Thursday, December 18, 2008

Taking a hike

After the last few days of stuffing the face with cookies, puddings, chocolates, and possibly one to many glasses of wine getting back into the routine takes a little more effort then usual.

Taking a break from the holiday whirlwind around me; I was reading the January edition Outside Magazine; which has a great article on tackling stress, training the brain and living large. One of the sections called "Play the Fields"; discussed a topic that is near and dear to me the importance of cross training on developing the necessary skills to compete in your primary sport.

Varying your routine during the off season and focusing less time in-sport and working on being proficient on new movements, keeping the mind fresh, and staying injury free. One of the best low intensity activities is hiking; it still requires some aerobic strength; and for a cyclist it means that you get the lateral up and down motion which you otherwise don't get cycling.

The great thing about hiking is you get can get others involved and regardless of the region of the country you live in; its an activity that one can easily do. Some places you may just need to bundle up a little more and use a little more aerobic strength stepping through the snow.

Hope everyone had a good holiday; its on to 2009 and a new training year.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A bag that carries a good cause

From time to time I run into a product company that presents that "wow" factor. As a avid cyclist I find myself schlepping a bag on my back as I commute through the city. I have basic criteria for the bag itself; durable, can hold more then what I cram into it, and stays on my back when riding. I've stuck with the timbuk2 for my urban commute for the last few years as I've found it to meet this basic set of criteria.

I started to see and hear more about a new company started in San Francisco called Rickshaw Bagworks; who is designing stylish and functional commuter/messenger bags, and is applying some rules of sustainability to the bag world along with way. So I stopped in for the store/factory launch party just to see first hand how they are saving the world; or at the very least the San Francisco; one bag at a time.

Stepping into their San Francisco based headquarters; one will first step inside the store which is full of plenty of eye candy; you will also take notice to the space behind the store which a large portion is dedicated to the assembling of much the eye candy that they offer.

The product lines are just as equally impressive; Rickshaw offers a commuter bag line in three sizes to accommodate a laptop, the "Zero" line of messenger bags again in three sizes, a baby bag, wallets, and on the bike accessories.

After some examination of the medium commuter bag; which is the largest in the series and can fit a 15inch laptop; I was sold; two things really sold me on the bag; the rear zip pocket; where I can stash pens/pencils, a notebook, and those things I need easy access to with out digging up front, and what is being described as silencers which are magnets for the front flap which reduces the need to use the velcro enclosures along with the sound that comes with it. Best thing is they offer what is called the "Bottles to Bag" line which is of course recycled from plastic water bottles; many designs and colors; and is as close to the "Cradle to Cradle" philosophy I've seen with a consumer bag to date. I could tell by just picking up the bag and giving it a basic stress test it was built to last; and if something does happen to it; well Rickshaw sticks by their product and will repair.

The Zero line is all about minimizing nylon in the design of the bag; yet is very sleek and is offered in a number of fabrics and colors for that personable touch. I also spotted one of the bags that was made from a SF bike coalition event banner; very cool.

The bags have plenty of personal touches which is demonstrated by the various fabrics and colors they offer. If you don't like any of the fabrics and want to provide your own; well Rickshaw will work with you in the design and assembling of the bag.

Rickshaw is also committed to a number of causes and charties in the community; which is made quite apparent in design of the bags. Rickshaw offers some limited edition designs for donors to various organizations in the community.

Though I didn't walk away with a bag that night; I did purchase a top tube sleeve for my bike. I had been searching for one for some time now; and finally found a sleeve to my liking; thanks Rickshaw.

For those who can stop in; there store is in the Dogpatch district of San Francisco; check out their website for directions. You can also order the bags mentioned here as well via the webstore.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Training during the holidays

We all know the story; one to many cocktail parties; a cookie here; eggnog there; just one more piece of gingerbread. It adds up; personally I stick to to oranges and spiced apple cider.

Here's what I've been doing for the past few years during the holiday's to motivate me during a ride; and get a little more in during the off season to push myself. Using landmarks such as the lighted house or the Santa Claus at the end of the block; I will sprint in the big chain ring between selected points.

With hills; I will start to look ahead for that house or tree lit up; and will do a hill climb alternating between sprints and recovery between these points.

