As I mentioned in my previous post, it's time for a recovery week. This week my riding has consisted of commuting to and from work, a massive 9 miles a day. My legs actually feel heavy when I get on the bike right now, so I'm hoping the light cycling load will be helpful. I'll find out on Saturday when I go for some climbs with the team.
The light workload doesn't mean I'm not staying active however! Any training regiment needs to be varied in my opinion, so I've supplemented my cycling with a weight program. I believe it's important to have strong stabilization muscles to maintain form, and prevent injury. So at the start of this year during my first training phase, I spent at least two workouts a week in the gym doing a high rep-low weight lifting regiment.
From past experience, I've found I'm the type of person who can gain muscle mass by simply walking past a weight rack. Oddly enough that wasn't something that very evident to me until a number of years after I was diagnosed as being diabetic. My endocrinologist stated it probably has something to do with extra insulin I sometimes have in my system and went on to state that insulin is often abused by body builders and other athletes as a performance enhancing drug. (Anyone want a hit off my insulin pump?)
As a result, I've found I have to be super careful when doing any sort of lifting program to not add bulk when increasing strength. I'll have to admit its hard for me to go to the gym and complete sets of 30 reps with a really light weight. Part of me knows that I can lift far more weight than what I'm currently working with. I guess in some strange way it's an exercise in mental discipline.
However strength work doesn't need to be done with free weights or machines! This weeks strength routine I've named "4X4ftw". A deceptively simple series of 4 different exercises done in a circuit 4 times. As an added bonus, when you are done it feels like you've been beaten with a 4x4! (I seriously wanted to barf last night.) Doesn't that sound like fun? Here is what made up the 4x4ftw circuit.
- one leg squats: I actually do these on the stairs as it gives you the ability to dip low. This is your basic squat with one leg. It works your quad/hamstrings, gluets, and calf muscles. While you squat down, keep your core muscles tight to help with balance. I tend to also do a knee lift with the leg I'm holding up to further emphasize the contraction of the core muscles. It's like a standing crunch! 15 reps per leg then immediately on to...
- planks: this is a ground based exercise, so having a yoga mat or something similar is helpful. Start in the push-up position, then drop your upper body so you are resting on your forearms. Here is a video demonstrating the exercise. Engage the core muscles to hold your body as stiff as a "plank of wood". Don't let your back round up, or sag down! I try to hold the plank position for a minute. It's harder than it sounds. Once done, stretch the lower back, abs via whatever yoga pose you like, but don't take too long. One of the purposes of doing something in a circuit is to keep your heart rate elevated. Next up...
- jump squats: crouch low, loading the leg muscles with your body weight, then jump upwards using your legs and arms to propel you skyward. When landing, absorb your descent with your legs again. This is a standard plyometrics based exercise. You don't have to jump to your max on every attempt, but do make sure you start and end each rep at your crouch or "loaded" position. 15 reps then on to...
- decline push ups: there are a lot of variations of this exercise, but I put my feet up on one of those inflatable exercise balls, but you can use the stairs, a bench, or the edge of a couch to prop up your legs. I personally like the exercise ball as I've found propping the legs up on an object that moves requires your core, lower back, and gluets to constantly shift and adjust making the push up more difficult. As with most of these exercises, keep the core tight! 20 reps.
Once I finished a circuit, I move directly into the start of the next one. You'll find that the the jump squats will elevate your heart rate, making the push-ups much harder then expected. I normally take a short 2 minute break between the second and third circuit in order to hydrate. A circuit will take me about 5 to 6 minutes, allowing me to complete the workout routine in 25-40 minutes depending on my pace. The best part is all of this can be done at home, so its great if you need to shoe-horn a workout in.
The addition of strength and flexibility work into my routine has definitely paid off this year, and I'd strong suggest it to anyone looking to improve their performance.