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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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#FoxDialed: Prime Posture – Post Script

By in large the feedback on our (myself and Jordi Cortes’ video) on posture, performance and suspension was positive. People enjoyed both the concrete advice and the more abstract or philosophical discussion about the cyclical nature of problem solving your progression as a rider. There was of course some negative feedback, which is always welcome and often necessary. Much of the more negative replies came on the now infamous Pinkbike comments section. Instead of directly replying to those comments  and getting embroiled in a slimy pig wrestle where both parties become lost deep in the black hole of internet forum fighting, I thought it better to use some of the feedback to fire up my own skull muscle and delve deeper into my own rationale & understanding behind a “prime posture” and share that with anyone willing to read.

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One of the stand out replies on Pinkbike was from a guy who claimed that Jordi or myself recommended a tall posture on the bike but then contradicted ourselves by saying Bruni had the best posture and as we can all see Loic rides at his fastest in a relatively deep “hip hinge”! The discussion then takes off and Amaury Pierron and his “low and aerodynamic” position on the bike gets dragged in. The true details don’t matter so much, more so the overall idea that 1) Jordi or me recommended an upright position and 2) that because successful riders don’t have *the position* that all advice is null and void. The key for me is having some arguments to refute or at least use them expand on my own rationale for a Prime Posture.

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 The stand out issue is that my doodle of prime posture showed a rider standing very upright, maybe skewing people’s own representation of what I mean. Coupled with that was the discussion about how a deep flexion biased posture is something I see in less experienced or skilled riders. Those two parts of our discussion may have led people to conclude that we were recommending a tall, very upright posture at ALL times. Which of course is not the case. If the over-zealous commentators had paid attention to the key kinematic components on my doodle they would have realized that no matter how low or deep in their hip flexion Amaury or Loic get they still at all times display the common kinematic variables of a “prime posture”. From top to bottom they are; eyes up, neutral spine, stable & square pelvis hinged over strong legs stacked on mobile but “stiff” ankles! You can look at 500+ photos of either rider in question or any world class DHer for that matter and you will see all of the above on display. You cannot however prescribe specific joint angles that are the best across all people. As we all know the variables of limb length, strength, total mass, mass of each limb or joint segment, sensory-motor difference and a whole host of variables due to the inherent redundancy or degeneracy of the human motor-system mean that the details of the postural solutions to the balance problem that is riding an MTB down wild tracks at speed are individual. They just share common features, or Principles of Prime Posture if you will.

 

The more upright posture I was describing was a direct antithesis to the heavily flexed posture of the scared novice. It was not a description of the perfect posture we need in all situations. Continuing as the comments did with both Amaury and Loic as examples of low and aero postures we can dig into just what is actually on display and why. As outlined in the previous paragraph, no matter how low Amaury gets he always displays an eyes up, neutral spine and stable hinged hip posture, ditto for Loic. The more experienced eye will see the commonalities of posture not the differences caused by kinematic or anthropomorphic variables. Going further the true issue with the debate is that it’s comparing tomatoes with bananas. We all know that tomatoes have no place in a fruit salad! As spoken about in the #dialed episode posture on the bike is simply a solution to the problem of balance. Riding bikes is a dynamic balance challenge where maintaining our centre of mass over our base of support is critical. Doing so as we successfully negotiate challenging terrain and apply the right technique at the right time is skillful riding. 

A comparison in subtle joint angle differences for the same "hip dominant" technique
A comparison in subtle joint angle differences for the same “hip dominant” technique

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What we see Loic and Amaury do is solve their own unique balance challenge in the most appropriate way possible given the task demands. In this case that’s getting from A to B down a gnarly World Cup track as fast as possible. As we all know World Cup tracks are fast, often wide and now have less tight turns and changes in speed than before. Average speeds are high, between 35 – 40 km/h for most tracks, peak speeds of up to 75 km/h and there is a variety of gradients but mostly things are steep enough that a rider needs to have a more rearward bias in posture to distribute weight optimally to maintain the needed blend of vision, control, balance and efficiency. The word efficiency here is key, it’s our motor systems search for a cost effective way of solving movement problems that leads to this low or deep hinged posture for many WC racers. It’s the fastest, safest and most energy efficient way to solve the task at hand. Controlling your COM on your bike comes in two main forms; an ankle dominant strategy and hip dominant strategy. When speeds are low, good riders tend to choose an ankle dominant strategy, cruising along nice and tall, using small movements at the ankles and then knee and hip to deal with the very small displacements of COM caused or demanded by the trail. When speeds are high and especially when speed, gradient and the amplitude of displacement of COM is great, then good riders will use a far deeper more hip dominant strategy to control COM. Again, this is a universal concept that has key similarities between individuals but many small differences caused by the vastly different sizes, shapes and motor learning histories we all have.

