Category Archives: Cycling

Cycling Mimics Life – Improvement Requires Faith, Preparation and Effort

“Hope is not a strategy” – Jerry Gallagher

It is important to remain present while knowing that, irrespective of current circumstances, the future will be phenomenal if you know that it will be and you put in the work.  Now.  If you believe that the miracle that is you has already been created without you having done anything at all then having faith in tomorrow is also possible for you.  Now that you are here you need to do your part, you need to begin, you need to show up, you need to create some positive energy and forward motion and have faith that if you do that to the best of your ability then you will create the life you want.  As Dr. Wayne Dyer said “you have to believe it before you see it”.  Life will always support you in a way that makes you right.  Fill your mind with all the reasons why you cannot accomplish something or dedicate your mind an energy toward accomplishing your goal; in the end one of those will come true for you.

We run into difficulty when we are not present, when we spend all our time and energy thinking and worrying about all the things we don’t have rather than being grateful for what we actually do have.  Yesterday is no longer here, it is old news.  We have absolutely no idea what tomorrow will bring.  We will create tomorrow by what we do and think and feel and believe today.

Having a plan and someone to talk to when the plan goes awry is fundamental to success.  Thankfully all plans go awry at some point, usually leading to some unimaginably phenomenal developments – if we could have imagined them they would have been part of the plan, we just didn’t know enough until the brick wall fell on us!  More often than not we give up or we start convincing ourselves that what we are striving for will not happen – the race won’t go well, the promotion won’t happen, the relationship is a mess, the business won’t work.  What if you directed your energy toward making sure, to the best of your ability, that the outcome you want is actually within your reach – that some faith, “preparation and effort” will provide you with a successful outcome, perhaps better than you thought?

Each of us and all of us have an unbreakable spirit which gets tested from time to time, perhaps more often than we would like.  We will never see that spirit or benefit from it if we do not know – not believe, know – it is there.  When students thank me for helping them improve or achieve one of their goals my response is always this “everything you need is inside you, if I helped you find it then I am happy but always remember, you did the work, you believed in yourself, you believed in your training and continued moving forward.”

The quality of our lives is directly related to how we view and interpret information and events.  This interpretation is typically filtered by prior experiences; we need to turn off that filter and start looking forward with some fresh eyes and an open heart or we will forever be stuck with yesterdays problems and issues.

Let me give you the example of a wide receiver for a football team and compare that to what you might describe as your successes and failures (these stats are public information):

Number of seasons  13
Number of total games  190
Number of offensive plays in a typical football game  60
Number of potential plays that could have involved this player  11,400
Number of times he was targeted for a pass/play  1,239
Number of receptions  668

The typical conversation many of us would have goes something like this:  “I only got picked 11% of the time (1,239 out of 11,400 possible times) and I didn’t catch it half the times (669 out of 1,239) the quarterback targeted me.”  This particular player knows that the two things in his control are his “preparation and effort” (that is a direct quote, you can read the article HERE ) and that by doing those two things he cannot guarantee, but he can absolutely influence, his outcome.   In order to prepare properly and make the best possible effort you must first believe, then know, that your outcome is available to you.  The Giants did not win the Super Bowl in January, 2001, they did not allow that “failure” to stop them from achieving their goal in 2008.

Reading this, this former pro is probably scratching his head saying ……(you will hear it for yourself if you tune in to our inaugural podcast next week with Amani Toomer).  Yes, these are the actual stats for Amani Toomer, All Pro wide receiver for the NY Giants, recognized as one of the greatest receivers of all time HERE, on the Super Bowl winning team in 2008 (after coming back from knee surgery).

Look for what is good, in people and in life; know that your success is there for you if you believe in yourself (Your Self) and are willing to move forward knowing that your opportunity is there for the taking – you will be pleasantly surprised at how your life changes for the positive.

 

Thoughts on Cycling

Cycling is a practice.  Like true martial arts, traditional yoga cycling, when accepted properly, becomes a process we can use when seeking to live our lives in the best possible way.  Study, train, and a participate with gratitude for having found something so special that it positively impacts every other aspect of our lives.

