Helping Your Bike Fit Your Body

 

As the weather gets warmer, the snow on the mountains begins to melt and days get longer, it’s time to get the bike out of the garage. Whether you’re dipping your toes into the world of cycling, or you’re already an experienced rider, a professional bike fit may be the key to a more comfortable and efficient ride.

What’s a Bike Fit?
A bike fit is a series of measurements and adjustments used to fine-tune a bike to its rider. A bike fit can help a cyclist become more efficient, allowing them to ride faster and longer, with more comfort and power. Many bike shops offer fits with the purchase of a bicycle, and certain fitness centers also offer bike fits. But a professional bike fit, conducted by someone trained in biomechanics, can offer more than simply manipulating parts on the bike. Professional bike fitters invest time and skills to evaluate an individual’s unique biomechanics, as well as riding and injury history. This knowledge allows them to fine-tune the bike to the body, which provides optimum power output while reducing over-use injury potential.

Not all bike fits are created equal

While many bike fits are focused on the bike, a professional bike fit is focused on the individual and his or her relationship with the bike.

“We perform a 20-point assessment of the body before beginning the on-bike fit,” explains Julie Young, head coach and director of Silver Sage Sports & Fitness Lab. “We assess muscle length, joint range of motion, and the individual’s functional movement patterns. An initial fit takes about two hours.”

Lucie Oren at her latest bike fit, conducted by Julie Young.

Lucie Oren at her latest bike fit, conducted by Julie Young.

Assessments during the two-hour bike fit include a process where Young works through each isolated area of a person’s body that relates to the bike and checks for issues. Young’s goal in a bike fit is to achieve an optimal positon to avoid joint strain and overuse injuries, as well as deliver more power in to their pedal stroke. “The bike fit also allows me to educate the athlete on the importance of pelvic and spinal posture to create a stable platform for the hips to drive power in to the pedals,” she says. “The fit will continue to improve when off-bike mobility and stability work is consistently incorporated in to training, so we provide our clients with a repertoire of these exercises. The fit also provides an ideal venue to help educate and enlighten the cyclist on the elements of an efficient pedal stroke.”

Lucie Oren is a competitive cyclist who has had all of her bikes fitted by Young. “There are a lot of reasons that I get a bike fit,” said Oren. “Because I race, I need to get as much power transfer and efficiency as I can. A bike fit makes it more comfortable to ride, as well. Before I had my bike fit, I had back pain, knee pain and hamstring pain after a long day of riding. All of that disappeared after my bike was properly fitted.”

Travis Hits the National Race Scene – Bonelli Park – Kenda Cup Race

Contributed by Travis Boucher, o2fitness-athlete. Enjoy a recap of the race action from his first national level mountain bike race of the year.

I was very surprised that I was going to LA for a mountain bike race when I got pulled out of school on Friday even though my parents had already paid for the race and we all packed up our clothes. I read my book most of the way there and then played on an iphone until the battery light popped on just before Grapevine.  We stopped, checked what our choices were, then drove back 20 miles to an O’Reilly to get the new alternator for our Forerunner. My dad fixed our car in 45 minutes and we were off again.

We arrived to the hotel around 10:00pm, unloaded the suitcases and the dog, it was 10:25pm and I went to sleep at 11:00pm. The next day was better though. I woke up and ate a delicious breakfast my mom had made and packed before we left. Soon after that we all went down to the park so I could pre-ride the course (yes, even the dog went). I pre-rode the course and decided that I loved it because of the long, steep uphills. I also loved the amount of hills and the technical downhills. Also, the grassy corners at the start/finish.

After my pre-ride, we stayed to watch the cat 1 and pro races. I watched Nathan Barton race his Cat 1 19-23 class and get 3rd – awesome job Nathan! The pro women race was good to watch because I got to see Katarina Nash and Shayna Powless. In the pro men’s race I got to see Trevor DeRuise, before he face planted, Todd Wells and Topher Lewis. They all raced really well. I was exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel at 5:00pm. We ordered a pizza delivered to our room and were all asleep by 7:00 (8:00pm daylight savings).

