Category Archives: Inspiration

Taking life for granted

We wake up every day with a certain set of expectations, that everything is firmly in place for our benefit; most of us don’t give it a second thought.  We are very spoiled in many ways – we have way more of anything and everything than we will ever need, and yet for many it isn’t enough.  Can it be?

What are your first 5 thoughts in the morning?  Do they include being grateful for being alive, grateful to be able to breathe clean air, eat fresh food, drink clean water and to have an abundance of family and friends?  This is part of living in the present moment; it is really the only moment available to us.  The past is gone, its only significance provided by our interpretation and the meaning we give it.  The future is a fiction.  And yet, how many of us are using our phone while we are in face to face with someone else OR how many of us are talking on the phone and working on the computer OR – my favorite – watching someone on the computer while on the phone AND talking to someone in front of them.

Is this progress?  Does this somehow make us significant?  Is this human connection?  Is there an opportunity for us to put down the phone and speak together; something good may come from it.

DeRosa factory photo

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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.

 

Life in the Big Ring – Part V

Trust yourself.

How boring life would be if our entire existence, the road ahead, were known to us the minute we were born, or the moment we got onto our bike.  Going off course is inevitable – the discomfort that comes along with that is often our best teacher.  Rather than punish ourselves for going off course we would be better served by accepting that as part of life, part of the ride, learn what we can from the experience and use it to our and our community’s benefit moving forward.

Once we decide to move forward in life we need to accept that not everything will go as planned.  It is impossible to anticipate every directional change our lives will take, no matter how well planned we believe our lives are.  Comparing ourselves to others is not helpful; we have no idea what challenges others have faced and how they responded in order to know what they know.

As cyclists we are lucky.  We have the opportunity to train and prepare for the specific event we choose to participate in; life does not offer that.  Life is constant on the job training – so oftentimes we believe we got it wrong because we make an error in judgement, commission or omission.  To then continually punishing ourselves for having made an error is to detract from the opportunity we created – to learn something and to improve.

To use the past as our map for what we will do or what we can accomplish in the future is a limiting belief; it is not truth.  It is important to accept that the road is not flat and straight but rather it is lumpy, filled with blind turns, fast descents and challenging climbs.  How we decide to navigate the terrain is really up to us.  There is one truth – if we don’t get on the road we won’t move forward.

Trust yourself, accept that the road will not be easy, believe in the training we call life and be grateful for all the learning experiences that come your way.  Please don’t judge yourself harshly, it isn’t helpful to your well being and will not allow you to move forward and continue learning.

Don’t trade your humanity for privilege (a paraphrase from the book “Radical Dharma”.

Vito

Life in the Big Ring – Part IV

I told this story to Uli during our last GFNY Podcast (https://app.stitcher.com/splayer/f/50109/51784151“>) and thought I would share it with you as well.

Subsequent to my surgery to remove a cancerous tumor and testicle I visited with the oncologist who was going to treat me.  When he let me know the treatment he proposed I explained to him that I had accepted what was going to happen to me, which he took as me accepting that I was going to die.  I explained to him that I meant I was accepting that I had a serious issue that had to be dealt with in a serious way and that there were going to be difficulties along the road for the ensuing 12 weeks.  Clearly I hoped that the treatment would create a positive result, but if not then we would deal with that at the appropriate time in the appropriate way.  Of course I was hoping not to die.  I have an incredible wife, I have brothers, sister, nieces and nephews and a great group of friends.  I also believe I have something to offer in life.  Living is my first choice; but if it isn’t meant to be then let;s not pay the price twice by suffering during the process – let’s live every day to the best of our ability and go from there.

I was simply accepting “what is”.  Wishing that I didn’t have cancer would have only caused more difficulty for me and those around me thereby making a difficult situation more difficult.  Those that know me know that I am not without emotion – I laugh, I cry, I try, I feel a lot – but what I try not to do is hurt myself by wishing something weren’t what it is.

The world is full of noise; sometimes we are in such pain from our own “what is” we find it easier to get caught up in that noise, even though we have no ability to directly effect the outcome, than to focus on our own well-being and goals.

We do however have the ability to positively affect the collective consciousness of the world by being our best possible self, accepting our “what is” in the present and working toward creating a better future.  To be able to focus on our in and out breath while we take simple and effective action toward developing a better future for ourselves and our community helps us feel more in control of our destiny.

The climb is the climb, the grade is the grade, the elevation is the elevation – that is the “what is”.  What will you do when you make the turn, the grade increases and the end is nowhere in sight?  Fight and you will lose, of that there is no doubt.  Surrender and you carry it with you to suffer again and again.  Be present, focus on your in and out breath, do your best, accept the “what is”.  Cycling mimics life.

Vito

Life in the Big Ring – Part I

“Well, its a lot like walking into the ocean, and a big wave comes and knocks you over.  And you find yourself lying on the bottom with sand in your nose and in your mouth.  And you are lying there, and you have a choice.  You can either lie there, or you can stand up and start ti keep walking out to the sea.

