing-the-eff-up and realizing what you want out of life also helps). And, ultimately, this requires balance. The incessant introspective search for true fulfillment.

At this juncture in life my only concern is racing. To race fast I must train effectively. I'm the type of person that feels totally lost without a plan, a platform, a system to default to when life starts taking over. I'm also the type of person who sticks to plans whilst still being flexible and dynamic (i.e. I don't freak out if I miss my bedtime by an hour. You see, sometimes following a plan strictly builds more stress. If you are going to increase stress by rushing around to make your bedtime, you'd be better off slowing down and getting to bed a little later than planned). The main motif is: every action is thorough and slow. If you can't fit everything in, then cut shit out. Less is more. Always.

So, here is my plan. My week. The ideal week:

 (Click on it for full resolution. This is my daily schedule with hours blocked out for various task)

(And here is the numerical break down of hours dedicated to each task)

Sleep: Without Sleep your body cannot recover. There is no way around this. If you want to train hard you must schedule in sleep. Keep a sleep log. It's simple. Remember what time you go to bed and then when you wake up record the hours you slept. I also find it helps to jot down quality of sleep per night on a scale of 1-10. Sometime 7-hours of 10-quality is much better than 9-hours tossing and turning. At the end of the week add up the averages and then you can start seeing weekly trends. I have been logging sleep for well over a year and find my optimal number is 60-65hours weekly (about 9-hours average nightly).

Nap-time:  Naps are so good for you, you should nap just for the hell of it. Scientific research has shown extravagantly how napping produces various hormones essential for recovery. After a hard ride, take a nap. When you can't fit in all the night's rest you want, then nap. If you have nothing better to do but sit there and think in circles, then simmer down your internal drama and just take a bloody nap.

Interestingly, I've found naps are more effective for regeneration than sleeping-in. Often sleeping-in breaks up your daily pattern, whereas an hour nap does wonders for recovery and is a bonus jump start to the rest of your day. Don't nap too late in the day or you will sacrifice being able to fall asleep easily that night.

Riding: Quality versus Quantity (I'll talk more of this at the end). For me, this winter is all about building a huge aerobic engine. The basics: Quantity can be as high as you want until Quality begins to deteriorate. In order to fit in the Quantity you desire--without sacrificing Quality--you must cut shit out of your life. This is also known as commitment.

InCycle: I teach indoor spin classes at CycleU to pay the bills in the off-season. My obvious objective is to race at a level where I get paid year round to race. As of now, last race season I was able to make enough prize money to live of off (albeit living very minimally) and next season it's looking like I will be able to make good prize money since my team will be focusing on big money crits.

As much as I'd love to only train/race, I'm pretty damn lucky to work at CycleU. It's a killer place to work if you're a racer. To make sure I maximize all my time on the bike I teach the classes while riding on rollers with my track bike to work on technique/pedaling/etc. Pretty good way to make cash. I get to blare tunes, talk about racing, and ride my flashy bike. It requires me to wake at 430-5am, but I've adapted and enjoy the solitude of the early mornings where the world is mine with the moon and empty streets. Here, in wintry Seattle the sun sets at 4pm anyways, so waking early makes my days full and productive: fulfilling

Outside: Nothing beats riding outside. People bitch and moan about the weather. Excuses, all of them. When properly armed with good winter clothes and mugs of hot tea (check out Stanley's awesome one-handed vacuum mugs), you can handle any temperature. The bonus is that the worse the weather gets, the quieter and more empty the roads are. Monotonous sunshine pisses me off. Give me the extremes. The worse the weather the happier I am. It's simply a matter of seeing the beauty in Nature.

Work: In addition to InCycle, I work hourly odd-jobs, mostly consisting of construction/remodeling gigs. I enjoy building structures and playing with dangerous power tools, and the pay is good whilst still being flexible with my training schedule. It's hard work, so I can't ignore how it affect my overall energy levels and thus my training Quality.

