Category Archives: Inspiration

The Participation Continuum

The Participation Continuum

The participation continuum moves from general to specific, with most of us satisfied to simply participate which, after all, is usually a very big improvement over where we started!

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To move from outside the triangle to the lowest level (4) requires the most effort.  Forgetting the money for a second, that decision to change your life is the most difficult and should be the one you are most proud of.  I know from my own experience how difficult it is to simply begin moving when one weighs 125 kilos/270 pounds (yes I weighed that much, it took a lot of eating and drinking but somehow I managed); it requires the biggest investment of emotion and a massive change in lifestyle (no pun intended).  I speak in the context of weight + lifestyle changes because that is one of my experiences but any large step in a positive direction that takes you outside your comfort zone is something you should be proud of.

Now that you have taken the BIG STEP and are in the continuum, where would you like to be as it relates to your cycling practice?

Level 4 – has the largest percentage of cyclists; we are simply happy to be riding our bikes.  In my own case I was teaching an indoor cycling program called RPM.  I was helping my students get good results but wanted to be a better teacher so thought I ought to learn how to ride a road bike.  I was a strong indoor teacher and had trained  some of my students to be teachers as well but when I got on a road bike I had no clue – didn’t know where the gears were and when my little Polar speedometer hit 10 mph (I didn’t know about km back then either) my knees shook.  I may not have known where the gears were but man the brakes were my best friend!  My rides were solo and on my first ride to State Line when I got to the sign I looked ahead, it seemed to me that the cyclists were launching themselves off a cliff; I turned around and went home thinking “those people are crazy!”.

Level 3 – enter the group rides and the number of participants is smaller.  We find a group that we like to ride with and just get out there.  If we are lucky we learn the right habits although it is often hit or miss and unfortunately the teaching, although well-intended, is along the lines of “this is what I do”.  Of course if you find yourself in the wrong group…well, you know how it goes.  Still, you could remain at this level forever and have a great cycling experience – this level does not require a significant change in the resources you need to devote (unless you get caught up in the n+1 silliness, waste your money on the next ceramic nonsense, etc.).

(I write this in bold print because I believe it to be true, and I realize that it is self-serving:  invest your time and money in cycling education that will be specific to you and it will serve you for a lifetime.  Invest your money in “stuff” and you will continue to have more “stuff”.  Do what is best for you based on your own goals rather than impulse).    

I was lucky in that I had a built in group of indoor cyclists who I could (bother/coerce/convince/bribe/name it) to get a road bike and start riding.  We went of massive rides – some as far as Piermont from Ridgefield (NJ not CT)!  Madness!  Who knew we could ride from one State to another on the same day!

Level 2 – level up!  Again, the number of people in the triangle decreases as this requires a thoughtful allocation of resources (time, money, emotion) which many people cannot or will not make.  They are happy to remain at the group ride level.  In order to improve from the group rides phase to the next level of cycling one needs a teacher whose attention is on how to help the student improve.  Talking generalities to other cyclists and seeing what worked for those cyclists like the Stephen Covey analogy where Dr. Covey in his book “7 habits of Highly Effective People” asks if you would continue to visit an eye doctor who, when you sit in the chair to prepare for the exam hands you her eyeglasses and says “here, try these” and when they don’t work for you says “I don’t understand, those eyeglasses work for me!”.

Level 2 is where you invest in yourself to move from the general to the specific!  In addition to the group rides you will participate in events and camps, and you will be riding with a sense of purpose.  You don’t have to expect to finish first, but with coaching and a goal you will be riding with intent.  As in our everyday lives, living with intent gives us purpose and direction.

My experience was slightly different because I really enjoy teaching and I was able to further my cycling education by taking courses and seminars (I certified with Saris about 10 years ago) and was able to get my coaching license through USA Cycling.  I was leveling up to not only improve my own cycling through additional knowledge but mostly to be a better teacher and coach.

Most cyclists who want to improve from simple participation in group rides to a higher level of knowledge hire a coach so that they can continue building their own lives but at the same time participate, improve and benefit from their cycling practice (I had been teaching indoors, riding, developing new teachers and building my own knowledge and experience for 10 years prior to taking on coaching students for road cycling).  The idea of working with a teacher is to be able to move from general to specific – you invest some resources but don’t waste time with trial and error.  You learn and you grow and you live a better life with the guidance of your teacher.

Level 2 is a big step, almost as big as the one we make to become part of the continuum rather than remain outside the triangle.

Level 1.  This could be combined with Level 2, I could have simply used three level rather than 4, but I thought this needed an additional category.  Sign up for events with your friends and on your own to make new friends.  The people you meet at these events share your passion for cycling and before you know it you are learning about the world outside of the one in which you live.

Being part of GFNY has provided me the opportunity to meet literally thousands of people from every part of the world all while developing better relationships with our local cycling community – for that I cannot express enough gratitude.  Where else can you be laying on your couch at home in the 12th week of chemo, take a look at Facebook and see Uli doing a LIVE video letting everyone know that they imprinted 5,000 armbands with GFNY4VITO so that all the participants in 2016 could wear them to create a healing energy and spirit.

Positive change requires us to do something extraordinary.  Not all of us have an opportunity to play for the NY Giants and score the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl but each of us have the opportunity to level up within the context of our own lives!

Thank you for reading.

Vito Valentini, Human Potential Catalyst
Head Coach, GAVIA Cycling

For more information on how we can help you improve your cycling practice please visit us at GAVIA Cycling

 

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

 

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