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.

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