Thursday, January 27, 2011

10 New Reasons To Get Out Of Bed: The Morning Workout

Whether you're an athlete or just trying to get fit, actually getting to your workout is sometimes the hardest part.

I mean, it doesn't take that many neurons to run in place on a treadmill for a bit. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out a basic set of core exercises. And it's not mentally strenuous to ride the trainer. Okay, maybe that one's a stretch, but hear me out.

Once you've arrived at the gym, or your living room, or got your shoes on for a run around the block(s), the rest is, in my opinion, comparatively easy. In the words of a sports company that will go unnamed, once you're there, you "Just Do It".

So sitting here, scheduling February's menu for fitness and fun and juggling an increasingly busy calendar at the office, I'm seeing more and more benefits to THE MORNING WORKOUT.

Many readers will scoff at the concept. Getting out of bed early (a chore on its own) in order to accomplish the chore of working out simply isn't an option for most. But I'd like to dedicate this blog post to changing your mind. Here are 10 reasons why training in the morning is where it's at.

  1. You are literally putting yourself first. And that's good livin'

  2. You eliminate the nagging feeling that there's still a workout to do after a long day at the office

  3. Half the workout is done before your brain is entirely switched on, so that's like free hours/miles right there!

  4. You have the evening to do whatever you want. Like another workout! Or get a pedicure, go to dinner with actual other people, join a book club (or just read facebook, whatever.)

  5. You can have bacon with your breakfast and enjoy it, guilt free

  6. Sunrise is pretty. You can check it out!

  7. You only have to have ONE shower a day ... So you could say that working out in the morning is actually good for the ENVIRONMENT as well as your health!

  8. You'll get to benefit from the natural high and energy boost working-out gives you all day long, instead of wasting it trying to get your stimulated brain to sleep if you workout in the evening

  9. At the gym, there's not as many people waiting for the equipment or classes

  10. You get to go ahead and feel dedicated or "hard core". It's great for the ego :) Plus, you probably aren't doing anything else so you don't have to free up space in your day-planner.
True, when that alarm goes off in the 4s or 5s, sometimes it's easy to just lob a closed-fist over to the snooze button. So here are some ideas on how to help with "the hard part" -- getting out of bed.

1.) Get a sunrise clock. I stole one from my dad who doesn't need it now that he's retired and can work out whenever he wants. The concept is basically a natural-ish light gradually turns on beside your head that simulates the sun and stimulates your body's natural wake-up mechanisms. It makes wakey-time a hundred times easier for me (but I recommend pairing with an audible alarm just to be safe).

2.) New equipment. Sometimes I can trick myself into wanting to get up just by promising myself I get to wear that new pair of shorts, head band or use that new medicine ball. Oddly effective.

3.) Treats! Just as with new stuff, I respond well to food-motivation. A nice cup of tea WHILE on the trainer. A smoothie for the train ride to the gym. Whatever works.

4.) Consistency. It's actually WAY healthier for your body to get up at the same time every day, weekend or weekday. Our systems like consistency and patterns. So even though it hurts at first, rest assured that your body will make the transition to "morning person" happily and it won't take that long.

5.) A new playlist or TV viewing. I'm totally willing to make that extra push out of bed if I know I've got a sick new track loaded on the iPod or the latest Desperate Housewives episode to watch.

Remember training is all about you. So put yourself first, enjoy your you-time (extra so since YOU are likely the only person around at 5am) and I hope this post doesn't cause all of you to run to the gym tomorrow because I don't have time to wait in lines ;)
Happy training,

Monday, January 24, 2011

Put Your Back Into It

"You can do it, put your back into it." Heard that song on the radio about once a day as we rip around on the PCH between trailheads down here. How fitting then that our last day of riding featured the famous Backbone Trail. Put your back into it, indeed.

Judging by the trail sign, the Backbone Trail is like the Californian version of the Bruce Trail. It connects all kinds of camp grounds, hiking trails and trail suitable for riding horses and bikes. And it's mad awesome singletrack.