In group rides; call out the landmarks; creating a little competition of sorts between them.

You can also use this as part of your interval training; it may be a bit shorter in duration; but you should be aiming for high cadence of 2 to 5 minutes with a recovery period of 30 seconds.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Key strengthening excercises for XC and endurance riders

Strength and cross training in the mountain bike world has been slow to catch up to its road counterpart. The evolution of the mountain bike particular to xc and endurance racing to ride as light as possible along with the increased technical nature of the trails we are now needs to make sure that their body can actually hold up.

Alone the evolution of the bike frame and components requires some better thought in to the strength and conditioning programs that have long been used. These days the rider is may be navigating a bike no more then 20 pounds across some harsh terrain for a good distance and needs the physical attributes to handle such a ride.

Along with the recommended cross training on a road bike to get in the miles, sprints, and hill work; here are a few strength training techniques that riders should include in their training;

Neutral glute bridge:

Optimize range control of your gluteus maximus and improved stability in your oblique. Helps in moving the bike foward and mantaining stability in various positions.

1. Lie on a firm surface with hands on front of hips to monitor hip position.

2. Lift pelvis using both legs, then raise one leg as shown.

3. Hold this position for 10 seconds, before returning to the start position.

4. Be sure that the pelvis is held level. This is the key. One side may be more difficult to do than the other.

5. Repeat 10 times on each side with a break between every lift.

2. Pullups/chin Ups Many xc riders have a weak upper body; which takes its toll when its a long ride on a aggresive trail. Good upper body strength is nescessary in navigating down the trail and maintaining control of your bike.

1. Straighten your arms all the way at the bottom and allow your shoulders to come up by your ears as well. Cross your legs at the knees to maintain balance while contracting your core.

2. Pull ups indicate that your palms are facing away from you and chin ups indicate that your palms are facing towards you. Both have their place in a program but I almost always start people out with chin ups as they are easier learn how to initiate the movement by pulling the shoulder blades down.

3. If you can do more than 8 reps in a set then strap some weight to yourself.

Plank to push up

As mentioned above most MTB riders need some more upper body strength; and a strong torso as well. This is one of the best exercises to strengthen the shoulders the core, and adding a little something to the lower back all at the same time.

1. Start in a plank position; have your hips lowered and tucked along with your abs contracted; and the belly button sucked in.

2. Keeping the core tight; push your body up into a push up position; hold and then lower back down. Perform as many as you can while maintaining good form.

For an added bonus; add a bosu for an element of instability.

So instead of thinking about that new component or bike to make things go faster; think about what is driving the bike. Strengthening and conditioning will allow you to ride longer, faster, and make the ride just that much more fun.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Staying motivated in the off season

A layoff period is recommended during the training year; usually after a major milestone race or when the racing season has come to an end. Its when to restart the training and get back into the groove the daily routine that many of us push off.

For me the layoff period won't happen now until after December 6th; since I'm doing a late season race competing in the North Face endurance run; but usually I would take a few weeks in October/November off and start training again in mid-November to give myself about 12 weeks of a build cycle leading up to the racing season. This year is going to be a challenge; and I may not see much of a layoff period; looking at my calendar and what training program my coach has put together for me.

For those who are trying to get back into a routine; and your finding that life is getting hectic and your pushing that run off one more day. These workouts and suggestions can help you gradually get back into your training habit may it be for running or cycling.

Get some races on the calendar; plan out a few 5K, 10K, and even half marathons early in the year just so that you have some milestone to aim for leading up to either that marathon or triathlon. For cyclists the season can be extended by racing in cyclocross races; which is short in distance and is great for endurance building. Additionally start planning on what you intend on competing in for the up coming year; this provides that little shot of motivation when you start to look at a laid out training plan.

Start with short runs or rides; build up with five to twenty minute bursts of sprints or fast pace to give you that energy boost. Alternate with every sprint or fast run a spin or slow jog for a couple minutes. This will help in building back up a base until it things start to feel more natural again.

Change up the routine by scouting out new trails or routes to run or ride; this adds new excitement maybe allows you to see new neighborhoods or the outdoors that has a little more of the season to show. I would race with a group between blocks doing something called the Santa ride; sprinting from one house to another using the holiday decorations as a marker.

