Cycling Center Dallas Blog
Cycling Center Dallas Blog
Here we talk about all things cycling - training, wattage, group rides, bike rallies, triathlons, weather, coaching, coaches, nutrition, ponderings, musings, and equipment! If you have a topic or a question, send us a note and we'll try to answer for you!
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Tracy
10:10

Why your day job is hurting your cycling training (and how to fix it)

guyatdesk


If any of these describe your lifestyle, this blog is for you:
  • If you are a working professional with a demanding job that requires a lot of time at a desk
  • You travel a lot for work.
  • You spend a lot of time driving for either work or family obligations.

One of the most common issues I see with working professionals who are also amateur or recreational athletes is the negative effects on posture that they bring into their training. 

Here is an example:

Jim came into the Cycling Center Dallas studio the other day to start training. He is a recreational
cyclist who wants to be able to ride with his favorite groups, but also wants to look good, get some muscle tone, and not have to worry about tweaking something in his spine, which sometimes holds him back.  He is a working professionalbadbikeposition and work demands often take away his training time.  He is very serious about his career and usually ends up spending A LOT of time at his desk. 

Long hours at the computer and in a car have left obvious marks on his posture.  Tight shoulders, tight chest muscles, a lack of mobility in the upper spine…i
t could be any one of those or all of them.  At this point it doesn’t really matter, because whatever is causing it, the effects on his movement are going be the same.  

We spent several sessions addressing this issue by working on corrective movements throughout his workouts and/or after his workouts. I also gave him a couple of quick and easy, specific stretches to do at home. Within a few weeks, his range of motion and posture were noticeably better.  He was more aware of it, and his positioning looked better on the bike.  He also remarked that the pain he felt in his neck and shoulders during the last half of long rides was significantly lower.  He was definitely ecstatic about his progress and results after our sessions.

If you have tightness in your shoulders, torso or back, it could be affecting your training.

 



Try this test at home:markshouldertestnormalrtarmup

1.  Stand tall with your arms loose at your side

2.  Make a fist in each hand, and in one motion place your right hand over your head and down your back as far as possible.  At the same time, take your left fist up your back as far as possible like this image shows:

3.  Have someone take a photo of your hands behind you (if you don’t have anyone to take the pic, set up your phone to take a video and then replay, pause and take a screen shot).

4.  Switch hands and repeat, with the left arm up top, and right arm down below.

 



Now….look at the pics of both sides.  What do you see?  markshouldertestwide

If both fists only have a small amount of distance between them and are pretty equal in that distance.  You probably don’t have anything to worry about. 

If there is a large gap between the fists, like this image shows, you probably have either tight shoulders, tight chest muscles, or you are lacking mobility in the upper part of your spine. It could also be “all of the above.”  All of these are limiters to both performance and everyday quality movement.






If you see there is a difference in the distances between your first and second image, like this....You not only have tightness and mobility deficiencies, you also have an asymmetry between the sides 
markshouldertestnormalrtarmupwithlineof your bodymarkshouldertestwidewithline.  Asymmetries are bad.   They cause bad things to happen because one side of the body is having to keep up with the other, even though it’s at a disadvantage.  This causes compensatory movement patterns and unequal forces on that body.  Which often leads to additional imbalances and increased risk of injury.

Tight muscles in the chest and back, or a lack of mobility in the upper spine (or both), can negatively affect your bike position, and if you are a triathlete, your run and walk mechanics, and extension in your swim stroke.  If you have imbalances mobility and flexibility.

This type of posture could also result in decreased aerobic capacity throughout any activities you do.  Think about it… is it easier to breathe when you are hunched over, or standing up tall, allowing the expansion of the diaphragm?


How to Fix It

If you find you are not able to get your fists anywhere close to each other, or there is a large difference in the range of motion between sides, don’t worry, there are things you can do to start correcting this. Depending on the severity, and the ultimate causes of your lack of mobility and tightness, you may need a more extensive corrective program, but here are a few stretches and exercises to get you started.  
 
The first 2 stretches are for chest and shoulders.  I think the pics speak for themselves on showing what you need to do.   The last stretch is awesome and I feel most people need to perform it, so I will give that one some special attention.

Chest stretch:
Hold about 30 seconds
sbcheststretch
This will lengthen and increase flexibility of the muscles in the front of your shoulders and chest.

 
Shoulder stretch:
Repeat 20-30 seconds each side
 
behindthebackshoulderstretch

This will work the shoulder muscles through both and internal and external rotation.


