I had the day off Wednesday, partly to watch my son’s Nativity play and partly to take it easy in the afternoon. Except instead I decided it was high time I picked up the leaves from our front lawn. We have two large oaks out front, so there was a fair bit to tidy up.
You’d think raking leaves would be pretty straight–forward really. Like digging a border it’s not until you get ten minutes into the task that you realise what a gigantic task you’ve set yourself. As in wish–I’d–never–got–started gigantic.
I was puffing and blowing and stopping every few minutes for a breather and even in the cold temperatures we’ve been enjoying I was boiling hot. It wasn’t until a few hours afterward, when my muscles started to stiffen up that I realised just how unfit I’ve become. The next day was even worse!
On recent rides I’ve been at the back as my singlespeed brothers motor away up the hills. I’ve put this down to just the effects of getting back into riding after my collarbone break in the summer but it’s been a while now since I really felt ‘on song’ on a bike.
Wednesday’s struggle with the rake brought it home all too clearly that I need to do more than just get out for a ride twice a week. It’s clear that during my enforced three month layoff I’ve lost more than a bit of leg strength. Initially I thought I hadn’t fared too badly for my time off the bike but as the weeks have passed I’ve found it taking longer and longer to recover during the days between rides. In short, I’ve felt old.
This has culminated in another head cold over the past two weeks which again suggests I’m down to my last few fitness chips.
So, I have to make a change. I haven’t put on weight yet but I always reckon the time to act is before you’ve put on weight, not after. Anyway, my problem is not weight really, it’s a lack of physical robustness—that simple ability to keep on motoring and to bounce back quickly from any setbacks.
Here’s what I’m planning to do about it. Sundays and Wednesdays I’m aiming to get riding regularly which is what I should be doing anyway. Thursday will be a swim night for basic cardio–vascular training while Monday and Friday evenings will see me inside a gym.
Yes that’s right, a gym. You see, since my accident I haven’t done any regular upper body work at all. No press ups for example or anything similar. Which means that on rides my shoulders, forearms and uppper arms are getting quickly tired. A knock on effect is the lack of confidence that only a tired rider knows. He might be on the bike, but he’s never sure for how much longer.
Starting Monday, that’s going to be my routine (I’m starting before Christmas and the New Year so I can smile wryly at the New Year gym influx). I’ll use the bike to get me too and from the gym too, which is two or three miles each way and should ensure I’m warmed up by the time I get there. I don’t plan to waste any time on the CV machines, just a focussed routine of weights.
I know I have the build of a pipe cleaner man and don’t expect that to change but I do think mountain biking is crucially about upper body strength—much more so than people realise. It’s all very well needing some leg stamina to get up hills but you really need to manhandle a bike on singletrack to get the best out of it.
It’ll be interesting to see how things improve. By the way, to get a feel for my son’s Nativity I mentioned, try reading Al Leigh’s Nativity write up. He wasn’t there but I can tell he shared my pain.