Coaches' Blog

Coach Ainslie

I have a friend who occasionally facebooks me and we belly-ache about balance. You know, trying to find time to do it all: ride the bike, be a dad, be a husband, go to the gym, work etc. Its hard. Trying to find time to pursue your own goals while also attending to the other items in your life that are important or necessary. I joke that balance is something you acheive while you're on your way from one extreme to the other!

This has been a personal struggle of mine for the last ten years. When my daughter was born, I essentially gave up on trying to ride my bike in any meaningful way. Granted I was a stay at home dad and I had retired from racing bikes as a pro. But, I recall I couldn't figure out how to have it all. 

Some of the things I've learned along the way are that sometimes you have to let something go by the wayside so you can focus on something else. You can come back to that other thing another time. And now I have a better idea of how to prioritize. BUT, with that said, my priorities have changed. I've fantasized a few times about going back to racing but, its not worth it to me at the expense of the kids or my wife. I'd rather watch them play soccer or volleyball. I'd rather ride with my son that without him (most of the time). Melissa and I started the kids skiing this last winter. 

Life (as my brother Hugh says) "is large and loud and rarely goes as expected!" Its my humble opinion that having it all means juggling and shifting of priorities. 

My little girl is 10 now and I have to admit, half seriously and half jokingly that only in the last couple of years have I really figured out how to balance some of these things. I'm riding my bike more, skiing more, working out more, working and being a good husband and dad is important to me. Maybe I'm dense. Maybe I needed to figure out whats really important.

Thanks for reading. Why not follow me on twitter? @Zoom_Coach_Ace


Coach Ainslie

Many of you know that in addition to coaching cyclists and triathletes I also work in/manage gyms. On a daily basis I must discuss nutrition with at least a half dozen people. I cannot stress how important the role of nutrition is in helping you to move towards your health and/or fitness goals.


Unfortunately, thanks to the diet industry, there is a lot of misinformation out there and, its my feeling, that there is also a certain percentage of the population that has serious baggage (emotional or otherwise) when it comes to food. 


A client of mine that is very smart about food told me recently he was at the grocery and the woman in front of him (who was overweight) in the checkout line had a cart FULL of food items that were frozen, or in a box or bag. He commented that she had no whole food items. 


This is alarming to me because you have no idea how many layers of processing went into those convenient food items or what additives and preservatives are in them to make them last on the shelf. Chemicals that you can't pronounce and are not naturally derived are not good for your body.


You could work out until you drop but if you don't “walk the walk and talk the talk” in the kitchen, you're not going to achieve the results you want. You cannot out-run the nutrition piece. As a fitness professional this has become my mantra. I often tease people that the six pack abs, weight loss etc start in the kitchen...which is not the answer they want to hear.


The best starting place for charge of your eating is assembling your meals from whole foods. For instance, my wife and I don't use pre-prepared foods unless absolutely necessary. We buy whole ingredients at the grocery AND we plan our dinners out for the entire week. This eliminates caving for convenience and shooting from the hip with meals. We have control of how many layers of processing, how many calories, the type of calories and so on.


Another one of my gym clients spends Sunday afternoon preparing and storing her meals for the week. She is a busy student and works so she makes sure to have quality food items on-hand in advance. This allows her to be in control of her nutrition.


The role of eating in your overall health and fitness cannot be underestimated. Planning ahead and making smart choices can help you lose weight, build muscle...whatever your end goal might be.


Ainslie MacEachran is a personal trainer and cycling coach with over 17 years of experience. 

You can follow him on twitter = @Zoom_Coach_Ace.

Ainslie's book "Simple Cycling Performance" is available at,, or from 


Coach Ainslie

Here's an article I published in Velonews a coupla years ago regarding training for cyclocross. 


If road racing is a fringe sport in America, cyclocross is the red headed stepchild of bike racing.