Projects: Believe it or not there are many facets of life I love doing besides riding my bike. I'm always hatching ideas for the future, and this is my personal time to work on hobbies (writing/art/building things or working on ways in which I will support my passions and long-term future goals). These projects will be unveiled to you, dear reader, when the time is nigh. This is also the time where I tackle life responsibilities, i.e. finances, answering emails, grocery shopping. Time goes quick unless you use it.

Gym Jones: I had the great honor of having Mark Twight and Michael Blevins of Gym Jones teach me how to properly lift weights in a way that will work on my cycling weaknesses. I'm currently writing an in-depth story about meeting these fine fellows, and the series of serendipitous adventures that led to this meeting. What I do in the weight room is top secret.

Yoga: I dig Yoga. It's mostly to learn new ways to access my body. I'll take specific stretches/moves I learn and then implement them into my personal routine I do at home. I many ways Yoga is a break from normal training and is one of the only times I get out and do something social. There's also a lot to look at. Don't read into that too much.

Stability: This consist of a modified routine I learned from Gym Jones, i.e. I go through the weight lifting motion with less weight and increase the reps to work on balance and technique. Usually this consist of one-legged dead-lifts and overhead squats with a 45lbs bar.

CORE: I have those boots that strap to your ankle so you can do inverted sit-ups on a pull-up bar. Dead-lifts and front squats are more effective for building core strength, but I find variations of inverted sit-ups really help me connect with my abs in a very serious way I've never found in any other core routine. There are also many benefits to hanging upside-down and letting your blood drain the opposite way. Clears your head. Literally. After doing a sit-up routine I will hang there and just hang, allowing my back to stretch out.

Since I started doing this inverted routine--in conjunction with weight training--my hip and back problems have nearly vanished. I also owe a lot to Dr. Jacob Perkins, my chiropractor, at Elite Sport and Spine here in Seattle who did incredible work on my body all throughout this summer. This is substantial, considering three months ago my left leg would go completely numb on the bike after an hour of riding. Long story... And luckily that story is finished.

Cooking: Nutrition is paramount. Everything I eat I cook myself. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks and Food on the Bike is all handmade by me. No compromises. This is a lot of work, and completely worth it. Every night when I make dinner I prepare all my food for the following day. This way I never have to eat out or sacrifice food quality or eat crappy packaged foods. It also allows me to easily track what I eat.

I count calories. I don't believe counting calories is necessary, and I don't limit my calories either.  I mostly count calories to see trends and pattern in my eating habits in relation to training and it also makes me more aware of WHAT I am eating and WHEN.

There are a ba-jillion arguments about what athletes should eat. What is my opinion? Don't be stupid. Use common sense. Use your best judgement and eat clean foods. Get to know your body and what it needs. It is your body. Nobody can know your body as well as you do. It is your responsibility to find out what works for you. Educate. Read. Gain knowledge. Experiment. The needs of your body changes over time, so why wouldn't your diet also need to change? My only dietary restriction is: I eat real food. Thus, I must determine what this means to me and my body.

Here are some fun pictures from this months training:

(Facing east above Leschi on my first weekend of winter training. Coincidentally, this happen to be one of the mot beautiful winter days I've seen. Then, all of the sudden, this weather lasted for three weeks. What the hell?)

 (Morning routine. Mornings are my favorite time of the day. I love waking before dawn and easing into my day with coffee, tea, a big ol' homemade breakfast and only the quiet sound of the moon outside to accompany all the thoughts I'm eager to write down in my journal)

 (This is why I take the Ferry. The best part about riding the Ferry in the winter time is being the only person outside on the deck. You feel like your gliding over the water into the dawn of a hidden world)

 (I love chopping wood. Luckily my grandparents have a lot for me to chop. It's a hell of a work-out and is great for clearing the head. It's also a chance to get outside and breath in fresh air, a break from the city-life)

(I take an ice-bath twice a week after I weight lift. They are amazing. You feel fantastic and sleep like a baby afterward. The first second sucks, but the next twenty minutes is bliss. Read a book, drink hot tea, eat warm food, and wear a fuzzy hat. I'm also in the process of inventing a neoprene banana-hammock. Don't steal my idea!!!!)

