Monday, December 10, 2012

What Proper Squatting Can Provide For Cycling

Nothing is completely independent when it comes to exercise. Doing one type of exercise can help you with another. Sometimes, it will actually hurt your ability. Cyclists are often afraid of doing squats, but this is silly. Although I would like to find links for studies for some of the stuff in here, it's finals week, and I can't be fucked to do that. I want to do a post that will take on Mark Rippetoe and one that will take on Joe Friel when it comes to cycling and squatting respectively. I'll mention that I respect both of those men immensely, I just have a disagreement. For those posts I will have scientific studies. Here is the first on a series of why I do both lifting and cycling.
This is your body on squats...and a bit too much food.
One of the components of bicycle racing is force production. It is essential for both climbing and sprinting. If you want to be good at crits, you need to sprint. If you want to be good at road races(for the most part) you need to climb. The more you can squat the better you will be at these things. More importantly, it is a training standard that you can hold yourself to with absolute certainty. A lot of cyclists will say you can do your force production training on the bike by pushing a bigger gear. You can, and I would recommend it in addition to weight training. The reason I prefer weight training for force production is that you know when you fail at a certain level of resistance. When you push a larger gear you may slip 10 RPM or shift down without noting the time/distance you spent in that gear. These things bring about ambiguity in your workout progress. A power meter can mitigate this problem, but most beginners don’t have power meters.

Now bear in mind a consistent program is better than an optimal one. If you hate lifting, you don’t need to lift that much. If you love it, then do it. Just know that when you get blasted on a sprint by some fat guy who barely kept up with you throughout the race it’s your fault.

But what if I am an underweight super skinny cyclist who can’t squat good, and want to learn to do other stuff good too?

Learn to keep higher cadence than heavier guys during sprints. Also, squat more. Spending 3 months in the off season doing a linear progression squat program where you squat twice a week can take you from being a terrible sprinter to one that at least stays close to the other racers. You may also find you have higher top end speed because that tough gear was much easier to turn.

You should be consuming a shitload of protein as well for this. I know that you think you’ll bulk up ridiculously, but that’s simply not true. You might weigh a bit more after a few months of squatting, but you’ll notice that weight isn’t slowing you down. Plus, if you cut calories from your normal diet to allow the protein in you will maintain your weight. You may gradually lose weight as increased muscle tissue would allow you to burn more calories. Make sure you know how many grams of protein you’re getting. Don’t estimate. Seriously, you’ll save yourself a huge hassle.

This is an old rookie mark. Not how dirty my chainring was to get that good of a pattern.

But what if I am fat, and want to lose weight rather than get strong?

Instead of attacking anyone personally, I would like to make known that this is a difficult issue. It would seem that heavier riders are at a great disadvantage when it comes to the sport. There is no easy way to put this, but if you are doing anything other than a crit with zero hills you are experiencing a big battle. Entry level road races and hill climbs will make you look far worse than you actually are. If you are on a diet that is working, continue losing weight before lifting. If you are stuck at a plateau weight, and it’s under 220 lbs. you should lift. I know that most of my lifting buddies would say lift no matter what, but being a reasonable weight will do way more for you in more types of races. When I was in abysmal shape during the A&M Race I caught up to a heavy racer and passed him. Had I not flatted out I would have beaten him. Bear in mind I was in really, really, really bad shape for this race.


These short and fast races are a good squatter’s dream. I was actually not horrible in them last year. If you want to win them you should know your 5RM, your 10RM, and your 20RM. In the off season do a widowmaker once every two weeks or so. If you fail to hit depth you did not do that widowmaker. See how much you can do, and make it a point to increase it when you don’t need to worry about training on the bike. If you can bring a 20RM up anywhere near 300 or 2xBodyweight, whichever is higher, you should be able to outsprint some of the track guys. Your 5RM should be more your focus though.


Hills, lots of hills. I have never done a road race that didn’t have a few hills that were actually pretty tough. If you hate the hills, then strength work can help. I hardly ever have to leave the big chainring on hills in Norman now. If I’m really tired I do, but there are some surprisingly steep hills here. I’m way better than I used to be though. Squatting will make you turn bigger gears, as well as help increase your overall speed on hills. Seriously, do them. As your season approaches you can do them less and less, but they are so beneficial to cycling it is insane.

There’s always gonna be that whiny guy that refuses to sully his pure training by going into that ghastly room with people getting swole. Make sure you do your part to embarrass him when race season rolls around. When he asks you what you did to get so good have a hearty laugh.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Moving up a Category

(After the last race of last season in Baton Rouge)

I’ve been wanting to jump up from the most mediocre of collegiate cycling categories(D’s) to a category where I can at least have a little respect for myself( C’s). Today I went on a ride with a group that would probably race at the winning end of the C’s or middle of the road B’s. We had a wind coming out of the South which meant there was a crosswind for the vast majority of the ride. This is fine for people that were in the shielded side, but that didn’t happen to me. Oh well, I know I am a better windshield than most of the other riders there anyway.

So I’ve judged where I am physically compared to last year based on a vague sense of where I placed last year in all the races that didn’t record the official times of all the riders. There was only one race that gave an actual time, and I’m pretty damn ashamed of it. For the training I suppose it wasn’t horrible, but this year I know that I would beat the crap of my former self. To be honest the amount of effort that I put into that ride today would put me on pace to win any of the races that I did. I did 22 miles in 1:10:00ish which was much faster than the pace to win the D conference championship road race, and if I could keep that pace steady for 1:54:00 I would win the C road race by almost 4 minutes. The distance of the race is actually listed incorrectly for the C’s online interestingly enough. I’m not quite fit enough to win a race with that course yet, but I have two and a half months to really make a difference in my abilities. I definitely have the fitness to move up a category, but I’ll at least try to win a race before I do that. If I am toward the top toward the end of the season I will just move up a category and finish a couple C races with the pack. That means more to me than forcing myself to stay at the bottom category and winning.

