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Charlie Livermore’s 2024 ESR training plan

Charlie Livermore talks during orientation for the 2022 Empire State Ride
The Empire State Ride is lucky to have the support of professional-level cycling coach Charlie Livermore as an advisor and friend. Charlie is not only a coach at Carmichael Training Systems, but also 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.

The Training Plans

Hi, everyone. Coach Charlie here.

I’m happy to announce that the 2024 ESR Training Plans are now available.

As a coach, I’ve been challenged to provide the right advice for a wide a range of riders. The training load necessary for an advanced rider is too much for a beginner and the correct dose for a beginner will not help an advanced rider. To make it easy, I divided the ESR rider community into categories and created three versions of the training plan.

Advanced Training Plan

The advanced rider plan is designed for cyclists who ride all year around, and cycling is their primary sport. These cyclists can easily tackle the distance of the ESR. Their goal might be to ride the 540 miles at the highest average speed they can achieve every day or use the training stimulus of a big volume week to prepare for another event goal. The average speed of this group is generally 18-20 MPH.

Intermediate Training Plan

The intermediate rider plan is also designed for cyclists who ride all year around. These riders won’t have a problem tackling the distance, but it will be a significant challenge. The average speed of this group is generally 14-16 MPH.

Beginner Training Plan

This group consists of riders who are either brand new to cycling or start training in the spring and summer months just to prepare for the ESR. Average speed of this group is generally 10-12 MPH.

The biggest difference in these plans is the start date and the length. For beginners, I stayed with the original 22-week plan since most of those in this category don’t have an indoor training option and can’t ride outside until spring due to weather conditions. The intermediate and advanced plans assume you have an indoor training setup or can ride outdoors.

Before you begin, familiarize yourself with the terms below. Understanding your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) and breathing rate are especially important to ensure you’re working at the correct intensity. Read more about how about how to follow the ESR training plan below.

Whether this will be your first ESR or you are an experienced multi-day event rider, you’ll benefit from following one of the structured training plans.

Preparing your body for the challenge of riding 500+ miles isn’t just about riding more. You’ll achieve a better level of preparedness with quality training over quantity. Anyone can do the Empire State Ride; even a time-crunched athlete can feel confident at the start line if they train right.

Start every workout with a warm-up.

Warm-ups can vary, but you want to do at least 15 minutes of conversational pace riding before you start any high-intensity-interval workout. Focus on the execution of the intervals rather than time. After you warm up and complete the intervals, complete the remaining prescribed time of the at an easy endurance pace. Workouts will be listed with a total duration that is longer than the total time of the actual intervals to account for this. 

I prescribed all workout intensities based on Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), a measure of workload to determine how hard you feel you are exercising. In a training setting, the RPE scale is from 1-10 (1 being no exertion and 10 being a maximum effort). Each workout in the training plan has an RPE associated with it to help guide you to the prescribed intensity. Below, Table 7.1 Workouts, RPE and Breathing Rate lays out what you’re trying to accomplish with each workout to understand the scale.

Chart of terms

Recovery Miles (RM)

Recovery miles need to be very easy to allow you to recover from previous workouts. They’ll range anywhere from 40 – 60 minutes and should be substantially easier than endurance miles. It should be 2-3 on an RPE scale and have a frequency of 2-3 times per week.

Endurance Miles (EM)

Much of your riding time will consist of endurance miles. Many people refer to this as their forever pace, but it’s also the time around your interval sets. These rides should be a 4-5 on the RPE scale and range from 90 minutes to 6+ hours. Your speed will vary with hills but remember to keep your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) the same. Going uphill at the same speed requires more work, which can turn your endurance miles into steady state quickly.

Tempo (T)

Tempo workouts are faster than endurance miles but not all out (at your “lactate threshold”). These workouts help develop a stronger aerobic engine by maintaining an effort outside of your comfort zone. They should be a 6 on an RPE scale and range from 15 – 45 minutes for each interval. Be very careful that you don’t let your intensity level get into your lactate threshold. It’s easy to let it creep up, but faster doesn’t always mean better. You need to be able to sustain that pace for longer periods of time to get the best adaptation.

Steady State (SS)

Steady state workouts are probably the most well-known of these workouts. They’re an important part of training and very strenuous. They should be done at or slightly below your lactate threshold at an RPE of 7-8. These intervals are shorter than tempo because of the intensity involved. Each interval ranges from 8 to 20 minutes and has a 2-to-1 recovery ratio. A typical workout may look like 3×10 min with 5 minutes of active recovery between each interval.

Power Intervals (PI)

Power Intervals are short, extremely strenuous intervals that help develop your VO2max. They last 1 to 5 minutes at an RPE of 10. Warming up before these is even more important, so make sure to get in 15-30 minutes of conversational riding before you start the intervals. The recovery period is 1 to 1, so 1-minute intervals have 1 minute of active recovery.

