“The truth isn’t always popular, but it’s always the truth.” – unknown
I’ve got some important (and very different) stuff to share with you today, and I know, because you’re busy you may not want to stop what you’re doing to read this.
But listen, if you want to KNOW how you can train differently and smarter on the bike, AND learn how to run FASTER off of it (no it isn’t about the same old blah blah, brick runs, etc.), then ya gotta keep reading!
Trust me, my advice is NOT going to be the same-old, same-old. It will probably rankle a few folks, too. Especially some of the “experts” out there that are reading.So to get to the heart of what I want to share today, I have to start with a story about swimming. It’s a true story.
(I know, I know…I said I was going to help you ride and run faster, and I am! But…you need a little context – and this story will provide it. Keep reading!)
A few years ago I was sitting around with some swim coaches at an ASCA conference. The topics at the table revolved around two things: the iconic swim coach, James “Doc” Counsilman (who is well known for coaching Mark Spitz, winner of 7 golds at the 72 Olympics), and the “S” curve in swimming.
Now, I don’t know if you’re a swimmer or not, but if you are, I’m sure you’re familiar with the “S” curve pulling path. This “S” curve is what many coaches believe is the “ideal path” for your hand to follow during the pull phase of the stroke. Shaped like the letter S, this pulling path has become well known as one hallmark of a fast swimmer.
Apparently all the hoopla about this “S” curve began with Counsilman and Spitz. The story goes, the coach was watching Spitz swim and noticed this “S” curve in his stroke. Since Spitz was swimming faster than anyone else in the world, Counsilman (always the innovator), came to the conclusion that the secret to his speed might be this curve.
So Counsilman figured, if it was good enough for Spitz, it should be good enough for everyone, and proceeded to instruct every swimmer he coached to start putting this “S” curve into their strokes. What began as a simple way to make his swimmers faster, soon became gospel in the swimming world.
Simply put, many believed that to swim fast, you needed to have an “S” curve in your pull.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
What I’m talking about here is CAUSE and EFFECT, so the chicken/egg analogy may not really work. But it is sort of a funny cartoon, don’t you think? 🙂
Anyway, an odd thing happened as Counsilman’s swimmers started adding this “S” curve consciously – something he didn’t anticipate.
Despite imploring his swimmers to “S” more, not only did most of them not get any faster, some actually started swimming slower.
What was going on?
To answer that question, let’s go back to Spitz for a moment.
Is it possible that the “S” curve emerged as a natural byproduct of both his training and his body’s intuitive understanding of how best to create more lift (and thus increase pulling power)?
Based on my own experience, I’d have to say the answer is an absolute, YES.
Spitz, like most great swimmers, could “grip” and hold on to the water, making the water more “solid” as his arm traveled past his rotating body.
He didn’t consciously try to create that letter S.
It happened as a function of what his body did naturally, AND what he learned via tens of thousands of hours of mindful, consistent swimming.
Should you scrape mud off of your cycling shoes?
I’m betting a very similar kind of story could be told when it comes to riding a bike efficiently and powerfully. And THEN..running efficiently AND fast after the ride.
How so you ask?
Have you heard that popular advice, made famous by legendary cyclist Greg Lemond, to “pedal like you’re scraping mud off of the bottom of your shoe”?
Like Counsilman’s advice to articially integrate an “S” curve, trying to artificially change how you pedal a bike is not going to help you, and it may even HURT you.
And that “hurt” might not be limited to riding, but could also negatively impact how you run OFF of the bike. And increase your risk of injury, too.
In fact, I’m here to tell you that for the most part, ANY drill, tool, or technique that you’ve read about or heard was designed to improve your pedaling technique, is probably a complete waste of your time.
How about Spin-Scan on a Computrainer? Or those fancy charts that show you exactly where you should apply pressure to the pedal as you go around? All of it, a waste of your time.
…except for one, that is.
One, very different and important, approach.
That one approach is the topic of a 12-minute video I prepared for you, that you’ve GOT to watch.
I have to ask…Do the best cyclists have a great “spin” because they consciously “scrape mud” at the bottom of the pedal stroke?
Or (like Spitz in the water), are their pedal strokes and nervous systems more finely tuned and coordinated because of natural ability and perhaps more importantly, thousands of hours in the saddle?
Whenever we start incorporating something into our training because we heard the pros do it, or our friends said they read it in a book or online in a forum, OR we think we can outsmart our nervous system with “better” technology (such as clipless pedal systems), bad things can happen.
That was true for Counsilman’s swimmers, it is true despite LeMond’s advice, and it’s true for running and just about every other activity, too.
There are a few other “truisms” that can be gleaned from all of this, such as…
- getting faster isn’t just about training “hard,” it has a lot more to do with our nervous system than most realize.
- mountain bikers, I think, have known a lot of this for a while. They ‘get it.’
- all of us are learning more every day – no one has all of the answers.
As for how ALL of this specifically impacts YOUR running off of the bike…well you’ll have to watch and listen to the video for the answer to that.
When you do, please let me know what you think, ok?
PS: A few minutes into the video, I refer to an article I wrote for Active.com, called: What Kenyans Can Teach Us About Running Economy and Efficiency. To read it, CLICK HERE.
PSS: Just so y’all know, I have tremendous respect and admiration for Greg Lemond, a true champion and legendary cyclist. My belief is that at one time, he probably made an observation and drew a conclusion from it. I’ve done that many times and am always learning. I’ve also changed my mind on things as a result of having a better understanding of “cause and effect” with certain things.