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Uncategorized | Burnham Coaching | Page 2

Foot Position in Bike Fitting

One aspect often overlooked in a bike fit is the feet and I am not talking about just cleat positioning.  Having an athlete take off their shoes, look at arches, look at the height of the Nuvicular (ankle) bone, and positioning of the toes (bunions are not natural) can give us a lot of information about what is happening upstream in the body.  Do you stand with your feet straight?  As you are reading this right now where are your feet pointed?  If your stable position is toes out than that tells us a lot about what is going on at the hips and how you hate your IT bands.

Another example, a collapsed arch (which is not a weight-bearing surface) and dropped talus bone is mnemonic tell of valgus collapse of the knee.  What does that mean?  It means your knee is collapsing in, your hips are internally rotated, your medial glutes are weak, and your knee and/or lower back is on its way to being broken.  Best case scenario is that you are losing lots of power.

Collapsed foot on the bike.

Corrected Foot Position


So what is the fix?  Short term we can provide support by adding in arch support, forefoot wedging, or heel wedging.  Long term you got homework.  What?! Homework from a bike fit to create a more athletic, stable, powerful, position?!  You mean you are not stuck with a broken, less effective positioning?! Crazy!  You can do better.  Working on cultivating a stable core with a proper neutral ankle and decent arch off the bike will translate to a better position on the bike with more power and comfort.  The easiest way to do that is to squeeze the glutes, brace the abs, and work on screwing your feet into the ground.  The amazing thing with creating rotational torque in the lower leg is that it aligns the Nuvicular bone and creates an arch in the foot.  The first step is to work to maintain that position throughout the day on a consistent basis.  Give your body a new default position of stability.

Interested in getting a comprehensive bike fit that can put you in a comfortable, efficient position and provide you a long-term plan to address any limitations that may be holding you back on the bike?  We can help.  Burnham Coaching just finished moving our fit studio to the brand new Peninsula Bike Works bike shop in Monterey, CA.  We are utilizing the latest technology to evaluate your functioning on and off the bike to provide you with a comfortable, efficient position now, as well as helping you address any limitations that may be holding you back on the bike. We look at how you function on and off the bike to create a dynamic bike fit and don’t put you into formulaic fit.  We know you are a unique athlete that doesn’t need to be sold a specific brand of accessories to be comfortable on your bike.

To celebrate the opening of the new fit studio and the best bike shop in Monterey, Peninsula Bike Works, we are offering comprehensive bike fits at a discounted rate of $150 through the end of October.  Contact us soon to schedule an appointment as those times are going to book up fast!  

British Cycling: Fostering a “Culture” Focused on Marginal Gains or Sport Psychology?

It is amazing how dominant that Team Sky and British cycling have been this year.  Going 1 – 2 at the Tour de France, first and third at the Olympics Time Trial, the women’s team pursuit team gold medal, the women’s track omnium gold medal, Women’s Keirin, Silver in Women’s Sprint, Men’s Team Pursuit Gold, Men’s Team Sprint Gold, Bronze in Men’s Omnium, Men’s Keirin Gold, and Gold in Men’s Sprint.  They have 12 cycling medals total in the Olympics so far compared to the next closest country, Australia’s 5 medals. What is even more impressive than their medal count is that they are doing it by setting world records and improving their times over their World Championship performances just 6 months earlier.  They have been dominating international cycling and shows what a well run focused program, with a fairly large budget, can do.

One aspect of the program talked about quite a bit this year is that their focus on getting every marginal gain possible from aerodynamic helmets and lightweight pieces of “kit” to utilizing the latest training and sports science techniques to maximize performance.  This extreme focus on equipment and athlete preparation has developed a culture of focus and determination with in their programs that has really pushed their athletes to another level.  A good example of what even a small dose of this “culture” can do can be seen in the US Women’s Team Pursuit team.  They went from being an outside chance at a medal (in my opinion) to the silver medal winner after a 2 month training camp in Mallorca before the Olympics.  There they used the same focus that British cycling and Team Sky have been using for the last few years, looked for any small advantage, and their hard work was shown in the results.

Even though the results British Cycling have been getting are huge, there has been some questioning whether or not it really is the technological advances that are making them faster, or the athletes thinking they have an advantage with the new technologies.  A good example is with the wheels the British teams are using.  Are they “special wheels” that really are lighter or faster, or are they just normal Mavic wheels that the athletes think have some advantage and the staff are trying to facilitate the notion they are better?  There are times that a sweet piece of new kit can help an athlete push a little harder and even if it doesn’t actually provide an advantage. For example I think everyone rides a little better on a sweet new bike..at least until the “newness” wears off. There is a lot of equipment in cycling that may be marginally better (asymmetrical chain-rings, aerodynamic jerseys ,etc.) that may or may not really have a benefit but if the athlete thinks it is better, it is.  You add up 2, 3, or more of those “technical advances” and you have a real advantage.

