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Coach Charlie: How to prepare your body for #ESR24 training

Coach charlie LIvermore on Mobility

Charlie Livermore sits in a chair wearing an Empire State Ride jersey and smiles.

The Empire State Ride is lucky to have the support of professional cycling coach Charlie Livermore as an advisor and friend. Charlie is not only a coach at Carmichael Training Systems, but also serves as a training consultant on our adventure across New York State. He offers his expertise and tips to all ESR riders and joins us on the road each July to ride 500+ miles.  

All blogs by Charlie

The days are getting shorter and for many ESR riders, the outdoor riding season is coming to an end. Fall and winter are typically the best times to begin an off-the-bike program. This period of low to no riding is when you can switch your focus to preparing your body for 2024 ESR training.

The goals of an off-season preparation program are injury prevention, improved muscle recruitment patterns and improved efficiency on the bike. There are many approaches. For example:

  • Cross train with running
  • Cross country skiing
  • Hiking
  • Start a strength resistance/weight training program
  • Take yoga or pilates classes
  • Mobility training

I’m a firm believer that mobility is what we all need most for our long-term health and wellbeing. When you change the way you move and correct the imbalances caused by our modern habits, you will get better results for all other off-season options and the spring cycling season itself.

Mobility is defined as the active control of a joint. It is the combination of strength, flexibility and control. Mobility training involves conditioning or priming joints at their end range of motion which then expands the joint’s workspace and contributes to long-lasting changes.

Flexibility is defined as the passive control of a joint. Flexibility training or stretching creates temporary changes to the tissues. Flexibility is the muscle’s ability to passively lengthen. Flexibility, therefore, is a component of mobility, though mobility and flexibility are not interchangeable.

The great thing about mobility training is that you can do it at home with minimum to no equipment, and most sessions are in the 12 – 30 minute range.

Here are my two favorite programs that you can stream and follow at home.

FOUNDATION TRAINING (FT) :    https://ftstreaming.com/

TRS VIRTUAL MOBILITY COACH: https://thereadystate.com/trial/

Start moving right and have a great fall and winter season!

See you on the road,

Coach Charlie

Coach Charlie Livermore: Pedaling and Shifting 101

Charlie Livermore sits in a chair wearing an Empire State Ride jersey and smiles.

The Empire State Ride is lucky to have the support of professional cycling coach Charlie Livermore as an advisor and friend. Charlie is not only a coach at Carmichael Training Systems, but also serves as a training consultant on our adventure across New York State. He offers his expertise and tips to all ESR riders and joins us on the road each July to ride 500+ miles.  

All blogs by Charlie

Coach Charlie Livermore on Pedaling.

This is a short version of a much longer talk on pedaling that Charlie will present at the ESR. The aim of this blog is to give you a simple technique you can practice to improve your pedaling efficiency.

For many of you training for the Empire State Ride, the outdoor riding season has finally arrived. The transition from indoor to outdoor riding adds the challenge of varying terrain, wind and group dynamics that require skills to manage well. Let’s look at what arguably are the most important skills that will make you a better cyclist: pedaling and shifting.

Pedaling.

Why is pedaling technique so important?

A line of ESR riders pedal together
Shows a close-up of an ESR rider's bike

Good pedaling efficiency results in getting the absolute most power from each revolution of your pedal stroke. Do it well, and youll produce more power for the same or less energy output.

Most amateur cyclists pump their legs down, in a style which results in spikesin torque, rather than a smooth, consistent application of power. Pedaling this way is all start-stop-start-stop. Rounding out your pedal stroke decreases torque spikes with each pedal revolution.

How do you pedal efficiently?

If you’ve had a good bike fit and are sitting optimally centered around the bottom bracket (seat height and for/aft position), you’ll be able to create full torque from 12 o’clock (top of the pedal stroke) to 7 o’clock (just past the bottom) with each leg. While your foot is traveling from 6 – 7 o’clock, the opposite leg takes over to create torque. It’s not full circles with each leg! Think a good smooth 1/2 circle with a well-timed handoff to the leg coming up around the back. The result is constant torque all the way around, all the time.

How can I spot inefficiency in my own pedaling?

Change up your cadence to highlight weaknesses. Say you ride naturally at 80 rotations per minute (RPM) — increase the cadence for a minute to around 100 rpm. If you are bouncing on the saddle, your pedal stroke is probably inefficient.

Similarly, try riding at a slow cadence, 50–60 RPM, and notice if the pedal stroke feels like a push-and-stop effort. If you’re constantly finding yourself re-engaging on the pedals, it means you disengaged from them. Disengaging results in a loss of speed and requires a re-engagement, which is the same as reaccelerating. Acceleration requires much more energy than keeping speed steady.