After the serious business of pre-ride fueling (like, serious. I thought I ate a lot until I shared a table with Peter Glassford ...) we all drove south towards Thousand Oaks. PG had to get the car to the garage for its oil change so he dropped Matt P and me off at the Backbone Trailhead at the top of Decker Road. The drive up was insane. Crazy tight corners, steep incline and a little motion sickness for good measure. And guess what! Later, we'd get to ride DOWN it.

The coolest thing about California is that every day has been my new favourite day. Today was no exception. At times it felt like we were ripping back through Albion. And then the next corner would include a view of green fields, ranches, and the ocean below and you'd know you weren't in Kansas, Toto.

We followed the Backbone until we made a wrong turn and ended up at the top of a long fire-road climb -- Zuma Ridge Trail. Matt P did a great job of not worrying me that we were a little off course, and we picked out a climb across the valley that we figured would take us where we needed to go. So down we went. The terrain was loose and the corners tight so after a couple tips from Matt, I got some quality time practising transfering my braking and weighting the bike properly into and out of the corners. At the bottom of all that, we crossed a creek precariously balancing on cleats and rocks while shouldering bikes and that meant the ride had just become "epic", at least by my standards.

And then the climb. The climb made the ride epic by anyone's standards.

It was so long, and steep and exposed. My backbone was complaining like the dickens, but I made it, and I did it smiling. A couple more wrong turns and we made it back on track.

We rode out and back on a couple Malibu sections of the Backbone before looping back to the section that brought us back to the car. The only bummer was the horse. Of course, we could hear it clip clopping just up the trail on some of the flowiest single track of the day. That meant there would be no ripping it up because horses and bikes and singletrack do NOT go together well. So we cautiously approached and caught up. The rider turned the horse around so it was facing Matt P and I thought it was going to paw him into the ground the way it was stomping its feet and tossing its head. It had already freaked itself out by the stream in the trail in the other direction, so by now I'm guessing it was feeling a little cornered. Don't worry, we got by. And so did the horse.

We finished the ride with the sun in our eyes, and I was so sad that there would be no more Californian singletrack for me. But wait! There was still one more death-defying descent, this time on pavement. With guardrails. Apparently Decker road is somewhat of a measuring stick for the guys down here and it didn't take long for Matt P to disappear into one of the bends. I decided that I didn't need to measure up ... I just needed to get down. Safely.

And of course, after all that we had coffee. Waiting at home for me was my coveted can't-get-it-in-Canada Cherry Coke and dinner. I am now sitting on the couch, watching Ghostbusters, digesting a big meal and thinking about heading to bed soon. Tomorrow is going to be a long day. Back to Toronto, back to the cold, back to reality, back to work.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Romero Canyon

The day began with the usual homemade breakfast buffet. I had quinoa with blueberries and maple syrup, chicken, green smoothie and sweet potato. Then Matt P and I hopped in the car for the drive up the PCH towards Santa Barbara, checking out the surfers ripping on the way. Peter's mtb was still in the shop, so he was off to ride the Gibraltor climb on a solo five hour road bike mission (which ended up taking him even less than five hours despite a mad headwind).

Matt and I parked in the foothills and then started up the Romero Canyon climb. It was Sunday, so there were lots of folks hiking. I guess there's some animosity between hikers and bikers around here -- apparently the riders are a little aggressive? I dunno, we didn't see many other riders, but I did notice that sometimes when I said hello to those on foot, I was slow to get a response (if at all). Also apparently you're supposed to have a turkey-bell attached to your saddle so they can hear you coming ... whoops.

Anyway, the pitch was great for our day's work. We were able to keep a pretty steady pace all the way up, interrupted only a couple times, most notably by a rock slide that resulted in a little hike-a-bike. The other stops were all photography related. We met a nice local who told Matt about yet more mtb trails in the area and she explained that actually January is the best time to come to Cali because this is the time they're at their greenest tree-wise (before everything gets crispy in the summer sun) and the mountain biking is the best for climate and vegetation. Good to know!

