I get lots of questions from athletes in my email. Here are three recent ones.
Q: While riding this weekend and working on my form, I recall you saying not to lift on the backstroke of the pedal, just un-weight it. May I ask why?
A: If you ride steady (not climbing or sprinting) for a long time and try to pull up on the pedals one of two things will happen. Either your hip flexors will tire very quickly and you'll soon stop doing it or you will slow your cadence tremendously simply because you can't maintain a high cadence and pull up at the same time very easily. Even the pros don't do that. The slide I used to illustrate this involved two national team riders. And if you recall even they had a hard time getting their leg weight off of the recovery side pedal. When climbing and sprinting you can pull up as the cadence is very low (climbing) or the duration is very brief (sprinting).
Q: My name is Matt I'm a 34 year old new cyclist. I am just starting out. Should I be getting caught up with my posture , training programs, computers on my bike to tell me rpm and speed. What should a person just starting out concentrate on? My goal is eventually an Ironman. There is so much literature its frustrating. I just wanna ride right. I don't even know what these training ratios mean. Can you lead me to a beginner article or book or something please.
A: It is confusing. When I started in the 1970s it was exactly the opposite—almost no info at all, except from my training mates and an occasional magazine article. I wrote a book about how to get started in triathlon called, “Your First Triathlon.” I think it will help you figure out what’s important. To see it go here. http://velogear.com/product/velopress-your-first-triathlon-80100-1.htm
Q: I met you at a tri camp recently and mentioned to you that I was having trouble with having to use the bathroom about 20 minutes into my runs. It is very frustrating and to be honest, really depressing. You said you may have some information that could help me. I would appreciate any help.
A: What you're experiencing is not unusual for runners but is rare in other sports. This may be because of the upright position, jarring, and effect of gravity while running compared with other sports. One study found that 25-30% of runners experience this. It’s been a while since I read the literature on this topic, but there used to be only two theories for what causes “runner's trots.” The first is intestinal ischemia--decreased blood flow to the gut. There has not been much support for this theory. The other is an increase in a hormone called motilin that increases the movement of the bowels. This has been more widely accepted. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), you can't do anything to directly decrease motilin production. So what can you do? There's no science on this, but here are suggestions from what Owen Anderson, PhD once suggested in Running Research News that may help.
* Know your own bowel patterns and habits and adapt your running schedule to them.
* Avoid fiber in the 12 hours or so before long runs with calories coming mostly from liquids.
* An hour or more before the run drink warm fluids or a light meal to stimulate the gastric-colic reflex - food in the stomach stimulates the large bowel to empty.
* Run a 10-15 minute loop at the start of your run that brings you back past your house where you can use the bathroom.
* Train your bowels to empty first thing in the morning out of bed by going straight to the bathroom. This may take weeks to accomplish.
None of these are perfect, I realize. Unfortunately, this is one of those things we need to figure out for ourselves given our unique situations.