Mountain Bike Training News

2017 Racing – Tomorrow doesn’t exist until it becomes today.

17 days until the start of the 2017 EWS season and 49 days almost to the minute until racing will conclude at UCI DH WC #1 in Lourdes.

The freshness of it all, new teams, new riders on new bikes, colours, kits, venues and new ventures. Wheel size or watts the shiny new things are what keep so many people coming back for a fresh dose of race fever. Whether rider, racer, industry hack, journalist, spectator, coach, fan or fan-boy…this “newness” each season drags the heart-rate a little higher, pushes the addiction a little deeper and keeps the glint of hope shimmering in everyone’s eyes.

Wrapped up with the freshness & newness is the sameness – a must, the blend of fresh and same-old keeps things authentic, keeps DH and Enduro what they are – racing can’t change too much from the basics; A to B, fastest wins. That’s what we are all here for. Displays of preparation and execution against the clock.

Driven by instinct maybe or more possibly culture, the “players” whether fans or media keyboard jockey will speculate. Bench racing; who’s on the up, who’s got what to prove?

The athlete’s in all this need to be strategic, strategy implies purposeful thought. Getting sucked into speculation and expectation is a recipe for disaster – tactical nightmare, shuffling emotions about as best one can only partially dealing with the physiological fall-out inevitably linked to emotional reaction.

2016 is gone. Those with paper to fill will talk of the title defense, the rising star or failing veteran. But there is nothing to defend.

Whether your name is Rude, Ravanel, Callaghan or  Winton. Atherton, Gwin, Seagrave or Minnaar. Races can only be won. There is no defense to make. Each week, day & racing minute are opportunities for action only. If you aim to write some history, there’s only one way to go about it.

Races & Championships are only won, never defended.

MJW_3976.CR2

Share Button

The best of 2016?

 

The best ride in 2016? Not an easy one to choose; cliché but there were many savage days out! But a filthy wet July day high above Morzine riding at full tilt up and down hills with a host of Point1 trained animals and some friends!

Starting on some of the steepest tarmac inclines in the valley; it was threshold pace from the word go. With XCE World Cup winner and everyone’s favourite Asian Caucasian Kenta Gallagher leading it out, waving willy and twisting throttle!

Eventually working our way to a high enough altitude we broke through the thick cloud to be greeted by the heaviest rain storm in months! Soaked to the bone; we proceeded. More willy waving was needed and we picked the trickiest, tech single track climb with slick rock to have a 1 up competition. Little did we know though that the Spartan Race that was happening in Morzine at the time was using the same trails. So with bodies falling all around us and traction dripping away with every mucky revolution, the ride was turning into something beyond epic for how little time we’d actually been out!

After some Spartan spectating and more face-plants (them not us) we traversed some dodgy cliff edge trails, 200m straight down to death on your left! Arriving at our little plateau (where the Instagram was taken), regrouped and high-5’ed…dried off the grips, strapped on a pair of goggles and dropped in to 19 of the best switchbacks in the alps, bermed to perfection by nature and time; the dirt was perfect!

A quick traverse after all the whooping and shouting, another Zone 4 attack to get back up toward Pleney and we rode some bike park senders back home! Less than 2 hrs riding but with a crew of weapons as wild as they were. World Cup winner and racers, EWS winner it didn’t really matter as it was just skids and wheelies and massive craic.

Cheers to push-bikes!

Share Button

Things I learned in 2016 – #TIL16

 

Share Button

Setting Succesful Goals – 2017

Obliquity is, I think anyway, pretty tough to pronounce. At least at a glance when reading… < Obb – lick – witty >? That’s about right!

Straight line; direct, plan of action, clear objectives, Do A and B happens, good decisions happen because I know my goals etc…

All of the above, are generally, what goals are all about. With 2017 already here many a human and push-bike piloting human at that will be setting a fire under their arses, setting goals, making resolutions and….sticking to them! The only issue being that life, by which I mean our human interaction with the world at large, often dishes up tasty unknowns…meaning planning to change the plan based off of these unknowns is the only plan we should have!

Amplify and Dampen – rewritten as Grow and Shrink – these are the core “skills” in adaptive planning aimed at achieving your “end-results” or goals. With rigid plans based off of cause & effect thinking A always leads to B, you are often found late to the party when it comes to capitalizing on an emergent situation or dampening a not so desired outcome. So whether that’s making the most of good weather or adjusting your plan to make the most of training even with an injured leg, having you’re goals set “obliquely” means you can deal with all eventualities and be still far more likely to succeed come the “crunch”!