 

 

Thoracic spine stretch:

Tight shoulders may not be the cause of a round back and shoulders.

If you have poor mobility in your thoracic spine (upper back), you are forcing the surrounding areas to take up the slack in that area and perform duties they were not meant to do.  This creates harmful compensations. 

Below is a great stretch for the Thoracic spine. Try this one after long rides or a long day at the office. It will probably feel unbelievably amazing!

1. Lay on on your right side with your left leg bent and slightly forward of the right leg’s knee, and resting on a foam roller (use a rolled up towel, or any kind of block if you don’t have a roller).

2. With your left hand, reach across to the gap between your left hip and elbow. Place that hand on the rib-cage. Then, twist gently back toward the floor with the left shoulder. Keep your left knee contacting the foam roller or towel.  

3. Attempt to get your shoulder blade of the left side as close to the floor as possible, and then extend the left arm out to the side.

4. Hold for 20-30 seconds and then repeat on the other side. 

tspinestretchme  tspinestretchmarkandtravis

Keep the knee on the roller.  This will make sure you are working the mobility in the upper spine, and not opening up the hip to get there.

 

Try these stretches either after workouts, on recovery days or after you have spent a lot of time seated.

See which ones feel the most challenging for you.  The odds are that this is also the one you need to do the most.  If you have an asymmetry, work the tighter side one or two more times.

And don’t push through pain. If any of the movements cause pain, back off how hard you are straining.  If you still find there is pain with movement, there may be another issue going on.

Although there are other areas of your body that tend to exhibit pain and tightness when you have to sit all day or have poor posture, I have found the Thoracic spine is one of the more common and easily corrected areas with cyclists whose daily activity is creating pain, which presents limitations on their cycling.

Stay tuned for more articles and posts, and contact me if you have any questions, need a more extensive program, or are interested in setting up a full functional movement screen and corrective exercise session.  my email is: tracy@cyclingcenterdallas.com

 

Creative and Functional Fitness Tools- Free 5 Part Email Course

Introduction and instruction on how to use methods such as Suspension Training, The Rip Trainer, and Elastic Resistance. Learn how to start using use each of these tools in any location to increase strength, stability, lose weight, or improve performance.



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Coach Wharton
16:55

Stage 15: 21 Days, 21 Tips for Cycling in July: CORE Conditioning!

Push UPs

Watching the Tour de France, you get the opinion that for most of the riders, training is all about long rides, hard intervals, varied terrain, and suffering to make not just the cut, but to drive all the way on each stage, legs churning and searing, lungs busting, until they reach the Champs Elysee in Paris.

It may have been that way in the past, but no more. Cyclists perform better when they train the entire body, and the best way to do that, is with resistance training.

There are many ways to train the muscles that stabilize the torso, but the absolute simplest, most minimal set of activities you can do are the following:

  • Push-ups
  • Chin-ups
  • Sit ups or crunches
  • Back raises
  • Leg curls
  • LOTS of this can be done at home, or with something as simple as an inflatable exercise ball, but resistance training is arguably best practiced under the watchful eye of a professional trainer. Coach Tracy's specialty is TRX and body weight suspension, which is fun, helps with balance as well as muscle development, and doesn't require lots of equipment.

There's no way to quantify just how important resistance training is, but anything that helps increase efficiency, power, and stamina, will help propel you down the road, up the hill, and through the next corner. You won't gain weight, and in fact, you may lose some. You won't increase or decrease flexibility - that's something else. Instead, you'll develop muscles and control that improve your overall ability. Try it year-round, twice a week, in different modes and manners. It doesn't take long, maybe 30-50 minutes, it burns a lot of calories, and it complements cycling activities perfectly.

Oh - it'll also reduce the likelihood of injury.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions about this tip or how resistance training at Cycling Center Dallas can improve your cycling, give us a call or just stop by! We're here to help!

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Coach Wharton
12:37

21 Days, 21 Tips for Cycling in July! Day 5: Is Sprinting Really Worth It!?

Sprint
Sprinting on a bike is really fun, really exciting to watch... and really not terribly important for the recreational cyclist. That said - it's still something to practice, because it's a great way to improve your fitness, because it leads to more muscle and bone, a stronger heart, and improved economy when you're NOT sprinting.

Now, I'm NOT a sprinter, but I still train and coach short, intense intervals periodically, and here's how it's done.