At the top, we took in another amazing view and then it was back to scary-ass single track descending. Not as terrifying as yesterday, but still death-defying in a few places. Some of the trail was eroding off the sides in an odd mixture of shale, dirt and what seemed like wood chips. It was slippery regardless. That was the top half. The bottom half of the descent featured some amazing rock gardens, stream crossings and tacky dirt. So awesome. I was able to get back some confidence and clear some stuff I was unsure of. Always a good feeling.

Back at the car all too soon, we changed and then headed down to Santa Barbara to meet up with Peter for coffee, shopping and dinner. The drive into town through Montecito and then the outskirts of SB was eye-opening. Apparently the median price for a home in Montecito is about $2.8 million. And you can easily see why. Every estate has perfectly manicured landscaping featuring cacti and palms with colourful blooms. The houses were beautiful with that red clay roofing I love. Amazing drive, full of day dreaming.

In SB, we had coffee at the Santa Barbara Roasting Co, a local favourite for good reason. That set us up perfectly to walk up State Street. Peter got a sick new blazer and I found a couple sparklies between coffees, window shopping and people watching. We checked out the Arbor snow shop, this cool bike shop, and had Indian for dinner. Then it was back home to Oxnard and bed to get ready for the last day of riding: Backbone Trail. Santa Barbara is officially on my "come back again" list.

Ojai, Pronounced Oh-high

Yesterday we rode into un-charted territory. Peter had rode the trails of Ojai before so he sent us in the right direction, but for Matt P (and of course, me) we were going mostly by sight and Garmin. From where we parked the car, it was clear that the day was going to feature climbing. I had no idea what I was in for.

The sun and the amazing scenery were the spoonful of sugar that helped the medicine go down (or up, rather?). Past the lemon orchards, and the beaufiful homes up the streets of Ojai until we arrived at the trail head. Saw some deer making their way through one of the gated estates. Then it was singletrack time. Up and up and up and up. Three hours of up. 1,379m of up. Matt P had to dangle the In N Out burger just to get me up the final reaches.

And then Down!!! The open roads at the top of the exposed, wind-swept peak got us started. Literally the first time we'd coasted in hours. It felt awesome. I almost wept with relief. I was holding on over the loose gravel, waiting for my legs to get the shakes out when my right hand was unexpectedly flush with my grip, brake lever completely unresponsive. Wow, 1300 metres up ... the highest we could be ... and this is when my rear brake fails. Just in time for the longest descent of my life.

I tried not to panic and I gingerly made my way down to where Matt was waiting using just the front brake. "so you'll never guess what ..." I said. I didn't know what was wrong with it, let alone how to begin to fix it. I was starting to envision a loooong walk down. But Matt saved the day! the pivot on the lever had become loose and the part was STILL ON THE BIKE. A miracle. So we put it back together and thanked our lucky stars.

I was extra thankful once we found the singletrack we planned to descend on. It was not a trail you could do with one brake. It was terrifying with two. It was narrow. Off-camber. Rough and loose. And the sides gave way to 1000 ft+ sheer drops. I felt like a REAL mountain biker. My inner-voice saying "don't look down, don't look down, don't look down" on repeat.

Matt and I stopped periodically to rest our hands and arms and the brake pads. Also to "regroup" as Matt said. He meant literally, make sure we were still together. But I began taking "regroup" as regaining my wits so we could continue to the next dizzying switch back. It seemed to take forever to lose the elevation we'd gained, but finally, the trail began to widen, and the edges filled in with trees, and bushes. And we could finally let go of the brakes.

We coasted back into Ojai past some of the most beautiful homes I've ever seen. Even more beautiful because of what we'd just experienced in their back yards. A pair of riders on horseback completed the picture.

We parked at the "Park and Ride" which I think is actually meant for transit but suited us fine. There was a skate park there as well and it was suiting them fine as well. I saw kids there who looked like they'd just learned to walk, skating the quarter pipe. It was amazing. Ah, California.

