Monday, January 03, 2011
Yesterday I said that recovery is an important part of cycling, or of any sport I suppose, and today I want to say that rest is, too. By rest I have in mind days away from exercise, naps, and nightly sleep. Let me comment on each of these in turn.
First, rest days are crucial because they help your body recovery from the damage physical activity causes. That damage is good provided that we rest and otherwise recover well, but if we don't rest it compounds and causes injuries. Therefore, rest days are not only helpful, they're necessary and I need to learn to make the most of them. I love exercising, especially being on my bike, and it's hard for me to stay away from it but I must. And when I do I must learn to limit my physical activity as much as possible and envision this as part of my training regimen.
Second, taking naps on exercise days, especially when that exercise is rigorous, can actually help increase the speed at which your body recovers and grows in strength. Joe Friel, author of the "Cyclists Training Bible," says that a 30-60 minutes nap is the best way to recover from a rigorous ride by far. Other methods such as a hot shower or bath, a massage, stretching, or a slow walk in a park are helpful, but naps far outweigh them in terms of results. The difficulty for me here lies not in the concept but in making the time to ride long and hard, and then also to nap. But I'm convinced that it would be better to ride a little less and nap a little more if I have to, so I'll be working hard this season to find the right balance.
Third, it's probably obvious enough to point out that nightly sleep is a part of rest. However, the reason I bring it up here is to say that it needs particular attention. Planning for sleep needs to be given just as much thought as planning for workouts because without good sleep the body simply will not perform as well as it can on any given day. The most important part of improving my sleep patterns has been letting go of caffeine once and for all. I've been free from it for about three weeks now and I'm sleeping so well and waking up full of energy. This in turn has helped me to exercise better and grow stronger, faster. It will be critical this year for me to avoid the temptation of caffeine when the cycling days get longer and the body is crying for energy. What it will need on those days is not a stimulant but a little rest. Our bodies know how to recover if we give them what they need!
The point of this blog is to say that rest is just as important a part of training as any other aspect, and I plan to give it much thought and take it very seriously. And I hope that, along with the other aspects of my strategy, this focus will help me to go faster on the bike for the glory of God!
Sunday, January 02, 2011
Recovery is a very important aspect of cycling, especially when training for a multi-day event. It’s good to be able to ride hard and fast for one day, but it takes recovery skills to be able to ride hard and fast day after day. Since my major cycling event this year is a five-day event, at which I hope to ride faster than ever, I will have to greatly increase my ability to recover from day to day.
In the past I’ve been pretty good at recovering for the first few days but by the fourth and fifth days I’ve been pretty sore and have had a hard time performing at peak level. So this year I want to perfect my post-ride routine so as to maximize recovery and performance day after day. Specifically, I plan to give attention to post-ride nutrition, stretching, and massaging. As I hone my routine over the next few months I’ll be sure to share what I discover!
Thanks for reading, hope you have a great day!
Saturday, January 01, 2011
A key part of success in any endeavor is mental strength, and this is particularly true of athletic endeavors. Most fitness barriers are mental barriers before they are physical barriers. So I’ve decided to give much attention to mental strength this year to see how much I can grow and how this growth will help me go faster on the bike. I’ll say much more about this in the coming months but for now I will simply list and describe the elements that I think make up mental strength.
Positive mental attitude (PMA): By PMA I mean developing a “can do” state of mind. The one who says ,“I can’t do it,” is usually right! It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The who says, “I can do it,” isn’t always right but at least they give themselves a chance. My friend Danny Kain is a very good golfer, in fact, he almost made the pro circuit. He used to tell me, “Charlie, 100% of putts that stop short of the cup fail to go in the cup.” Lacking a positive mental attitude is like leaving a putt short of the cup: it almost completely ruins your chances of success. So, I’ll be working on PMA this year.
Discipline: By discipline I mean learning to exercise self-control. I mean saying “no” to that extra something I want to eat when I know it’s not good at the moment. I mean saying “yes” to that workout when I’m tired or lazy or for whatever reason don’t want to do what I planned to do. I mean holding back when I want to push forward because pushing forward would mean over-training. I mean letting my mind lead my body rather than my feelings. It’s as if there are two people inside each of us: an adult and a child. The adult must rule the body and allowing that to happen is roughly equal to having discipline.
Concentration: By concentration I mean focus. I mean staying set on my goals when 1,000 things seek to distract me this year. I mean focusing on one aspect of cycling when I’m climbing a hill or pushing my body to the edge and it hurts. I mean blocking out everything that doesn’t help me move forward to the glory of God and the good of others.
Determination: I’m not sure this is exactly separate from other things I’ve mentioned, but by determination I mean tenacity. I mean stubbornly striving after my goals. Having developed a “can do” attitude, having developed the discipline to reach a difficult goal, having honed my ability to concentrate over time, I now put my hand to the plow and refuse to turn back. It’s that “California or bust” kind of mentality I have in mind when I use the word determination.
