Performance Metabolic Efficiency Assessment

What is it and what can it do for you?

by Paige Galeoto

Like many of you, I’ve been riding and competing for many years (sometimes at a national level, often with friends on the local single track). And like many of you I have been winging it, using my experience and knowledge to try and go faster and tire slower. Whether you are a cyclist like me, a runner or other endurance athlete, you’ll likely agree that the older we get, the more important it becomes to train “smarter,” not just harder or longer.

While I acknowledge (begrudgingly) that I have gotten slower as I’ve aged, I have not lost my desire to compete and be challenged. So, how do I keep moving my own personal bar forward? Science! In the form of physiologic testing at Silver Sage Sports and Fitness Labs.

To get this science-informed training going, I scheduled a metabolic efficiency assessment with Julie Young at Silver Sage one Friday afternoon this past February.

What is Metabolic Efficiency?

Our bodies rely on two sources of energy to perform:

  1. Carbohydrates
  2. Fat

We’ve all heard of carbo-loading before races or big events. The reason we load up on this fuel source is carbohydrates are most quickly converted into energy. However, the body can only store about 2,000 calories of carbohydrates (in the form of glycogen) so you and I will run out of carb energy after 2-3 hours of moderate exercise. In contrast, fats are more slowly converted into energy and the body has tons of fat to draw on (nothing personal, we all have tens of thousands of calories to draw on, no matter our size).

A metabolic efficiency assessment (ME) tells us how well our body utilizes fat as an energy source. Armed with this info, you can improve your efficiency through exercise and nutrition.

The test is particularly valuable for true endurance athletes whose target events are 4 to 6 hours or more, but even for those whose events are shorter (my target events range from 45 minutes to four hours) this information can help us maintain energy and performance levels throughout any event without trying eat constantly. I wanted help tackling these challenges:

  • Cramping at about the 2 ½ hour mark of a race or hard effort
  • Fading near the end of a race (of any length) after a strong start

The test

Unlike a VO2 max test, the ME test is not an all-out, tongue-to-your-knees effort. The test at Silver Sage was done on their trainer, using my bike. You get to wear some fancy head gear with a tube connected to your mouth and your nose plugged (testing your respiration gasses), and a heart rate monitor strap. It’s a bit awkward, but the effort is a low cadence endurance effort so no labored breathing.

You pedal easy, increasing 10 to 25 watts every five minutes. And every five minutes, Julie pricks your ear to take a blood sample and get your lactate level. (It doesn’t hurt, promise.) The whole thing takes about an hour.

Upon completion, this is what you’ll learn:

  1. Caloric expenditure at various heart rates and intensities
  2. How to preserve carb stores to decrease the required fuel replenishment
  3. How to increase fat as fuel, so you can perform workloads faster and longer
  4. Lactate levels for your various metabolic zones

What to do with your data:

A few days later, Julie sent me my results. The executive summary: I do not burn fat — at all. It’s all very math-ey, but the point where I am burning equal parts carbs and fat — which you’d hope would be well into your endurance zone, is 75 watts or 130 heart rate. For me that’s barely moving. In contrast, Sian Turner, a pro-level cyclist and triathlete who is quite efficient in her metabolism, burns equal parts carbs and fat up to 180 watts. And she improved that number from 110 watts, over the course of a year, the same way I will attempt to improve mine:

  1. Exercise more at lower intensities, especially early in a training cycle
  2. Support stable blood sugars by eating more lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables instead of high carbohydrate food

Me_test

Nutrition as asset

I took this test because I am committed to making an improvement in my cycling performance. For me, the results have led to a pretty significant change in my diet. While I’ve always eaten what I considered good, healthy food, I was very carb heavy and I was consuming more processed carbs than I realized. I spent 6 weeks limiting my carb intake to 25 percent of calories and am now allowing myself about 35 percent (I followed the Always Hungry plan at the recommendation of another endurance athlete). I also started training with Julie, who has me spending more time in low and medium endurance zones than I have ever trained in before in my 25 years of cycling.

