Tuesday, November 22, 2011


The following responses are from the USA Cycling Coaches google group regrading a topic on stretching. Personally, I've always been one to believe that you should condition all of your muscles because this will usually increase the range of motion, lesson the chance of injury and ensure that you counteract the muscles that are over-developed by your sport. Lots of varying opinions on whether to stretch or not and when to do it if you do. Here are a couple of responses:

Okay folks, I don't usually pipe in, but on this one I must.

I read the research and I stay current on the science, however let me tell you my personal story, because I believe
it will save some of us and many others lots of misery!

I have been racing bikes since 1981 and I basically don't/didn't stretch. I might do an occasional stretch here and there, but
for the most part, nil. Obviously, I have been successful in spite of this, however I am now paying for my lack of maintaining
my flexibility through regular stretching...

Cyclists are known for chronic hamstring tightness, especially when compared to runners. I have found and continue to
discover that my hamstring tightness and the pain in my lower back are closely connected. (My massage therapist proved this
to me by working my hamstrings thereby alleviating my low back pain). As many of you know, cyclists suffer from lots of low
back pain, especially L4-L5 and I know several cyclists who have had back surgery to correct this. Could proper stretching
have mitigated some of these back issues? Are you showing your athletes how to keep their hamstring limber?

Another area for cyclists is the neck and upper back. I am now suffering from cervicular radiculitis, which is basically a
pinched nerve in my neck C5-C7. I have been seeing chiropractors, acupuncturists, herbalogists, nutritionists, massage
therapists and ralfers to alleviate the issues. What's the message that keeps coming back to me? By not stretching my
scalenes, SCM, levator scapular and trapezius, these tight muscles have pulled my vertebra into closer contact over time which causes
compression of the nerves in my neck. My doctor recommended surgery! I am not gonna go there. How many cyclists do you know
who suffer from a pain in the neck? The positioning of our neck while riding, plus the tension generated while racing puts
a tremendous strain on the neck and upper back muscles. I am finding that regular stretching is necessary to have a functional neck.

Once again cyclists especially have a limited range sport so stretching is not as "necessary" to be able to ride effectively, however as I
have tried other sports (running and speedskating) I am discovering how limited my range of motion is for other sports
and my current medical bills far outstrip the low cost of routine stretching.

Of course I am over 55, which I am sure contributes to the problem, however I bought a copy of Bob Anderson's book, "Stretching" and
I do many of the stretches he recommends. I now make sure ALL my athletes learn some of the basic cycling stretches and
general flexibility exercises. While the greater range of motion "may"not contribute significantly to the sport of cycling, they
certainly contribute to a greater quality of life over the longer term.

So regardless what all the "scientific" research says, stretching leads to a greater overall quality of life and certainly will save lots of
back and neck pain and expensive medical bills.

Glen Winkel, Ph.D.

and another response......

While research is going to flip-flop all the time (mid foot strike
running, or ball of the foot running is a great example), here is the
most compelling things out there, and my position and findings from
working in the Strength & Conditioning Field, and coaching athletes
over the years, with the athletes ranging in age from Elementary
through Collegiate (Division 1), to late 60's. I've had the fortune to
be able to see and work with people from all across the lifeline motor-
development stages, and this is my experience, and some of my

-STATIC stretching PRIOR to exercise, will not only reduce the
contractility (strength) of a muscle by roughly 12-18%, but it CAN
increase risk of injury. (makes sense, your telling the muscle's
governing bodies -the Golgi tendon organs- to relax before they are to
perform.--new research suggests that the GTO is not the limiting
factor/ determinant in the stretch-reflex cycle, though they say this
still hold true --the decrease strength following static stretching,
that is.

-STATIC stretching as part of a cool down is (In my opinion and
experiences) absolutely an integral PART of maintaining joint
musculature balance, a key factor in injury prevention (proper
strengthening of the lengthened muscles is the other)

-STATIC stretching, for muscles working a shortened position, as well
as used primarily in sport, can be used along with a strength routine
to help increase the range of motion about a joint, as well as to help
work the muscles at that joint return to their natural resting length

-Dynamic stretching as part of a good warm-up routine has been shown
to INCREASE contractility of the muscle, and the excitement of the
nervous system.

-Dynamic Stretching needs to be done systematically to be most
effective, not Haphazardly thrown together

The fact is that Cycling shortens the muscles of the hip joint, and
the chest. These two joints are the only two ball and socket joints in
the body. These are at the highest risk for injury due to the vast
range of motion they are built to have (but usually most people don't
get 70% of their full ROM due to tightness/weakness of the muscles at
and around these joints).