 

As a visual example of the above principle, hit this LINK to watch Amaury displaying an ankle dominant strategy as the terrain, speed and urgency of the situation dictates that as the most cost effective solution. This is the general neutral position myself and Jordi were talking about. Then watch the following five seconds to see Amaury display his hallmark hip dominant strategy as he shreds some wild terrain at warp speed – HERE. And for arguments sake if you watch all of the clips in the following link from Mont Sainte Anne World Champs you will see a more mixed approach to the balance problem as that’s what the terrain and speed demands. It’s certainly a hip dominant strategy but it’s slightly taller – LINK showing that postures as a strategy to control COM displacement are on a continuum. At all times in the linked videos though, Amaury displays the key movement principles of Prime Posture – vision is stable, neutral spine, hinged hips etc….

 

From here onward I could probably fill 50 pages with endless waffle about the reasons behind how and why individuals choose certain points along the ankle to hip dominant continuum of postural control on a bike. We of course need to speak about the importance of keeping the head neutral and parallel to the ground we travel on as the signals from our vestibular system are key to successful control! The potential questions are nearly endless. Do our postural choices lead to an increase or decrease in the amplitude or strength of the automatic postural responses that are encoded in our spinal “circuits” and brain stem? Does our unique sum of joint angles and inter and intramuscular coordination and length tension relationships caused by our preferred strategies lead to a functional increase in short latency reflex responses or are they still not much to write home about? Are the shapes we make on the bike key to enhancing muscle synergies that drive effortless and rhythmic movement?

A more Upright strategy
A more Upright strategy

 

The questions of why a prime posture is truly prime are pretty far reaching, this little blog post is about refuting the notion that postural choices are absolutes, they exist on a continuum of usefulness or relevancy dictated by the demands of the terrain. Is there an aerodynamic element to Amaury or Loic’s choices? Maybe, wind resistance or drag is one of the key forces acting on riders along with friction, so whether innate or planned, maybe getting low when possible is a choice. I’d hazard a guess though that given the demands of race tracks the deeper hinged, low postures we see are as much about riders femur lengths, torso strength and arm span as anything else.

 

The goal is to ride the bike from A to B as fast as possible. The task is to do so in an energy efficient way while maintaining balance. For this to happen kinematics, kinetics and the redundancy of the motor sensory system needs to be controlled. That challenge is so complex that really the best approach is to focus on the key principles of prime posture. You will see the best of the best share these items no matter what the trail, track or speed demands are.

 

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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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Back to Back Hardpack

Now we’re eating road! Back to back World Cups are what we all want, like other series at the pinnacle of performance in their disciplines and sports, the rolling weekly circus keeps the fans, media and spectators keen, with not enough down-time between events for the lingering taste of race day blood to dissipate!

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Fort William needs no introduction, nor does Leogang. It’s wall to wall hardpack and balls to the wall speed. One track held in high esteem, “Fort William’s” Nevis Range monster snaking it’s way down Aonach Mòr, sixteen years after its debut as a world cup it’s still crunching wheels, hurting bodies and crushing dreams! Leogang’s “Speedster” track has gotten progressively faster, straighter and arguably easier in recent years! But as we’ve said before, easy doesn’t mean simple and racing it well seems to be something that eludes many riders, male and female, with time gaps between 40th and 1st always wider at the much “easier” Leogang compared to its Scottish counterpart.