I am still relatively early in my process. Seven weeks after adjusting my diet and five weeks after starting my new training program, I had a “test” – a rolling metric century with a group of hard-charging friends. Fueled with almost all fat and protein, I rode four hours and climbed 3,500 feet without bonking or cramping. However, at the final rest stop I ate some potatoes which provided a nice energy surge for the final miles.

This reinforces another point both Julie and Sian made to me — phase your nutrition with your training. While I am doing some experimenting with my diet right now, I am erring on the extreme side and finding the break points. Our daily nutrition needs can and should change with our workouts. On a rest week I can really lower carbs, but for my upcoming race I will fuel the night before and day of with carbs and also use carbs in recovery. An all or nothing approach is not ideal.

Take away

Do less guessing. Let science aid your training efforts by telling you where your deficiencies are and how you can train smarter, not harder. As athletes, we are extremely lucky to have Silver Sage’s Olympic-training center caliber testing facilities available and a testing staff that knows how to help you translate that data into performance gold.

See you at the start line.

Sometimes, it’s more than just listening to your body

Photography by Daphne Houghard

Sian Turner Crespo grew up immersed in sports, from figure skating and field hockey to golf, tennis and cricket.

As a young adult, she discovered competitive cycling and jumped into XTERRA races, qualifying for both the U.S. and World Championships in her first season in 2011. She quickly progressed in the XTERRA ranks, and in 2014 (and 2015) achieved 20161001_CycloX-38national championship titles and 4th places at Worlds.

You could say she knows a thing or two about how her body works and what she has to do to stay competitive.

And one of the things she does is train with Julie Young of Silver Sage Sports & Fitness Lab. “It’s definitely about having someone to be accountable to and to be able to give feedback and bounce ideas off of,” she says. “But Julie also brings the experience and expertise of being a world-class athlete herself. She plans my training workout-by-workout, but also looks at the big picture with an annual plan.”

Crespo has been training with Young for the past four years, pretty much year-round. “We might take a month off every now and then for a mental break, but then we’re back at it,” she says.

Crespo started as an endurance cyclist, but she recently switched to cyclocross, a very short, yet intense cycling discipline. “It’s a totally different deal and my training had to be adjusted accordingly,” she says. “I realized I didn’t have the top-end strength I needed to be competitive so my training plan changed with a specific focus on that kind of racing.”

“Sian is committed — to her sport, her training and herself,” Young shares. “And that was evidenced in her continual improvement in her new sport, resulting in a win of her last race of the year.”

In addition to her regular training, Crespo goes through testing once or twice a year so that Young can measure her lactate levels, bike power and other elements. Then Young tweaks the plan to accommodate any changes the testing reveals.

“Julie knows me and what I’m capable of. She combines that with the science and data she has accumulated to put together a training plan specifically for me,” Crespo says.

Now in her off-season, Crespo is focused on strength-building. “I’m getting in the gym and getting stronger,” she says. “This way my body will be ready to train at a higher intensity when the season starts.”

Young also listens to Crespo’s goals. “She knows what I want to achieve and then helps me get there,” Crespo says. “And she has so much experience herself that she can pass on the tactical aspects of being in the race.”

“Everybody is different and so everybody needs a plan specific to their own abilities and goals,” Young shares. “We look at their current lifestyle, work and family demands and their goals to create a plan that will get them there.”

Young says that communication is key to the training process. “It’s essential that I understand what they’re going through, where they’re struggling and where they’re excelling. I also need to know what in their personal life might be holding them back. This allows me to provide proper motivation that works.”

Crespo echoes that: “She can tell where I’m at and if I’m telling the truth about my workouts. She picks up on signs and will let me know when I need to push harder or back off and rest.”

Young stresses that fitness and improved performance should be a lifestyle not something to tick off a bucket list. “Training is a process that takes consistent commitment and patience,” she shares. “You have to love it for what it does for you on a daily basis which, ultimately, leads to a healthier overall life.”

For more information on Silver Sage’s endurance coaching and training plans, click here. And then contact us at 530-448-0498 for a free coaching consultation.