Fast Pedaling (FP)

This workout should be performed on a relatively flat section of road or on an indoor trainer. The gearing should be light, with low pedal resistance. Begin slowly and increase your pedal speed, starting out with around 15 or 16 pedal revolutions per 10-second count. This equates to a cadence of 90 to 96 RPM. While staying in the saddle, increase your pedal speed, keeping your hips smooth with no rocking.

Concentrate on pulling through the bottom of the pedal stroke and over the top. After one minute of fast pedaling, you should be maintaining 18 to 20 pedal revolutions per 10-second count, or a cadence of 108 to 120 RPM for the entire amount of time prescribed for the workout. Your heart rate will climb while doing this workout, but don’t use it to judge your training intensity. It is important that you try to ride the entire length of the fast pedaling workout with as few interruptions as possible.

 Rest Between Intervals (RBI)

This is the rest time between each interval. Note that this is active rest. The RPE is low at 1-2 but don’t stop pedaling during the RBI period.

Rest Between Sets (RBS)

This is the rest time between sets of intervals. Note that this is active rest. The RPE is low at 1-2 but don’t stop pedaling during the RBS period.

Here is a typical steady state (SS) interval workout:

 60min w/ 3x6min (SS), 3min RBI

 All workouts start with the total time. In this case, it’s 60 minutes. Within the overall time, there is a specific interval set of three intervals. Each interval is 6 minutes long at the Steady State (SS) intensity and the rest between each 6’ interval RBI is 3’. The total amount of time of the interval set is 24’. So, what to do with the remaining 36’? Use some of the time before the interval set to warm up and ride the remaining time, less 5’, for a cooldown, at endurance miles (EM) intensity.

Interested in a personalized plan?

For those of you who are looking for a plan customized to your specific schedule and goals, contact me for a free coaching consultation at clivermore@trainright.com.

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

Let’s Get Started: Finding the Right Bike

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ESR Logo

This is part one of a blog series for first-time riders written by first-time Empire State Ride road warrior, Jenna. Join Jenna in learning the ropes as you prepare to ride 500+ miles to end cancer. 

“In a lot of ways, the Empire State Ride is the exact opposite of a race in that the people who are finishing at the end are getting some of the biggest cheers.”

I’m not a cyclist. But I have spoken with people who have done the Empire State Ride and heard many uplifting and inspiring stories. It has quickly become evident to me that the ESR journey is something special. So, I signed up as a first-time rider. Now, it’s time to get started.

As I prepare for my 500+ mile trek alongside new and returning riders, I know I have a long way to go. But I’ve started spinning regularly to build up to the beginner ESR training plan. I also swapped out my old Schwinn hybrid for a new-to-me road bike so that I can ride safely, efficiently and without injury.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned throughout my bike research:

There are many types of bikes out there: trail bikes, hybrids, road bikes, touring bikes; each one has a specific purpose. Road bikes are designed with speed and agility in mind, and their lightweight frame makes them ideal for tackling mileage when you don’t have to carry a ton of luggage (ESR takes care of that for you!). Touring bikes are built with a heavier frame and thicker tires to absorb the vibrations in the road. For long distances, a good endurance (not race) road bike is the best option.

Once you’ve figured out your bike type, you’ll want to make sure you’re looking at bikes that are the right size for you. You can find sizing charts online to determine the right frame, but you should also think about your contact points (meaning your pedals, handlebars and saddle) and other factors like your top tube length.

If you’re new to the sport like me, you’re best to leave this part to the experts — which brings me to my next point.

Your local bike shops understand sizing better than anyone and can either a) get you set up with a new bike or b) make any necessary adjustments needed on your bike so that it fits you. 

Road bikes can be expensive. While it can be tempting to buy a cheaper bike from a department store, quality is important when riding 500+ miles. If you are looking to buy secondhand, make sure you’re doing your research and then take it in for a proper tune-up and fitting.

This one is especially important. Make sure that you have the right gear to go along with your new bike, specifically:

  • A CPSC-certified bicycle helmet. Make sure you’re following the manufacturer’s instructions and replacing your helmet every few years, because materials degrade over time. It’s also important to ensure your helmet fits correctly, meaning that it’s low on your forehead, the straps are evenly adjusted, and it does not swivel.

    If your helmet doesn’t fit, is older or has cracks in it, replace it.

    You should also consider investing in a helmet with a Multidirectional Impact Protection (MIPS) system. This technology is relatively new and was developed by specialists in Sweden to absorb shock and better protect your head. You can also consider WaveCel technology as another advanced option.

  • Front and rear lights. Empire State Ride takes place on open roads and trailways. Having a front (white headlight) and rear (red tailgate) ensures that cars passing by you will clearly see you as you ride along. Make sure you use rechargeable batteries or bring extras, as well!

If you’re just getting started with training or considering joining as a new cyclist, let’s get started together. Share your experience with us by email at empirestateride@roswellpark.org or on our social media pages.

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

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