By Ron Berry P.T., PHASE IV Director of Rehab Services
Part 1: 3 Months to Mont Ventoux
Part 2: 2 Months to Mont Ventoux
Part 3: 3 Weeks to Mont Ventoux
Bicycling has long been a passion of mine. From being a teenager and riding from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara, then back the next day, to today, preparing to go to France for a challenging week of riding in the mountains supported by the high quality tour group, InGamba. It’s been a great three months of stoking my passion for being on two wheels and feeling healthy, strong, and in control of my freedom. Now, as I write this, I'm just three weeks away from my Provence France tour.
I’ve done my homework: initially riding slower and flat, incorporating strength and flexibility exercises into my routine, and progressively accomplishing the up and over of several of the canyon climbs in the Santa Monica Mountains. It's been satisfying to become more fit and confident and wonderful to know that training intelligently with scientific principles does have its rewards.
The training program that we created at Phase IV three months ago included a five day period of recovery one month before my challenging event. This would be followed by two weeks of more vigorous training, then another week of recovery before my tour in the mountains of Southeast France.
The interesting thing about my recent recovery period is that I spent those five days in Telluride, Colorado, at around 8,800 feet. Altitude training is practiced by many athletes in various forms. The Phase IV interpretation of the science is that altitude training doesn’t necessarily mean hard training at altitude. I did relatively easy rides while at altitude but I still garnered the benefits of altitude training by simply being at 8,800 feet and improving the ability of my body to utilize oxygen. Theoretically, my blood changed. Through a process of erythrocythemia, more red blood cells develop over the time at altitude, up to a point. This means more red blood cells to optimize oxygen to feed my muscles so they can work harder.
Similar to people who sleep in oxygen deprivation tents at lower altitudes then work out hard in their normal environment, the improved oxygen efficiency is allowing for me to have higher intensity workouts in my final build period at lower elevation. Except, as opposed to sleeping in a plastic sealed chamber, I was up in one of the more beautiful places in the world doing my recovery rides with lots of stretching, massage stick use, foam rolling and healthy eating.
The Phase IV staff will be exploring how to utilize altitude training much more with our clients in the coming year and may even be sponsoring some Altitude Training/Recovery camps in the future in Southern California or Colorado.
“Just as important, as pushing through doubt and a little suffering during a workout, is allowing for recovery.”
Obviously, on the path to fitness and making ourselves healthier we have to put in a little effort but recovery is critical. Just as important, as pushing through doubt and a little suffering during a workout, is allowing for recovery. As a physical therapist, I’ve heard too many stories from patients who haven’t appreciated recovery and found themselves asking me for help to fix an injury. It’s not a defeat to put ice on something that’s sore and it’s not wimpy to take 5-7 days of working out 50% less intense. It's smart.
Ever since Phase IV began, we have personally learned from legendary coaches like Tudor Bompa, one of the fathers of periodization, and Bobby Kersee, coach to dozens of Olympic track and field medals, that we must work hard and put in effort but also honor the time to allow our body to regenerate and become stronger.
Now, I'm three weeks out from my trip and after taking a week off for a little vacation (AKA - recovery period) “I am chomping at the bit” to get a few more good workouts in. This is another benefit of periodization and taking some easy time; I'm actually excited for the next phase.
So, what does the final push for me in this training cycle involve? Not excess volume, but rather staying consistent with getting on the road bike and also going for a few hill climb, time trial-like rides to push my physiology. It will be fun and helpful to build more speed and power, and will be especially interesting for me to see if 5 days at 8,800 feet was enough for the red blood cell adaptation to have an effect.
And, since I am going to France for 6 days to enjoy my peak, I’ll be putting the bicycle on the trainer and watching the Tour de France while doing some of my bike training. Fortunately, three weeks out from my peak, the Phase IV coaching program has me tapering a bit and doing a few intense workouts, like the time trial hill climbs, mixed in with some relatively easier and shorter workouts – perfect for a little indoor training. The Tour de France will actually be on some of the roads that I’ll be riding on, so watching that while pedaling should definitely help further stoke my excitement for my August trip.
This past week the InGamba team contacted me for my measurements so that the team kit that I will be getting will fit me just right: matching jersey, bib shorts, socks and gloves – very cool. The other reason for my measurements is so that the Pinerello Dogma bicycle that they will provide for me to ride during my trip (just like the bikes that Team Sky will be riding in the Tour de France) will fit me similar to my own bicycle. So far, this tour company has really impressed me.
“It's good to be fit, good to have confidence, and good to know more about how my body works.”
Even if I hadn't signed up for a multi-day bike tour, having a goal to improve my physiology, then making a plan to achieve that goal, has been very good for me. It's good to be fit, good to have confidence, and good to know more about how my body works. If you ever find yourself wanting to achieve a physical challenge such as a multi day bike tour, a century ride, a marathon, a triathlon, a big hike, or something unique that you've always wanted to achieve and would like the benefit of Phase IV science and our collective experiences to help you achieve your goals, please contact us.