Never Bonk and Eat all the Bacon You Want

I was wrong! For the last 25 years I thought I needed a large volume of carbohydrates in my diet to do any form of endurance exercise. Even my 80 year old grandfather laughed about how when he played football for The University of Virginia in the 1920’s “they didn’t know about carbohydrate loading and ate steak the night before a game”. Turns out my grandfather had the right plan (as long as there was a lot of fat on that steak and no potato with it).

I know it sounds crazy but you can eat as much fat as you want (because you can’t eat a lot of fat, it fills you up!) and teach your body to burn fat for energy instead of carbohydrates! As long as you restrict your carb intake (usually less than 50 grams of carbs, a 12oz Coke has 42 grams!) you will also lose weight on this diet (or, if you already have a lean build, maintain you weight). The best thing, you can’t bonk! Even a lean professional endurance athlete has 100,000+ kcals of fat (energy to burn) vs. 2,000 kcals of carbohydrates*. *http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/the-bodyrsquos-fuel-sources This way of eating is know as Low Carb High Fat (LCHF), The Keto Diet or in South Africa “Banting”.

Everyone who knows me can’t believe how much I eat! My nickname in college was tapeworm! When I raced cross country I ate over 6,000 calories a day (10,000 on big days), I ate more pasta than you have ever seen, then finished it with a half gallon of ice cream! Yet I weighed 167 pounds (at 6’3″) I now weigh 190 and people still think of me as being slim (must have been really skinny in my xc racing days!)! I had to eat a bar every 30-45 minutes on a ride! My breakfasts were legendary, 3 eggs, 3 pieces of bacon, a quarter of a cantaloupe with a big handful of almonds, 6-8 oz of yogurt with a cup or two of granola (and I would be starving by noon).

On the above diet, after eating that big breakfast, if I did a three hour ride from 9:00 until noon I would eat at least two Kate’s Real Food Bars (360 calories each) and one Clif Builders Bar (270 calories) and finish the ride at Milt’s with a burger, fries and LARGE milkshake.

I was the friend that annoyed friends on long rides! “Let’s keep going, my metabolism is kicking!” I would say after the shortest of breaks. Then I was the one begging friends for food, “I didn’t think this ride was going to take so long, anyone have a bar or some trail mix?”

Now I eat a breakfast consisting of three eggs (cooked in butter and bacon fat!), 4 pieces of bacon and half an avocado. Then I ride from 9am until noon and I just drink water on the ride (have now learned to drink an electrolyte drink)! When finished I have a smoothie and hamburger with a flax seed bun (made without wheat), avocado, tomato and I’m stuffed!

I tried the Atkins’s diet 18 years ago and leaned out until I had a six-pack for the first time in my life but I couldn’t ride more than 30 minutes without running out of energy! The missing ingredient was fat!

Now, this LCHF diet isn’t easy to do at first, there are hidden carbs in almost all prepackaged foods. You have to cook/make most of what you eat. Also, the first week of switching to this diet many people get the keto flu (you feel nauseous and lack energy for a few days to a week), to fight this you need to increase your intake of salt, magnesium and potassium.

It’s also not all bacon, all the time! You still need a lot of fiber, so eat your veggies!

I’m no expert on diet though so I am just speaking from my experience, the experience of a few friends, asking every doctor I meet and from what I have read. If you would like more information I have included quite a few links below (or simply search LCHF Diet and you will be astounded at the amount of information)! Research has proven this diet to be safe, sugar (carbs) are what cause people to become fat and other issues, not dietary fat! When the world went “low fat” obesity and diabetes skyrocketed!

Have you tired to eat this way? Are you currently eating this way? I would love to hear about your experiences or any questions you have! Please feel free to share this article with anyone you think would benefit from it.

Addition information:

This great video from Peter Attia explains Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) for athletes really well: https://vimeo.com/51891286

www.dietdoctor.com has great films, Ceral Killer, That Sugar Film, Film: My Big Fat Diet, about Canadian First Nations Obesity, and written content. They will ask you to join but you can do it for free.

https://www.ketovangelist.com/, full of great articles and 135 podcasts and

MTB Safer, Stronger Every Ride Starting Now

MTB Safer, Stronger Every Ride (second article in a series on how mountain bike safer, first article here: http://wp.me/p49ApH-1nc )

This year I hit the ground really hard three times and surprised myself by walking away from all three crashes (at 51)! I am also putting way more power to the pedals! At the end of last summer I thought my riding days were coming to an end, the back pain that had been bugging for the last 15-17 years was getting worse and had tendinitis so bad I couldn’t ride for almost a month. Then in January I was simply getting out of my wetsuit and my back went out! I was pretty depressed.

