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kathryn cumming

Facing the Best: Swiss World Cup Race Report

Facing the Best: Swiss World Cup Race Report

Last week, Jalapeno Cycling’s owner, Kathryn Cumming, was invited to compete in the World Cup in Bern, which is a special treat as only a limited amount of racers from each country are allowed to participate. The culture, environment, and level of competition are far different than a local race, or even a standard American UCI race. Today, Kate writes about what it was like to head to Europe to race against the best in the world.

words by Kathryn Cumming, title photo by Elisa Haumesser.

Andrew and I were excited to travel to Switzerland. The opportunity to race a World Cup doesn’t come around often, but the location of this event also played a big role in our decision to attend. We try to take advantage of exploring everywhere we go, and a quick Google search of the Old World city of Bern had us convinced that this was going to be an awesome trip!

I must admit that I was intimidated looking at the start list. I had only watched several of the top contenders on TV, and I still remember spectating in awe as Marianne Vos won the World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky. Vos is a legend and being on course with her was going to be special but brutal.

There are plenty of races at home where I still get my butt kicked, but the best in the world were converging on Bern, Switzerland, and it was going to be worthwhile to check it out. Fields that deep have a way of pushing me to my limit. The energy that accompanies these deep athletic efforts carries well beyond the event itself, and I find myself striving to be better. The intensity and drive is contagious.

My experience racing World Cups is limited, but the feel of racing a European World Cup is very different than racing an American World Cup. Unless you are at the front of the field (which I am not in a World Cup), American World Cups feel more like a local race. You know who you are battling and it’s mostly known factors. Often the races play out as expected. On the other hand, in European World Cups, there is an unknown to many of the competitors, and it forces you to be on your toes for the entire race.

It was helpful to see some familiar faces during the pre-ride, and Katie Compton’s husband, Mark Legg, was kind enough to offer support and advice for the American women throughout the weekend.

Our first success of race day came when Andrew and I scored a great parking spot. Parking in the UCI lots in Europe can be an ordeal, as the spaces are tight and limited and everything is being guarded by European mechanics and team managers. Most areas are covered in a haze of cigarette smoke. Each team setup even has ashtrays for the support staff; it seems a little counterproductive for an athletic-focused event.

Much like the World Cup in France and those in America, the environment around the race was upbeat, with smiling faces and cheering families. The course was like one big playground, with drainage ditches, bunny hopping, and ramps. Europe has been dry all fall, and the gravel and grass seemed more like dust in many areas. It was going to be FAST!

After Andrew and I watched the Junior Men’s start, the rest of my day became consumed with self talk. The start was so fast I stood in awe. This race was going to be as fast as they come and I needed to remind myself that I deserved to be there.

During my warm-up on the trainer, I played through some of my racing successes in my head, a necessary positive reinforcement that I could handle the speed.

After receiving my call-up, I went full Euro-mode and proceeded to cram my front wheel between the riders in front of me on the starting grid. While we remain in orderly lines in the US, in Europe you fight for every millimeter before the light even turns green. Our eight-row starting grid was probably condensed to four rows. My handlebars were between the hips of the riders in front of me, elbows out, ready to go.

About thirty seconds or so before the start, they cut the music and started playing a heart beat loudly over the speakers. Nothing like growing the tension. You could visibly see the shoulders of riders tighten up. I kept breathing trying to relax. The start was long and there would be plenty of time to move up.

The light turned green and I found my pedal right away. It finally felt like all of my top-end power work paid off as I snuck through every opening I could find. I had to take advantage of gaps or else they would close instantly. We turned on to the gravel with speed, and rocks were flying everywhere. I kept sprinting to move up every time I saw an opening. Next we hopped a curb onto a grass straightaway filled with rock gardens. It was a pure drag race to maintain power through the bumps and avoid the booby traps waiting to claim a tire or wheel.