On race day morning, I was so nervous I didn’t eat anything except a Nature’s Bakery bar and one Chomp. I was in the first row with all of the 13/14, 11/12, and 10U but got shuffled back to a second row start, which made me a little mad. My start wasn’t bad but my lungs were burning when I got to the first uphill. I passed a 13/14 racer, he passed me back, and then I passed him again and stayed in front this time. I also battled with another 11/12 racer that rocketed down the hills. I was scared of him and wanted to get a big gap between the other racer and me. I finally succeeded on my second and last lap. I felt great through my race thanks to Julie Young’s personalized training plan. I finished and thought I did well. Then I found out I got 1st.

I was really happy. Thanks to Roseville Cyclery for the tune ups on my new bike. Also, thanks to my parents for letting me go.

It’s Never Too Late

Contributed by O2fit-athlete, and Audi Team member, Michael Williams. Read on…

My love of competing on my bike began at the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix (1975), when I borrowed my sister’s Schwinn Varsity to enter the race.  At 13, I entered and finished second place in my first criterium.  I thought “How cool is this?”  But, my sister reposed her bike and I was afoot again until I could buy my own bike, many years later.

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Fast forward to the mid 80’s.  A friend was doing triathlons and I thought that looked like fun, so it was time for a “real” bike.  I loved that bike, loved training, and competing in triathlons.  My swimming resembled beating the water into submission, the running I maintained my position, but, it was cycling where I was able to “Seek and Destroy”  (In my mind at least).  So road racing ended up being my sport of choice.

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I trained with a good friend, and my cycling mentor (geek), who studied, and planned our training sessions and strategies. He did all the research and I was his workout buddy; following his lead.  That worked great at getting me some pretty good, and consistent results.

Then life came along.  Getting married and children!  I gladly stopped pursuing racing to enjoy the family!

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Still biked – mainly for fitness.  I was fortunate to fit in a few races, at best, one a year – most of them MTB races.  I gravitated to endurance racing, a few 24 Hour races, (4 team, 1 solo), and a few 100 milers (5x Leadville finisher) with the family as my crew.  By then my ‘cycling coach’/friend had moved on and was not longer there to tell me what to do.  I 100% winged it!  There were decent results, but knew that I could do better.

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Now the kids are off to college and I can spend a little more time on the bike.  Still just doing a little bit of ‘this’, with some of ‘that’ thrown in.

I met Julie Young at the Tahoe Trail 100 course preview ride. She had known a few of my cycling acquaintances, which got us talking before and after the ride.  Some encouraging words were said, and that is when I knew it was time to get some “Real” coaching.

I look forward to Julie’s experience and knowledge, which now gives me a systematic and logical approach to time on the bike instead of the old guessing game. Maybe I’ll see you out on the road, or, up in the hills.

Michael Williams

Mountain Bike Madness

o2fitness -athlete, Travis Boucher on a roll, winning last weekend. Take a read below of his race recap…Now its on to his first national level race at Bonelli.

I was so excited for race #4 because I had my new carbon Specialized Stumpjumper Hardtail (carbon awesomeness on Strava). Oliver at Roseville Cyclery helped my parents buy me this awesome bike.
I did my usual 4-mile warm up around the oaks. The only thing that wasn’t good was that I had gone to my friend’s birthday party the night before so I was a little tired. My mom helped me get a front row start again. I had a great start and stayed with the lead group this time. I was almost taken out by a bad crash. A kid wasn’t paying attention and skidded sideways into a wooden post, banging into it. We were all going pretty fast but luckily no one hit him.

After that I had to catch up to the lead group of 6-10 riders but we weren’t paying attention and missed our turn, ADDING about .2 miles to our race. We were all very confused when we came back to  the middle of the pack. I basically sprinted all of the way across the levy to try and catch the rest of the field. I thought, ‘It would be a shame for me to miss the podium for missing our turn.’

So thanks to Julie Young’s awesome training, I sprinted (or tried to sprint) the whole first lap. I passed as many Novice High School looking kids kids as I could find. I got into my second lap and sustained a very good pace. I only passed one novice HS kid on my second lap and had no idea how I finished. I rode as hard as I could and got FIRST in HS Novice class out of  30 racers.

Thanks to Roseville Cyclery for sponsoring me, Specialized for the AWESOME bike and Team RC for the support. Also, thanks to O2Fitness for the bike fits and training.