 (I think training comes easy to me because I am a junky for Nature. Here is a view from the park next door to the little cottage I live in)

 (I'm going to miss this little park. In two weeks I'm moving into a new place twenty blocks deeper into the city, right on Belmont and Pine. It doesn't get more urban than this. Density = Progression. I walk everywhere to everything I need. When the bustle gets to be too much I bike 5-minutes to the Ferry dock and BOOM an hour later I'm on the Peninsula where Nature still roams)

 (A view from the downtown Ferry facing south. You can barely see Mt. Rainer in the distant clouds)

 (The gloom of this shadowy city is like a mistress to me. I love every dark movement she makes)

 (Quiet roads I've found that go for miles non-stop. Perfect for consistent pressure on the pedals during long winter rides)

 (Screw sunshine. Give me the beauty of the Northwest. Here is a road lacing the edge of the Hood Canal. No cars in sight. Nothing but scenery and smells of the woodland nymphs)

(Hell yeah for power tools!)

 (At my grandparents sawing up some wood and convincing my cousin to have a go at the chainsaw)

(She finally caved in and chainsawed all on her own without hacking off any limbs! I have a riotous lot of great cousins. Tucked in the picture background you can see my grandparents quaint home that is nestled on 10acres of land right next to the Puget Sound. A great get-away and launching pad for all my epic rides)

For the past month I'm proud to say every week I've stuck to the plan--with necessary modifications--and I daily feel strength returning. Training, at the end of the day, is supposed to be enjoyable (I use this term loosely), something to look forward to (reasons can vary dependent upon an individual's temperament), so modifications are good. Some days I will sleep in and skip a nap. Other days I will wake up early and take a Ferry ride to the Olympic Peninsula to explore a new training route. If you keep your training interesting without sacrificing quality, you create a sustainable pattern; both being keys words: Sustainable and Pattern.

Bodies adapt with consistent patterns. If you consistently eat unhealthy food and do nothing, your body adapts to this as well and I'm sure you are aware of the results. If you want to see progress, your body must adapt to positive reoccurring stimuli. Erratic training or sleep patterns will result in piss poor gains. Whenever someone asks me the best way to get in shape I say without pause:

 Be committed to being consistent.

Without commitment to a pattern you might as well hang up the towel and just workout out for 'fun.' Sustainability is critical to maintain a pattern. There is no such thing as the perfect pattern unless you can sustain it. On paper you may think you've written a "perfect plan" but if you crack half-way through the winter because the plan was too much or too boring, then what was the point in your perfect plan?

After a month of this very robust plan I've learned a lot about my body's needs. If I'm eating well and sleeping well, the training volume combined with work-load is totally manageable. Yet, when Life takes over and things get crazy, sometimes I have to grab the knife. It's hard to do. For example, after one hard weekend of training I was totally cracked on Monday. I wanted to hit the Gym and do weights (it's such a great mental break from the bike) and I wanted to go to Yoga afterward (one of the only times during the week where I see attractive girls my age), but, I was cracked.

This is the song that spurred my blog's title. GAWD I LOVE LOUD NOISE!!!

After getting home from work I laid on my floor and instantly fell asleep. When I woke, I knew today would be best spent stretching at home and cooking up a big meal before hitting the hay EARLY. The next day I woke up fresh as a daisy and was ready to slaughter the rest of the week. If I had been thick-headed and ego-motivated I would have "pushed through" and gone to the Gym, most likely resulting in my immune system plummeting into getting sick.

If you get sick: you are doing something wrong. If you don't get sick: you are doing it right. End of story. Bodies are designed to fight illness when they are running at 100%.