Being on the bike for hours on end, in a position where the hamstrings
are being lengthened, the quads, hip flexors (Ilio-psoas), and
pectorals (chest) muscles are all being shortened, leads to great
changes in resting length over a period of time (take a look at the
leader of your local Masters 45+ team, and tell me how their posture
looks... most have a kyphotic curvature of their back, and their hips
have a slight to significant anterior tilt, and chances are that the
adams apple on their neck are protruding due to tight extensors of the

The chronic shortening and strengthening of theses muscles in that
position lead to significant musculo-skeletal changes (posture,
skeletal alignment), which can not only increase risk for injury, but
also for herniated discs, lumbar and cervical stenosis, as well as low
back issues/pain, just to name a few.

Stretching IS and SHOULD BE an integral part of ones routine,
targeting a dynamic warm-up that not only hits the muscles to be used
within the sport, but also the muscles that WONT be used, or are
stabilizers for the prime-movers. This will allow the athlete to have
a higher likelihood to decrease their risk of injury, perform better,
and ride for a longer period of their lifespan...not to mention enjoy
their life outside of riding!
The Cool down should include Static stretching of the Calfs, Quads,
hip flexors, and Pectoralis musculature, as well as ACTIVATION
exercises for the hamstrings, gluteus, and rotator cuff musculature
(at minimum).

Stretching is just half the battle! YOU HAVE TO STRENGTHEN THE
OPPOSING MUSCLES!!! joint balance is KEY, and this has been found time
and again...for example, the strength of the hamstrings has been found
to be best (least risk for injury, highest level of performance) when
the hamstrings have 61% of the strength of the Quads. **muscle tears
don't happen because of weak muscles, they happen because of highly
imbalance joint/opposing muscles, and because the stretch-shorten
cycle is thrown so out of whack****
most cyclists get off the bike and stretch the hamstrings and gluteus
because they are tight... they're tight because they are much weaker
than they need to be!! stretch your Quads not your hamstrings!!! and
strengthen the hip extensors (hamstrings, gluteus)!!!

The key is finding the right stretch in-strengthening balance. (by the
way, did you know as little as a 6-8% difference in leg strength (left
vs right) significantly increases your risk for injury?)

to find the imbalances, one needs a postural assessment, and an in-
sport and out of sport MOVEMENT analysis, not strength assessment.
Strength is important, trust me, I know, BUT it matters WHAT is
strong, through what range, as well as how does it sit in accordance
with the natural balance of the joint (i.e. for the shoulder, the
strength ratio should be 3:2, External rotators: internal
rotators....most individuals sit closer to 3:1...NON cyclists)

The bottom line?
Stretching, when done properly:
-At the right time (dynamic Vs Static)
-in the right order
-with a proper movement and strength analysis
-with an individual-appropriate strength training regimen
-with attention paid to stabilizing musculature
-with appropriate core strength (NOT crunches and sit-ups!!!)---google
McGill Crunches, and McGill Side Planks
-taking into account movement in sport

Can not only have an incredibly beneficial effect on one's in-sport
abilities, but also on ones lifestyle/ life outside of sport, Not to
mention decrease the risk of injury (overuse or otherwise).

Oh, and by the way, American College of Sports Medicines Technical
definition of AGING?
"Loss of range of motion about a joint. "

If you want to stay young, technically one needs to stretch,
strengthen ALL the muscles about each joint to maintain joint
stability, and range of motion.

Stretching and strengthening together has not only helped each and
every athlete I work with come back from the injuries they suffered
prior to working with me, but it has helped them achieve heights /
performances they never thought they could achieve.

But I'm still learning, and it's just my opinion. I just hope it can
help you out too.

Menachem Brodie

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Training Mistakes to Avoid, courtesy TrainingPeaks

The following is from TrainingPeaks.......

As 2012 approaches, this is a great time to sit down and think about how to avoid some basic but all too common training mistakes in the upcoming season. Here is my list of the top eight mistakes to avoid in 2012.

#8: Skipping your post-workout meal

All too often, athletes forgo the post-workout or post-race meal. This is a big mistake and one that can lead to a slow recovery phase. Do yourself a favor: find a recovery drink that works well for you and drink it within the crucial first 30 minutes after your workout. This will get you on the fast track to a full recovery. Also, since it’s a drink, you’ll be able to enjoy your recover meal no matter where you are.

#7: Not resting on your rest day

I hear this all the time: “I felt good on my rest day, so I just skipped it!” This type of training approach can lead to burnout and sub-par training sessions. Rest days are important and should be considered an integral part of any athlete’s training schedule. Not allowing for adequate rest which will affect your performance on intense training days.

As your fitness increases, your rest days will become less frequent, which is all the more reason to take advantage of them when you can.

#6: Training largely off of miles

I spoke about this in detail in one of my past posts. The general idea is not to get too involved with the idea of training in miles because it can lead to a decrease in training quality. Concentration should be on quality and not quantity. This will also make your training time more efficient, which is a huge plus for those with busy schedules.