Preparing for Low Elevation Races

This blog post comes from, Silver Sage Sports and Fitness Lab sponsored, Sugar Bowl Elite Team member Spencer Eusden with insight into how he and teammate Emily Blackmer are preparing for the final SuperTour races of the year. These races will be help in the end of March in Craftsbury, Vermont and are some of the most competitive races held in the United States each year.

While the elevation, between 6,000 and 7,000, at which we normally ski is great for bringing us lots of snow, it can make it difficult to race well at sea level. Lower levels of available oxygen at altitude make the same pace take a greater physiological toll than at sea level.  Consequentially, our training pace at altitude is slower than it would be at sea level. However, when we go back to race at sea level, in order to be successful, we race at a pace significantly faster than we are used to. Here are a few of the things Emily and I have been doing to prepare our bodies to move fast in the upcoming races in Vermont.

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Speeds:

Short sprints are a great way to practice moving quickly without overly taxing your body. We have been including sets of 10-20 speeds into two of our workouts each week to improve efficiency at high speed. This past Tuesday I did the following workout skate skiing at Royal Gorge.

Warm Up: Ski easy for 20 minutes then do three 10-second speeds of 70%, 80%, and then 90% of maximum speed.

The Workout: 20 speeds that are 10-15 seconds long with at least 2 minutes of recovery between each speed. I like to break the speeds up into sets of 5-8 with 7-10 minutes of easy skiing in between each set. This time I started with 8 V2 speeds on flat terrain. Then, after skiing for 8 minutes easy I did 6 uphill V1 speeds. I was feeling a little tired after the uphill speeds so I took 12 minutes of easy skiing before the final set of speeds. I finished the workout with six 15-second speeds on variable terrain where I would have to change technique at least once.

Cool Down: Ski easy for 20 minutes. Change into dry clothes and eat a snack once you’re finished.

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Intensity Training

We normally do intensity training once or twice a week between races during the winter. When prepping for races at lower altitude, we often keep the number of intensity sessions the same, but adjust the workouts slightly to promote a higher pace. Typically this means that each interval is shorter and the total amount of interval time is lower, but the effort of each interval is 95-100% effort. Below is a workout we did with the rest of the Sugar Bowl Nordic Team as they were prepping for Junior Nationals next week.

Warm Up: Ski easy for 25 minutes then do a three minute long interval just below your lactate threshold, or about 80% of max heart rate.

The Workout: 5-8 one minute long intervals with 2 minutes recovery. Each interval is a maximal effort. We chose to do this workout over rolling uphill terrain and start each interval at the same place. This way we could gauge how much distance was covered in each interval from one to the next. I left my drink belt at the end point of my first interval as a reference point. In the range of 5 to 8 intervals, we continue until the distance we cover during the interval drops markedly from the previous one.

Cool Down: Ski easy for 30 minutes. Change into dry clothes and eat a snack once you’re finished.

By including more speed sessions in our normal training and adjusting the types of intensity sessions we do, we are better able prepare our bodies to move at the faster speeds we see at lower elevations. You can follow the Sugar Bowl Elite Team as we race later on this March on our blog (sugarbowlnordic.blogspot.com).

First-Ever Criterium, Race Report

Contributed by committed o2fitness-athlete Trixe Bradley. Enjoy the perspective from her first, fast and furious criterium.

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It was my first Crit race and I did not know what to expect.  I made myself a goal last year to throw myself into cycling and race as many races as I could.  Thankfully, I have had Julie Young on my side training me and getting me physically and mentally ready to race.  Her advice is take each race as an opportunity to learn and grow as a cyclist.

I arrived at the race early to make sure I had time to warm up properly and could figure out what I was doing.  I had read that most people bring a trainer to warm up on however I was familiar with Folsom and knew there was the bike trail I could hit for my warm up.  After I checked into registration, I asked a fellow cyclist parked next to me to help pin my number on my jersey. The little things that you need help with when flying solo.  LOL

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Julie had my warm up all mapped out for me so I hit the trail and followed my coach’s plan.  I must admit that I LOVE not having to think about it…I love that I just have to follow everything Julie says! hehehehe  She also told me my first objective during the race was positioning.  I needed to keep fighting for a good position towards the front!
The women 3 and 4 racers were lining up to do the practice lap and to my surprise I saw a Bright Orange Jersey.  I was overjoyed to see Sara. She had come to watch.  She gave me some great advice.  It was that during the practice lap to observe the road.  Take note of any man holes, potholes etc.  She also told me to stay in a fairly big gear to start.  One I could jump on!  I felt very excited and anxious to get this race going.

