I’m calling it a wrap for cyclocross season. I wanted to do a few more races but I’m just too excited lifting weights in the gym again. I love pushing the heavy metal around this time of year. All of my muscle loss from a year of cycling begins to wake back up after a few gym sessions. The Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) starts to subside and I can push heavier weights. The clinging and clanging of gym bars and weights gets me motivated for some reason. At the end of cyclocross season I start to feel hallow. My upper body starts to become non-existant and if I lift my arms up you might see some ribs sticking out. Not the most attractive look for a guy. No offense to the guys who get paid to emaciate themselves in the name of bicycle performance, but I’m not going there man. This is mostly a hobby that I enjoy and pursue in an effort to obtain some level of mastery. This hobby is not to be taken so seriously that I lose focus on my physical well being and the ability to lift groceries, children, and large objects in a manner that is respectable of a dad with three small girls. I have already discussed my assessment of this years performance and things I want to implement for next year in a previous blog. Now it’s time to discuss the next year.
When planning a new year, the first thing you must understand is what you are willing to do and what you are not willing to do in pursuit of your hobby. Within that framework, you have priorities that are important to you and the methodologies that you use to accomplish goals. Now, I really don’t like to call cycling a goal. A person who assigns goals to cycling will burn out quickly unless they are just natural talents. Goals ultimately lead to “I must win.” If you never win, you don’t achieve your goals and you become burned out with this hobby. I like to think of cycling as a journey in learning and self reflection. I approach it as a pupil who works to attain mastery. What is mastery? You are the only one that can answer that for yourself.
Here are a few things that I’m not willing to do for my hobby. These are my restraints. I am not willing to neglect my family for cycling. I am not willing to emaciate my body to ride up a hill faster. Those two things alone are enough to develop the rest of my plan.
Understanding your restraints allows you to develop your constraints. Since I am not willing to neglect my family in some mid-life crisis venture for a free pair of socks and a podium pic, it creates certain limitations on training availability. I have found this number to be around 300 to 400 hours of training within the year. Anything more than 400 hours will have a negative outcome on the family front. Now some of you family men think 400 hours is an impossible number. Well, it’s not entirely impossible if you teach spin class three hours a week. That’s roughly 156 hours right there. You can also add in the 430am wake up call to ride a couple of times a week to get in your hours. It takes some real creative efforts to hit that 400 hours with a family. It might seem impossible, but determination can make it a reality. I’m hoping when I get a paying job in the future that it’s a ridable distance on my bike.
My second restraint doesn’t allow me to become some skinny emaciated cyclist. I don’t think the super thin cycling look is attractive or necessary at the amateur level, or even healthy at the age of 42. I’ve had this conversation with my wife and she already has a man who shaves his legs for cycling. She doesn’t want a scrawny husband who also shaves his legs for cycling. Keeping muscle on my body frame doesn’t help me with cycling, but it does make me look like a guy who might throat punch you for that “shaved legs” comment. To be truthfully honest here, my wife’s opinion is important but my ego is the primary reason for lifting weights. My ego is more satisfied with my squat and bench press abilities than they are about my cycling prowess or lack thereof. Let’s face it guys, we have egos and understanding your ego is necessary in order to function as normal and successful man.
My ego revolves around looking in the mirror and knowing that I could handle a physical threat to my family if necessary. I’m not ashamed to admit that either. I think it’s important part of understanding who I am and what makes me happy. This means that I must incorporate 4 to 5 months of weight training into my annual training plan. Otherwise, cycling 400 hours a year will create a significant loss of muscle mass. When I get too old I’ll just start packing the six shooter!
Now, with my restraints and constraints in place I draw out a plan. I begin working in some longer hours on the bike during the winter. Since I’m limited on time I focus primarily on Sweet Spot Tempo (SST) work. I keep aerobic conditioning up in spin class, wake up early to get in some SST work, and build in some longer rides during the kids nap/quiet time on the weekends. I build power and size in the gym by focusing on two to three days lifting weights. My primary lifts are flat bench (goal 225lbs), full squat (goal 265lbs), single leg press (whatever I can do), dead hang pull ups (3 sets of 20), seated row (215lbs), deadlift (225+lbs), and the corresponding core work. This additional muscle mass allows me to burn additional fat and calories since I don’t have the ability to ride calories off. The weight training is also my insurance policy against a broken bone when the inevitable crash happens. Weight training has been proven to build bone density, while endurance training has been proven to reduce bone density.
Wow, this just seems like a lot of stuff to think about when I could just be riding my bike right? I understand when people look at this and say “come on man, you don’t need all of this to just ride your bike!” I get it folks. For some of you this is mundane and really just not interesting. “Why would I be working on some fitness plan instead of just riding my bike?” I hear you all and I understand. However, I like this stuff. I think I like training more than I like bike racing. I enjoy putting a plan together, finding ways to execute that plan within my constraints and restraints, and then assessing how successful I was at implementing my plan. It’s a carry over from my 20 years in the military. I could plan out small excursion of mundane activity to within a gnats ass of paper written precise excellence. Those awesome plans of perfection always went sideways at some point. We had a saying in the military that “every plan is perfect until first contact with the enemy.” The same goes with life and our own training plans.
Life is going to happen as you train. Our family commitments take priority over our training. Responsibilities at work become taxing on our personal time and family time. That is the last part of understanding your yearly training plan. It has to remain flexible. I used to get so frustrated when I couldn’t hit my goals in certain weeks when it really didn’t matter. If you had a hard week at work and a demanding time at home, well build in a rest week or two and pick things back up on the following weeks. Always keep things flexible and enjoy the process. When things become to rigid then they start to fall apart as we believe we never have the time to accomplish what we want to accomplish. That kind of negativity leads down a road of non-improvement or regression. Or, through that line of thinking we figure out at some point in our life that cycling just isn’t that important anymore.
Remember, we must embrace the suck sometimes to find our happiness. If you’re tired of embracing the suck, then just relax and embrace sucking down your favorite IPA. In the end folks, just do what makes you happy. For some of us, our happiness is training to race bikes poorly. 🙂 Some day I’ll get that free pair of socks and then post my podium picture on the facebooks for my mom to like. HAHA!