It requires some varied talents and it favors hard men. While I

never would advocate skimping on training, there are ways to make cyclocross a
little smoother while you are building your fitness.
One of the larger challenges for cyclocross athletes is that, generally speaking,
cyclists are not runners. Or, they don’t usually come from a running back
ground. And, in cross races, the longest run you might do would only be in the
neighborhood of 30sec. Towards this end, long sustained runs are not a huge
necessity for a cyclist. However, short, high intensity efforts go a long way
towards smoothing out the process.
When it comes to prescribing training for a cyclist to prepare for cross season, I
will say that as soon as they are able to jog/run for 15min continuously without
being outrageously sore then they are ready to tackle intervals. Intervals work
on two fronts: one is to being able to operate anaerobic ally and, the other is to
train the body to, literally, hit the ground running. When you come off the bike
you’re moving pretty fast and training the body to tolerate this will allow you to
scrub less speed when it comes time to dismount.
Intervals ranging from 45 seconds to 1 minute on the treadmill, running at a
speed that is just above your comfort level, are an effective way to build this
tolerance. These intervals should be polarized so make sure your recovery period
between intervals is equal to the effort. Additionally, as a nice secondary benefit,
running will help with bone density, which is an area most cyclists are lacking in.
Another area that makes ‘cross uniquely hard is the mounts and dismounts,
specifically, it is technique intensive. Spending some time working specifically on
this cannot be over emphasized. It’s my opinion that the less time you can spend
on the ground the better. Being able to ride the bike right up to the dismount,
get over the barrier or obstacle and then back on the bike will reduce your
energy expenditure. In the course of a long race you’ll be thankful for this. There
are a variety of clinics at many races that you can take advantage of to polish up
your skills. Watching the big guns during their race too would be time well spent.
Some of these guys make it look effortless.
Cyclocross requires a little more well rounded athlete. The right preparation
makes ‘cross a lot more fun and, hopefully, will improve your results too. Taking
advantage of resources in your area to improve your technique and doing a little
bit of running is an easy way to have your best ‘cross season yet!


Coach Ainslie

Eating breakfast is important to help get your metabolism up and running after "fasting" during the night. Sleeping is, for all intents and purposes, fasting so, you have to get food in you in the morning to set your metabolism running in an optimal fashion. 

Try even portions of carbohydrate and protein. The carbs will provide the fuel to ignite the furnace and the protein will draw down the insulin response and give things a "time release" type influence. Instead of a high peak (of insulin) with a deep valley on the other side, the response will be more measured and long lasting. 
Coach Ainslie


I spent a few years living and racing bikes in Europe. For the most time it was a good experience and a good time. But I look back on it now incredulously and think, “ What were you thinking?” And not from the perspective of “what were you thinking racing in Europe?” but what was my plan?


The truth was, I didn’t have one. I didn’t know what races I was doing, I didn’t know how I was going to set up my training from week to week and month to month but, in general, I was taking a fly by the seat of the pants approach.


Now, just on basic genetics, I was able to get by like this and get a few good results here and there. But this was not a long-term approach. Predictably, after a while this system broke down.


So, where am I headed with this? HAVE A PLAN. Even if that plan is that you have no plan. At least you’ve defined your approach somewhat.


Here’s a prime example. I spent some time racing in Belgium and at one point; I was lucky enough to get an invite to the Tour of Austria. Because I’d been just doing races haphazardly without too much thought to the long-term view, I declined this invitation because I was whooped and wanted to come home to take a rest. That fall I was in the process of trying to get a contract with a pro team, any pro team, and I happened to get on the phone with the US Postal team people. They had my resume in hand and said that they noticed I had done a considerable amount of racing in Europe, why hadn’t I gone to Tour of Austria? It turned out that they had made their team selections for the following year based on the performances of riders at that race. Some American riders they selected from that race went on to have some very high profile careers.


I’m not for a moment saying that I came close to the level of those riders. What I am saying is that because I hadn’t made a plan and structured my schedule, I may or may not have missed out on a great opportunity. Other riders had schedule that in and shaped their training around it and, without naming names, look how it turned out for some of them.


With that experience in hand now, I always ask my clients to outline goals at the start of the season, decide what races they plan to participate in on a month to month basis, what vacations and travel do they have on the horizon and so forth. This allows us to set up their training and racing so that it all makes sense and there are not conflicting events. We can schedule training and racing around the events of their life, family and any other elements. Additionally, it allows us to time and tweak their fitness according to how they’ve prioritized the races they’d like to do.


The top riders in our sport have their season, more or less, planned out from the start to finish. They know what they’re travel schedule will look like, what their races are and when they’ll arrive with their best fitness. You can take an approach like this too. It doesn’t require a personal assistant or over the top organization. It just requires you to sit down and write (or type) what your plan is.  