Sprinting requires a lot of power, in an almost instant transition. A pedaling cyclist is using their aerobic system most of the time; sprinting requires that you use one of the simplest foundations of muscle contraction - the phosphagen system. It lasts between 2 and 15 seconds. Today's stage, for example, was about 13 seconds of incredible intensity, so the cyclists were literally 'Firing on all cylinders'.

First, remember - you should probably be at least somewhat fit, so call us if you have questions or doubt your ability. We'll work on other things first.

Second - WARM UP THOROUGHLY. Sprinting cold is asking for trouble. Spend at least 20 minutes warming up, increasing intensity and power, staying on top of your hydration, and keeping your carbohydrate stores topped off. A few pick-me-ups, or false sprints, where you just increase power output over 15-30 seconds in a steady rise, until you are breathing hard, and sweating a bit, will definitely help.

Third - cycling sprints on Television are rare, and usually occur at the END of an event. They're just too hard to replicate too often in a stage, or even over the course of three weeks. Do just a few, between 3 and 10 seconds, and make sure that you spend AT LEAST 3 minutes recovering, and HOPEFULLY more like 5. Professional sprinters can take up to THIRTY minutes between sprint efforts. It's just that taxing!

Fourth - Start in a gear that allows you to accelerate instantly. I usually begin in my big ring, but somewhere in the middle of my cassette. When my legs begin to spin out, I shift to a harder gear and attempt to spin out in that gear. If I'm lucky, I'll get one more shift before exhaustion sets in, and my power begins to drop.

Finally - if you're outdoors, BE SAFE. Sprinting for a sign on the road, or a painted line is one thing. Sprinting to beat a changing light or to get ahead of a train just is NOT worth it. Be safe, know the road ahead of you, keep your chin up and your eyes forward, and be prepared.

Sprinting is sort of like the candle on a cake. The mix is all chocolate and red velvet, the icing just pure, delicious sugar, and the candle, when lit, is something to wonder at.... and then quickly blow out! They're fun, they're hot, and they're VERY short-lived. The fitness gains include increased power output over longer periods of time, a higher metabolism, and the growth of muscle and bone, because of their intensity.

Thanks, and if you have any questions about this tip or your cycling, give us a call or just stop by before our evening classes!

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Coach Wharton
12:29

21 Days of the Tour de France, 21 Tips for Cycling in July! - ROUGH ROADS!!!

Cobbles
Can you believe it? We're only four days in to the Tour de France, and there's been enough drama and action for a month's worth of cycling!

It seems like the people that design the course every year, scheme of ways to challenge the cyclists and their teams, while providing incredible sights for tourists and the global audience. Today's section, with over 18 miles of roads built from cobblestones, will literally jar the handlebars out of a regular cyclist, and when the weather is poor, these roads are almost impassible.

Riding a bike out on the road is always a challenge. There's wind, weather, temperatures, traffic, and of course, construction zones. While we all wish for smooth asphalt, courteous drivers, and no debris, the fact is that this is rarely the case.

When you ride on rough roads, there are a few things you can do to make the ride a little easier.

First, take a little air out of your tires. Modern tires are so good that they can be ridden well below their maximum pressure, and a tire with some cushion can absorb a lot of impact and road buzz.

Second, ALWAYS wear gloves. Gloves help you ride with less strain, and most modern gloves absorb impact as well.

Third - keep your chin up, and look down the road. Usually, there are areas where motor vehicles have already rolled, and their weight has compressed the earth a little, under the areas of their tires. When you ride in the right or left wheel well, things definitely get smoother.

Fourth - this is one area where you MIGHT consider a lower cadence, if only to help you maintain some torque and balance.

Finally, if you encounter rough roads more often than not, consider riding a wider tire, or buying some wheels with wider rims. Modern racing wheels are actually getting wider, and modern tire recommendations are now down to below 100 psi for most cyclists, unless they're really big.

Thankfully, most modern roads don't use cobblestones or brick. Cities and States employ asphalt and concrete. But asphalt can be rough on the joints of a cyclist, and concrete can break up from weather. Ride aware, ride within your limits, and be prepared with good equipment and fitness.

Cycling on rough roads doesn't have to be a drag, or prevent you from exercising. They're just another skill you can award yourself when you've overcome their challenges, giving you more opportunity to ride when and where you want, for whatever reason!