Perseverance: Perseverance is closely related to determination but I wanted to list it as a separate aspect of mental strength because what I have in mind is the ability to endure pain. Endurance cycling is painful. When you’re pushing your aerobic system to the limit, when you’re climbing hills, when you’re attempting to ride for 100 or 200 miles in one day, you will experience pain—sometimes lots of pain. Jan Ulrich, Lance Armstong’s primary rival in several Tours de France, once said of Lance, “His ability to endure pain is amazing.” Let’s just say that mine is not so amazing and I want to grow in this respect. Especially when I’m climbing and trying to grind this big butt up a hill, my legs get to burning so bad that I often quit. I don’t mean I stop pedaling or take a break or walk, I simply mean that I take my foot off the gas and survive to the top of the climb. This greatly affects my overall average speed and if I’m to go faster I will have to overcome. I will have to persevere. I will have to learn to endure pain.
Visualization: Some years ago I learned the benefits of imagination for performance but this year I really want to hone this skill. I’ve already been putting it to practice as I’ve completed each week of the “Couch Potato to 5K” plan, that is, I’ve imagined each run in its entirety and sometimes several times through. I imagine myself completing each workout with success and joy, and then on the big day I tell myself, “Wow, I feel good. This is easy. I could do this all day.” Sometimes these things are not true but I’ve found that having that PMA helps a lot, and imagination has strengthened my PMA. In fact, for the first time in my life I had a dream that I was jogging and really liked it! For many years I’ve had dreams in which I had to run but had “concrete feet.” It always left me with this desperate and dreadful feeling, and deepened my passion against running. But by retraining my mind and having some actual successes over the last few weeks, I’ve affected my psychology so much that I actually had a positive dream about running. So, I plan to apply this same practice to cycling this year in the hope that it will help me go faster on the road.
I’m sure there’s more to mental strength than what I’ve included here but this represents my thinking at the moment. I’d love to hear any thoughts or suggestions you might have.
Thanks for reading and have a great day!
Friday, December 31, 2010
I have been an avid cyclist for a little over eleven years now. I started mountain biking in the fall of 1999 but soon discovered the thrill of road riding and have never turned back. I had a few fairly serious years of cycling in the mid-2000s but this is now the third year in which I’ve sought to push myself to previously unknown heights. I have worked really hard over the last two years, and plan to work even harder this year!
With as much cycling as I do—2753 miles last year—I assumed I would be in fairly good shape but it turns out I’m not, and I know this because whenever I engage in other kinds of activities like jogging or strength training I find that I don’t have a lot of ability. In fact, I’m pretty pathetic. The more I thought about the reasons behind this, I realized that I’ve been developing cycling specific skills and strengths, which is good, but I’ve not been developing other kinds of skills and strengths, and thus my body has adapted and stagnated, if you will.
So a key part of my strategy this year is to use the winter and early spring to develop my overall physical fitness. To know whether or not I’m progressing towards this goal, I’ve decided to take three of SP’s fitness tests once per month and compare the results. Specifically, I’ll be taking the push up test, the crunch test, and the step test (you can access an article on all these tests on the “Fitness Page”) My goal is to score at the average level or above for my age bracket by April 1.
For the last eight weeks I’ve been doing a full body workout with 30 minutes of cardio on either side of the strength training. The idea is to maintain, and even expand, my aerobic base while also preparing my body to engage in more rigorous strength training in January and February. The good news is that the workout that was challenging for me only eight weeks ago is now a breeze and I’m ready for the next step. I feel good, I’m in much better shape than I was, and I’m excited to add some variety to my routine.
The somewhat less than good news is that my first fitness test yielded only meager results. I was only able to do 15 pushups in one minute (average is 20-29 for my age) and 30 crunches in one minutes (average is 40-49 for my age). However, I was able to score in the average range for the step test meaning that my heart rate was 105 bpm in the minute after three minutes of stepping. The average range for my age is 100-105. So I’m one-third of the way to reaching my goal—I’ll take it!
The bottom line is that I’m hoping improvement in overall physical fitness will help me produce a higher average speed on the bike. The key will be patience, because I know that if I just keeping taking small steps each day I will get in better shape and I will reach, and perhaps even exceed, my goal. One of the challenges will be to maintain overall fitness when I get into the heart of the cycling season and give nearly all of my exercise time to the bike. But we'll cross that bridge at that time!
Thanks for reading, hope you have a great day!
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Over the last ten days I’ve shared a lot about my goals, strategy, and plan for 2011. Here are the pertinent facts:
Goal: to increase my average speed on the bike so that 18.0 mph is the new normal.
Strategy: focus on nutrition, physical fitness, mental strength, recovery, and rest.
Plan: six phases from general fitness to high performance on the bike.
Over the next several days I want to comment on each aspect of my strategy beginning with nutrition. Thanks to SP, and several other resources I’ve consulted over the years, I’ve learned enough about nutrition to understand that a daily, balanced diet is necessary to health and performance. This basic diet is like the foundation of the house, without which nothing else which lasts can be built.
I’ve also observed over the past two years, as I’ve pushed my physical training to previously unknown heights, that it’s important to put knowledge into practice! In other words, when I’ve failed to eat well over time my performance on the bike decreases and vice versa. So this year consistency with nutrition is huge for me.
But I also want to expand my knowledge base and integrate what I’m learning into my freshly honed habits. Last night I did some poking around on the internet and found a great site on sports nutrition that’s filled with helpful articles and links. I’ve decided to read three or more articles per week and consistently integrate new knowledge into my habits. The link to the website is below.
Have any thoughts? One way or the other, hope you have a great day!
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