Archive for December, 2010

Cycling Reactivity

Posted in Winter Homework on December 31, 2010 by bethleasure

Wanna Make u Jump Jump35

36“If you gotta think, it’s too late.” Nelson Vails, Track Star, on reacting

Attacks and sprints require Jump

 

Yo, now is not only about long slow miles. Neuromuscular reactivity and preparing muscle fiber to morph from slow to fast, then fast to fast– fast can jump start winter training. Plenty of snap is to be had in racing and group riding. But even more is made available by recruiting it all winter to go to war for you when it counts. Maximum quickest efforts even of a very short duration can be taxing. Working it now in training prepares you to transfer this work into group riding or racing later, leaving your more limited in-season training time for other energy systems.

It’s true some got da goods and others struggle, but everyone can release more speed. Our fastness potential is waiting to be unleashed. A team director’s frustration is a fresh rider in position who doesn’t react at the critical moment either because of a hesitant timidity or no snap. This faltering tendency is removed by rigorous training.

Automation is the highest evolution of skill mastery; consciousness is the first in the learning sequence. See it, do it, work on it, incorporate it, release it without thinking. Who better than a 37sprinter to describe training for fast reactions and finishes? He said to think like a cat as it pounces on prey. The fastest twitch fibers known are in the tail of a rattle snake. That’s how quick you want to visualize the initial mechanics of a sprint or attack movement: STRIKE!

Think you’re not a Sprinter? Neuromuscular reactivity is an important life skill like swerving quickly to avoid an accident, hurdling an obstacle to save a child, righting yourself on slippery ice. Dogs even twitch this fast when dreaming…about chasing cats? 38Wassup dawg? Nuthin’ much, jus tippin’ wit mah lethal bizzle.

Prayer for Reactivity

“I’ll charge them like a lion, like a leopard stalking in the brush. I’ll jump them like a sow grizzly robbed of her cubs.” 39Hosea 13:7-8

We are thankful that we’re all equipped with some speed capability. We confess we sometimes limit ourselves through stereotypes. Quicken us, oh Lord, in the ways which help us to make best use of time.

 

Ponder Am I training to call out the speed? Affirm I am fast. I can think fast, see myself fast, and train to become fast. Watch what you think; become who you are.

35hip-hop lyric by kriss-kross from their tune, Jump Jump. White girls can jump jump; so can skinny bike racers.

36More from Nelson the “cheetah from the jungle.” He had a little somethin’ somethin’ in the sprint department.

37Reeves Taylor was a masters rider who won a lot in my district when I first started to race. The military moved him on but not first before teaching me this important sprint visualization. In a world of winning secrets, I’m grateful for his generosity in sharing this concept.

38Translation from gangsta rap: Question: So what’s new, dude? Answer: I’m just cruising with my super fast skills. www.rapdict.org 

39The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Indoor Training

Posted in Uncategorized on December 29, 2010 by bethleasure

Rock On

40“Red metal wind trainer. Fine shape. Set your bike on this baby and go for a bike ride indoors. I used it when I was pregnant and fearful of falling in the slick streets. It worked great but I don’t find myself using it anymore…”  Classified Ad

Not as good as the real thing...

An occasional spin class or group trainer session can be a fun way to break up your winter, but I don’t know anyone that really likes riding a stationary trainer all day, every day. As an occasional substitute for riding outside or as a race-side tool, it has its merits.

My rule is seventy-five minutes tops on the thing with possible three-a-days (for an injured pro perhaps.) Beyond that, I believe it’s an experience with diminishing returns due to its unforgiveness toward soft tissue, sweat loss expenditures, and torturous confinement. It becomes de-motivating. 41Specificity is my best argument, since power studies show that wind trainers and various ergometers are highly effective for improvement upon wind trainers and ergometers, but not so for undulating road conditions. Even rollers are limited in application to real road conditions.