Shifting.

What's shifting all about?

Two ESR riders ride around New York City during ESR22.
An ESR rider cruises down the street.

The primary function of gears are to enable us to maintain a comfortable pedaling speed (cadence) regardless of the gradient or terrain. 

 

A high gear, sometimes referred to as a ‘big gear,’ is optimal when descending or riding at high speeds. The highest or biggest gear on a bicycle is achieved by combining the largest front chainring size with the smallest rear cog or sprocket. Vice versa, combining the smallest front chainring size with the largest rear sprocket size results in the lowest available gear, which will help you keep your desired cadence when the road points up.

 

Again, shifting is about pedaling efficiency. Having a much broader choice of gears for a given situation will allow you to apply torque smoothly around the pedal stroke. I recommend having the greatest gear ratio possible for ESR. I’ll be riding a compact crankset 50/32 with an 11–30 tooth cassette on my bike.

 

Since we are all proficient drivers, I like to use the car analogy to bring home a point. Just like a car, bicycles benefit from a low gear to accelerate from a standstill, or to climb a steep hill, and at the other end of the scale, a high gear helps you to achieve high speeds without over-revving.

 

Continuing with the car example, using too low a gear at high speed would result in high fuel consumption. The same is true of your body pedaling a bike. More gears means more scope to your pedaling technique by fine-tuning your cadence to suit the gradient or terrain, often resulting in a lower energy cost.

On Cadence.

A quick word on cadence. I don’t believe there’s a specific optimum cadence for everyone, but current theories suggest that you should aim to train yourself toward a higher cadence as it’s a more efficient use of energy – moving the stress more to your cardiovascular system. The best cadence is the one that produces the smoothest torque around the pedal stroke.

 

Bike Practice.

Those long easy weekend endurance rides can feel boring and tedious, but they are crucial for aerobic development. These are the best rides to practice your pedaling and shifting skills and the focus will help pass the time.

This blog post by Chris Carmichael, “6 Shifting Tips To Be A Faster Cyclist Today,” is a good read to continue your education on shifting. 

I’ll leave you with a final thought on shifting: Never be satisfied with the gear you’re in. Shift constantly to try to find a better one. In a 75-mile ride, it’s common to shift 500–750 times. Keep an active hand on your shifter the whole ride.

I’ll be presenting an in-depth talk on pedal stroke at the ESR this year. I hope to see you there!

 

In the meantime: Train Right!

Coach Charlie

Coach Charlie Livermore: Nutrition and Hydration for ESR Training

The Empire State Ride is lucky to have the support of professional cycling coach Charlie Livermore as an advisor and friend. Charlie is not only a coach at Carmichael Training Systems, but also serves as a training consultant on our adventure across New York State. He offers his expertise and tips to all ESR riders and joins us on the road each July to ride 500+ miles.

All blogs by Charlie.

Coach Charlie Livermore on Nutrition and Hydration.

The aim of this blog is to give you simple tips you can use to fuel your hydration and nutrition strategy as you train for the 2023 Empire State Ride. 

In my coaching practice, I spend equal amount of time prescribing training and the fueling strategy necessary to complete those workouts and adapt positively. In this era of low carbohydrate diets, getting my athletes to consume enough carbohydrates is a struggle. When they do, the difference in the consistency of their moderate-to-high intensity efforts is astonishing.

Carbohydrate needs may be different at different exercise intensities. When exercise intensity is low and total carbohydrate oxidation rates are low, carbohydrate intake may have to be adjusted downward. With increasing exercise intensity, the active muscle mass becomes more and more dependent on carbohydrates as a source of energy.

Hydration is perhaps even more critical to get right for all workouts. One of my favorite quotes, “Nutrition doesn’t work in a dehydrated environment,” sums it up well.

Here’s a closer look at both areas:

Hydration.

The weather gets hot in July, and your body’s cooling mechanism is sweat. You must replace both the liquid and the electrolytes that make up your sweat. The less acclimated you are to heat, the more electrolytes you lose through sweat. Here are some tips to keep you well hydrated all week:

  • Drink 1 to 1.5 bottles per hour, depending on the intensity and length of the ride. Use an exercise hydration product that primarily focuses on replenishing electrolytes and carbohydrates.

  • If you have a computer that has an “Alert” feature, program it to remind you to drink every 10-20 minutes. The latest research recommends drinking greater amounts every 20 minutes vs. small sips every 10 minutes. If you choose every 20 minutes, you’ll need to drink a third of your bottle at a time. Either way, you’ll be fine.