As race week for round 2 in Fort Bill has just landed the excitement seems genuine, the riders, racers, fans, teams, staff and media are beyond keen to get racing….training no matter how real, how “specific” or meticulously planned becomes monotonous, stale like bread! So you’ll se a glut of social media ramblings about how excited everyone is to go racing. Even though the track is well, the same it’s length, physical challenge and speed seem to keep the riders attention captivated. No let up! The same seems to hold through for those who put in test time and British national race time too. Although the risk of coming in over-down and as a result being underwhelmed come race day is real. In the men’s field it has happened plenty in the past and will be the case again today. There’s a lot to be said for testing and training under the eye of the clock, but the dosing can tip over into the too much of a good thing category quite quickly especially with the much needed principle of variation being so tough to come by at the “Fort”! Those with that winning formula know the value of down-time, the off switch and variety of stimulus.

Leogang, as I waffled about in the 2017 edition of “Hurly-Burly”, is a venue that everyone loves. The track takes a bashing from those who skirt the top ranks, but the venue is simple, central, efficient and stacked with quality accommodation! So invariable riders and staff moods are high, food is good and with a few days down time between events most people hit Friday’s Day 1 practice with fully stocked motivation. 2017 saw some serious safety issues with riders having to judge entry speeds (at nearly 80 km/h) for the final jump but otherwise the track was the same old story, gone were the rock gardens, up went the speeds. Should this track be raced every year…..no is my answer! But it always seems to provide an spectacle in all categories come race day. So mouth shut and tools up!

Controversial?

Fort William’s bog, lets not call it a wood, but 2017’s bog is gone, gone forever. Now like the Leogang rock gardens of years past it’s man made rock sections. The replacement for the “bog” of 2017 is awkward as nature never intended, but from the rider feedback to date the section provides a good challenge and an interesting break in rhythm from the high speed, new in 2017, section just above there. Coming storming in, arms tingling as you anchor down heavily!

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So with this new addition after last years bog protests the famous Fort Bill track is 100% hardpack and with a record dry spell hitting the highlands the loose over hardpack will become more and more treacherous as race week wears on. Meaning, potentially, that like so many of 2017’s sweltering races the word of the week will be patience. Pushing as hard as traction allows where it allows it and being supremely patient not to push to hard to often in sections that don’t warrant or reward it. For such a wild piece rocky hill, lightness of touch always seems to pay come race day.

Have got, need not!

“Skill” is the application of the right technique at the right moment in the appropriate dose to achieve a desired movement outcome. Well that’s my definition at least and neither fort Bill nor Leogang demand the full spectrum of MTBers technique toolbox. Again though that’s not to say that neither track provides a challenge, they just don’t provide the full spectrum of challenge like a circa 2007 Schladming did or arguably Mont Sainte Anne does to this day. What 2018’s rounds 2 and 3 do demand though is pristine mastery of high speed change of direction, pumping and crisp choice of lines over the granite boulders of Fort William.

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Some Stats
Benchmarking changes or improvements in the ladies field off of the performances of their male counterparts allows us to dig into both inter and intra individual changes quite nicely. Always keeping the “context” of any result up front and centre. Fort Bill’s physicality sees bigger percentage gap between the ladies and men’s winners. So a winter of smartly heavy strength work for the ladies could see that gap drop just a little. Defining worthwhile meaningful change is a real challenge. Comparing two fast dry races like 2015 and 2017 in Leogang, we saw that the ladies winners, Atherton & Seagrave respectively were both exactly 30 seconds behind the male winner Gwin. Following a similar line of investigation, 2014 was an odd season for the male field and as mentioned above longer tracks = bigger sex gaps. Expression of Strength being the defining characteristic of performance?
The list of potential useful statistics coming into these two races is long. Therefore huge Potential for paralysis by analysis. Pretty stable track layouts when comparing too previous years means “key sectors” can be dissected. Past performances of individuals lined up with present performance potential in the light of current constraints is the essence of using analysis and stats to your advantage. Always remembering that while the clock doesn’t lie “performance” and outcome are not the same thing.
If you are after some straightforward stats though, we’ve visited Leogang 8 times before, Fort William 16. In the men’s field Aaron Gwin hold 50% of Leogang’s victories. 4/8. The Fort has been around much longer allowing Minnaar to rack up 7 victories over a VERY impressive time-span. A period spanning a serios changing wheel-sizes, bike design, reliability and competition structure.
The easy money is put on these two riders at those two venues. For me the potential of massive upset provides a lot of excitement. The ladies races are far less clear cut, other than Mosely and Ragot, Atherton is the most prolific winner at the Fort but by no means dominant, ending a stunning victory streak under her own volition in 2017 at the Fort she’ll look to redeem herself this year. Confident and healthy Seagrave and Nicole will make for a battle royale. Leogang is even less clear cut than the Fort for the ladies. Seagrave rolling in as reigning champ will mean little unless that momentum is kickstarted on Anoch Mòr!

