Weak week

When I embark on something new I am always struck by how little I know or how unprepared I am for the something new. Maybe that’s patently obvious. Maybe that’s also the point in doing something new.

When I started college I clearly new very little about engineering. Oh I had some personal experiences that shaped my view on how the world worked, but there was so much out there to learn. And I quickly realized how little I knew. That’s exciting. It means you have a chance to expand, to put things together that you might not otherwise have been able to do. Now I have some knowledge, and I get to do fun things like apply that knowledge to luge sleds to make them go faster. That’s the icing.  But along the way in that journey there was a fair share of pain and suffering.

This week is my first official week of training under a coaches supervision for a sporting event. I went into this knowing intellectually that I would push my body physically and come out the other side stronger (mentally and physically). I knew, intellectually, that there would be literal pain involved. I knew that I was weak in some aspects of biking. This week I was given a chance to confront that head on.

Most of this week’s training has been easy. Some bike work (lighter than I would normally do). The hardest bike part was a Lactate Threshold Heart Rate test. This test is essentially a time trial where you go as hard as you can for an extended period of time. The lactate threshold is the point at which your body changes from aerobic to anaerobic. It’s the point at which your body does not have enough oxygen to continue to work as hard as it does. When you cross that point you have crossed into the “red zone” and you begin to build up lactic acid in your muscles that sap strength. Its hard to recover from extended periods of this effort. In an extended effort your body settles at this point naturally (assuming you go as hard as you can for the entire extended period of time). For the test you go all out, measure your average heart rate, and bam, you know your LT HR.  Once you know your LT HR you can set your heart rate “zones” and work in specific regions for specific reasons. (And therefore you can be smart about your training.)

That was challenging, but it wasn’t really all that bad. The hard part of this week was the new thing that has been added to my life: strength training. This is where the humble pie comes in.

There are really two ways to get faster. You can increase you aerobic capacity (i.e. get fitter) so that you can push harder from a heart/circulatory point of view. Or… you can get stronger so that for the same cardiac effort you put out more power. That’s where the strength training comes in. Strength also comes into play in endurance but that’s a whole nother story. (I also note that there is a third way you can get faster. That would be by becoming a technically better rider. But that too is for another day. One thing at a time!)

I’ve dabbled in strength training over the years. But really, it has always been more fun to just go out and ride. And so I have never really committed to that and it has never really gone very far. This week I started with strength training. It includes upper body, core and leg work. Leg work is obvious right? Turning the cranks makes the bike go. Stronger legs make a faster ride. Upper body and core are important too because, especially when you are climbing, there is a lot of upper body and core contribution to the peddle stroke.

My coach wanted me to go easy this week with the strength stuff. The goal was to get muscles and tendons used to doing those exercises, not to stress them too much. Here is what I learned (or what the universe threw into my face, depending on your point of view):

1. While I may be “strong” I am really weak. By neglecting strength training I have trained a very specific set of muscles to do a very specific chore. Once I get outside of that, well I’m not as strong as I would have guessed.

2. I have little to no flexibility. As Coreen commented : “Shocker” 🙂 (Going to need to work on that. Plan has been made!)

3. Even when you go “easy” using new muscles or old muscles in a new way, the path leads to soreness.

I am starting at the beginning. I am becoming stronger in a more holistic way. And so today, I am gimpy, again.

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2 thoughts on “Weak week

  1. Ha yup, this sounds exactly like what happens when you get a coach and actually do things the right way. With my last coach I did periodical field tests on a trainer. With my current coach we wanted to set new baselines, and I did the field test outside.

    Right now my typical week is a day off, a day doing skills on the bike, a longer ride during the week (1.5 hrs +), an hour on the trainer, a day doing plyo or strength training and longer planned rides on the weekends that are adjustable.

    This gives me a good balance. There aren’t two really hard workouts on the bike next to each other, and as I progress the plyo or strength gets longer and more complicated.

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