Why do we “train” versus “exercise”? The point of training versus going out just to get a sweat, feel good and burn some calories is to have a distinct and clear purpose to improve and get stronger, fitter and faster. So what does it mean to train “heavy”? There are many variables of training that can be manipulated in order to get the most out of key sessions and races. Most training sessions don’t actually “feel good” in fact if you are training correctly 80% of the time you should feel like your legs are made of bricks!
Caffeine is the best (legal!) ergogenic aid for sports performance. It elevates heart rate, is glycogen sparing and reduces rate of perceived exertion. What does that mean? You can go harder, longer and things feel easier. The problem? Our sensitivity to caffeine changes just like with alcohol, the more you have, the more you need. So having a strong cup of joe before a 1500-yard recovery swim is a waste of the “drug.” I recommend saving caffeine in high doses for key sessions so it has the full effect. For long workouts over 3-4 hours that means waiting for your first dose of caffeine until ½ way through the ride in the form of caffeinated gels or if you are lucky to swing by home and smash an espresso shot even better J And race day….for any endurance event save that for when you get tired, not for when your heart is pounding with adrenaline at the start line! An alterative is to drink green tea, which has less caffeine and a less stimulating effect on the nervous system.
Carbohydrate and sugar are the bodies preferred source of energy. Yes you can run on fat and protein for energy but it is not as efficient. It’s a bit like giving a Porsche, 87 gas, it will go, but it's not what it desires. Think about what you crave when you get starving and hangry…..bread, chips etc. That is because the brain knows that it can get energy from that quickly. For that reason during a key training session, which can be likened to being hangry on an energy level, giving the body sugar will increase performance. Decreasing carbohydrate content outside of training sessions during peak training will increase carbohydrate sensitivity during workouts.
This goes for body weight as well as equipment weight. If you are an elite athlete you will probably benefit from having a “racing weight”. That means during your base phase you hold a few extra pounds which provides an anabolic condition for the body to build sport specific muscle and do base rides/runs with a little extra love. Shave off those couple pounds as race day approaches and voila you have another ergogenic aid. Every pound in running is 3 seconds per minute mile faster. So just loosing 5 pounds you gain 15 seconds per mile beyond fitness gains. The same philosophy can be applied to training equipment. Doing long rides with the bike stocked with water bottles/nutrition/equipment provides the same disadvantage. Race day pull the drinks off the course and the bike is lighter and faster. Running shoes….I recommend having a pair of heavy training shoes and a lighter race day pair. The benefit on that could be purely placebo with only an ounce or two differences, but in a game that is 90% mental, ill take that advantage any day!