Out of the frying pan – into the gym

Its time. As of today, the end of season break is officially over – this week marks the beginning of preparations for 2017. It hasn’t got off to the best of starts – looking out the window, there is no way my regime of long steady base miles will start this morning. The start of mid term exams isn’t helping either, I’m writing this partly so as to try and take my mind off the first one.

You might recall my mention last week about making a serious attempt at strength training. It’s a controversial topic, with those that swear by it and many who believe it to be a complete waste of time and money. I’m fed up of having skinny legs, my power to weight ratio may be acceptable, yet my absolute wattage leaves something to be desired. Having decided to turn myself into a time triallist for purposes of the distant spring, it isn’t exactly ideal. This, coupled with the fact that my 47 year old father can easily beat me in an arm wrestle – has given me a push in the direction of the weight room.

It won’t be my first time – last year I made a brief effort to try and quickly regain some of the strength I had lost through injury. After three twenty minute sessions, I called it a day – having decided I’d much, much rather be out on my bike. This year my resolve is stronger, at the moment anyway. So it was that yesterday, having paid a membership fee that was far from student friendly, I marched myself off to the gym.

The first hurdle was simply getting to grips with how to use the various machines, being male I opted not to read the instructions (in spite of them being written in bold on the machines themselves) and simply go by instinct. As you will probably have predicted, this wasn’t met with a huge degree of success. I received several odd looks from the other gym goers, most of whom appeared as if they spent a large amount of time in there. Eventually, I got a handle on most of them – though I’m still not sure if any of the exercises were completed correctly.

Sadly, since its been almost a full year since it happened – I can no longer use “I’m coming back from injury” as an excuse for my abysmal upper body muscles. My one consolation is that most cyclists I know are the same – powerful legs coupled with an emaciated torso and arms with a diameter not greatly exceeding that of a coke can. I will admit to being slightly embarrassed, hoping against hope that no-one happened to look too closely at the small loads I was struggling to lift.

Suffice to say that getting through the session wasn’t easy – I made an attempt at positive self talk, reciting the season goals over and over again in my head. It was exceptionally gratifying to finish the last exercise, wiping down the machine and doing my best to achieve a dignified exit- that is to say resisting the urge to run to the door and escape as quickly as possible.

Muscles that I didn’t knew existed (a concern in itself when I have an anatomy exam coming up) soon started to protest, at this moment my body feels like that of an octogenarian. A couple of lessons harshly learned, namely to warm up and cool down properly and to make a return to stretching. This strength training business is harder than it might seem from the outside.

I can only hope that my motivation remains high for a long enough time so as to be-able to complete the program I have set out. I tell myself that the first session was always going to be the worst one and that it will only get better from now on – trying and failing to sound convincing in the process. A very large part of me is hoping against hope that strength training won’t work, so as to give me an excuse never to venture out of my natural habitat (i.e. the great outdoors, aboard my bike) again.

That is all, time to get in some last minute cramming for my anatomy exam this afternoon. At the very least I know how to check my learning – if it hurts as a result of yesterday, I should know the latin name for it. Stay tuned.

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