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mid season break / strength training(7 posts)

mid season break / strength trainingjust starting out
May 12, 2002 3:46 PM
I'm in my first year of racing -- have been racing pretty steadily since January (about 25 races) and am planning a break for June and most of July -- just doing a few races during those months and then gearing back up for August. Although I've had some good results, strength is definitely a limiter for me. I'm curious as to people's thoughts about strength training during the June period (I haven't done any strength training for the past 3 years at all.) I've talked to a few people and have been given conflicting advice on this topic. Some people seem to feel that it isn't really enough time to do any good and will interfere with the rest of the season. Others think its a good idea. Does anyone have any thoughts -- perhaps based on personal experience -- that might help me to decide?
thoughtslonefrontranger
May 13, 2002 7:01 AM
given the factors you've described, yes this would be a perfect time for a mid-season break. The first thing I'd recommend is to take at least a week to 10 days of complete rest, get caught up on home chores, and let the body recover from all the racing. Keep any rides fun and unstructured; rides with the family, etc... Once you start back up, keep base miles high and the intensity pretty low except for 1-2 days a week of power workouts. If you like the gym and are good with weights, by all means add a gym workout to the cross-training regimen.

Joe Friel recommends Masters (35-40+) riders maintain at least one gym day per week to keep the strength up. Weight work when done properly and consistently with adequate preparation can be a great compliment to on-bike aerobic fitness. He has great tips on cycling specific weight training in his book.

I personally find weight work counterproductive, but many cyclists respond well to it, so you'll just have to figure out what works. I loathe the gym, on top of which I have no skill with weights and tend to injure myself (lack of coordination coupled with lack of desire are a bad combo). I might be able to push more pure watts by getting my act together with the weights, but I've found in the past that even uninjured the tradeoff is a serious decline to my speed and endurance. Plus my legs hurt too much to ride at 100% on the bike days. I prefer to run and mountain bike as cross-training, and leave the weights to the gym rats.

Here are some bike specific power workouts I use:

* muscle tension intervals: Find a steady grade that allows you to do a 5-6 minute climb at low cadence, or mimic this kind of effort by turning up the resistance on the trainer. These can be hard on the knees and hip flexors, so be careful. Basically the goal of these is to climb sitting down in a big gear, at a 50-60 cadence to build power. Start with 2 reps, 2 sets and go from there. Recover completely (5-10 minutes) in between so that you're fresh and can go 100% again. Effort is a Zone 4 (LT) kind of effort.

* speedwork: Find a long, gradual downhill or flat ground with a tailwind. Go as fast as you can for 5-6 minute intervals, spinning as big a gear as possible at 100-120 rpm. You want to really work the high cadence on these, and it shouldn't be easy; your HR will hover around Zone 4 to 5a (right around to just above LT).

* big ring jumps: Filed under the category of sprint workouts, these will help you with the ability to quickly get "on top" of a gear in a hard attack or uphill sprint. Using the big ring, choose a cog in the back that is difficult but not impossible to start from a near-dead standstill. Stay in that gear and wind it up until you a) blow up or b) are "spun out" (can't pedal any faster). Repeat. Start with 3 reps, 2 sets of these with 5-10 minutes complete recovery in between, and work your way up.

*mountain bike or cruise intervals: MTBing is great for your handling skills as everyone points out, but I also find it's a great pure strength workout, because you're riding a comparatively sluggish bike on a high-resistance surface. Find a trail or set of offroad climbs that you can use to ride at a Zone 4 level for at 5-10 minutes at a stretch. If you don't have a mountain bike, do 10 minute "cruise intervals" on the road bike; this is essentially a TT-like effort that is sustainable for extended periods of time. 10 minutes on / 10 minutes off is a good place to start from. The thing that differentiates these from the muscle tension intervals is that you want to maintain a 90-100 cadence.

I wouldn't work on more than 2 of these each week, as each one focuses on a different sector of strength. The purpose of mid-season break is to rest and recover for a second build period, so keep that in mind.
following-upjust starting out
May 13, 2002 10:58 AM
Thanks for your advice; those power workouts sound like a great alternative to the gym (i'm not a big fan of the gym either.)

2 questions based on what you've outlined:
1) how many weeks of just base miles/power workouts would you suggest before starting a more concentrated build cycle?
2) would you do any racing at all during those base/power weeks or avoid that kind of intesity?
answerslonefrontranger
May 13, 2002 11:54 AM
Question 1: I'd say 3-4 weeks after your week to 10 days off.

Question 2: No, unless it's a race you feel comfortable to use in place of the power workout (hillclimb, TT, etc...).

True story:

When my field shattered on Saturday, I wound up on the business end of the gaps for a change. I rode the last 5 laps in the second group with 3 of the girls from LaForza (opposing 4/35+ team, who've been killing us so far this season). I did my fair share of pulls, and as we rolled around working just hard enough not to get caught by anyone behind us, one of the gals from LaForza was talking about how fun it was to race at Mead (local training crit on Tuesdays; women elect to race with the Men 4s or Masters) and asked me why she hadn't seen me out there. "My training plan has me doing focused sprint intervals on Tuesdays" I replied. "Mead has no benefit for me right now; I'd just end up getting dropped and time trialing".

In the final 200 meters on the last lap, I came from the back of their leadout train to spank all 3 of them by a handy couple of bike lengths, feeling like I could have easily gone up two more gears had I needed to. After this the lady who'd been talking about Mead rode up to me and said "geez you're riding strong this year", to which I replied: "yes, that's why I'm doing sprint workouts on Tuesdays, rather than going to Mead"
answersjust starting out
May 13, 2002 12:04 PM
I love hearing stuff like that. it completely reinforces the idea of finding a plan that makes sense for you, having confidence in it, sticking to it and ignoring what everyone else around you is doing.

congrats on your finish!
thoughts...distinctHead
May 14, 2002 4:27 AM
I understand your thoughts on the gym, however, do you do calisthenics? Just wondering...
sometimeslonefrontranger
May 14, 2002 6:46 PM
but not consistently. I stick to mountain biking and running. If I start to feel like my core strength is lacking, I'll work in some crunches for a few weeks.