I hear quite a few cyclists, not just racers; say I wish I was faster in the hills or the flats. When its someone I know I ask what are you doing to reach this goal? The usual answer is I am riding more or contemplating purchasing lighter wheels or even a lighter bike. Yes a lighter bike will help some but the best investment you make is in you. You are the engine that powers the goal of going faster!
When I start making recommendations for strength training the first comment I get, before finishing usually, is I don’t want to get bigger. A coach once told me the more muscle mass you carry the more there is to hurt. Irrelevant but funny.
The other issue I run into is that many cyclists make assumptions about their performance on the bike. Some cyclists may have developed their VO2 Max, Lactate Threshold, Force Production and have recruited all the Fast Twitch muscle fibers they have or maybe not. This is the whole point; they have not tested to learn what their weakness is. They may find that actually instead of training a weakness they have been training a strength. So how does one truly find out what their weakness is? We test, then we test again and then we test some more. Fitness tests do not have to be expensive as a matter of fact there are tests to cover each and every thing I have mentioned above that can be done in the field or at home on your trainer.
Myth number 1 I get to hear over and over again about cyclists developing strength is that lifting weights is bad for a cyclist or that lifting weights is great for cyclist. In reality both are correct. There are different reasons for cyclists to lift weights for part of the season or even all season long. So which one is it for you? Depending on age, health, former injuries, the type of cyclist you are, you’re goals and what fitness tests have discovered about your current fitness is what will determine the kind of weight training program you should or should not undertake. Long sentence I know but I am trying to make a point. There is quite a bit that must be understood before jumping into a weight training program for any cyclist.
Myth number 2 I encounter is that stretching won’t make me faster. While the act of stretching itself will not make an impact on the development of pedal force it will do quite a bit for performance! Those who have read my articles and know me know I am huge proponent of stretching whenever I can. I also have been known to say “A flexible rider is a confident rider and a confident rider is a fast and safe rider.” Stretching first and foremost serves to functions to the cyclist: Flexibility and Recovery. Flexibility allows the cyclist to maintain a more relaxed position on the bike when others would grimace at the thought of riding in the drops into a headwind for an hour straight. Stretching for recovery allows the body to begin the healing process after a long hard ride or race. It also allows for muscle fibers to be elongated which I have been told allows for greater recruitment of slow twitch muscle fibers. I am not sure how much I believe this but I do know that once I stretch 10, 15, 30 minutes after a race or training ride I feel better, I sleep better and I perform better the next day.
Myth number 3 I hear from time to time is that such and such new DVD training program is exactly what I need to get stronger. Yes you will get stronger but you could also get injured or make yourself sick. Do not forget to consult with a Doctor before taking on any training program regardless of age or sex. While I do several of the things outlined in some of these DVDs I do not do them at the intensity, length or frequency described in their commercials. Don’t get me wrong there are some fantastic training DVDs for cyclists and non cyclists alike. Before you invest your hard earned money ask around and see who has tried them and see what results they have gotten.
I have left out quite a few other methods for developing strength such as, Meditation, Core Work, Yoga, and Pilates. While I do not have direct experience with Pilates I have been told it can be an alternative to Yoga. I have found that meditation will clear my head and allow me to focus better on the upcoming race goals and reduce race day jitters. I know meditation doesn’t make my muscles stronger but sometimes all that you have left is your mind to convince your body to work harder. Core work is something all cyclists need to invest time in. Core development will make for smoother and more powerful cyclist! I can’t begin to share enough on this subject. It has helped me immensely. The Yoga I have done from time-time along with Core and stretching has helped me to become more balanced and less twitchy in Criteriums when the pressure is on.
I think it’s pretty obvious by now that I have not prescribed any training program to anyone in the article. Instead I have described some training methodologies and potential means for getting stronger and faster. Sometimes it’s better to be able to ask a good question then to be given an uninformed answer. To this point seek out the help of professionals, teammates with experience or friends with experience in the above types of training. I have been lifting weights since I was 13 years old and yes I have injured myself more than once. I now work with a Strength Coach when planning my season or when I have questions about developing some new aspect of strength. I also have tried many other programs on core and flexibility training. It wasn’t until I started working with a Sports Medicine Doctor a couple of years ago that I was able to repair some imbalances and begin to truly reap the rewards of a core and flexibility program. I also have a teammate who has been a Yoga Practitioner for years and have hit him up several times on what makes for correct posture in many of the poses and found several times I was doing it wrong.
If you are confused further by the above I completely understand! It has taken me years to get as far as I have in my understanding of developing my fitness for racing and sometimes just so I can train harder. If you find yourself asking more and more questions and finding fewer and fewer questions or worse not meeting your goals it’s time to speak with a Cycling Coach.
First call is on me! To learn more about what a cycling coach can do for you contact me Rob Grissom at (502) 509-7624 or [email protected]
Have a great week and ride some new roads.