Performance data drives elite cyclists

Health and performance guidance from Medcan influences training approach for 4,800K race

Team True Patriot Love (TPL) is an 8-man all-Canadian cycling team participating in Race Across America (RAAM), an ultra-distance cycling competition in June 2017. The route spans 4,800 kilometers from California to Maryland. Cyclists take turns over 24-hour non-stop days to climb more than 50,000 vertical meters through the mountain ranges and desert passes of the Sierra Nevada, The Rockies, and The Appalachians.

Team TPL is dedicated to raising awareness and money in support of our country’s veterans and their families by partnering with True Patriot Love Foundation. A second goal is to become the fastest all-Canadian team to race in the RAAM.

Athletic measurement for effective training

In order to excel at one of the toughest tests of endurance in the world – and get a solid shot at breaking a Canadian record – Team TPL turned to Medcan as their health and wellness sponsor. Our role is to enhance their training approach with stronger insight into achieving optimal health and performance  — through the Athletic Performance Assessment, fitness training sessions and nutrition counselling — to put the team in the best possible position to excel during the race.

While the eight cyclists on the team are anything but novices, this race will challenge them mentally, physically and emotionally more than any other competition they’ve endured.

In September, the eight team members participated in the Athletic Performance Assessment at Medcan to gain an in-depth view of their fitness abilities under the guidance of Dustin Kahn, exercise physiologist.

Using state-of-the-art equipment often used by professional athletes during training camps and tryouts, the cyclists underwent a series of tests to measure across three areas: (i) Anthropometric Testing: Size & Form; (ii)  Mobility & Strength Training: Power & Range of Motion; and (iii) Cardiopulmonary Testing: Capacity & Efficiency.

“The entire assessment was interesting to me as each of the tests contribute to the overall results,” said Michael Breech, a seven-time marathoner and two-time Ironman. “I found it interesting to see what information had to be gathered.  The VO2 Max Test provides a lot of information and is a great base to start a training program with. I’m interested to see how my VO2 Max improves throughout the training program.”

Understanding VO2 Max results

“I was certainly most interested in finding out my VO2 Max result as it’s always been a top marker for endurance athletes,” said Reid McGregor a competitive cyclist and Ironman as well as former rugby player. “Growing up reading about the great cyclists and cross country skiers with incredible lung capacity and power output it was all about the high VO2 tests. I was very excited to compare my results.”

“I was extremely surprised with the vertical jump and max power output readings,” added McGregor. “I was unaware that based on an athletes’ height weight and vertical leap an accurate power measure could be assessed. Dustin also was great explaining what type of athlete might have different readings for different tests. Certainly BMI numbers can be greatly different among various athletes but it was another interesting test that I was unsure of where I would stand against averages.”

“Without a doubt, the VO2 Max results will be the most useful to these guys,” said Kahn. “Specifically, the specific heart rate training zones, which will help guide training to ensure they are getting the most ‘bang for their buck.’ Lactate threshold, anaerobic threshold, peak training zone are all important zones to be aware of that can only be determined (accurately) by doing a direct gas analysis VO2 max test.”

During the analysis session, Kahn highlighted the heart rate training zones.

“I helped interpret these for the cyclists, and explained how to use them for their training. Peak leg power is another important marker. I made sure each cyclist knew what this meant and how to use this for their training.”

How the data influences race preparation

Team members said that after the initial session, they were focusing more on core strength and body fat reduction through base and zone training.

“The core needs to be activated to hold everything else in place so that the quads, hamstrings and hip flexors can activate properly. A weak or asymmetrical core will cause hip flexor and low back problems on long endurance rides,” says Kahn.

“The peak power assessment will also be a good marker for effectiveness of our training strategy,” says Laurence Boma-Fischer, team member and also a physiotherapist at Medcan. “Since our race involves shorter sprints (20 minute intervals), maximum power output will be a good indicator of how well each rider can perform over that period.”

“Over the winter, our focus is on building power and endurance,” added Boma-Fischer. “Now that we have baseline measures of the outcomes, we can track change over time and have motivation for our re-test in the spring.”

Team True Patriot Love has set the goal to raise $200,000 in support of the True Patriot Love Foundation. Visit their site to learn more or contribute.

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