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Strength Training, basement/backyard style.
There was one positive aspect that came out of my no-ride week, it gave me time to focus on strength training (which I had been severely neglecting!).
Ever since I signed up for an endurance mountain bike race, the one thing recommended to me more than anything has been strength training. It was told to me that I would be surprised how strenuous its going to be just to hold my head up for that amount of time.
Mountain biking is very different than road riding. You use your legs, arms, and shoulders as shock absorbers. You have to get up and out of the saddle to throw your bike around tight turns and maneuver technical sections. You are constantly moving: side to side, standing to sitting, forward and back. It's an intricate dance, the bike and yourself becoming one unit to fly through the woods.
And soon I'll be doing that for 10, 11, or 12 hours straight (hopefully not longer than that!).
I mostly do body-weight strength training for several reasons. The obvious being I don't have a gym membership and I have very little equipment at home. The second reason is that body weight exercises forces you to use more of your stabilizer muscles. Using body weight is also less stressful on the body than weighted exercises. This is important for me because my low back and hips are a problem area for me. I'm constantly battling back pain, its a fine line between working to strengthen those muscles without overusing them . . .
Here is a list of the some of my favorite strength training exercises I'm using to prepare (only time will tell how effective they are):
- Kettle Bell Swing—this is a favorite because it works a little of everything: legs, glutes, low back, core, arms, shoulders . . .
- Single Leg Squats—Single leg squats forces your legs to work evenly while engaging stabilizer muscles. This is important for me because my right leg is noticeably weaker. By doing the single-leg squats I can't use my left side to compensate for the right.
- Side Plank with hand weight—After getting into the side plank position, I hold a 10lb hand weight in my upper hand. I then swing the weight into an upright position (straight up) and then down under my body, twisting my core in the process. This way I can engage stabilizer muscles while working the core. I swing the weight 15 times on each side, repeat 2x.
- Push-Ups—I just think its cool to be able to do real, bona-fide pushups because I could never do them in gym class when I was a kid. Here is a great resource to help you go from being able to do 1 push-up to 100 (Yes! It is truly possible!!!). Hundred Pushups.
- Lunges (forward, backwards, diagnally!)
- Suck-in-the-gut—This was recommended by my chiropractor. Get on all fours, hands in line with shoulders, knees under hips. Then suck in your gut while exhaling, then suck in your gut even more . . . and hold for 10 second. Repeat 10 times. When I am faithful with this routine, I can feel my core engaging and stabilizing while I'm cycling. This is one simple exercise that just seems to lock everything into position for me.
- The Monkey Bars—I'm a mom. I'm at the playground all the dang time. There's the park bench or there's the monkey bars. Why not get a little upper body workout instead of working on widening my rear on the seat? Am I right? I've had a few kids tell me that the monkey bars are for kids, well, so what if they are. Works your arms, shoulders, grip . . .