We hopped the drainage ditch and I heard a handful of clangs, several carbon wheels didn’t survive. We then hit the dusty off-camber climbs. They were steep and slippery and I had dismounted and was running with traffic before I even hit the first of the three climbs. In an effort to gain spots, I was running downhill as fast as possible, desperately grabbing the wooden stake at the bottom with my left hand to slow myself in time.

Racers were battling for every corner like it was the last on course. A half lap in my mouth already had the metallic taste of blood. This was going to be crazy.

The pace did not slow, and at one point I remember thinking “How is everyone riding that section so fast,” then I had to remember that I was racing in a European World Cup. There was nowhere to hide your weaknesses.

For the first time ever in a race, I desperately drafted through the start/finish chute. I frantically chased down the wheels in front of me when I hit the pavement, thinking this was my only chance at survival. As soon as I caught the wheels, I had to tell myself “BREATHE, BREATHE.”

I felt great on the power sections and through the corners, but chasing on after the bunny hopping and loose, rutted corners eventually took its toll. I started moving backwards in the field. The tank was pretty empty and all of the downhill running and sprinting were making my quads feel like they could seize up at any minute.

For the first time in probably five years, I rolled through the finish feeling proud that I made the lead lap. The race truly made every crit and road race I have done in the last several years feel slow, and with Marianne Vos leading the charge, I was excited to have kept the time gap from her to me somewhat reasonable.

I knew I would not be going to Europe to score some incredible result. This opportunity was all about racing against the best in the world. Although, I must admit, with a bit more training of my weaknesses, I would love another crack at that field.

It was helpful to have complete confidence in my bike. While the course may have looked like a road race, there were lots of rough, bumpy sections, several loose and dusty off cambers, ruts, and steep climbs. Furthermore, we were hitting course obstacles at faster speeds than I thought possible. The risk factor was high. My Sage PDXCX held its line through everything and then responded to each acceleration. It played mountain bike, road bike, and cross bike without missing a beat. While I was exhausted after the race, my body did not feel thrashed from the bike, just from the intensity.

Thinking about the race still gets me excited. Being surrounded by the top level of competition and having to fight for every spot was so much fun!

Cyclocross racing is short and I would not have it any other way. While it can be enjoyable to see how long and far your body can go, my preference is to be fully consumed by the event. Every pedal stroke, every line, every heartbeat, and every breath seem to matter during a cyclocross race, and I find myself wanting more of this each week.

I am blown away by the support I received from our community, both in Bern and from afar. Bikes bring people together in a special way, and the text messages, emails, and words of encouragement really hit home.

Best Cyclocross Venue in the United States: 2018 Charm City Cyclocross Race Report

Best Cyclocross Venue in the United States: 2018 Charm City Cyclocross Race Report

Charm City Cyclocross is one of Jalapeno Cycling’s perennial favorite races on the cyclocross calendar. Not only is the course tough, but it continues to get more interesting with each year. Charm City holds plenty of memories, too. It was the final 3/4 race Kate competed in before moving up to the UCI fields, and two years later, it was the first time she landed on an UCI podium in the United States. Today, she reflects on what makes the race special, looking back at her performance from last weekend.

by Kathryn Cumming

Charm City Cyclocross is a race weekend like no other. I cherish every aspect of the weekend, from the punishing but fun racing, to the competitive fields, to the social and uplifting atmosphere.

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This year my parents made the trip, only adding to the enjoyment. They’ve been selflessly supporting my passions since I was a kid, and they make the experience better in every possible way, assisting with coffee runs, dog walking, pit support, and cheering.

The Charm City event continues to impress me every year. They have grown into one of the biggest race weekends in the country while still maintaining a grassroots feel. Course features have become more demanding but are still safe and doable for the entry level fields, and the promoters continue to give prime tent space to club row rather than focusing solely on the pro teams. As a faux pro team, we fully support this move!

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Many racers, myself included, were scrambling to make sure the mud tires were ready when we arrived to discover a waterlogged course this year. Pre-riding was interesting because I wanted to inspect the sloppy course sections, but the limited number of hoses and power washers meant it was difficult to get my bikes cleaned up. I resorted to one full pre-ride, several partial laps on the dry sections of the course, and a significant amount of time spectating to determine the best line choices. I hate being rushed on race day, and knowing my bikes were washed well before my race puts me in a better mental state.