PC - Red Bull Content Pool
PC – Red Bull Content Pool

Recent Form
Because the tracks change little, last years results will certainly sway the bookies odds, but other than the victors of 2017 & maybe podiums, the results sheet can leave you less than optimally informed. “Form” that lovely mix of fitness – fatigue + motivation is a transient quality. Comes, goes etc… Key things like physical preparation and team environment not to mention bicycle performance all play their roll. The mental puzzle solving that underpins all DH performance is the one we need to look at coming into round 2. I’m hazarding a guess at 2-3 newish faces on the Fort William podium but an experienced packed Leogang steps for the men and well for the ladies “recent form” points to a 3 way battle between Myriam, Tahnée & Rachel.
A side-note to it all is watching how practice and racing goes at the first of this double-header for those who have camped out at the Fort for a week before versus those who fly in Monday. A little jet-lag versus a little over-exposure!

 

Tech
The stand-alone season opener in Croatia means many companies and teams probably have some “new tech” to showcase or hide in Fort William, do we really truly care? Emm no, but rumours are a certain 27.5 stalwart team have a 29er ready but won’t ride it. Santa Cruz have a new bike, some guys kits will match their hubs and pedals, the main point is that if you’ve not tested it don’t race it. Throwing back to 2017 and there were a scandalous amount of racers bending 29” wheels in Fort William and struggling to hoard tyres for Leogang to come. The self-inflicted wheel size head-fuck of 2017 is all but behind us I think, so I for one am stoked to see results with asterisk added on come Sunday!

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Finish Line

The excitement to go racing again is HUGE! I can’t wait, can’t wait to help athlete’s do their best all week long. Faced with classic tracks and venues, motivation and attention will be keys to performance. Practice builds race-runs, it’s not just their to convince yourself you know what you are doing or to burn brake pads. So managing motivation and expectation will be the name of the game.
Classic track, classic venues are in every great sport; F1, MotoGP, MX, Alpine skiing, Soccer, Sailing and Road cycling. We however don’t have the luxury of black tarmac or a fresh covering of snow. Unique in demands, DH needs some unique solutions to allow us all to keep the motivation peaking. Races like Leogang and Fort William on bi-annual rotation in the future….? Yes please!

 

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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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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.

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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 Shot

As a fan of alliteration (unknown as to why) I was gonna call these wee gems – Point1 Power-Balls. But, emm, well…I won’t!

So here you go, the Snack Shots, one simple base recipe, that you can add in all sorts of flavours, tastes and textures too to get what you want or need.

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Base Recipe

  • 500g Dates (medjool or if not then deglet or similar variety soaked for 3-5 hrs!)
  • 3/4 Cup of Oats
  • 1/2 Cup of Mixed nuts of Choice (almonds, cashew, walnuts, hazelnuts in this case)
  • 1 tsp oil of choice (walnut or coconut work best)
  • Flavourful Add-Ins

1. Chocolate & Coconut

Add in 2 tbs cocoa power and 2 tbs coconut flakes or dessicated coconut! Simple

2. Ginger and Cinnamon – Spice Bomb!

Add in as much grated fresh ginger as you dare to the base recipe and sprinkle on 2 tsp cinnamon powder!

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How To

The easiest way to get the textures needed for a rad snack shot experience is a hand held blender and/or upright blender. The key is getting the dates nice and liquid! so soak if needed. Then blitz to a creamy texture

Drop your oats and nuts into a blender and mix until you get a pretty fine “powder”, leave some left over un blitzed oat and nuts for texture if wanted.