We packed up and it was off to In N Out. I thought In N Out was just another burger place, but I was actually pretty impressed to find out that their fries are all hand cut and fried in the store. And they're gluten free. The buns are made to their order and they're preservative free. And the beef is never frozen. The menu is super simple: burger and fries. And they even had Dr. Pepper on tap. Anyone who's done a long ride will tell you, it doesn't matter what you put in your mouth at the end, it's going to be awesome. But I think In N Out stands alone. I hope we go back.

And so ended another amazing day in California. I'm not much fun in the evenings, so we sat around, ate and ate and ate, chatted, did some reading in the New Yorker before I was down for the count at 9pm.

Today ... The wind is howling, so I'm a little nervous about the ride. I think we're planning to head out to Santa Barbara.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My California Trip

Flying into L.A. past the Hollywood sign and into green fields with flowers and palm trees was especially surreal after having just been in Calgary where it was 20 below and snowing. LAX looked like an enormous intimidating airport but somehow I met my ride, Matt P, and it was off to lunch -- typical LA I thought: a salad as big as your head (so awesome after nothing but bits and bites for 8 hours). Then we drove up the coastal highway towards Oxnard passing the mansions of Malibu, strawberry fields, and of course the Pacific. I pinched myself more than once.

The house is amazing, a short walk to the beach with a rooftop patio. I've got a king-size bed and my own bathroom and the last two times I've fallen into it, I've had deep, replenishing sleep, which I'm gonna need because today we're adding another four hours of riding to the three we did yesterday + two hours of surfing.

OMG Surfing. I booked a lesson with the Silver Strand Surf School and never looked back. Because Matt P and Peter both wanted to come, we got a "semi-private" rate of $75 bucks for two hours and all the required equipment. Totally worth it. Our instructor Chris explained the basics on the shore and before we knew it, we were catching totally tubular waves dude. Much to my surprise and GLEE, I caught my very first one and surfed almost all the way back into shore. I was so excited ... until I realized I'd then have to paddle all the way back out to where they were breaking on the sand bar. Paddling. Is. Hard. All of us consider ourselves fine athletes and all of us were drawing on our deepest reserves. Today my chest is so sore it feels like I had open heart surgery. But nothing compares to the feeling of the waves picking up the back of the board, then one two three hard strokes before you jump up and ride it til it finishes gently enough that you can just sit back down on the board. Then paddle back out there. All of us rocked it and the stoke was high on the drive back.

The riding was equally exciting. Matt P and I headed down to Mugu State Park for three hours of fun. We climbed two mountains, rallied a few amazing descents, and delivered a necessary shock to my system. I bonked, but I think mainly the problem was my body was a little confused as to how we went from snow to shorts in such a short period of time. I'm optimistic today will be a little more measured.

Peter's bike is in the shop after he hucked it off some sweet jumps, so he's doing a group ride on the road today. Hopefully he gets it back in time for the three of us to check out the Back Bone Trail together before I have to leave. For now, it's just me and Matt P. Today:

Looks like something I'll need some fuel for, so it's breakfast time. Later skaters.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Some great training tracks out there lately -- added these to high rotation from what's new and some from what's old:

1.) Hello - Martin Solveig Ft. Dragonette

2.) Stereo Love - Edward Maya and Mia Martina

3.) We Speak No Americano - Yolanda Be Cool and Dcup

4.) Teenage Dream - Katy Perry (Kascade club remix)

5.) Bulletproof - La Roux

6.) Fire In Your New Shoes - Kaskade Ft. Dragonette

7.) Dog Days Are Over - Florence + The Machine

8.) With Every Heartbeat - Kleerup Ft. Robyn

9.) Broke My Eyes - Donkeyboy

10.) Stuttering - Fefe Dobson

California, Girl!

Exciting news for 2011 training!!

I'm taking some time to check out Matt P and Peter Glassford's California operation.

So next week, I'll be winging down to LAX before catching a ride up to their house "30 seconds from the beach" just north of the City of Angels in a place called "Oxnard".

Then it'll be four days of mountain biking, eating [fresh local strawberries], recovering, listening to Katy Perry and reading "Gidget".

