Fizzgig gets Fitter

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Fizzgig gets Fitter

Postby fizzgig » Wed Oct 12, 2011 12:55 am UTC

So I need to shape up a bit and I figured that making one of these keeping track/asking questions type threads that are all the rage these days couldn't do any harm.

I'm about 5'3" and weigh 68kg (150-odd lbs). I'm not really sure what kind of weight I should be aiming for though. My main goal is to improve my performance in endurance mountain bike races - so being able to ride for a long time, not necessarily very fast (although obviously faster is better). I also understand that weight alone is not a very good measure of these things, but what is? Body fat percentage as measured by scales? Waist measurements? Body fat percentage as measured with calipers?

I'd also be interested if anyone has any good resources about strength training for endurance athletes. I've found that doing squats and deadlifts seems to help with lower back fatigue while on the bike, but doing too much leaves my muscles tired and sore, which interferes with my riding. And, on the flip side, a big ride leaves me too tired to do weights.
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Re: Fizzgig gets Fitter

Postby Nath » Wed Oct 12, 2011 7:45 am UTC

fizzgig wrote:I also understand that weight alone is not a very good measure of these things, but what is? Body fat percentage as measured by scales? Waist measurements? Body fat percentage as measured with calipers?

Of those three, my impression is that calipers are the most accurate, in the hands of a competent technician. There are more accurate ways to measure it, but probably not worth the cost.

At 5'3" and 150lb, if your body fat percentage is reasonable, you probably have enough muscle mass that you can get to a decent level of strength by neural adaptation rather than hypertrophy. This can be done through heavy low-rep training (3 or fewer reps per set) at relatively low volume, and may be useful if a standard strength program is too much to recover from. That'll help max strength rather than muscular endurance, though, so I'm not sure that's what you're looking for.

I also find deadlifts in general interfere with my other training much more than squats. Right now, I'm not deadlifting; squats are my main lower body exercise at the moment. I do low-bar squats, so I'm not too worried about losing posterior chain strength, but if you're a high-bar squatter, you could always try replacing deadlifts with lighter RDLs or something to make recovery easier.
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Re: Fizzgig gets Fitter

Postby fizzgig » Thu Oct 13, 2011 12:25 am UTC

Thanks for the info Nath.

I suspect that muscular endurance would be more helpful for me - the muscles that are actually applying force generally gain enough strength just through regular riding. It's the muscles that are just providing stability (and occaisionally doing a bit of shock absorbing when I get tired) that are more of a problem. I will have a look into neural adaptation though.

Do you have a source for some information about low bar vs high bar squats?
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Re: Fizzgig gets Fitter

Postby Nath » Thu Oct 13, 2011 1:01 am UTC

Low-bar squats are described in detail in Starting Strength. High-bar squats generally require less coaching, but are described in Olympic Weightlifting by Greg Everett. You can see what both versions look like in this video, and get the gist of the debate by Googling around. Mark Rippetoe is the most outspoken advocate of low-bar. Glenn Pendlay is a powerlifter-turned-weightlifter, and has a great post somewhere explaining why he prefers high-bar squats.

Personally, I think the debate is blown out of proportion. Squat heavy and deep and you'll get stronger. Generally, low-bar lets you squat a little heavier, and high-bar lets you squat a little deeper. Depending on your ankle flexibility, though, high-bar might require a pair of weightlifting shoes.
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Re: Fizzgig gets Fitter

Postby fizzgig » Mon Oct 17, 2011 4:53 am UTC

Thanks again, Nate. Some quick research suggests that weight training is not a good idea for endurance athletes within 2-3 weeks of racing, and I've got a couple of races coming up so I might have to hold off on the weight training for now. I've ordered a copy of Starting Strength to read in the meantime though.

