Friday, January 22, 2010

Cycling Training

Ah, something nice about a blog, where you can say whatever you want and know that people only read it if they WANT to. Not because it shows up on their "News Feed" or forum or in their email box, and they feel obligated to wade through like so much junk mail. I write, you choose whether to read or not. It frees me up to write! On Facebook, I'm not much of a post-er. I might think of something to say and then think, but all those "Friends" of mine don't want to read that... And I erase it. Facebook is too broad. Here, I choose the topics. I focus on paddling and related subjects. And sometimes, as you may have seen throughout the years, cycling is related.

Last year I started to get pretty serious about cycling. I rode about 4,000 miles, got a new bike, got pretty fast, rode some special events, and built some group riding and general bike handling skills. But I had some setbacks, too. I had intermittent knee trouble and went through two rounds of physical therapy. Had a few challenges with the bike fit. I had problems with muscle knots or trigger points in my quads and learned about massage therapy. Experimented with other things throughout the year also - strength training, plyometrics, core strengthening, Pilates, yoga, bellydancing, running, and indoor spin class. Also got a set of rollers and learned to ride the bike indoors, working on pedaling technique and balance.

I read a lot of books, magazines, and online articles, I talked to the people I ride with, read the forums. It's just unbelievable how much I have learned about cycling. And still there is so much more to learn. It's really the same with my physical progress - it's amazing how much my cycling ability has developed... and yet there is still so much more potential.

I'm on an actual training plan now. Started the first week of the year and just finished my third week. A total of 5 hours the first week, 7 hours the second week, and 9 hours this week. The idea is to ride the majority of the time in a lower heart rate zone than what you typically tend to ride in when you just go out and ride hard. Not easy... just a step down. For me it's a heart rate of 143-153. Lots of time riding in this window. Just ending that hard third week, and I really nailed it. Got the time I wanted, got the heart rate zones I wanted, got the rides I wanted. Off to a great start!

I'm combining it with a low-carb diet and have shed some extra fat already. I still believe in you, Dr. Atkins! I believe the body can get better at using fat for fuel, and that encouraging your body to do this through diet actually combines quite well with a HR training program.

It's amazing to me that muscle can become so much more dense, so much stronger, and gain so much endurance, and yet not really be any bigger. Look at the professional cyclists. Their legs are amazing - hard as a rock, toned, strong - but not huge at all.

I can feel these changes in my muscles. Massage is a wonderful thing when your body is working to build and rebuild the muscle tissue. And it's important to watch for those trigger points and massage them out when they appear. Stretching doesn't work until the whole muscle is relaxed.

Relaxation and stretching... yoga... another area where there is so much to learn. I've learned so much and become much more flexible, but I have not even begun to get into the breathing, the inversions, and the other advanced stuff. One thing I have found is the most amazing power and pleasure from my lower back, with yoga. I thought lower backs were only a source of pain! It's not true. Those complex muscles in the lower back want nurturing and release. They will return the favor and make you feel re-centered... wonderful.

My job is at a desk and a computer. It takes a lot of physical activity to counterbalance those 40 hours a week there in the cubicle, where I engage only my brain and my hands.

The best physical activity brings music and movement together, such as dance or any aerobic activity to music. But a close second is bringing exertion and outdoors together. That's why I love the bike rides, and that's why I love to kayak.

See, I did say something about kayaks in this post :-)


Rob said...

Combine two of your favorite activities - try a Hobie Adventure. Pedal kayaking can be aerobic.

Cowboygrrl said...

I've been cycling both mountain and road for many years. I go through cycles of cycling. But I just started riding my indoor trainer, and yes eating better, to get into better shape. My dream is to do the Colorado 100, and eventually something longer (MI 340?).

Anna said...

Rob - I have one! Wonder why I don't use it more. It's actually my husband's boat - he got it for fishing. I guess whenever I'm ready to use my legs, I get on the bike.

Cowboygrrl - would love to hear more about your training. I'll keep an eye on your blog. I bet aerobic conditioning on the bike (or running, or anything eles) helps with paddling for endurance events.