Sunday, September 25, 2011

Being better at anything makes everything else easier

I've been determined to increase my CTL lately so I had planned to do six workouts this week.  But when Friday night came and I had a hard strength training session planned, I really wasn't in the mood.  I've been doing the same schedule for about three weeks, so I think I was just getting tired of the routine.  So instead of giving up I changed my plans instead and went for a bike ride.

I used to ride a lot in the summer, but when my back pain cropped up biking started to hurt, so I stopped and hadn't done it since.  But physical therapy had been going well and my back pain was all but gone, so I figured it was worth trying.

The sun had just gone down but it wasn't completely dark yet, and the weather was cool.  The whole town was at the BYU football game, so outside of Lavell Edwards Stadium Provo was pretty quiet.  I jumped on the Provo River Trail and did 30 minutes of solid Zone 3 riding, and had a blast.  It felt amazing to go fast and to really be able to see and feel it; most of my aerobic work has been in the pool, where there is a degree of sensory deprivation.

Biking is not my strong suit, probably because it requires big leg muscles and I'm naturally so skinny.  But this ride was a lot easier than my last one two months ago.  Climbing felt easier, and kind of fun; getting up out of the saddle and powering up a hill felt exhilarating instead of tortuous.  What did it was the Nike Training Club workouts from the last 3 weeks: they involve a lot of lunges and squats, and that has built up the exact muscles I need to be better at cycling.

In an earlier post I mentioned how swimming had made my NTC workouts easier.  Now I can feel how NTC has improved my bike.  This put in stark relief how being better at anything makes everything else easier; every exercise uses multiple systems, and those systems are all connected.  So as you make an adaptation in one sport, some of that adaptation will transfer over into others.

There is a limit to how much transfers.   Specificity of training says that to get better at your sport you need to do that sport as much as possible.  This is totally true, but cross-training has it's benefits.  When you are fighting through a painful weight-lifting session or a killer run, it's motivating to know that it will do more for you than just making weight-lifting and running easier.  It almost seems like alchemy, because you are transforming a finite amount of work into an infinite number of benefits; and I think that's a pretty great deal.

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