While some smart people thought adding the S.M.A.R.T approach to setting outcome type goals would help, and it does, the “all in” end goal approach still fails so many people that different way of doing things is needed!

1

Here’s an anecdote to help ease the pain of my ramblings…

Say you want to loose 5kg of fat; to help you climb faster, slow down quicker and shred the bike better; at the same time you want to get stronger!

Goals = Loose 5 kg by April; Add 15kg to Squat and 30kg to Deadlift by May. No that’s all pretty S.M.A.R.T. stuff, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time framed! So next step? Design the perfect strength training plan; higher a nutritionist once off and have them build you a “diet plan”! Job done…follow those two things for the next 3 months and you’l be set!? Lean, mean and keen?

Alas…who feckin’ knows….4 to 5 months away is a long way away! And all the while you’ll be focusing on those numbers, numbers, numbers! And what do those numbers mean…..not much, they are the by-product of success not the measure of it. The are extrinsic focus that will hammer down your intrinsic motivations…

So instead – add some obliquity….

Ok – How about? Become MUCH leaner than I am now; and get stronger in such a way that it shows up when I’m riding.

Instead of normal goals we go for some indirect changes…

  • Eat protein at each meal
  • Only snack on fruit or nuts
  • Visible Reduce portion sizes except for after training meals
  • Weigh yourself at regular intervals, but also track fat mass lost with pinch testing and take a body composition photo with each weigh in!
  • Track/Record your training session. Likewise take pics of your meals to compare content and portions
  • When you weigh in and measure fat mass – see how your habit and lifestyle changes and training practices are working….notice a trend? Amplify it!

For your Strength oblique-goals you could try;

  • Strength train 3 times a week minimum for 5 weeks
  • Include 3 compound lifts in each session
  • Identify limiting factors to movement efficiency and quality
  • Add 1.25 kg to all compound lifts weekly at a minimum
  • Track weight lifted and how it felt (speed, effort, intent etc…)
  • Track your fatigue during and after riding on demanding, steep or “wild” trails
  • Is your current approach to getting storing leading to noticeable improvements on the bike?

The above are not conditional; they are how you will achieve what you want to achieve. They form behaviors that become habits that become success!

The reason you’ll see “track” or monitor in there so much is that as we strive for our goals we learn about them, learn about how useful that new “place”, new “you”, new “state” will actually be and learn about how our actions shape the speed and direction we are heading in and if that direction is the right one, wrong one or even a better one.

If great cathedrals were just built to pray in then they would not look like they do…if you focus only on the end goal; winning or loosing weight then you’ll miss every last opportunity to improve, to grow, to change, to amplify.

The pounds look after themselves only when we take care and cherish every wee penny.

symbol-arrow-cartoon-free-target-gun-bow-aim

To summarise:

Set small goals that allow you to build groundwork to large successes

Once larger objectives achieved – don’t stop

Embrace serendipitous discoveries in pursuit of our objectives

Realise that behavior, habit, mindset and emotional intelligence are what achieve big goals long term

Make changes both based on emergent situations and to initiate learning and discovery (will a low carbohydrate day a week work for me?)

Only by doing can you learn how things happened, planning only works as a description of what may happen

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big and setting outcome goals – they just need to be backed-up obliquely

Oblique goals allow you to tinker and learn on the path to success within an evolving but effective frame-work

 

 

 

.

 

Share Button

Failure, decisions & error

The reason for penning this piece is the problems that come from the ever present thinking in “society” that athletes and sports performers are, or at least should be, machines. A coach and/or scientist “engineer” the perfect performance. Guaranteeing race or competition day success through perfect planning, a blueprint, followed to the tee with marginal gainzzz (always 3 Z’s) included. This notion of the human-machine has led us to a point where error and failure are seen as one in the same and that big F, failure is shameful.

For the athlete this idea is so prevalent in most areas of society that it seeps into their consciousness, they deem, without much thought, that anything other than success is a failure and worse yet that failure is to be avoided (at any cost); as yes, it’s shameful, hurtful and always avoidable! Where does this leave the athlete? Anxious, scared and more worried about avoidance of shame than exploring the outer reaches of their current potential!

p-20160918-02548_hires-jpeg-24bit-rgb

Copyright: RedBull Content Pool

 