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After our practice lap, we all lined up and they discussed how the race would go.  They asked if it was anyones first time racing and we had to raise our hand.  So, I did but wasn’t happy that it would put a target on my back of NEWBIE.  LOL Well, the race started and all I could think was work on positioning.  I was feeling good  and was very comfortable in the pack.  After a few laps I was feeling these big lulls in speed.  It would slow down and I was having to brake a lot in the group.  At that point, I knew I did not want to stay where I was.  I was constantly trying to move up and get around. Just about the time, I was on the move the group would start to pick up pace.  I would hear women yelling a rider on the left when a gal was trying to break away.  All I kept doing was trying to catch a wheel as one was trying to pass.  It was still early in the race and I was trying to continually get up towards the front. I knew I did not want to stay in the group when it lulled however I spent a lap working to hard and was realizing that I was setting myself up for failure.  I needed to be smart and use others to help pull me rather than try and be a work horse.  At one point, I was losing steam and saw the group getting away.  All I could think was I am not going to get dropped.  I knew if I caught them I would be fine and it was just going to be hard for a short amount of time.  So, that is what I did.  I hit it as hard as I could and got back to the pack.  I heard one of the mentors who was riding with us say wow nice job!  I regained myself and started again to try and move up.  After that I would take those times during the lull to move up a little if I could but to be honest I didn’t really know what to do.  I realize now… that I was trying to move up at all the wrong times.  I was trying to sprint ahead when everyone else was doing the same.  I was using to much of the down time to play it safe.  I realize now that during the lulls I need to attack while everyone else is tired.  I need to get into great position then and fight for my place.

Overall, I am happy with my accomplishment.  Out of 18 Cat 4 women I came in 10th.  Not great but not terrible either.  Most important is I had fun and I felt great physically except for that 1 lap when I was being a NEWBIE rider.

I felt strong and was not torn up after the race.  It was very apparent that all of the specific training Julie is having me do is paying off BIG TIME!  Yes, I need more time racing to continue to learn how to strategically play the game but physically I felt like a WINNER.

I am so excited to continue racing.  This weekend I will be racing in the Madera stage race.  Another new and exciting opportunity to learn!!

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A BIG thank you to Sara and Julie for coming out to support me.  I could hear coach Julie at every lap yelling move up, push!  Sara, I saw by my mom and my kids yelling and cheering me on.  It was a GREAT DAY!

Trixie

Reno Wheelmen/Women, Sierra Foothill Training Camp

Contributed by Heidi Littenberg

The Reno Wheelmen/Women just completed two days of focused training in Auburn, California.  Thirteen riders, including several from Project Hero City of Reno, headed over the hill to spend two days learning from Silver Sage Sports and Fitness Lab Director, and O2Fitness Head Coach, Julie Young.

I have to start with the weather!  We kept counting our blessings that after the prior weekend’s rain and snow in the west, how lucky we were to hit the perfect weekend – sunny with highs in the 60s and 70s!  You can’t get better weather than that.  There’s nothing like green, rolling hills, and mostly rural roads with amazing scenery to lift the spirits after a couple months of gym workouts and riding on the trainer.  There were lots of smiles, despite all the hard work being done by all the riders.

The mild temperatures made it possible to have plenty of Julie’s patented chalk talks, so everyone could get the most out of each session.  She went over the key purpose of each workout and answered questions, so riders could focus on the task at hand with a great foundation of

1 Packing Light

Proof there’s no such thing as packing light!

We rented a team house in the Loomis area, which made it possible to ride to most of the training venues.  The location gave us the perfect place to settle in and have a great base of operations (possibly complete with poltergeist).

Day One – Sprints

Day one started with a sprint workout in the English Colony area.  Julie’s intimate knowledge of the roads meant we had a nice circuit for training with some gentle rollers for a bit of extra challenge – not just your flat loop around Air Center!  Each loop included two sprints, which challenged our ability to recover from hard efforts in bigger gears.

