As you may know (if you read my about me section) I'm well versed in the education of Exercise Science. I know all about cross training (and I don't mean cyclocross training), over training, burn out, and the like. Basically, I'm here to tell you why it's good to be strong, erg, I mean why it's good to cross train. Lets start with the basics, what is cross training? I'm a cyclist, so I spend majority of my days riding bicycles. Riding bikes rocks, it's hip, it's fun, it's active. If the only thing I ever did was ride bikes I would have multiple broken bones, arms the size of.....a broom stick, weak hips, knee pain, internally rotated (worse then they already are) shoulders, a rounded back, low back pain, neck pain, tight hip flexors and hamstrings, no abdominal and rotational strength. Basically, I would suck on the bike because I would produce no power due to poor form on the bike from my neck and back pain, and weak abdominals. I know it's "poor form" for cyclists to lift weights, but honestly if I didn't lift weights and cross train, I wouldn't be where I am today! What is cross training? Cross training is doing an activity that isn't your everyday sport. Cross training helps to prevent injury, overtraining, and burn out. Cross training does not make you slow. So now you are wondering, Courtenay what is it that YOU do for cross training.
I work in a gym as a Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor. I'm on my feet when I work, demonstrating exercises all the time and teaching classes. I HAVE to be strong in order to execute my job and HAVE a job. If I wasn't strong, why would people want ME to work them out? My cross training schedule typically involves teaching a Step class (cardio and weights), teaching a weight class, stretching, trigger point therapy, running (in the months of July-Dec for CX), and lifting weights 1-2x/week on my own or at my favorite studio Trailhead Athletics. If I where to tell you to do 1 of these activities, it would be for you to get in the weight room (or your living room) and start doing some resistance training. Why you ask?
Resistance training (working your full body) is going to help balance your body out so you remain strong from head to toe and shoulder to shoulder. For example in my sport of choice, we pedal bikes forward, my feet are clipped in, my hands are on the bars in a forward position, my neck is (as much as I would like to say it's not) in a fwd position (okay think office worker), my hip flexors are never fully extended (unless you ride a unicycle). Rarely is my body worked in a side to side motion. So lets say I don't do any resistance training. My glutes might suck because I could potentially have a sucky pedal stroke and I'm not lunging to help increase the strength, power, and SIZE (<--- this is kind of a joke because my butt is big) of my glutes. I'm not working on my "core" strength so my abs aren't strong enough to hold my torso in a correct position while on the bike, therefore causing me a lot of low back pain. Which leads me to weak back extensors, if you don't train them to be strong, they aren't going to be strong, you are most likely compensating somewhere else. Now lets say I don't work any side to side and rotational stuff (so important while mountain biking and in cyclocross, while leaning with the bike and navigating around obstacles). If I don't work any rotational strength my body wouldn't perform, or even be able to balance in some positions I ask it to while navigating through single track or a muddy cyclocross course. Are you starting to get a better understanding of why I believe in strength training?
How has strength training helped me? Besides the obvious of looking totally buff, I believe strength training has seriously helped me keep my injuries at a minimal and also has helped me bounce back from injury faster. I'm going to take you back to May of 2012 the week after the 24 hour race. The Wednesday after the 24 hour race I went out on a nice lovely, recovery mountain bike ride. Descending down "The Mullet" on Galbraith I was very quickly launched over my handlebars at a very fast pace. I landed directly onto my left shoulder blade and had some major issues trying to lift my arm up over my head. I was in quite a bit of pain for a couple weeks, I didn't do any weight lifting for 2-3 weeks, I didn't ride my bike for a week, I tried really hard to not move my arm, because it really hurt my shoulder! I saw my trusted Chiropractor, a PT at the gym, and my PT friend and I knew nothing was broken or seriously injured, all I needed was time for healing! After about 4-5 weeks I was back to normal and felt great! I'm pretty sure that my because of my hulk like muscles, I wasn't seriously injured. Now lets fast forward to June 27th 2013 (or the 28th or 29th, who's keeping track anyhow). I'm racing my bike at the Lightning Creek Enduro and all of the sudden my rear brakes stop working. I'm going fast, faster than I would like to be going, but I can't slow down and next thing I know my face is staring right at the dirt and BAM I'm on the ground. I landed on my chest, slightly on my left side. My first reaction was "I broke a rib" my right side hurt really bad and I couldn't breath, at that same moment I looked up and saw my left foot still attached to the bike and it was now falling on top of me, pinning me to the ground. To top this off I heard the lovely sound of "hiiiisssssssss", you know, the sound your tire makes when it's going flat. I was then able to catch my breath, realized I didn't break a rib, but instead knocked the wind out of myself, but there was no saving that tire from going flat. After picking myself up off the ground I realized my left chest was in a lot of pain and my rib was somewhat protruding out of my chest. I held back the tears and didn't continue the race. It's been 3 weeks since this happened and I'm still trying to recover, riding mountain bikes is out of the question, but I can still ride and lift some weights (being very incredibly limited). Once again I am SO grateful for strength training, without it, I'm sure I would have quite a few broken bones!
Stay tuned for some simple at home exercises you can do to help keep you strong, lean, and healthy!