For the more competitive athlete who feels that they need extra motivation to get out; check out the site trainingpeaks; it provides you access to a variety of coaches who have designed training plans that may be suited for you. The cost various; for me I think its around 99.00 to 150.00 dollars for a 12 week training plan. Getting the daily reminders along with money paid out is motivation enough to get back into things.

Find a group to run or ride with. Check out the local bike or running shops; always a bulletin board that have meet ups for rides or runs; find one that suits you.

Schedule the training and group activities on your calendar; that way your more likely to stick with them. Easier said then done? I have found that by scheduling these on my calendar; I have kept up with not skipping a run or ride, its become part of my daily routine. I also will lead a group ride; which makes it less likely to skip since others are then waiting on you.

Again make it fun; get back into the routine slowly if you need to. Find a workout that fits into your schedule that will help you gradually get back into the routine and not leave you feeling slugish.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Let there be light...while riding at night

As the time change starts to approach us over this first weekend in November; it becomes a stark realization for many that their training time on the bike starts to shorten due to the lack of light. Now as much as I recommend taking a break and start focusing on off season training; its also important to get out on the bike and do some spinning as well. Offroad riding under the lights gives me back the peace of mind I've lost during the day.

Getting on the bike and riding in the early morning or evening requires some form of additional light or lights. So what is the biggest limiting factor in getting a light; well price for one; check out the lighting systems out there from NiteRider, Light & Motion, Ay Up, or Lupine; and one may just give up riding during the week based on initial reaction to cost. What I have found out though is based on your riding requirements; you really don't need to spend as much as you initially think.

Having purchased along with tested a number of lighting systems for 24hr endurance races; I can say that I look for the following; illumination, how light is system in terms of weight, and of course cost. Depending on the terrain and length of ride; I will ride with either one or two lighting system on the handlebar and another attached to the top of helmet. The light on the helmet makes the biggest difference to me; since I typically ride off road; since it doesn't bounce and is more stable then the lights on the handlebar; also riding on steep inclines/declines I get a better sense of whats in store for me.

These lighting systems have advanced greatly over the last couple of years; and you will start to see more systems that are LED (diode emitting) versus HID (gas emitting). Until recently HID was the choice; based on the brightness of the light emitted; LED has caught up in terms of brightness; and has advantages in terms of weight, dimming, life of the bulbs and durability. Battery wise; if its not Li-Ion based; its not worth it; Nimh is an old technology that will loses memory (charge) over time and doesn't do well in extreme conditions. As for disposable battery powered lights; I keep those to my short commute rides.

Right now in terms of cost and output (Lumens) NiteRider is producing the MiNewt Mini-USB that is lightweight (175 grams), can be mounted to helmet or handlebar, runs for 3 hours, and can be charged via a USB cable. For around 100 dollars; this system is worth a try; if I were doing trail riding with it; I would probably ride with two (helmet and handlebar)

As for high end; take a look at Ay Up; out of Austrailia; they offer three packages; road, mtb, endurance. The kits start at 260.00 US for the road version and run up around 600.00 for the endurance; and come with multiple mount systems, batteries, chargers, and lightsets. From my tests; Ay Up is durable, high powered LED's, long burntime up to 6 hours, and durable I've crashed with the lightsets attached to both helmet and handlebar and I didn't have any issues.

I will say I ride with a different system on the road then mountain due to the light and traffic around me. I tend to use a softer single light on the road so I don't blind other riders or drivers; plus I typically don't need anymore then 2 hours. On the mountain; I have lights on the handlebars; sometimes dual systems; one on the helmet; and a flasher on the back. This is more due to the terrain, not so visable corners, and the inclines/declines.

Don't let the lack of light stop you from riding; it not only extends your riding time but also is also provides safety on the road. Offroad; once you've ridden under the lights on a warm summer night; you will never want to ride in the light again.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Learning along the way...of a trail

I've mentioned in previous postings that I'm currently training to compete in the Northface 50 mile endurance run in early December. With about a month and 1/2 left; its had its ups and downs literally; with certain training runs having me go up and down the hills of the Marin Headlands along with the steep streets of San Francisco.

