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Training and Recovery Tips

Laura Brown, coach and co-owner of DRKHORSE Cycling, two-time Canadian Olympian, Olympic bronze medallist in track cycling, and former professional road racer with nearly two decades of experience, shares two key workouts with us.  The first is to improve endurance for longer climbs, and the second focuses on short anaerobic efforts to help get up the steep kicker climbs.

Coach Laura’s workout to build endurance for longer climbs, to be done 2x per week: 
  • 4 x 8min SE (strength endurance)
  • 60 - 70 RPM (revolutions per minute - this is your cadence)
  • Tempo zone (4/10 perceived exertion; Zone 3; 76-90% FTP) 
  • 4-8min rest between sets
The key with this workout is sit heavy in your seat and keep your upper body as still as possible. To avoid rocking side-to-side to generate the power, stay stable by engaging your core, glutes and hamstrings, and relaxing your arms. Concentrate on strong, smooth, round pedal strokes. If you experience knee pain, increase the cadence. Best done on a climb.


Coach Laura’s anaerobic effort workout to get up those short steep kicker climbs, to be done 1-2x per week: 
  • 2-3 sets of:
  • 30sec sprint
  • Self-selected rpm
  • Anaerobic Capacity (7/10 perceived exertion; Zone 6; 170% FTP)
  • 30sec rest
  • Self-selected rpm
  • Active recovery (2/10 perceived exertion; Zone 1; 50% FTP)
  • 8 min rest between sets 

Over-under workouts are a great way to train your ability to repeatedly climb steep hills, follow attacks, or clear loose or technical terrain. Go out conservatively so you can finish the last 30 seconds as strong as your first. Can be done seated, out of the saddle, or a combination of both.   

Our thanks to Coach Laura for sharing her expertise.  She is a NCCP certified Performance Cycling Coach (level 3), Provincial and National team coach, and available at DRKHORSE Cycling to help you achieve your cycling goals.  https://www.drkhorsecycling.


Jon Bula, owner and COO of and avid racer of anything with two wheels – MTB, road and gravel – sat down with us recently and shared his top tips for improving climbing performance on gravel hills.  He tells us there is a surprising amount of technique involved and it’s not always just pure horsepower (although that is helpful!) that will get up you that technical section.  Jon breaks this skill down into two main areas – equipment and technical abilities.         

 Read on for his advice! 

Tire choice and pressure: There are many tire sizes with a myriad of tread patterns, but in Jon’s opinion one of the key metrics to having traction on gravel is tire pressure. He highly recommends a tubeless tire set up. This enables riders to use lower pressure. This will greatly increase your tires contact surface and provide much more traction.  Jon says he is roughly 75 kg and he typically rides 40-42mm tires on a tubeless set up. He runs his rear tire no higher that 35 psi (as low as 26 psi if it's wet) and his front tire no higher than 32 psi (as low as 22 psi). He says this might seem low, but on the gravel it's the bomb! 

Gear ratios are important: If the pitch of the climb is so steep that you can't turn the pedals with your available gearing walking your bike up the slope will prove quickest. Having the right gear range on your bike allows a reasonable (as low as 50 rpm or so) cadence even up the steepest sections. This will give you a fighting chance. Jon says when he is gravel riding he always errs on the side of having better climbing gears rather than worrying about if his top end fast gears are big enough. It's rare to go faster than 40 km/h on the gravel, but it is really common that you find climbs in excess of 17 percent grade!

Technique: Jon gives us three key focal points:

  1. Sit back into the saddle. By this Jon means actually moving forward onto your saddle when the grade is really steep. You are actually sitting more on the nose of the saddle, but your butt is pushing back into the saddle. This really helps keep weight on the back wheel improving friction.
  2. Get your chest low.  Do not sit tall when it's steep. He likes to put his sternum almost on my bike computer.  This may seem counter intuitive, but the lower the better. 
  3. Pedal in a smooth circular motion with as steady as possible power through touch the pedal stroke. Avoid smashing down with the left then the right as this tends to spin the tire in the loose stuff. 

      Key takeaways:  Nose of the saddle, push back into it, chest down, smooth pedaling. 

      Jon says if you can master these pointers and there won't be much you can't climb - assuming your legs and lungs can handle the effort....

      Many thanks to Jon for sharing his expertise!  If this article has you re-thinking your gearing choices, head over to for ideas on expanding your options!     



      We know that rest and recovery are critical for athletes of all levels.  But what does recovery mean?  And what should you do to recover properly? 

      For answers to these and other questions we’ve reached out to the experts.

      We asked Assaf Yogev, PhD Candidate at the UBC School of Kinesiology and co-owner of DRKHORSE Cycling to help us understand the importance of recovery for athletes, and to recommend strategies you can implement right now to enhance your body’s ability to recover.

      Assaf Yogev tells us that when it comes to improving performance, be it physical or mental, the most important part of any training program is not how much or how hard you train, but rather what happens when you don't train.

      He explains that “During training, tissue damage occurs, muscle glycogen depletes, and over time physical and mental fatigue ensues. Recovery is the domain in which repair and remodeling of any training induced damage or deficiency occurs and is a key factor for any training endeavor.” 

      Despite the importance of recovery, Assaf says that modern lifestyles and busy schedules often give us little time for proper rest.  He says that sufficient recovery cannot be accomplished by just “scheduling it in”, and that real recovery “requires amplification by using various aids to enhance its effect”.

      Like what?  For Assaf, the key building blocks for any recovery plan include:

      • methods that help with replenishing energy storage such as glycogen within fatigued muscles, through high-quality nutrient intake;
      • managing tissue inflammation caused by training stress;
      • good quality sleep;
      • massage; and
      • making sure your mind is refreshed and ready for the next challenge.

      Assaf says that by incorporating these elements into your training and “prioritizing recovery over training volume and intensity, performance will gain an upward trajectory”. 


      Noa Deutsch is a former junior elite triathlete who raced at the international level including ITU pro races. Now head coach at Performance Training, Noa educates her athletes to look at recovery strategies as a pyramid. She says the bottom of the pyramid is the foundation. These are the recovery strategies you should focus on most because they are the most effective. As you move up the pyramid, the strategies have less impact on your recovery, with the tip of the pyramid often consisting of fads without supporting research. For best results,

      Noa encourages her athletes to focus on the fundamentals first before moving up the pyramid. We asked Noa, what are the most effective recovery strategies?

      She says that at the base of the recovery pyramid there are 3 fundamentals all athletes should focus on:

      Sleep: downtime and mental relaxation Noa tells us that sleep is the most effective recovery of all, but sadly is what we often neglect the most. She tells her athletes to try to get as close as 8 hours as possible, waking up feeling refreshed and ready for the next training challenge.

      Nutrition strategies: Noa says that while nutrition strategies should ideally be individualized for each athlete, it is important to master the basics – eat enough to support the amount and type of training you are doing, especially before, during and after training sessions, with a particular focus on appropriate carbohydrate intake for the effort and duration.

      Water immersion: (hot, cold, contrast) Research studies have found that cold water therapy (immersion at 10C-15C for 10 minutes) can decrease muscle soreness after intense training sessions and help lower body temperature leading to improved recovery. Contrast bath therapy is a series of brief, repeated immersions in water, alternating between warm and cold temperatures. Research supports the use of contrast hydrotherapy to lessen muscle fatigue and to decrease pain, swelling, and lactic acid buildup following intense exercise. Not quite ready to release your inner Viking in the ice bath? Try taking warm to cold showers. Start with warm water and after a few minutes gradually drop the temperature finishing with a bracing cold rinse.

      Many thanks to Noa for sharing their expertise with us! You can reach Noa at