Tough Love Cyclocross Training with a Personal Trainer
Yesterday we brought you Michael Birner’s article on planning your pre-season training for cyclocross. But putting it all together is easier said than done. Perhaps you need a trainer to help you stick to your plan? Hector Finely tells us how he prepared for his best season yet with a tough, unforgiving trainer. This article was published in our Issue 4.
By Hector Finely
After a disappointing ’07 season, I had to do something to better prepare myself for the upcoming year.
In May, I got a personal trainer. She’s loud. She’s relentless. She has her routine, and I can’t question it. If she’s not happy with my efforts, she has no problem letting me know I’m not cutting it.
She doesn’t care if I had a tough day. She doesn’t care if I’m tired. It means nothing to her. If I start crying to her, she doesn’t care and sometimes screams right back at me.
She’s the biggest, little, no-nonsense trainer I could imagine. Interested in her services? Well, I’m not sure she’s taking new customers.
You see, my trainer is my newborn baby girl, Lotte. All 7 lbs and 19″ of her.
With a small bribe (an extra bottle of “energy drink” I snuck in without mommy knowing), Lotte gave me permission to outline her favorite, three-a-day workout for the magazine:
Mornings start anywhere from 6AM – 7:45AM. Lotte doesn’t let me know when she plans to start our morning training session, implying I should always be ready to go at a moment’s notice. It’s like being ready for a sneak attack from your opponent in a race. Does he ever tell you when he plans to attack you? Neither does Lotte. She also wants me to be ready for an all-out effort from the get-go.
So when Lotte wakes up each morning, she goes from a deep sleep to barking commands in seconds. But this trainer is unusually demanding. In the past, my coaches and trainers handed me cold bottles during training. But this one demands warm bottles from me! And the longer I take to follow her strict orders, the louder she complains. I considered setting up a system to automatically preheat a bottle at 6 AM, but Lotte says that’s like having someone else ride a trainer to warm-up for you.
Once the training session begins, we work on breathing techniques. Like most racers, I’m usually busting my tail just to stay upright and chase down the guy in front of me. While deep in the pain cave, good breathing technique is often overlooked. Lotte demonstrates the consequences of poor technique through her daily morning tests. If I don’t pull the bottle away so she can breathe, she’ll keep drinking only to show me the inevitable results-massive spit up. If I fail the test, as I often do, it’s time to put on a new kit, unless I’m wearing the handy rain cape.
Once our warm-up routine is done, we burp and go to the bathroom for more training. She knows I always need to pay the outhouse a visit before a race, but says there are “pro” techniques I need to learn. Lotte thinks many racers do not pay enough attention to efficient personal hygiene, so even though we have gone over this many times, she insists again on demonstrating the most reliable technique to handle these needs. The solution? Just go wherever you are and throw the clothing away. No waiting, no lines. Forget expensive 10-panel shorts and chamois cream-if I want to go “pro,” I need some baby wipes and Depends.
Once that is out of the way and we’re kitted up, we start in on lunges. That’s right…lunges. We do about 100-150 around the house. Lotte makes me hold her against my chest so her head can rest on my shoulder so she can evaluate my form and give me immediate feedback. If I go too slow or I don’t dip deep enough, she gives me an earful. If I do it right, smooth motion with a deep dip, Lotte rewards me by staying quiet or possibly even taking a nap. But even when she dozes off, it doesn’t mean I can slack off. If I try to end early, she screams her displeasure. And if this happens, she makes me pay double by starting the process all over again. Lotte cuts me no slack.
When I get home, Lotte has my running shoes waiting. Like a true ex-pro coach, she sits on her butt for the ride and yells at me the whole time. She knows running is only a small part of cyclocross, but she wants me to be proficient at everything. If I go to slow, she motivates me to go faster and find bumpier terrain. We never get far, though. In her mind, a half-mile is plenty. She knows ‘cross is a cycling event, not a running event.
If she’s isn’t asleep by the time we’re done running, we have to do circuit training. Depending on what she’s into for the day, we do a variety of car-seat bicep curls, upright rows, shoulder press, triceps extensions, and lat pull-ups. Her favorite exercise is to have me swing her in the car seat for minutes on end in a big pendulum motion. Lotte says it’s a great shoulder strengthening exercise; I can’t stop until I feel the burn. Then she lets me switch arms. But I dare not stop until she’s completely quiet.
We then hop on the Pilates ball for the next 20-30 minutes. She hangs on while I bounce aggressively for a great, core-body workout. She claims this will help prevent the chronic backaches I get from all the abuse during a race. She just might be right. After 20+ minutes of bouncing on the Pilates ball, my back, arms, stomach, and legs are all fatigued to the breaking point. Fortunately, this typically puts Lotte to sleep.
Middle of the Nights:
If I’m lucky enough to be on the three-a-day schedule, Lotte wakes me up via the “sneak attack” routine as described above, demanding her warm bottle of “energy drink.” Once this feeding is done, we head back over to the Pilates ball for more core-strengthening work. This time, though, it’s more about balance. Trying to bounce with your eyes closed while drifting in and out of consciousness is great training for negotiating a spoke-deep sand pit. Lotte strongly believes night workouts are great, race-simulation training. You are tired, can’t see straight, and often wonder what you have gotten yourself into. But, in the end, you know it’s totally worth it and wouldn’t want it any other way. I guess she really does know ‘cross.
Other training activities on Lotte’s short list:
Keep the machine clean and dry. Lotte has helped me realize that her nether regions are like silk tubulars. Just like these expensive components, leaving them wet and dirty can lead to a host of horrible results! She insists you can’t just wipe here and there and think you’re done. You need to get into all the creases for a thorough job. And of course, don’t forget the lube. Lotte prefers a sweet-scented, white lotion that must always be applied to a dry surface.
Along the same lines, Lotte makes sure I am trained to remove all traces of mud from my kit after a race. So we practice. She’ll muddy her onesie, and I have to clean it up. It’s gross, but effective. She says a mud stain on a new jersey is the first sign of an amateur.
Lotte’s unique drill? Practicing kisses. I wondered how kisses would help me improve my cyclocross results, but she explained that with her tough training program, I’ll be back to being a ‘bagger in no time. She wants me ready for the podium and shudders to think I might suffer stage fright when it’s time to kiss the girls. So, she has me practice on both cheeks, Euro-style. If I do it just right, she lets me know with giggles and coos. But she warns me to make sure to not get lost in all the excitement and end up kissing one of the cross-dressing competitors.
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