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Origins of Fatigue – #WednesdayWisdom

Concise is the name of the game here – so read on! It won’t take long.

The Instagram post HERE / Below – has set the tone.

Central fatigue is the big bad bad beast, in the short term its’ easy to over come; like taking 5 minutes between heavy squats, it dissipates and you can lift maximally again. But over repeated bouts of heavy squats or even just a long, long bike ride the central (CNS) fatigue that reduces the drive from brain to spinal cord to muscles is a big performance killer. So think back to back EWS races. It could be a big issue! Because it affects motivation as much as it affects fine motor skills like delicate cornering or perfectly timed manuals. Harder to measure, but reduced drive for explosive movements and far higher perceived exertion will do the trick.

Peripheral fatigue is what is happening in the muscle – this can be felt, legs getting heavy, sore after strength training etc… this is where architecture, energy pathways and the cardiovascular system collide and of course MTB in any discipline has the ability to create fatigue here! Measured with internal load – like same power output = higher heart-rate!

So with MTB we have both, in spades. Race an EWS or World Cup DH and both will hit you harder than you think. Now the affect physiological load or biomechanical load has on the source of fatigue would start to make our discussion complex as all hell. so let’s move on.

Environmental aspects like heat, altitude and rain cannot be forgotten about and neither can emotional load/fatigue like meeting sponsor demands or kissing babies!

So we have the descending loads – bike and body accelerating due to gravity, hitting holes and turns and rocks and roots. It means deforming, crumbling but you can’t because to execute technique you have to maintain posture. which requires muscle forces are generated both eccentrically and concentrically – these forces are created around all joints, in perfect unison of force, time and speed! Angular velocity is the name of the game and of course all of this is extremely fatiguing – both centrally and peripherally. If this is DH then you have to do it repeatable – up to 5,000m descending over 2 days at near max effort to learn a track well enough to win.

For EWS you have elements of the above but also the endless hours outside dealing with the environmental stress and the load of just pedaling that bike from A to B! Add in emotional, organisational and external stressors to this and it’s a big challenge for either discipline! Hence why we see some empty minds and bodies at the end of race days.

Long story short – racing MTB means fatigue off all types in varying degrees! Know your poison to make your cure!

The true antidote to fatigue is capacity; maybe better termed specific capacity. But even that is not a silver bullet as no matter how well prepared you are you will get fatigued! The “solution”, at least as I’ve chipped away at it is categorized below. Along with other systems like a movement, technique or needs analysis this goes to form the overall “training process/planning or paradigm” we use.

Capacity

The bigger the tank the longer it takes to empty! The stronger you are means you produce more force, the more force you produce the less you need to produce in relation to your top limits to achieve the same task goal – hence better ACCURACY (key) and less fatigue both centrally and peripherally. That’s one example but it is a very simple concept that can be expanded across physical qualities and is essential the underpinning justification for psychical prep or strength and conditioning. For example, better ability to use your aerobic energy pathways, less fatigue incurred for climbing said hill at said pace!

Specificity

Where rubber meets the road! Here’s where things can get messy and internet gurus, CrossFit loonies and “sport-specific” charlatans swimming in a sea of BOSU balls will try to sink your ship! Your sport or others very close to it (pump-track) are the only true sport specific prep you can do! As such doing your sport in training to EXCEED the demands that will be placed upon you in competition is critical to battling fatigue and arriving at race day and race runs ready to win. I won’t dig deeper because at this point in time I think we have some Point1 gems in the works here to make good inroads in prep compared to out competition! Although there is nothing new under the sun.

Load Management

No brainer – both acute and chronic! this is a case of sharpen versus saw, general  versus specific and of course understanding the individual time curves of both adaptation and recovery of individual athletes. Generic planning does not cut it here . If you wish to be on form for race week – to maximise practice and arrive at race day alive and ready to kill then you will need to have developed sufficient capacity of physical qualities and specificity of training BUT not be carrying excessive residual or chronic fatigue from doing so. You cannot display what you don’t have, but if you have something and it’s buried under injured or tiredness you won’t be able to whip it out in time,

Manage Nutrition

A big fish to fry, therefore lets keep it specific to racing. The foundations of good nutrient start long before and far away from race day – so you amplify the good come racing and dampen the bad. Adequate carbohydrate during and after peripherally fatiguing exercise like an EWS practice day could be a game changer for some or bread and butter for others. Dealing with reduced drive from increased central fatigue with a tasty double espresso, eating local, colorful and seasonal all week long to cover macro needs and supplementing when necessary! Do the job right but don’t over-complicate

Manage Planning

Last but maybe most important. The forgotten bastard child of bike racing!? All of a sudden this isin’t shredding with “mates”! Now you’ve got limited time to get a maximum amount of work done? Cram 7 runs into 4 hours? Queue outside under the blistering sun, limit recovery between full runs on a 4 minute DH track? Sounds great, not! sounds like you don’t have clue what you are doing.

