Monday, September 17, 2007

Wholistic Cycling: An Off-Road Primer

Wholistic Cycling: An Off-Road Primer
By Chris Kostman

A wholistic approach to cycling rediscovers, encourages, and authenticates the universal nature of outdoor performance skills. Tear away the veil of sports specificity and the wholistic athlete is catapulted into a transcendent, transformative, and transpersonal athletic experience. In this realm, the wholistic seeker appreciates and uses the skills learned (or relearned) in one sport to enhance athletic expression in other sporting arenas. Call it cross-training at an elevated level. Thus cycling lends itself to snowshoeing and to scuba diving, and vice-versa.

This is not, however, a consciously directed methodology. In the wholistic state of being, barriers fall away naturally and higher potential is realized. From there, it is but one more step to fully integrate these skills into the arena of daily life. The proverbial journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step. Catalyzing the journey to wholistic training begins with but a shift of perspective and energy.

Here are a few wholistic performance tips for superior off-road cycling:

Run or hike the trails you ride or race. You'll learn things about terrain and trail conditions that you just can't see at biking pace.

Look far ahead to where you want to go. Where you look is where you'll go. Look at a big rock or log in your path and you'll hit it. Apply the rule to life in general; look ahead of, instead of at, the obstacles to your goals.

Realize that there really is a single best "line" on any trail. Your goal is to find and ride that line and leave it unscathed in so doing.

Play follow the leader while riding with a friend or in a race. Assume that if the rider in front of you can do something, no matter how hairy or scary, then you can do it as well. Likewise, if you're leading down a tricky or fast section, assume that you will be run over by the following cyclist if you blow it at any given point.

Move with the bike or move the bike, but don't let the bike move you any more than necessary. Be a trapeze artist or a bike-bound ballerina.

Move around on your bike, especially on the saddle. Slide way back, slide way forward, and everywhere in between. This will change your muscle group usage, provide mini recoveries, and effectively give you added strength and speed on flats and while climbing. Many cyclists routinely slide way back on the saddle, but how many get way out on the tip of the saddle? You're missing something if you don't.

Be one with your bike, like an equestrian with a horse. Let this unity with your steed extend to the earth beneath it. Work and proact with the landscape, not against it and not in a state of reaction.

Conserve your energy. Don't tighten even one muscle or body part that needn't be tightened. Waste not, want not.

Recover your energy. Every time you can get your heart rate back down, you're recovering. Use downhills and flats to recover for the next tough section. Interval training will coach your heart to drop its rate more immediately after a high intensity effort, allowing you to recover sooner and more often. Never waste a chance to recover, however briefly.

Conserve your momentum. More so than power, it will get you through most any tight spot. Never lose your momentum, not just on the bike but also when pursuing your daily life goals.

Use your gears! Anticipate your need to shift to a harder or easier gear. Don't let your cadence bog down even once. Don't "save" a gear; use it as soon as you need it. When you crest a hill, pedal all the way over the true crest, then slam it into a taller gear and head for the downhill at maximum speed. Once you've spun out, rest.

Train with less technology. Race with more technology. Getting used to race pace with skinnier tyres or sans-suspension will make you an even better rider once you haul out the competitive arsenal.

Originally published in Fitness Magazine, Sweden, April 1999

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