Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Will My Pants Still Fit?

So, the question is, at the end of this hypertrophy phase (pronounced, by the way, hi-PURR-tra-fee), will my legs still fit into my pants? OK, maybe my legs aren't getting quite that big, but I am responding pretty well to the lifting, and I still have almost two weeks to go. I also credit my Paleo nutrition plan for the way my body is responding.

Still, this phase is hard work, especially after doing a real job all day, even if it is a desk job. Last night I was feeling especially beat down.

I expected hockey to go badly on Sunday night, but I felt surprisingly good. I was able to skate hard until the last 15 minutes or so. I also scored a couple goals and had several other good chances. From the sport psychology standpoint, I changed my goals for the skate slightly before I went, and I wonder if that was more effective? Maybe always changing goals a little bit is better than using the same ones over and over again? It sort of makes sense.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Weekend Update

I did my second micro block of the hypertrophy phase this weekend. It was pretty weird to take two days off on Thursday and Friday. I was fully recovered by Saturday morning.

I thought the Saturday morning workout was noticeably easier than the workout on Tuesday. The workout this morning was tough again... most likely from the residual fatigue. Hockey will be brutal tonight...

I realized that I didn't post about how I resolved my squatting problem. It turns out that I don't have heavy enough weights to make the two-leg squats worthwhile. So, I went back to my single leg squats and focused on increasing depth. So far, it seems to be working well. I'm still not getting quite as deep as I think would be ideal, but I'm going deep enough that it seems to be effective.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Starting Hypertrophy Phase

I started the hypertropy phase of the Morris strength plan this week. It was pretty tough going, lots of reps... Morris has you do two days back to back, and then take two days off. I felt OK during the day on the second day, but I felt (understandably) worse during the workout. Today is the first rest day. I'm a little sore, but it's not too bad. I should be good to go again on Saturday. I see why he suggests not riding much during this phase. So far, the lifting has been enough to wipe me out.

Friday, January 16, 2009

"1RM" Testing

Last night I did most of my 1 rep max (1RM) testing. I didn't actually go for my 1RM, but I used an estimation based on 4-10RM. I think it's close enough for my purposes.

I did the same thing last January in preparation for my strength work in 2008. My results for this year were consistently better than those for last year. I'm a little surprised, I figured that they would be essentially the same.

The only test I didn't successfully finish was my squat test. I was hampered a little bit since I hadn't done much squatting on both legs (see my last post). Still, it was not paying attention that ultimately screwed me up.

I did my warm-up set, and it was fine. I made my first attempt at the test and made it to 10 reps without too much trouble... I definitely could have done a few more. So, my plan was to rest for 5 minutes or so, add some weight and do it again. I rested, then made my second attempt, and I made it to ten reps again. "Hmm..." I thought, "that didn't seem much harder than last time..." Then I actually looked at the dumbbells and saw that I hadn't changed the weight! Doh! While not near my max, I figured that the two sets were hard enough that I probably wasn't going to get a good result if I tried again. So, I'll try again tonight or tomorrow, depending on how I feel.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I'm feeling less fatigued this week, even though work has been busy and my daughter decided to wake up at 4:45am today (15 minutes later, my dog licked me square on the mouth... not pleasant that early!). It's bitterly cold here, so I've not been running or skiing outside.

I've been deeply pondering the squatting situation I talked about last time. On Tuesday night, I did reduce the weight I was lifting to try to go to a deeper squat. Sure enough, I could go much deeper. I had to reduce the weight about 40% to do it. I'm definitely much weaker near the bottom of the squat.

Then, last night, I was explaining all of this to Sarah, and she had me demonstrate everything, including seeing how far I bent my knees on the bike. We reached the conclusion that I still wasn't going deep enough in my squat to match the knee bend I get on my bike. The only way I was able to go deep enough was to do the squat on both legs.