Start where you start and move forward from there.  This principle is never-ending, we do this on a daily basis.  Accept your staring point each day and simply do your best.  Keep  in mind that you can always do a little bit more than you think you can; don’t believe everything you think.

Craving more doesn’t help anyone.  Bigger, better, faster; the cycle of never-ending unhappiness with our current status – in our capabilities, our possessions, our abilities – leads to frustration on a daily basis.  The better way is to simply put in the work – the practice is what matters, results come from the practice and participation and remember this: there are absolutely no shortcuts.  None.  To anything or anywhere.  Shortcuts cause us to miss the process, and one way streets lead to dead ends.

Natural ability and predisposition to something that you live to do is one of the greatest gifts; it is so sad to see people waster their gifts and talents because they get caught up in the story and forget that they have to practice.  Such a waste.  The conversation about how fast the last group ride was, which new trinket to buy today, not knowing which bike to ride today – and for what?  The never ending search for happiness when in fact we already have everything we need to be happy.  Seek knowledge rather than things; the intangible is always more valuable than the tangible because the intangible cannot be easily replicated.  A bike is a bike, a saddle is a saddle and a pair of shoes is a pair of shoes; what differentiates one from another is the heart and soul of the creator.

Quiet your mind, sit with your thoughts and feelings, accept your challenges as growth experiences; if you are reading this then no matter how difficult you might think things are for you, you are more than likely better off than 90% of the world’s population – take a minute and consider how good we all have it.

Then start your day with an attitude of gratitude and see what kind of day you have.

Practice patience with yourself and others, don’t be so quick to judge yourself or others.  Trust yourself, don’t let fear and ego dictate the quality and direction of your life – or your cycling practice.

 

Dream, Plan, Do, Celebrate!

Cycling…..training…..life…..health…..relationships…..business…..mimic each other in many ways including this: leaving it up to chance or said another way, not investing some time to think about a plan for yourself, essentially saying that you will live by someone else’s plan for you. 

Somehow you have convinced yourself that the pain associated with the development of a plan and perhaps not achieving the exact result you desired is worse than the potential pleasure of successfully executing your plan and getting those results, or perhaps you just don’t think you know what to do so you just don’t get started.  I have found, both through my own experiences (the “good ones” and the “learning ones” – there aren’t any “bad ones”) that by simply getting started you set in motion forces that have been lying dormant inside of you, simply waiting there to help you…except you have been too busy focusing on all the perceived problems in your life that you haven’t been able to see the opportunities. 

A couple of things come to mind from my own experiences (perhaps you might identify):

  • “I’m not a morning person.”  What does that mean exactly?  Does anyone really believe that people are genetically predisposed to either getting up or not getting up early?  If that’s the case what happens when one makes a drastic change in their time zone?  Tell me you don’t get to bed until 2AM for whatever reason and of course (well…maybe) I understand not getting up at 4:30AM (I said maybe).  Perhaps the real reason is it just isn’t important to you to get up early and jump-start your day by training (perish the thought).  The truth is this: anyone can do it if they attach enough meaning to it.
  • “I don’t have enough time.”  I don’t know about you but when I was using that excuse and looked down at my watch it seemed to have the same 12 numbers on it as the next person’s (pre today’s super watches of course!)
  • “I’ll start tomorrow”.  Let me leave you with this thought.  Leave 1 ounce of bodyweight extra each day for a year – one ounce.  365 ounces…23 pounds….without compounding….

Some thoughts that might inspire you to get going, especially on those days when you expected to wake up to a sunny, 60 degree day…and the temperature reading is 24 and dropping!