When Muscles Aren’t Firing Properly

Renee Elsdon Jacobs had been struggling with Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) for more than two years. This occurs when the iliotibial band, the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the knee, is tight or inflamed.

Renee wasn’t sure what caused it, but it was creating tension in her knee joint, greatly affecting her ability to run or do many of the other physical activities she enjoyed.

She saw several physical therapists, multiple chiropractors and massage therapists to try and treat it, but nothing worked. Until someone in her running club, the Donner Party Mountaineers, recommended Julie Young and Silver Sage Sports & Fitness Lab.

“I had done a gait analysis before, but nothing like what Julie did,” Renee shared. “Julie used software and video and angles to figure out what was going on.”

Julie, who was a top international cyclist for 12 years, and is currently a competitive cyclist and trail runner (recently winning a 50K Trail National Championship), conducts gait analyses as the director of Silver Sage Sports & Fitness Lab.

“Running, like gymnastics or swimming, is a whole body sport. It requires a body that’s stable and mobile,” Young shares. “A comprehensive gait analysis can give a runner a visual impression of weak links in movement and strength, which helps them understand why they should invest in activation, stability and mobility work, which typically falls through the cracks. This visual impression helps motivate a runner to get on the mat and be more committed and purposeful in this work,”

A comprehensive analysis pinpoints specific strength and movement deficits in a runner’s gait. Once identified, a specific and individualized training plan is developed to improve these underlying deficits, while changing as little as possible in a runner’s gait technique. This can reduce a runner’s risk of injury, build strength and increase a runner’s efficiency and performance.

Through Silver Sage’s scienpalisades-etc-40ce-based approach to gait analysis, Julie was able to determine that Renee was tilting her torso back during her stride, which meant she was placing too much load on her quads and knees, and preventing her glutes from firing.

“Julie showed me a couple of exercises that made it obvious what was going on,” Renee shares. “I slightly tilted my torso when I run, which causes my glutes to fire, and creates stability down the chain. I had the muscles in place, they just weren’t working properly.”

Julie gained much of her knowledge from participating in a six-month fellowship at the University of Southern California’s Movement Performance Institute (MPI) and now follows up with yearly update courses. MPI, headed by Dr. Christopher Powers, conducts ongoing research on human biomechanics. Using state-of-the-art technology, Young has gained hands-on experience in identifying underlying movement impairments in a person’s gait.

“As a result of his extensive research, Dr. Powers is one of the few physical therapists I know who actually has a protocol for diagnosing injury (uncovering the source, not just the symptoms) and providing a methodical, systematic protocol to return injured runners to their sport,” Young said. “Dr. Powers’ system strives to uncover specific strength deficits and movement impairments that are causing pain, and or have the potential to lead to injury and inhibit performance. It focuses on precisely pinpointing the affected musculature and movement patterns and improving them through activation, stability, mobility, strength and movement re-training, while changing as little as possible with the individual’s gait.”

Within a week of her visit to Julie, Renee was able to run a 50K, from Mellow Fellow in Kings Beach to Mellow Fellow in Truckee. “Before that I couldn’t complete 15 or 20 miles without aggravation,” she says. To be safe, Renee had her husband on standby to come get her if it became necessary.

“I just kept texting him to tell him I was still running,” she says.renee-50k-screenshot

For more information on Silver Sage and the Dartfish Gait Analysis program, visit www.silversagecenter.com.

Maximize Your Off-Season

Fall in to Fitness Special

Maximize your off-season and cash in on this off-season special 16-week comprehensive, training program, including:

  • Daily individualized training program, tailored to each individual’s current fitness, future goals and life schedule, posted on Training Peaks, a web-based coaching platform
  • Endurance focused mobility-stability and strength program
  • Sport-specific strength and endurance base building
  • A metabolic efficiency test utilizing cutting edge technology to determine your individual, well-defined, optimal fat burning zone
  • Nutritional guidance to optimally couple nutritional choices with endurance base training to improve metabolic efficiency

Package Price: $875

Regular Price: $1,200

To redeem this special fall offer, training must be initiated by October 31, 2016.

