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What I Learned This Week

It's been an unusually educational week.

1. Bring the Movement to the Trainee

Janell has been joining me in my weight lifting sessions lately. We've been working on the deadlift. (She's been doing plenty of stuff on her own, too, but I'm just going to talk about the deadlift.)

At about 5:30 in the video above, Brett Jones talks about he mentions working with trainees with mobility limitations that prevent them lifting from the ground with proper form.

The only solution to this that I've seen before is to lower the weights, widen the stance, and work to improve mobility. In effect, bring the trainee to the exercise.

Jones has a better option: raise the weight off the floor until the trainee can use proper form. This is a great option. It lets you isolate strength and mobility and train them independently without letting them interfere. That's awesome.

2. Better Bike Handling

I've been reading Jamie Smith and Chris Horner's book Reading the Race, about road bike racing and cycling technique. I read the following with horror:

I can easily spot someone who has done a lot of mountain biking. He'll descend a hill with his feet located at 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock and his weight evenly distributed on the pedals. He may have his butt off the saddle, too. He does this to absorb bumps on the trail when he is mountain biking, but this position makes him unstable on a road bike because it puts his weight high on the bike, not down low, where it should be.

That passage described me perfectly, and convinced me that Jamie Smith knows what he's talking about. So I decided to give his recommended form a try. Happily, I have the perfect testing ground in my back yard: the Westlake Blvd descent from Mulholland Hwy.

So, on Monday's ride I tried out Smith's recommended cornering technique.

This felt really different from mountain bike downhill/cornering technique, so it spooked me at first. But once I got used to it, I felt much more stable than ever before. I felt like I was riding really cautiously and under control, and was still only 10 seconds slower than my fastest-ever descent of that road.

Today, I did the same descent, and opened up the throttle a little. I still felt completely stable, even through the trickiest corners. And the steep section at the bottom, once described as twisting like some ridiculous gag in a Road Runner cartoon, felt nearly straight.

And the proof is in the pudding: after clocking in consistently at about 5:30 for the last year, I finished today in 5:05, twenty seconds faster than normal and fifteen seconds faster than my previous PR, all while feeling more stable and in-control than ever before.

3. Cold Weather Biking

Nikola Banishki has a great article on setting PRs and the effect of cold weather on performance. For years, I've set big new PRs in uncomfortable heat, which made no sense to me, and I've set out in cool weather (50-60° F) thinking the cool would help, and coming home disappointed. Now I undstand better why that is.

It also motivated me to pay a little attention to cool-weather clothing and try some new options.

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