Hydrotherapy … 🤔

 

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I spent the past weekend in Whistler|Backcomb where my daughter treated me to a Scandinavian Spa experience. I was sceptical. I have a steam bath most days at the club. Why would I want one with a whole lot of other people for 3 hours?

Boy, was I wrong. I can’t wait to do it again!

Do you know what hydrotherapy is? I didn’t. I get wet a lot, but never considered it as therapy.

This is how the Scandinave Spa Whistler’s website defines hydrotherapy.

Hydrotherapy is the use of water with contrast in temperature to revitalize, maintain and restore health. The recuperative and healing properties of hydrotherapy are based on its thermal effects. Generally, heat quiets and soothes the body. Cold, in contrast, stimulates and invigorates, increasing internal activity. Alternating hot and cold water improves elimination of toxins, decreases inflammation and stimulates circulation.

For 3 hours we wandered the facility, experiencing the heated pools, saunas, cold baths, and relaxation rooms. Heat for 10-15 minutes 😀 Cold water for 10-20 seconds 😕 And, then relation rooms for 10-15 minutes 😀 We did this circuit 5 times.

Oh. I forgot. You can’t talk. There are hush signs everywhere 🤐 Three hours of heat, cold, relaxation, and quiet. That was the hardest part. I’m gregarious by nature. I like talking with people, even if I have never met them before. I didn’t dare make eye contact with anyone.

At the end, we sat in the sun with a warm cup of tea before having a cleansing shower.

Now I take my steam baths at the club differently. I stay in 10-15 minutes, take a cold shower for as long as I can stand it, wash off in warm water, and then slowly towel off, dress, and pack up.

Heat. Cold. Relax.

 

Well, I finished the 2017 Pacific Populaire👏👏👏

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Well, I finished safely 👏👏👏 This was the first group event I have completed since crashing last fall.

And, I posted the fastest time ever, despite batting a 15-20 kph headwind 50% of the time 👏👏👏

I have completed the Pacific Populaire 4 times now, and proudly display my event pins in my den. The Pacific Populaire is the first local century ride of the season, and I look forward to it each year because it keeps me motivated during the coldest, wettest months of the year in these parts. It is the same route each year, so riders learn where to safely attack, and where its better to hold back. The route is 100 km long with 17 km of climbing with grades averaging  3%, up to a maximum of 9%.

For most of the route, I rode with two other cyclists, each of us taking turns pulling, and averaging 25 kph for the entire course. It seemed faster than that. We were often travelling 30-40 kph, but had to battle a strong headwind half of the time, and because we cycle through the city, we must obey all traffic lights. You wouldn’t believe how much they can slow you down. There are ~ 25 km of the course where we were affected. We seemed to catch all the red lights 😠 So, a 25 kph average is not bad considering.

However, I feel I could have gone harder, and faster. I averaged ~ 80% of my maximum heart rate over the 4 hours, and yet had “gas left in the tank” at the end. I could have worked harder. Also, my cycling comrades pushed a more relaxed pace for 20 km, and then took a shortcut back to the finish with 20 km remaining. They tired.

In general, I was pleased with my result. I prepared differently this season, and it payed off. I felt strong, and confident on the bike, despite not having many hours in the saddle beforehand.

This is what I did differently.

  1. For 3 months, I trained 6 days a week including a modified cardio program, strength training, particularly for the cycling muscles, the legs and core.
  2. Most of the cardio workouts were completed on a Keiser spinning bike. It was too cold, icy, and wet from January – March to train regularly outside on the road bikes.
  3. I used the built in power meter on the Keiser to regulate the workouts instead of my heart rate monitor. It is a more accurate measure of effort.
  4. The cardio workouts were varied, including endurance, lactate threshold, VO2 max, and recovery rides lasting 45-60 minutes.
  5. I had specific FPT and strength goals, and retested at the beginning of each month so that I could revise my training zones (both heart rate and watts) accordingly, gradually increasing my training load.
  6. Leg workouts included leg press, hamstring curls, and leg extension exercises twice weekly. And, I lifted differently than I have in the past, lifting one-legged, and until failure, for 6-8 sets. I have lifted “heavy” for several years but this time I made an effort to balance my leg strength by doing each of the exercised one leg at a time.
  7. Core workouts included crunches, planks, pallof presses, core twists using the cable machine, and leg raises three times a week. Again, I workout “heavy”, and the pallof press was new to me.
  8. Using the Garmin activity tracker, I tracked and recorded my resting heart rate, and sleep quality every day. I had never done this consistently before and was surprised to learn that my RHR on average is in the mid forties, and that I average 9+ hours of sleep a night, including ~ 5 hours of “deep” sleep.
  9. I maintained a detailed daily log tracking every workout. I did this so that I have a guide for the next 3 months, and for next year when I plan to start the process over again.
  10. I tapered for 3 weeks prior to the event, maintaining training intensity while reducing the duration of the workouts – 30% the first week, 20% the following week, and an additional 10% the final week. I had never tapered “gradually” before, and never for 3 weeks. It worked. I felt refreshed, and eager to race by the end of it.
  11. I only managed to complete 5 road rides before the event because of the weather, gradually increasing the distance over a 2 week period, never riding more than 65 km. This was a concern but I learned you can train effectively inside.
  12. I stretched regularly, particularly on rest days. I seldom does this in the warmer months when I’m on the bikes more. I need to change this up. Stretching aids with recovery, particularly when training hard.
  13. I rested 1 day each week, and 2 days at the end of each month. This was difficult. I’m not accustomed to rest days.
  14. I paid better attention to my diet and nutrition, adding more protein, and making certain I ate within 60 minutes of every workout.

