by Jared Countess
Here I am back in the saddle and I’m 20lbs over my last riding weight and it’s definitely not all muscle. It’s been almost 4 years since I got on a bike and I have to say my first day back on the bike SUCKED! I have less than 30 days to be ready for a 500 mile trek from Huntington Beach, CA to Phoenix, Az . All I can say is, “What was I thinking?” Well there are some positives, it’s about time to see my abs again and this is a great way to start, I’ve never even thought to attempt something like this so it will definitely be an adventure to remember and every time you push your limits you find a new sense of inner strength and that lasts a life time. That said I have a lot of work to do and I’m going to chronicle all of it. My first step in deciding to do this insane journey was to come up with a training program. I broke my training down into weeks and it is all put in short detail for you below. I will post both articles and videos on how it’s going and with week 1 almost finished I can already tell the hardest part will be time management. Anyway hope you guys enjoy the ride “The Plan” is detailed below.
First the Bike
This is my baby, I inherited her from a friend when I still a brand new personal trainer. I rode this bad boy all over the island of Oahu from appointment to appointment and gym to gym. It needs some work and I will have a loaner bike for the trip but the bulk of my training will be done on this lady right here. She’s over 15yrs old and she needed a little cleaning up but she’ll get the job done. Now I don't have power meters and I didn't even buy a heart rate monitor. So I will be doing all my training with a stop watch and known routes. I'll try to push my body and increase my mph over longer times.
This week is all about just getting back on the bike. I have to get time in the saddle and get time scheduled to do this. Id est establish a new habit. I’ve chosen to ride first thing in the morning, it’s not really something I want to do yet so best to knock it out first thing. That is the way I try to approach every new challenge. So for week 1 I just want to get back on the bike 3 days during the week and do one long ride on the weekend. I’m not going for any distance just time in the saddle. My first ride ended up being 30 minutes, because my schedule was off, but my other 2 rides were each an hour long. My weekend ride will be 2.5 hours long. I will continue doing hour long rides during the week and try to steadily increase my weekend rides, until I feel comfortable for 4 hours or more in the saddle. Again I am doing this because my most important barrier is the conditioning necessary to ride for long periods of time.
The focus of week 2 will be on improving my times. I don’t have time to spend more time on the bike so I’m going to try and pick up the pace. I want to average about 1.5mph faster this week than last. For instance, if I averaged 15mph week 1 then I hope to average 16.5 mph this week over my hour long rides. I plan to hit goal by the end of the week. It doesn’t sound like much but increasing my speed at this rate gets me up to 19.5 mph by the end of my 4-week prep. If I can do that I think I’ll be in pretty good shape not to end up too far behind the pack on out trip. For my long weekend ride I will shoot for 3 hours in the saddle and try to average only .5mph slower than my weekly 1hr ride. Again the goal of this program is to build endurance on the bike more so than speed. My goal is merely to complete the 500-mile journey. I’m not trying to beat anyone with less than 30 days to prepare.
This week contrary to my other weeks the focus is on speed endurance. I will perform 1min sprints every 4mins on the bike for my 1hr rides during the week. The fastest way to improve cardiovascular endurance for any activity is high intensity interval training or sprints as proven by Dr.Izumi Tabata in his famous 1996 study. Basically it has been shown that sprints or interval training can improve lung capacity and overall uptake of oxygen by the cells, i.e. respiration, to a greater degree than moderate or low intensity cardiovascular or aerobic exercise if duration for 2 forms of exercise is the same. Basically you get more bang for your buck with interval training. To add on another benefit, it has been shown that high intensity interval training or HIIT is a muscle sparing form of cardiovascular exercise, whereas moderate intensity exercise tends to push the body into wasting muscle that is not necessary to maintain given power output. To put this simply your body does not need huge arms to lift a moderate weight 1000 times, but make the weight so heavy your body can barely lift it once and the try and force it to lift it as many times as it can in one minute and the body must grow bigger arms. HIIT training bares the same principles as the heavy weight the body can not sustain maximum effort for extended durations, so when you push it to the absolute max rest it and push it again the body has to learn to adapt at a much faster rate.
Okay so I bet now you’re asking why I waited to week 3 to start HIIT training on my bike if it’s such a superior method of training, well to put it simply I would probably have died. My body wasn’t prepared to even ride the bike, let alone push it to the max, so this would have been simply more stress than my body could adapt to in such a short time. That’s why week 1 centers around merely introducing new stimuli. Week 2 is about making slight improvements. Week 3 is about taking my first big leap. To exemplify that I will shoot for a 40-50mile ride on my weekend ride in this week.
Week 4 will be much like week 5 except I will try and structure the week so that I get in all my rides and still have 2 days to rest everything before we start the big trek. That’s right no on the bike training 2 days prior to beginning the journey. This is for 2 reasons, one I can not really get any fitter in those 2 days and 2 my body will need the rest. What I will do is some off the bike training and recovery work. Probably get a deep tissue massage the Wednesday night or Thursday morning before we head off.
Off The Bike Training
Off the bike I will continue my weight training, but add in squat session 4x a week to strengthen my legs and keep my hips mobile. I will also be adding in heavy hip extension work, variations on the deadlift, kettle bell swing, hip thrust and bridges; these exercises will combat the extended time in flexion caused by the bike. Being on a bike cause you to round your spine as you lean forward and pedal simultaneously. This shortens the hamstrings and hip flexors while lengthening the spinal erectors, both in the neck and lower back. These changes in structure can lead to back pain, trap and neck pain as well as headaches.
So I will also be continually doing stretches like the ones seen above each night to work on my thoracic extension. This involves loosening the hip flexors and stretching and releasing both the pecs and lats. One thing to remember is that all of your muscles act on your spinal column so if you ever have back pain, there is a muscular component to your pain. Find the muscle or muscle systems linked to that area of the back where you have pain and I guarantee you, you will find some relief. Hint most of these muscles lie far for the actual spine (check out diagram below).
Diagram Showing Muscle Systems Acting On Back and Posture
- Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Tabata I1,Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, Hirai Y, Ogita F, Miyachi M, Yamamoto K.
- Skeletal muscle buffering capacity and endurance performance after high-intensity interval training by well-trained cyclists. Adèle R. Weston, K. H. Myburgh, F. H. Lindsay, Steven C. Dennis, Timothy D. Noakes, J. A. Hawley.
- Cineradiographic study of spine during cycling: effects of changing the pedal unit position on the dorso-lumbar spine angle. Fanucci E1,Masala S, Fasoli F, Cammarata R, Squillaci E, Simonetti G