Staying true to yourself and fighting the ego is also essential for maximal training. I'll give a concrete example: a few weekends ago I went on a 4-hour ride with three other very fast racer buddies of mine. The pace was high. Since my winter training bike was still being built up, I rode my commuter bike, which is an old race bike I converted into a Frankenstein type touring bike. My 27lbs rattle-can black bicycle steed complete with rear rack, full fenders with flaps, 28c armadillo tires running at 60psi, and a half gallon thermos of hot tea bungee corded to the rack did not make for fast riding.

As soon as we hit any hill my heart-rate soared into threshold when I was supposed to be holding steady aerobic. The pace was too high for me, and as much as I wanted to stay with my buddies, I didn't. After three hours I pulled the plug and waved them off so I could do my own thing. I had to curb my ego and realize that right now an hour of threshold trying to keep up with my buddies is exactly what I don't need. Group rides can easily lead to the ego taking over. Control yourself and stick to your plan at all cost, even if it means getting dropped by your buddies.

No explanation needed. If you want to download an hour of LOUD music from the future, then look no further than Excision's 2011 Shamballa Mixtape. It's free!

This brings me to my last point I learned this month: Quality not Quantity. Hours on the bike mean jack unless you are connected and focused on every pedal stroke. Going on a 6-hour ride is fun as hell (I like the adventurous exploration type rides), but, let's be honest, are you really in proper Zone-2 and focused the entire 6-hours? At least 2-hours of that is fluff. So, unless your 6-hours is totally focused, cut out the fluff. Fluff still requires recovery. Wasted time recovering from fluff.

To end, I'll play devil's advocate. I'm one of those souls that really enjoys 6-hour rides that take time (fluff) to explore a new area of land and scenery. Knowing this, I make sure there is a seamless 3 or 4-hour chunk of proper Zone-2 where I am totally connected to the pedals with my mind. I also understand that this extra time out in the elements is hard on the immune system. Yet, one must not forget about the power of the mind. Rejuvenation can be found in adventure, and so I'm willing to accommodate a little fluff if it allows me to go and explore new wind-soaked roads on a bicycle.

-dan harm


  1. great post man.
    love seeing other peoples training volume and hearing about recovery and nutrition. oddly enough it's inspiring and helps me with tips and tricks i haven't come across on my own.

  2. Dan, your writing is a unique contribution within the cycling culture. I await each piece of perspective with anticipation of learning just how you're evolving as a man and athlete. Thank you for being a beacon on the hill for other men and athletes who share this journey with you.

  3. Tomney, damn, that is one of the nicest compliments I think I've ever received. Thanks for being supportive in this nebulously rewarding journey. I will most definitely continue to write my thoughts and experiences. Writing gives meaning and direction to my life. Power on!

  4. This is why I read your blog. Love all the detail. Not many people (including me!) have this kind of focus but regardless, you are always an inspiration to try just a little more when the going gets tough.

  5. Thanks Dan, for opening up and sharing your life and training with us. I'm at a completely different point myself. After 2 years off from any working out other than 2 days a week PT due to serious injuries, surgeries, and months of legs up over heart recovery time, I'm finally ready to start getting in shape again.

    After 2 years, I have tons of muscle atrophy, way too much weight on, and need to start with a disciplined, slow, but steady plan to get back to where I want to be fitness wise. So thanks for sharing your plans, really gives me some good ideas on things to incorporate into my own training routine! Hope you are able to attain your goals for this year!

    Stay healthy, stay balanced!

  6. Truly incredible. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with us, it's definitely a huge inspiration to me and something I know I'll be able to come back to many times and learn something new every time. Currently I can plan a couple of days to that kind of accuracy, but haven't yet had the focus to last a full week.
    Best of luck with 2012, but if you 'make your own luck' I'd say you're running on full already!

  7. Wow, I would love to read this one. I find the subject fascinating and would love to know more about the latest studies and research.
    Interesting and perceptive post— thanks!
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