By now you’ve heard the music of our sport; for me indoor training is all hard rock, heavy metal, or techno blaring at a mind-numbing decibel. Which is another reason not to spend too much time indoors – it doesn’t work sensory perception or broad external attention utilized in mass start riding. It IS a great tool to train narrow internal awareness like what’s needed for bridging a gap or time trials. To this end, trainer time is very effective for focused work, such as spin drills, highly structured workbouts, and cross-eyed drooling efforts. Even so, if a serious rider faces inclement weather frequently, I advise another form of cross-training, or travel to a climate conducive to training for elite/pro racing. But if you must ride indoors, warm-up, rock into “the zone,” warm-down and get off that thing.

Prayer for Indoor Training

“Therefore I set my face like flint…” 42Isaiah 50:7

We are thankful for cycling’s indoor alternative as a solution to various conditions. We confess we sometimes miss its best gifts to us. We pray for ways to keep it fun and useful and ask blessing on this focused time.

 

Ponder What’s my best use of indoor training? Affirm I can improve focus and specific work by using the wind trainer, ergometer or rollers. Watch that gains from these devices are sought for your specific type of outdoor riding.

40Posted by Alison on www.craigslist.org   She’s selling it – go figure! Still indoor training has its place.

41Seventy-five minutes was Mike Carter’s rule for trainer time. Watching him do a wind trainer session showed me what real suffering looks like. Mike has many palmarès as a climber and now as a coach. He is among the first pure climbers produced in America of europro caliber. His website is www.espcycling.com

Regarding specificity and wind trainers, this is an Andy Coggan quote.

42The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Cycling & Joy

Posted in The Spiritual Cyclist on December 23, 2010 by bethleasure

Christmas Wishes

73“I felt like I was forgetting how to smile at the little things and that I wasn’t honoring my personal commitment to 24-7 happiness.”  Mara Abbott, Pro Cyclist, on rekindling joy

Turn those miles into smiles

Our sport is full of hard and unhappy moments: lonely miles in harsh conditions, disappointing results, injury, sickness, rivalries, financial pressures, growing pains, doping demons, imbalance via compulsion. Our happiness may be affected by many uncontrollable variables, and some unhappy consequences we’ve brought upon ourselves.

As we enter into a holiday of exchanging gifts, celebration, and reunions, let us bring to mind the joys of cycling. Joy isn’t dependent upon circumstances, feelings, or outcomes. It is an inner quality. Like a refreshing wellspring, sometimes it cascades easily over the peaks of life; and sometimes in a sun-scorched valley, joy only trickles in bittersweet drops. Despite circumstances, recall victories, recount positives; commemorate small beginnings, fractional progress, new opportunities.

Learn from a young cycling sensation’s rise into the pro ranks. Hired as a domestique, she raced several years steadily making progress but perpetually aloof, unhappy. One ordinary day, she was directed to attack and instead of the usual set-up for her team leader, the move stuck giving her a decisive win. It was the first time I saw her smile. Suddenly she was transformed into a person of warmth, radiant and relaxed.

It’s sad to think we wait for these fleeting moments to share the inner contentment that flows within us. Knowing that all things worth having are gained or maintained mostly with difficulty, joy must be drawn from a constant stream of gratitude for what’s noble and of good report.

In the spirit of the season, take a trip to the wellspring of joy and celebrate your successes, rejoice with others over their victories, smile at the future – take this gift with you and sparkle in every circumstance!

Prayer for Joy

 “… like a champion rejoicing to run his course…” 74Psalm 19:5

We are thankful that we have many reasons to be happy. We confess we judge ourselves and others by human doing, rather than as human beings. We ask to recollect joy no matter what we suffer.

Ponder Can I rejoice always? Affirm I am happy with what IS, even while recognizing the need for more or better. Watch for ways to turn your miles into smiles.

73“Rekindling the Sparkle,” by Mara Abbott in US Women’s Cycling Development Program diary entry January 12, 2008 www.cyclingnews.com

The cyclist referred to in this section is not Mara Abbott- who seemed to be born smiling. Rather, the cyclist referred to here, who finally smiled, went on to other bigger victories after this, hit a slump and returned to former sad countenance eventually losing her contract. I hope she remembers joy that transcends all circumstances!

