How Ernie Baker Takes His Training Outside The Four Walls of The Gym

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Ask Ernie Baker what he likes to do in his free time besides biking and the silence will be deafening.

“He just loves biking and enjoys the process of training,” Coach Matt says. “I love when I get to coach clients in movements that are empowering them to do something outside the four walls of the gym, and Ernie definitely applies his training to his life outside these walls.”

After having dabbled in CrossFit, Ernie found a home at Force and has been training here for the past two and a half years. He went from a “couch sloth” as he puts it, to being able to ride his bike faster and longer in ultra-races all over the country, and becoming an overall stronger and more energized person in his everyday life.

“This might sound silly, but at the end of the day I notice I’m not as tired at the end of the day,” Ernie says. “My job requires a lot of manual labor at times—it’s a lot of lifting and up and down on ladders, and you don’t realize how much training helps in that aspect.”  

Ernie and his family own a limestone mill south of Bloomington and whenever something goes wrong with the machines, he’s the one in charge of the maintenance.

“I don’t enjoy working out so I can work longer,” Ernie says. “That’s not the whole point, but it’s helped quite a bit. I just want to be able to go out longer on my bike—that’s the whole point.”

In the gym, Coach Matt has Ernie doing a lot of heavy sled work, intervals on the Assault bike where they can control the variables, and he’s always wearing his heart rate monitor.

“I’ve worn my heart rate monitor for forever, it really helps to gauge my effort level,” Ernie says. “It’s all about getting my heart rate up and then getting it to come back down fast. I’ve noticed that I’ve become better at noticing when I’m tired and have seen improvements in my heart rate during certain parts of my rides.”

Finding Ernie’s sweet spot regarding heart rate was important when they started using the heart rate monitor. Coach Matt says just because your heart rate is high doesn’t mean you’re expending power well. It just means you’re expending a lot of energy—you want to be able to put that energy into effective use.

“The more metronome your heart rate becomes, the higher your cortisol and stress on the body, and you’ll be operating in that fight or flight state,” Coach Matt says. “You want some micro variations in your heart rate because that means you are in a higher ready state and able to accept new stressors to the body.”

Ernie uses the heart rate monitor every morning to gauge is heart rate variability which will give him a red, yellow or green light for the day. He’s really diligent about listening to that and modifying his workouts to meet his body where it’s at.

“He’s not interested in trashing himself for the sake of trashing himself,” Coach Matt says. “He’s always going to give 100 percent effort, but that may look different from day to day based on how his body feels. The mindfulness aspect of training is really hard to coach, and to have the opportunity to coach someone who already gets that is very rewarding.”

In February of this past year Ernie completed a 343-mile ride that started and ended at Santos Mountain Bike Park in Florida. His goal was to finish under three days and he finished in two days and 10 hours.

Ernie decided about 2-3 years ago that he didn’t like being cut off during sanctioned races. Meaning, if you don’t make a checkpoint during a race, they will come and pick you up and take you off the course. He has now gravitated towards longer multi-day endurance events where they don’t ever cut you off. He packs all of his clothes, water, food and supplies for almost a week, and takes off on hundreds of mile rides everywhere from Florida to Costa Rica to North Carolina and Georgia.

“You get in shape along the way,” Ernie says. “You really can’t train to be on your bike for 19 hours a day. In fact, my training at Force has helped a lot, and maybe being on my bike more would help me to go faster, but I’d much rather do other things in the gym that carry over to my riding.”

A big part of that comes from training like an athlete. Coach Matt is very cognizant in his programming and preventing imbalances that come with riding your bike for long periods of time.   

“Ernie reminds me of a really good golfer,” Coach Matt says. “He’s coming in and has his Tiger tee, and lines the putt up everyday and just does the work intelligently. He’s driven and even keeled, never letting himself get too high or too low, and I think that’s very important to being successful at anything.”  

In Health,

Coach Tessa

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