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With a star studded front row featuring the most recent World Cup winner, Kaitlin Keough Saturday was full gas from the start. I actually made good use of my call-up, and thanks to some practice sessions with Andrew, I was able to slot into the top ten or fifteen right away. From there I used the running sections and long climbs to move solidly into the top ten.

I must admit I was surprised when someone ran the stairs with me and then accelerated past me on the climb, leaving me in eighth place. I take pride in making passes on the run-ups. Then I realized it was Georgia Gould (two time mountain bike Olympian) and it all made more sense. I’m targeting for her next time, though.

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Ninth place was charging hard behind me. She had me on the limit as we hit the final mud pit of the second to last lap and I slid out and found myself laying on the ground. I was able to recover before she could bridge and went all in on the final climb to solidify the gap with a half lap to go. Erring on the safe side, I dismounted and ran the mud right before the finishing chute to ensure I didn’t crash myself out of eighth.

This was not my best race as far as formal result, but based on the competition and the way I felt on course, this race felt like one of my best ever.

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Sunday was a different story. I have struggled in the heat and humidity this year, and day two of Charm City was no different. My start was not great, but I was able to make up some places on the long grass climb that was part of the prologue. From there, I settled in until the scaffolding stairs when I made a big move to pass four women. I knew this section was a strength, but after I jumped the group, my legs blew up.

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This is the same reaction I had in Roanoke when I pulled out of the race on day two. In the heat, my body just couldn’t recover from a big effort like it normally can. My legs were powerless like they were in Roanoke, but unlike Roanoke, I was not experiencing symptoms of heat-related illness. Knowing I was not risking my health or safety, I stuck it out to roll in for sixteenth, bleeding places until the very end.

As awesome as it is to have a great race like I did on Saturday, it’s uplifting to feel the support from the cyclocross community when the race doesn’t go as planned. The hugs, high fives, and watermelon slices meant more on day two. The cyclocross community shows respect for everyone who races, and it’s one of the many components that keeps me coming back every week.

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Three Big Tips for Racing Cyclocross in the Mud: Whirlybird Race Report

Three Big Tips for Racing Cyclocross in the Mud: Whirlybird Race Report

This weekend at Whirlybird, Kathryn Cumming grabbed a first place in the Women’s Elite Field! It was a power-sucking course, forcing riders to churn at low cadences, as you can see from Kate’s strava file from the race. This week, Kate offers three major tips on how she was able to approach the course differently from the standard dry and grassy race day. (Title photo taken by Lauren Twombly).

by Kathryn Cumming

Whirlybird was awesome! After suffering in the heat in Virginia over Labor Day weekend, I was pleasantly surprised to see rain and cooler temperatures in the forecast for Sunday’s race in PA.

In the past, this race has played out like a grass crit, complete with drafting and tactics. While I completely respect this style of racing, I was excited to experience a race with heavier conditions so early in the season.

By the time my field was going off, almost everything between the tape was wet mud. We would be slogging through every stretch of the course and would even be pedaling the downhills, trying to maintain traction and forward momentum anyway we could.

A long straightaway at the start gave me time to find my pedal and get the holeshot. I was overtaken by two riders after the first corner and followed them downhill. As we flipped a 180 and started trudging up a muddy climb, we all began picking our own lines while climbing as quickly as possible.

After a few corners and climbs, gaps began to open and I drilled a long straightaway heading towards the pits. This gave me enough room to focus on riding the slick sections smoothly and cleanly and then apply big power when I could to gain more time.

It was fun to catch up with the local race scene and to grab my first win of the season!

There were three deciding factors for me in the race:

1. Seated Power: Being able to maintain power while pedaling seated at a low cadence was essential. If you needed to stand to generate power or your saddle height was too high and you could not get enough leverage on your cranks, you would lose traction with your rear wheel and forward momentum would be lost. This type of pedaling is something we train ourselves and with cyclocross coaching clients to prepare for heavy, slick conditions.

