In Part I of Winter Tune Ups I covered the first two items on my list of “speed for life” upgrades, and in Part II I’ll cover the last two items:
- a biomechanical/muscular engagement assessment
- swim lessons
- a bike fit
- a running gait analysis
When it comes to attaining and maintaining a proper and strong position on the bike, one that allows you to put the most power to the pedals for the entire duration of your event, there’s really only one option, a professional bike fitting. If you’ve purchased a bike from a reputable dealer then they probably did exactly that, setting you up on the correct sized frame, stem, handlebars, etc., and then you and they worked on getting you into the best aerodynamic position that you could work into and maintain.
If you’ve never done this, or it’s been years since you’ve done it, then this is the time to have a bike fit done before you get back out and ramp up the distance. Just like in the water, adjusting to a new position on the bike is not something you want to radically change if you’ve been on the same bike or in the same position for a while. It takes time for your muscles and joints to adapt to the change, so again, before your start adding the really long base miles, think about a bike fit. I asked another good friend, Bruce Davis from Hazard’s Cyclesport (full disclosure, an SBTC sponsor), for a few words on what to expect if you go in looking for a bike fit.
Bruce: It is fair to say that everyone can benefit from a professional bike fit, while some people feel that if they aren’t a top athlete there is no benefit in spending the time or money to have a bike fit done. A bike fitter will take into consideration your body type, level of conditioning, flexibility, previous injuries and other factors into making the bike fit you. That’s right; the bike is made to fit you, not the other way around. Whether you are an experienced racer or someone who is just getting into the sport, you will ride better after a bike fit. Sometimes it only takes a few very small adjustments to a bike and the riders feel faster and more efficient because of it. Just like a personal trainer or coach can see things in your technique that you may not, a bike fitter provides the same set of “extra eyes” to your cycling position.
Bike fitting seems to be the newest addition to a lot of bike shops menus these days. This is a good thing, as the goal is to make cycling more comfortable and efficient for everyone. But just because a fitter has taken a class or two doesn’t necessarily make him/her a fitter. Some fitters are more focused on road bikes and the more traditional fit. Some may specialize in Triathlon and/or Time Trial position (there are slight differences between the two), so look around and ask questions before you sign up for a fit. Check with other riders who have been fit and see what their experience was like. For example: How long has the fitter been fitting riders? Did the fitter listen to what their goals were? Did the fitter take the time to do a physical assessment of the rider to determine the best direction to go? Did the rider see an improvement after the fit was done? Was one or two follow-up fits included in the price?
Remember, comfort equals efficiency equals speed. When you are ready to have a bike fit done, call the fitter and set up an appointment. It will be the best 1-2 hours you can spend on your bike.
For those of you that really like getting into the data and seeing the difference that different aerodynamic changes make to your power output on a bike, here's a good read recommended originally by Jon Martin: http://www.bikeradar.com/road/gear/article/how-aero-is-aero-19273/
They do a real world versus wind tunnel test of a road bike vs. tri bike, road bars vs. clip-on aerobars (on the road bike), and road helmet vs. aero helmet. They standardized the test using the same set of wheels, removing one parameter, but a set of aero wheels will always beat out a set of standard road training wheels.
The main thing to take away from this article, aside from the $$$/kilowatt saved figures, was that you need to be riding in an aero position, on a road-bike with aerobars or a tri bike, to be as fast as you can be. The only way to get into a proper aero position is after you get a good bike fitting and get set up in a position that you can hold for the long run.
And last but not least, if you want to work on improving your run, working on your running efficiency is one way to make the miles go by easier, but it can also make your times drop as you’re able to train longer and harder to improve your running ability. Joining a coached running group is one way to find someone to help you with your running, as well as providing camaraderie as you spend time working on your run.
If you’ve been plagued by running injuries over the years then a good suggestion is to get a running gait analysis to see if you don’t have a biomechanical issue that needs looking into. Reputable running shoe stores offer this service to some degree, but you can also go to a professional to have this analysis done, independent from someone who is selling you their shoes. I once again asked Geoff Gray about this process and what someone could expect if they came to him looking for advice, and you can contact Geoff here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Geoff: Running is a complex movement that happens very quickly which makes it very difficult to self-assess problems. A high-end gait analysis will consist of high-speed video, motion capture for joint positioning, and force plate analysis to study how your body puts power into the ground and absorbs impact. The foot is on the ground for about ¼ second in a running stride. Most video cameras shoot at 30 frames per second, which doesn’t give enough clarity to see the intricacies of the body’s movement during running. So, using your iPhone might be great to get a general idea of running stride, a high-end analysis will create a much clearer idea of how you run. In the Luxe Lab we look at each runner at their different training speeds, in different types of footwear, and on flat surfaces as well as uphill and downhill. We recommend avoiding treadmills for running assessment as the body dramatically changes its movements between running on a treadmill versus running outdoors. We can take the information gained from a high-end running assessment to recommend drills to correct stride inefficiencies, what shoes provide the best performance, and what type of training will help you reach your running goals.
With thanks to Geoff, Blair, and Bruce for their thoughts and advice, I hope that this information is useful and spurs some of you to get out and seek some help now, before really getting into the long training days to come.
As always, Happy Training!
Fred Maggiore, USAT Level I Coach