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Back to the trails, interesting observations about cardio.

Monday, January 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

January
31
2011
Camp Cozy, Wekiwa.

Camp Cozy, Wekiwa.

If you’ve been following my cut at all over the past four weeks, you know I’ve been very strict with my diet and training as I work towards my goals of 7% body fat, exceptional cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance. I designed my training program specifically for these purposes, and training has gone extremely well.

Over the past month I’ve been very busy working on the redesign of JSF, and because of that all of my cardio (with one exception) has been in the form of increasingly difficult HIIT training sessions on the recumbent bike in my home gym. This weekend was the first time in about a month that I was able to get out and do some mountain biking on the trails. I decided to ride my favorite 26-mile route at Wekiwa State Park, which includes 8 miles of paved riding and 18 miles of off-road riding. The off-road portion of this ride is very challenging from a cardio standpoint, and so I was excited to see how my training over the past month would affect my abilities.

Things went well, but the improvements were not as drastic as I expected.

The most noticeable positive change was increased muscle endurance. Even after plowing through countless stretches of sugar sand and miles of huge roots covered in pine needles and leaves, my legs felt sure and strong. Usually by the time I get back on the pavement for the 4-mile ride back to my house my legs are shaking and very tired, especially when I stand on the bike. That was not the case this weekend. Thanks, squats!

As for my cardio, I definitely noticed some improvement there, but it was not as pronounced as I was certain it would be. Don’t get me wrong, I felt pretty good out there… but HIIT cardio (even very difficult HIIT cardio) on a bike in the gym is a walk in the park compared to killing it over 18 miles of rough trails. Like I said, it’s been about a month since I’ve been out on the trails and so the difference between the two types of cardio was sharply contrasted.

When I got to the spot where I do my ~2.7 mile speed run through the most remote (and root-laden) section of the trail, I was 100% confident that I would beat my best time of 22:08. I pushed harder than I’ve ever pushed before, but was dismayed when I arrived at Camp Cozy (the “finish line” of this section) and saw that I was more than a full minute off my best time! I couldn’t believe it, I really couldn’t. I felt like I was way ahead of pace – like, there was no doubt in my mind. Once I got over the shock of my time, I started to think about why it was so far off the mark. Here’s what I came up with:

  • I’ve not been on the trails in a month. My game is off.
  • The trails are covered in a thick blanket of damp leaves and pine needles. I was riding on hard dirt when I set my personal record back on December 3rd.

I think it’s a combination of both of those things, but I feel the second item was the most significant factor. All those leaves and pine needles make traction much more difficult, they obscure many of the roots so its hard to find the smoothest lines and they drastically increase rolling resistance. The positive aspect of the leaves and pine needles is that it was a monster of a cardio workout! I suspect that when spring comes and the leaves and pine needles are finally gone it will feel like I’m riding on greased rails by comparison. 🙂

Anyway, this weekend was a valuable lesson for me: HIIT cardio in the gym is good, but it’s not enough for my particular goals. I need to make sure I’m out on the trails killing it at least once or twice per week for the rest of this cut. The cardio workout I get on the trails simply can not be duplicated on a piece of gym equipment.

LAST DAY! If you want to get in on Mastover’s January 15% Off Sale, this is your last chance! If you are ready to put in the work, then I highly recommend Mastover’s services. Mastover provided my complete diet and training program when I dieted down from a post-bulk 236 pounds/19% body fat to a shredded 186.6 pounds/6% body fat. If you are willing to put in the effort, that there’s no question that you’ll reach your goal under Mastover’s wing.

LAST DAY to register for the February “100 Challenge”! These challenges are a great way to keep your fitness goals front and center. Registration is easy – keeping your 100 points is not.

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John Stone Fitness Comments

7 Responses to “Back to the trails, interesting observations about cardio.”
  1. Good plan, John! I imagine there’s a million and one subtle movements you do in those 26 miles, so considering it’s been a month (and the damp leaves), a mere 60 seconds off your record sounds pretty good to me. Although not quite the same, with my guitar I need to play a few times a week to stay at my best. It’s widely accepted that skills fade with non-use, so don’t be too hard on yourself about your time! I’m sure in a couple of weeks you’ll smash that record. 😀

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    • Oh, definitely, but not subtle movements–big ones! 🙂

      With a recumbent bike your butt stays in the seat and you don’t move much of anything but your legs. When you’re mountain biking it’s really a whole body exercise. In fact, out on the trails (ideally) you don’t spend too much time in the saddle. It’s best to always be moving your body around the “cockpit” to adjust your center of gravity and pump the natural obstacles for free speed. You also have to pull up and press down on the handle bars pretty much constantly to get over roots, rocks, logs and other obstacles. It’s a whole different type of cardio.

      That said, despite my brief hiatus I rode well and I felt really good. I think the pine needles and leaves really sapped a lot of my speed. If I could break my record before the trails are clear of the ground cover, that would be pretty darn cool.

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