Mix all the dry ingredients of your base and flavor recipes together

Add the oil and dates

Slowly mix until they are all combined – this may take a while so just chill and be patient!

Once you have a texture that still has some moisture but doesn’t stick readily to your hands you can roll up your mixture into the finest wee snack shots you’ll ever have!

Store in an air tight container or in the freezer!

Snack away on a nutrient dense tasty bomb, goes very well with crisp espresso!

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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!

 

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Hhmmmm Protein, Fat and all dem nutritious nutrients
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Smart Nutritional Choices during DH and Enduro Training

I often sit down with the best intentions to right clear, useful and succinct blog posts about a variety of topics! But often, they sit in the “draft” folder, why? Well mainly because I have more than a few lines of thought on more than a few topics, which often leads me down a rabbit hole of additional research and thinking…and before long I’ve chosen to work with or update programs, gather feedback or catch up with the full time Point1 athletes instead of finishing a blog post!

I suppose there are both positive and negatives in that! But I’ve decided to aim for shorter, more concise blogging for this summer. Useful, less wordy but hopefully just as useful!

Less of this and more blogging........right?
Less of this and more blogging……..right? – Photo: Sean Rowe

So here it goes…the first in what will hopefully be a long line of “snappy” blogs!

Nutrition is without doubt the one area I get the most questions in, from athletes to riders on the trials of Morzine, to guys and girls in coffee shops, or on Facebook, people want nutritional info…but they also want the “secret” to eating success. Well there isn’t any secrets. But there is a stack of bull 4m deep, dogma, over-zealous lunatics, fads, supplement companies more interested in marketing than manufacturing and many other pit-falls.

So while the very first port of call of any rider or athlete is a very consistent, well planned and tasty daily meals and snacks…there are a few key areas of focus for the rider engaging in training.

1. Eating enough quality calories

2. Getting the right Macronutrient balance based off of energy expenditure demands and training goals

3. Having tasty, colourful food with good texture variety

4. Having a good idea what you’ll be eating each meal/snack at least 10hrs in advance! (this is KEY)

5. Hydrating regularly and enough 

6. Eating lots of vegetables, a little fruit, various protein sources and a good amount of fat!

Now while the above is just a short list of some areas to focus on when planning out your approach to “healthful” eating. The average rider often asks about supplements long before they address anything like the above! You’d think that the coach in me would say “sort of the basics” change your behaviours and attitudes to food and then we’ll talk before even entertaining the idea of adding in supplements to a diet and you’d be right…but having said that “supplementing” a good diet is becoming a whole lot more difficult because, luckily for people like me, it seems that smart, simple, relaxed approach to nutrition and diet are becoming very much the “norm”!

Have your nutritional sh*t in a pile before you worry about the supps! - This is a Neil Stewart feed!
Have your nutritional sh*t in a pile before you worry about the supps! – This is a Neil Stewart feed!

With that in mind – there are two key areas where I look to supplement with Gravity athletes who get themselves set up on a Point1 Coaching Partnership.

During and After Training – Why, because the high intensity, intermittent nature of DH and Enduro practice, riding or racing means significant exercise induced muscle damage (EIMD), glycogen depletion, mild dehydration and possible reductions in adaptation too or performance in a given session. So while we look to have some of the above to provide an adaptive stimulus for our bodies after training, we also need consistent application of the minimal worth while load over a long period of time to actually, ya know, get dem GAINZZZ!

So that’s why we look to supplement (not always) with some sort of specially prepared beverage during DH runs, Enduro laps or anything of that nature!

With a pretty solid body of evidence in the research to support the idea, a Carbohydrate – Protein blend beverage consumed at a rate of about 35 -45 g of carbs and 5 to 10g of protein in 500ml to 750ml of water per 2 to 3 runs or over 45min to 1hour seems to work spot on!

So what does it actually work on? 