#5: Training off of others

Training off of others is an easy mistake to fall into. I like to think of this as co-pilot training. What can happen with co-pilot training is that you slowly start to change your personal training plan to fit with those of others, a mistake that can make it hard to excel to your personal best or even beyond the fitness of those around you. Adjusting your plan when training with others not that bad from time to time, but if it turns into a weekly habit, it’s time to make some changes.

To keep things social while staying on your individual plan, simply work your training into your ride with others. Don’t be afraid to tell your training partner or group that you’ll be taking it easy at times and pushing it harder at others in order to stick with your training plan, they will understand!

#4: Only training your strengths

At times it’s really hard not to want to train only your strengths. After all, when you go out for a training session that plays to your strengths, you naturally feel better about your training time. This is a tough habit to break since your body and your mind want to do what they do best.

To make the most out of your training, make sure you are putting in enough time working on your weaknesses. Stay away from picking rides that only play to your strengths. If you know you need to become a better climber, schedule some climbing days. The idea is to improve enough on your weaknesses that they just become secondary strengths. As one of my former coaches used to tell me, “Train your weaknesses and race your strengths”.

#3: Training with old target zones

Training is an ever-changing process. As such, you should stay on top of your training zones and make changes with your fitness levels. Neglecting to update your training zones can lead to over- and under- training. Try to revise your zones once every three months; this will keep you training in the correct zones for your fitness.

#2: Neglecting to lay out a proper season plan

This is a mistake that is easy to avoid but sadly, all too many people fall victim to it. Creating a proper season plan and trying your hardest to stick with it will improve your fitness and performance.

A proper season plan will have specific goals for events and training. Make sure to be as specific as possible when laying out your season goals. “Do well in a road race” means nothing. Compare this to “Finish top five in the Category 2 race at Holly Ridge Road on April 20”. Laying out a good season plan is one step that will also help you avoid some of the other mistakes on this list. Do yourself a favor and start preparing your 2012 season plan as soon as you can.

#1: Forgetting to have fun

Remember back to when you first started your sport of choice. What was it that hooked you? For most people, their answer will include the word “fun”. Sadly, few people will use that same word to describe their current training in the same sport! Training will not always be fun, but with a little effort it can certainly be fun most of the time.

Try to mix elements of fun into your training whenever possible. This can take form in various ways. Some may have a few dirt roads they can jump onto during a long road ride; others might find it fun to do some swimming drills with the local college swim team. Whatever makes you smile during your training is well worth incorporating into your schedule.

Staying true to the “fun” that hooked you to your sport of choice is crucial to your life as an athlete. Forgetting to have fun will lead many people to walk away from sports, and that is one thing that should be avoided at all costs.

Happy Training!

Monday, November 14, 2011

First Indoor Time Trial

The first JDRF Indoor Time Trial was held on November 13th in Dayton. It's a 10k computrainer course, the Morgul-Bismark I think. The course has no flat sections so there is plenty of opportunity to work on holding power both up and down hill.

I ended up riding faster than my first two efforts in November and December of 2010 but I was still about 15 seconds off my best from last February. Here are the stats:
time 14:54, average HR of 171 (94% of max, 106% of LT), max HR of 181 with tested max HR at 182, average cadence of 105, average speed of 24.95, average power of 383 watts, and wt/kg of 4.91. That was my highest watts for kilogram out the five times I've ridden this. My weight is down and power about steady. It is worth noting that my Powertap showed average power of 353. Seems like everyone's power is a higher on the computrainers.

This is a great way to get in a truly all-out effort in a competitive environemnt over the winter wonths. Even if you don't ride time trials this event can help you develop the type of power that would be beneficial in road races and crits (assuming you're training for this). If you don't normally train with power this is your opportunity to see where you stand on a 10k ride. It's also nice to have something on the calendar during the winter months if you're not doing 'cross. The next event is on December 11th. Go to www.w8ds.com for more information.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Strength Training

Here are some basic but essential exercises for endurance athletes to incorporate into their training not just in the winter but year-round. Ideally you would allocate 3 times per week during the fall and winter months and twice per week during the racing season with each session being 30-60 minutes. During the fall and winter you can do the strength work before your riding (or running or swimming) and during the season do the strength work after your other training. It's best to do the training that you want to emphasize first so that you give that your best effort. You don't want to do intervals one day and then strength training on what should be an off day. Keep your off days as off days.

core: planks; side planks; reverse planks; incline bench sit ups; crunch
upper body: pushups; pull ups; dips; curls; press; lat pulls
lower body: lunge; side lunge; reverse lunge; squat; box step ups

This is a pretty basic list but once you start varying the weight and number of reps you'll have no problem going 30-60 minutes. I have a list of over 100 variations on these and additional exercises that I use in my classes and with personal training clients. Contact me if you'd like to see more exercises.

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