 

Planning practice, recovery, strategy and tactics. Knowing how practice equates to building a race run or stage win = minimal energy expended for maximum effect and as such less fatigue incurred! Leaving all that capacity and specific prep you did in very perfect working order to go and EXECUTE come race day.

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Real Race Training – #TopTipTuesday

Making the most of Time on the Race Bike – Real Race Training

Training I say? Squats you think? The tide is again turning slowly, but it seems for many involved in racing bicycles, at any level or discipline, when we speak about training, most people’s minds think about the “physical”. Intervals, sprints, strength training, “Vo2” and “cardio”. The specific race training, that “big bang for your buck” on your bike training comes a poor second best. In reality working on areas of weakness and specificity; aiming to arrive in any start-gate truly ready to attack any race course should make up not the majority but none the less a well organised portion of your training time. Especially if race progression is your goal. Here are some top-tips you can apply to your real deal on the bike training as all to often if you search our training advice all you’ll find is FTP, zones, barbells and box jumps.

 

1 – Set a Goal: just like going to the gym to work on maximal strength where you will try to lift the heaviest weight possible for four sets of three repetitions, having a goal for your on the bike training is critical. It sets the tone for the whole session and allows you to organise the details. This can be anything from braking points or visualisation pre-run, to bigger picture work like managing intensity over full runs or hitting top gear after only limited practice run/s. A goal should be individual to your needs but it must be defined both for the session planned and placed within the picture of your overall plan. Short range goals in the context of big product goals. More here from the Harvard Business Review.

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2 – Define Your Process: A goal is only achievable with a process to get there – take that first example of working on ‘braking points’. Without a process that goal stays pretty abstract. Aim to define what features that require braking you are truly struggling with, define if you need to brake more, harder, less or more consistently. Define two to three spots on a track where the consequences of good/bad braking points will be evident. Try different braking strategies and then try to time a section that allows you to learn from different braking approaches. Consequences & knowledge of results are a must. We deployed many of these ideas with Thomas Estaque & Hugo Frixtalon HERE

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3 – Focus: staying focused on the task at hand and your goals is a challenge as riding bikes is FUN! This however is also a  key area that many riders, even the best, struggle with at the races. Staying focused on the job of building a race run. You can try many things to improve focus during training. Key words – like “focus on” and then imagine yourself hitting a light switch. OR try riding a fun track between your focused race training runs. Nutrition can help too – planned lunch time, high carbohydrate snacks between runs and stimulants like caffeine could help.

 

4- Own your Mistakes: The best race training is training that is challenging enough that you make errors often. Mistakes are normal and are a great opportunity to learn. Instead of getting angry or upset about an error, own up to it, learn from it and take the opportunity it provides to grow. A mistake, from being a little off line to a huge crash is the outcome of many choices. So dissect and investigate where the mistake came from, see if you can change it short or long term and then move on. Move on happy in the knowledge that you’ve learned and grown as a racer because of it.

 

5 – Rest & Reflect: Rest between runs, especially timed or full runs can be an area often overlooked. Riders want maximum bike time, fun time or feel more is better, when in reality, better is better! Learning (whether emotional or motor skills) requires time for adaptation to occur. Short term and long term. Acute fatigue can be beneficial at times to help teach a rider how to adapt movement and technique for a tired body, but often the best  training happens with a minimal level of freshness and readiness. Likewise this rest time between runs allows the rider time to reflect on lessons learned and experiences gained in the session. Resting for minutes, not seconds between runs can allow you to adjust your goal and processes and make sure you are doing what’s needed to meet the goal set out at the start of the session as well as mitigate the risk of injury.

5 tips Race Training Copy

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The Opener

This won’t be the only “preview” you read this week; but it will have a different perspective than most. I’m no journalist and don’t want to be, I’m a coach; maybe a performance enhancement-ist? But what I certainly am and always have been is a BIG fan of racing. Bikes above all else. So being as unbiased as I can, which isn’t simple, here’s my take on the 2018 UCI DH World Cup season to come.

The title fight is only seven rounds long, which in plain speak is not enough. More should be done to make it a longer championship battle, but unlike the “title-fight” in MMA, boxing or some play-off riddled team sport, DH provides us with a lot of the answers from Round #1!  There’s little waiting, we get the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania rolled into one – with live coverage – everyone races the track and the clock decides the outcome. Simple, and that’s a big part of the reason why we love it so.