The failure to deal with failures correctly and the tendency to categorise anything but an outcome exceeding expectation as failure gives the athlete, emotional baggage they may carry, not only to competitions, but also to training and in life generally. I have seen a marked HRV response of pretty impressive amplitude in an Elite MTBer following a results that the athlete deemed as a competitive failure! This baggage can often manifest itself as self-pity, lamenting past error and bad decisions that led to failure. The same baggage can hold fears, fear of the future, fear of similar situations that lead to “failures”, regrets and dwindling self-efficacy! Leading to lower adherence to consistent training, lower motor-output in a given session, lower…well, everything potentially. So the only way to deal with failure successful and use it as a potent fuel for competitive fire is to change what the word means. Change athlete & coach mindsets, change how your discussions are carried out and change everything from goal-setting to decision making skills & training. Error may be seen as volitional by many, but when the coach and athlete realise that both error and failure can come from such differing sources, the volitional nature of error and failure can almost always be questioned and as a result the learning we do and improvements we can make from understanding & embracing failure are monstrous!

Categories of Failure

I’ve spoken at length with many other coaches and even presented to other coaches the perils of the “categorisation” syndrome in the physical preparation of athletes. Everything has a box it fits in, bio-motor abilities can be isolated for maximum “overload” and bang, thrown together for optimal performance. Well we all know that’s not so; but regardless there are times when simple categorisation helps deliver much needed clarity in a situation. Allowing us to build a framework of sorts within which we can start to dig deeper into the relationships between actions, decisions, error and ultimate failures!

Professor Amy C. Edmondson at the Harvard Business School has a beautiful spectrum of failure that works very well for the athlete and coach.

failure-edmondson

From Blameworthy to Praiseworthy - understanding the deeper consequences and potential necessity for failure can free the athletes and coaches minds. Free to make better decisions in the future; racing, athlete preparation and training are all quite complex, unknowns have large effects. Small factors can ripple through the “system” with such ferocity and magnitude that everyone from spectators to parents are stunned. Think of the tiny pebble, perfectly placed at random that leads to the front end wash-out as a rider is 100m away from the finish line with World Cup #1 spot all but wrapped up.

This, sometimes knife-edge, complexity clearly lays out the necessity for all involved in sporting performance to accept and embrace the correct “type” of failure and work very hard in making sure “blameworthy” failures do not become habit.

For example, an athlete testing a radically different suspension setup crashes, breaking some fingers and side-lining themselves for 4 weeks! They can still train to an extent but can not compete or train in their sport. Is it a failure? Chance? Circumstance? If some digging isn’t done then the outcome (snapped metacarpals) may be seen as avoidable failure…leading to regret and avoidance strategies, meaning the athlete will never test such a radical set-up again, or worse never test full stop; sticking to what they know and stagnating in “middle-ground” for the remainder of their career!

Crack open the lid on the situation however and we can pull some useful understanding from the outcome and causes and use it to make everyone better. The set-up was radical, but did the mechanic build the shock correctly? The athlete…? They felt pretty uncomfortable pretty much straight away, no confidence i the front end, a lot less grip etc… but he continued to push, choosing a gnarly section of track to hammer a bit harder…leading to some fucked fingers. Ultimately we found out that the rider and mechanic tried a fork and shock change at the same time (process inadequacy), the fork was a lot stiffer and the rider hadn’t gotten any heavier or stronger over the off-season (coaching error?), the rider choose to push on regardless, but it was the 3rd run on this set-up (so the Task challenge was deemed feasible), but due to the complexity of the situation the unknowns came into play and Boom, injury. The rider gave feedback to the mechanic and they came to a hypothesis together; tried it and it failed. Praiseworthy blame? Well it may have been but the mechanic, it turns out, forgot some lock tight and a once function rear suspension unit fell to pieces under some big loads on track. Inattention! Blameworthy failure.

Some fast and frugal analysis means the rider will be happy to test again, the coach may re-address the medium term strength training plan and the mechanic may build himself a new check-list or change his processes!? Failure has consequences, but they should never be feared, only embraced.

Culture is a buzzword in the coaching domain these days, are rightly so, it defines much of what we do each they, it’s the framework with which nations accept actions as habits, it drives the decisions hastily made and when it comes to failures the macro and micro cultures we are in need to accept and learn from them. A Learning culture, primed and ready to analysis, categorise failure and connect the dots (the relationships) between actions, decision making, error and failure!

While macro culture is often much bigger than the coach and athlete, micro is moldable. So whether it’s simply your personal performance culture as an athlete or the team culture you help shape each day as a coach. You can make changes and make sure failures of the praiseworthy type are embraced and the blameworthy type are learned from. The domain you practice in will decide to what level failure can be embraced…failure tolerance if you will, or even failure periodisation!

