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Missed time on the bike? Your fitness is only 40 push-ups away.
By Selene Yeager
Whether it's because you're waylaid by illness, a Disney vacation or a bout of midseason ennui, sometimes your bike ends up sitting in the rack rather than racking up miles. Still, no matter how fast your fitness slips away, it's never too late to get it back.
"Sometimes it's actually the best thing that can happen, because nobody takes the rest periods that they're supposed to," says retired ultra-endurance champion Michelle Grainger, elite USA Cycling coach at athleticexcellence.net and trainer with Ironworks Gym, in Boulder, Colorado. Do this for a fast comeback.
CHECK THE TIME Take three or four days off, and you may actually come back faster and stronger. After a week or more, however, you lose about 2 to 4 percent of your fitness per week. If you know in advance you're in for a layoff, do short but intense efforts to forestall losses--a half hour of exercise is all it takes to maintain fitness and muscle memory on the bike. CUT TO THE CORE Don't burn precious time in the gym. Just hit your core muscles; they'll help you get back faster without fatigue. Here are four moves Grainger recommends.
Plank: Lie facedown on the floor and use your forearms--elbows directly beneath yourshoulders--and toes to prop up your body so it forms a straight line. Hold 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat.
Push-up: Assume the plank position, with hands on floor and arms extended. Bend your elbows, lowering your torso until your shoulders are in line with your elbows. Push up. Do two sets of 10 to 20.
Glute bridge: Lie on your back, heels on an exercise ball, arms by your sides. Contract your glutes and raise your hips off the floor so your body forms a diagonal line. Bend your knees and roll the ball onto your feet and toward your butt. Return to start. Do two sets of 10 to 20.
T-stand: Stand with arms out to the sides, shoulder height. Extend your right leg behind you and balance on your left leg. Hinge forward from the waist until your body is parallel to the floor and in a straight line from head to heel. Return to start. Alternate for a set of 10 on each side. Do two sets.
BUILD YOUR WAY BACK If you've been away for a week or more, start from where you left off and do an abbreviated buildup, shortening the schedule but hitting the essentials, says Grainger.
"Speed and power are the first things lost, in that order," she says. So intensity is what matters most for a quick comeback. Do the following drills on a 4 to 5 percent hill to increase power fast. Rebuild your endurance one day a week with a group ride or a three-hour ride with some lactate-threshold (LT) efforts and a few 10-to 30-second maximum-effort sprints thrown in.
The four weeks back after a one-to two-week layoff during peak race season would look like this:
WEEK 1 Two endurance days at close to LT; two intense days with 30- second hard efforts with equal recovery for 20 to 30 minutes.
WEEK 2 Two high-intensity days with 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off; one long effort or group ride; one easier endurance day.
WEEK 3 One long endurance day; one group ride; two high-intensity/hard days with race-pace efforts.
WEEK 4 Taper by reducing the volume by about half. Toss in some hard efforts on your rides. You're ready to race again.
SELENE YEAGER, a USA Cycling certified coach and author of Every Woman's Guide to Cycling is fit and fast, and wants you to be the same.