Back to Basics

Below, Kristin Barnes, aka Rosie, from the Silver Sage/O2fitness-trained and sponsored, Bike Like a Girl winning and record-breaking RAAM 2015 team, reflects on her RAAM winning preparation.


Three members of the RAAM team, and alternate member

Having been a lifelong athlete, I’ve had significant experiences with coaches of all kinds, yet they all seem to agree on one thing: that technology is one of the best things to bring into you training plan to give you an edge.  My first coach was my Dad; I can still hear him as a cross country coach extolling the virtues of this brand new gadget call a “heart rate monitor” back in the mid-80s.  It seemed very cutting-edge and a very scientific way to train back then.  Today, we’ve progressed to the point where you’re very old-school if you don’t use a HRM and incorporate technology into your gear bag.  There’s no end to the gadgets we currently have available to help us train and perform: metronomes, power meters, apps, computer programs with videos, race wheels, carbon frames, etc.  The list is exhausting and if you’re on a budget, perhaps you feel behind the power curve.

Coaches are completely on board with whatever gadget may help an athlete improve; it makes sense that taking advantage of science and technology are in the best interest of the athlete.  And frankly, I’m all in as well.  Or at least I was.  My most recent endeavor training with O2Fitness for the Race Across America made me re-think that notion.  For something of that magnitude, you’d think we’d want the best that science and technology have to offer.


RAAM transition

But do we?

Interestingly, I’m no longer convinced we do.  In the end, I don’t think you need a power meter, Sufferfest, or Spinervals.  Carbon bikes help but I managed to complete the Race Across America this year with one bike that’s 10 years old and another that’s 6.  Ancient based on today’s bicycle technology.  What’s the key, then?

Going back to the basics.  That’s it.  But what do I mean by that?  You mean long, slow, miles slogging it out in the summer heat?  No, again.

Let me back up slightly by saying at the time I started training with Julie, I was also seeing a chiropractor and a physical therapist for chronic back injury.  I was also newly introduced to something called Foundation Training.  It took very little time for me to hear a common thread: I needed to go back to the basics.  A 45-year old athlete who always does one plane of motion left me sort of broken.  Basics meant structure. You can slog out all the miles you want with all the cool toys money can buy but if your base structure is out of balance, weak or damaged, you’re going no where fast.  The interesting thing is you may not even realize it.  But keep up long enough and you will eventually be headed for serious chronic injury.  So the Foundation Training, my chiro and PT all said strengthen and, more importantly, activate the structure.

So how did they tell me to activate my structure?  The body is designed to move in a very specific and coordinated way.  All the muscles of the posterior chain are team members and have specific roles to play on the field.  Much in the same way people preach to pick up heavy objects with your legs (use your structure properly!), my chiro and PT were saying, train your structure to perform the moves functionally, get the team back working as a team.  My back was doing all the work minus glutes, piriformis, etc.  After literally a lifetime of one dimensional movement (running/cycling all forward – nothing side to side), my entire posterior chain was non-functional.  It doesn’t matter that I could still squat and dead-lift like I could when I was 25. If they aren’t firing when I need them to on my bike or on a run, they might as well not be there.  My end result was a chronically injured back.


Spring Cycling Camp

Fast forward back to last January when our team started working with Julie.  When I first looked at the training plan, I was nodding and saying. “YES!” at the computer because she clearly got it.  No cyclist is able to develop to their full potential unless they are starting with a healthy, functional structure and maintain focus on a healthy structure throughout training.  The foundation to her training plan was simply working on activating the entire team (posterior chain/core).  Continuously throughout the entire six-month program — she had us do core and posterior chain activation and stability, as well as global mobility and regeneration, every day.  Her emphasis on structure sent a clear message on what was important.


Spring training camp, pre-bike workout mobility and stability work

Notice there was no mention of gadgets.  (Moments of true confession, some of her workouts I did on my mountain bike with no HRM and had a blast while still remaining true to the session’s goal.)  Many coaches still prescribe to the long/slow miles doctrine with power meters and rigid adherence to heart rate zones and for those, I say, have at it.  But that wasn’t working for me because while the coaches were focused on getting the most out of technology and science, the old-school basics were missing.  The O2Fitness interval program (prescribed based on power, HR or perceived exertion, based on what worked best for each individual on the team),  built on a solid foundation of structure activation was one of the best I’ve ever done.

Thankfully I now have six-months worth of logged sessions so I can go back and review all the work we did not for the intervals but for the foundation work. Now that RAAM is over, I’ve dropped down to only a few, short rides a week and maybe a jog or two.  While I’m not currently the endurance athlete I was a few months ago, the one concept that I have continued is structure. The O2Fitness, science-based activation exercises faithfully remain in my repertoire.  In this way I maintain my daily focus on those things that contribute to being a balanced athlete (and functional human being) which have nothing to do with long slow miles or speed I can buy online.  In the future, there’s always potential for more races and more challenges and even the potential for buying some great technology to boost my performance.  But thanks to O2Fitness, this will all be possible with just a little, consistent focus on the basics.