Feb. Training Blog: Building a Foundation

In winter you get out however you can.

Hi, everyone! Since Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, it looks like we’re in for six more weeks of winter. But that’s no reason to not ride your bike! I took a warm-weather vacation in Maui a couple weeks ago and was able to get in a quality base week of slow, steady riding. I’ve also been able to get out on my cross bike here in Bend, with knobby tires and warm clothes. It was beautiful.

In last month’s blog the goal was to work on our mental game, getting prepared for training as well as recovering from the holidays and beginning to build a solid foundation. Well, now it’s time to get serious about the foundation. It’s like building a house: The better foundation you have, the longer the house will last and not crumble under stress.

But first: Hopefully you’ve looked at your 2017 calendar and planned some goal events leading up to your BRNW ride in July and/or August to help you get ready. If not, now is the time to plan these “target” events.

OK, two things we need to continue working on this month: overall strength and cardiovascular fitness (base training).

For your strength training, the most important things to work on are your core, your legs and your upper-body strength and stability. The core is the foundation of all other parts of your body. Without a solid core, you’re more prone to injuries – not to mention the fact that you’ll suffer on long rides. Be sure to spend at least two days a week working on your core; three is even better. You can do Pilates, yoga or a simple core routine.

Here is a great core workout from Bicycling magazine that takes about 15 min to do.

For lower-body work, you want to strengthen the following muscle groups: lower back, glutes, quads, hip flexors, hamstrings and calves. Exercises that I like include some form of squat (single leg, reverse lunge, body squat), leg press machine or step-ups with or without dumbbells, deadlifts (focus on good form and technique), hamstring curls of some sort (can be done with a stability ball or machines) and calf raises.

For the upper body, you want to focus on the upper back and chest, biceps and triceps – all of which help stabilize you on the bike. Exercises include bench press, some form of rowing, biceps curls and triceps push-downs. The goal is not to get bulky, but rather to build a solid foundation while riding your bike.

You should always start with a light weight and work on form first before you increase the weights and/or reps. Consult with a personal trainer or coach to set you up with a periodized strength plan – it will make all the difference when it comes time for your long rides.

Slow and steady gets you to the top of Haleakala.

The other aspect of training this month is working on your base/cardiovascular fitness. And remember: The old adage that says you have to go slow to get fast is very true. The more time you can spend in your endurance or “aerobic” zone (heart rate 55 to 75 percent of max) the better off you’ll be in the long haul. Here is a great article written by one of my mentors about the importance of this type of training.

You may wonder about “time-crunched training” for those who don’t have much time to train. That type of training will get you fit fast, but it may not last. As mentioned in the article above, by doing the lower-intensity endurance training you set your body up to tolerate harder efforts later and to use lactate for fuel, which is a key to tolerating long endurance activities. So if you can try to get in at least one day a week of the longer easier efforts, you’ll see benefits down the road.

Here’s a sample schedule: Bike or other aerobic activity three days a week, strength/core two days a week, and an optional third core day. Or you could add the extra core work on an aerobic day so you get two days off each week. Try to get on your bike at least one day a week if you can, to get your body used to the motion of riding. For your aerobic days, I suggest two of them should be 90 minutes to two hours in length, and build up one of these days progressively by 10 to 15 percent every week.

Remember, too: If you’re riding outside, wear layers, be sure to remember to eat and drink (you need more calories in cold than warm), and be sure to use lights both during the day and at night. Also, be sure to have visible colors on. There has been research showing that having your moving parts (feet/legs) clad in high-visibility colors is the most effective way to have cars see you.

If you’re interested in more in-depth coaching/training guidelines, feel free to email me – or you can also check out our awesome coaches/training plans available at Wenzel Coaching.

You can check out Wenzel Coaching’s YouTube videos on some of the recommended strength exercises here.

A Peace of My Mind

I was fully adrenalized, and I was angry. Riding down Cornell Road from the West Hills toward Northwest Portland, I had been passed by a car… going into a tunnel. With an oncoming car in the tunnel.

A bike can eventually go faster than a car on that curvy stretch of downhill, so I caught up to the offending driver a bit later. When several cars accumulated at a stop sign, I pulled up next to his partially open driver’s-side window.

“Why would you do that?” I said, incredulous. He rolled down his window: young guy, a little rumpled, looked like a Portland creative-class dude. “What?” he replied.

“Pass me in a tunnel,” I spluttered. “You scared the crap out of me!”

“I thought I was past you before the tunnel,” he responded. I noticed his attitude seemed more explanatory than aggressive.

“No,” I said. “You created a dangerous situation for both of us.” My tone had softened a bit.

And then something really good happened.

“I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

This threw me for a bit of a loop. All I could think to reply was a lame “Cool,” then “Thanks.” We went our separate ways – not hating each other.

Thinking back on the situation later that day made me realize: I’ve been in a kind of karmic groove on the whole car-bike thing lately.

I recently came home from a ride to tell my wife, “I had a really great day with drivers out there.” Odd when that’s your first choice of a response to the “How was your ride, honey?” question, but seriously, that day was like a Share The Road training video.

A driver coming up behind me slowed and waited until an oncoming car had passed before swinging out safely around me. Another driver stopped to let me cross a busy boulevard from a side street. And a third driver, about to turn right, saw me coming up the bike lane and waited for me to pass before making the turn.

And I made sure it wasn’t just one-way. Each time, I offered a wave and a mouthed “thank you!”

It felt like a peaceful coexistence.

One that only exists with contributions from both sides.

I’m not trying to get all preachy or holier-than-thou here. Hey, I’m not a by-the-book paragon of virtue. Do I roll stop signs? All the time – but never when there’s a car stopped at one. Run a red light? Well… you know, maybe at 7 a.m. on a Sunday if there’s no one on the road and no bike sensor at the intersection. Do it in front of a driver? No way. That’s an act of provocation.

Point is, as cyclists we all set and follow our own codes of morality and etiquette. Mine is just mine. And I encourage you to consider yours: What can you do to keep up your side of a peaceful coexistence?

Sometimes I run this thought through my mind as I pedal my way through my city: I want to be the rider who makes drivers think – even subconsciously – “Hey, cyclists are not all _____ (fill in the blank).”

I think karma is a real thing, one that’s built small piece by small piece. It’s just little stuff every day.

We’re living in a pretty contentious time; every small courtesy goes a long way. You may agree or disagree with who that driver voted for, but being nice in the moment brings us back to our commonalities.

Oh, yeah – and here’s an idea: If you initiate a conversation with a driver who just made you nearly soil your chamois, don’t use a swear word as your opening salvo. You might get a pleasant surprise.