2. Proper line choice: Cyclocross courses are usually pretty wide and choosing where to ride between (or pushing against) the course tape saved a lot of time and energy. The center of the course and the apex of each corner was a muddy mess. My entire focus was on looking for green anywhere I could. Frequently this meant pushing against the course tape with my handlebars, elbows, and hips to expand the course and get some extra traction. It also meant taking less conventional lines through the corners to avoid the slop. The goal was to find green wherever I could: grass = traction.

3. Riding vs running obstacles: I decided to run the log and off-camber obstacles. Both of these obstacles were rideable, however, I felt riding would be slower and less consistent. The approach to the log was after a really slick section of mud in the woods. You had to clear several roots en route to the log and your legs would be heavy when you went to hop. Furthermore, the easiest point to hop the log was on the right, but the ideal entrance and exit were on the left. While the dismount may have cost me a second, I am confident I made up more time by approaching the log with speed and exiting along the ideal line which had the most traction. Similarly, the off camber was slick and sketchy. A dismount at the top of the downhill guaranteed you would clear the section smoothly. In my field, this is where second place was decided, with one woman choosing to ride and falling while the other ran cleanly through the section and opened up a gap.

These were three great tools to have for a constant-power muddy race, but they are not universal for all cyclocross races (which is a part of what makes this sport so fun). Looking ahead at the weather, the Nittany Lion UCI weekend is looking like a return to a hot, fast course!

There will be loads of tips, power files, and cyclocross advice for both sides of the race tape to come. If you’re interested in being the first in the know, be sure to sign up for Jalapeno Cycling's weekly newsletter!

Sage Titanium Bicycles Gets Spicy for 2018, Sponsors Jalapeno Cycling's Kathryn Cumming

Sage Titanium Bicycles Gets Spicy for 2018, Sponsors Jalapeno Cycling's Kathryn Cumming

Jalapeno Cycling's Co-Founder and Team Captain, Kathryn Cumming, has been busy preparing for her cyclocross season and getting the new development team ready for the fun that awaits them. One of the worst kept secrets around the shop for the 2018-19 season is that she will be riding the smooth but stiff titanium cyclocross rigs from Sage Titanium. She is looking forward to putting her leg over the Sage and getting her season underway!

by Kathryn Cumming

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If you’ve spent any time at the shop or have gone riding with me, you know I haven’t kept this a secret (I hate surprises), but it’s official: I’m going to be riding Sage Titanium bikes this cross season!

I can’t believe I get to race these dream bikes! The Sage PDXCX is the best cross bike I have ever ridden. The ride is smooth but snappy. The bike eats up bumps and tracks well through rough terrain, while still accelerating quickly. The high bottom bracket allows for constant hammering of the pedals over cyclocross specific terrain and the aggressive geometry plays nicely into attacking out of the saddle. Not to mention, the frames look fierce and are light and durable (remember, I break a lot of stuff).

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I am very cautious when partnering with sponsors. Product support makes life easier and it’s always cool to announce partners, but I will only partner with brands I completely believe in; the products have to be something we can stand behind and recommend at Jalapeno Cycling and our brand values must be aligned. Between the awesome bikes and great people who are committed to cyclocross, it was an easy decision to partner with Sage!

My 2018-19 cyclocross season will include a mix of UCI races, local races, and hopefully a World Cup or two. As a shop owner and coach, the US World Cups are difficult to attend; they occur during a busy time at Jalapeno Cycling and the locations are too far for a day trip. Instead, we will be focusing on East Coast UCI races and jumping in the local scene on off weekends. The grassroots scene around the mid-Atlantic is booming. We plan to take part in this and hopefully bring some of that energy to our local New Jersey series too.

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Once the cold weather leads to quieter weekends around the shop, if the opportunity arises, I will definitely get to the start line of a European World Cup.

