The end of the road season is fast upon us. My bags for Bend are packed, my bike has been shipped and there is one race left. But that doesn’t mean training ends. As anybody who loves riding and racing a bike will tell you – training goes on year round though it changes some. I start adding in more of the things that I cut back on during the summer racing season, dialing back time on the bike and increasing other activities off the bike.
Core strength and flexibility are two things that really help you as a cyclist. Upper body strength too – despite how spindly the Tour de France riders may look on tv – makes a big difference. You don’t need to be like Arnold in his Terminator days but you don’t want to be wet spaghetti either. You got spaghetti arms and a weak belly you got a SLOW sprint!
During the season, I maintain a flexibility program. For me it’s not that I need to be able to do splits like back in my ballet days, but it creates and maintains balance in your body. If you are spending 15-20 hours a week in one position bent over your handlebars it does a body good to bend in the other direction every now and then! I am a big believer in the Active-Isolated stretch technique. It’s not static stretching like you likely remember from high school gym class. It’s, well, ACTIVE. The premise is relatively simple – you work across specific joints (hence isolated), pumping blood-flow through joints and muscles by working through ranges of motion, never holding a stretch for more than a couple of seconds. As the muscles get warmer and loosen up you can stretch deeper and deeper. A key component of this technique is utilizing the opposing muscle groups to deepen the stretch – so if you are working on hamstring flexibility you would use your quadriceps to enhance the stretch by contracting them (the theory being the contracted quad, enables the hamstring to relax and lengthen). For more information I would refer you to http://www.whartonperformance.com/page2/page2.html or to The Wharton’s Stretch Book written by Jim and Phil Wharton. Very simple and straightforward and highlights specific flexibility practices for specific sports. Great stuff!
The other thing that I try to focus on year round is core strength. Sometimes when my on-the-bike time is really high it’s as simple as doing 100 crunches in the mornings sprawled across my swiss ball. But when my bike time is cut back, during the off-season or even on a light week, I love to add in yoga practice. Different styles of yoga for different folks – I like Vinyasa the best, but find what you like and go for it. Core strength is so important on the bike – for climbing and sprinting. Breathing obviously a great skill to have on the bike and off. Upper body strength too. All of these things you can hone and develop through your yoga practice. Say hello to Chaturanga Dandasana!