74The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Cycling & Faith

Posted in The Spiritual Cyclist on December 21, 2010 by bethleasure

Higher Power

75“…You have to have faith that if you’re doing the work now, you’ll get there sometime.”  Nicole Reinhart, Champion Cyclist, whose faith warmed all who knew her

Champion of faith

Nicole Reinhart was an aspiring champion and a humble, loving person. In 2000, a race series of four single-day events offered a bonus of $250,000 to the rider who could win all four races. Amazingly, Nicole had won three of four. In the fourth race at the line, she said she wasn’t nervous because she had her team, Team Saturn, behind her.

Nicole crashed twice in the race and her teammates worked hard to pull her back to the front for the final lap. It was one of the most intense demonstrations of teamwork I’d ever witnessed, and the most fluid and focused work I’d ever seen in the women’s peloton. Even her competitors were admiring.

Just when the crowd expected the Saturn train to deliver the goods and a sprinting Nicole for the win, Nicole crashed again and tragedy struck. This time it was fatal. Everyone at the race was devastated, and so were many world-wide who knew her. She was just 24 years old and coming into the beginnings of greatness as a cyclist.

Just one month before she died, she offered an unusual kindness to me, though I barely knew her. She was an approachable champion in a sport where so few are charitable with their competitors. She had already discovered a generosity of spirit based on faith that takes a lifetime for most to learn, if ever.

This optimism was based on an indomitable belief that her efforts would be rewarded. As a young interloper into cycling’s rigid competitive environment, she was a winner and a record-breaker, despite opposition, hardship and criticism. Perhaps her greatness was at its zenith as a person, and in her completeness she was called home where the streets are paved with gold. She’ll be the ride leader when we get there.

Prayer for Faith

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.” 76James 1:2-3

We are thankful that challenges come which test our resolve. We confess we rely on ourselves when we have access to help from a loving Rewarder. We ask for resolve and realization to believe.

Ponder Am I relying on my own efforts alone? Affirm I was made for a purpose and a Person greater than myself. Watch for signs that God cares about you having faith that you will be rewarded.

75I have no reference for this quote, other than a defunct website. But I stand by it as something Nicole would have said. Her father, Mike Reinhart, recounted Nicole’s challenges, opposition, work ethic and beliefs to me posthumously. In over a decade as an endurance athlete, she had won multiple junior national championships, two gold medals at the Pan-Am Games and a professional contract. BMC Software Company, the sponsor of the series in which Nicole was killed, donated the winnings to her family, who used it to set up the Nicole Reinhart Memorial Fund. The fund distributed scholarships to aspiring young cyclists.

76The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Pedaling Efficiency

Posted in Winter Homework on December 17, 2010 by bethleasure

Making Music

29“There is a real difference in the sound of the tire on the wind trainer with the more efficient riders. They had less of that cyclical up and down humming noise, and more of a continuous humming throughout the whole cycle.” Regis Chapman, Coach, on biomechanical “music” of a pedaling test

Pedaling is not as easy as riding a bike...

 

Think of the rhythmic tick-tock of a 30metronome, used by pianists to select tempos while playing, as the background staccato for symphonic spin. There are a number of ways to improve pedaling technique, such as single-leg drills and fixed gear training. Innovative devices marketed to increase power by decreasing the dead spot effect, such as 31unconventional chainrings, or by improving muscular efficiency, such as 32alternating cranks. Each method has enthusiastic groupies for their respective tunes. However, there is little evidence of the effectiveness of these devices in making one both more efficient and in that efficiency translating to performance.

Because of the dead spot at the top and bottom of the stroke, no one really pedals circles. In fact, those forces at 0 and 180 degrees help drive the crank forward. Studies show more powerful riders emphasizing the downstroke while making the upstroke less negative – that’s really not pedaling circles at all. So pedaling efficiency is about maximizing energy output into the drive train while minimizing energy lost by muscles* unrelated to pedal stroke. One can record efficiency in a test and still have leg strength discrepancies, distinctive optimal crank position, varying degrees of 33roundness, and unique cadence. Efficiency is really more about the ratio of Type I to Type II muscle fiber.

