7. Monitor This: Measuring Power Output
Why measure power? Because heart rate, long the gold standard for tracking fitness and exertion levels, tends to lag behind effortÂ—and power monitors offer immediate feedback. Hardly another techno-novelty, power monitors are being embraced by cyclists from motivated amateurs to top-level racers. But until recently, monitoring raw wattage produced by your legs while spinning your bicycle cranks cost as much as a custom racing frame (top-of-the-line power-monitor-enhanced cranks run $1,600Â$2,300). Fortunately, amateurs on a budget now have the Power-Tap, a cycling computer that integrates similar technology into your rear hub for a more modest $500Â$770 (800-783-7257; www.graberproducts.com), and Polar's S710 heart-rate and power monitor ($640; 800-227-1314; www.polarusa.com). If that still seems astronomical, remember that recording the amount of force exerted by your legs, combined with your heart rate, is the best way to know if you're getting stronger.
8. Click Here for Help: Distance Coaching
"It's difficult for an amateur athlete training for the Ironman to talk to their coworkers about their training problems," say Joe Friel, proprietor of Ultrafit.com and Trainingbible.com. "That's where a coach comes in." An online coach, that is. The growing trend of distance coaching was popularized by Chris Carmichael, who worked via the Web with Lance Armstrong when Armstrong was living in Texas and France and Carmichael in Colorado Springs. Now it's attracting serious amateurs and professionals trying to make the best use of their training time. Rates run from $79 to $500 a month (Carmichael himself costs a tidy bit more), and include daily to unlimited phone consultations, e-mails, and access to Web pages (see www.trainright.com and www.triathletes.com). But the most important benefits defy categorization. "We get to know you personally," says Carmichael Training Systems' Jim Rutberg. "If you say, 'I feel great,' and your voice says otherwise, I'll know you're probably lying."
9. Click Here for Competition: Internet Racing
It all started two years ago with CycleFX (800-747-4085; www.cyclefx.com) and CompuTrainer (800-522-3610; www.computrainer.com),two software packages that enabled anyone with a PC and a wind trainer, rollers, or stationary bike to race in real time against other basement-bound athletes worldwide. Now add rowers to the mix, thanks to e-Row, software that allows you to link a Concept2 stationary rowing machine (800-245-5676; www.concept2.com) to your computer, log on to the Internet, and row against people you can't so much as splash with an oar. Compete against, say, an accountant from Azerbaijan in one of the increasingly popular e-reggattas now on the Web. Or rage against the machine itself, which can be even more challenging. "Racing against the pace boat is a hell of a lot less forgiving than entering a race," says e-Row aficionado Jim Filippi, an information systems consultant in Minneapolis. "If I'm racing someone else, I can see when they're taking breaks."
10. You Can't Hide Those Cryin' Eyes: LASIK
"Every time I flipped over I had to roll with my eyes closed or else my contacts would wash out," says Los Angeles ophthalmologist and paddler Robert Maloney. "Now I can open my eyes underwater." Maloney is referring to the advantages of LASIK (short for Laser In-Situ Keratomileusis), laser surgery that can correct astigmatism and 90 percent of all vision problems related to wrongsightedness both near and far. Born with 20/2,000 vision? LASIK may be able to make it 20/20. Moreover, you'll be able to tackle 40 miles of singletrack or a weeklong sea-kayak trip with no contacts to rip or glasses to shatter. Of 1.4 million LASIK patients last year, 10 percent claimed they underwent the procedure for athletic reasons, according to one industry survey. Yet LASIK isn't entirely trouble-free: Some patients report night halos and dry eyes (both also experienced by contact wearers), and even whiteouts at very high altitudes. Average price is $1,700 per eye, and while it can run as little as $400, this is hardly bargain-hunting time.
7. Monitor This: Measuring Power Output