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Tracy
19:08

Tools and Methods for Fitness while Traveling. Part 1:Suspension Training

 

This post offers all the information you need to get a toned core and full body strength if you find yourself on one or more of these categories:

·         You Travel frequently

·         You have limited time for training

·         You would rather not workout in a gym facility

·         You're already engaged in endurance training and need strength and core work to  supplement that activity.  


Travel can throw a monkey wrench into the best-laid fitness plans. Although the occasional break in routine can be a good thing, repeated or unexpected interruptions in your training can result in poor consistency, as well as the added mental challenge of having to get back on the wagon and get the forward momentum rolling  again.  

When you add up all the other stresses of travel, such as such as too much sitting, irregular or poor nutrition options, unfamiliar sleeping situations, and time zone changes,  and you don’t have workout options easily available, it’s easy to throw in the towel and resign yourself to temporary defeat.  Some of the same challenges can present themselves to the time-crunched professional who is attempting to train and balance work, family, and a fitness schedule. 

Having the resources and the plan to keep your fitness priorities a part of your routine on the road, can keep you from slipping off the wagon, keep you feeling good about your training, and will counteract some of the negative effects and general stress of travel.  This article goes over some of the tools to help you stay on track when on the road, or when your schedule gets too chaotic and too many things are competing for your time.
  
Each training tool is linked back to an online library of exercises, as well as instructional videos for several movements that you can use as resource to plan a workout in your hotel room, an empty conference room, a nearby park, rest stop, or anywhere you happen to be!

Suspension training

Suspension training was created as a way to train and maintain conditioning with limited training space or equipment.  The equipment is lightweight and easy to store and throw into a suitcase or gym bag for travel.  This tool can be used anywhere, from the hotel gym, to a local park, the pool deck, or within your house (or hotel room).  Unlike traditional weight training that often focuses on specific muscle groups, suspension training targets movements and requires the body to stabilize itself in all planes of motion during each exercise. 

Suspension training uses gravity and your own body weight as resistance through pretty much any type of movement you can think of. You can improve or maintain functional strength, balance and core stability, coordination, power, and flexibility in many ways that are extremely relevant to general fitness and daily living activities, as well as cycling, running and swimming performance. 

There are several suspension trainers on the market and they generally work on the same concepts.  We will be using the TRX suspension trainer for the purpose of demonstration.  It can be anchored to fences, trees, poles, rafters, or anything you can get to that is stable enough to hold your weight. The handles should be about 6 inches off the ground when anchored, and there are extenders you can use if up find your anchor is too high.   


How to set up a Suspension Trainer in your home
A door anchor will be needed to anchor the suspension training as shown here:

TRXhomesetupmultipic
The solid square piece goes on the backside of the door and the nylon piece has a loop on the end of it. This is the piece to which you will connect the suspension-training device.  Just make sure the door is either closing toward you, or locked so it won't accidentally pull open when you have your weight loaded on the suspension band.  




We have put together some resources to help you develop a plan of action if you are traveling or just want to start incorporating some strength work into your routine.  

Examples of a few fundamental movements that can be performed on a suspension trainer 

       


Resources for Suspension Training
 
A video library of movements that can be performed with the suspension training can be found HERE.

Some movements that complement each other along with more detailed form instruction and short clips you can follow for practice and repetition can be found HERE

Cycling Center Dallas, under Coach Christenson's leadership, has suspension trainers and offers intro sessions as well as group classes, check the schedule for class times and descriptions.

If you would like to purchase your own, you may do so from the TRX Website or just google 'suspension trainer' (make sure to check out the reviews to make sure its decent product).


 

Tools and Methods for Fitness while Traveling. Part 2:Elastic Bands and the Rip Trainer


 

 

 


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Tracy
19:08

Tools and Methods for Fitness while Traveling: Part 2 - Elastic Resistance and the Rip Trainer


band_copyElastic Bands

These convenient devices are a versatile, lightweight tool that can be used for simple movements for beginners, and can increase in difficulty all the way to complex, multi-planar movements for more advanced or specific training.

Bands are inexpensive and easy to transport.

The resistance given by bands and tubing is elastic, which is a unique element to this mode of training. As elastic stretches, resistance increases so the load put on the muscle increases throughout the movement. This is different from traditional weight training, and other modes of body weight training, which rely on gravity.

The versatility of bands also allows you to perform exercises from a sport specific position or when mimicking a sport specific movement (i.e. swim stroke, or golf swing).

When performing any exercise the resistance can easily be adjusted depending on how close or how far away you are standing from the anchor point. If you want more resistance…step further away from the anchor, which adds tension. If you want less… take a step closer to reduce tension. Bands also come in a variety of thicknesses and tensions that provide a large range of resistance.