 

Does off-season mean we hibernate and curl up in a comatose state on the couch with a bag of chips? Maybe not. Off-season provides an invaluable opportunity to give yourself a mental and physical hall pass from single sport focus structure. It is the time to step back and enjoy the opportunity of mental and physical variety. I like to think of it as, waking up and doing what sounds fun vs feeling obligated to a structured run or ride.

Take a Fall Hike

But in my experience as an athlete and coach, I have realized that off-season provides a valuable opportunity to improve endurance-related metabolism and movement. It is the time of year to prioritize improving the body’s ability to efficiently tap in to existing energy stores (ie fats). It is also the ideal time of year to capitalize on improving our functional movement and strength, so with this foundation in place we ride and run with more unthinking fluid, efficiency and power.

Metabolic Efficiency Testing to capture the individual’s optimal fat burning zone

Off season is the optimal time to couple endurance base training with a more carb restrictive diet to extend our body’s ability to more efficiently metabolize existing fat stores, and train this metabolic efficiency at higher intensities. Replacing calories expended during endurance pursuits with calories in, is not a realistic, but we can train our body to better utilize its infinite existing energy stores (fat). This is applicable for every endurance athlete, of every distance and discipline.

Movement Prep to activate the nervous system

We can also capitalize on the off-season to improve our ability to better control and coordinate our movements as well as boost functional strength. This change of mental focus from single sport specific structure to a more activation-mobility-stability and strength focus, provides invaluable mental and physical variety. But it’s not variety for the sake of variety. In my experience this off-season focus and investment is the secret weapon to in-season performance.

Activation exercises held statically at the end of range

The first-step in developing improved movement and functional strength is improving the brain to muscle communication. This is achieved with a series of research derived and lab tested activation exercises. I need to be able to feel the muscles, before I can strengthen and recruit the muscles in a movement. These exercises are focused on kicking the under-utilized glute muscles, in to action. If I can get the most powerful muscles in the body generating power – that will result in a significant performance gain. Improving glute-recruitment is also a key to injury prevention, as properly firing glutes (and a functionally stable trunk) dictate the hip-knee-toe alignment.

Stretching consistently included in stability-strength circuits

During off-season we can prioritize improving global mobility (not fixating on the single troublesome body part, ie tight hamstring) to move our body as a harmonious unit. Mobility provides appropriate sensory feedback, and biomechanical alignment. For example, most of us due to sedentary lifestyles sitting in cars and at computers are in a constant state of flexion, resulting in tight adductors and internal rotators, which internally rotate the leg, contributing to mal-aligned hip, knee and toe. Counter this constant flexion with a global, consistent mobility practice.

Learn to move well

Improved mobility for improved alignment is just one piece, we also need to ensure proper recruitment and strength from the stabilizers. By investing time in the off-season with an effective stability-focused program, you will develop muscles that create the foundational, stable platform for the prime movers to direct the force and power in the intended direction.

So what’s the point? We have the tools to help you capitalize and maximize your off-season. It is attention to these off-season details that will set your functional foundation in place, and you will reap in-season rewards of injury prevention and improved performance.

Refining Your Power

For the last three and a half years, Jimmy Lockie has been participating in running races, triathlons and a half Iron Man. Now he’s set his sights on Ironman Canada, taking place in Whistler, BC in July 2017.

While he’s had success, he hasn’t had the kind of results he was looking for. He started working with Julie Young, at Silver Sage Sports & Fitness Lab in April and his times are going down!

Julie started by doing a lactate threshold test with Jimmy to identify his heart rate, power output and recovery capacity at lactate threshold. The results of this test helped Julie create a training plan to help him move toward his goals.

JimmyLockie_Swim
“I PRd twice in a row right after I started working with Julie,” he says.