The one benefit I do have is easy access to the route that will be run; I live maybe a two miles away from the Marin Headlands and it is a short 20 minute drive to the trails. I've been able to get to know the trails and routes and the nuances to expect come December; except for the one factor how wet will the trails be come December? For those who know the Bay Area; it isn't a surprise that with late Fall and Winter comes the rains; last year I remember it being cold; but not overally wet; this year who knows; but it will bring an added dimension to a few of the spots on the route.

What I have been working on is some routine that balances out endurance, building speed, along with strength; and maybe a day of rest in there as well. My diet has definitely been affected; as I've really cut out all forms of meat and seafood and have been running light on whole grains, vegetables, peanut butter, yogurt, and my main source of protein in coming in some form of a soy product. Mixing it up to keep it at least enjoyable and interesting; I need to something to bring joy after a 22 mile trail run that has left me numb from the shoulders down. Simple things like knowing there is a peanut butter sandwich waiting for me back at my truck brings a smile to the face.

With the run I bring a water bottle; sometimes with a electrolyte supplement; I like HEED; its worked for me when riding. Depending on the length I will pack a couple GU packs as well.

My training routine I've been both running and riding; mostly on the Mountain bike to build endurance on the hills. With the input from my sis; who is an accomplished ultra endurance runner; here is what I've come up with;

Mon - 1/2 stretch, 1 hour core workout, light run/ride 1 hour (late day)
Tue - 45 min - 1 hour fast pace run (under 7 miles); working on my VO2max capacity
Wed - 1 - 2 hours moderate pace (ride/trail run) 12 - 15 miles
Thur - 30 - 45 min easy pace; 7:30 - 8 min mile
Fri - stretch 1/2 hour; 1 hour easy pace ride 8 miles
Sat - Long run; building up from 4 hours to 8 hours; moderate pace; no real distance; more for agility and building capacity on the trail
Sun - short long run; take my Saturday run cut in half; may either be on the pavement or trail. All depends on how the legs feel.

Trying to keep to this schedule; again it depends on how the legs feel and that thing called life that comes up from time to time. Have found a couple good running partners who also ride; so have some encouragement/competition around.

I can say that after a long run nothing feels better then a bag of frozen vegetables on the knees or better yet a dip into cold water. Stretching has become a standard routine first thing in the morning along with after a run/ride; I think as the weather does cool down it will help in avoiding injury.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A shoe above the rest

Lately I have been spending much more time wearing either a cycling or running shoe; which has led me to become a little more particular of what goes on my feet.

I've worn and ridden many miles wearing what would be considered the two big names in cycling; Shimano and Sidi. Over the last couple of years I've seen more progress in design, performance and comfort from Shimano at a reasonable price. Though there are a number of improvements I would like to see with the Shimano MTB shoes on my wishlist. Sidi; well what can I say that's nice; nothing actually. Sidi has been good at raising their price; with little to no enhancements to their shoes; and for everyone that raves about the fact they provide replacement parts; you know why they supply those parts; ride a few miles in their shoes you'll find out.

About a year ago; I was asked to try and test the Lake MTB race shoe; a carbon sole; heat moldable to the rider's foot; and has the boa lacing system versus the traditional latch and velco straps on most shoes. The model in particular was the MX400; which is considered the high end of Lake's offerings; and is built for the cross country/endurance rider; who needs a light shoe with added durability. I find the boa to provide better support and prevents heal lift; giving me better performance on my rides.

My first encounter with the MX400 was less then positive; a problem with the adhesive used to attach the back heal to the carbon sole took flight on a ride; leaving me wondering if the shoe was built for the rigors of mountain biking. Lake figured it out and started to use rivets on the back heal to hold it together; and even provided me with a fix to my shoe.

During this repair time I gave the MX170 a try; what is considered a entry level model in the Lake MTB Race offering; I find to be one of the best training shoes I've worn. The sole is a hard rubber that can take high volume use on a variety of terrains. The boa itself is located on the heal; and provides good support along the ankle. I've had the shoes now for about four months and probably put around 600 miles on them; very little wear on the bottoms; and the leather holds up. I'm thinking that these may work really well as a cyclocross shoe; and will probably give them a race try; there is enough traction along with mud studs that work really well on slippery terrains. Lake lists them at 400 grams for those who are weight weenies.