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Title Sponsor

The UCI are much lambasted at regular intervals by fans, keyboard warriors, media and media-warriors alike, the race track in Losinj and it’s tarmac finish adding fuel to the fire for 2018. While much if not all of the blame for a slow moving & somewhat stagnant World Cup calendar lays at the UCI’s door – if we are gonna blame & shame I feel we have to give credit when due also. Otherwise we are just engaged in dogma and displaying nothing more than terrible cognitive bias in attitudes towards the “big house”. Mercedes-Benz and parent Daimler need little introduction and they have chosen the UCI MTB World Cup to promote their new range of off-road vehicles.  Will we see DH racers cruising alpine streets in loaner X-Classes like the ski-racers in their Audi’s? I doubt it, but it is a positive step and the first major external sponsor since Nissan.

X-Klasse trifft Mountainbiking: Mercedes-Benz Vans wird Hauptpartner des UCI Mountain Bike World Cup und World Championships

Pre-Seasoning

Spicing a much too long off-season up with pre-season races is steadily becoming more and more par for the course, gone are the days of private tests sessions and one “whatever” works pre-World Cup race to help you remember those between the tape feelings. Now teams, with bigger ambitions and either bigger or further stretched budgets are hitting a host of pre-season events with a plan and focus. Crankworx Rotorua is high on the list for some, even though it’s half a planet away from most teams HQ’s. Windrock in Tennessee, USA is fast becoming the winter hot-spot, even though it’s most often freezing cold there all winter. But the quality of the tracks and services Neko Mullally and team provide are second to none. From testing camps onto races, this past off-season has painted a pretty decent picture of who has built form, carried World Cup 2017 momentum or found a seat on the puzzle bus. From the Pro GRT in Windrock to Portugese Cup in Lousa, British National Series in Cwmcarn, local French races in Peille, the aforementioned Crankworx Rotorua right up to the “why is it not a World Cup” iXS Cup in Maribor, pre-season has painted quite the pretty picture in terms of depth of and diversity of preparations, talent and tanacity.

Every season has the “this will be the most competitive ever” preamble attached to it, but 2018 has does have a seriously spicy flavour. One I’ve not come across in my years on the scene. Regardless of how utterly crap you, the internet warrior, thinks the Losinj track will be it will separate the best from the rest, no questions asked. But having a quick gander at the percentages, spreads and placings of the first races of the year, especially the British National, Windrock, iXS Maribor and Portuguese races and there’s a depth in numbers coming to do battle in Losinj that is providing some serious excitement and intrigue. Bar a few genuine up and comers or first year Elites in the men’s fields the top 10s or even 15’s in above pre-season races were genuine World Cup top 10’s. A stunning amount of ability and hard work getting fine-tuned in the one place at one time over a few weekends. A few notable absences though from these pre-season races, I’l be keeping my cards close to my chest here, but I’m predicting 2 fresh or fresher faces on the Mens Elite podium in Losinj and at least one noticeably absentee.

The women’s field lacks the depth the men’s field has for obvious reasons of participation numbers; but the heavy hitters have all been out and away from training laps & sparring only and got the gloves on in proper race environments this winter. Most journalists and fans seem to still trump placings over percentages when reviewing and I suppose that is simply because the gotta get the info across quick in social size bites. If you do however take the time for analysis and analyse in context (crucial) then what we have on our hands in Losinj is Chinese torture ready, razor sharp ladies that will be separated by razor thin margins. Off-course I’m a little biased here; but I’m very excited for it.

 

Teams, trucks, brands, suspensions & diameters

Michelin versus Pirelli, Bridgestone versus Dunlop. Brands, manufacturers and constructors in Motorsport is the perpetual story-line with one  or two always having the upper hand, regardless of race-track. Often dominating results sheets for golden periods because of engineering triumph, financial clout or plain complex luck. DH has had similar dominating story lines, luckily  for us the pilots input matters even more when their mass is four times that of the machine, so technical advantage is negated slightly. But we have had across the board for nearly two decades a series of two horse races. Sram versus Shimano, Rockshox versus Fox, Maxxis versus Michelin or Schwalbe….the core “contact” components ,the stuff that really matters on a push-bike. But 2018 has a storyboard that’s quite a bit different. Four or five worthy tyre manufacturers, producing quality prodcut in a variety of sizes and configuration. Rockshox, Fox, SR Suntour, Formula, BOS and DVO all seemingly producing suspension that works, yes some brands have an advantage but the diversity is startling and good to see.

Wheel diameter was the hot 2017 topic and the infancy of the sport and infantile minds of some competitors shown bright, botched and chopped wanna-be 29er bikes, riders and teams talking of 10 sec margins on basic test tracks…Lourdes came and went and left us with no answers because of divine intervention. Fort William was a perfect, classic, playground and the line was drawn. Bikes that work, work and wheel-size may not matter too much as a solo metric. With 12 months of maturation and engineering some riders and teams will have good 29ers dialled, the above pre-season races have pretty much told the story, Santa Cruz, Commencal, Intense & Devinci all have real-deal and fast 29″ wheeled bikes. Along with suspension, tyre and parts suppliers that make good product. Other brands have finalised “production” 29″ wheel bikes coming for Fort William. Regardless of how “good” they are, we will see a split. The ladies all on 27.5″ bikes, the men split 6/4 or 5/5 in the top 10 or so between 27.5″ & 29″ bikes.