I've also started tracking food and exercise with MyPlate. Everything was going well until I went to a BBQ on Sunday, where I ate some Camembert and crackers, but I'm not really sure how much. It was a 40km round trip on the bike though, so hopefully it all cancelled out...
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Re: Fizzgig gets Fitter

Postby fizzgig » Fri Oct 21, 2011 10:10 am UTC

So yeah this week was pretty bad with the whole eating junk food thing. We'll call it carb loading for the race on Sunday though...

Next week will probably not be all that great either because I have a feeling that recovering from said race and trying to lose weight at the same time would just result in loss of muscle.

I did get some calipers though and they say I've got about 25% body fat. I don't imagine they're all that accurate, but the do seem to be fairly consistent, which should be helpful.
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Re: Fizzgig gets Fitter

Postby fizzgig » Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:30 am UTC

So reading some of the ... er... motivational posts in roband's thread made me realise that I need to stop making excuses and get back into it, starting immediately.

To that end, I've stopped taking two buses home and started taking just one and walking from the interchange. It's a bit over 4km and takes me about 40 - 45 minutes, with a lovely big hill to walk up in the middle. It doesn't seem like much to me, but at least it's something. And I can't believe how sore my legs are after only two days!

Of course I then went and completely undid any good I did through walking by going to the pub on Tuesday night. But I would have gone to the pub anyway.
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Re: Fizzgig gets Fitter

Postby Роберт » Thu Apr 19, 2012 5:02 pm UTC

fizzgig wrote:So reading some of the ... er... motivational posts in roband's thread made me realise that I need to stop making excuses and get back into it, starting immediately.

To that end, I've stopped taking two buses home and started taking just one and walking from the interchange. It's a bit over 4km and takes me about 40 - 45 minutes, with a lovely big hill to walk up in the middle. It doesn't seem like much to me, but at least it's something. And I can't believe how sore my legs are after only two days!

Of course I then went and completely undid any good I did through walking by going to the pub on Tuesday night. But I would have gone to the pub anyway.

Completely undid is clearly not true. Your leg muscles still got a good workout regardless of whether or not you've overall burned fat. Good for you for walking! 4 km a decent distance.
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Re: Fizzgig gets Fitter

Postby fizzgig » Sat Apr 21, 2012 1:36 am UTC

You're right of course, it's just that walking seems like such low intensity exercise. But it's defintely better than what I've been doing lately (ie nothing).

Next week I think I'll try to get up the motivation to do some intervals on a stationary bike. I know I should do it, I just hate it because it's boring and I'm a sook.
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Re: Fizzgig gets Fitter

Postby sebwiers » Mon Apr 23, 2012 1:11 pm UTC

For endurance mtb racing, your VO2 max and lactic acid tolerance are gonna be huge factors. So yeah, those intervals are a must do. You don't need to do them on a stationary bike, though. Just throw them in in the middle of a normal ride.

Ride harder = ride longer & stronger.

As for goals, a low resting heart rate (which usually also means low body fat) is probably not a bad one for your purpose, but is hard to measure in a way that lets you see month-to-month progress. Maximum sustained power output is another good one, easier to measure accurately, but you need something like a power tap hub (though many stationary bikes at gyms have this feature).

For strength training, I might suggest rock climbing; the aerobic requirements and hand strength help in MTB as well. And its a lot more fun that weight lifting.
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Re: Fizzgig gets Fitter

Postby gaurwraith » Mon Apr 23, 2012 7:53 pm UTC

I'm getting interested in this "neural adaptation" thing. I saw a link (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1580438-1,00.html) in a link in a certain "asexuality" thread in the serious bussines forum. Talked about piano practice/mental practice and how it affects the brain, so I jumped to could it be that absence of sex gets you adapted (and thusly asexuality)
Is there a limit to the number of skills you can be really proficient at? Does this adaptation wear off and how? No, really, what is this? Lord Google here I go.
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Re: Fizzgig gets Fitter

Postby fizzgig » Tue Apr 24, 2012 2:01 am UTC

sebwiers wrote:For endurance mtb racing, your VO2 max and lactic acid tolerance are gonna be huge factors. So yeah, those intervals are a must do. You don't need to do them on a stationary bike, though. Just throw them in in the middle of a normal ride.