  • Drink before and after your ride. Drink 8 ounces of water first thing in the morning and begin hydrating for the next day as soon as you finish you ride. A common practice I use (it’s hot in Florida) is to weigh myself before and after my ride. Then, I hydrate until I recapture my pre-ride weight. If you lost more than 3% of your morning weight, you didn’t drink enough during your ride.

  • If you’re urinating a lot throughout the day and the color is toward the clear side, you may not be absorbing what you’re drinking. Add some electrolytes to help absorption.
Meal #1 of ESR
Meal #1 of ESR

Nutrition.

Now that we’re beginning the level of intensity in training that requires glycolytic energy metabolism, we need to make sure we have the fuel/energy for the work required. For this type of work, carbohydrates will be your primary source of energy — but you also need protein.

 

Click the headings below to learn more:

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates requirements depend on the duration of your workout or ride. For the purposes of this guide: I’m going to break it down to three categories: Short: 45-60 minutes, Medium: 60 minutes to 2 hours and Long: 2+ hours.

Short: 45-60 minutes.

  • Pre-Workout: If you haven’t eaten three hours prior to your workout, consume a Gel 15 minutes prior to the workout.
  • During workout: An electrolyte hydration mix is all you need for this workout. I prefer LMNT or Liquid IV.
  • After workout: Drink 24oz to 32oz of the same low-calorie hydration recommended above, especially if your workout was indoors or in hot weather.

Medium: 60 minutes – 2 hours.

  • Pre-Workout: If you haven’t eaten three hours prior to your workout, consume a sport bar or a PB+J sandwich prior to your workout.
  • During workout: Consume 40g of carbs per hour. Here’s an example:
  • Skratch Sport (21g of carbs) + 1x Gels (20g of carbs) = 41g of carbs
  • After workout: Immediately after a medium-intensity workout, drink 24 oz to 32 oz of the same low-calorie hydration such as LMNT or Liquid IV. Within 30–45 minutes, consume a sports recovery shake. I like Skratch Recovery.

Long: 2+ hours.

  • Pre-Workout: If you haven’t eaten three hours prior to your workout, consume a bar or a PB+J sandwich prior to your workout.
  • During workout: Consume 60g of carbs per hour. Here’s an example:
  • Skratch Sport (21g of carbs) + 2x Gels (40g of carbs) = 61g of carbs
  • After workout: Immediately after a long workout, drink 24oz to 32oz of the same low-calorie hydration such as LMNT or Liquid IV. Within 30–45 minutes, consume a sports recovery shake like Skratch Recovery.

Current data suggests that dietary protein intake needed to support metabolic adaptation, repair, remodeling, and protein turnover generally ranges from 1.5–2.0 g/kg/d or to make it very simple, 1 gram per pound of body weight. Daily protein intake goals should be met with a meal plan providing a regular spread of moderate amounts of high-quality protein across the day.

Recommendations are currently to consume 25-30g of protein per meal. The key to maximizing muscle protein synthesis is to consume that amount, 4-5 times per day with at least three hours in between each consumption.

Nutrition itself does not make you fitter on the bike. What it does, however, is provide significant contributions to what we are trying to achieve from training.

 

Good luck, 

Coach Charlie

Coach Charlie Livermore: Pedaling Efficiently

Charlie Livermore sits in a chair wearing an Empire State Ride jersey and smiles.

The Empire State Ride is lucky to have the support of professional cycling coach Charlie Livermore as an advisor and friend. Charlie is not only a coach at Carmichael Training Systems, but also serves as a training consultant on our adventure across New York State. He offers his expertise and tips to all ESR riders and joins us on the road each July to ride 500+ miles.  

All blogs by Charlie

Coach charlie LIvermore on Pedaling

This is a short version of a much longer talk on pedaling that Charlie will present at the ESR. The aim of this blog is to give you a simple technique you can practice to improve your pedaling efficiency.

Training for 2023 ESR requires lots of time at an easy, conversational pace (endurance intensity). Athletes often find this important piece of the training puzzle boring and repetitive. It’s too “easy” to keep your mind focused on the workout execution and counterintuitive to the old “no pain, no gain” cliche. But there’s no better time to practice your pedaling mechanics and improve your cycling efficiency than during those 60’ to 6-hour endurance rides. The smoother and more efficient you can train your pedaling stroke, the less energy you require to maintain your power or speed — and who wouldn’t benefit from that?

Think of a pedal stroke in the same way you might think of a golf swing, tennis swing or swim stroke. It’s a complex series of muscle activation of the hips, gluteus and leg muscles to act on moving the crank in a circle to create maximum torque. The longer you can create torque around the pedal stroke, the better. This is referred to as the duty cycle.