Morphology and anthropomorphics matter when talking wheel-size, longer limb levers, especially lower body suit the larger diameter wheels better; but the complexity of the interaction between the rider and bike and sprung and un-sprung masses not to mention the system of complex elastic springs, levers, motors and struts that make up the human body is far to dense in degeneracy for a “simple” formula for guiding riders towards either wheel size to work.

It’s a golden age of diversity though and it’s a pleasure to be involved in it.

Juniors & Freshmen

Sophomore is an odd word, but it means second year and there are some second year elite male and female racers who should perform well in 2018. Most eyes though are on the junior class of 2017. Climbing into the big ranks in Elite men, Finn Iles and Matt Walker will excel; that’s nature & nurture. There are many more riders jumping ship too though, with Seagrave and Hartenstern being two of the higer ranked 2017 racers moving up,  What success for a first year elite means is governed by the previous success and failures of others. Top 10’s are the benchmark, Bruni, Greenland, Vergier, Bryceland and Fearon all transitioned to elite with ease. With elite podiums and World Champ podiums for some in Freshman year. It’s a long shot but a Freshman World Cup Elite win has not happened in the “modern era”. 2018 has a good a chance as any,

The Junior ladies category is usually forgotten, but branded Red Bull racer Vali Hoell may change that. Judging by results to date she is fast. how that speed will translate to the rough and tumble and terribly early Group B World Cup starts we’ll wait and see.

Junior men is a ripper of a category; some dislike it. But I think it has many merits. 2018 has a list of racers longer than two arms. Both first and second year racers. Kade Edwards is the 2nd year man to beat. Daprela, Edmondson, Tyrell and Canyon Factory Racing’s Kye Ahern are all first year shredders with support and race-smarts.

Emotional management is the key to junior success. Broken bikes in Croatia may prove to be the catalyst for broken dreams…

Round #1 Race-Track

Haters gonna hate – having been to the venue and raced this track in 2016 I know what we are in for, it’s not easy, not really “fun”, not very long but he venue is nice. Is it good enough for a world Cup? Well that depends, on it’s own as a standalone race I feel it lacks too much to be considered a World class challenge. It will make for exciting racing and the world’s best will make it a spectacle. While the track is not easy from a simple technique execution/application POV it is not deep enough in choice to make it a challenge. Depending though on where RedBull TV place their cameras and how the short track is split up in terms of split times and TV time we could get a sensational showcase of our sport for the world. The street section is relatable for the public and I feel there is far to much being made of it as a negative. It needs some dirt wall-rides and rollers, but that’s that. What the venue, track and location provide is a showcase. If I was courting potential sponsors, especially out of industry sponsors, I’d bring them to Croatia; selling them the idea of our traveling circus as the vessel from which they showcase their brand to the world is easy done in Croatia, Mercedes Benz onsite, live to the world  seaside in the Adriatic. It has it’s merits as much as it’s downfalls. I’m trying to see it like the “Monaco F1” of World cup DH; the issue being thought that F1 has 21 + races, DH does not.

What would make sense and appease us all is a season opening double-header. Losinj for the seaside fan-fare to kick things off then on to Maribor four hours away for a back to back round 2. Maribor did have a joint World Cup bid in with Graz, Austria (for XCO) for 2018. What happened there I don’t know. But seaside to pre-alpine diversity is what MTB allows, unlike or winter alpine cousins and should be capitalized on. The larger issue still glaringly obvious here thoughis this; the UCI make & enforce rules, they shouldn’t also have a sole hand in promotions and planning of the series, there they need the vision and expertise of external agents, just as Moto GP, MX GP, F1 and others have. Someday maybe?

The track in Losinj will provide good racing; the organisers have done their best & then some; the terrain, gradient and altitude availbe is at the VERY lower limit of what should be allowed, but like Brazil, Canberra and PMB before it the racers there to win will win. Instead of pushing against the venue & the organisers we should embrace it for what it provides in-terms of exposure and push instead to have it paired with a polar-opposite challenge on back to back weeks in future.

New School Rules

Again the UCI took serious flack from the internet navigators when it was announced that only the top 60 men would now qualify for finals. A reduction in the ladies numbers for 2017 made little difference in fairness, but the men’s change has the potential to cause issues. Tyres, wheels, weather etc… making top 60 a true cliff edge. What the keyboard warriors don’t know is it is the Trade teams  and Red Bull Media House not the UCI that pushed for this and other changes.  It makes sense in my opinion, especially come race day too further professionalize the sport. It’s not a rule set in stone either which is worth noting. The “protected” rider change has also been pushed by a handful of teams and individuals. There is still the potential for 20 protected individual males, the top 10 from the overall in 2017 are on TV and guaranteed for finals come race day all season long and then up to 10 more riders protected if they are top 10 overall in the 2018 standings and through some bizarre turn like the weather in Lourdes the current protected top 10 from ’17 are not in the top 10 of the current standings! In reality though we are likely to see between 12 to 16 protected Elite male races in 2018.