  1. Start where you start and go from there. Make a realistic assessment of your starting point, and make sure to focus on all your positive attributes and characteristics rather than waste time thinking about the three l’s – lack, loss and limitation (in other words, what you don’t have, what you thought you had and don’t any longer, or the idea that you aren’t good enough for something).  Think about those positive characteristics as your base, something to build on!
  2. Remember your dream – create a vision for your future. Your future is created by you.  Circumstances move through your life without permanence – how you perceive them and deal with them is what creates your present frame of mind and therefore your actions which lead directly to your future.  Success breeds success – in sports, in business, in life – it is known as momentum…..do it right and it becomes a tidal wave!  If you thought of your potential as limitless, and that is really the only way to think about it, what would you do right now?  What decisions would you make?  Even undecided is a decision….can you imagine sitting on a picket fence, with the choices being right or left and saying “I think I will be undecided”?  More painful than the saddle on your first bike, no doubt!
  3. Learning more is critical! You can only make decisions and choices based on your current point of view and information you have at that moment in time.  Learn more and you will develop greater perspective, leading to a deeper understanding about yourself and the world around you, which in turn will empower you to make the best possible choices in the current moment…your future is NOW!
  4. Always do your best. You will hear this from me as we ride together – “you are a champion when you do your best….YOUR best, not someone else’s”.  Always do your best in any given set of circumstances; do that and you will begin to have confidence in your ability AND you will trust yourself to make what seem like difficult choices.  Recognize that “your best” changes with different circumstances; my own example – my power output in my current classes is 60% of what it was prior to my cancer and chemo treatments.  Clearly circumstances changed, for now.  It isn’t permanent, and with dedicated effort improvements will come.  I know that because as low as it is compared to a year ago it is still better than it was a few years ago.  Be careful not to use the given set of circumstances as a crutch…always give it everything you’ve got…or don’t bother.
  5. Create something new. I will paraphrase my friend Mary Lynne – “don’t waste time trying to repair what doesn’t need fixing, there is nothing wrong with you.”  Keep your eye on the horizon as you follow your path –an Aurora (a new beginning, a new dawn) is always being created from that point forward.  You MUST accept everything that has transpired in your life to this point as something that was required to happen in order to be here and now!  Some of the experiences may have been challenging (to say the least), but if I were a gambling man I would bet dollars to donuts that those experiences are the ones that have helped you grow the most.
  6. Celebrate and build on your success. You can feel a quiet satisfaction from your success – the celebration does not necessarily need to be loud…but it can be if you like!

Dream….Plan….Do….Celebrate!

P6 – Perceived Effort – how I feel while I am doing the work

Cycling mimics life; being mindful of the amount of effort it takes to move from place to place, learn the next skill, further a relationship, earn the next dollar or build the next business is important.  How much more do you have to do in order to accomplish how much is perception of effort.  Perceived effort also matters in our previous conversation about power; how much more effort do you need to make in order to generate those 10 more watts, and is it worth it?

A simple measure of perceived effort is to break it down into three perceptions – comfortable, uncomfortable and breathless.  Perception is the key word here as there is no independent basis to measure those three descriptions of effort; you simply know how you feel while riding a specific segment at a certain pace.  You can gauge your improvement by riding the same segment over time and when what was causing you to become breathless is now only uncomfortable you know you have improved.

Measuring heart rate allows us to attach some data to those perceived feelings; we create ranges that mimic comfortable, uncomfortable and breathless.  For example, if your heart rate remains at or below 70% of your theoretical max you are likely to be in the comfortable range; when your heart rate between 71% and 85% of your theoretical maximum is your uncomfortable range, and anything above 85% will likely cause you to feel a little (or a lot) breathless.  Caution – these are ranges used for the purposes of this explanation and not exact; we normally do a simple physiological test in order to find the ranges that are more specific to the student/athlete.  Training within specific zones will lead to specific results, for example if we are working with a new student/athlete whose main interest is to shed some extra weight and body fat we would do most of our training below the uncomfortable range in order to help build their basic cardiovascular system.  If, on the other hand we were working with a cyclist interested in developing greater endurance and speed we would have them spend additional time in the “above 85%” category.  Everyone has different starting points and goals; the idea is to do the work in the ranges that provide the most specific benefit.  Using heart rate zones does now obviate the question “how are you feeling?”

Combing the question “how are you feeling” with the date from a heart rate monitor along with the data from a power meter is the best of all worlds.  It allows us to ask the question “how are you feeling?”, measure it against what the heart rate monitor is telling us and compare it to the power output.  We then go back and answer the original question which was “is the extra effort worth it”.