There are a bunch of neat set-ups to test pedal stroke by devices ridden at home, while some require the expert analysis of a biomechanist. This analysis is incomplete without a determination of muscle fiber composition. Like walking into an orchestra during tune-up for a concert, there seems to be little standardization at present for cycling efficiency testing, terms, or training.

The music of pedaling find its own key, keeping pace when the rhythm changes because of a competitor or a course and one’s preference. Researchers call this Freely Chosen Cadence. Pros have higher pedaling efficiencies at higher power outputs using faster FCCs than amateurs. Think of your legs as the means toward resonant notes, consistency your own personal rhapsody, a carol for the bike during the coming holidays. As cyclists, we are definitely different drummers beating a unique percussion.

Prayer for Pedaling Efficiency 

“…My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.” 34Psalm 57:7

We are thankful that we can save energy through harmonious cadence in the choir of the peloton. We confess we are sometimes out of tune and clamorous. We ask to use our bodies for praise.

 

Ponder Can I hear the music in my pedal stroke; is it like clanging symbols – or melodious? Affirm I can become a pedaling maestro. Watch as you tune-in to your most effective power play.

29“Pedal Stroke Theories,” by Regis Chapman under “Tech Letters for March 20, 2002” edited by John Stevenson. www.cyclingnews.com 

30www.metrognomeonline.com  This tool meant for pianists is a great accompanying “drum” for stationary or indoor trainer work. I grew up marking its quiet steady beat to the sweetly playing piano of my musical mother.

31“More Innovations from ROTOR – elliptical chainrings,” dated August 20, 2005 on www.gizmag.com  and www.rotorcranksusa.com

32Power Cranks are an alternating pedaling system which works the hip flexors in relative isolation without recovery. One ride or attempted ride tells you how tight and weak hip flexors are compared to a cyclist’s powerful quads. www.powercranks.com

33“Mythbusters,” a webinar by USA Cycling, March 18, 2008, presented by Steven J. McGregor, PhD, USAC Level 2 Coach, USAC Science & Education Faculty, Applied Physiology Laboratory, Eastern Michigan University.

A study of 2 groups with the same VO2 Max average of 69, showed the more powerful national-caliber group pedaled squares, or had higher peak torque on the downstroke for an hour effort with higher average watts. The more powerful group had a higher percentage of Type 1 muscle fiber. Therefore, pedaling circles may not increase pedal efficiency and may be detrimental to TT type events. However, for mass start road racing, smoother stroke may be more optimal, due to speed changes and minimizing muscular fatigue.

*I just completed a research project on Uphill Cycling and the biomechanical considerations, such as cadence. Really cadence is only just part of the question. Contact me if you’re interested in this research.

34The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Cold Weather Riding

Posted in Winter Homework on December 14, 2010 by bethleasure

Frozen Nose, Toes, & Clothes

26“When the temperature starts sinking below 25°F (-4°C) a fleece balaclava with coverage for your nose should be used. What is difficult for those of us who wear glasses is fogging up when wearing the balaclava. I try keeping my glasses further down my nose to allow for more air circulation.” Kevin Redmond, Cycling Commuter in Calgary, Canada

Now that's preparation!

I needed to prepare for a particularly aggressive pre-season race schedule, but obligations kept me in the mid-Atlantic over the winter. That was the year we had thirteen snowstorms and six weeks of temperatures hovering at 10°F. With modified equipment and proper clothing, I was able to stay off my indoor trainer for the duration!

There were many epic training experiences during that frigid spell. Riding meant being stuck in iced-up pedals at ride’s end, a Camelbak tucked inside my jacket to keep it warm enough to drink, and a mask of partially frozen drool from an icy balaclava. I took this in stride and during a “breakthrough” when the temperature “soared” to 20°F with clear sky, sunshine and slight wind chill, it felt tropical to me. I had acclimated.