The new rules mean that practice matters even more, planned, concerted efforts in timed training and qualifying “game plans” are all going to become more “norm” in 2018 for those who feel the pressure at the edge of the bubble.

 

Racing kicks off in 5 days; Day 1 murmurs and whinging about the track will subside come Quali day and the sea-side after parties will be as wild as ever. It’s been waaaaay too long since Cairns.

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What is? – Conditioning…?

One word that means everything and nothing to so many, whether in the “fitness” industry or not. From rider to racer and everyone else involved “conditioning” is a word that most often in most peoples unsaid, unwritten definition overlaps with the word “fitness”.

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Fitness for the lay man, conditioning for the “professional”? Who cares, as it likely does not matter once solitary gram. What we mean is the ability for your body (brain included, they cannot be separated) to deliver & use adequate amounts of energy so you can successfully complete what your sport demands at any given instance. The energetics of movement maybe? Attempts to break that down into measures of ones ability to transport and use oxygen, burn substrates, use enzymes, contract, relax and control muscle, make decisions or pin point percentage substrate usage are all worthwhile uses of scientific investigation…helping further the body of knowledge coaches use and abuse in helping athlete’s prepare.

The “problem” as it stands now though is two fold and caused in no small part by many peoples perception of the above scientific investigations being the zenith of human investigation into sports performance…simply, the view held by many that scientific investigation has all the answers. As a result, depending on your sports culture, the training process can be largely dominated by percentage based systems, classifications of physiological metrics. On the surface this seems to make sense for our “conditioning” but it has in no small part contributed to blinkered views of what conditioning is and how to achieve it. To the detrement of thousands of athletes once they face the heat of true competition.

Instead of subscribing to a system created by others for the masses, the best approach, to date, in my attempts to help others achieve “fitness” and to condition athletes is to be a scavenger. While not as glamorous as a hunter metaphor, there are few scavenger species close to extinction. Basing near all decisions on a singular training model like % of FTP, % of 1 repetition max, velocity, % of V02max etc… is utter madness! What’s even worse is your foolhardy gym warrior approach of doing what’s “hot” right now – that being as I type, still, somehow, Tabata timing – 20″ of work 10″ of rest for 8 reps!

Kaos Seagrave at Redbull Hardline, UK September 2017.
PC – Red Bull Content Pool

 

If we back pedal to the start – What is conditioning? The ability to deliver, use and exceed the energy requirements of meeting your sports demands for every last second of competition, from pre-practice to race run. For the Enduro racer this is everything from track-walks, practice, race stages, post stage recovery, pre-stage prep and doing it the week after or day after if demanded by the calendar. By definition it is “fitness” – suitability for a task.

So a narrow definition of “condition” will very like get you beaten, or killed! Why? Because performance cannot be categorized by physiology alone. A solution to this problem is to become a blood-thirsty scavenger.

Take what you need from any models avaialbe, use, modify, abuse & discard. Remember that all models are wrong but many are useful. The next time your on the bike, in the gym or planning your or some other persons training you may think of this post…..with that in mind below are some conditioning buckets we try to use when planning training so as no matter how big the fire you encounter at a race you will have enough in reserve to dampen the flames, a buffer if you will, not a physiological one, but a performance buffer.

table con blog
Some of the ways we try to design training sessions to improve conditioning….am attempt to control the interaction between the many layers that make up “condition” without solely reducing them to their supposed component parts.

 

The above are just some examples – methods and means can be best guided by the application of a varied but effective and evolving ecosystems of training. The ecosystem you create by how you organise and categorize your training sessions and their desired & undesired outcomes is what allows you to build a plan that has some semblance of order that allows you to help deliver a prepared and conditioned athlete for competition. In an ideal world the above table would actually be some sort of beautiful chart where the possible relationship and connection between each approach to conditioning is explored……but I just don’t have the time or skills for that.

The above holistic approach to designing the conditioning focused elements of a plan allow for a more complete understanding of training load also. Providing a handy port of departure away from classic, linear, input//output metrics like Training Stress Score, TRIMP, distance, time etc… training load and stress can only be understood when the emotional and subsequent autonomic state that it occurred during is understood and as an extension of that the “outcome state” each session creates too. As a recent study found, perceived success or failure of a session, the emotional impact a session has and the location & result all effected rating of exertion – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29502448

Wyn Pump
PC – Red Bull Content Pool

 

The simplest measure of preparedness, conditioning and fitness will NEVER be found in a lab or quantified with numbers, being conditioned for your event/sport means meeting or exceeding demands at all moments and that requires the confidence to know you can do it for it to actually happen. So even if you have the physiological systems conditioned to deliver, use and express the use of energy as movement you are not conditioned unless that can be expressed under the global demands of competition, whether that’s a large crowd, a fresh opponent, a different air temperature or a changing surface. Conditioning = Fitness and Fitness = ability to complete a task. No caveats, no excuses.

