Weekend Reading: 3 Ways You Can Be More Like 24Hr Champ Cameron Chambers

Last weekend I made the statement in this blog that losing 10 pounds is the most effective thing most athletes can do to improve performance in the near future. Coincidentally, CTS Athlete Services guru Cameron Chambers was racing 24Hr National Championships last weekend, and he proved my point.

Many of you have talked to Cameron already. He’s one of the guys you talk to when you call CTS about your membership or about signing up for coaching, camps, or Bucket List events. I think it’s essential that Cam and his colleagues are athletes; they need to be able to walk the walk in order to talk the talk with athletes. And Cam walks the walk better than anyone.

He’s now a 4-time 24Hr National Champion. (Check out this post-race video interview) In 2005 he won the Elite Solo race. In 2010 he won the Solo Singlespeed race. In 2011 he teamed up with CTS Coach Daniel Matheny and won the Duo race. And last weekend Cameron lapped the Elite Solo field TWICE on a 13-mile course en route to another Stars-and-Bars jersey.

Cam’s obviously a gifted athlete, but in many ways he has less in common with elite pro racers and more in common with the CTS-coached athletes who are amateur athlete & career professionals. You may not win the races that Cam does, but you can benefit from the same three factors that were keys to his success in 2012:

Get a job:
Hopefully you already have a job, but in Cam’s case getting a job at CTS two years ago was a big change in his life. Full-time athletes can be cursed with too much time on their hands. Even when there’s no good reason to ride 5 hours, they do it, because what else do they have to do? And when they’re not training, they’re thinking about training, because they often have little else to focus on. Working parents and career professionals have neither of these problems. Working full-time at CTS helped Cam focus his training. As he says, “Now I don’t wait around, thinking the weather might get better or something. I have my time, and I just suit up and go.”

The structure and responsibilities of a full-time job keep an athlete from getting caught up in the minutia of training and nutrition. You really can overthink this stuff. Athletes do it all the time, and more often than not that leads to irrational changes in behavior and declining performance. Earlier in his racing career, Cameron was his own worst enemy and he tanked more than one season by getting too wrapped up in his own head. A job brings routine and the necessity to focus on something outside of your self. For Cameron, this meant “quieting the crazy”; training now has a significant role in his life, but it doesn’t overwhelm and hijack everything else.

The lesson for everyone is to leverage your busy lifestyle so it enhances your training. You might think that having nothing to do but train would be paradise, but for most people it’s not. Too much free time can be worse than too little. When you carve your training hours out of your personal and professional calendars, that’s valuable time. Don’t waste it. Have a plan for your workouts so you get the most out of it.

Drop Weight
I talked extensively about dropping weight in last weekend’s email, but Cameron’s 2012 mountain bike season illustrates what 10 pounds can really do. Cam is 5’10” (1.78m) and his race weight was 150 pounds (68kg) for years. This spring he made the decision to drop 10 pounds and race at 140 pounds (63.5). He didn’t make any radical changes to the composition of his diet (he’s a true omnivore), he just reduced his portion sizes, paired his eating to his training load, and let himself be a little hungry instead of reaching for meaningless snack foods. His training went well through the spring and summer, but his power numbers and performance markers weren’t significantly higher than in previous years. His results, however, were astounding. Cam stood atop the podium 16 times in 2012! He won – and set course records – in race ranging from 2-hour cross-country events to 100-mile singlespeed epics and finally the 2012 24Hr National Championships. That’s the impact of improving power-to-weight ratio.

Learn to use a power meter
Note, I didn’t say, “Get a power meter”. A lot of you already have one, but not nearly as many of you are using it effectively. Cameron put an SRM on his Trek Superfly 100 Pro and worked with CTS Coaches Daniel Matheny, Adam Pulford, and Jane Rynbrandt (who all specialize in training with MTB power meters) on dialing in the trails and efforts that would provide the most effective training stimuli. He downloaded and analyzed his data (something many power meter users fail to do, surprisingly). And he raced with his power meter, not so much for pacing purposes (although that is a great way to use power in competition as well), but more so we could get an accurate picture of his race-day efforts.

Cameron’s 2012 was incredible. His domination of mountain bike races in Colorado was so complete that we started kidding with him by asking him each week if maybe he’d let someone else win for a change. But what I really love is that he had a monumental season by doing exactly what we do with all of our athletes. He’s happily married, has a healthy social life, a house, a career, and he’s a kick-ass endurance athlete!

Have a great weekend!
Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach
Carmichael Training Systems

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