I can’t touch my toes yet. I’m better than I was three weeks ago, when last we measured. Then, I was eight inches away. The name of the particular stretch escapes me, but it’s the one where you stand, cross one leg in front of the other, and then reach down as far as you can with your back leg locked. Anyway, after four weeks of almost daily (and sometimes twice daily) stretching, I can see marked improvement in my flexibility which increases my range of motion and reduces the risk of injury.
The month has continued to be about flexibility, stability with some riding thrown in. My master has stressed that I can ride whenever I want, but doesn’t want me to go above heart rate zone 3. Fine, I said, let’s determine what that is then. Turns out that doing so invites debate as to what system you are using to define the ranges (there are at least two) and how best to determine my particular zones. What is max heart rate? What’s threshold? How do I know? It took a bit of education, but really, this is what the trainer is for: just do what he tells you to do. You are paying him to help you – not debate the finer points. Let him help you.
So, with my maximum heart rate determined (180), I set out to focus on another area of emphasis: saddle time. This I think has to do with three things: getting used to long rides both psychologically and physically, improving my heart, and dropping the weight. That last is best done in zone three because of the kind of energy you burn. I will not profess to be an expert (I suspect Gottfried knows far more about this than I), but I comprehended it enough to buy into it. I’ve lost weight in the past – now it’s time to do it the right way: in zone three.
I discovered three things about this approach. First, I can use it to motivate me to consistently longer rides; my new personal road record is 41 miles. Second, zone three is boring. Ponderously boring. And third, trying to maintain in zone three on a mountain bike trail is difficult both physically and emotionally. On a trail, I want to go fast – well, Dane-fast, anyway – and it’s hard not to hammer it.
I rode Medina last week for the first time in too long. Actually wondered how bad I was going to suck given my time away from dirt. But man it felt good. It reminded me why I was doing all this. Five minutes in and my trainer’s admonishes were but a mere whisper in the wind. I was going Dane-fast and, what’s more, feeling better and more competent than I’d ever had. The road work, the stretching, and the professional bike fit from Century were all making a clear difference.
When I’d completed, I’d set a new personal Medina trails record, and thanks to the bike fit my quads weren’t wasted (hint: raise your damn seat and leverage your hams and glutes). So far, the approach is paying off. Total time in zone three? Less than fifteen percent.
My trainer’s reaction? “I wanted you to stay in zone three.” Hmpf. Some people.