I don't know how much of a "base miles" benefit I'll get over such a short trip, but making friends with my new bike and giving myself the gift of riding in a new place with people who know where to go will be pretty much the best thing ever.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Spinning Begins!

With the new year comes new resolve to get back into the training routine. So far so good! Our first spinning class of the 12-week base camp was a baptism by fire. Basically, we introduced ourselves to new and old campers, and then got straight to the burning business of an 8 minute stress test ... times two. This is my fourth year at camp, and the fifth year it's run. Time really flies Except for those 8 minutes I mentioned ... they creep by.

The test is a Coach Carmichael (That's Lance's longtime coach for those who don't recognize the name) adapted method that seems to do a decent job of pinning down early season heart rate zones without having to do the potentially damaging work the regular test would do to an early season physique. (You've can't just dive into a twenty minute time trial before stretching your capillaries to support the pumping blood, limbering up the muscles and developing the cardiovascular efficiency required.)

At first I thought my scores were kind of a disappointment. Somehow in my head I had last year's scores about 10bpm higher (indicating better cardio-vascular health this time last year, thus, more ground to make up for this year). But "in my head" is exactly where that belonged. The data shows I'm actually the same, if not better off. Hurray! The mind can play funny tricks when you're burning up your matches. As Daffyd put it, "doubt and self-loathing are a part of cycling!"

I was surprised at how pumped I was actually for a Sunday morning class that began at 7am. I was all smiles and ready for intense work ... eager to unleash some hurt on that spin bike. Looking forward to a great winter of training.

Over the five years that camp has run, it's changed up a bit and become more and more useful for people like me who are trying to juggle "real life" with my "hobby". So our spinning sessions are two hard rides a week I don't have to coach, cajole or cry about by myself. That means that most of my solo-responsibilities include things that aren't hard to convince myself of, like some strength sessions or mindless movie-watching: a euphemism for "riding the trainer". There's strength in numbers, people. I'm a cycle-holic, and RPM is my support group.

In sum, basically this blog post is to say, I'm motivated, feeling good, and pray to God the feeling lasts.
Afterall, it's only January!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

RPM in the news!

This is my winter bike -- I always sit here at spin class: front row, window. Good stuff.

The Star has done an article on my FAVOURITE spin Gym, RPM. I've been going to RPM regularly each winter for about four years now. I credit their 12-week base training camp as the one thing that really gets me to my next level every race season.

The author's one bit of criticism comes in response to the gym's lack of shower facilities --"It may seem like a minor hitch, but it’s a major deterrent for an otherwise stellar studio. It means people can’t catch a class on their way to work or anywhere else, because there’s no place to freshen up," she says.

To Paola I say, if you feel like you can go to work, or anywhere else right after class, you didn't do it right ;)

I added my own two cents to her summary below in a different colour for more ... er ... colour than Paola provides as well.

Click on my left nav bars for gravity and spinning class schedules. Also, it's not mentioned in the article but personal [strength] training and testing are also available for those looking for a little more than just beginner services.

Hope to see you there!

Here's the full article:

Gym Rat: This spin gym will leave you drenched in sweat
January 6, 2011
Paola Loriggio


RPM Spinning + Gravity Studio
2109 Bloor St. W.,
Reserve your spot by calling: 416-761-9717