After the initial testing and training plan, Jimmy decided he was ready for a Silver Sage Sports & Fitness Lab gait analysis, where they use Dartfish video analysis software to analyze a runner’s gait frame-by-frame, from all views. “We focus on hip and knee extension, torso angle, pelvis stability, hip adduction and ankle eversion,” Julie says. “If we identify deficits in strength and/or movement, we can make science-based recommendations to improve strength, stability and mobility to then help solidify their technique and maximize efficiency.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that this testing is what is helping me improve my performance,” Jimmy says. “It didn’t make me necessarily faster, but it made me more efficient on my bike and running so I can become faster.”JimmyLockie_Ironman

Through the lactate threshold testing, Jimmy found out that he could get his heart rate higher without prematurely building up lactate, while running at a normal pace. “I wasn’t running to my full potential because I didn’t know what my full potential was,” he says. “I found out that I can push harder and it’s not going to hurt me.”

The gait analysis helped him further fine-tune his technique. “Once Julie put everything into the computer, we found out that my stride was too long and needed to move my arms more,” he says. “She also gave me different exercises to do before and after a run to loosen up my hips.”

Jimmy has made huge strides in just the few months he’s been working with Julie. Where he used to struggle with an 8-minute mile, he’s now down to 7:35 and he has 7:30 in his sites.

“Julie’s done wonders for me as an athlete and the possibilities where I can go are endless with her,” he says. “She cares about us, and is able to use these tools to make athletes so much better through all of the little things she does.”

Going with Your Strengths

teal_stetson_leeTeal Stetson-Lee has been an athlete for most of her life, growing up as a Nordic ski racer in Durango, Colorado and participating in three Junior Olympics.

At the age of 20, she discovered mountain biking and cyclocross. She won the 2009 Collegiate Cyclocross Nationals for Fort Lewis College and then joined the Professional Cal Giant Cyclocross team in the fall of 2010 for her first year of elite racing. After that, she rode for the prestigious Luna Pro Team for three years. She now rides for Scott Sports and won the Pro Enduro at the Sea Otter Bicycle Classic in April 2016.

Much of Stetson-Lee’s professional success has been based on dedication, hard work and listening to her body. In the last two years, she decided to migrate from cross-country mountain bike racing to enduro mountain bike racing and cyclocross because she realized she was most talented in short power efforts and technical riding.

Working with Julie Young at Silver Sage Sports & Fitness Lab confirmed the science behind that decision. Young conducted a lactate threshold test on Stetson-Lee earlier this year, which helped her identify Stetson-Lee as a power athlete. “The test made it clear that she’s very good at putting out intense bursts of power for short periods of time,” Young explained.

“I kind of knew that, but the test confirmed it,” Stetson-Lee said. “Being an athlete can be kind of crazy as we’re always working really hard to try to be the best we can but if we don’t know what our natural strengths are, it makes it even more challenging. When you go with your strengths, instead of against them, it makes the path to success so much more attainable.”

Young shares that threshold testing is arguably the most important predictor of performance in endurance events (cycling, running, cross country skiing). “Training allows us to effectively improve our body’s ability to metabolize (for energy) and buffer the lactate, and as a result, we push the lactate curve to the right,” she says. “While much of VO2 value is genetically determined, your lactate threshold and your lactate threshold as a percentage of your VO2 Max is very responsive to the proper training.”

Teal Stetson-Lee learning her lactate threshold levels.

Teal Stetson-Lee learning her lactate threshold levels.

“It’s good to get a baseline as it gives me a point for understanding what it takes – power-wise and heart rate – to get into that zone where I can start producing lactate acid,” Stetson-Lee said.

The Silver Sage lactate threshold protocol provides athletes with critical pieces of information to help improve training:

  • Heart Rate at lactate threshold: this will be used to derive or fine-tune heart rate zones for specific training intensities.
  • Power output or speed at lactate threshold- this can be used to track fitness and refine power specific or speed-specific training zones.

This test includes an individualized analysis of the data and determination of training zones based on these results. Individualized science-based, systematic training plans are available for an additional fee.

“Going through some testing and working with athletic experts like Julie can help athletes to find focus with what fits their strengths and body type best, instead of always feeling like they are trying to beat their head against the wall with training and trying to be something they are not,” Stetson-Lee said.

