Sunday, November 1, 2009

Weight training..or what to do when you put your bike away





Now that the bike season is winding down, (pause for a sob) I have recently picked up a few books on off season bicycle training. One book is called "weight training for cyclists" by Ken Doyle and Eric Schmitz, the other "cycling anatomy" (also about weights) By Shannon Sovndal MD and my final book "the complete book of long-distance cycling" by Edmund Burke. The books all have a common theme and speak about the fact that weight training and explosive cardio is of much more value than spending time on a treadmill or even spinning. In fact, spinning does nothing for the muscles that we need to be more powerful and faster cyclists. They are all unanimous in suggesting three keys: The first and most important is weight training, the second explosive cardio and then diet.

Ah the joys of lifting weights! Biking is wonderful for the thigh and calf muscles but not much else. To be balanced, unless you do lifting as part of your job, you need weight training, in particular the strengthen the neck muscles, hamstrings and core muscles otherwise known as the abs.

It has been about a year since I have done any weight training and I have forgotten the "joys."

1) Sweaty equipment
2) People who leave impossibly heavy weights on the machines
3) Grunts, groans and assorted screams usually by muscle bound body builder wannabes with no necks!
4) Personal trainers who roam the weight room like sharks looking for exhausted prey
5) People who offer unsolicited and unwanted advice

However weight training every second day does offer its rewards for cyclists. Unlike cardio workouts where it is very difficult to get your heart rate up, a few very heavy sets with a leg press or bench press will do it in far less time. Weight training, for those who are in good cardiovascular shape gives you much more benefits in a shorter period of time...so say all in the books and manuals I have read.

My off season cycling training manuals also recommend explosive cardio. That is run full out for 30 seconds, pause, walk and do it again. Also skipping and jumping. The key is short bursts of full intensity with little or no rest in between. It is exhausting. There are many suggestions but the key appears to be a short period where you are full out followed by short rests.

The other recommended routine is a combination of weight training and explosive cardio. You do a set of very heavy weights and then do jumping jacks, and so forth. This one is even more exhausting!

There is nothing wrong with spinning. It is a lot of fun, and you feel good after being bike deprived for a period of time, but the experts are pretty unanimous on this one, if you want the benefits of being a stronger and faster cyclist, weight training plus what they call explosive cardio is the answer.

The last element is the dreaded 'd' word, or diet and nutrition. There is no doubt that a biker with more fat is slower than a leaner one. Notice I did not say heavier. Muscle weighs more than fat and to be a strong cyclist one needs muscle mass. However excess body fat contributes nothing to strength or speed and slows you down. This, I must confess, is much harder for me than weight training or cardio. This is where I do battle with myself! Cycling clothing is a good indicator as well. Cycling clothing hides nothing and excess fat is clearly visible underneath that shiny coloured lycra!

See you all in the weight room!

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