An update on training methods

by | Oct 12, 2017

Part of being the Unhinged Cyclist is all about trying out new things to see if it makes us go faster. I have been in and out of the lab doing a fair bit of that this year and thought that it was about time I shared some of the details.  In this post, I will summarise each of the methods and expand on them individually in further articles.  At the time of writing (August), these methods have helped me achieve a couple of my 2017 goals so far and a 2018 goal ahead of time.  The goal that I did achieve was to win a crit race.  I did this twice for good measure.  I also won my first open time-trial. My fitness markers had all gone up and I had, generally, been on fine form.  Lets have a look at the various methods.


Simulated Altitude Training and Sleeping


Altitude Tent


The benefits of altitude camps are well documented. By sleeping at altitude there is less oxygen which stimulates the body to produce more red blood cells. We can simulate this at sea level by using an altitude generator. Sleeping in a tent allows us to replicate the effect of sleeping at altitude.  We also have the option of training at simulated altitude, using the generator and a mask – Hypoxic Training.  The has the effect of increasing the cardiovascular and respiratory load for a given effort i.e. it is harder leading to a greater training response.  There are also some other positive effects around the production of Human Growth Hormone which improves recovery.

I undertook a 5 week block, sleeping in the tent and 6 weeks worth of regular High Intensity Intervals at simulated altitude and experienced an 8% rise in Haemoglobin levels in the muscle. During this time I also enjoyed an additional 20 watts on FTP.

Muscle Oxygen Monitoring and Precision Guided Intervals


Moxy Monitor


Using a device that monitor your oxygen saturation levels in your muscle capillaries and tissue, this technology allows you to identify limiters and target improvements in relation to your oxygen supply or utilisation abilities.  Looking into the muscle also allows us to do a number of things:

  1. Understand more about the physiological limit on your cycling performance.
  2. Develop a training session that are appropriate for your individual physiology to improve this limit
  3. Precisely guide intervals to achieve the maximum benefit without creating undue fatigue
  4. Gain a better understanding of your unique training zones and correct intensity for recovery and endurance rides
  5. Build a tailored warm up program for your physiology.

I combined these intervals with the simulated altitude method to good effect as detailed below.


Continuous Glucose Monitoring

Freestyle Libre

Continuous Glucose Monitor


Traditionally, to measure your blood glucose levels you would need to use a finger prick device.  Now, technology has moved on and you can monitor blood glucose continuously using small and unobtrusive devices.  This is good news for diabetics but there are also some interesting insights to be gained from an exercise and nutritional point of view.  I will discuss why this is important in more detail in the dedicated post but, in short, we want to avoid big spikes in blood sugar levels along with the associated insulin response.

There are a number of factors that can impact blood glucose levels including sleep, stress, diet and exercises.  Furthermore, the interaction between diet and exercise is also important and in particular, the timing of carbohydrate intake.  As cyclists, we can all benefit from improving the intensity of exercise that we oxidise fat as our primary energy source.  Glucose monitoring can help us understand how better to do this and how the individual uniquely responds to the various factors.

I have undergone this monitoring for a 2 week period and uncovered some useful insights that have led my to modify my diet slightly and adjust the timing of carbohydrate intake.


Heart Rate Analytics and Recovery Analysis




If, like the majority of the cycling populous, you own a Garmin you will no-doubt have seen the recovery advisor and time to recovery notifications.  In my opinion, this is one of the best things about the Garmin.  It is some software licensed from a company called Firstbeat.  It takes the software a while to learn about you but when it does, it is generally pretty accurate.  Respected tech reviewer, DC Rainmaker, agrees.

Firstbeat have a more sophisticated software engine that uses Heart Rate Variability analysis to see how well you are recovering from training efforts. However, it goes deeper than this and allows us to look at your entire daily stress reactions and how you are recovering from them.  This is pretty important for those of us with limited time and stressful jobs.  It will even highlight how specific lifestyle choices are affecting your overall recovery, allowing us to make informed lifestyle choice decisions.

I have been using the Firstbeat software to analyse all of this and, again, have gained some useful insights that have helped me tweak a few things.  I am really excited about this for balancing a really hard block of training with general life.

I should note that I am solely talking about my experiences here and in the following blogs and my thoughts are simply that – my thoughts and not proper scientific study.  I am working with a sample of one and am often trying a number of things at the same time.

I offer all of these methods as stand alone modules or part of my coaching services.  More details to follow on this.  Thanks for reading and good luck as we approach winter training. I love winter training…



  1. Mrs B

    Good to see you pedaling and posting again Mower. This is really interesting stuff and looking forward to more details on the individual methods…..

    • Rob Stephenson

      Thanks Mrs Glenn Bowker. Good to be doing both again..

  2. Simon Miller

    Used FirstBeat through work. Biggest learning was to work late and miss kids bedtime – the most stressful part of my day according to the data.

    Tell me more about how you use the Garmin recovery time to good effect – it always seemed a bit basic to me?

    • Rob Stephenson

      Thanks for sharing Groundsman. I would be keen to grab a coffee with you on Firstbeat as I am also developing a business around it in the corporate wellness space.

      Suggest that your results indicate that you find your job restorative and enjoyable and, like the rest of us, kiddie bedtime activities the fight or flight response.

      Re Garmin recovery advisor- I think it is useful in the context of givi of when to take it a bit easier, particularly if used in conjunction with how you feel subjectively and other HRV tests e.g. HRV4Training. Sometimes it all needs to be ignored, however,because we can and we are Unhinged 🙂


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Hi, I’m the Unhinged Cyclist. That’s me in the pointy helmet with my trusty mower..

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