Though I first talked about going for the Cat. 2 upgrade a few weeks ago, in truth I'd been thinking about it for a while longer. Toward the end of the road season — likely around the point where I started riding less and sitting around more — my back started hurting. If you're at all familiar with things around here, you know that isn't news.
For most of the last four-plus years, I'd been wondering when my back wasn't going to hurt. But in early September, it had actually felt good for a good while. And then it didn't. And it was bad.
So after stretching it out and getting back to normal, I decided that the winter training plan needed to have a heavy dose of core training. It should be noted here that I've been doing core work of some sort for a while now. It just seemed like it wasn't doing the trick anymore.
On the recommendation of Paul Haskell, I checked out Tom Danielson's Core Advantage. (Insert obligatory "OMG he's a doper" quip here. Except I don't really care. My enjoyment of cycling has pretty much nothing to do with what the pros do — or did.) From the start, I could tell the book was far different than what I was doing before. For example: The core is everything that's connected to the spine or pelvis. That's a lot of muscles — way more than the standard abdominal workout.
As it turned out, I'm better strength-wise than I thought. But these workouts are designed to get all of the contributing muscles on board. After half of one workout, I could tell those other muscles needed some help. There are lots of exercises and positions that isolate certain muscles. And though it was difficult, I could tell after the first week that it was helping.
Actually, until I shoveled this piddly amount of snow we got earlier today, I hadn't had any back pain in weeks. But a few quick stretches later and it's gone. The routine is working so far.
I don't know for sure if I'm actually going to be able to make the jump to Cat. 2. I'm not sure if I have the ability to make it happen. If it doesn't happen, at least it won't be because my back was the weak spot.