A factory manufacturing stents for the heart muscle can’t just go exploring a new material out of the blue, as failure in their domain may lead to certain death. But the MTBer wanting to try 5 psi lower tyre pressure or 5 weeks of interval training only can hypothesis and explore. In the complex world of sports performance sometimes exploring the outer reaches of what is currently deemed possible or acceptable will lead to new and radical results or total failure. both as they come leads to progress, as long as all involved are mindful of how we got there and where we wish to go with performance (a good argument for monitoring, feedback regularity and exceptional relationships between all members of the athlete’s team)

p-20160807-00062_hires-jpeg-24bit-rgb

Copyright: RedBull Content Pool

 

Error leads to…?

Growing up in “western” education errors are punished. Perfect technique when kicking a football during “practice”, crisp handwriting, joined for added difficulty in execution!  Exploring the grippiness and friction co-efficient of a skateboard filled with school mates? Many errors, volitional or otherwise are punished in most cultures. In a sporting context, specifically bike racing the athlete who puncishes themselves for an error is often committing suicide, doubling the effect of what singularly may have been harmless!

A hallmark of sporting excellence is the athlete who commits a seemingly fatal error but regroups and succeeds. Whether it is the player missing a conversion in rugby, the ski racer sliding on their hip for a second, or the DH racer, who pummels that left hand berm so hard the eject off line…errors build legend, but are avoidable. The are avoided in competition by embracing them as micro learning experiences in training. Without them, the unknowns of competition will destroy an athlete. Errors may be avoided or reduced under pressure, but they are not something that can be totally removed. It’s only through building training environments that embrace the possibility of failure or even are designed with creating a more demanding or likely failure inducing environment that errors that lead to poor performance or lessened outcome can be produced, understood, overcome and ultimately become the norm, so under competition pressure they are seen as mere variability!

An error priming environment can only be created when past failures AND successes are dissected and understood. Bringing us full circle to the relationships between errors, failures, analysis and training. Understand the failure, embrace it as a learning tool, but make changes in training to unearth, test and delve into root causes whether they are errors or decisions. Training to push the outer reaches of your current specificity will lead to better competition outcomes; exactly what we are all here for!

I’ll yap on further about Decision Making in another blog; but take what you want from the above. The core point being if you currently aren’t in the business of embracing, accepting but learning from and making changes because of your failures as a coach or athlete then you’re setting yourself up for more of the same, failures (likely blameworthy), a shift in thinking, culture and mindset maybe needed, A whole new paradigm for you or your team.

In a complex world, like MTB racing or sports in general, failures happen, many are unavoidable, some are very useful but the one thing they all have in common is they can be learned from and used as a step to new heights of sporting excellence.

A cycle of blame, self pity and continued failure awaits those who aren’t prepared to grab all the failures they create or experience by the neck and simply learn.

 

Share Button

Prospective Control of Action

This is a re-post from the Point1 Facebook page; because frankly Facebook is a horrible medium for longer, dribbling narrative! Enjoy.

cairns_2016_when-to-set-up-high

 

So, to carry on from Friday’s yip-yap on Posture and Technique…

One of the relationships (some were trade-offs) listed was

Pre-Reaction~Reaction

The first term above being a misnomer – deliberate at the time. The correct term in fact would be, I think,

Prospective. Prospective control.

And as is becoming very clear in my own development as a coach, the relationship of qualities, traits and sub-systems within the athlete (rider) is of utmost importance, this must be respected & understood.

Relational thinking TRUMPS categorical thinking….always. When we speak about performance improvement at least.

“Prospective control refers to the means by which actors (read: rider in our case) adapt behaviour in advance to the constraints and behavioral opportunities afforded in/by the environment” ~ Fajen, Riley, Turvey; 2009

Prospective control is thus ESSENTIAL for the emergence of skilled actions. Without it all you would do is react to what the trail/race-track is giving you. But as we all know, reaction is after the fact, it is, no matter how “fast” too late. Too late for you the rider to successfully navigate each distinct section of trail in such a way as too link up distinct sections into fast, flowing, effective riding.

So when you see your favourite, rider, athlete or celebrity carry out some reactive “eye-hand” co-ordination drill in the gym, remember that reaction is too slow; and regardless most of the “reactions” we make, when riding an MTB well, are somatic reflexes, not reactions…and once that gym “drill” is learned then it would be the prospective control of posture, position that would allow for faster “reaction” to emerge. So again, full circle, relational thinking; reaction to a stimulus is much faster with better prospective control!

Greg Williamson performs at the UCI DH World Tour in Leogang on June 12, 2016

So in the immediate term what does this mean for you if the whole notion of prospective control is new too you?