I can give you two specific examples related to my own cycling.

Example 1.  I do not use a power meter on my road bike although I use a Garmin 1000, a heart rate strap and Strava.  I know the power meter would be a benefit but the extra investment of money plus the extra analysis would take away some of the joy of riding outdoors therefore the answer to the question for me is “the extra effort is not worth it”.  I do power vs. heart rate and speed analysis on my indoor rides at Gavia where the focus and specificity of the training helps me tremendously and the data is easily captured without changing the focus of my ride.

Example 2.  As I trained for GFNY 2016 I analyzed my heart rate and perceived exertion vs. speed on the segment that drops us down into Haverstraw then along the water and back up to 9W.  I know that I can keep my heart rate at 132 – 136 bpm riding into the wind and maintain a speed of 32kph (it is relatively flat); I know that if I try to increase my speed to more than 35kph my heart rate will increase to 150.  Given that I need to conserve some energy for the upcoming climbs and the remaining 100km it doesn’t make sense to me to try to ride faster than 32 to 35kph at that point in the race, it isn’t worth the effort (actually I am not sure that I can ride faster!).  Faced with a similar choice in the park on the return I would make the extra effort and suffer the consequences knowing that I was almost home; it would be worth it to finish the race with a better time.

I hope this series of blogposts has been helpful to you.  Please feel free to visit gaviacycling.com to join our email list in order to continue receiving information designed to help you improve your cycling performance and enjoyment.

If you have any specific questions related to these blogposts and/or would like them all together in  eBook format, or might be interested in a participating in a cycling coaching and training program specific to your needs and goals please feel free to email me at info@gaviacycling.com and let me know how I can help.

Thanks for reading!

Teaching is my life’s purpose.  I have been teaching, coaching, training and inspiring cycling students of all levels since 2004.  From 2004 to 2006 I taught indoor cycling (I certified as an RPM teacher in 2006) and in 2006 I decided that in order to be a better indoor teacher I ought to begin riding outdoors.  That has been the most impactful, life-changing decision I have ever made.  Cycling has provided me with just about all the meaningful relationships I have in my life (I actually met my wife through cycling!) and has provided me with THE platform that allows me to accomplish my objective as a teacher/coach – to effectuate positive change in people’s lives.  I am one of the founders of Gavia Cycling, where I am involved in developing the coaching, training, classes and group rides we offer at our studio located in Englewood Cliffs as well as on the road.  I have been a member of Gruppo Sportivo Gran Fondo New York since 2011.

Vito Valentini, Human Potential Catalyst – DeRosa I Gavia Cycling

 

P5 – Power – it is all relative

The simplest definition of power is this: how hard you push multiplied by how fast you push.  Power output is measured in watts and there is a direct correlation between watts and calories expended, therefore power measurement matters for the elite professional cyclists as much as it does for those of us who don’t race but ride for fitness and enjoyment, with this caveat: if you are not a professional racer and your rides are beginning to become all about power numbers rather than the positive effect on your health, life and relationships it is possible that you are on the verge of becoming a power-obsessed lunatic and ought to reconsider what you are doing to yourself!  That said, let’s talk about power.  Power is measured primarily through the use of gauges that measure the force you are putting into the pedals.  Power meters come in various forms, with cranks, pedals and wheel hubs being the most popular tools used to measure power, with prices ranging from approximately $1,200 for a set of power measuring pedals that measure both left and right side power to $4,000+ for the top of the line SRM.  Not all power meters are created equal and it is important to do some research or buy your power measuring device from someone who will charge you a fair price, install it properly, demonstrate its use and help you when it doesn’t work, which happens from time to time.