We can’t promise you’ll hit lightning fast downhill enduro speeds as well as Stetson-Lee, but we can help you pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses, that will help you improve the way you train and perform. Click here for a better idea of what to expect during your lactate threshold test. And give us a call at 530-448-0498 if you’d like more information.

Jumping Outside the Comfort Zone

A post by Lucie Oren, on keeping it fresh and fun by seizing new opportunities to continue to learn and improve. Enjoy the read…

It is always good to try new things, wouldn’t you agree?  It keeps life exciting, interesting, fun, and challenging!  In my case, this “new thing” is not only seriously pushing my comfort zones, but it’s also helping me to improve my bike handling skills.  If you ask me, that’s a double “win!”

It’s called off-roading!  It started last fall with cycle cross.  The first time I watched a local race, I thought there is no way I’m brave enough to try that!  Then I did my first clinic.  I thought it was crazy, but also thought “Why not?  Why not just go for it and see what happens!”  Well, I was hooked!  I did a few local races, met new friends, and couldn’t believe I hadn’t tried this new sport earlier. 

 

Fast forward to this Spring…as I’m watching some my friends and teammates race and ride MTB I have that thought once again…”Why not?”  Never mind the bruises I see on their arms and legs or the occasional broken bone, why not just get over my fears and go for it.  So, I did.  Holy cow!  The people, beautiful trails, no traffic, encouragement from friends, and swooping single tracks are priceless!  Notice I didn’t mention the rocks…yeah, the rocks.  They scare the heck out of me and I have fallen during every bike demo I have done thus far, but I refuse to give up.  With the help from my friends, I will keep practicing those tricky rocks!  Get out of your usual routine and/or comfort zone and try something new!  I’m sure glad I did!

The Science Behind Your Metabolism

Endurance athletes have a number of challenges when preparing for competition. There is the sheer volume of training hours required for a four to six-hour event, but also how to manage intensity and fueling during workouts. Not surprisingly, performance is directly related to how well athletes understand their bodies’ metabolism and fueling needs, during training and competition.

An important predictor of your ability to finish strong in longer races is how well your body utilizes fat as a fuel source. Understanding your metabolic rate and how to maximize metabolic efficiency is useful for any athlete, but particularly for those focused on endurance events.

Fortunately for local athletes, Silver Sage Sports & Fitness Lab is equipped with the gold-standard in metabolic efficiency testing equipment and the science and knowledge to extrapolate and analyze the resulting data, to further focus your workouts and maximize your training investment.

This data is valuable when properly implemented, meaning the individual’s results are combined with the individual’s fitness goals to create a training program that phases proper nutrition with appropriate training to maximize the metabolic benefits.

Silver Sage metabolic testing provides you with the specific heart rate, power and/or pace to help you scientifically focus your workout. At the end of the assessment, you will know:

  • Caloric expenditure at various heart rates and intensities
  • How to preserve carb stores in order to decrease the amount of fuel replenishment required
  • How to increase fat as fuel, so you can perform workloads faster, longer
  • Lactate levels for your various metabolic zones

During a long race, or even a long training session, it’s impossible to ingest as many calories as you’re burning. As a result, your body depends on breaking down fat to get more energy.

“If you find yourself bonking during an event, or having gastrointestinal distress during races, our assessment will give you the information you need to improve your ability to utilize your on-board energy sources,” explains Silver Sage Sports & Fitness Lab Director Julie Young.

Professional XTERRA triathlete and professional mountain biker on the Sierra Endurance Sports Team, Suzie Snyder, gets the data she needs to maximize her training.

Professional XTERRA triathlete and professional mountain biker on the Sierra Endurance Sports Team, Suzie Snyder, gets the data she needs to maximize her training.

Suzie Snyder is a professional XTERRA triathlete and professional mountain biker on the Sierra Endurance Sports Team, as well as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). She began working with Silver Sage in early 2016. “I knew the importance of training easier between closely spaced races, but I didn’t have the data I needed until I started working with Julie at Silver Sage,” she says. “Once I completed the metabolic efficiency evaluation, I adjusted my training accordingly and I definitely saw a difference when I competed.”