- Posture = Prizes; the whole reason the “attack-position” bares so many hallmarks and similarities (attractors if you know Dynamical Systems) among good riders is. That that position/posture allows for joint angles, muscle length~tension relationships, peripheral nervous system function, afferent control & force production to operate within an optimal bandwidth to deliver the required technique on trail in the fastest way possible. Prospective control of posture given the trail affordances means “skill” emerges to perfectly match speed. This in essence is “trail efficiency”!

So what can we do to improve our potential to always display usable posture regardless of the trail demands? A shortlist only below….

1. Cultivate & Maintain adequate control, mobility, proprioception, strength and stability through all joints and movement patterns.

2. Develop adequate and ever evolving strength of your “hip hinge”; both eccentric and concentric muscle action, with a stable spine achieved through excellent function of all torso musculature from hip to shoulder (and likely more)!

3. Identify “rate-limiters” to postural maintenance and re-setting. These could be anything from foundational physiological qualities like aerobic metabolism to very specific characteristic qualities like your interaction with a particular size bike, with a certain tyre pressure on certain gradient of terrain!

4. Given the minute detail of the last point above it becomes clear that developing, year on year, season on season, a large physical/physiological buffer of foundational qualities that support good posture on trail will reduce the likely hood of poor mechanics or characteristic rate limiters cropping up under duress/fatigue or emotionally demanding situations.

5. True sport form and improvement in Prime Postures can only be viewed, refined, quantified and understood if enough training takes place in the environments you race in...so that means shredding your bike like fuck in the mountains, up the mountains, down the mountains etc… sounds like fun!

To wrap up a quite abstract post; prospective posture allows for prospective position on trail and that allows for fast, smooth, efficient technique application on trail; which will look to the observer like skill. This is basically all we want as a rider – as skillful navigation of long sections of trail reward us with a sensory and neuro-endocrine response that trumps many experiences in life.

Do this often enough and you get that “flow” feeling…and that leads to intrinsic motivation to shred, removing the space for strange extrinsic motivators like health, weight-loss or victory and in there you find endless drive to improve and a near total lack of anxiety.

So as I said above – relationships of qualities; not categories of qualities please!

Share Button

Time Constrained Strength

 

time block

Context

Getting strong or staying strong during the race season is one of the never ending tugs of war a coach has to deal with in professional sport. With schedules designed around entertainment and built to suit organisers not athletes the constraints on the coach and athlete are pretty far reaching. Travel, un-pack, prep, ride, huck, race and repeat!  Often with the scheduling, it’s easier to do less rather than more or do just enough and not what’s best! With pro mountain bikers on a crisp summer’s day it’s also tough to find the motivation to lift a heavy barbell indoors! This in turn means reduced intent for the session and likely less #gainzzz banked as result….so one solution!? Read on.

Solution

Enter the stopwatch – or actually it being the 21st century the countdown timer on one’s mobile phone!

It couldn’t be simpler – we assign a certain number of minutes (Time Block) to each key area of development, retention or exploitation of the training modes and means that will, based off our best judgment, lead to continued potential to perform on the race bike. To those time blocks we assign some carefully selected exercises and boom! Job done!

The athlete gets the stimulus they need (if they apply themselves), we are guaranteed to get the session done in a certain number of minutes and bongo-bango, we have got the #gainzzz needed in a time crunched environment that puts a bit of extra added and often beneficial “pressure”/stress onto the athlete.

Looks like

If you have the required experience and competency in the gym or even with your own body weight then please give this method a go and report back.

It looks something like

Block 1 – 2 min

Foam Roll – Self Mobilisation – Snapchat – Hairdo

Goal: Feel happy – feel snappy

Block 2 – 10min

Dynamic Mobility Warm-Up

Goal: Be ready to battle 9min in!

Block 3 - 8 min

Activations or Plyometric Work (extensive/intensive)

  1. Squat Jump – X 5
  2. Ankle Jumps X 6
  3. Lateral Bench Jumps (rhytmic) X 6 each side
  4. Clap Push Ups X 3-5

In series with rest as needed for 1 to 2 Rounds – modifications as needed when needed depending on athlete “state”/traits/motivation/needs!

Goal: Build quality/control of stiffness – elastic strength – express “power”!

Block 4 – 20min

5 X 5 Strength – Strength Endurance –

Choose quality -but value capacity

Adjust weight as needed per set – but aim for delivering a challenge

Example

  1. Deadlift @ 2 X athlete BW – prone grip only
  2. Renegade Row @ 22.5kg DB each hand

Rest as needed between sets and exercises – complete all sets and reps in 20min or less!