I knew something had to be done and I had no idea the fix I found would make me feel 15 years younger, give me more energy bringing back my zest for life, the power to climb faster in much harder gears and protect me when I take the occasional slam! The photo above is from 51st birthday ride where I flatted at about 35 miles an hour and my wrapped around my seat stays tossing me on to a rock slab! All riders on that ride were amazed I was okay minus a skinned elbow. It was a long walk out but I was so happy to be walking and not being airlifted out!

What has made this transformation in my spirits, energy level and durability? Strengthening and stabilizing my “core” (what an over used and misunderstood word!). Your core is more than your “abs” and low back! Your core is like a girdle of muscles in your mid section, some of the most important actual stabilize your spine giving you a strong foundation for almost all body movements. I wrote about my final bike pain fix (that took me from a constant pain level of 3-4 and riding pain that quickly would go from 3-9 to a zero with the occasional 1-3 while riding) here: http://wp.me/p49ApH-1jw

The quickest and longest lasting physical improvement you can make for your riding is strengthening and stabilizing your core. In a week you will notice it in two weeks you will be blown away. By simply doing the exercises in the book “Foundation”, and other adding core exercises (I’m not a personal trainer and a highly recommend you have one teach you the correct exercises as doing them incorrectly can lead to injury) you will quickly see an improvement in your riding, less back pain, better posture and more energy! I add core exercises taught in yoga (plank and side plank), some taught by James Wilson (The all fours opposite arm & leg extension, and Kegel exercise (lying on back, knees bend with heels near buttocks and lifting mid section), leg lifts (performed vertically on “dip/leg lift apparatus”, or hanging), inverted crunches, and a bunch of Swiss ball ab exercises to the “Foundation” exercises.

I really hope you take action and strengthen that core! You will be highly rewarded on the trail!

Let us know about your core routine and how it has helped you. Feel free to share this article with anyone you think would benefit!

Enduro Camp

Greg Minnaar’s Big Mistake In the Last World Cup, Learn From It

The bike world is abuzz with talk of Greg Minnaar’s big mistake in the last World Cup! He did something I and most riders have done but you wouldn’t expect it from one of the best MTB racers of all time!

His crash wasn’t his mistake, it was the cause of the crash that was his mistake! To bring you up to date, if you weren’t glued to your live feed on Saturday, Greg crashed and seriously hurt his chance of winning the World Cup Overall. Greg had a big points lead going into the race and with just two races left he was likely going to win the overall, now that is going to be a tough task.

So what did Greg do that caused his crash? The conditions were quite different for the final 25 qualifiers (of which Greg was the 3rd place qualifier) than for the first 55. With the wet, muddy conditions, poor visibility and a big points lead, Greg decided to take it easy and be safe!  In other words his goal was to “not crash”! Which is the worst state anyone can ride in! Mountain biking is an offensive sport! You cannot mountain bike defensively, it will lead to disaster! Either ride with confidence or get off your bike and walk. Greg chose to ride defensively while is main competitors, Aaron Gwin, Danny Hart, Jack Moir, Troy Brosnan and Loic Bruni all attacked the track with confidence. Heck, despite the rain Aaron Gwin rode the best race of his life and took the win while Greg crashed and was disqualified.

In every camp I coach I tell my students that the safest way to fall is to not fall! Let me explain, our brains don’t like the words no, not and don’t. There is a real simple reason for this, if we think “don’t crash” we have to think about crashing! “Oh, that last crash hurt! Man, don’t want to do that again …”. It completely shifts our focus from confident to not confident. This in turn affects our coordination! We become much less coordinated and lose our “athletic posture”. Not a safe way to ride.

Not only do we want to be confident, we want to ride confidently at 90-100% of our ability level. At less than 90% we lose focus at 101% we are riding over our skill level and will likely crash. If you can’t ride that section of trail confidently, get off you bike and walk it. Then, if you want to one day ride that section of trail figure what scares you about it and what skills you need to improve so it will no longer be scary!

