Summer Break 2!

In the last post we were talking about the ‘why’ of taking a summer break . Hopefully, you realize that if you are struggling to A) ride in the summer heat B) suffer from burnout and lack of desire to race in the late fall then, a mid-summer break can be just the thing to refresh your mind and body so that you can train and race at your optimal level.

Tired as a Dog!

The first thing is obviously to take a full hiatus from cycling for at least 2 full weeks. It may seem that you will loose everything you have worked for – BUT you will not if you bring your body back up to speed before testing yourself. Remember, you only get stronger when you rest! So give your mind and body some R&R and you will notice an increased ability to push yourself more!

After the 2 weeks off, we are going to ramp you back up to speed with intervals. To do this, the first week you should do 3 days of 60 minutes of 80% max efforts. For example, my max is about 190 – so I would go out and do these efforts at 150-155 HR. Since this is slightly lower HR I usually break this effort into 15 minute blocks and do 4 of these efforts. Hopefully you recognize these efforts from your early season training! Find an area with minimal traffic that you can do these efforts with little interruption. Just go out and put in solid efforts at the prescribed HR. Use good form and a good aero position on the bike. For the rest of the ride keep the HR under 140!

The second week of training (same 3x this week) you will need to bump up the HR a little more and lower the amount of time in that zone. We should still keep the total time at 60 minutes of total efforts, but I break these into 10 minute efforts at the prescribed HR. The HR will now be 85% of Max HR. So in the same example of 190 max, I would do these efforts at about 160-165 range, and I would do 6 (ten) minute efforts to equal 60 minutes of total time in the prescribed HR zone.

By taking your time and doing these efforts you ramp the body back up to speed rather than just jolting it. And re-visiting the lower and longer efforts is always a good thing for your training, esp. your sustained or Time Trial abilities!

Summer Break

It’s that time of year when it is Humid, Hot & Muggy! I did a short option ride Saturday that started at 9am, and by 11am I had chill bumps and a calf muscle that was ‘wanting’ to cramp. Ok, so I did have a few beers the night before, but still….. the weather and heat index in Atlanta, Ga so far is High! 95 degrees F. this week.

For those of you that are racing and training hard, take a look at your upcoming schedules and decide if now is a great time to take a mid-summer break! Sounds backwards I know. But how did you feel last October/September? If you were tired, and burnt out – maybe it was from riding too much in the summer heat.

Why go to races and events mid-summer that the finishers make it too the finish line through attrition rather than fitness? I can remember racing at Fort Gordon in Augusta, GA a few years back. I think the thermometers were reading 98 degrees, add to that a lack of shade along this course. It was one of those days where you didn’t feel you needed to warm-up b/c you were already sweating before you were finished getting dressed. On each lap of this road course we would pass the parking lot where everyone had parked their vehicles. On the 2nd lap about 10-15 riders just pulled off from the main group and headed to their cars. It wasn’t like we were single file and these guys were dangling off the back – they were IN the pack. But the heat & humidity was too much and they didn’t want to do another lap.

When you take a break, you must remember why you are taking a break. People may attempt to distract your season plans, but you must stick to the plan, even though that is tough sometimes. A good cycling plan will set you up to be in your best shape for your most important races.

Taking a break from hard efforts this time of year maybe a safer thing to do and a scheduled, 2 week summer break can be a great thing for your cycling season (and maybe other areas of your life). Even though it may seem like you will loose fitness, the benefits that your mind and body get from a break will far exceed any loss of fitness you think you will loose.

I had a friend that got married a few years back during the summer and was concerned about loosing fitness while on his honeymoon. I told not to be concerned about it & that he would come back with re-newed energy and desire for racing – he had a Great end to his racing season, and wasn’t burned out mentally through the fall races!

Some other activities to keep you active and/or refreshed:
*Indoor rock climbing
*Massage
*working out
*swimming – even out those tan lines a little?
*hiking
*indoor racquetball/squash
*another idea is to get dirty:

Try taking a summer break and I bet you will gain an appreciation for this experience. It gives you a chance to unwind, change your current schedule of doing things, and re-fresh the mind and body. However, keep in mind that along with taking a break, how you bring the body back into form is important also, and I will get to that in another post.

Cramps

1 of the most dreaded things to a cyclist is getting CRAMPS: it sucks, and once they start there is usually not much you can do during one.

Just what is going on when you get a cramp? The exact cause of muscle cramps is still unknown, but the theories most commonly cited include:

* Altered neuromuscular control
* Dehydration
* Electrolyte depletion
* Poor conditioning
* Muscle fatigue – doing more than usual at a certain activity
* Doing a new activity

But first, let’s try to avoid them!
To aid in avoiding cramps I will add a little sea salt the day before and the day of an event.
Because I have experienced some leg cramping before on fast rides before, I will also take some electrolytes the day of an event. If the ride is going to be more than 4 hours, I will usually take extra electrolytes during the ride.

When I feel those first little twinges, of an upcoming cramp, I have ‘delayed’ them by pouring water on the area that I feel the cramps starting. Maybe it is a placebo effect, but it seems to help some.

During a cramp there isn’t much you can do other than avoid making it worse and try to stretch out the cramping muscle. Ask anyone that has had them before and it sucks!
Once I start cramping, it is usually a sign that the body is not getting enough nutrients and I will try to get in more calories quick!

Cramps usually go away on their own without treatment, but these tips appear to help speed the relaxing of the muscle:
* Stop the activity that caused the cramp (as if you have a choice).
* Gently stretch and massage the cramping muscle.
* Hold the joint in a stretched position until the cramp stops.

After cramping I try to stretch as much as possible before getting in the car, then do more flexibility work by using a foam roller once I get home. The compression will help loosen the tight muscles allowing more blood flow and nutrients to reach the muscles and flush out toxins that are by-products of the activity.

Keep cool this summer

While exercising in the summer months can be great, hydration can be the key to keeping it a great experience. Hydration is something that even experienced riders can make mistakes and mis-calculations on.

Usually I will try to make the best preparations possible, as soon as possible. So if I make plans the day before or even the day of an event, I will try to hydrate more as soon as possible. Or at least try get in extra fluids.

As always, don’t try something new on the day of a race or big event. Always try it in training first, and then another time, as close as possible to race pace. Somethings that sit easily on the stomach with the heart rate around 150, may NOT sit well when the Heart Rate is around 170.

1 of my most ‘unbelievable’ tips is to put chapstick over your eyebrows! I do this from a slightly high point in the center, and then lower until I get past the eyes. The chapstick will cause a lot of the sweat to divert from coming directly down into the eyes, to following the chapstick past the sides of the eyes. It won’t stop all the sweat, but the amount of sweat in your eyes will be much reduced.

While your out riding and getting close to running out of fluids, it is best to go ahead and finish off what you have rather than sip on the last little bit of it. Getting the fluids into you stomach is better (for your body) than sipping and attempting to make it last longer – which doesn’t keep you hydrated.

If you do find a spicket or a creek, pouring water over your head will help with the evaporation process that allows your body to stay cooler. If you think that you will be out long, either keep money for a store stop or a water filter/iodine tablets for purifying water from streams.

I have been out on long rides in Pisgah and in North Ga., which have many creek crossings, and been saved by someone else that had iodine tablets, and another time by someone that had a water filter with them! Personally I don’t like the iodine flavor, so I think I’m going to go the portable water filter route.

any recommendations?