Goal: Retain Strength in “key” transferable strength movements with increases grip strength potential!

Block 5 – 5min

Cool-Down of choice; mobility; breathing drills, spin out on bike, Instagram laps etc…

Goal: Kick-Start Adaptations!

Total Time = 45min

And finally the KEY to the whole “method” – the stopwatch; once your allotted time for each block is up, whether you’ve finished all reps and sets or not you move on! With little to no rest between blocks other then set-up time!

As the old adage goes – Work will EXPAND to fill the allotted time-frame! There fore in this context, shit gets done.

Share Button

Disclosure #1

I get the feeling, often enough that you could say daily, that most people think that there are secrets to sports performance, secrets to health and fitness improvements. “Hidden” tips, tricks and my pet-peeve, “hacks” that provide shortcuts to success. A Those in the know, know situation, those out of that loop are on the back foot, destined to failure because they ain’t hacking their way to success.

With the above “spiel” in mind this series of very short blog posts aims to provide full-disclosure, no bull. Just straight up advice on what works and why in improving different areas of your sports performance and life.

In the fitness industry the pendulum swings from extreme to extreme; but time and again the truth and reality of sports performance improvement is stuck in the fuzzy grey middle. That’s not to say there are no “right” answers, but given how complex humans are the right answers evolve as you do!

I’ll be open to suggestions for topics to cover via social media…so get messaging and mailing.

First up in the series?

Sleep; sleep and a “subtraction” not “addition” approach to using it to improving your health and performance.

fredsleep

While sleep is seldom the questions it is often the answer. No matter what the performance related question I get these days a huge percentage of people who come my way for advice on the shiny pretty trinkets of training (like the best “H.I.I.T Protocol, supplement, diet restriction, fancy strength training method etc…) are lacking in quality & consistent sleep; the late night “treat” of box sets til 4am, the weekend lie in, the disturbed night of wall climbing after 16 snapchat laps and a Facebook frolic while the heads already on the pillow! Sound familiar?

If you want to learn from the consistent World Class performers in any sport and maybe apply some of their approaches to your own health, well-being and performance then sleep is #1. The linchpin of gainzzz. The consistent performers get quality, consistent sleep. That’s full disclosure on my behalf, because from the experience and data I have from Point1 athletes it’s a very obvious trend. Consistent & Quality Sleep = Consistent #Gainzzz

The Why?

The ever evolving science and understanding about how sleep is regulated and how it affects life and well-being during waking hours is fascinating. With some recent papers published in the area of energy balance and sleep providing some much needed glue to hold many sleep/performance ideas together better than ever.

To list just a few of the key things sleep is responsible for:

  • Tissue remodeling and muscle growth
  • Regulation of Energy Balance
  • Hormonal Health and Efficiency
  • Metabolic Efficiency and Neuroendocrine Regeneration
  • Appetite Regulation
  • Memory Formation
  • Immune Function and Innate Immunity regulation
  • Skill/Motor Learning & Consolidation

Many of the above are regulated by a tight relationship between what and when you eat and sleep! It’s clearly a well regulated tightly coupled system that can be quickly derailed by the choices on offer to us in modern life, but now knowing that it’s basically the one two way system between our guts and brains that regulate appetite, metabolism and sleep means we can do things like; eating regular meals, going to bed “full”, avoiding stimulants like Caffeine, nicotine and cocaine (joke) in the 4-6hrs pre bed will all have profound effects on the quality of your sleep!

The point of these blogs is to not get to sciency, all the neurobiology and neurochemistry of sleep science is waaaay beyond me but the magic that happens when we get to REM or Stage 4 sleep seems to be pretty easy grasp! The brain acts like it’s awake but the body is all but paralyzed! True regeneration.  The longer you sleep and better the quality the longer you’ll spend in REM sleep and the more of the above awesomeness will happen! Simples.

The How?

Pretty basic stuff that’s easy to implement but will require a no-bull, get shit done attitude

  • Quality Sleep Environment
  • Decent Bed
  • No electronics 45min pre-sleep
  • No caffeine in the 4hrs pre-bed
  • Set Sleep time
  • Set Wake up Time
  • Going to bed well fed
  • Breathing Drills and Relaxation if you’re a midfield of fidgeting in the bed!

Wrapped Up

The thousand pin pricks of modern responsibilities can wear the most resilient athlete down, sign hear, be hear, do this, remember that!? Sleep is the ultimate and primary off-set of these pin pricks! You can be as cool as you please but neglecting sleep will break you not make you. Fragility is no man’s friend and the sleep deprived athlete is always a fragile athlete!

