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Book Review: Training - Saving & Making Time
By Stephanie Chase
Date: 8/9/2009
Book Review: Training - Saving & Making Time

Book Review: Training - Saving & Making Time
The Athlete’s Pocket Guide to Yoga by Sage Roundtree and The Time-Crunched Cyclist by Chris Carmichael ...
what about those of us who don’t have 12-15 hours a week to train? Do we have to put our goals on the back burner until we have the time and proper focus to get fast?

A few weeks ago I received Sage Roundtree’s Athlete’s Pocket Guide to Yoga from VeloPress to review. As an off-season yogini, the colorful booklet seemed like a fun project. Reading through the press release, I came across these sentences: “When endurance athletes attend yoga classes, they bring tight muscles and even tighter schedules. At the height of the season, athletes often disappear from the yoga studio, yet it is then that yoga can be most beneficial.”

I eyed the little book suspiciously. How did it know I hadn’t been to a yoga class since January? And how the sentence been written in the odd tone of both my mother and my coach?

My excuses for neglecting a “well-rounded” approach to training were well-argued; I’m fortunate enough to live in a place where you can ride year round and as cyclists acknowledge the best training for cycling is simply cycling, that eliminates the desire and need for other activities. I didn’t have a lot of time in my schedule but the time I had for workouts were focused on the bike.

But what about balance, both physical and mental? Six months of focused training had left me wishing I could just ride for fun but keep my fitness. I could hear the coach/mother voice in my head again (which is a very odd mixture of a man in their mid-thirties and my Midwestern mom at age sixty). Sage Roundtree is both a registered yoga teacher and a USA Triathalon and cycling-certified coach. She wasn’t going to waste my time or lead my astray from my training. My chi was out of whack; I didn’t even know where my chi was. So I picked up the booklet again.

Yoga ceased to be a fad when the NFL started incorporating it into their training camps. These days most everyone knows of a fitness club or yoga studio and can move through a warrior one pose with their eyes closed. Reading through Roundtree’s book, it helps to have familiarity with yoga and knowing how the poses are supposed to feel. Depending on your interest and needs, the book breaks out poses and routines into sections on balance, core, restorative and other areas of focus. This is a handy reference section for the good stuff, which is in part three, “Focused Routines and Combining Sequences.” I’m a bit like a trial lawyer in my approach towards working out.

Show me an exercise or routine that is specifically tailored towards my athletic goals (cycling, in this case) and I’ll commit. But first I need the proof. There are power, core and flexibility sequences, and at the back of the booklet are sport-specific sequences. Just finished a run? Roundtree offers a twenty minute sequence that’s a combination of stretching and restorative poses.

Feeling tight after a ride? Check out the sequence that helps release and strengthen the back, and loosen up the hips and legs. If the booklet were to expand into sport specific (i.e. recovery after a century or loosening IT bands) or have an index of what sequences work for certain recoveries, that would be even better. And if Roundtree is reading, that last sentence was written in my mom/coach voice in hopes that you’ll offer up more from this fantastic little book.

The Time-Crunched Cyclist

In keeping with the theme of lack of time and its affect on training, Chris Carmichael has a new training book, The Time-Crunched Cyclist. Looking through years of coaching, Carmichael noticed that some of his athletes were falling below their coaches’ expectations. Naturally, training time and performance seemed to go hand-in-hand. Most coaching programs require commitment, focus and time. Workouts are like making bank deposits with the high workload being the interest; when it comes time to make a big withdrawal, you’ll be happy you put in all those long hours for a big pay out.

But what about those of us who don’t have 12-15 hours a week to train? Do we have to put our goals on the back burner until we have the time and proper focus to get fast?

Carmichael’s training plan replaces time with intensity, condensing workouts into four to five sessions per week and no more than two hour ride max. It will hurt and it will be hard, he promises. But for those with tight schedules and real life demands, The Time-Crunch Cyclist offers an alternative to hanging up the bike in frustration.

Partially out of curiosity and partially out of guilt (call it a life-long affliction), I’m very interested in Carrmichael’s new intensity versus time paradigm shift. As I was reading through the book, I kept checking off the list of my own life constraints that affect training and my current level of frustration with my racing performances.

A year ago, I had a decent-paying job. I bought a new carbon bike frame, I was invited to change from my developmental team to a more-focused elite team with the intentions of moving up through their program to (eventually) compete at the national level, and I began working with a coach, my first attempt at structured training for cycling. In January, the bottom fell out. My company had struggled through the worsening economic times (cue melodramatic violin playing and scary newspaper headlines about “Recession!”) and I lost my job.

Initially I was relived and ecstatic; I now had the time I’d always wanted to devote to things I really cared about, like getting fast on the bike. All other life issues aside, I was able to keep my training plan due to a very fortitudinous severance package. I stayed with my coach, riding eleven to fourteen hours a week through the spring.

But life began to wear me down. I didn’t live in a vacuum. In addition to job searching in a state with high levels of unemployment (Oregon is second to Michigan, who has the highest levels of unemployment, and we don’t even have car manufacturing) I studied for and passed the first two rounds of the Foreign Service exam, a test that determines candidacy for working for the State Department abroad. I began studying for the LSAT. I took on various freelance writing jobs in an effort to work towards the great milestone of earning money for the things I write. I started language classes at the community college. I was awarded an internship at Mercy Corps. And the bike got pushed further and further back on the list of “Things I Must Do.”

It’s not the saddest story of the year and in most respects I’ve been very lucky. I haven’t lost my apartment or had to sell my bikes or body organs (yet), and I’ve still worked part-time to keep some money rolling in. But it’s become harder and harder to allot over ten hours a week to riding and training when there are some many other more pressing and immediate issues. On the other hand, I hate being slow and seeing the field move away from me as we come into the final 2k (my favorite part of a bike race).

So here’s the plan. In September, my team has been invited to participate in a Rapha Gentlemen’s Ride which is a more British-sounding (and therefore more Rapha-esque) version of a radonneuring event. So Chris, you and I have six weeks to invigorate the legs and get me ready for this 100+ mile test from the Pacific ocean to Portland, Oregon. I’ll use The Time-Crunch Cyclist and keep up my schedule of volunteering, studying and job searching. If you care to follow this experiment, stay tuned and I’ll let you know what I think, what’s working for me and what’s not quite right. No place to go but up, right?

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