This schedule and training technique seemed to agree with me. I improved my strength, VO2 max, flexibility, and endurance.

So, what is next … 🤔

Well, I have things to work on.

For starters, I didn’t lose as much weight as I hoped. A reduction of 5-10 pounds will improve both my speed and climbing ability. Once I am at the cottage, cycling longer distances, and eating my own cooking for a few months, I will shed 10 pounds quickly.

Also, I need to cycle on the roads more frequently. Now that the weather is improving, I can switch from the spinning bike to the road bikes. I plan to ride 250-300 km every week while I’m at the cottage.

And, I had better hydrate better. I left with two full bottles, one with electrolytes, and the other plain water. I returned 4 hours later with only half a bottle gone.  I didn’t seem thirsty at the time but quickly downed 2 beer when I settled in to watch the back nine finish at the Masters. I need to do a better job of this.

Oh yeah. I need to cycle with a team of 3-4 other cyclists prepared to work as hard, and long as me. I’m going to call it Team PedalWORKS 😂

Interested … 🤔

I have registered for another century ride (MEC (Toronto) – Horseshoe Valley Century Ride) on July 15 while I’m at the cottage. That gives me another 3 months to lose the weight, accumulate more road miles, and learn to hydrate better.

I’m also going to experiment with a more polarized training schedule, but let’s leave that for a subsequent post.

Are you planning to complete a century ride soon?

How to roll your IT Bands and Quads … 🤔

I had a leg massage today.

This is the first massage I have had in years. I want to see if massage can aid with recovery. Many professional cyclist swear by them. I have been training hard for the past 3 months, and despite an increased focus on rest days, quality sleep and restorative nutrition, I have noticed increased muscle soreness, particularly in the legs.

Will massage help?

Massage is as integral to a professional cyclist’s daily routine as riding the bike is. What does massage do for a cyclist?  First and foremost massage promotes recovery by flushing the toxins up to the heart so that new oxygenated blood can circulate. If you notice, the massage therapist will always rub the muscles upwards towards the heart. The massage is actually pushing out the muscle’s carbon dioxide rich blood to the lungs and heart which is then filtered to come out as oxygen rich blood that goes back into the muscles.  The body will do this naturally but massage drastically speeds up the process.

It’s too early to tell. I just had the massage today. I’ll have to wait several days to know. But I can say that the massage made me more aware of which muscles need attention. I learned that my IT bands and quads are tight, and sore, probably the result of overuse. Could this be the reason my right knee and hip hurt at times?  It’s possible 🤔

The masseuse suggested I begin using a roller regularly to self-massage these muscles  following every workout, and long ride.

IT Band – The illiotibial band (ITB) is a thick strap of soft tissue that extends down the outside of your leg. It’s notoriously hard to work on using traditional stretching movements but, if allowed to become overly tight, can be at the root of a number of common and painful knee problems. The best method for keeping your ITB functioning optimally is to use a foam roller.

Quads – This muscle group at the front of your thighs consists of four muscles, the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis and sartorius. The rectus femoris especially is responsible for driving your pedals around but, if allowed to become too tight, can have an adverse effect on both posture and biomechanics, resulting in lower back pain and potentially hip and knee problems.

I see people in the gym using rollers, and noticed we have several. Some harder than others. The masseuse suggested using one after every workout when the muscles are warm, gradually building up the number of rolling repetitions over several weeks..