Coach Ainslie

Ten Commandments of Group Riding:

We are into the time of year where many of us are under-taking regular weekend group rides. They are a great vehicle for training and a good way to learn the ins and outs of riding in large groups. Riders of varying levels and ability levels are likely to show up and they may or may not understand the dynamics of having so many riders so close together. Here are some tips for riding in groups. 

1. Thou Shalt Not Accelerate Through The Front of The Group
2. Thou Shalt Ride 2x2
3. Thou Shalt Not Half Wheel Your Partner
4. Thou Shalt Have Your Own Flat Kit
5. Thou Shalt Consider The Other Riders
6. Thou Shalt Do What The Group Is Doing
7. Thou Shalt Dress Appropriately
8. Thou Shalt Be Aware Of Traffic
9. Thou Shalt Be Encouraging
10. Thou Shalt Listen To The Ride Leader 

1. Thou Shalt Not Accelerate Through The Front Of The Group:
When you arrive at the front of the formation you shall continue at the pace you've been going. Accelerating through the front disrupts the group and is one of the most frustrating things I can imagine. Once you've come off to the side, THEN you decelerate to the back.

2. Thou Shalt Ride 2x2
Typical group ride formation is 2x2. That is, riders lined up no more than 2 abreast. Traffic laws (at least here in CO) allow for a 2 abreast formation. When you finish your pull, go back down the line until you're at the back. Try to avoid too much fooling around on your way back so you're not out in traffic for too long. If you find yourself anywhere in the group riding by yourself, go to the back and pair up again. DO NOT ride on the front by yourself. 

3. Thou Shalt Not Half Wheel Your Partner
1. Half wheeling acts to do only two things: Accelerate the pace and Piss off your partner. Ride hub to hub. If someone is half wheeling you, let them ride by themselves instead of letting your ego get involved. Tell Half Wheel Harry what he's doing and suggest to him you ride together.

4. Thou Shalt Have Your Own Flat Kit
Please oh please have your own pump or CO2 and tube(s). Yes, there is usually someone who has a spare tube or a CO2 or pump but, if not then you're just plain outta luck. Be prepared. 

5. Thou Shalt Consider The Other Riders
Be aware of and courteous to your fellow riders. Make safety your paramount concern. That means if you stand on the pedals to go up a rise or hill, don't throw your bike back. DO NOT drop off the pair behind you at the bottom of said hill or rise. Pull to the top of the rise and THEN come off. Try to avoid overlapping wheels.

6. Thou Shalt Do What The Group Is Doing
 What ever variety of ride the group has agreed to do, then that’s what you're doing. Don't go against the plan of the ride. Not adhering to the plan only serves to get you uninvited from future rides. If they want to go easy and you wanna go hard, go do your own thing. If they want to ride hard and you wanna go easy, either go do your own thing or keep your belly-aching to yourself and follow wheels at the back. 

7. Thou Shalt Dress Appropriately
Appropriate dress for the conditions will make your ride much more pleasant. Riding is more fun when you're comfortable AND, other riders don't want to hear you complain about being cold or hot or asking if you brought clothes for them to wear. Be responsible for yourself. 

8. Thou Shalt Be Aware Of Traffic
At ALL times traffic conditions should be one of your top concerns. If road conditions call for it, reconfigure the group to single file. Keep your 2x2 pattern relatively tight and riders fading back do so expeditiously. If there are cars coming then wait before you swing off the front. A good way to look over your shoulder while riding in the group is to put your hand on your partners shoulder and then look. This will make for a steadier line. 

9. Thou Shalt Be Encouraging
Group rides typically draw riders of varying levels of experience and ability levels. If you're seasoned with group riding, be encouraging to newer riders and help them learn the rules of the road. Yes, it can be frustrating when riders make mistakes or disrupt the pace line but, as a more experienced rider, it's your job to educate newer riders, not disparage them. Someone was patient with you once, now its your turn. 

10. Thou Shalt Listen To The Ride Leader
Even if you're an old pro, if there is a ride leader, you listen to them. You can suggest constructive comments but do not contradict the boss unless it is something that is patently unsafe. Too many chiefs will make a ride too chaotic.