In the image below, you can see what the duty cycle of an efficient cyclist looks like compared to the duty cycle of most recreational cyclists.

On the left, the efficient cyclist starts applying tangential force when the crank is behind 12 o’clock (green) and ends at about 7 o’clock (pink). On the right, the duty cycle starts at 1 o’clock (pink) and ends before 6 o’clock (green).

A graph that shows the pedaling range of advanced and everyday riders.

It’s clear that there’s much more time in the duty cycle of an efficient cyclist. If you think about what’s happening on the other side of the crank of a short duty cycle, there’s a whole lot of time where there’s no force on the pedals at all. This results in the bike decelerating, forcing you to reaccelerate with every pedal stroke. If you have a hard time keeping your speed in a headwind or on a climb, you most likely have a short duty cycle.

So, how do we practice and change our pedaling efficiency? It’s really easy in theory, but it will take some time to adjust. Human are programmed to walk not pedal, and we are essentially applying walking biomechanics to pedaling, which looks like this: push down, wait for the feedback when our foot feels the floor, and then begin the process with the other leg.

To change that, we have to avoid reaching the floor and stop thinking about pushing down. Instead, think about pushing across the top and sweeping back before you feel the bottom. You don’t have to think about pushing down. That will happen naturally.

A graph that shows the pedaling range of advanced and everyday riders.

Quick tips

Things to think about and work on while practicing efficient pedaling technique:

  • Pedaling in the saddle is a two-joint action: hip joint and knee joint. No need to act on the ankle joint. No ankling.
  • Walking is a two-joint action: knee joint and ankle joint. We are not walking.
  • Think about pedaling from the hips, not the feet. Unless you’re sprinting, you should never feel much pressure on your foot against the pedals.
  • The push over the top starts by activating the muscles that extend the hip — the gluteus and rectus femoris.
  • The bottom sweep starts by activating the hamstring to close the knee joint. Try to feel your heel pulling back against your shoe.
  • To begin this technique, first focus on getting the sweep right. Try pedaling exclusively with the hamstrings (posterior chain) to activate and program this part of the stroke.
  • Imagine staying close to the top and the bottom of the circle. Do NOT overextend your leg on the downstroke or lift it too far over the top on the upstroke.
  • You are not pedaling in full circles! The pedal stroke is from 11 to 7 on a clock. Don’t overuse your hip flexor to “lift the leg.”
  • The advanced version of this technique is to synchronize the push over the top with the sweep through the bottom.

Thanks for reading!

Coach Charlie

Charlie Livermore: Coach, Cycling Enthusiast, Cancer Survivor

Charlie Livermore's ESR Journey

Charlie Livermore sits in a chair wearing an Empire State Ride jersey and smiles.

The Empire State Ride is lucky to have the support of professional cycling coach Charlie Livermore as an advisor and friend. Charlie is not only a coach at Carmichael Training Systems, but also serves as a training consultant on our adventure across New York State. He offers his expertise and tips to all ESR riders and joins us on the road each July to ride 500+ miles.  

All blogs by Charlie

With more than 30 years of experience as a professional cycling coach, Charlie Livermore has logged thousands of miles and helped countless cyclists reach their goals. He works as a pro-level contract coach at Carmichael Training Systems (CTS) and has managed professional cycling teams in tours around the world. The BMC Racing Team, cofounded by Charlie, went on to win the Tour de France in 2011.

Charlie’s passion for cycling started decades ago when he bought a bike and subsequently met the president of the Florida Cycling Federation. The president invited Charlie to an upcoming race. Charlie accepted, conquered the race and never looked back.

“Cycling has been my life. I’m a prisoner of passion and discipline. It’s been a great life. I still coach, I’m still riding, and I’m still helping people. I love it. I’ll never stop doing it,” Charlie says.

Charlie rides at ESR.
Charlie and a fellow road warrior smile at Empire State Ride

On Empire State Ride.

Charlie’s involvement with Empire State Ride (ESR) can best be described as a perfect accident. A client needed to get in peak shape for a European cycling tour and pitched ESR as a training event to log his miles. Charlie agreed and joined him on the road in July 2015.

The duo planned to stay at hotels and eat at local restaurants to make it easier to adhere to their prescribed nutrition plan. Then they discovered the catering at camp and started to meet the ESR community. As Charlie got to know the other riders, he saw an opportunity to use his knowledge and become more involved.

He started giving fireside talks each night after dinner. During those chats, he shared tips and tricks for navigating the road and answered questions from new and experienced riders alike. His talks were so well-received that he was asked to come back the next year as a coach. He has returned every year since to set our road warriors up for success.   