Most of the D road races were 25 miles, but the final one was 36 miles including a 7 mile “neutral rollout.” I use quotation marks to signify that that was just as much part of the race as the rest of it. In fact we slowed down when we got on the actual race section. Nobody wanted to pull. I pulled for about a mile or two in that race before being dropped. I don’t want to dwell on that though, because this post is about how much I have improved. I should be able to move up with some of the new guys who really shouldn’t even be racing D’s. We have a rider who almost won the Cat5 state championship road race, and he is starting in D’s. I don’t know who is getting second in the first race of the season, but I do know who is getting first. He will probably move up within the first two weeks. I imagine with my current level I should move up after about 4 or 5 races. Riding for 25 miles at 17-18 mph average seems much more doable this year than it did last year. If I can improve the pace and distance a bit I should be just as impressive in C’s. It’s amazing what actually riding does for your bike racing abilities. Who knows, this year I might end up on a podium in front of that pretty building in Louisiana. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Entry No. 17- The First Blog Post

At this point in time I am thinking of putting my fitness journal material into a blog. I want to edit the posts so that they don’t suck if I am going to do that though. Once they reach a level of relevance I will add them to the blog, but for now they will remain on my hard drive awaiting correction. So if you were confused by the Entry No. 17 part of the title, that should clear it up. If you're still confused, deload to hooked on phonics or something.
Most fitness blogs have the problem of being pointless. Often they will just give lift numbers or miles ran/swam/biked/etc. I find it ridiculous to read such things. It is like watching paint dry. The other end of the spectrum is when a person just gives artsy bullshit about their chosen sporting activity. It’s fine to have that for yourself, but I don’t think other people should care that much. It is true that sport has a romantic quality for many people. Pushing yourself until you can’t anymore is a beautiful image that is a perfect and relatable way to define ideas like struggle, defiance, and overcoming adversity. Not everyone cares though.
It’s great if you did a workout that showed you some great new meaning. It’s fine if you gain your own life philosophy from your training methods. I encourage people to help find meaning in their life through exercise because it’s a way less bleak picture than gaining these thoughts from our work habits. In most parts of the world now people work very hard for decades in the hope that they won’t have to for a few more. Spending fifty hours a week for fifty years toiling away at some sort of job will inevitably turn you into a miserable bastard. I’ve seen it happen to my parents, and I hope desperately that it doesn’t happen to me.
As a result of this I find myself constantly re-examining my goals as a person. Where do I want to be in life? How will I achieve these things? A nice, and much lower stress, set of goals to achieve occur in sport. I decided to be a competitive cyclist when I got to university. I found the team by accident. I was telling a fraternity recruiter why I couldn’t be in their fraternity, and he was scouting possible philanthropy work that night that happened to be at the cycling meeting. I was ecstatic. I used to bike all the time. I had put some training in that August in fact. I did a grand total of 1 team ride that year. It was 50 miles, and it sucked. I was in no shape to do it, but I did. It hurt. I was unable to bring myself to riding because I figured every ride would be like that. If somebody had told me doing a series of 20-30 mile rides would be a much better representation of what the team normally does I would have been more likely to participate more. I should have raced that year. I could have learned my lessons an entire year earlier if I had just had the balls to. Anxiety causes really poor judgment though; I’ll get into that more later.
The next year I did 2 training rides. Yeah, I am not showing a great amount of commitment here, but I feel the need to be honest about it. If we lie about our failures to prepare, then we have no excuse for them. If you train hard, and you lose the way I did in racing last year, then you should sell your bike and find something else to do. I hadn’t ridden a bike in months when I got up to that start line. I was nervous for obvious reasons. I knew I was going to be bad, but I was much worse than I expected. I got dropped after 1 mile. You read that correctly. I did horribly. As soon as we got onto the gravel I let everyone else go. I flatted out at mile 8. The next race I stayed for 7 miles. The race after that I lasted a whole 15. My season ended with that one, and I have improved so much that I could win that race if I tried today. Well, not today today. I’m still sore from squats yesterday. If we held a 35 mile race on Saturday I would smash it though.
So here I am at the end of November. I am sitting here in my room next to some empty soda cans, textbooks, and cycling books. For dinner I had a banana and a protein shake. Tomorrow I’ve got bench press, some rowing, and some stretching on the menu. I am in better shape than I could ever have expected. I have not let one week go by without a really hard workout. I have a legitimate plan to work my way into dominant race shape this year. I know what it takes after a couple of failures.
I hope this post has provided a good background for you on my sporting history as well as where I mean to go. I am a cyclist who lifts weights. Eventually I want to do an Ironman. I want to get better at both cycling and lifting, but as next semester approaches I will lift a lot less. During the season I will be doing probably one bench session a week, and the rest will be cycling. Racing every weekend takes a lot out of you. If you have any advice, feel free to send it my way. I am open to other’s opinions, but if you are plain wrong I will ignore you most likely. I know a decent amount when it comes to both resistance training and endurance training.
When I include any of the first 16 posts in this blog I will mention what post number it is, and I will tell you roughly the date I wrote it. Some of this shit is a year old or even a bit older. It may have a few dumbass statements from a kid who had never raced before. If you have any questions about cycling, since I know many of the readers I will likely have know fuck all about exercise that is not lifting, just ask. I’m not perfect when it comes to physiological knowledge, but I am a good jumping off point. I hope you didn’t die of boredom in the time it took to read this, and before you do I will end it here.