This is not the first time rollers have been recommended to me. My son, who is a personal trainer, even made me one with a re-cycled cardboard tube and inner tube. It’s around somewhere, but I found it too hard, and short to use effectively. The masseuse suggested beginning with a softer version that is 2-3 feet in length.

Knowing these muscles are tight, and that they may be causing discomfort, or possibly injury, I’ll try using a roller for the next month, and then book another massage. I’m not ready to begin to taper for the Pacific Populaire but will treat this rolling regimen as part of the tampering process. I want to be rested, and injury free for the event.

If you have had experience with a roller, I’d like to hear about it.

 

The New Road

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The new road is really not new at all. It’s old. Full of pot holes and cracks like an old, weathered face, the result of many long, cold winters. But part of it has been resurfaced. A facelift.

The new road heads east to a large lake best known for fishing – muskellunge, pike, bass, and perch. And it heads to the only real hill in the immediate area. A short hill – 500-750 meters at most. And relatively steep. Maybe a 10% grade. It’s perfect for fast, repeat climbs.

I head out to the new road during the week. It is remote, rural and has no traffic. I may pass a local farmer in his truck or tractor. Otherwise, it’s just me except for grazing cattle. The road cuts across part of the lake leading to the hill, providing scenic views along the way. This morning I headed to the new road with Chas. It was supposed to be a recovery ride following yesterday’s long, fast ride with Lou.

Chas: “You think I’m slow.”

It started slow, but I was feeling good. Full of energy. And again, there was no wind. Perhaps it was the new surface. I don’t know. It is perfectly smooth, inviting, and impossible to resist. By the time I reached the hill, I was warmed up and attacked it with all my might. By the time I reached the top, my heart was pounding in my chest and I was gasping for breath.

Chas: “You see. I’m fast. And, I can climb.”

This was not a recovery ride.

Lou: “We could have done the ride faster. Climbed that hill without getting your heart rate up so high. Chas is heavy. You have to work harder with him. Take me next time”

I don’t do recovery. I ride hard. Or rest. That’s the new road for me. I may do a longer warmup. I may work harder some days. I rest when I feel like I need it. But I don’t schedule rest days. I let my body tell me when it needs it. I may have an elevated heart rate in the morning. I may simply not feel like cycling. That’s when I rest. That may be once a week. Maybe every two. Sometimes longer.

Chas: “That’s why you have Lou and I. You ride differently with each of us. You go faster with Lou (or at least you think you do), and you ride longer distances with me. I’m more comfortable. Like a comfy chair. Lou is your middle age sports car, and I’m your best friend that doesn’t care if we ride slow or fast.”

Lou: “I like that. A Porsche. No. A Lamborghini. That’s me.”

I vary my rides. Vary the terrain. Cycle in all weather conditions. Hot. Cold. Wet. Wind. It doesn’t matter. Riding every day keeps it interesting. Challenging.

There’s no time for recovery. That’s what sleep and proper nutrition are for. I’ve learned in recent years how important they are, and that if managed carefully they dramatically reduce recovery time enabling athletes to trainer harder, and more frequently.

I’m no athlete but I would rather cycle than not. You see, I am like the new road. Parts of me are old, and can’t be refitted. And parts have been resurfaced. My technique has improved – in the wind, climbing, descending, shifting, and on the drops – and I pay more attention to nutrition. I eat to recover and fuel my rides.

Chas: “I’m like the new road too. My body is old but I have new parts. I’ve been resurfaced.”

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Bolsover | What I have learned

“I went to the [cottage] because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Henry David Thoreau

I was first introduced to Henry David Thoreau at university and, readily identified with some of his thinking.  I liked solitude.  I enjoyed walking in the woods.  And, I wanted to pursue a simpler life.

As an adult, I have very often visited the cottage alone.  I do it deliberately.  I enjoy the peace and quiet.  The solitude.  And, I enjoy listening to my inner voice, a voice that too often is suppressed when busy with making a living, providing for a family and listening to others.  Time alone makes space for this voice.  The cottage has been my cabin in the woods.

The cottage has always been a place for me to regain focus.  A place to open new doors.  It is where I retreated to plan, repair a broken heart, study for final exams and examine new ideas.

This visit, like many before, has been part holiday, part work.  I came this time with two objectives.  First, and perhaps foremost, I wanted to examine the possibility of selling the property.  I have been thinking about this for 10 years and have teetered back and forth, not making a decision one way or the other.  I wanted to finally decide so I could make plan.  Move forward.  Second, I wanted to cycle daily without the usual daily distractions, increase the work load and focus on technique.  I wanted to train for a fall audax.