This is all leading up to the anticipated release most likely in late October/early November for the new MX401 version of the shoe. For all the things good about the MX400; there was some issues with the rubber on the sole as mentioned above. All of this has been fixed along with better support on the heal and additional red zone along the inside edge of the shoe for durability. With the heat formable; fit to wear concept; along with these improvements; Lake is probably the best upgrade I can think making this offseason.

I ride with the Time ATAC pedals on both my mountain and cyclocross bike and find the shoe and pedal to be compatible with no issues snapping in or out.

For those looking for the shoe; the best local bike store to work with in the Bay Area is Bikenut; they have a good relationship with Lake and ride with the shoe on both mountain and road as well.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fit to ride

After long rides I regularly hear my fellow riders complain of lower back pain, fatigue in the shoulders, elbows, or worse the knees. First question I always ask; when you bought your bike did the shop fit you on it; followed by; have you been refitted since?

Most of the time the answer is "no" followed by another "no"; usually with they didn't offer or I it was to much money...and a number of other excuses.

First; when planning on buying a bike; budget for a fitting; even the basic fitting; you will be happier and your rides will start off on a good note. In the past year; I've been fitted and have had the bike readjusted four times on both my road and mountain bike; due to physical changes in my body's flexibility and conditioning.

My responsiveness and performance improved immediately; rides have been pain free; and I can tell or more so my body can tell when the bike needs to be readjusted.

You don't need to be spending a lot on a bike for this to pay off. I recommend that when buying a bike; ask the sales person if they offer fittings and whether the person who does it has been trained.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Synergy between cycling and design

I am a cyclist; I ride to compete; for fitness, and being in the Bay Area the outdoors the sport weaves into the culture.

I've owned many bikes over the last fifteen plus years of my life; ridden on steel, aluminum, carbon, and titanium. Each having advantages over the other; though most of your frames being produced today the material of choice is carbon. Along with the choice of material; I have had bikes built to fit; built from the frame up; selecting the components off the shelf.

As I start to shop around though for a cyclocross bike; I'm starting to see a trend towards hand built bikes. Maybe its the cyclocross culture; but I hope its a trend/movement that makes its way into the other cycling cultures as well.

The mecca of custom built bikes looks to be the Pacific Northwest centering in the Portland area; which should be no surprise to anyone who has biked or visited the city. The cycling culture really defines the city; so much that it was the site of the handcrafted bicycle show last year; and this coming weekend Oct 10-11 the Oregon Manifest is taking place there highlighting many of the local builders as well as many social events and a cyclocross race. For those who get the chance please take it in; just to hear the stories of these various individuals and what they bring to designing and building bikes is enough of a reason to attend.

Read more and make plans to attend;

As I've been shopping around and test riding; a few designers have really caught my eye; Ira Ryan, Chuck Ibis, Lynksey (original family behind Litespeed), and Vertigo. Out of these four; many would say that Ibis really isn't part of the hand built movement; which is correct; but Chuck has played a huge role in uniquess and a push for creativity in this community. I personally have a thing for titanium which is Lynkey's and Vertigo's speciality and will probably tilt this way when selecting my new bike; though Ibis has a new release of the "hakkalugi" coming out for '09 and I've seen and heard many good things.

Links to these various designers

I've become hooked on simplicity; and recently picked up John Maeda's book "The Laws of Simplicity"; which talks about an approach to product design Relate-Translate-Suprise. Which to me is basic principle each of these designers have put into building bikes; they are all cyclists; and have produced a product that they know well. This also relates to cycling clothing; there are plenty of makers/labels out on the market today. One that stands out is Rapha; a London based maker who does performance clothing for cyclists. Their support for the hand built industry will in my words bring more exposure and hopefully drives the movement. They are a sponsor of the Oregon Manifest and will be one of the exhibitors.

I have invested; yes invested; Rapha is not inexpensive; in a few items of clothing from them; and I'm impressed. Its comfortable; its simple; the style and colors don't look like you just came from the circus. It has some great pieces of casual clothing as well. Pink is part of the signature color in many pieces; but its subtle and actually looks pretty damn cool.