2 Sprint Chat

A group chalk talk about sprinting and apexing turns.

The two-and-a-half hour session included solo sprints, as well as double and three-person team lead outs.  Several riders hadn’t raced before, so they were able to pick up new skills, like drafting and how helpful it can be under any circumstances.  Riders also learned about apexing turns and the benefit of riding intervals at higher intensity levels.  We finished up with some rolling climbs up toward Auburn and back to the group house.

In the afternoon, we did a one hour active recovery ride as the sun was setting.  Despite already being tired from the morning workout, everyone enjoyed the spin and its positive effect on our tired legs.  We all felt sluggish at the start, but quickly realized how that quick spin helps the body recover.

Post-ride, we enjoyed the ability to eat an awesome potluck dinner for complete refueling.  Cyclists are often great cooks (or we can shop well!) and this group was no exception.

Day Two – Hill Repeats

We needed Saturday night’s dinner and Sunday morning’s breakfast as fuel for Sunday’s hill repeats.  Baxter Grade, just north of Auburn, is a local classic.  It works well for approximately 10-minute intervals with a variety of power outputs easy/hard, easy/hard).  The legs and lungs have to adapt to the changes in pitch in the road.  Five times up and down made for jelly legs, but having people around to offer encouragement was the kicker that got us all to the top of that fifth repeat.

3 Climbing Up Baxter

The first hill repeat on Baxter Grade, when we were full of energy!

Several of us skipped some major Sunday sporting event for an hour of active recovery later in the day, including a tour of Itchy Acres (my new favorite name for a rural/suburban housing tract!).  Another great sunset was on tap, along with more incredible, green scenery.  It’s amazing how beautiful that color feels when you live in a desert.

Key Takeaways

It’s amazing what a weekend camp can do for your riding.  Personally, I needed a reminder about why I love cycling so much.  I got that reminder from riding with great people in an amazing location that has world class terrain for cycling.  I also got that lift from feeling my body riding and recovering better than I thought it would.  There have been days over the winter that I couldn’t train as much or as hard as I wanted to, so feeling reasonably good after two days of pummeling myself was a nice surprise.

Riders also learned about more than just the physical benefits of doing intervals.  We definitely discussed their cardio and strength aspects.  But, Julie’s coaching includes so much more, like focusing on pedal stroke efficiency.  She makes it clear that you can’t just mash the pedals or “phone in” the workout and expect to gain much benefit.

4 Top of Baxter

 Lots of smiles after the LAST hill repeat on Baxter Grade!

Another rider mentioned how much she learned about the importance of a great bike fit and position on the bike for optimal use of large muscle groups (hear that, glutes?).  It’s easy to talk about it, especially if you’re a devotee like I am.  However, it’s an awesome thing to witness when someone else really feels that “I got it!” feeling for the first time.

In addition to details like these, a training camp really helps with the mental aspect of the sport, like applying what you’re doing to real-life situations (racing, riding centuries, etc.).  This helps us remember why we’re training in the first place.  That “aha!” moment gives each workout so much more oomph!

5 Riding Back to Railhead

Finishing up strong with a nice group ride.

Finally, a camp can help you push yourself through those last couple of painful pedal strokes at the top of the last hill repeat when you’re beyond tired.  Hearing others cheer you on and hearing Julie’s voice from behind you when you’re just about to fall off your bike… those things can help you finish that last 100 meters strong and with purpose.  That’s when training really pays big dividends.

Obviously, I’ll close by saying that if you have the opportunity to take part in a couple of days of intensive training with Julie, DO IT.  We all have those moments where we might be intimidated to dive into that pool, but it’s so worth it.  Like she said, “No one wins hill repeats!”  Camps like these aren’t about that.  They’re about pushing your own personal limits and finding out what you’re capable of.  That, to me, is time well spent.

TBF Race #2 MTB Classic 1/31/16

Blog contribution by Silver Sage-o2fitness Hot Shot, Travis Boucher. Enjoy the Read…

I woke upon Race day and felt great and ready to race. I knew I probably wasn’t going to get first because of the high school sport kids dropping down to race 2 laps instead of 3. I got to the race and felt great. I did my four mile warm up since it was cold. Then I waited to line up for the start.They changed the start order so I ended up almost dead last out of 47 kids. I had to catch up on the levy. It was very chaotic at the start and I had to dodge people. One kid crashed by the recycling bins. I almost face planted because I nearly was shoved off into a picnic table on the first tight turn.