P.S. – I’ve probably done a poor job at articulating my views on what conditioning is and how to achieve it…..but a blog is pretty much nothing more than a place one attempts to organise thoughts…..and that is all I did

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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!

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Things I learned in 2016 – #TIL16

 

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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.

[tweetthis]Relational thinking TRUMPS categorical thinking….always[/tweetthis]

“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”!

[tweetthis]Posture = Prizes[/tweetthis]

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!

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Point1 Snack Block

1 Recipe – 2 types of protein packed snack block; multiple uses!

Snack, Travel, extra calories

or

Recover and Re-Build

The Base Recipe 

  • 65g whey isolate protein powder (flavour of choice)
  • 100g ground almond meal
  • 35g desiccated coconut
  • 95-125ml  milk of choice (unsweetened almond or hazelnut or cow’s milk)
The base ingredients, mixed, rolled and blocked!
The base ingredients, mixed, rolled and blocked!

The add-ons, add-ins and changes for your needs

Recovery Bar: So if you want a recovery bar substitute the Whey Powder for a Whey based recovery powder! The chocolate bars pictured used High5 Recovery Protein Powder. If you need or want even more carbohydrate in the mix then add some honey, maple syrup or break all the rules and sprinkle in some cane-sugar!

Orange/Chocolate Bar: I’ve added cocoa powder (the real deal) and orange zest, then substituted some of the milk with fresh squeezed orange juice to make an unreal tangy block! Chocolate-Orange with all of the gainzzz!

Vegan bar: For those who ain’t keen on tasty animal products then you can easily substitute the Whey for a Rice or Hemp Protein! Job done!

Travel Bar: If you want these guys to pack an even bigger nutritional punch or need them to be even more satiating for travel then add in some chopped goji berries, chia seeds and nuts of choice like brazil and walnuts! You’l have to adjust liquid to dry ingredient ratios though!

protein block
Protein Block , cut and ready for the fridge/freezer

How To:

  1. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl
  2. Measure out or weigh your milk of choice
  3. add a little liquid and start to mix, things will seem very dry at first but the dry ingredients will absorb the liquid slowly and start to bind
  4. have patience, adding and mixing slowly
  5. you should get a pretty workable and dry mixture after a couple of minutes
  6. roll the mixture into a log, sprinkle with almond meal so it is easy work
  7. roll it out and cut into discs; shape those discs into blocks as pictured
  8. refrigerate for up to 1 hr
  9. they are ready to roll at any time, but once out of the fridge you can coat with dark chocolate or a chocolate and yogurt mix and it will set fast
  10. The base recipe is key – you can go wild with modifications to suit your needs

This recipe makes about 6 to 7 blocs – double or triple as needed!

Freeze, refrigerate for up to 1 week! These go great as a quality snack after training with a coffee, in the back pack for the long missions or rides (perfect after the 3hr mark) or as a travel stop-gap when jammed with seeds and nuts!

Imagination is only limitor!

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Out of the fridge and ready for dipping in chocolate or eating!

 

20160215_200655
Hhmmmm Protein, Fat and all dem nutritious nutrients
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The 1 Flow Warm-Up

Streamlining training success with a 1 Flow Warm-Up® ; that was the only goal with designing a smooth transition dynamic warm-up for Point1 athletes.

Below the current “1 Flow Warm-Wp®™” is demonstrated by CRC/Paypal/Nukeproof rider Joe Smith. The “moves” chosen all have purpose and intention, meaning they will not only improve your movement quality and capacity but will also lead to better application of technique on your bike as they remove unnecessary variations BUT increase usable ROM!

Use it before strength training, before DH runs or Enduro skids! Use it on it’s on for fun or regeneration. Just USE it! Consistency = Success

1 Flow – DMWU*

Start standing; relaxed. Draw in 5 big breaths. In through nose out through mouth! Fill your belly not your chest.

remember the below should flow

  • Spider-man lunge

  • T-spine rotation to free side (look up to hand)

    Hamstring Mobilise

    T-spine  rotation to support side (look up to hand)

    Deep Squat with T Spine Overhead Reach

    Squat to stand

  • Walk out on hands

  • Scapular Retraction Push Up

  • Calf Mobilise

  • A Frame Hip Extension

Cycle through the above, with no stopping for 3 to 5 reps per exercise per side; by side I mean each rep starts on a spider-man lunge on one side, cycles though all moves before you lunge to the other side.