“I’ve done all kinds of amazing one-week and two-week long vacations in my life and the one that I keep talking about the whole year is the Empire State Ride,” Charlie says. “It’s a lifetime of stories all packed up into one week.”

“It's a lifetime of stories all packed up into one week.”

Charlie’s reasons for coming back.

Charlie has joined Empire State Ride on the road for more than seven years now. For him, the event goes beyond his love for the sport of cycling. He connects to the ESR mission on a much deeper level.

“I never talk about it, but I’m also a cancer survivor. I resonate with what is going on, and I understand the studies and the clinical trials, because I went on a clinical trial that really made my outcome better. I’m still alive.”

Charlie was preparing for a cycling event in Europe when his cancer journey began. Between cycling regularly, running a cycling center and traveling to and from events, he maintained a healthy lifestyle and felt great. That’s what made what happened next even more surprising.

During a routine dental cleaning, Charlie’s dentist discovered a lump in his throat that wasn’t supposed to be there. He referred Charlie to a specialist to have it biopsied. When Charlie did, the results confirmed the worst-case scenario: throat cancer. He never smoked and realized quickly that a cancer diagnosis can happen to anyone.

Through a reference from a friend at Stanford University, Charlie got into a promising clinical trial for his specific type of cancer that involved less radiation. He signed up and began treatment, anxious for the upcoming cycling event in Europe. Luckily, Charlie took to treatment well and was able to get back to cycling sooner than later.

“I survived. But it would’ve been a completely different experience if I had gone through those three extra weeks of radiation that the normal protocol called for,” Charlie says. “When they talk about clinical trials at ESR, I understand the benefits and how much they can change the outcome. I have respect and passion for the research side of things, too.”

Charlie LIvermore paceline riding with other road warriors
Charlie Livermore holds sign with friends at halfway point.

A full-circle journey for Charlie, it’s no coincidence that he found ESR and the amazing community of road warriors he works with. He says his experience with cancer and love for cycling have made him even more grateful for the journey and connections he’s made with the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation.

“Empire State Ride is unique. What this organization is doing, and the passion around it, has been one of my biggest fulfillments in cycling. I look forward to the event every year.”

Coach Charlie: How to train for your first century

Charlie Livermore on the 100-Miler

Charlie Livermore sits in a chair wearing an Empire State Ride jersey and smiles.

The Empire State Ride is lucky to have the support of professional cycling coach Charlie Livermore as an advisor and friend. Charlie is not only a coach at Carmichael Training Systems, but also serves as a training consultant on our adventure across New York State. He offers his expertise and tips to all ESR riders and joins us on the road each July to ride 500+ miles.  

All blogs by Charlie

Your first 100-mile ride can seem like an intimidating task, but with the right preparation, anyone can develop the fitness, skills and confidence to ride your first century. This is a basic overview of important topics that will help you get to that first century finish line.

Training the body to meet the demands of a century is multidimensional; it’s not just about the bike workouts. Put it all together, and I’ll see you smiling at the end of your biggest day at Empire State Ride.

Pre-Training Preparation.

Bike Fit — You’ll be spending significant amount of time on your bike. Make sure you’re sitting correctly on it. Book an appointment with a professional bike fitter to ensure that your body is in the most optimal position on your bike.

Prepare Your Body — In a previous blog, I wrote about mobility. The time you spend preparing your body during the winter off-season will pay off when bike training starts in the spring.

Training.

There are training plans coming soon on the ESR website for beginners, intermediate and advanced riders. Choose the right one for you, and once you start, focus on consistency. Getting on your bike regularly is the key to success.

Recovery.

Adequate periods of rest are essential for adaptation to training stress. Rest days and weeks are built into the training plans. It’s important to adhere to them even if you don’t feel like you need a day off or an easy recovery week.

Nutrition.

You must consume enough energy (food) to support your activity level. Your focus should be on improving your fitness, not losing weight. A major component of recovery is replacing the energy used in a training session so you can repeat it. Visit the ESR website and read some of my past blogs on nutrition for a deeper dive into this important topic.

Skills.

From learning to ride in a group, eating and drinking while moving or pedaling and shifting your bike, skills are an important part of being a good and safe cyclist. The best way to learn skills is with a local cycling club that has good mentorship leaders. Go on group rides and ask lots of questions. I will be writing about shifting and pedaling in my next blog.

For a deeper dive into training and preparing for your first century ride, here’s an article I recommend you read from my friend, Chris Carmichael.

CHRIS CARMICHAEL

See you all in July!

Coach Charlie