I live simply at the cottage.  I eat simply, mostly local, fresh vegetables.  Read a lot.  Cycle a lot.  Repair whatever is in need of repair.  Clean a lot.  The floors.  The windows.  The linen.  I sleep a lot.  And, I watch the sun rise and set on the water, sharing breakfast and dinner with this ever changing specatacle.  It is mesmerizing.

This trip is almost over.  I have a few more rides to look forward to but am beginning the fourth, and last, week at the cottage.  It is time to reflect on what I have learned.

  1. Although sometimes inconvenient, travelling with a bike is rewarding.  The bike has enabled me to explore routes I may not otherwise see and travel at a pace that I not only see but hear, feel and smell the experience and, at a pace I can meet and talk with others along the road.  Cycling engages all of my senses and I experience the surroundings differently than by car, foot or boat.  I know more about the Bolsover area today than I ever have.
  2. Cycling into a headwind is not easy.  I expected to work on speed given the relatively flat terrain.  Not so.  I had wind most days.  I learned that by gearing down, dropping down on the bars and maintaining a high cadence I cut through the wind without becoming excessively tired or discouraged.
  3. The Roberts steel frame is ideally suited to the rougher, country roads.  Steel is more forgiving and the longer wheelbase absorbs bumps better.
  4. It is important to travel with a complete kit, to expect a variety of weather conditions.  Heat.  Cold.  Sun.  Cloud.  Wind.  Rain.  I came prepared with a wind/rain jacket, bibs, jerseys, leg & arm warmers, booties, wool socks and sunglasses with interchangeable lens (dark brown, yellow and rose).  I needed all of it.
  5. I thrive on a simpler diet.  Fresh, local vegetables and fruit.  No sweats.  Very little dairy.  Very little bread.  No meat.  I enjoy cooking and carefully planned meals – lentil soup, vegetable salads, breakfast cereal, pasta, veggie burgers, frittatas …  It is a calorie reduced diet but I never felt cravings.  I didn’t snack during the day or evening.  I ate 3 balanced, nutritious meals a day, slept well and had a lot of energy for cycling.
  6. Solo training builds both physical and mental strength.  I got much stronger because of the wind.  I had no opportunity to draft and relax.  My pedalling technique improved, became more efficient.  And, the only reason I missed a workout was because of rain.  Rainy days became rest days.  There were a few more than I would have liked but I never avoided a ride because I was tired or unenthusiastic.
  7. I may be late to the party but I learned that current technology enables me to access the internet wherever I have a cell phone signal.  This allowed me to work and post on this blog without having to leave the cottage.  This has opened the door for many other possibilities, many other trips I have considered.
  8. And, perhaps most importantly, after spending almost a month alone at the cottage, I realize I can never sell it.  It is as much a part of me as the Roberts bike and, because of my lengthy history here, can never be replaced.

These findings are not earth shattering.  They are not new or, profound.  But they will shape the days ahead.

I will welcome headwinds.  I am comfortable in a more aerodynamic position for long periods of time.  I will keep my weight down knowing that a reduced-calorie, natural, meatless diet actually makes me feel better and more energetic. I will travel more with my bike knowing that I will see more, enjoy myself more, easily stay in touch with my family, post to this blog and, actually work effectively.  And, I will return to the cottage.  Next time for an extended period of time.  The summer months.  Time to have family visits.  Time to get on the water more.  And, time to finish the utility room.

And, a lot of time to enjoy my early-morning rides.

“An early-morning [cycle] is a blessing for the whole day.” – Henry David Thoreau

Bolsover | Day # 9

The weather has changed.  At least, for a day.  It is wet, windy and cold.  I chose not to ride.  Instead, I stayed inside and painted.  There were a few small water stains on the ceiling (there is a roofer here now replacing flashing that was damaged with ice this past winter) and, I prepared the beams in the main room and kitchen area for painting.  I plan to highlight them with a fresh coat of semi-gloss white paint.

I was up and down a ladder all day.  I couldn’t help but think it was a leg workout, not unlike what a do in the gym to strengthen the quads and buttocks.  I didn’t think much about cycling.  No.  I was thinking about eating, about the importance of nutrition to athletic performance and, about what I was going to prepare for dinner.

When I am alone, meals become a major part of the day.  I enjoy planning, shopping and preparing hearty meals for myself.  This past week I have eaten a lot of nutritious salads, a vegetable laden frittata, lentil soup, an embellish veggie burger and tonight, I am preparing a wrap.  Not an ordinary wrap.  No.  A wrap modelled after one I enjoy at one of my favourite cafes back home, JJ Bean.  They call it a ranchero.  It includes egg, cooked yams, beans, vegetables, brown rice and hot spices.  I don’t have all the ingredients but I have enough to concoct a satisfactory substitute.

