Monday, December 31, 2012

Things I learned in 2012

Alright, it's time for the yearly re-cap of what we have learned this year. After probably hundreds or thousands of hours of reading and working with a group of kids I train, I have began to really see a pattern in what makes a successful athlete/bmx racer. Take a few minutes to read and think about some of the mistakes you make and how some of these could improve your racing.

1- First thing and I think the most important is the realization that no matter how strong you are, you can never out muscle shitty movement on a bike. You may be able to squat 600 pounds but if your mechanics of your start are not right, you will get blown away by a 14 year old kid wearing skinny jeans.

I can't emphasis this enough. This time of year is the BEST time to work on these problems. If your gate isn't right watch as much video of the professionals starting techniques and compare them to yours. Really pay attention to their mechanics, and sequence of movement.  Don't just practice the gate the same way you have been doing, try to get out of your comfort zone. The worst thing you can do is to keep practicing your bad gate over and over and cementing that bad movement into your brain.

2- Keep it simple stupid. In the past few years, I was finding all these cool new exercises and figuring out how to incorporate them into my training. They're probably all great exercises, but I had to be honest, I wasn't that advanced that I needed all the variety, and didn't progress at the rate I should have. The most success I've had this year was when I did a program where I dead lifted 5 times a week. You varied the load and reps from 1 rep and 10 sets to 10 reps and 1 set depending on how you felt that day and what you did the previous days. Just focusing on this one lift and perfecting technique over the course of a month dramatically improved my dead lift.

The other program (which I'm currently doing) consists of basically 2 different workouts and 4 exercises. On paper it looks very simple and too easy. Turns out, when you focus on quality movement and creating tension, 4 exercises is more than enough and not simple at all. Go back to the basics every so often and re-learn what you may have forgotten.

3- Specificity is key. Lots of people try to do Crossfit, p90x, Riding a road bike, Insanity or Sweating to the oldies and call it training for BMX racing. They all may have some good things about them but none are specific to anything we do on the track. We already beat ourselves up enough by doing a thousand gate starts a year and taking some bad crashes. Lets not beat ourselves up by doing a ton of high intensity work for 10-60 min at a time. There's a time and place for that, but really a little will go a long way. Focus on creating a workout that mimics a race, or what ever part of the track you thing is your weakness. Think you're out of shape and need cardio? You actually probably would benefit more from working on specific strength and some breathing drills than you would from road biking for 80 miles.

4- Just because you can lift a heavy weight does not mean you're strong. I'm working with a few really talented, very quick racers. and two of them are in a weight lifting class in high school. One of them just dead lifted nearly 300 pounds the very first day of deadliftng. The other kid squats nearly that much. When I work directly with them though, I'm not totally comfortable having them pull any weight off the ground. They both lack the core strength and hip mobility to properly and safely do the exercise.

Our bodies are very clever, and can overcome many weaknesses. Those kids bodies are not ready for dead lifting or squatting nearly that much weight, but that doesn't mean they can't do it. Our bodies will figure out a way to lift a load, but you may not lift that load for long until you hurt yourself. Start simple and light and develop great movement before you start lifting several hundred pounds. Maybe start with body weight  than progress to a single leg or single arm version of a lift to reduce load before lifting that barbell loaded with plates.

5- No matter how much you know, if you want to improve get a coach. I recently bit the bullet and bought a kettle bell program from another coach. 95% of the program is things I either do or have done. But, the way it's programmed and the frequency of what I'm doing seems to be working and also way more fun. A good coach not only designs a program around riding a bike but can also spot weaknesses in technique and prioritizes training. Listen to your coach!

6- Set specific performance goals! Try to come up with some kind of measurement of performance and test and re-test it to see if you have improved. Buy a SRM, G-cog, speedometer, tape measure, timing lights, starting gate with timer, anything that can measure your performance. If you can't afford a power meter or timing lights, use a tape measure and find your vertical leap and a standing broad jump. Maybe test it once a month or every few months to see if you improve.

I'm sure there is much more I could add to this list. Start working on these 6 things and I can almost guarantee you will be more successful in your 2013 racing season.

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