After the levy, I had to pace myself because of the two laps. I did good on my first lap but my second lap was a different story. On every hill my legs burned. Thankfully, my training helped me stay strong on my second lap and I didn’t drop too badly. Sadly, right at the end I was passed by two kids. One I was able to go back and forth with but the other one was gone.

 Photo credit: Craig Dvta
 Photo credit: Yi Chen
Photo credit: Yi Chen

I tried my best and finished 7th out of 47 HS Novice. I’m looking forward to the next race.

Jump Start Prep Phase Training

Silver Sage sponsored Reno WheelWoman and O2-fitness athlete, Michelle Faurot shares her strategy to jump start her preparation phase of training.

After a busy holiday season I knew it was time to jump-start my training.  I had a huge year on the bike last year training and racing RAAM and masters road nationals, but the holidays with lots of family visiting put a real dent in my time to train.  Peak training months during last year averaged over 50 hours/month on the bike.  By December last year I was down to 6 hours on the  bike.  All indoors, by the way, as we finally have snow here in Reno.  Early January wasn’t much better.  I had five hours on the trainer before I departed last Friday for an epic event called The Coast Ride, a three day point to point from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.  That’s about 125 miles per day.  My group of seven women from the Reno Wheelwomen team brought two vehicles to support us, so I knew we would all have to share the driving.   My hope was to be able to do at least one full day.

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After Day 1 with 68 miles and 4,500 feet of climbing I wasn’t so sure I was going to be able to achieve that goal.  The weather was cold and rainy and after initially feeling good on the bike, I got tired and wasn’t recruiting my glute muscles properly so my thighs started to cramp.  A good lunch helped me feel better and remember all I had learned from coach Julie Young.  While I hadn’t been on the bike much, and no time outside, I had been doing regular strength training and outdoor activities.  I also realized that this was going to be a mental battle more than anything else.

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Day 2 I rode 68 miles, some on Highway 1 through Big Sur.  Still rainy and grey, the coastline when you could see it remained spectacular.  I rode easy for the most part, focusing on form.

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Day 3 was the big day.  128 miles ahead of me. Still rainy and now muddy. I knew I needed to ride with a big group, and I found one almost right away.   It was nice to be with the pack, riding together at a reasonable, fast clip.  Now I needed to focus on staying with the group. The pace in my group picked up on the way to the lunch stop.  The group got split by cross winds, and I was happy to stay with the lead group. We then started to hit some long climbs, and now the first mental battle kicked in.  A couple times  I thought I was sliding off the back for sure.  I hung in, thinking at times of all the squats and leg press I had done over and over,  It became kind of a mantra.  I was really pleased to have stayed with a solid group of guy bike racers up those climbs.

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Post lunch was more of the same  mental battles, knowing I had a solid group, and working hard to make sure I stayed with them.   No cramping and our group rolled into the hotel with a 17.7 mph average for the day.  7,000 feet of elevation gain.  A huge thanks to Julie for helping me believe I could do this. It was a fantastic way to start the season!

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Final stats for the weekend: 264 miles, 16 hours,  and 16, 620 feet of elevation gain. Post ride pic, all smiles!

The Scientific Method

Silver-Sage/O2fitness athlete,  JT Teerlink shares sincere reflections on the opportunities afforded when we continue to be willing and open to observe and learn. This perspective helps us to continue to improve and avoid the pitfalls of preconceived notions, leading to stagnation. Thanks JT for sharing.

I love teaching the scientific method.  I teach my students that scientists are always collecting new observations that have the potential to disprove not only their own work but also that of their colleagues.  A theory that can withstand decades worth of interdisciplinary observations is one you can truly rely on to interpret the world around you.  But even those, on occasion, must be altered to accommodate for new data.

I always take a moment to stand on my soapbox and urge students to do something not covered in the syllabus.  An underlying agenda I have in my moonlight career as a community college professor is to mold my students into better citizens, or at least my idea of what that looks like.  ‘Scientists are always open to new observations and new data, particularly if it does not support their view.  This is a good policy in life.  Always be open to new data to shape your perception of your friends and family, drive your consumer choices, and inform your political leanings, particularly when the new data challenges your current view.’

