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Back in the Gym

December 16, 2011

Yesterday was very wet and I had a lunch meeting in Guelph. No time for a ride, so I went to the gym for the first time since February or March. Compared with the bike, the gym is a poor substitute for exercise. I say this from a state-of-enjoyment perspective rather than a quality-of-exercise perspective. The convenience of being able to put in a decent workout and shower in just over an hour is handy—a bike ride needs to be at least an hour; after cleaning off the bike, stretching, and showering, two hours are gone by. But still, I’d take the extra time and enjoy the ride any day of the week (and twice on Sundays).

The gym workout is essential, though, for good training and better cycling performance. And as winter sets in, the gym will become a more regular part of the weekly routine. Numerous studies point to lower bone density in cyclists as a result of insufficient weight-bearing training. This might require some qualification. Cyclists have imbalanced bone density issues; in hips and cycling-related areas (legs), bone density is fine; in the upper body, less so (thanks to chiropractor and fell0w-Domestique frequenter for a quick overview). So, all the more reason to pick up the weights.

I’ll describe my workouts in more detail in the future (not chronically, but will provide an overview), but I started yesterday with some kettle bell swings and other supplemental bits and pieces, targeting back, shoulders, and upper body. As the winter progresses, I’ll engage more squats and cycling-related strength training. This post was designed to provide me with a platform to complain about how sore I am this morning. Which I am: pecs, delts, abs. But it’s much easier to go to the gym with a goal—better cycling fitness and performance—in mind. Also, too, after the best part of nine months away from weight-training, I was struck by the extent to which overall fitness dictates performance. 5-10kg lighter than my last visit, and I presume I have lost some upper body muscle through a lack of use, I expected stiffness and soreness this morning, but I also expected to struggle with a loss of strength. Not so. As I swung the kettle bell—as much a fitness thing as a strength thing, I suppose—I was pleasantly surprised to find myself performing better than when I left off at the end of last winter. Good news.

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