So basically you stand up because the “lying there” choice equals dying.

Metaphorically lying there is what a lot of us choose to do at that point.  But you can choose to stand up and start walking, and after a while another big wave comes and knocks you down.

You find yourself at the bottom of the ocean with sand in your nose and sand in your mouth and again you have the choice to lie there or to stand up and start walking forward.

So the waves keep coming.  And you keep cultivating your courage and bravery and sense of humor to relate to this situation of the waves, and you keep getting up and going forward”

Advice given to Pema Chodron by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Please look for Part II tomorrow.

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

 

Improving Cycling Performance: Focus on THE 6 P’s

In cycling and in life, focusing and improving on the fundamentals provides us with a proper foundation, or as my father used to say “planting seeds properly, watering them carefully and making sure they grow straight early on helps the tree grow straight.”  (Truth be told he may not have said it quite that way, especially after he found me doing something stupid, but I have come to believe it is what he meant!”).  Basically what I am saying is this – with training you can develop higher cadence, increased strength and power, develop more endurance, and gain more confidence; do this while being mindful about your breathing rhythm, your alignment and you how you feel while riding and training will allow you to make greater improvements in a shorter period of time while reducing the risk of injury.  It is important to maintain the health of your joints and connective tissue so that they do not begin to complain (quietly at first, then louder, then to the point where you can’t take it anymore and cycling becomes a chore rather than something joyful).  Let your muscles do the work rather than your joints.  Train properly, be patient with yourself, consider not getting caught up in the numbers during your ride and focus more on the feeling you get from riding; your clear and visible improvements as well as your lack of injury will speak volumes about your dedication and perseverance!

These 6 P’s are not a secret, they are position (alignment), pace, posture, pedal stroke, power and perceived effort.  Pay attention to and master these 6 P’s and you will become stronger, faster, more fit and avoid injury (and attain that GFNY personal best and/or other personal goal!).

P1 – Position – connection and three points of contact

Your position on your bike is best when you and your bike are properly connected and synchronized at three specific points – feet with the pedals, butt with the saddle, and hands with the handlebars.

When sitting on your bike your “sit bones” need to be resting on and aligned with the wide part of your saddle.  Saddles are not one size fits all, they are available in different widths, with or without cutouts, made of different materials and designed different nose lengths.  I wrote a blogpost about saddle choices some time ago, using Selle San Marco as an example of how to purchase the correct saddle, you can read that blogpost HERE.  While I have never ridden anything other than Selle San Marco and I believe they make great saddles it is possible that you require a different saddle; still, the principles in the blogpost are the same and will help guide you to make the proper choice.

Much of your weight for most of your ride will be on the pedals.  As soon as possible, release the thought of riding with flat pedals and sneakers and purchase a pair of stiff-soled cycling shoes along with a set of pedals and cleats.  The cleats are screwed into your shoes and allow you to clip into the pedals allowing for the best possible connection.  We will discuss your pedal stroke and how the right shoes help you a little later in this eBook.

Handlebars come in a variety of widths, with 40cm, 42cm and 44cm being the most popular.  The goal here is to make sure that you have the largest possible capacity for oxygen and the most comfortable position; when you reach out to “shake hands” with your handlebars” there should be a straight line along your arm to the hoods and shifters.  If you find that you are reaching inwards, the bars are too narrow, reaching outward means they are too wide..

This is the exact conversation we have with all of our students prior to beginning a class or coaching/training session:

Whether you are sitting on your road bike connected to a trainer or a stationary bike,

  1. Straddle the bike, clip in the foot to the pedal that is lowest to the floor, push yourself up onto the saddle then clip in the second foot.
  2. Sit up straight with your hips toward the back of the saddle.
  3. Give a big shrugging rollback of your shoulders then, hinging at your hips, bring your hands down to the handlebars, almost as if you are formally bowing to someone in front of you.

If you are perfectly aligned in the proper position with feet at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock you will look like this:

A side view will show you with your feet perfectly parallel, the ball of your foot directly on the center of the pedals with the front of your knee over the center of your foot and pedal.  You will have an approximate 30 to 45 degree angle at your hips with your spine long, your shoulders relaxed and the palms of your hands lightly resting on the tops of your handlebars.  Your elbows will face down and there will be a slight bend on the inside of your elbow.  Your head will be tilted slightly forward so that you are looking at a place that is several meters ahead of your front wheel and your vision of the landscape further ahead is broad.

A front view will show your toes, knees, hips and shoulders perfectly aligned with your chest open and your arms on the hoods, seeming almost as if you are reaching to shake hands with the person in front of you.  There is a perfectly straight line along your upper arm to the back of your hand with a slight bend in your elbow with those elbows facing up.  Shoulders are dropped and relaxed.  In this position you will be able to breathe deeply.

Great, now that you are properly connected to your bike lets Join the Ride!

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