They make such a big deal about bike fit. You sit for hours with someone at a bike store, or you pay big bucks to go to a professional to make sure you’re maximizing power output with the most efficiency and minimal energy waste.
But little is known about about shifting your bike positioning during cycling. And I don’t mean actually sliding the seat. I mean that you can actually engage different muscles for different terrain based on where you put your butt!
This article in Triathlete magazine talks about this:
http://www.dshen.com/training/bikepositioning.pdf (7 MB!)
Sorry for the huge file size. I wanted the images and text to come out nicely.
I tried this today in my long ride outdoors, which today consisted of hill repeats. I found myself naturally sliding back and forth and experimented with best positioning on the hill repeats. By sliding my butt all the way back on the seat, I could really engage my glutes and got some real nice power while on my seat going up the hill.
Down on the flats, I found myself sliding forward more to engage a wider range of muscles for making lots of revolutions while on the aerobars.
Along with the article on pedaling from Bicycling magazine, working on both pedalling and bike body position, I’ve been able to boost power output this year by another 5-10 watts.
When I started cycling for racing, I never could have imagined how complex cycling really was. Cycling technique has so many little nuances it’s hard to keep track of all of them when you are cycling. Only through extensive training and practice to reinforce technique can you unconsciously perform optimal cycling technique…and prevent injury.
A great article on pedaling was published in Bicycling magazine, March 2007 Issue. I scanned it in:
The Perfect Pedal Stroke, Bicycling Magazine, March 2007, pg. 108
After looking at the fantastic illustration, I noted that I wasn’t letting my heel drop on the downstroke but instead I was pointing my toe downward. By letting the heel drop, I could engage my large glute muscles and hamstrings which I probably was not in the past. I set out to try this.
Definitely a difference. My glutes are more sore in my Computrainer workouts, and I can definitely feel my hamstrings getting hit more as well. Overall, I think my power output has gone up another 5-10 watts on workouts that I did last year. Very cool. Definitely more to work on here because I still get messy and revert to old habits when I get tired.
In my quest for finding new running shoes, I noticed I was getting more blisters than normal. After about 30 min of running, especially on the treadmill, I could feel some serious rubbing on my soles, which would ultimately lead to swelling of my feet and then severe blistering.
I tried everything. Lube on my feet. Nope. Wider shoes. Nope. Tying looser or tighter. Nope.
Then I thought that maybe my socks had something to do with it. I ran down to Sports Basement and bought some Wright socks advertised as “frictionless”.
And that was it. Apparently, my other socks were old enough such that fabric was wearing down and getting abrasive and especially when they got wet from my sweaty feet, the friction would really do a number on my soles.
With the new socks, the fabric hadn’t broken down yet. Plus, these had some funky design so that they would help prevent blisters.
Amazing that just keeping socks new would help me here. You learn something new everyday…
January has been a month of base training, shaking off the cobwebs, and warming up the ol’ aerobic engine for larger efforts in the coming months. Emerging from the winter months, it is always a funny period of time for me. Over November and December, I did nothing to really work my aerobic engine. I lifted weights to build pure strength and this applied also to swimming where I made up my own paddle swimming progression which gradually built up speed and effort over the two months.
The first week of January is always a tough week. I start with the first of a series of bike and run progressions that are given to me by my coach. I pull up those same workouts from a year ago to see if I can use those same paces and power. It’s definitely a hard moment. Like every other athlete out there, you want to improve year over year. Intellectually you know you’re in the base period, but you can’t help but think even in the base period I should be a tiny bit faster or have just a little bit more power. And sometimes, you do…but sometimes you don’t. I intellectually know I shouldn’t worry about it but yet I can’t escape that thought that I should be just a little better this year, right? And if I’m not, then I start worrying about whether or not I’m going to be faster later, if I’m slower now. The anxiety builds.
My coach is fond of saying that we shouldn’t rush things, and that our fitness level is our fitness level at the moment of time, whether on a training day or on race morning. His favorite line is to train “as the body invites.” Trying to change things too fast will either injure you or put you into overtraining mode and both are BAD. Everybody is different and has different levels of fitness, strength, and ability to grow and get faster. Some of us are quick, and some of us just take a little longer. No matter what, it is what it is and wishing all you want isn’t going to change that; nor is trying to train outside of the parameters of a given workout like pushing too hard when you’re not supposed to.
For me, it’s always an interesting experience. It’s like my body resists coming back, like it’s saying to me, “Dave I really don’t believe you’re back into training. So I’m going to retain my previous fitness level. Nope. Not going to continue right? I’ll just maintain it some more…” This seems to go on always for about 3-3.5 weeks. Then, some switch is turned on, like my body finally says, “Oh geez, Dave IS SERIOUS about training. I gotta ramp the bod and keep up!”
On the last week of January, it was like a switch was turned on. For about 2 weeks, I was struggling at keeping energy level high during a treadmill workout of 3 sets of 5 x 3.5 minutes with a pace pattern of moderate, faster, faster, moderate, and faster than previous faster. The first time through I could only do one set before not being able to continue. My paces were too fast as I took them from last year, but I could not sustain them especially after swimming first. Then adjusting paces, I try again. But I still am only able to get through 2 sets. Then finally, using the same paces, this last week I swam and made it through the 3 sets with no dip in energy whatsoever. It was such a shocking transformation in energy level.
With cycling, it was slightly different. I was able to move through the progression and now I’m back to previous years’ wattages with a little bit more added on.
I think the mental aspect is the most interesting experience. As I said before, you want to be better than last year. But you’re not. And you get depressed. Angry, Determined. Scared at being slower in your races later in the year. However, once again, I remind myself to be patient and not overdo it mentally or physically. I just patiently workout at paces and wattages that my body can take at that time. I try to be aware of my body’s reaction during the warmup stage as I get familiar with the paces and wattages that will occur during the main set. If during the warmup stage I don’t feel like I can achieve my target paces/wattages, I back off so I can get through the workout and try again another day.
The concept of “as the body invites” is one of the most important training principles I’ve learned. Not only does it apply to the base period, it applies nicely all year round during all phases of your training, including race morning. You just need to be patient and have faith that you will get there, and if you are listening to your body, you’ll probably even get a bit faster…!