Finish with Bear Crawls, Bounds, Jumping jacks and centre jumps to ramp up your HR and body temp!

Simple fast, fun to learn and highly effective.

 

*DMWU = Dynamic Mobility Warm Up

The video shows Joe “starting” the Flow from the Scapular retraction Push – Up

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HRV Ramblings

Monitoring You, yourself and your responses

I started this post as a draft while traveling back from a training camp in Lanzarote last February, I’m actually quite surprised that by in large my HRV “thoughts” have stayed the same. Why? Well because I think the principles applying HRV data to how we monitor or adapt training have stayed the same. Principles I suppose are just that, pretty solid!

Having toyed with a longwinded, in-depth, referenced blog about the science, theory and application behind using a HRV monitoring system with your training. I’ve decided instead to keep it practical.

HRV or Heart rate variability is the time between the distinct beats of your heart, controlled or regulated by the vagal nerve, via one “side” – parasympathetic-  of the bodies automatic control system or autonomic nervous system.

3b76b83b-523d-473a-aa91-aa4e796dad52
Parasympathetic control of your Heart’s automatic processes allows us to monitor Stress-Dose-Response

 

With the phone application based system we use (ithlete) it is the Root mean squared of the successive R-R intervals (gap between peaks) of your heartbeat that is used and this is the “metric” (read: measurement) used to give a window into the current state of activation of your Autonomic Nervous system (ANS).

ECG-Trace

If your body is stressed the sympathetic side of the ANS will be more prominent and will reduce HRV, that stress can be lifestyle related, travel, training, sickness or anything of the sort, if you are relaxed, rested and in good health then the para-sympathetic side of your ANS will be more prominent and this will show in your HRV reading. – In lay-mans terms this is “fight or flight” vs. “rest and digest”.

So by taking a Heart rate based reading each morning you can get a window into your health, fitness, readiness to train and overall well-being. By taking these readings consistently you can first set a baseline and then see trends, patterns and gain insight into what makes or creates success or failure in your own training, riding and lifestyle.

I’ve been using the ithlete HRV system for over 2 years now and many Point1 Athletes are also using it to monitor their daily training status but more importantly to fine tune sleep, lifestyle and other factors that affect adaptation to training and most importantly the ability to apply consistent training load.

What we’ve learned so far?

The how to: the ithlete system uses a 60 sec reading – unlike a hospital medical grade HRV reading of 5min +, but it doesn’t matter, it’s convenient and works exceptionally well (validated by numerous research papers). The key is to respect the process; do the job right! Basically stick to the same routine, take your readings each morning, similar time, standing or seated, consistent breathing pattern, no water or major activity before and a minimum of 2 minutes relaxation if not taking it as soon as you wake. As long as you stick to a repeatable and reliable routine the readings will consistent, relevant and useable in tracking and changing training.

Lifestyle matters: and matters a lot. Time and again lifestyle factors, like the food you eat, the rest you take between training and the quality of this rest, caffeine and alcohol intake, dance floor intervals until 4 a.m., bedtime routine. They all confound to make clear differences in not only your recovery from but your adaptation to training. Like I tell all of my athletes – Process is king! – If you don’t have the lifestyle factors on point you’ll never get on top of the gainz train and that is something we’ve seen time and again with athletes HRV readings. Travel to a race, long haul, trans-Atlantic, 9 time zone changes coupled with average food, mediocre hydration etc.. will always lead to a large drop in HRV. Likewise an athlete not really grasping the eat quality whole foods, rest well, make your easy rides EASY etc… does not see the same steady increase in HRV scores over a 6 week Aerobic focused training cycle as the lifestyle savvy, process focused athlete. In a nutshell monitoring HRV is scientific collection of data that gives a window into complex biological processes that are hugely affected by every decision we make….this means unavoidable accountability for the athlete. Actions = Outcomes. Cause & Effect!

Sleep has no equal: I always knew that sleep was a key “training process variable” but long term HRV monitoring of athletes and my own self drove this point home so hard that it is burnt into my mind as the first variable I consider when an athlete falls sick, complains of soreness, or doesn’t hit training targets.  Poor quality sleep or less than 7+ hours, whether it’s because of caffeine, stress, poor environment or anything else will invariable lead to a lower HRV score. Some athletes will get away with 1 nights poor sleep, maybe two if all their other ducks are lined up but no-one and I mean no-one gets away with 3 in a row or more. Counting your winks is the biggest un-drummed variable in your health and performance! Simple training with, quality nutrition, adequate water and many hours of blissful sleep will get you so toward your goals it is scary! But I suppose it makes perfect sense as quality sleep restores the immune and endocrine systems and helps “repay” the metabolic cost of living and training!

