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A Year of Progress

A Year of Progress

My bike performance & strength gains are pretty much done for the 2020 training year. I'm going to spend the next couple of months getting leaner, and then in October I start the the 2021 training year. That makes this a good moment to take stock & see what I've accomplished since October.

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Training Update: Quarantine

Training Update: Quarantine

I have nothing poetic or insightful to say about what's happening in the world right now. For the moment, my wife, daughter & I are all healthy & employed, and able to sequester ourselves at home, which is awesome under the current circumstances.

Training continues to be my little bubble of emotional safety. So I'm going to keep doing that, and I'm going to keep writing about it here.

The Over the Hump schedule was first pushed to May 19, and is now listed as July 21, but I'm writing off my 2020 race season. I think of it as playing the long game. Instead of focusing on getting race-ready for 2020, I've taken a step back from riding and instead spent some time on barbell work to build a generally stronger, more capable body.

Goals

I've cobbled together my long-term strength goals from articles, books, blog posts, YouTube videos, and my own experience.

  goal current
squat 1.5 x BW (270#) 195#
deadlift 2.0 x BW (360#) 245#
bench press 1.5 x BW (270#) 140#
pull-up 10 @ BW 4 @ BW

Methods

I've taken a step back from bike-focused training, and centered my training around body composition and building strength & muscle mass. I've been down this road before, with disappointing results, so this is something of a leap of faith. But, I've made a couple of key choices this time around that have really helped.

First, I've stuck to the basics, and added one complementary movement where I felt it was appropriate.

Second, I've ruthlessly avoided changing too much over time. I want a solid framework within which I can apply progressive overload to make my body stronger.

Third, I've tailored one workout a week to addressing general mobility & core strength, with some emphasis on a couple of problem areas.

It's really tempting to add too much. But I find that most of these workouts clock in at around 1:15h, and on the hard days they leave me wobbly. That tells me I'm doing enough.

Workouts

The primary goal is to build strength, and not necessarily to build muscle mass. (I covered hypertrophy back in late 2019.)

For the primary movements (bench, pull-up, squat, deadlift), I've taken a note from Mass Made Simple and adopted a cycle of set/rep/load that seems to be working well:

  1. Workout #1: 3 x 5, 2 min rest between sets
  2. Workout #2: 5 x 5, 90 sec rest between sets
  3. Workout #3: 3 x 8, 2 min reset between sets
  4. Increse the load & repeat the cycle.

Basically, start by doing enough volume to get used to the load & trigger some growth. Then push up the volume, and finally, consolidate the reps back into 3 sets to push the growth further.

That's working well. While I was doing Mass Made Simple, my bench press max double was 135. I can now do that for 5 x 5.

Lower Body/Back (Wednesdays)

  • deadlift (3x5 | 5x5 | 3x8)
  • squat (3x5 | 5x5 | 3x8)
  • crab walk 3 x 45/60
  • kb snatch 3 x 20

Upper Body (Mondays & Fridays)

  • bench press (3x5 | 5x5 | 3x8)
  • pull-up (3x5 | 5x5 | 3x8)
  • face pull 3 x 10
  • front raise 3 x 10
  • barbell complex (5x5 | 3x8):
    • bent row
    • deadlift
    • power clean
    • military press
    • squat
    • Romanian deadlift

Complementary Work (Saturday)

  • circuit x 3:
    • back extension
    • axe chop
    • Jefferson curl
    • hanging knee raise
  • stretching

Random Notes

I feel like the crab walks (which I do more in an ice skating motion due to space constraints) have been a fantastic addition to my workouts. I decided to try that after seeing that it was part of Emily Batty's gym program.

And the day of core strength & hip mobility has been great. I added the back extensions after watching Jeff Cavaliere talk about how just doing squats & deadlifts is not enough to really build a strong low back.

Together, the crab walks, back extensions, axe chops, and mobilty work has massively improved how I feel on standing climbs, and improved how my low back feels after tough/long rides.

I find it interesting to note that this has been more effective even than the Foundation Training low back sequence.

Preliminary Results

My measurements are virtually identical to when I finished my hypertrophy block back in November, which is great. I'm not trying to add bulk, and I'm not adding fat.

I'm comitted to "playing the long game", which means moving consistently toward those strength targets, and genuinely letting go of 2020 and aiming to hit next summer in the best cycling shape of my life.

Just the same, I was worried what several months of prioritizing strength work would do. Nobody likes to move backward.

So after taking a rest week and doing a couple of rides to wake up my legs, I did a ride up Coachwhip to see where I stand.

Result: I hit my fastest time in nearly a year.

That's still ~80 seconds off PR pace, but I'm no longer worried about losing huge levels of hard-earned bike fitness. I'm confident that prioritizing strength over the last few months is paying dividends, and I'm on the right track for a great 2021 race season.

What's Next

During my late-2019 hypertrophy block, I gained ~10# of muscle. I'd like to now shed ~10# of fat, so that I'm back at my 2019 body mass with a much-improved composition, and massively better strength. That'll take up July & August, and maybe a couple weeks of September.

And I'm reading up on targeting slow-twitch hypertrophy, so that may be on deck for September/October.

Priority: Fat Loss

The single best thing I've done for my training this year is to build a periodized plan that clarifies priorities, and then stick to those priorities.

And so, here I am reminding myself of my initial principles:

  • clear priorities
  • play the long game

I've been putting off my fat-loss & base training block. The plan is to do what I did last year: shed ~10 lbs by simply postponing breakfast until after my 11:00 AM bike ride. Basically, I did fasted cardio, and it worked great.

I've been hesitating to implement this because:

  1. I like breakfast.
  2. I've given myself the excuse that I need the fuel to make sure my rides are productive.
  3. I only have ~12 weeks until my first race. I don't want to sacrifice training efficacy to gain weight loss.

This is bullshit. I'm doing some difficult intervals, sure. But they're not intense intervals. They're right around my lactate threshold. So I don't need the available glucose.

This week is a back-off week, so I'll let it go. But when I start back up next week, it's time to get real about dropping the fat.

I have to remember that it may be 11 weeks until the first 6-race OtH series starts, but it's ~22 weeks until the second series starts. Fat loss should go early in my training (in other words: now). And if I put it off until later, I'll just sabotage both series for myself. Far, far better to Play the Long Game and focus on the genuine top priority in the here-and-now: drop 10 lbs of dead weight.

Trail Saddle Bag 2020

Trail Saddle Bag 2020

Here's what I have with me on all my trail rides, recorded for posterity (aka: future me):

The whole thing weighs in at around 520g.

Strength Block Review

Strength Block Review

I'm cutting the last week of my planned strength block. My right AC joint has been hurting, and I want to focus on getting it healed & strong again. I think I tweaked it doing bench presses during my hypertrophy block. It's mostly been fine since then, but it's been hurting this week and I really want it to be solid by the time I start racing.

So, I feel like that's a solid decision. It's a good time to switch my focus to on-bike gains, and put the barbell stuff into maintenance/prehab mode.

But I didn't feel good ending the block on that note... until I started looking at the numbers.

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