Thursday, December 16, 2010

Functional training

I have a handful of personal training clients who are interested in improving their cycling performance. Part of the training involves a variety of lunges, squats, single leg exercises, core work, and plyometrics. Everyone of them has told me that they had no idea they had so many muscles they weren't using and how they could feel these muscles engaging when they hit the bike. My goal in training them is to improve their functional fitness or, in other words, to optimize their power on the bike. A Power meter measures force either in the hub or crank arm or soon will be offered in the pedal. The force comes not just from the muscles in our legs but also from our core. If your core isn't strong, and our leg muscles are essentially firing from the hips down and the hips are tied to our core,you can't possibly be applying all of the force possible. Now I know plenty of cyclists who can hit the leg press and do multiple reps of 500, 600, 700 or more pounds. Many of these same riders can't complete even one proper single leg squat. The single leg squat requires strength and balance through the leg and core while the leg press is both legs working against your compressed spine with very little core involvment. Which is better for cycling? Be sure that your off the bike training is designed to optimize your on the bike power.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Testing Yourself

The goal of our training is to improve our performance but how do you know if we are improving especially during the winter months when there are few if any events? The best way to gauge progress is to conduct periodic field tests. A field test could be any ride that you can repeat during the year that allows you to record and compare speed, wattage, time, heart rate, etc. You could be comparing maximum and/or average numbers for the parameter(s) depending on your specialty. The course you use would also be dependent on your discipline.

For example, since I concentrate on the individual time trial I use two 8 minute time trial efforts as a field test. I use the same road each time or do them inside. Either way, I have a basis for comparison year after year for outside and inside data. I am primarily looking at average wattage. My coach will usually start testing me in February and then periodically during the season to check progress.

For a rider interested in crits, you may want to test your sprints and check average speed, maximum speed and power if available. A road racer could use a climb to test their time to the top, average power and/or speed. Once again, the idea is to have a course that is repeatable and as unchanging in environment as possible. The test doesn't have to be long in time and in fact something less than 8 to 10 minutes is probably preferable. You'll have plenty of opportunities for pushing the limits on time at intense speeds and power during your training and racing and while those efforts are certainly comparable the shorter repeatable efforts offer less chance for factors that may skew the data such as wind, temperature, etc.

This a great time of year to find that hill or flat stretch of road and test yourself. Don't worry if your results don't seem as strong as hoped. If you train well this winter you'll be setting new standards in time.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Notes from Will Peveler Seminar at NKU

Notes from Will Pevelers November 30th Seminar:
There is no ‘off-season’, it’s just a change in training. It’s important to keep your aerobic base and add in the strength training.
The concurrent training is not detrimental and in fact the strength training should be looked at as a valuable supplement to your training.
A properly designed strength training program can increase your time to exhaustion by 11-20%. This is the result of improvement in economy due to neuromuscular adaptation. Your type I muscles, motor unit recruitment and eccentric muscle cycle will all increase with strength training. If this doesn’t get you in the gym I’m not sure what will!
For all of those worried about adding weight, your body composition will over a 6-12 week program will actually stay the same or change very little. You will not become an incredible Hulk or Schwarzenegger spending 60 to 90 minutes per week in the gym.
Another benefit of a strength program is decrease in the likelihood of injury. This would be the result of correcting muscle imbalances (think about strengthening tight hamstrings that could lead to back injuries that are so common with cyclists), increasing joint stability (cyclists work in one plane, the saggital—time to work the frontal and transverse also), improved biomechanics (think of stability around your knees that allow better power to the pedals without knee problems or a strong core that allows you to really hammer out of the saddle), and increased bone density (cycling doesn’t provide much in the way of impact to our bones, and hitting the pavement doesn’t count).
Options on time in the gym:
Weight training: lunges, squats, pushups, etc; proper form is critical; the variety of exercises need not be extensive but there are hundreds of options; I prefer big weights and low reps but there is some debate on this vs high reps and low weights; I also prefer free weights to machines in that you have to work on stability and core constantly with free weights
Plyometrics: only do after a solid period of strength training and know how to do these leaping and bounding exercise properly; they are great for explosive power
Body management: really honing in on the type of body you need for your event and the exercises that will improve your performance; maintaining this form year-round is critical
This training can be done two to three days per week during the winter but be sure to work it in with your cycling so that you still have off days. In other words, don’t do intervals on Tuesday and Thursday and then strength training on Wednesday and Friday followed by the group rides on Saturday and Sunday. Consider doing your strength work later in the day after your intervals or plan an off day between hard days on the bike and in the gym. Also learn to ride really easy some days. So many cyclists just can’t handle the 100 watt ride. A recovery ride should be just that.
During the season you must keep up with the core work. Keep doing core exercise two days per week even if just for 15-20 minutes each day. I’d also recommend keeping the upper body work on the schedule and some limited leg work depending on your training and racing schedule.

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