My season will kickoff on September 1-2 in Roanoke, VA for the Deschutes Brewery’s GO Cross for the UCI C2 events. The Labor Day holiday makes it the perfect weekend for us to take a trip.

As lame as it sounds, my goal is just to have a great time out on the course! Racing cross is a blast, and I think we all race better when we are enjoying ourselves. Cross is an outlet, and while I love a good result (who doesn’t), I never want racing to become a source of stress or worry in my life. That’s not to say I haven’t been training hard. The year has been full of intervals, long days in the saddle, skills, and fun on the trails. 

I’m getting excited just writing this - let’s get the season going!

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Looking to follow Jalapeno Cycling's adventures in the upcoming season? You can sign up for our newsletter here. If you are drooling over Kate's new race machine, be sure to check out the full titanium collection over at Sage Titanium!

Training for Cyclocross in Late May?

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Training for Cyclocross in Late May?

May must be my favorite month of the year for chill riding. Spring flirts with summer, usually providing the best days for long base-mile riding in the New York City area as long as you can avoid the pollen. By this point every year, Kate and I already have got the spring race jitters out after throwing ourselves in a few crits, mountain bike races, and track days, and our competitive nature gives way to a desire just to go wandering across New Jersey on our bikes.

After all, Cyclocross Nationals have been over for four months, and our first official cyclocross race (which is usually the Qiansen Trophy Races in China) is almost four months down the road. So in off-season training focus, this is kind of the eye of the hurricane, where everything seems calm although we know there’s work to be done ahead.

For racers who enjoy dabbling into every discipline equally, May and June offer so many races every weekend that thinking about cyclocross would be considered just a distraction. However, for those of us who center our competitive year around autumn’s mud, late May can be a time where we feel like our purpose is adrift. This can be a great thing. Most of us need some decompression time from constant goal pushing. Also, training deep with cyclocross-specific high-intensity intervals at this time of year will mean that you might have a great September, but you may burn out by mid-October.

Conversely, when we spend too long away from being able to measure ourselves, we can start to feel like the cyclocross season is approaching way too quickly, catching us off-guard.

So if we shouldn’t be pushing ourselves with a bunch of VO2 Max intervals, but we also shouldn’t be out exclusively on coffee shop rides, what should we be doing in late-May? Here’s a few suggestions that we usually consider:

1) “Measure your ’cross excitement and plan accordingly.”

Now is the perfect time to gauge your motivation level for the season ahead. Sites like cxmagazine.com are using this time to analyze the cyclocross calendar both in the United States and abroad. Are you peering at future races with excitement, or are you feeling grumpy that people are even talking about cyclocross this early?

If you’re not busy racing in another discipline, May is the perfect month for introspection. If the stoke level is high, now is the time to start thinking about creating a training schedule, or maybe even thinking about organizing a Summer practice session with your friends.

If you are normally excited, but now feel a little down about cyclocross, now is the perfect time to think about why. Did last season get you down? Try and pry as to why this might be. If constantly taking cyclocross too seriously all season beat you up, maybe you should highlight next year with a costume Halloween race, or (gasp) try a few singlespeed races with an inexpensive converted bike.

Or perhaps, are you bummed because your previous high expectations fell flat? Consider why. Every coach worth their salt will tell you to “train to your weaknesses and race to your strengths,” but the key here is being honest with yourself about what your weaknesses are. Is your sloppy cornering bogging you down? Do you lose 10-20 places in the first lap? Do you struggle pushing a strong gear through thick grass? Does your lower back or shoulders limit you during the last half of the race?

A lot of the time, especially during the season, these are questions we try to avoid (or at least relegate to our subconscious). Nothing hurts the motivation like admitting how much you suck at a particular skill. But in late May, being this honest with yourself can be quite a liberating feeling, particularly if you can spend the next three months figuring out a way to mediate this weakness. In fact, this is usually the motivational spark that helps us look forward to our next season.

2. “Experiment with parts and positions.”

