Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bike Fitting, Part 2: My Approach

In my last post I discussed the importance of a good bike fit.  Let me expand on that by stating that all cyclists can benefit from a professional bike fit for the reasons I mentioned.  At the very least, a fit can decrease a cyclist's injury risk.  Also, getting fit is imperative to eliminate any bad habits the cyclist may have learned and may be perpetuating.  That is, a good fit must come before good form.

My approach to fitting is driven by the basic principle of focusing on the rider, not the bike, coming from a perspective emphasizing basic physics, biomechanics, and physiology.  The process applies the available scientific evidence to create a rider position that will take advantage of the optimum joint angles and muscle length and tension to allow the most efficient pedal stroke.

Yeah.  Great!  What does all that mean?  I do not use some slick, high-tech device or lasers or anything like that.  I take simple measurements of the rider and the bike and create a position that has been proven effective by current research, common sense, and the application of basic principles of science, fitting the bike to the rider.

Right!  But, what do I actually do?  I will have the rider fill out a questionnaire while I look at their bike
and gear, taking preliminary measurements.  Then, the rider will warm up on a stationary trainer while I confirm information from the questionnaire, possibly asking further questions, and begin a preliminary observation of their pedal stroke.  I will also record video of their pedaling for later viewing and analysis with respect to fit and efficiency.  We will review the video together and I will also take post-fit video for comparison, giving instruction for improvement as necessary.  Next, the actual fit begins.  I start with the shoe and cleat moving up to the saddle--the "power plant."  Once this is set, I move on to the "cockpit," the upper body and its relation to the handlebar.  That's the gist of the fit.  However, new parts may be necessary, thus postponing the completion of the fit.  This is the expected norm; most fits will be completed over two sessions.

Special thanks to Jeff and Jacqui Lockwood of Life Sport Inc. of Chandler, Arizona for your tutelage. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bike Fitting, Part 1: The Importance of a Good Fit

A bicycle is an extension of its rider, the interface between the rider and the riding surface.  As such, it needs to fit the rider appropriately, not the other way around.  Just like a runner needs the appropriate type and size of shoe and may require a specific insert or lacing pattern to individualize the fit, so a cyclist needs correctly sized equipment, finely tuned to his body.  Without that good fit to the bicycle, the cyclist risks being unsafe and uncomfortable which could lead to injury.  A poor fit could also be limiting performance.

With any good fitting system, a hierarchy of priorities exists and is related directly to the priorities of the rider on the bike.

Safety first.  Trite perhaps, but true nonetheless.  A rider must have adequate control of the bike.  If, for example, the handlebar is too far forward or too narrow, steering may be compromised.  Or, if the bar is too low, causing the rider to bend more at the waist, they may not be able to see a safe distance ahead without hyperextending the neck, which could lead to injury.  Commonly, casual riders have their saddle too low which will likely lead to knee pain.

Second, a good fit will allow for effective power production by permitting the appropriate range of motion at each joint of the body and thus the proper balance of muscle length and tension around each of those joints. This optimizes the rider's ability to transfer power from the body to the pedal.

Third, the rider's comfort should be considered to avoid inappropriate fatigue, so he may maintain control and power over potentially long periods on the bike.

Fourth, aerodynamics may be addressed, if appropriate.  An aero' position should only be considered after safety, power, and comfort are established and should not take priority over any of those aspects
of the fit.  Otherwise, overall function may be compromised.

In Bike Fitting, Part 2, I will share my approach to bike fitting.

Special thanks to Jeff and Jacqui Lockwood of Life Sport Inc. of Chandler, Arizona for your tutelage.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Never Too Old To Learn; Hopefully Not Too Old To Go Faster And Farther

This post has changed focus and content both in my head and on my computer countless times in the last nearly four months.  Initially, it was going to be about how I trained for my first marathon and perhaps qualified for Boston.  Then, it was going tell the story of my experience managing plantar fasciitis, then a calcaneal stress fracture, then plantar fasciitis, still training for my first marathon.  I was going to talk about overcoming winter weather and seasonal illness and how I (mostly) took my own professional advice, but may have made a few errors in judgement. I put it off for several reasons, primarily because I did not have an ending.  Now, I'm running again, but still dealing with plantar fasciitis and I changed my marathon registration to the half, so...

Life happens.  Challenges and barriers get in our way.  Goals change.  Life continues.  Hopefully, we learn, gain wisdom and strength.

The last few months have been an enriching experience which, upon reflection, was the point.  After realizing that I had never run a full marathon, a friend and fellow trainer, said "oh, you'll do one one day so you will be able to share the experience with other runners that you coach."  That was all it took.  She was right.  I needed that experience to grow as a running coach.  I have not experienced a marathon yet, but I am learning for sure.  Learning things like:

I saw a similar sign in SA that made me chuckle.
Running can be fun!  I am usually quite competitive when I run, mostly against myself and the clock.  I do not race to finish; I race for a fast time.  However, last fall as I increased my base mileage, I visited my best friend in Texas to run the San Antonio Rock and Roll half marathon with him.  The point of the race was to just hang out--a novel idea for me.  Other than having the "buddy time" I also enjoyed seeing parts of the city I had never seen before and I was able to actually enjoy the festivity of the event and the crowds.  While I will continue to race for speed, I would certainly consider doing another "fun" race too.

Fifty percent of all runners this year will have a running-related injury.  Statistics repeatedly show this. So, I consider myself lucky that this is the first time in over twelve years of consistent running that I have needed to take a break from running for longer than a week.  For those who don't know me: I have worked in physical therapy and sports medicine for over twelve years too.  Usually, I am pretty good at taking my own professional advice.  This time, I did okay.  However, I think I should have sought help sooner.  As much as I know, I do not know everything.  An earlier fresh look from an objective set of eyes might have made the difference between four and eight weeks off running.

As I have shared before, I have been running in minimalist shoes for a while.  Having a foot injury has changed my approach a little.  Currently, I am running in a more traditional stability shoe and I plan to continue with this shoe as long as I struggle with plantar fasciitis.  After that--hopefully soon--I will continue to run long with these shoes, but return to my minimalist shoes for shorter runs.  I think my body just cannot handle running high mileage on hard surfaces with minimalist shoes.  Consider that for what it is worth.  Running shoes are as individual as the feet that fill them.

As a coach and trainer, this experience has forced me to be more thoughtful in my own training program design.  I have to focus on quality first and design a comprehensive regimen to include appropriate running workouts, complementary cross training, and focused strength training.  I ask questions like: where am I weak?  Strong?  What led to the injury?  How do I manage it and continue to train?  What are my goals?  A particular race?  Longevity?  After I choose a race, what performance can I realistically expect?  And, how will I get there?  I have really had to think analytically which is only going to help me to improve as a coach.  Before the injury, it was just do a little more of this, a little less of that, ignore the other thing.  Now, I have had to start over.  That was a significant blow coming off my fastest year ever, setting PRs in the 5k, 10k, and half marathon. Patience, patience...

...which leads me to my overall outlook.  "Everything happens for a reason."  "When one door closes, another opens."  "Every dark cloud has a silver lining."  Phrase it however you like.  Whatever.  The point is: adversity must be accepted, then overcome.  Learn from the experience, but keep moving forward.  Change plans.  Modify goals.  There will always be another race.  It actually gets easier to qualify for Boston when you get older, right?  Just do. Not. Quit.

One final thing I learned: the treadmill is even worse than water running. ;)