I've been mulling over the notion of strength and conditioning for cycling over the past week. A few things have happened and some stories that have been "told to me" that give me pause. However, I should step back a bike to start from the "beginning" of why I think I had a good idea of what strength training should involve.
In 2009, I was racing my first year of bike racing. I can remember something special: being able to sprint out over 1200W without an issue. Sept. 2015 was the first time in 6 years that I was able to do that again. In June 2009, my life changed. I crashed and went over the bars at 40km/h at the Midweek Crit during the final sprint and landed WHAM on my right side shattering my right femur. Not exactly the start to bike racing that I imagined. Since that faithful day, my right leg has never been the same, although, it took about two years to figure that out. One does not realize the amount of muscles it takes to walk until you have to learn to walk again. As a matter of interest, the crash left me with a rod permanently attached to my femur and the fine motor control in my right, I would learn, of a two year old.
Below are before and after shots.
As the story goes, it took my six months to learn to walk again unassisted. Fast forward to 2012 there abouts when I decided that I wanted to get back into strength training. I had some experience in the past. My first coach gave me "efforts" to complete at the gym. With no guidance, I was into weight lifting and having a clue of what I was doing. I was luck I didn't hurt myself.
At the office at which was working at the time, one of my coworkers was a cycling nut as well, and mentioned the "Athlete's Gym". Some investigation lead me to FITS Toronto. I had no idea what I was in for, but I knew I wanted to workout. I literally wander in one day, and made an appointment.
My first session was with Lori Silver, a phsysiotherapist for "testing". FITS Toronto, run by Dr. Thomas Lam, who I would learn, was a proponent of what I will call motion training. They worked with top athletes at the national level for sports such as Skiing and Volleyball. They currently work with the Argos. The facilities were impressive - a full gym equiped with for strength and phsycial training. The testing proved something I didn't understand at the time: I sucked. I could not balance on one leg. I had the flexibility of a 80 yo man. My vertical was barely 11". The standard was 20". No wonder I had such a hard time riding a bike. I have since spent most of the winter months going to FITS and working with Lori getting my right left to work properly, work in flexibility, work on standing up straight, etc.. Still to this day, the left leg is stronger and more dextarious that the right.
I can specifically remember two or three seasons ago when I would return from the Forest City Velodrome, I could not carry my rollers up the stairs from the car into the house on my right side. I did not possess the strength in my right leg/hip to move properly with a load. After a winter working with Lori on the strength in my hip (or lack thereof), I could not only carry my rollers up the stairs on my right side, I could carry both my rollers and my bag of cycling gear - about 75lbs worth of stuff - without issue at the same time.
I've seen a lot of groups of youth come through. Saturday mornings is group sessions for movement training. It's more movement training than strength training because until you can do the movements for proper form, there is little point in any kind of strength training. This hit me last week as I was learning how to control my right knee. Single leg hops are hard on my right ride. But as Lori pointed out, the deflection in my knee inward is causing problems. When I hold the right knee out (basically so my right leg stays straight), jumping on one leg, single leg bulgarion squats, etc. are harder because I lack the strength and control. But sprinting power is developed from both legs, and I need to get to the point where my right leg is as strong and dextarious as the left.
If you look at the photo at the side, notice I am leaning to one side to stay balanced. This was last week. I am trying do one legged hops and having a hell of a time at it. This imbalance in my leg is zapping sprint power. I recently dragged my cycling buddy Chantal to FITS because she is always getting injuryed. I think it is important to realize the strength training is more than squats and lifts. It is also working on the core. Working with physio bands to work on dextarity and agility. It is proper stretching. etc etc etc.
At FITS, if any althlete that cannot complete a lift, the workout would stop, and been modified to fit the skill level of the athlete or the set would have been removed from the workout. Strength training can be beneficial, but also very painful if done incorrectly. I think it is very important to pick a trainer that has the background and experience.
It's through working with Lori and FITS that I learned about what a physio therapist can do. I can recall years ago emailing Lori to cancel an appointment because I threw my back out. Her response was: Ah, they is what Phsysio's help with. Oddly enough, that was Chantal's complaint back in December, and I dragged her to Lori to have her look at the issue. Dejavu.
The point of all this drival is most cyclists take on strength training without any knowledge of proper form or what they need to get the most from it. They watch a view videos and run to the local Goodlife and start lifting. Bad idea. Just as bad, some coaches believe a few coarses can teach you what you need to know about the topic. This is general statement and not directed at anyone in particular. Honestly, now as a cycle coach, I confess to having no idea about strength training. I would send an athlete to a qualified personal trainer. However, I hesiate to recommend personal trainers to anyone where the personal trainer does not come from a physiotherapy background. From my own experience, it is a recipe for disaster. Ever person has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses that needs to be addressed. The weaknesses should be addressed address first. Without the proper training, how can the trainer know? I'm starting down the road to coach - I'll be sending athletes to FITS for assessment.
What are your weaknesses? Can you jump on one leg for 10 hops and do the same on the other leg with equal strength and dextarity? Can you touch you toes? Can you execute the yoga move called the "airplane"? Can you jump from the ground to a box 20" off the ground? Can you stand on one foot and stand up straight? In my case, I'm still not there....but I am working on it, and I see improvements in my life and on the bike every time.
FITS Toronto is now located in Downsview Park. They do one on one training, group training for youth atheletes, phsysio theraphy, amoungst other things. Check them out. They are not the only game in town, but they are a service I have come to trust. This is a public service annoucement and has not been soliciated by FITS. If you are going to do S&C, might as well do it right.