Ride harder = ride longer & stronger.

As for goals, a low resting heart rate (which usually also means low body fat) is probably not a bad one for your purpose, but is hard to measure in a way that lets you see month-to-month progress. Maximum sustained power output is another good one, easier to measure accurately, but you need something like a power tap hub (though many stationary bikes at gyms have this feature).

For strength training, I might suggest rock climbing; the aerobic requirements and hand strength help in MTB as well. And its a lot more fun that weight lifting.


Ha yeah, normally you couldn't pay me to get on a stationary bike, but I broke my collarbone back in February and my physio has banned me from riding until the bone has completely healed. Also on the banned list are swimming, running and doing weights. I may have accidentally jumped on a bike a couple of times recently, but that only made it obvious to me that mountain biking (and even hard riding on the road) are still pretty much out of the question.

I will definitely have to have a look at rock climbing once I'm back in it though. It definitely sounds better than doing weights.
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Re: Fizzgig gets Fitter

Postby Nath » Tue Apr 24, 2012 5:18 am UTC

gaurwraith wrote:Is there a limit to the number of skills you can be really proficient at? Does this adaptation wear off and how? No, really, what is this? Lord Google here I go.

There is a limit to the number of skills you can be proficient at, but that's simply because getting proficient at skills takes time. More interestingly, there's a limit to the number of physical attributes you can improve simultaneously -- you won't make much progress if you try to train hypertrophy, power and endurance simultaneously, which is why athletes who need to improve multiple things go through periods of a few weeks where they focus on one thing at a time. Not all attributes are gained or lost equally quickly, so fast-deteriorating attributes are usually trained in later phases (i.e. closer to competition).

Neural adaptation does wear off, but I seem to remember that strength loss due to neural de-adaptation is slower than strength loss due to muscle atrophy after you stop training. Don't quote me on that, because a quick Google didn't turn anything up. The adaptation can also probably be re-acquired faster than it can be acquired from scratch.

fizzgig wrote:I will definitely have to have a look at rock climbing once I'm back in it though. It definitely sounds better than doing weights.

Not to discourage you from rock climbing (which is fun and demanding), but that's a completely different set of adaptations from training maximal strength, like you typically would with weight training.
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Re: Fizzgig gets Fitter

Postby sebwiers » Tue Apr 24, 2012 10:57 am UTC

Yeah, but is maximal strength something you want to train for if you are looking to improve performance in an endurance mountain bike race setting?
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Re: Fizzgig gets Fitter

Postby Nath » Tue Apr 24, 2012 12:09 pm UTC

sebwiers wrote:Yeah, but is maximal strength something you want to train for if you are looking to improve performance in an endurance mountain bike race setting?

Fair question, but my point is that weight training and rock climbing are not interchangeable. OP should figure out what attributes he or she wants to improve. If strength is the goal, then rock climbing is not the most efficient way to get there. I have no experience with endurance mountain biking, so I'm not claiming that strength should be the goal (though I've found it to be useful for most physical activities).
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Re: Fizzgig gets Fitter

Postby fizzgig » Wed Apr 25, 2012 10:38 pm UTC

I think muscular endurance is probably more important than actual strength, if that makes sense? I'm only ever dealing with my own weight + less than 10kg of bike. Being able to muscle a bike around a corner is nice, but not getting a sore back due to tired muscles is nicer. It seems like rock climbing would be somewhat helpful for that. It seems like it's a bit lacking in the shock-absorbing role that your body needs to play while mountain biking though, so weights are probably still on the cards. And of course the advantage of doing weights is that I can do it at home.

And I'm a she, for the record.

In happy news though, I did get to ride a bike a decent distance for the first time in months yesterday. 40km on the back of a tandem, so I didn't need to involve my arm at all, and I was wrecked when I got home. But at least it's a start. Er... nobody mention this to my physio though ok?
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