APEX December Blog – Training in a Seemingly More Hostile and Dangerous World

Why Technology, Coaches and Athlete Support are More Important than Ever.

Another day, another report of a local cyclist being harassed, run off the road, injured, or even killed. This has become a new normal, and while the politics behind the issue rage on, athletes are unfortunately having to adjust to the current conditions. From professional endurance athletes that are putting their safety on the line everyday, to potential new athletes that are choosing not to get into the sport because of the “safety issue,” this is too big to ignore. The focus of this blog post is how to best deal with these current training conditions, assuming they are here to stay. More specifically, I am not going to dive into the politics behind the problem, nor I am I going to suggest a solution/measure, even though I have a long list of thoughtful ideas. My end point being – there are ways to have fun, get faster (win!), and stay safe while training – no matter where you reside.

Side Track – I am not sure I have ever known a cyclist who has not

been verbally or physically assaulted at one time or another. That’s pretty crazy to think about isn’t it? Every single cyclist, male and female, that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing has dealt with this problem first-hand, yet things continue to get worse. Is this because of more cars on the road? More cyclists? Bad behavior? Less respect? I’m not sure, and like I said, I’m staying away from the politics behind the issue. I was born and raised in rural Pennsylvania, and have been lucky to have the opportunity to ride in 5 continents and more US States than I can recall. What I’ve learned is that there is not one place that sits above all others in the cycling safety conversation. Yes, some places are more dangerous than others, but not one place is immune to this issue. I live in Boulder, CO, the so-called “Mecca” for cycling and triathlon, and we are not immune to this problem.

Now is the Time to Embrace Training Technology

Just as our iPhones get brighter, faster, and more sophisticated, our training tools are becoming more advanced than ever. For both indoor and outdoor riding, there are tools you can use to maintain or even elevate your training level, while increasing

your safety precautions. ICEdot will send a text message to your emergency contact when your helmet detects a crash, Garmin 

Varia warns cyclists of speeding cars coming from behind, Solos places your head unit’s screen inside of your sunglasses as a heads-up display so you don’t need to look down. The list goes on and on. The advances in indoor training technology arearguably even

more advanced with smart trainers, training software, recovery tools, and more. Software like Zwift and The Sufferfest have evolved into dynamic coaching tools thatmonitor progress for athletes of all abilities. Coaches can use the tools provided by TrainingPeaks to create workout files that can be directly downloaded to smart trainers for their athletes to follow. Athletes can relay physiological information to their coaches via devices like Cercacor and Whoop. While the environment we train in seems to be “decaying,” the advancement in technology available to us can offset many of the training setbacks we’ve had as athletes. My advice is for athletes to try something new, and for coaches to embrace technology for the benefit and safety of their athletes. Coaches should be familiar with what tools and technology are out there so they may have a conversation with their athletes whom may have concerns about safety.

Coaches are Becoming Increasingly Important in a Complicated Training Environment

How do I adjust this workout for the trainer? Can I incorporate this spin class into my training? Am I able to do my brick workout indoors? These are common questions I am faced with each and every day as a coach. Races are outdoors – yes, but training indoors and changing your outdoor routines make sense and are possible. Coaches serve the most important role in having dialogue with their athletes regarding what they are comfortable with and how to best wrap their training around it. They also serve an important role in workout design to increase the level safety for their athletes. I’ll often prescribe an “indoor option” for my athletes who are training in unsafe environments to make sure they understand that it is okay to make the switch. For

workouts that are done outdoors, I’ll often note roads that are NOT good for the workout (note how I don’t prescribe the road they should do the workout on). As an athlete, coaches can be an incredible resource to help manage your training volume in multiple modes of training. Adjusting for indoors and outdoors and also helping to translate your indoor training to race-day performance. Also – are you a Pro or aspiring Pro? Some of the world’s best endurance athletes, Lionel Sanders for example, does all of his training indoors.

In Boulder, we have a long list of safe roads for cyclists, but also several that are very unsafe to ride on. The more complicated factor is that these roads often change conditions depending on the time of day (rush hour). Unfortunately, there is one road in particular that is popular for cyclists and group rides that is also extremely unsafe (high speed limit, no passing lane, and little to no shoulder in spots). As cyclists, we can be mad about the speed limit, available shoulder space, or the way cars pass us, but taking an unnecessary risk is simply not worth it. Athletes and Coaches (coaches especially), should lead by example by putting safety first and developing new and creative ways to increase their level of safety while maintaining the quality of their training.

Conclusion

If we weren’t insanely passionate about riding, we would’ve stopped long ago due to safety concerns. We have supported each other, found creative solutions, advocated for change, and will continue to do so. The backbone of the cycling community is strong, pros, age groupers, and newbies alike, which is why I am confident the endurance community will continue to thrive. This blog is intended to help open your mind to alternatives if safety is a concern for you. I will say that I will always be riding outside – always! But, I have found creative ways to increase my level of safety. From riding off-road a little more often, to always riding with a rear light, to avoiding certain roads, I feel safe and can get back to enjoying every minute of it.

My To-The-Point Advice in 4 Bullet Points:

  • Buy a Cyclocross Bike (Triathletes, you too!).
  • Don’t “hate” on athletes that prefer to train indoors. They have a good reason.
  • Have a coach monitor your training, and be a resource for safety advice.
  • Lead by Example – Safety First.

Cody  is APEX’s Administrative Manager and Fit Specialist. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, USAC and USAT Coach, and is also an MBA Candidate at the University of Colorado. With his international experience, Cody is particularly passionate about the safety surrounding the training for endurance sports, and is always striving to lead by example.