Check out the website; even if you don't buy; I recommend for those who cycle to subscribe to the newsletter; Rapha sponsors rides at various sites in the US through out the year and its a great time.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Alternate sports therapy 2.0

Came across a great article in the October edition of National Geographic Adventure magazine on alternate forms of therapy regarding sports injury therapy. Having recently gone though similar experiences wanted to chime in with my own experiences with a couple of the methods mentioned.

Competing in both cycling and long distance running; I have suffered a few knee injuries along the way. Most were minor in that I didn't tear or damage a ligament or cartilage; but the injury has left me hobbling around for some time.

Usually the remedy would be to take a anti-inflammatory; in my case I recommend Aleve; along with RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) method of healing. Though recently the aching in my knee spread up to my hip causing me to be sidelined from training; which as we all know makes for a fun individual to be around. At first I thought it was more tightness of the IT band; so I hit the foam roller every day for about an hour; with little relief when I started to run.

So after speaking to a few sports medicine specialists; who were advocating alternate forms of treatment; besides the normal surgery followed by PT regemin. I decided to explore what one treatement called Prolotherapy; which is refered to the "Anti anti-inflammatory"; which is an injection of typically glucose, distalled water, along with lidocaine, and in some cases zync may also be part of the active substance. The difference with prolotherapy; unlike a normal anti-inflammatory drug is it promotes the growth of tissue in areas where the tissue has grown weak.

I decided to try over the course of a two month three injections into the knee; both leaving it a little tender at first; but after the two months the pain had significantly reduced and the stability has returned. Is it for everyone; no; it really depends on the severity of the condition; again its best to consult with a sports medicine specialist.

The other therapy I decided to try was a treatment called Active Release Techinque (ART). With most endurance atheletes; injuries to joints are quite common due to stress repetitive movements. Usually scar tissue builds up in the muscle, tendon, and ligaments to stabilize the area; but this build up also hinders the stressed area from returning to normal function. ART is meant to examine and treat these areas where the scar tissue has built up.

I visited a therapist who specializes in what some may feel is a form of toture; after the first couple of sessions. They dug their fingers and thumbs deep along the quad and knee region to release the built up scar tissue; for those who have seen the body hair removal scene from "40 year old virgin"; I had very similar verbal outbursts. After the session though my knee felt limber; and the normal flexability had returned without the pain.

Both of these treatments though come with a cost; both are typically around 120 - 150 dollars a session; with an added bonus that your insurance company may not cover. I benefited by both treatments; again on recommendations given to me; what it does provide is alternatives from what has been perceived as the only options for recovery out there.

Random facts about me and what I've learned along the way

Interlude between wellness and training topics a few random facts about me; and being Esquire magazine's 75th anniversary a little about what I've learned along the way

I have way more education then I know what to do with
I can cook a wicked pot of sauce
I'm a vegetarian for the most part; but I do some mean BBQ; and I mean real BBQ
I'm addicted to burgundies; which has resulted some interesting Amex statements
I'm a metrosexual when it comes to hair and body products
I think I've spent more on a pair of cycling shoes then I have on dress shoes
Along the way I've probably spent way to much on cycling clothes as well
I use the word wicked way to much for some one in their late 30's
If you want to get on my good side; mention coffee and oatmeal cookies
My yellow lab Madison has taught me that life is all about the little things
I've learned never to leave my meal unattended around Madison
I recommend a Labrador if you want to go on a diet
If you ask me to take care of your dog I will probably say yes
My humor has been my best friend and worst enemy
If you don't have a sense of not to hang with me
I don't take life seriously
My career is my passion
I think fly fishing is under appreciated
I have shed materialism for minimalism
I have no game...that's right no game
I'm self deprecating....I believe one must be able to laugh at themselves first
I believe good spelling and grammar is a lost art form
I'm an avid Boston Red Sox fan
Up until 2004 I dreaded each and every baseball season
I'm not an expert in foreign policy; but I understand one basic principle; respect your neighbors; they probably wouldn't appreciate you invading their household
I have crashed my mountain bike more then I care to remember; and in some cases I don't
Not sure but I think I did a cyclocross race with a concusion
I have scars that I can't explain; and some in interesting places
I've been humiliated cycling in the Pyrenees by a Spaniard who smoked; while he rode
If you want me to compete in a race all you have to say is "Why are you worried?"
I know that the dirt in Moab tastes very different then the dirt in North Carolina
A GPS is a good thing when Mountain Biking
I figured out the hard way that not all the Golden Stairs were meant to be traversed
I don't recommend testing your new road bike by riding down a set of stairs
There is nothing like taking a full suspension mountain bike down mid-town Manhattan
I understood from a very young age that being the youngest had its advantages
I also learned that having two older sisters results in a continuous stream of ass beatings
Don't ever refer to your father as "Bob"; when his first name is neither Bob or Robert; matter of fact never refer to your father as anything but "dad" or "pop"
I know the difference between pop, soda, and tonic
I believe that the signal light just provides other motorists the opportunity to block you