Bands can be anchored with a standard door anchor at ground level, chest height, or from the top of the door depending on the exercise being performed.  They can also be tied around or hooked to anything stable such as rails, fencing, tree branches, whatever you can find that is accessible.



              Bandanchoredhigh  bandanchoredmid  bandanchoredlow        bands


  • High Anchor: Resistance level will be coming from above.  Good for pull-downs, triceps extensions, and high to low chops.

  • Mid Level Anchor:  Resistance angle will be at about chest level. Good for Presses and Rows, flys, reverse flys and rotational core work.

  • Low Anchor: Resistance angle will be coming from the floor.  Good for shoulder presses, bicep curls, upright raises, squat presses and low to high chops. 


The Rip Trainer:riptrainerpic

I wanted to give this tool a shout out because it is one of my favorites.   Personally, not many exercises that I do give me quite the combination of core and full body resistance and strength, than some of the movements I can do using this tool.

At the core, it’s simply a bar with an elastic band attached that can be anchored in that same way any band can, to a door anchor, or anything else that is stable and available.  You get the stability of pushing the resistance through a solid bar, and the flexibility of moving through any plane of movement you wish.  Exercises can be performed asymmetrically for increased core stability and awareness,  and sport specific movements such as a golf swing or slap shot can be mimicked more realistically, or movements can be combined or stacked on top of each other, for a more demanding or cardio-focused workout.  

The only drawback is that you will need more space for some of the exercises than a hotel room might offer. You also may need to purchase an additional band if the medium resistance back that comes with it is too hard or too easy for you.  The bands come in Light, Medium, Heavy, Xheavy and XXheavy.


Ready to progress?

We have provided a video library of these exercises Here.  Feel free to browse through to get some ideas or select a series of exercises to put together a workout. 

We do have a couple of videos providing more detailed instruction of some of the movements HERE

Just starting out?

Start Simple: A pressing, a pulling, a rotational and a lower body movement makes for a great beginner's full body program.

Get creative! Increase the number of repetitions and reduce rest times between sets, perform more complex movement, increase the resistance of the band or the speed of the movement.




Tools and Methods for Fitness while Traveling. Part 1:Suspension Training








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Tracy
17:17

Exercise Pair up: TRX Push-ups and TRX Rows



This video goes to go over two exercises that work well together. One being a TRX push up and the other being a TRX row. They pair well together because one being a pushing exercise and the other being a pulling exercise allows you to work opposite sides of the body with each exercise. The video starts by showing the starting position for a TRX push up. You can adjust the amount of body weight you have on the straps by where you're standing. If you're just starting out or you're new to exercise, you can step forward to take some of the weight off of the straps and allow you to lift a little bit less during the exercise. If you're a little more advanced or you want to progress, you can simply step back and lower more of your body weight onto the straps. Always keep a straight torso in line with your hips and shoulders and legs.

As you see in the video, I'm keeping my body straight throughout the exercise. At the bottom of the exercise, you want a strong ninety degree bend in your elbows so you don't want to let them fold inwards and you don't want to let the hands come out. You're looking for that strong right angle and holding that position. The elbows should not go behind the shoulders, and they should stay relatively close to shoulder level. When you reach the bottom position, go ahead and engage the muscles of the chest and the core and push back up to the starting position.  One common technique error I see with people is they find that the straps are rubbing on their arms creating some friction. If you find that's happening to you, simply raise your arms a little bit higher to bring the straps up off your arms and that should take care of that problem.  

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The next exercise is going to be the TRX row. For this one you need to shorten the straps. Shortening the straps allows you to get underneath the straps a little more which is required for this one. The same concepts apply as the push up exercise. If I wanted to go a little bit heavier or lift a little bit more weight during this exercise, I would simply step underneath the straps a little more and load some more of my weight onto the straps as you saw me just do.
  
The bottom position is the starting position and my arms are fully extended. Basically it comes down to keeping good posture. I'm keeping a strong connection with my shoulders to my torso, a flat back and my hips are in line with my spine and my legs and my head is also in line with my spine. Then I simply pull myself up, letting my arms fold until my elbows are at my side right there.

Now that we've gone over the form, try them out by doing 1-3 30 seconds sets of each one. Alternate between the TRX push-ups and the rows. Feel free to do these by themselves or combine them with other exercises you find to make a full workout. 


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