  • Reductions in acute fatigue that manifest itself as both central (ability of your brain and CNS to control/create /drive movement) and peripheral (ability of metabolic and mechanical systems to power and fuel those movements)
  • Reductions in muscle damage and soreness during and after sessions meaning you can train sooner or to a higher quality in the next session – so that means more quality and/or quantity of good tech or physical ridning.
  • Better quality training during the session, less likely to make mistakes caused by the above fatigue discussed. More likely to execute lines and be able to overload the mechanical and metabolic systems in the exact movement patterns demanded by the sport! Therefore more likely to directly improve your “sport characteristic performance”.
  • Peripheral fatigue will cause reduced impulse, central motor drive and alterations in ideal motor unit (read muscle movement) recruitment patterns that will mean you’ll soon be using less than optimal technique and bleeding even more energy…this is the feeling of “not being able to ride” we all have gotten when riding and not snacking!

So, basically do more, do it better and arguable safer if you supplement a DH, Enduro or similar “intermittent” session with a Carbohydrate – Protein based beverage. Why beverage…well some studies have used gels…but the simplicity of a drink, coupled with the fact that you can easily get your required H2O, electrolytes and other minerals in the one package a drink based CHO -PRO supplement is a no-brainer!

The best and often recommend one to Point1ers is the High 5 4:1 product – it’s tasty, has Whey protein and not soy or some other sub-average protein source, tastes good, comes with the needed electrolytes in there already and not only is the mix in a research backed 4:1 mix of Carbs to Protein, it also is made with a variety of carb sources dubbed “multi-transportable” by Scientist meaning your gonna get a better delivery of energy and less stomach issues than if they used sugar, maltodextrin etc… alone!

High5 4:1
High5 4:1 – natural stuff for the most part

Now you may think I’m pedaling supps here with my marketing cap on! But I have made a variety of “home-brew” versions of a 4:1 intra riding drinks and invariable I come back to using the High5 4:1 as it’s on the money out of the box. Although that’s not to say I’ve not recommended some changes! 😉

However feel free to recommend in the comments the other brands or mixes you have tried if you have tried any!

Likewise questions below are welcomed!

A few Gravity Enduro lap essentials!
A few Gravity Enduro lap essentials!

 

A full day of timed DH runs needs more than a drink mix, but the 4:1 is still an integral part! As is pen and paper.
A full day of timed DH runs needs more than a drink mix, but the 4:1 is still an integral part! As is pen and paper.

Finally here’s a link to some of the research mentioned in this article – 4:1 mix used in Alpine Skiing a sport with many similarities to ours! – cho 4;1 gel skiing study

And finally part two – more research supporting the above claims for those interested!

Seifert, J.G., Kipp, R.W., Amann, M. and Gazal, O. (2005) Muscle
Damage, Fluid Ingestion, and energy supplementation during
Recreational Alpine Skiing. International Journal of Sport Nutrition
and Exercise Metabolism 15, 528-536.
Saunders, M.J., Luden, N.D. and Herrick, J.E. (2007) Consumption of
an oral carbohydrate-protein gel improves cycling endurance
and prevents postexercise muscle damage. Journal of Strength
and Conditioning Research 21, 678-684.
Ivy, J.L., Res, P.T., Sprague, R.C. and Widzer, M.O. (2003) Effect of a
carbohydrate-protein supplement on endurance performance
during exercise of varying intensity. International Journal of
Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 13, 382-395.
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Quick Fire 5 – Scotty Laughland

Our second round of quick fire 5 questions is with another Scot, Scotty Laughland. One of the newest athletes on the Point1 roster of weapons; he’s just come off his best ever EWS result (33rd) at Tweedlove.
Mature in word,  fresh in the face, downhiller turned Enduro shredder Scotty Laughland has, at 25 years young, bags of experience on a push bike, an undergraduate degree in Engineering and some serious coconut sugar based baking skills!
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© – Claus Wachsmann
1) Favourite meal after a tough day of training gainzzz
Quick and easy soy sauce stir-fry with chicken or beef, rice and veg
2) The training sessions you are most and least happy to see on the weekly plan?
Most: 4 hour epic enduro session
Least: none – It’all about the gainzzz and process
3) Favourite race track/s? 
Finale. Nevados de Chilean and Peebles
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© – Claus Wachsmann
4) Number 1 interest away from the world of bike riding and racing?
Travel and exploration
5) Happiest when…….?
Sat at the top of a rad, loamy 1000m + descent, froth fest!!!
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© – Scotty himself!