It’s not about what fluff and glitter you can add to your training – it’s about removing limitations to performance like your poor sleep quality and consistency!

 

Further Scientific Reading

Sleep and energy balance: interactive homeostatic systems
Theodore B. VanItallie

Metabolic signals in sleep regulation: recent insights

Charu Shukla et al.

Sleep of professional athletes: Underexploited
potential to improve health and performance

Henri Tuomilehto et al.

Share Button

Stiffness & the Mountain Biker: Part 1

I’m hoping that this won’t take to much of your time! I’m also hoping that the title doesn’t deceive! We are gonna talk about cool and sexy training stuff like plyometrics and the like! #rad #cool #crossfit #mma

Stiffness and athletic performance is hallmarked by the goldilocks effect. Just right is what you need but just right is individual. One of the biggest issues I have now realised in my own long-term education and development as a coach is viewing the type of training that promotes or improves stiffness qualities in mechanistic terms. So that meant very often losing total sight of the true stiffness needs of the athlete, stiffness demands of the sport and focusing to everyone’s detriment on daft things like “improving power” only!

So here we go…Sport is movement; any sport from darts to dodgeball; Formula 1 to fencing. Movement wins. Using training interventions to improve particular areas of physiology that improve the athlete’s potential to perform is one large part of what coaches do. Stiffness in the athletic sense refers to possible more than one thing, but for myself “stiffness” is the adequate strength and control of muscular action that allows connective tissues like fascia, tendon and ligament to store and transmit elastic energy!

Stiffness helps keep the vision looking where it needs to!

Stiffness helps keep the vision looking where it needs to!

The co-ordination of muscular strength that allows stiffness to transmit and absorb forces is what creates a huge part of your “riding dynamics” on the bike. Science often models the stiffness of the lower limbs like a spring; it’s the stiffness of this spring that the body inherently alters as it’s faced with different movement challenges. In running it has been shown that stiffness is altered naturally when the human foot strikes surfaces of different hardness…why? Well at the core altering the stiffness of the muscle-tendon units (fancy way of saying muscles and connective bits that make and transfer force) allows for the maintenance of position of your centre of mass (COM); often referred to as centre of gravity. As the body comes into contact with different surface types that act as springs themselves then it’s only expected that our inherent joint stiffness changes so we maintain our preferred or “optimal” centre of mass that allows us to get from A to B in the least energy costly manner possible. Awfully useful!

Taking that idea from running research, applied to the MTBer it’s marginally more complex but not complicated. Athlete on bike, that may or may not have suspension, rides terrain of varying “hardness”, varying properties that require different amounts of joint stiffness to successfully apply the most useful technique to the challenges of the environment that in end will likely get us from A to B with the least fuss. At it’s core “skill” is the timely application of the correct technique, in the right amounts, that allows the bike and rider to travel to the next point in the trail fastest and smoothest. the key to that technique application is often maintaining COM within a certain bandwidth on the bike to allow you to make the movements needed given the demands of the trail to apply said techniques as skill and bingo, bango move from A to B fluidly!

 

Drop Jump

Drop Jump

The forces acting on bike and rider in the above situations are gravity, friction and air…to overcome these forces or better put, to successfully deal with these forces so as you can apply the right movement at the right time in the right amounts means you need some physiological minimums and that’s where we come back around full circle to the importance of stiffness. Strength is the key “starting” quality one needs. Strength defined as “the ability to exert force on an external object or resistance” is core to employing the correct technique as it allows the rider to exert enough force against gravity to maintain posture, hold the optimal centre of mass and move as needed regardless of how you must move given the trail demands. Adequate muscular strength then means you can use the stiffness and stored elastic energy in your connective tissues to amplify your movements and/or simply apply technique with less energy expended. Without adequate strength you can’t use stored elastic energy or the stretch – shorten cycle we all see as “explosive movement”!

Co-ordination of the application of strength is the real strength needs of the athlete. Arguably the two are inseparable or even one and the same…as Frans Bosch has recently popularised. To help you visualise what I mean imagine the novice rider tackling a steep rocky section with some step rocks and big holes; at the same time imagine someone like Troy Brosnan in the same section. What do we see?