Young explains, “When you’re training for an endurance sport, it’s even more important to understand how your body is expending calories and preserving carbs. With this assessment, an athlete can better understand how to increase fat as fuel, reducing the need to ingest calories. All of this can shave time off a race, while also helping with healthy weight management.”

In 2015, Snyder was having her best season yet as a pro, winning XTERRA New Zealand and the XTERRA East Championship. But then she fractured her pelvis, cutting her season short. After spending 9 months recovering, Snyder competed at XTERRA Oak Mountain in May 2016. She won handily and, according to Slowtwitch.com, held a women’s best 22:33 swim split followed by the women’s fastest 1:35:36 mountain bike split—2:28 faster than nearest challenger, Maia Ignatz. This year, Snyder also earned her professional mountain bike license by winning the first three national qualifying races she entered—all by significant margins.

We can’t promise Suzie Snyder-level performance for all athletes who do metabolic efficiency, but we do guarantee that the data you collect will enable you to improve the way you train and perform. Click here to see a sample metabolic efficiency test.

If you’re interested in finding out how this simple test can up your performance, call us at 530-448-0498.

Who Needs A Bike Fit?

A blog post by Laurie Marlowe on the value of a bike fit.

 As an avid cyclist and a physical therapist, I fully appreciate the importance of a well-fitting bicycle.  In fact I’ve been meaning to get around to having a professional bike fitting for my Cervelo R5 for some time now. A bad experience with poorly trained bike-fitter several years ago however left me dragging my feet.   Then I heard about Julie Young from some women that I was riding with.  She was excellent, they said;  “highly recommended.”    Well I’ve now been working with Julie as my coach for about the last 18 months and I finally got around to scheduling that a couple of month ago.   And while my first experience left me limping away with a much lighter wallet and a bike that felt weirdly upright and downright unstable, this one left me not only more comfortable on my ride, but also with a new focus on my form and body position.  It also helped me realize I need to address some physical issues, specifically a lot of tightness of my left hip musculature.

IMG_4128 (1)

Pre-bike fit

When you walk into walk into Julie’s office at Silver Sage/O2 Fitness, prepare to be thoroughly evaluated.   Julie will pretty much check out not only your alignment, but also your range of motion of most body parts.  She wields a goniometer (device to measure the angle of your joints), with the expertise of a seasoned P.T., which she is not by the way, however I’d argue that if she’s ever contemplating a change of career, our profession would welcome her knowledge and observational skills!

Next step is to put you and your bike on a Computrainer for additional evaluation, which includes photos, more goniometric measurements and videos from several angles.  All of this performed with Julie’s characteristic thoughtfulness and unflappable nature.  During this time, she was sharing everything with me and carefully assessing and reassessing any changes that she was considering.

So in the end I was really happy to discover that my bike actually was fitting me fairly well although se did have a few recommendations.   She dropped my handlebars a bit and recommended a slightly longer stem to give me a better “cockpit” and position on the bike.   This, she told me, would also help me maintain a more neutral spine and help correct my problem of rounding my back when I ride.  She recommended I could probably drop my seat 3 mm as well, although I’m waiting a bit on that for now.

laurie post

Post-bike fit

Her assessment also left me with some pretty good insights in terms of both some and postural habits on my bike.  The good news:  I had pretty decent trunk and hip stability (which I attribute in no small part to training with Julie over the last year and a half).    Not so great however was my left hip range of motion, which was pretty seriously tight, and also the fact that I was not getting into a neutral spine position when riding.

I ended up adding 10 mm to the stem length.  Luckily I was able to borrow a stem from a friend for a 2-week trial before purchasing a new one, which I would highly recommend so that you’re not out the money if the change ends up not working for you.   I’ve been working a lot on hinging forward, relaxing my shoulders and visualizing my sternum being pulled down toward the top tube, to maintain a neutral spine.

In the end what I learned focusing on better posture and positioning on my bike was even more valuable than the actual physical changes that were made to it.    I must say that this wasn’t even part of the equation during my first bike-fitting, adding to my realization that there is a huge difference in the skills and qualifications of a bike fitter.