Myths abound about cold weather riding. One doesn’t get a cold from training in the cold; colds are caused by viruses with immune suppression a factor. Cold weather training has been shown to stimulate, not suppress, immunity. Cold air isn’t a factor in your ability to train with intensity, unless it’s really cold. One can go hard in the cold. 27Cross-country skiing occurs in freezing weather and is certainly intense! Ski races happen unless the temperature drops to minus 4°F/-20°C. It may be an irritant to first-line airways, but is warmed by the time it reaches lungs, and a face-mask can also block cold air.

A stipulation for training in cold are fabrics which wick sweat near the skin, resist wind or precipitation as an outer layer and special treatment for hands, feet, and face with nothing left uncovered, except maybe the bridge of your nose underneath glasses. Another must is proper nutrition/hydration. It takes energy to stay warm so don’t neglect eating or drinking. Finally, a positive but prepared attitude melts icy intimidation.

Prayer for Cold Weather Preparation

She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.” 28Proverb 31:21

We are thankful for conditions that make us stronger. We pray for the tolerance and knowledge to approach cold weather with respect.

Ponder How can I improve cold outdoor experiences? Affirm I can be without excuse to train heartily when it’s cold. Watch attention to detail with equipment, clothing, and contingencies for a better ride.

26 “Cycling In the Cold Weather,” By Kevin Redmond  www.EzineArticles.com

27“Mythbusters,” a webinar by USA Cycling, March 18, 2008, presented by Steven J. McGregor, PhD, USAC Level 2 Coach, USAC Science & Education Faculty, Applied Physiology Laboratory, Eastern Michigan University.

Prolonged low-intensity training in cold is probably more dangerous than intense training because of glycogen depletion. Primary source of illness frequently is immune suppression due to underlying glycogen depletion.

28Holy Bible, King James Version public domain

Cycling Ethic: Do the Work

Posted in Winter Homework on December 10, 2010 by bethleasure

No Excuses

 

24“If you slack, you’re gonna suck.” Nelson Vails, Track Cycling Star 

Nellie still working hard in cycling.

 

One thing fatiguing to a coach is the bombardment of excuses for poor performances by athletes, no matter how creative, original, or pitiable. It’s true that fitness gains take time and in the adaptive stages of development, patience and encouragement are two necessary coaching qualities. Sometimes compassion is the appropriate coaching response.

It’s also true that bike racing combines so many uncontrollable variables there are legitimate reasons for a bad spell. Post-race interviews are often comprised of these colorful essays on unmet expectations and unforeseen adventures.

But today, we are focused on undesirable characteristics, such as laziness and irresponsibility in the context of a poor work ethic. The work ethic as it relates to cycling fitness consists of several parts: diligence in completing moderately difficult goals, and adequately challenging training tasks, ownership of one’s form and competitiveness, responsibility in goal-setting and motivation, and a moral belief that work is both its own reward and yields other rewards.

Since we’ve already pondered the benefits of rest in our bodies and relationships and no one in cycling society is a victim of forced labor, it’s safe to say that a strong cycling work ethic is essential for success. Work ethic is a psychological characteristic of world class athletes.

It’s refreshing when a pressure player confesses a lack of preparation, feeling of fatigue, or admits their limitation on the day. This is an athlete who can realistically address their weaknesses and come back a winner. No excuses, do the work.

 

Prayer for Work Ethic

“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” 25Proverbs 14:23

We are thankful that our work will be rewarded. We confess we often do the minimum and see excellence as an entitlement rather than a reward. We ask for productive determination of the types and amounts of labor, industriousness to follow-through to completion, and conscientiousness in comparing efforts with self in a competitive context.

 

Ponder Where am I being lazy, expecting something for little effort? Affirm I am responsible for the direct correlation between effort and result that is so clear-cut in fitness. Watch your realistic assessment of your labor, your knowledgeable comparison with your own data, and your belief in what you can accomplish lead to changes in your regimen.

24Conversations with Nelson Vails. Nelson was known as the Cheetah “the fastest cat from the jungle.” Nelson came from Harlem and made good on his fast twitch all the way to the 6-Days in Ghent. He also pounced on gold in 1983 Pan Am Games and a silver medal in the Match Sprint at the 1984 Olympics. He still works hard today.

25The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society