I’ll leave consumer choices and politics aside, but how often are we truly open to seeing our friends and family in a new light?  Allowing them to change and grow without holding them to some prior expectation.  Even worse, how often do limit our own growth by a preconceived notion of what we should be?  What our strengths, weaknesses, abilities, passions, and dislikes are.  What limitations do we set by neglecting to collect new data?

As 2015 wound to a close I wanted to take a look at my own preconceived notions about who I thought I was and who I thought I was not.  Attempt to let go of expectations.  Was I too attached to any particular view or habit?  This was a broader exercise, but who I am as an athlete was an easy target.

I’ve collected data over the years about my relationship to athletics.  In recent years my time has predominantly been spent cycling.  Skiing, running, whitewater kayaking, yoga, triathlons, all take rotation, and of course my first true love; swimming.  The data all support a singular conclusion: my brain is clearer after my body has been pushed to the point where I am able to silence the constant, bustling, unending mental chatter.

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Junior year high school

As a high school and collegiate swimmer I was convinced it was all about getting faster.  I poured myself into every workout, focused on technique, obsessed over the numbers all with the intent to be as fast as I could possibly be.  With retirement looming, midway through my senior year I realized that 1/10th of a second really didn’t matter in the grand scheme.  It was a bit of an identity crisis. I had so much of my character wrapped up in those fractions of seconds.  My life would go on whether I shaved those fractions or not, and I would be forced to look towards new horizons.

sad about 1st

Visibly crying on the podium over not achieving time standards for senior nationals despite winning state championships in the 100 yard backstroke (and also 100 fly).

It was challenging to find a new equilibrium with athletics.  It took close to a decade for me to realize that what I had truly loved about swimming wasn’t the competition against the clock or opponent.  It was the daily effort, the practice of exertion.  I like trying hard. I naturally crave heading out and hammering up hills.  It is something that calls me.  The value is in the day to day and any outcome is ancillary.

I ‘retired’ from swimming 15 years ago, and since that time I have completely avoided ‘training’.  Too often I hear people talk about training as a chore, a dirty deed that must be done in order to enjoy some future event that it is ‘all about’. This doesn’t resonate with me, and so I have avoided calling it training or having any sort of organization.  The data I had gathered suggested ‘training’ wasn’t for me.  I just like riding my bike, skiing in the mountains, swimming in lakes.

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Co-founder of the Dirt Birds women’s cyclocross team.  (photo credit Jim Elder)

Two years ago I found cyclocross.  I love it.  I love the intensity.  I love the opportunity on each lap to improve on a line or a skill.  I love the community.  I love competitors breathing down my back pushing me harder, and those dangling just out of reach in front me.  I love executing a pass and not being certain if I’ll be able to maintain it.  And most of all, I absolutely love that for an entire 45 minutes I do not think about anything else.

I have grown so attached to the idea that I am not a person that trains and that I am not a person that is an ‘athlete’.  But if I am a careful observer, I know how much I love it when fitness and skills mesh and I am able to dig a little deeper, stick a line, execute a pass, put the hammer down.  I want to chase that feeling of when things ‘click’ but this is a vague goal of improvement.  I know that whether I surpass my competitors or they improve over me none of that makes a difference in my identity or character.  Because of that I have been adamant about not ‘training’.

It is time to collect new data; I make the conscious decision to let go of who I think I am.  My initial conversations with Julie made it clear she would be a great advocate in providing organization in the day to day, while keeping the focus on enjoying the process even more than that outcome. Embrace challenges to my body and mind day in and day out and accept that it is possible to enjoy even when it is organized into ‘training’.   Embrace that with some forethought I could have more of those moments where it all clicks and the constant chatter in my brain falls away.

From an initial email to determine if we would be a good fit as an athlete-coach pair I immediately felt at ease. ‘Truly in my mind it’s not at all about competition or proving, its simply an amazing venue to express our talents. Artists have art, we have athletics. We absolutely want to find the balance so this athletic outlet provides a positive balance to your life. And I think when we love it, training and workouts are not work, but again just an opportunity to keeping improving, honing and polishing our art.’