Not all athletes are created equal: Some people are just more damn robust than others and robustness is something with many intangibles. But although some robustness factors are genetic, much of it comes, I feel, from 3 areas and I think my assumptions are in part clearly backed up by the HRV readings of my athletes. 1) aerobic endurance/capacity/capabilities – a complete, powerful aerobic metabolic foundation both peripherally and centrally will lead to a foundation of resilience not possible to garner through other means, 2) Strength, from joint health, connective tissue strength, elasticity and quality right through to force production potential and fibre type; large strength reserves time and again mean athletes recovery faster, adapted better and get less sore than their less strong peers, 3) experience; doing the right thing, in the right quantities at the right time! Not having to listen to coach to make a clever call on training durations, meals, or recovery modalities needed, the guy and girls with lateral thought capacity and a few years/decades experience under the belt time and again have less poor readings but more importantly can dial in a simple strategy to make the positive changes needed to head back to the GREEN!

Training mode: Certain training modes and means seem to affect HRV response more than others. Basic Strength training focused on muscle mass increase (hypertrophy), relative strength or strength maintenance as-well as some “special-strength” means have little effect in single bouts on HRV. Likewise moderate intensity cycling training leads to little changes in HRV in trained athletes when lifestyle factors are dialled.

HRV pro
Coach’s own ithlete Pro HRV Monitoring Dashboard

 

What does effect HRV scores, first “negatively” – not necessarily a bad thing, is high intensity work, Extensive anaerobic type intervals, long days of Enduro type riding, “high intensity metabolic conditioning” in the gym etc.… will all, if carried out to correct intensity and in appropriate volume, lead to some major reductions in HRV. That is though the desired outcome, adequate stress to stimulate adaptation.

Next “positively” – moderate intensity aerobically focused, low impact type activities across a pretty wide bandwidth, promote, via processes not fully understood, improvements in HRV when used as regeneration during periods of  more high intensity focused work or even during periods of increased non-training related stress. Again this is across a range and specific to individuals. But needless to say monitoring HRV has allowed us to fine tune regeneration modalities, volumes and planning for athletes.  With abrupt cessations of training or post-race being swiftly replaced with moderate days of activity based on what HRV has told us.

The above situations are where HRV is used for day to day decision making into what training type is best or in our case at Point1 to help guide or totally change the planned training in a micro-cycle.

That is acute changes in light of the chronic rolling change in HRV, a key to using HRV in your training monitoring and decision making is Context. What is the minimum meaningful change in HRV in context of weekly, monthly and overall chronic change? What did we want, what did we get, why and how? Many aspects of these questions can be answered with better insight via smart use of HRV monitoring. Most certainly questions relating to aerobic characteristic fitness variables.

Mini-Case Study

Now while the exact mechanisms behind why improvements in aerobic fitness are reflected in HRV readings are not fully understood, there is some research out there that does a good job elucidating to the how behind it.  With clarity in mind though, I thought it better to give you a more anecdotal account of how improvements in HRV score reflected real improvements in the lab and on the bike.

The below graph is from a Point1 athletes ithelte HRV dashboard. It shows over a 10 point increase in HRV scoring average over a one month period. It also shows “response” to training stimuli with the saw tooth profile of green and red daily scores. The blue trend line is climbing and that’s what I expected as coach given the training focus. Near the end of February the athlete in question returns to a laboratory for a Vo2 Max test amongst other tests.

IMG-20150212-WA0014 (1)
The #Gainzzz were had and the Blue Line agrees!

 

The Results? – A 10% increase in Vo2 Max since testing in late 2014. An increase of 25w in 15sec MPO and a small increase in power at Lactate Threshold or OBLA and maybe most marked was the increase in power output at FatMax which gave the athlete a 40w growth in metabolic flexibility!

All of the above lab results showing marked improvements in central and peripheral adaptations to training.

All of the above reflected in a considerably higher baseline HRV.

What’s next?

Well I will certainly continue to use HRV monitoring with ithlete for daily training changes and longer term insight into training, racing and lifestyle factors that matter most to Point1 athletes.

Beyond that, some recent research highlighting the possibility of quantifying training load and the individual cost of training sessions using relative pre and post HRV scores may open up some new avenues for more HRV use. I’ll trial run those theories before they’ll ever get to Point1 athletes. But if we can quantify the metabolic cost of a particular session consistently and then compare identical sessions and an athlete’s response to those session given their current freshness or training readiness than we can really start to get a more quantifiable view into what truly affects preparedness for competition.

If Session 1 = 55 on a  Stress-Score scale to 100 when you start a training cycle but the exact same session only gives you a “stress-score” of 25 after 5 weeks of training, than it may be wise to think that the athlete has adapted to that stimulus and will need more of it to garner any further benefit! At least that’s the sort of minute detail I think we can start to gain insight to via the use of HRV if the above principles and caveats are kept in mind.

That’s the key to HRV use, mindfulness, mindfulness in collection, interpretation and application of the data. It’s the easy application of the data being the most fulfilling aspect of using the ithelte system.