Saturday, December 08, 2007

Half Measures

AA is full of slogans that can sound rather shallow if you don't work a program. But if you do: well, they are guiding beacons for action.

The slogans I've been thinking a lot about lately are these:
  • Half measures avail us none
  • You'll always get what you've always gotten, if you always do what you've always done (not sure this is a slogan, but it sure is a commonly heard saying)
  • Just do it (I know, that's Nike, not 12 Step, but hey, it works)
I'm planning three semi-solo, semi-self-contained cycling tours next riding season--home to south GA, home to NH, and Seattle to Eugene, OR. Some of you know I'm not a fan of the hills. Prefer the ups to the downs, but really try to avoid both. (Living in Chicago with an elevation of 600' and the biggest climb being a boat slip or a highway overpass makes me smile with contentment). But such won't be the case in the southeast, northeast or pacific northwest.

How does a 62 y.o. female, recumbent rider improve in power and strength when my fast twitch fibers are diminishing as fast as my hair is graying! Here's a little physiology, if you're interested. If not scroll down to: "But us old folks..."

Human muscles contain a genetically determined mixture of both slow and fast fiber types. On average, we have about 50 percent slow twitch and 50 percent fast twitch fibers in most of the muscles used for movement.

Slow Twitch (Type I)
The slow twitch fibers are more efficient at using oxygen to generate more fuel (known as ATP) for continuous, extended muscle contractions over a long time. They fire more slowly than fast twitch fibers and can go for a long time before they fatigue. Therefore, slow twitch fibers are great at helping athletes run marathons and bicycle for hours. That's why us older cyclists love the ultra distance, like double centuries, PBP (Paris-Brest-Paris 750 miles in 90 hours or less).

Fast Twitch (Type II)
Because fast twitch fibers use anaerobic metabolism to create fuel, they are much better at generating short bursts of strength or speed than slow muscles. (The sprinters) However, they fatigue more quickly. Fast twitch fibers generally produce the same amount of force per contraction as slow muscles, but they get their name because they are able to fire more rapidly. Having more fast twitch fibers can be an asset to a sprinter since she needs to quickly generate a lot of force. Fast twitch is the first to go, and goes rapidly the older we get :-(

But, us old folks are trainable.
Instead of joining my PAC Tour buddies at Desert Camp this February, I decided I needed to hire a cycling coach to help me build some strength and power into these old, endurance legs of mine, so I won't be so intimidated by the hills, euphemism for mountains. With the help of my physical therapist, LB, (yep, recovery from my back ills is still a daily reprieve needing regular attention by the professionals), I found my way to a cycling coach out of Bend, OR, Carpe Diem Coaching By Bowen.

So, since November 19th, and I anticipate through March, I will be doing lots and lots of work in my trainer using my PowerTap wheel. I'm able to download all the data off my PowerTap cycling computer to my laptop and then upload the results of my workout to Bart Bowen, my cycling coach. He is then able to give me feedback as well as adjust my workouts accordingly.

I can hardly wait for the snow to melt to go up to Wisconsin to New Glarus or Mt. Horab and check out my new strength! Never thought I'd hear myself saying such travesty as looking forward to a hill. :)

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