I’ve added a couple of pictures of the before and after to give you an idea of how this changed my positioning for the better.  (And yes, I’m a little horrified looking at the first pic to see just how far this was from a neutral spine position)!   Needless to say, I’m very happy with the outcome and benefit for the money spent.   Now it’s just training, practice and awareness as I work toward becoming a better and more efficient cyclist.

Running is a Whole Body Sport

Interest in running recreationally and competitively is experiencing a meteoric rise.  The starting place for many interested in becoming a more serious runner is often a shoe store. Budding runners will invest in a new pair of running shoes believing the shoes will improve performance and prevent injury. Purchasing shoes sometimes includes a “gait analysis” performed by the shoe salesperson. A gait is a pattern of movement a person uses when they walk or run. A gait analysis is used to identify potential issues in someone’s form that can inhibit performance or lead to injury.

The problem is not all gait analyses are equal.

Gait analysis performed at a shoe store is designed to sell shoes

Though many believe the gait analysis they receive at a shoe store will give them insight in to becoming a better runner, that’s not always the case. Often, these analyses are done in the moment, where the clerk will ask the customer to jog in place, so they can identify which shoe will best fit the person’s form and gait.

Because this analysis is intended to sell shoes, the salesperson is typically focused only on the runner’s feet, not in context with what is happening above that might be contributing to foot mechanics. For example, they focus on the runner’s foot pronation (collapse of the arch) which is a normal function of foot mechanics during running, but not in excess. They will then suggest a shoe that can help to compensate for this excessive collapse to prevent over-use injury. Oftentimes, shoe store clerks receive little-to-no training other than to sell a shoe.

Running is a whole body sport

“When people go in to a shoe store to get a gait analysis, there’s usually no assessment of a person’s functional movement patterns, muscle length and joint ranges of motion,” explains Julie Young, an expert in endurance coaching, injury prevention/return to sport and performance training. “It’s like an investigative process. How we spend the majority of our day, injury and training history all contribute to our movement patterns. We have to collect and analyze all of the clues, put them together and come up with long-term solutions.”

Running, like gymnastics or swimming, is a whole body sport. It doesn’t rely solely on the feet but requires a body that’s stable and mobile. A comprehensive gait analysis, like those prescribed by sports medicine centers can give an aspiring competitive runner a visual impression (and an invaluable teaching tool) of the body’s break-down, which motivates the all-important activation, stability and mobility work.

A comprehensive analysis can also pinpoint specific strength and movement deficits in a runner’s gait. By identifying these problem areas, a professional can develop a training plan to improve the runner’s strength and movement deficits, while changing as little as possible in the individual’s gait. This can reduce a runner’s risk of injury, build strength and increase the runner’s performance.

Running can lead to injury

Unfortunately, many medical professionals only treat the victim (injured area) rather than above or beyond where the real criminal exists. That’s why it’s important to visit with a specialist in both sports and medicine.

Young, who was a top international cyclist for 12 years, conducts gait analyses as the director of Silver Sage Sports & Fitness Lab. She attends yearly courses at the University of Southern California’s Movement Performance Institute (MPI) as part of a fellowship. MPI, headed by Dr. Christopher Powers, conducts ongoing research on human biomechanics. Using state-of-the-art technology, Young has gained hands-on experience in identifying underlying movement impairments in a person’s gait.

“Through his extensive research, Dr. Powers is one of the few physical therapists I know who actually has a protocol for diagnosing injury (uncovering the source, not just the symptoms) and provides a methodical, systematic protocol to return injured runners to their sport,” Young said. “Many runners are looking for a quick fix. But unfortunately there is no silver bullet, and like anything worth achieving, return to running takes consistent investment.”

To identify potential problems, Young videos her clients running. Using frame-by-frame video analysis software, she’s able to identify exactly where underlying strength and movement deficits exist. She then creates an exercise protocol to improve those areas of weakness.

“For good or bad we are in an age of profuse, and often-times conflicting information, which can feel overwhelming, we want to help filter this information and provide our clients with credible, science-based tool,” said Young.