Oct 28, 2011

The weight on my shoulders

I stood there, partially nostalgic, partially confused and partially giddy with excitement. I stood there, at the crack of dawn, soaking in all that was my return to the weight room. This wasn't just any weight room. This was back home, in north-suburban Chicago, in the gym I used to frequent daily for many years. The layout barely changed, and I was able to recognize many familiar faces, doing the same familiar routines. It was years later, and yet it stayed the same, other than those familiar faces getting a bit older.

It was during my recent visit to Chicago that I began my weight training regiment for the 2012 cycling season. When I lived in Chicago, I lifted during the off-season, but that's because the only other alternative for exercise was shoveling snow. After moving out to San Francisco, I put my gym days behind me and figured that since I didn't need to be off the bike for any prolonged period of time during the year, spending time at the gym was just a waste. Plus, by this time, I was so much into cycling, that I could easily part with what was once my daily routine.

Going into 2012, however, I figured I need every advantage I can get, and after hearing many cyclists, whose expertise and accomplishments I respect tremendously, talk about off-season weight-training, I figured I'd be dumb not to give it a shot. One exception was that I would do the research and start lifting for cycling and not just lifting for the sake of pushing heavy objects.

In part, this was the cause of my confusion, as I stood there, looking at a squat rack with 95lbs loaded on the bar. "Hell, I used to curl that," I thought to myself, "it's going to be very hard not to overdo it first time back." And it was! I had to put a lot of trust in what I was reading and what I was hearing to walk away from the rack after two sets of 20, and conduct myself similarly with the other exercises I had planned for that morning.
I needed to constantly remind myself that I'm not lifting as a bodybuilder anymore (the system most personal trainers use when working with weights), but rather as a cyclist. 

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of lifting very light weights for a long period early in the training regiment was that I felt I had no credibility to come up to people lifting much heavier weights and correct their form. Not that I'm a big fan of doing this in the gym, but when it comes to exercises like squats and deadlifts, I'm okay with a guy being slightly peeved at me if it saves his spine in the long run (as long as no dumbbells go flying at my head).

Now, a few weeks later, I'm in a different phase of weight training. The weights have come up some, and while still resembling a fraction of what I used to lift, it definitely feels good to have the heavier barbell on my shoulders. There are two more progressions to my weigh training. One dramatic increase in weight - a phase where I'll be looking forward to squatting over 300lbs for reps again - and maintenance stage where the weight decreases through end of Base 2.

I've really enjoyed my time back in the weight room, and I'm glad to finally be doing what I've done for many years in the past to help me excel in what I love to do now - ride and race my bicycle(s). 

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