Outside of equipment, there is definitely a difference in training philosophy that we are seeing at the top of the sport that is completely rooted in science (more specificity in training) that absolutely works whether the athlete believes it will or not.  There are also recovery techniques that have been shown over and over again to work well (for example ice baths) despite how the athlete feels about them.  I mean really, who likes ice baths?!  But there are other techniques in sports science that are still questionable.  Compression gear is one in particular that seems to work a lot better if the athlete thinks it will work.  I personally feel that compression socks help with recovery but not during a race or ride.  However, if an athlete thinks compression socks allows them to ride even a little bit faster, than they do.  Bottom line, if it works OR the athlete thinks it works, than it works.  

Nurture Vs. Nature Death Match

It is funny how things go in cycles.  It seems like it was about 10 years ago or so that I was reading a theory that most anybody could be trained to be an elite endurance athlete and that there really wasn’t a genetic limit to endurance sports performance.  While many sports physiologists believed that some athletes “choose” the right parents, there hadn’t been a “endurance gene” found nor has there been one found since.  Then in 2008 Malcolm Gladwell wrote the book Outliers, which is a good read if you haven’t check it out yet, which put forth the theory that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to make someone an expert in any given field (really this theory was first put forth by Professor Anders Ericsson). This theory was applied to everything from musicians, to business tycoons, to tennis and soccer players.  It is a very compelling theory for many skills but I don’t think this theory really applies to endurance athletes, and more so to physiological adaptations.  

Your parents and grandparents matter.  Genetics, even though evidence is not proven, is most likely not absent from endurance sports performance potential*.  While Taylor Phinney definitely had the early exposure and the means to ride early in life, he also had amazing world-class cyclists as parents.  Just as tall parents give birth to tall kids, good endurance athletes (or potentially good) are most likely going to have good endurance athletes as kids.  

Don’t think that your sporting destiny has been completely determined at birth though.  Training still matters and performance is extremely complex.  What has been shown in several studies is that an individual’s response to a specific training program can vary quite a bit.  At least one study has made the claim that training response is about 50% dictated by your genes, the other 50% is determined by environment, lifestyle, financial, diet, and numerous other factors.  Think about that, you can control a large portion of how your body responds to training despite who your parents were.

From my experience, while one athlete may not respond well to one specific training program they may excel at a completely different program.  One of the reasons I continue to research other training methodology is not to find the holy grail of endurance  sports performance, it is to add another tool to my toolbox.  Some athletes respond better to a lot of volume, while others have much better results from shorter, more intense workouts. Just because the professional athletes in your discipline always do 25+ hours a week doesn’t mean that is what you should strive for in your own training.  Do what improves performance!  For example, there is a lot of research being done on using weight training for endurance athletes right now.  While nothing is conclusive yet, I do know some very successful athletes and coaches who use strength training as part of their program and are getting very good results.  Is it for everyone?  Nope, but it may benefit some athletes.  

So where does that leave the Nurture Vs. Nature death match?  Probably at a draw (what is a draw in a death match?  Do they both live or both die?  Someone consult The Running Man for me…).  I think it is safe to say that they both matter.  Genetics most likely determines the “athletic ability” starting point and around half of your response to any given training stimulus.  But it is our training, environment, and lifestyle that interact with those genes to get us to our true potential.  

It Is That Time of Year Again…Sea Otter

It seems like Sea Otter was so far away and then all of a sudden, BAM here it is!  Sea Otter is definitely one of the big ones out of the year and arguably, one of the biggest cycling events in the country.  There is so much that goes on at Sea Otter that it can really take a full 4 days to experience everything it has to offer.  There are the top Pro fields for the Road and Mountain Bike events, the big expo showing all the shiny latest and greatest, test rides, super competitive amateur racing, and fun group rides.  It is always an interesting weekend for me as I bounce around from helping my athletes in everything from the Pro Stage Race to Dual Slalom.  I get to see how wide and encompassing cycling can really be.  It also gives me the opportunity to reconnect with old friends, clients, and racers; and meet new people who are enjoying the event.  It is an exhausting weekend but I wouldn’t miss it!

Check back here after the weekend for a full write-up on all the activities and stay connected through Twitter and our Facebook page to see updates throughout the weekend.  It is going to be a good one!