I wrote the words “it’s all relative” at the top of this section for several reasons, as follows:

  1. Power matters however, training properly in order to increase your absolute power relative to where you began, the increase in power, your progress, is more important than the actual number itself. We all have different abilities, interests and goals; what matters to a pro rider doesn’t really matter to a cycling enthusiast.  Constant improvement is key!
  2. Power to weight is important, measured as watts per kilogram (output per kilo of bodyweight). Consider the following two cyclists who have the ability to sustain 260 watts.  Cyclist 1 weighs 80 kilos while cyclist 2 weighs 65 kilos.  Their power to weight ratios are 3.25 for cyclist 1 and 4.0 for cyclist 2.  (260/80 for cyclist 1 and 260/65 for cyclist 2).  Relatively speaking cyclist 2 is stronger and will therefore go faster or, said another way, with the same work expended the cyclist pushing the lighter object will go faster.
  3. Sustainable power matters to sprinters and climbers but only within their respective competitor groups. For example, a sprinter may push in excess of 2,000 watts during a sprint (I hate to use the word however here because of the sheer craziness of being able to push 2,000 watts), however the sprinter needs to sustain that power for a relatively short period of time – however long it takes to travel several hundred meters (usually less than one minute).  Climbers on the other hand push out 400 watts on their climbs however (again with that word!) they sustain that power for climbs that, in some instances, last 90 minutes over 20km.  Some sprinters actually cry on those long mountain stages while the climbers wouldn’t be caught dead in a bunch sprint!

 

P4 – Pedal Stroke – think in perfect circles (as it relates to your pedaling!)

Proper pedaling technique, in words, sounds like this: push, scrape, pull and drive over the top.  Think about your feet moving around the face of a clock.  From 2 o’clock through 5 o’clock you are pushing down on the pedal using your quadriceps (the large muscle group at the upper front of your leg) and the ball of your foot.  As you hit 5 o’clock you begin to flex your ankle almost as if you are trying to bend your foot around the bottom of the clock, while you continue to push through to 7 o’clock.  As you get to 7, you begin to pull up using your hamstrings (the large muscle group at the upper back of your leg).  When you hit about 10 o’clock you drive your leg over the top of the clock and begin the process again.  You are not alone!  What I mean by this is while the one leg is going through this process, the opposite leg is doing the opposite; while one leg pushes the other leg pulls and vice versa, and while one leg is scraping through the bottom of the clock the other leg is driving over the top.  We all begin with a dominant leg and a leg that likes to tag along; single leg drills are the cure for what ails this!  (More on single leg drills in another eBook).

P3 – Posture – always carry yourself with confidence

I believe that mindfulness and cycling go hand in hand.  To be mindful of your posture on the bike will make you more efficient which in turn helps you save energy which of course allows you to ride stronger, faster and further without causing injury to yourself.  During the conversation on Position we discussed your alignment on the bike.  Start here – when you first sit on your bike think of yourself as a Marine or a Ballerina.  Imagine a string pulling at the top of your head, lifting your head and ears away from your pulled back/relaxed shoulders.  Imagine that there is a hinge at your hip that allows you to keep that upper body posture while you bend forward, almost as if you are bowing to someone in front of you.  This is clearly easier to do if you are riding your bike on an indoor trainer or if you are riding a stationary bike.  The theory is the same if you are going for a ride outdoors, with some additional considerations.  First, you gain control of the bike by squeezing the brake lever on whatever side from which you will mount your bike.  Your other hand is shaking hands with your handlebars.  If you are going to swing your right leg over the bike your left foot will remain on the ground therefore squeeze the left brake lever and keep it squeezed until you are ready to begin rolling forward.  Next, using your right foot roll the right pedal around so that it is at the low point, 6 o’clock, and once it reaches that low point clip in your right foot.  Next roll that pedal up until it reaches approximately the 2 o’clock position.  The next part is fun and all done simultaneously:  pedaling with the clipped in foot (the right) and pushing off the ground with your left foot while gently releasing the left brake causes your bike to move forward.

I am going to quote Einstein here, and I cannot stress this enough:  “Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance you must keep moving”. 

As you are moving forward, place your left foot onto the left pedal and clip it in while you continue to move forward.  Don’t worry if you don’t catch the clip right away, just continue to turn the pedals until you get it.  Also, please continue to look where you are going and not down at your foot.  Cycling is about feeling, so feel your way to the pedal and clip in; trust me, be patient with yourself, we all get it, eventually!  Now that you are clipped in and rolling, find that perfect comfortable posture we’ve been discussing.

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