I’ve learned that to train effectively I need to recover adequately.  Otherwise, I get tired, run down and occasionally, sick.  For me, that means well balanced meals.  Meals prepared with natural ingredients, fresh vegetables and fruits.  My meals are not quick to prepare.  Thats a large part of the pleasure, particularly when I am alone.  At this time of the year, there is a large variety of fresh, local produce – sweet corn, field tomatoes, red potatoes, blue berries, strawberries, english cucumber, cauliflower, broccoli …  I stock up every few days so that I have lots to chose from every day.  I don’t like to decide what I am going to prepare until the day of.  It is part of the fun to invent something from the refrigerator and not strictly follow a recipe.

I usually eat in front of a fire with a good book in hand.  Dinner is not quick to prepare and, it is not quick to eat.  I linger for an hour, or more, savouring the food, enjoying the warmth of the fire all the while engrossed in a good story.

Recovery also means adequate rest.  Sometimes, when you are too busy, it is hard getting enough sleep.  It is hard getting to bed early enough and there is no opportunity to sleep as long as you might like or need.  We get busy.  Busy with work, family and friends.  And, good sleep becomes a challenge.  That is not a problem here.  There is no work, family or friends.  There is no TV.  And, there is a really good bed.  Better than the one at home.  I go to bed early, read for an hour or more and then fall into a long, restful sleep awaking when I am ready.  Once I adjusted to the local time, I have been sleeping 8-10 hours.  That is a lot for me.  I awake refreshed, rested and ready to ride.

Sun and warmer weather is forecast for tomorrow.

Bolsover | Day # 7

This is a rest day.  A day off the bike.  I don’t feel it is necessary but I know better.  I know that rest and recovery are an integral part of training.  And, at my age, I notice it takes longer to fully recover.  So today is a rest day.  A day to hydrate, eat well and sleep more than usual.

I decided to go to town.  Town is a euphemism for a bigger place, a place with stores, services and, a lot of people.  Town is where you go when you need something not carried in the local markets or at the crossroads.  It is place to find a Home Depot, a Wal-Mart and a bicycle shop.  I needed building supplies to repair a roof leak, vacuum pack bags (mice destroyed the ones I have used for years) and, chain degreaser.

Since I was not riding, I decided to make a day of it.  After shopping, I had lunch in a favourite cafe that I have frequented for years and then took a circuitous route back exploring a new cycling route.

Town is not far.  Only a 35-45 minute drive.  But it is far removed from the cottage.  Not somewhere you go often.  Maybe once a week for groceries, supplies and lunch, maybe dinner.   There is a different pace in town.  Faster.  People are busy.  Hurried.  And, there are street people.  People on the street with nothing to do.  Mostly young. Unemployed, I suspect.

Today, I will clean the bike.  Wash it down.  Clean and lube the chain.  Adjust the derailleurs and brakes, if necessary.  And, inspect the tires carefully for imbedded stones or other items and, check the tire pressure.

On these roads, I inflate the tires less than on smoother roads and am experimenting with the “15% drop” method; a method that takes the rider’s and bike’s weight into consideration; a method that allows for a 15% drop of the tire from rim to road when loaded; a method that takes into consideration that the rear wheel assumes most of the weight so needs to be inflated higher than the front; and, a method that optimizes performance.

There are on-line calculators to assist with the “15% drop” method.  I have used them.  They are helpful and, some are more accurate than others.  I am rolling the Michelin Dynamic Sport 700 x 25C tire.  The recommended pressure for them is 6-7 Bars or 73 – 102 PSI.  I used to inflate both the front and rear tires to the maximum.  Not now, particularly on these roads.  I inflate the rear to 85-90 PSI and the front to 75-80 PSI or 10-15% less than the rear.  This method attempts to have both the wheels with the same 15% drop when loaded.

I have not measured the drop.  I am not certain if I can.  I go by looks.  I look at both the front and rear to make certain the drop is approximately the same.  And, I am attuned to the feel of the ride.  How the bike corners.  How quickly it accelerates and stops.  I can tell if the tires are  too hard or too soft.

The weather has turned, typical for the fall.  It is cooler and overcast today and rain is forecast for the next 2 days.  Hopefully it will not be heavy and there will be breaks so that I can ride when it is dry.  I don’t really mind light rain but I hate it when the bike gets wet.