The novice will struggle to coordinate movement and apply force in the right way to maintain their centre of gravity/mass in a neutral position that allows them to skip over the terrain…instead they will shift their hips back and down and with extended arms and very flexed knees and hips they’ll “trundle” down the section using huge amounts of muscular force to maintain these poor joint angles and as such use huge amounts of energy and go awfully slowly in the process! Troy or similar on the other hand will stand pretty tall, drop their heels, have soft but not particularly acute bend in the knees and from there skip over the rough terrain using the stiffness in his joints across their entire body as series of  changeable springs that will absorb, amplify and transmit force/strength as needed when needed.

Head and vision stay stable, hips stay neutral, centre of mass constant (within the bandwidth), body relaxed, stress response optimal and energy stored and used wisely! Efficient bike riding; and the reason why the “attack/ready” position is often the first thing thought to new riders…likewise the reason why road cyclist struggle with mountain biking but not vice-versa!

"Open" joint angles

“Open” joint angles

Stiffness you ask? Well using training methods that improve an athlete’s stiffness but also teach the athlete how to apply, use and most importantly modulate or alter stiffness at the right time is where plyometric training and strength training come in. A breakdown in co-ordination on the trail can come from many factors, all inter-related, and arguably inseparable. The less skilled rider will always resort to acute joint angles and high amounts of muscular work; the more advanced rider using more elasticity and stiffness more often – so it goes without saying that riders of all levels may benefit from training STIFFNESS, in all it’s forms.

From plyometrics like drop jumps, hurdle jumps, counter movement jumps to modified olympic lifts like hang cleans to learning to land a jump and absorb force or control stiffness across multiple joint segments like in a KB swing…the training choices are varied and should be individually focused in light of the sport demands and characteristics!

In the next part of this article we will look at training methods and modes to improve and coordinate your stiffness and how you may try to  apply it on the bike.

Sum Up:

Simply; with straighter limb postures lower muscle force is required to exert the same contact force on handlebars and pedals and you’ll go faster more safely and expend less energy!

This is why “strong enough” exists. 

 If we go further than purely mechanistic views of performance improvement we can understand the cumulative and integrative effects different training types have on how the very adaptable human organisms applies it’s evolved movement practices to very modern, alien sports!

Part 2 coming up!

 

 

 

Share Button

This is a Service

Just because it felt like it was better put on virtual paper than left sitting in the doldrums of my brain. Coaching is a service;  training plan is a product. Point1 and any good coach endeavours to provide an evolving service that consistently meets or at least strives to meet the needs of the complex system that is each athlete. The individual differences or “intrinsic dynamics” if you will, of each athlete mean that the service must meet the emerging changes that define each athlete!

This is where the “partnership” status comes to the fore and why the “partnership” is something I bang on about so frequently when a new athlete comes on-board to Point1.

Coaching success for both parties is built upon a seamless or at least energy efficient Co-adaptation. Without this co-evolution or adaptation the whole notion of coaching being a service falls flat on it’s face. Instead of the duo “Kaisaning” along to new heights you hit constant bottlenecks in improvement and productivity. These become most apparent when the athlete views the coach’s role as product builder or/and the coach views the athletes role as compliant implementation machine!

MTB Training Plans

Product

This is all just a round-about way of saying that communication, adaptable systems, timely but relevant feedback and emotional IQ are what build a successful partnership.

The idea of co-adaptation leads us to acceptability – where the coach and athlete adapt to each other’s needs and capabilities and new found, un-searched changes and successes occur! I still remember vividly reading an interview with one of the world’s most accomplished MTB racers, stating that he had never had a coach, does not see the logic behind it and “anyways” any time he has spoken to a coach he as come to the conclusion that his own scientific knowledge and understanding of training principles is far better! I couldn’t believe it at first; but then I realised that his conclusions are based in his reality – the reality that one he’s maybe jut been unlucky  in the coaches his met and two that his view of “coaching” was that of product supplier not service provider!

KEN_6926

Service

Simple! If you have a coach, are a coach yourself or anything in between remember that it’s a partnership that is allowed to evolve that equals success.

The backbone of co-adaptation of coaching evolution comes from 5 main areas;

  1. Communication
  2. Feedback Relevancy – Timing
  3. Respect; mutual
  4. Continuous education and CPD of both parties
  5. Big picture planning driven by agile changes

Coaching success is rewarding; winning for the athlete is rewarding. But a successful partnership must be measured not in victories but on the consistent quality of service provided!

 

 

 

 

Share Button

Point1 Newsletter

Sign-up to get the latest news from Point1 including exclusive training tips and ideas

Services

Serious about your training? Check out our training plans and coaching partnerships

More »

About

Fitness coaching and physical preparation for MTB riders in all disciplines

More »

Blog

Visit our blog to get the low down on what's going on at Point1 Althletic this week

More »