Why 90-100% of our ability level? That is where the “flow state” is! In his book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that to reach the “flow state” we need a challenge but a challenge within reach. So, too big a challenge (riding at 101% or above) we will not reach the flow state and probably freak out and we crash. Not enough challenge (riding at less than 90% of our skill level) and our mind tends to wander and we crash.

By “trying to take it easy” Greg wasn’t riding at his usual level of confidence and “taking it easy” allowed Greg to lose focus for a split second and his run was over!

It was sad to see my friend, student and coach make this mistake but it is a great reminder to be on the offense or get off and walk! Riding defensively never ends well (as does riding above our skill level, you can always get off and walk!)!

I hope you have learned from Greg’s mistake and enjoyed this article. Feel free to share it with anyone you feel may benefit from it. Have something to say or ask? Please comment below.

Fear is Good

MTB Skills Practice, Make Best Use of Your Time (Hierarchy of MTB Skills)

With so many coaches and instructors joining the ranks these days riders are getting flooded with skills information. Much of the information is good, some not so so good but often, even if it is good information it isn’t worth your time! Let me explain, if there was one skill that would improve your riding by 70% (at least) and ten skills that would each make you 1% better wouldn’t your time be better spent on the skill that will make you 70% or more better?

In an effort to be heard above all the noise coaches are picking apart skills and explaining a very complex piece of a more simple skill to sound like “pros”. The problem is, 99.5% of riders including 3 time World Champ Greg Minnaar will never get to the level where that little complex piece would matter. I will give you an example then explain what I call the “Hierarchy of MTB Skills”. My example is one piece of a skill that definitely works but even Greg Minnaar does not do.

When cornering always have your inside foot forward, in the direction of the turn (enter a left hand corner with left foot forward, enter a right hand corner with right foot forward). This was first taught to me by downhill racing legend Rob Sears, RIP. This foot placement does work well* so why do great racers like Greg Minnaar not use this technique? Because after experimenting with this technique Greg realized it takes up too much band width and he would often mess up on a more important piece of cornering such as getting his speed down to the correct entrance speed for the corner and/or looking through the corner. In other words, Greg Minnaar was losing over a second or more per corner on the hopes of gaining a few 10ths of a second on half the corners (he always rides with his left forward so this new technique would only help in in right hand turns as he already always has the correct foot forward for left turns). That is not a good pay off! (This did work for a Rob and one other racer I know but for most of us it is a big, time wasting challenge and not worth the effort. If it comes easily to you go for it!)

Do you want to impress your friends with interesting but relatively useless knowledge or be able to ride at your best? My goal has always been to ride at my best! Knowledge is worthless if you can’t easily and consistently put that knowledge to use. If the best racer in the world (whose job is riding/practicing/racing bikes) can’t master the technique what are the odds that someone with a full-time job and possibly a family will have the time to master that technique?

As your coach my goal is to get you riding at your best and that is what you are paying me for. Even though I have coached numerous national and world champions you probably don’t have the time they have to practice. My goal isn’t to show off all the technical knowledge I have after over twenty years of coaching. My goal is to teach you how to master the skills with the biggest benefit to you! With that in mind I have developed “The Hierarchy of MTB Skills”.

The hierarchy is designed to help you focus on what you currently need to improve. Within the hierarchy there is even a hierarchy for each piece of that skill. For instance all skills require proper vision techniques and proper body position. So they are number 1 and 2 in “The Hierarchy of MTB Skills”.

No matter what skill you are working on the first two pieces will be vision flowed closely by body position. If your vision is off and every other piece of the skill is perfect it will still be a terrible corner or switchback. However, if the vision is perfect and everything else is a bit off it will likely still be a good corner or switchback. If both your vision and body position are perfect and everything else is a bit off it will probably be a better corner than 99% of mountain bikers are making!

If you have taken a camp from me or know how humans learn physical skills like mountain biking (see this article for more on that: http://betterride.net/blog/2015/mtb-skills-actually-learn-experts-often-make-poor-coaches/ ) you know that physical learning requires deliberate practice. Deliberate practice usually involves drills and I recommend at least three twenty minute drill sessions a week if you really want to see improvement in your riding and have those improvements stick! Use the hierarchy to get the most out of your practice time.