I was looking for a chart online of leg angle around the pedal stroke, but I didn't find one. (I do have some in my books.) I did find this one of muscle usage around the pedal stroke. It's kind of interesting.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Plan Progress

I'm wrapping up the Strength-preparation phase of the Morris plan this week. (Earlier, I said that this wasn't described in the book, but it is. It's just maybe not in an obvious location.) My ramp up has gone fine, but I might have progressed to the heavier weights just a little too quickly. I haven't been sore at all, but I am feeling the fatigue. I'm sure some of it has to do with resuming training with more seriousness and being back at work after a long Christmas break.

I've scheduled a little more rest this week to get ready for the next Strength phase. I want to start the phase feeling fresh because I've heard it's a tough one. The main thing to get done this week is to do the 1RM (1 rep max) test. I probably won't actually go to 1RM, but maybe 3-4RM and calculate 1RM from there. It will be close enough for me, and safer.

I have been thinking a little bit about the lifts I'm doing. I had good success last year in doing 1-leg versions of the squat and deadlift. The benefits to doing the 1-leg exercises are that it's easier on your back, you don't need as much weight, and it uses more stabilizing muscles. The drawbacks are that you can't lift as much and reduced range of motion in the lift (for me, anyway).

I think the fact that you can't lift as much weight is probably not a big deal for an amateur. (By "not lift as much", I mean that on two legs, you could probably lift more than double what you could lift on one leg, since stability is much improved.)

The reduced range of motion is what's got me thinking, particularly for the squat. Because of the more stable position, I can definitely go much deeper into a squat on two legs than I can one one. It seems like I should at least be getting to a knee bend that matches my max knee bend on the bike, and I know I'm not there right now. Relative to the bike, it means that I'm missing out on the top part of the pedal stroke, which is definitely important for generating power.

How to remedy this? I guess first I need to verify if this is a balance issue or a strength issue. I guess the test here is to back off on the weight, try to go deeper and see what happens. Now that I'm thinking about it more, I suspect it is mainly a strength issue.

I wish that I'd thought about this before I started the prep phase. C'est la vie. It will be a little hard on the ego to back off on the weight, but I'm pretty sure I'll get more of a benefit from doing the exercise properly through a wider range of motion. In fact, I may improve substantially on the bike if the muscles really were weak at the "low" part of the squat (top of the pedal stroke).

Hockey Notes

So, after a very productive game last weekend, I hardly got a sniff of the net this week. Lots of factors influenced it I'm sure, but here's the key lesson I took away from it:

About 2/3 of the way through the game, I'm sitting on the bench thinking about how I'm not playing well. I was skating hard, but it seemed like I couldn't catch (or throw) a pass to save my life, and I wasn't getting good bounces. I realized that I had to change my message. Instead of thinking, "Man, I'm sure playing like crap tonight", I started thinking, "Keep skating hard, and things will start to go your way." Hockey is interesting in that way, you have time to sit on the bench and think while you're not playing.

I can't say that it dramatically changed the way I was playing, because it didn't, but maybe there was some improvement. I did end up with a couple of decent plays near the end.

The point is that I need to practice staying positive when things aren't going my way. It will happen, and those negative thoughts need to be caught and stopped early. In bike racing, maybe it's an early crash, or a mechanical, or any number of other things. I'm thinking back to the Brighton race from last year. Not the DNF in the XC race, but my crash in the short track race that sent me all the way to the very back of the field. Old men and children had passed me! I could have quit or gotten down, but instead I put the hammer down, passed a ton of people and finished 4th. I think part of what made that race happen was that I was very confident going in (I thought I had a good chance of winning, and based on the final results, I probably did!). I think that confidence, in turn, shaped my response to the crash.

XC Ski

I had a few REI gift cards burning a hole in my pocket, so I decided to buy some cross-country ski gear. I've been wanting to do this for a while, but I've always had more bike-related things to spend money on.

So, I picked up my skis last Tuesday night. On Wednesday and Thursday we started getting snow. My wife and daughter would be coming home late Thursday night, so I took the opportunity to scoot over to the nature center / fish hatchery in our neighborhood. There's a flat 1.7 mile loop around the fish ponds that I figured would be skiable. More people had walked on it than I expected, but, for the most part, I could find good snow. Someone else had already been out skiing, so I followed in their tracks for most of the loop. I only had enough daylight to do one loop, but it was a good shakedown test.