The class: Spin and Gravity. Gravity Machines use your own body weight to get a good strength work out. Classes are led by an instructor and go for an hour.
Time: 6:15 p.m. Tuesdays, one hour long Check my left nav for a link to full class schedules.
Cost: Six points (new members pay $20 for 20 points) There are also a number of training "camps" -- boot camps, Ride to Conquer Cancer camps and of course the one I love, 12-week base training camp. You pay up front and you're free to make up any missed classes during the period of your camp.
Instructor: Kelley Fitzpatrick, cheerful and friendly but no-nonsense during the tough bits. Each instructor makes the class their own. Nothing off the shelf for these guys.
Music: Mostly trance and electronica Totally depends on the instructor and never be shy to "veto" a track! (In camp, Daffyd welcomes guest play lists -- just set it up on your ipod and plug it in -- but veto rules apply)
Volume: Background level during warm-up and cool-down, bar level in the middle
Intensity: You won’t be able to talk, but you can always scale down the resistance on the bike.
Amenities: No showers. Change rooms are basic stalls. To reach them, you have to cross through the Gravity room. Cubbies take the place of lockers. Everyone in the Gravity room will be working and focusing so hard they won't even notice you.
Ambience: Simple and spartan. The bikes take centre stage, so there isn’t much room to linger. Who goes there: Cycling buffs and triathletes and people looking to start riding for a charity ride or to lose weight or for fun.
Who it’s for: Cyclists training for a race or people who like to feel like they are or people who want to meet like-minded people and maybe even go riding outside together once the snow stops
Grade: B+ (points lost for lack of amenities)

When my former running buddy — now an Ironman competitor — recommended spin classes at RPM, I knew they’d be tough.

The studio, which runs only spin and Gravity Training System classes — the latter incorporates a “glideboard” on rails — is across the street from the High Park branch of the Running Room, making it a prime destination for triathletes.

I’m no triathlete, but I do bike. Mostly for transportation, though I’ll argue that lugging a heavy bike stuck in first gear across the city counts as exercise.

And, yes, I’ve also done the odd spin class, but never at a specialty gym.

It makes a difference, in the same way that bread from an artisanal bakery is different from the stuff you get at the grocery store. When your entire business revolves around one product, it had better be good.

RPM knows its audience. These are serious workouts built around real training drills.

The class I took was a pyramid drill, a type of interval training that slowly builds to a peak before gradually easing back down.

We did five sets of intervals that included a “fast flat,” a “seated climb,” a “standing climb” and a “standing run.”

For the first set, each interval lasted 30 seconds. For the second, they were a minute. Then the third, at 90 seconds. Then back to 60, then to 30. The whole thing was peppered with 30-second “attacks,” basically all-out sprints out of the saddle.

After the first set, the class fell into a focused silence. The hypnotic electronica soundtrack — not usually my cup of tea — actually helped, lulling us into a kind of trance.

Even the instructor, who kicked off the class with a hilarious story involving Scotch and a sippy cup, got quiet. She called out the intervals and reminded everyone to drink water, with minimal chit-chat.

I was relieved. In my eyes, there’s nothing worse during a gruelling workout than an overly enthusiastic cheerleader constantly telling you you’re “doing great” or you’re “almost there.”

“I like to work hard, whether I’m teaching or taking a class,” Kelley Fitzpatrick says in a post-class interview.

The pyramid “is definitely one of my go-to classes,” and one of the most popular with regulars, Fitzpatrick says, adding she’s known for hills more than speed.

With roughly a decade of experience teaching spin, Fitzpatrick has an arsenal of workouts to draw on for her classes.

She puts a lot of effort into keeping them fresh, getting feedback from customers at the studio as well as from spin enthusiasts online. So far, no one’s complained they were too easy, she says with a laugh.

Still, since there’s usually a few beginners in each class, Fitzpatrick is adamant that everyone stick to their own pace. (I stopped adding resistance halfway through the class.)

Even though its core audience is super fit, RPM is a fairly beginner-friendly gym. Classes are drop-in, with a significant discount for new clients. Staff members are friendly and helpful, and no one seems to care if you’re not wearing a race jersey.

But one thing boggles the mind: why would a gym that prides itself on challenging, sweat-busting workouts not have any showers? (Apparently most customers come from the Bloor West Village neighbourhood and go home to shower.)

It may seem like a minor hitch, but it’s a major deterrent for an otherwise stellar studio. It means people can’t catch a class on their way to work or anywhere else, because there’s no place to freshen up.

So yes, the product itself is great. Too bad the lack of amenities means I won’t be able to enjoy it very often.

Paola Loriggio is a journalist in Toronto. She owns more workout clothes that real ones. Gym Rat runs twice a month.