Several years ago, I got a professional fit and a new saddle in late August, only a week before my first race. The position was amazing, the advice was spot on, and the saddle the fitter recommended to me was ideal (at least when my hands were on the hoods). The only problem came with the first month of racing, where my handling felt like it slid backwards by several years.

A good bike fit is less like a magic wand and more like a nutritious diet. A great fit won’t instantly make you a great cyclocross rider, but it will help your performance and reduce your injuries in the long run. It’s something you have to adapt to. I have a nasty tendency to always race on the rivet of a saddle, and while the new saddle and fit encouraged me to a better position, I had spent the last four years racing and riding in the former position. Both in terms of muscle memory and handling, I felt like I had to relearn way too much too fast.

May or early June (or even up to July) would have been infinitely better times to test out better positions and contact points because your body has time to adjust during the heavy duty training leading up to the season.

But experimentation isn’t just limited to fit. Now is also a great time to play around with other components. Right now, Kate and I are playing around with different pedals after using the same brand for four years. We were lucky enough to borrow a few demo sets of a model we’re interested in, and we want to see what we would have to deal with in terms of clearance, spring tension, and adjustability. (On a side note, May and June in the Mid-Atlantic and New England are perfect months for testing parts in the mud).

If you’re surrounded by a friendly ’cross community, now might be a time to see if a buddy will lend you their tubeless wheels for a weekend, or there is a shop nearby that has a great demo saddle program, for a few examples.

August and early-September are great for perfecting your personal limits around corners, but May and June are better for feeling how new technology feels beneath you. Are disc brakes worth the investment in a new bike? Does a 1x drivetrain live up to the hype? Does the new AX suspension fork change the game of cyclocross? While there are plenty of great review sites to give you some direction, these questions are more personal than some bike manufacturers would have you believe, both from the view of your skill level and your wallet.

One word of warning relating to the last topic: While a new upgrade might be a fun treat, don’t treat it like it will be the savior of your next season. A set of team edition tires won’t suddenly make you ride like Wout Van Aert. Even if you flatted your clincher tubes in every race last year and are upgrading to tubular or tubeless wheels, you should still heavily invest in training your weaknesses, which in this case might be line selection, body posture, or general bike handling that is causing all of these mechanicals.

In my experience, those who treat part upgrades as the sole motivational tools for their upcoming season often get disappointed and super demotivated early in the season once they discover that they are stuck in a similar rut as the previous year.*

This time of experimenting doesn’t even have to do with taking out your wallet for professional fits or components. Maybe now is the time to simply go out one weekend with a pump (and, if you have clincher tires, a few spare tubes) and test out drastically different tire pressures. Now is a much better time to see what different pressures mean for your riding to give you a little bit of free speed for the season ahead.

* (I really hate how inappropriate it would be to make a cyclocross joke about “committing to the rut you’re stuck in” here.)

3) “Creating a routine.”

Now is usually the time where Kate and I start transforming our loose structured base miles to a more carved out routine, even if the overall intensity level remains light.

Around mid-June, we start getting really heavy into strength training for the cyclocross season, which means hitting the free weights and getting on the trainers for some single leg drills. Breaking into these interval sessions from nothing can not only be a shock to the body, but also the schedule.

Setting aside a few times per week now, even if it is only to ride in the lower zones, is a good way to test your schedule for potential flaws before the harder workouts start, as well as figure out which days are best for the family/friend/workplace schedule.

Some of the best exercises during these times don’t necessarily have to be on the bike. After all, cyclists tend to ignore a few well-balanced exercises during the season, especially stretching and core workouts. Now might be the best time to force these into your schedule, which won’t just help you build a routine, but will also help you create a more powerful pedal stroke and prevent possible injuries. (Be sure to check out our article on glute exercises for cyclists, as well as proper deadlift and ab rollout exercises for some off-the bike ideas.)

