Stopping Cancer Early – The Best Possible Investment


Power Through: Century Training Tips

June 27, 2012

Al Painter is the founder of INTEGRATE Performance Fitness, and a supporter of the Canary Foundation. In this interview, he provides riders tools and tips for succeeding in the Canary Challenge. Learn more and register at

Tell us about yourself and your training background.

I’ve been training folks for about 11 years, and I’ve been with INTEGRATE since January 2008. We do cycling-specific strength training, and we work with a ton of endurance athletes. We’re also very proud to have won the honor of “Top 5 Fitness Facility in the Bay Area” (#1 in the Peninsula) from

We love working with anybody who already rides a bike or wants to learn how. It’s a blast to teach the basic skills to ride a bike correctly, and see their fitness levels take off and go through the roof.

Why do you support the Canary Foundation?

I’ve had a couple of relatives close to me pass from cancer, and it’s something very close to me. I don’t know anyone that I’ve met who hasn’t been touched by it one way or another.

Another reason I like the Canary Foundation is because it’s local. Companies like Livestrong are already very well supported in terms of participation, so they don’t need as much help. I wanted to support something more local and grassroots where my support and participation could really have a visible impact.

Tell me a little about the Canary Challenge. What can riders expect?

I’m not going to lie- it’s a challenging ride that you need to prepare for. It’s also critical to take the mental side of the challenge into consideration just as much as the physical side. Never forget that you have to grind out 100 miles on your bike!

Every century rider says the same thing: the first 25 miles are the honeymoon phase, when you’re feeling awesome and everyone is full of handshakes and high-fives. During the second 25 miles, there’s a little bit of that but with much less enthusiasm. Once you reach mile 75, everyone’s tired, sitting down and dousing themselves with water, and the EMT tents are full of people getting rubdowns. At that point, the last 25 miles can seem insurmountable.

If you’ve trained correctly, your body will give you those last 25 miles. You’ll finish and you’ll feel great for completing. That’s when the bug bites you and you start thinking: “when’s the next one?”

You come away with such a rich experience because you survived, you dug deep, and you’ve proved something to yourself.  It’s a learning experience into the deepest, darkest depths of what’s possible for you and your body to achieve. You find out more about yourself and how you deal with adversity discomfort. At the end, you get an endorphin surge and you’re famished- the best part is rewarding yourself with a great meal while you relive the memories with other riders.

What are your tips for training to prepare yourself for the ride?

  1. Get out of the saddle and into the weight room. You should work just as hard off the bike as you do on it. Focus on all the muscles that shut down when you’re riding, the muscles that get tight from sitting down all day at a desk. One of the things people don’t realize is that when you sit down all day, your muscles shorten in your lower body- once your gluteus go, you’ve got neck pain, shoulder pain, wrist pain, etc. We work on strengthening that and making sure people have the best posture possible.
  2. Learn how to breathe- it’s a key skill in an endurance situation. A lot of people get tight when exerting themselves, and they start chest breathing. Once you teach people to stand up straight, expand their rib cage, and breathe from their diaphragm, then they can ride a lot better. They can breathe, become more relaxed, and enjoy the ride a whole lot more.
  3. Practice riding next to other human beings. Some novice riders experience a lot of anxiety around other bikes. We practice riding six abreast, and riders learn how to hold their lines, inhale into a turn, exhale through a turn, and just relax and enjoy the process.
  4. Seek out the hills if you want to become a stronger rider. That means doing 3-5 minute hill repeats on a challenging grade and go hard. It’s always better to build your body so that it’s over prepared for an event. That way, you can really enjoy it the day of.
  5. Drive the course ahead of time. The course is not flat, and riders will be grateful for having a clear picture of the course and knowing that it can be completed in segments.

Ultimately, we don’t teach people how to ride their bikes- we teach them how to move their bodies correctly, so that when they get on the bike, they have a better idea of which muscles should work and how those muscles should work. I invite anyone to join us for Century Training at INTEGRATE better prepare for the Canary Century Challenge ride!