Once you master a skill you must keep practicing it to stay sharp (old saying, “amateurs practice until they get it right, pros practice until they can’t get it wrong”) by now you may be able to spend a little less time on that skill and more on the next skill down the hierarchy. Practicing just the two most important skills would be boring so spend sometime on all the skills but skew your time to get the biggest payback!

I know that you know that looking ahead on a mountain bike is important but I doubt you realize what a large percent of your riding time you aren’t doing it. The only way to fix that is to learn how to look at the trail and then train your eyes do that with vision drills. Watch the top downhill racers’ eyes, you will never see Aaron Gwin, Greg Minnaar or Rachel Atherton looking down, never! Now watch a video of you on a much less scary trail and I bet you will be surprised how often you are looking down.

I have quite a few friends who can manual (ride a wheelie downhill) for miles which is amazing to me! Yet they aren’t looking ahead all the time on trail, meaning I can corner, brake, ride off-camber roots, etc. better than they can. Don’t get me wrong, manualing for miles is cool and looks really fun, but doesn’t help you on the trail as much as vision

Don’t get frustrated, get motivated! Understand that if you master the top two skills on the hierarchy you are more than halfway to mastering every other skill. As for everything in life, the more you put into deliberate practice the more you will get out. Go practice! (using the drills I have taught you. As you know, telling yourself, “look ahead” doesn’t work! You must train your vision using drills.

Here is the Hierarchy of MTB Skills:

  1. Vision, always looking ahead correctly!A. Where you are lookingB. How you are looking

    C. Training your vision/subconscious connection

 

2. Body position, always in balance, in control, relaxed, neutral and in an athletic stance

A. Vision

B. Weight placement

C. Hinge

D. Arm/shoulder position

E. Foot placement on pedal

F. Dynamism

 

3. Balance, always in balance, balance can be trained*

A. Vision (huge affect on balance!)

B. Body position

C. Balance training

D. Pedal pressure

E. Slow speed balance

F. Trackstands

 

4. Braking

A. Vision

B. Descending body position

C. Foot and hand adjustments

D. Bracing

 

5. Cornering

A. Vision (looking through corner, 5-10 feet past exit if possible)

B. Descending body position

C. Braking, Get cutting speed braking done in straight line before starting corner

D. Line choice

E. Traction, correct body position for optimum traction

F. Foot placement (down or level), correct foot placement for goal (is your goal optimum traction in a loose corner or do have traction but want to accelerate by pumping the corner)

G. Forward foot towards turn direction (again, if you’re not perfect on everything above and/or if this makes you less perfect on anything above it is a complete waste of time)

 

6. Obstacles skills 1.0

A. Vision

B. Body position

C. Pedal Wheelie

D. Coasting Wheelie/Manual

E. Weight Shifts

 

7. Switchbacks

A. Vision

B. Body Position (climbing and descending)

C. Entrance preparation (braking for downhill switchback, shifting catching breath for uphill)

D. Line choice and turn entry point

E. Uphill, power modulation. Downhill brake control

 

8. Obstacle skills 2.0

A. Drop offs (at all speeds)

B. Rear wheel lift

C. Bump jump

D. Bunny hop/J Hop

E. Jumping

 

9. Riding Off-camber trails and roots

A. Vision

B. Body Position

C. Balance

D. Don’t brake!

 

10. Restarting on a hill

A. Vision

B. Body Position (climbing)

C. Seated

D. Vertical Bike

E. Clean wheel path

F. Gearing

G. Pedal away (don’t push off with foot on ground)

H. The “second pedal”!

  • *Why when cornering having your inside foot forward (enter a left hand corner with left foot forward, enter a right hand corner with right foot forward) can slightly improve your cornering. It is a balance and smoothness issue. You can put your trailing foot where it feels natural and balanced. You can slow go from level pedals to having the outside foot anywhere between 9 o’clock (level with front pedal) and 6 o’clock (straight down). Sometimes your outside foot will go slowly from 6 o’clock to 7:30 other times quickly from 6 to 9 and every combination in between. With the outside foot forward it usually only feels comfortable in either 3 o’clock or 6, everywhere else just feels awkward! This also provides a smooth transition from equal weight on both pedals to all on the outside pedal. For most of us a subtle difference, one day at the world cup level it might matter!