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!
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