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Off season cross training

Jumping right into the blogging waters for the first time; tackling a subject that is relevant to the time of year.

As the fall approaches; the daylight hours dwindle; a nip in the air; alas it also spells the end of the 2008 racing season for many of us. I will try and extend it by doing a couple cyclo-cross races; but for the most part I'm looking at my off season cross training.

Much talk and thought over the past few years have been put into this topic; with many seasoned coaches and experts in the area sports sciences recommending that you get off the saddle and refine your skills in other physical activities. Why is this important; well one its both physically and mentally exhausting to spend all your time on the saddle; and will lead to the risk of burn out and potential for injury.

So whats a cyclist to do; well for one I'm training for the North Face endurance run in San Francisco. I'm looking to use the 50 mile trail run as a prep to work on improving my pace, anaerobic ability, keep my legs fresh, and at the same time further refine my agility. I hope this off season provides me what I need; as I look to compete in a number of events in 2009; the highlight being the Leadville 100.

Other things a cyclist can do; the key is to keep the legs in shape, maintain your cardio, improve your core, balance, stability, and agility. All of this will add up to a successful 2009 season; and for me when it comes time I'm hungery to get back on the saddle.

Some sports to consider; of course this depends upon your region of the country; soccer, hockey (ice or inline), basketball, squash/tennis, running (trail or road), swimming, x-country sking and a little pilates/yoga goes a long way. So what are some of the benefits of these sports when applied to cycling; coordination, work the legs (quads, glutes, and calves), along with the fast twitching muscles, eye and hand coordination, balance, stability, agility.

Along with your cross training activity; doesn't hurt and again recommended to get on the bike for an hour or two a week and do some quick spinning low impact riding just to maintain muscle memory. The goal here is to work up to a fast cadence in short intervals over the off season. Depending upon the region you live in this can be done on the trainer or outdoors.

If your primarily a road cyclist; weather permitting; and being in the Bay Area I'm spoiled; change it up and do some mountain biking. Last off season; I set the road bike aside and spent it on the saddle of mountain bike; taking a recommended suggestion from another cycling coach. I found that it improved my overall handling skills, balance, and agility; in the case of skidding on wet pavement I found that able to regain control much quicker then I had in the past.

Along with various cross training sports; I also start to schedule in a 2 - 3 circuit training workouts a week; developing the overall core, upper body, lower back, and the legs. Here's a complete workout that I might do during a session;

(12 - 15 reps) x 2

Alternating squats/lunges with weights/medicine ball
Medicine ball chops
plank (alternate lifting one leg and holding for 10 - 20 seconds)
Stability ball crunches
Squat jumps
scissor kicks
leg presses (Add a fast component to simulate explosive power)
Get ups (In a push up position; do a single push up; on the up position explode out; sprinting for 10 yards)
Bicycle crunch exercise
Lower back extensions (Add a medicine ball for an added bonus)
Seated side to side twists with medicine ball
Oblique crunches
Jump rope (can't do this to save my life)
Knee tucks

I tend to break these exercises up into a 2 groups; alternating during the week along with a cardio/anaerobic activity mixed in.

Remember the key in the off season is one further development of functional strength, avoid injury and enjoy the mental break from cycling. You will look forward to get back on the saddle for those long training rides come spring.

Next up nutrition and measuring improvement in the off-season.