Then again, if this is your first season, or you’re simply just dying to get back on the cyclocross bike, you won’t find much of an argument from us! Sometimes, just getting a leg over your CX rig and going through the motions of dismounting, remounting, and cornering, is the best medicine for the late spring blues. You may even consider coming to one of our cyclocross practices, which will begin this Sunday, May 28th at 7:00 am at Liberty State Park, in full view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Looking to keep up to date with the latest blogs and news from Jalapeno Cycling? Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get our cycling tips delivered right to your mailbox. Also, if you are looking to start a cycling routine, and are close to the Bloomfield, New Jersey area, consider signing up for one of our cycling classes with more info to be found here.

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Preventing Aches and Pains with Strength Training

Preventing Aches and Pains with Strength Training

When coaches talk about strength training for athletic activities such as cycling, often people think of building muscle mass. If done properly, strength training has the ability to create a stronger pedal stroke and running stride and prevent pain from endurance sports without building mass. In today's coaching blog, Kate Cumming examines a few workouts that get people's seasons started off right, but are also designed to combat the stresses of sitting all day at work and on a saddle.

by Kate Cumming

Too often, riders talk to us about aches and pains related to riding and racing. Whether it’s nagging knee pain, a lower back that gives out when the going gets tough, or a stiff neck that tightens up with each bump, symptoms of muscle imbalances really flare up by the last few races of the season.

I have been involved in several conversations lately where athletes indicated they felt one-dimensional and weak at the end of their race season. These feelings are not surprising as the repetitive nature of endurance sports will lead to muscle imbalances over time. While a bike fit or equipment change may help to reduce these problems, returning exclusively to the repetitive movement that created these imbalances will lead to the same aches and limitations over time.

As your early season training resumes, strength training should become an integral part of your weekly plan. With more sport-specific focus on endurance training, you will be able to incorporate strength training without feeling like you cannot hit the top end power or pace numbers you would be fighting for during race season.

Although there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to strength training, the ideal starting point for most athletes is glute activation. Active glutes have the ability to generate significant power through the pedal stroke or running stride and can also help prevent injuries. If you find that your lower back takes the brunt of steep climbs, your hip flexors cramp or ache, your IT bands (or in very loose terms, the band that runs on the sides of your leg from your hip through your knee) are tight or your knees gravitate towards your top tube while riding, your glutes are probably not doing their share of the work. Countless other scenarios can involve your glutes, but these are some common scenarios we are seeing with our athletes.

Thanks in part to significant amounts of time spent sitting, our glutes often remain dormant when we need them most. Begin building your strength foundation today with glute activation exercises. Once your limitations are resolved, the focus can shift to more time spent focusing on sheer strength and then explosive power as your training progresses.

To get the glutes firing, focus on these three exercises:

1. Glute bridge: Begin on your back with knees bent and feet about shoulder width apart. Exhale and push through your heels to lift your hips towards the ceiling. Engage your glutes at the top and inhale and return to the starting point. The single leg version of this exercise is a great progression and will also help address imbalances between your left and right sides.

2. Side lying leg lifts: Lie on your side with hips and legs stacked. Keeping your legs straight, exhale and lift your top leg about 6-8 inches with arching or rounding your back. Inhale and lower the leg with controlled speed.

3. Single leg squat: Standing on one leg, inhale and sit your hips down and back into a squat. Exhale and push through your heel to return to standing. This exercise is best done with visual feedback to ensure your knee does not move forward over your toes or fall inside or outside of the ankle. When starting single leg squats, it can be effective to use a bench or chair as an aid; squat down to the bench and then return to standing.

Looking to keep up to date with the latest blogs and news from Jalapeno Cycling? Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get our cycling tips delivered right to your mailbox. Also, if you are looking to prevent those aches and pains of constant sitting, be sure to sign up for our Strength Training, Off-The-Bike Classes, with more info to be found here.

The Charm of Baltimore Cyclocross in Photos

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The Charm of Baltimore Cyclocross in Photos

We just wanted to show off a quick photo gallery of day one of Charm City Cyclocross Day One just before we head to the races for the big C1 race on Sunday. If you look very closely, you can see some great details, including great course features and friendly faces!

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