We got a lot more snow Friday night and Saturday. Since I had more time Saturday, I went over to Independence Oaks during my daughter's morning nap. Supposedly, this park is one of the best local places to go. It wasn't quite what I expected, but it wasn't bad; I would go again. There's a very well-traveled and flat loop around the lake, and some hillier (less-traveled) trails through the woods. I skied for just under two hours. Even though it didn't seem like really hard work, I was pretty tired by the time I was done.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Hat Trick +1

I had a good skate last night. For the first 20 minutes or so, I was just flying around. I didn't have anything to show for it, but it felt good. Then, I sort of hit the wall. We only had three guys on the bench, and I just wasn't getting enough rest. So, I took a pretty long (kind of easy) shift on defense, and that seemed to help. On the next shift I scored two goals! On the first one, I got my own rebound, but my momentum carried me behind the net. I shot the puck toward the goal anyway, and it ended up bouncing off the goalie and going in. On the second goal, I caught a nice pass in the slot, waited for the goalie to slide out of position, and then put it in.

I was OK for a few shifts, and then I started getting tired again and took another shift on defense. On the next shift, I got goal number three. I don't recall now how I got to the front of the net, but my shot rang off both posts before it went in.

At some point during the game, I got dumped (tripped?) pretty hard in front of the net. My feet were way over my head. It bent my back pretty good, but it feels mostly OK today. I felt fortunate that I'd been stretching my back quite a bit over the past week. I did land hard on my knees though, and they are pretty sore today. I spent some time icing everything before I went to bed (bags of frozen vegetables make good icepacks!), but it didn't help my knees as much as I'd like. I suspect I'll have some good bruises there.

My last goal was a garbage goal. I put a rebound in from a foot or so away. The Zamboni driver usually lets us play until the last goal, and mine was the goal that got us off the ice. So, I was happy about that.

So, what's with the sudden explosion in my goal-scoring and general improved play? (Recall, I got 2 at the last skate also, compared to 1 or 2 total in all of the skates preceeding!) It could be a lot things. From the technical side, I've been spending a few minutes during the week working on balance and stickhandling stuff, and I'm sure this is helping a little, especially the balance work. I think the main difference is in my attitude though. I wrote a few weeks ago about practicing my mental preparation techniques on the way to the rink. One of the ideas I had was that there was no reason I shouldn't be one of the best players at our skate. Yeah, I don't play hockey as much as everybody else, but I'm one of the youngest and one of the most fit. It makes a difference when you go out on the ice expecting to win the little puck battles, expecting to score, etc. Then, when you actually have the success you expected, your attitude improves even more. Sort of a positive feedback loop. This kind of attitude is something that I need to carry over to my riding.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

2009 Training Has Begun!

This week marked the beginning of my 2009 training. As I've discussed before, I'm switching over to a Morris-style plan for this year. It's not covered in the book, but I'm beginning with a short preparation phase before I start his Hypertrophy phase. I saw the idea to use a short prep phase on Ashwin's blog, and it makes sense. Coming off a long block of mostly light exercise, it doesn't make sense to jump right in to lifting heavy weights. So, for the next couple weeks, I'll be getting myself ramped up.

My other exercise this week has consisted of one short ride on the trainer and a couple of runs. The run I did on Tuesday was pretty terrible. I was pretty happy about the roads being clear of snow and ice; as a result, I paced myself badly. I went out way too fast and was suffering before I'd gone too far. To top it off, after a long downhill stretch, my knee started bothering me, even though I was well short of my target run time. So, I called it a day and walked home. After I got home, I checked the training log and found that I'd only run twice over the past two weeks, so I probably bit off too much. I had been doing some jump rope stuff, thinking that it was an OK substitute for running, but it doesn't look like that's the case.

I ran again today (on snowy roads), and it went much better. I paced myself better and took a slightly different route that didn't have me going down long hills. It wasn't a particularly comfortable run, but I didn't have any knee problems and I was able to hit my target run time.