Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Weak Points

Grey Cook has a comment in his book that goes something like "Training is the time to work on your weaknesses, not your favorite movements." I've had my best successes and breakthroughs by stepping back and evaluating where my training program is weak, and then correcting it.

Lately, I think my weaknesses have nothing to do with training per se, but some of the rest of my lifestyle. One is that, for sure, I'm not sleeping enough. I'm getting away with it now because I'm not training very intensely or at a high volume, but once I start ramping up the training, I know it will become a problem. The new baby surely won't improve my sleep situation, but I can try to control some of the other factors.

The other weakness seems to be my diet/nutrition. I've been sticking with the Paleo Diet for Athletes plan, but I seem to have drifted away from some of the details that seem to make a difference. So, I'm going to try to do a better job of keeping track of what I'm eating and making sure it fits the plan; at least until I feel like my habits have been adjusted.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

FMS - Passed!

I finally passed the simplified Functional Movement Screen today. It took me about two months of consistent work to pass all of the movements. I thought I'd quickly share my comments on them.

Deep Squat: Even at the beginning, I had no real problems with this movement. As a result, I've not done any of the breakdown exercises. Now, that I've done the exercises for most of the others, this one doesn't feel quite as solid as the other movements. So, I'll probably work on it at some point. Especially now that I look at the picture, I see that I could improve my shoulder mobility.
Hurdle Step: (I set up the picture without the tape "barrier" to step over.) This was another one that was pretty solid for me right off the bat. I just needed to work on keeping my back straight when I stepped forward.

In-line Lunge: Here's where I started to have trouble... the first few times I did this test, I thought that, surely, the description must have been written incorrectly. I just didn't see how you could do it and keep your hands behind the doorframe. I eventually realized that you could do it if you kept your back straight. Once I corrected that, I had to work a little more on doing the move without wobbling.

Straight-leg Raise: I couldn't pass this one the first time either. I had (wrongly) assumed this exercise was about hamstring flexibility. Really, it's mostly about getting your muscles to fire correctly. With just a little work, I was able to pass this one. (Note my state-of-the art craft room / movement testing training facility! It has a good doorway, what can I say?)
Seated Rotation: Working on passing this test took the longest for me. I think that it hit a number of points where I had trouble. First was hip mobility. You have to be reasonably comfortable in that cross-legged position, otherwise, the rest just isn't going to happen. The second part was mobility of the trunk. I'd never realized this was a weak point for me until I started working on it. This was also one of the few areas where I had pretty a significant left/right difference.

Anyway, this whole experience has been very positive for me. I definitely notice a difference in my flexibility and in my ability to control my movements. The best way I can describe it is that my athleticism is just better now. I haven't really been riding enough to see if it will make a difference on the bike, but I should find out soon enough.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Stupid Hockey

I don't think I've blogged about it before, but I've had a theory for a long time that if you don't do something for a while, the first time you do it again, it will be surprisingly good. However, the next few times you do it, it goes kind of badly, more like you'd expect considering the time off. I call that first time the "stupid" time. Stupid-running, stupid-playing (for my trumpet), etc. It's like your body is in shock over what it's doing, so it stupidly lets you do more than you should (or, you stupidly do more than you really should).

I found out last night that the same applies to hockey. The last time I played, things went surprisingly well (stupid-hockey), but things were rough last night. I didn't skate well, I didn't play the puck well, my legs felt like crap, you name it... For whatever reason, a lot of the other guys seemed to be struggling too, so I don't know what the deal was.

I'm getting so close to passing my FMS test. The movements are all getting so solid, but I still can't quite get the seated rotation far enough without my form breaking down a little. Looking back, I feel like the progress I've made over the past two months is pretty remarkable. Some of the tests that at first seemed impossible I can do easily now. (I wish I'd taken some before/after pictures.) My goal was to pass all of the tests by the end of this month; I still think that this is achievable. Even if I don't quite make it by my target date though, I feel like I'm close enough that I have very little concern about moving forward to add some strength and endurance.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Getting Low

We got a pretty decent amount of snow last night, so I decided to skip the indoor training ride and yoga at the shop. I did the same type of drills on my trainer at home and did yoga on my own afterward; definitely not quite the same.

Anyway, as I mentioned before, I've been working on my position and posture on the bike. I mostly sat upright last night, but at the end, I tried a couple of lower positions. One with my hands on the drops and a bigger bend in my arms, and the other with my hands in the drops. I noticed two things: one is that my core muscles got tired pretty quickly in these positions. Like I said before, I think that these lower positions require some enhanced core strength. Two, it seemed like my thighs were bouncing off my stomach... not too comfortable.

While I was in these lower positions, I let myself bend at the waist a few times (essentially, my old posture), just to feel the difference. Bending at the waist pulled my stomach away from my legs enough that the bouncing went away; maybe that's why most people gravitate to that position?

(Reminder picture from Joe Friel's blog . You can see that the rider on the left still has some space between his leg and stomach.)

I think the bouncing issue could be resolved by some position tweaks. Raising the saddle would eventually fix it, but I don't really want to do that. My current saddle height has worked really well for my knee health. It seems like moving the saddle forward a bit might also help, but I'm not sure what negatives might be associated with that.

On the other hand, for the kind of racing I do, getting low and aero isn't too important unless it's windy. So, maybe I just won't do anything for awhile.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Connecting the Dots

I watched a really interesting video over the weekend on James Wilson's website. In it, he links up some of the Functional Movement stuff I've been working on to movements and skills on the bike. The best moment for me was when he was explaining how, when you're riding with level pedals, your feet are essentially in a short lunge position. As he's standing there with his feet like that, I'm thinking "of course", but I never made that connection until he said it.

Speaking of the lunge position, I've been working on some of the alternate jump rope positions in "Athletic Body in Balance". One of the new ones to me is a very short lunge stance. I can do it pretty easily with my left foot forward, but I have more trouble with my right foot forward. I have more trouble keeping my hips square with my right foot forward and also more trouble keeping my feet in line. Relative to the point above about the level pedal position, this is interesting, because I'm also much more comfortable riding with my left foot forward.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Getting Closer

I made good progress this week on the ol' FMS. If I wasn't grading myself hard, I could make an argument that I passed all of the tests on Sunday. But I am grading myself hard: I'm still just a little wobbly on the inline lunge and I have to strain quite a bit to pass the seated rotation, so I don't consider those as passing. Still, I'm getting very close now.

I rode my trainer on Saturday morning. Usually I like to get outside to do something on Saturdays (hike, ski, work on cutting up the tree that fell in my backyard, etc), but I decided it was just too cold! So, I hopped on the trainer for about 45 minutes instead. It was the first time I've ridden at home this year!

Sarah came down at some point and immediately asked if I was practicing sitting up taller (what we work on Tuesday nights). She said that the difference was obvious. I immediately settled into a pretty smooth spin at a (relatively) high cadence for my ride; I'll credit Tuesday nights for that. I did notice that my smoothness and body position started to get worse as I got tired. 45 minutes was really all I could handle; I'd forgotten how boring riding the trainer can be!

Kind of an interesting picture that Sarah took. My back is definitely straight, but this is a very upright position. I guess step 1 is achieving the position, and step 2 is working to bring the chest down without rounding the back. I think this takes a different kind of core strength...

I've also been working on tearing down, cleaning, and rebuilding my mountain bike. I used to be able to do it in an afternoon. Now, I'm having to do it a 20-30 minutes at a time. Cora was "helping" me this weekend. She kept picking up the smaller parts and saying "Little parts. I just love little parts!" Fortunately, nothing has been lost yet.