Because of how early it gets dark here, I've been spending far more time in the gym than on the bike (yeah, except for 1-leg drills on the rollers). The weight room at my high school has become my new "home" of sorts:
The question might be raised, as you read this, of why I'm choosing to put on more mass in the winter months, and the purpose of this post is to answer that question. Over the past month, I've done well over 15 full fits at the shop where I work, and seeing some of the biomechanical discrepancies in these customers made me re-evaluate what it means to be a healthy, performance-oriented cyclist. The fits I performed also made me realize the one true fact about idolizing the upper echelons of professional cyclists - they inspire such a skewed, dysmorphic view of the body, that many athletes actually inhibit themselves in reaching their full potential in the sport.
I bring this topic up, because all this year I was concerned with putting on the miles necessary to achieve the racer physique and power, yet in all the road races and criteriums I raced this year, I found myself to having a striking lack of power compared to a lot of other cyclists. I evaluated my diet, my fit, and ultimately settled on my strengths - I, like so many other cyclists, had incredibly strong quads and fantastic cardiovascular ability...but, that was pretty much it. I noticed the same kind of pattern with many of the customers I fit over the past month. It was an odd sensation to realize that cyclists can be so easily imbalanced. It's one thing to have strong legs, but another to be a strong, healthy person.
So, after meeting with a nutritionist/physical therapist a couple months back and with the lift-director at my high school soon after that, I derived a lift program for myself that would increase muscle mass and power throughout the body, not simply the front of my legs. That's right - I'm a roadie that's also working the upper body. I've also added daily core work to my schedule, and a weekly plyometrics routine to increase power as well as balance.
How much pure, awesome muscle mass have I gained in the past two months? No idea, as I no longer weigh myself, but I do notice a difference in my riding (when that actually happens, which is rarely). My upper body is actually not any noticeably bigger than during the summer, but I find myself with more strength and my shoulders even rotated back slightly. In addition, an acquired lateral pelvis tilt that had been bugging my spinal chain has pretty much disappeared, letting me take out some shims under my right cleat, and helping me to re-teach the sides and muscle groups of my lower body to function as individual entities. This, in turn, has helped me activate my hamstrings and glutes a substantial amount, to the point where I notice a distinct difference in relative energy expenditure during long, sustained efforts.
So, those are my thoughts for ending 2012 and beginning 2013 - become a healthier overall individual and the fitness on the bike will follow in suit, since my goal is to be a balanced individual, not a racer in the Tour de France.
Happy Holidays, AYC, and whatever your flavor for winter training, good luck and remember to make a goal, but try to have fun with it as well.