Thursday, October 22, 2009

You can't get faster by trying harder

I was tied up with business travel all day Wednesday. Just hate it when one of my primary work-out days gets chewed up like that. Needless to say, I had some pent up frustration to vent Thursday. I brought road bike and rollerskis to work. If it turned out to be nice day like forecasted, I'd go for a long ride. Backup plan was to ride the little 4" wheels.

At 11:30am, it was still only 52F and dreary out. Little wheels it would be. All of last fall I took a step back from flailing away on rollerskis and worked on technique. This meant slowing way down to pay attention to what I was doing. At the time, it seemed like I was going backwards, not accomplishing anything. I've hit the rollerskis only nine times so far this fall, way less than the last couple falls. I'm still focusing on technique, things like committing to each leg, proper bend at the knee, snappy push, making sure I don't push off the toe, using abs for upper body thrust and not arms, etc. But Thursday, I pulled out the stops for a power and speed workout, a good old fashioned hammerski.

At the beginning of last fall, I would flail away in such an attempt with modest increase in speed but huge increase in perceived effort. That has changed significantly. I now find I can maintain much better technique while going faster and with less perceived effort. I did laps around my circuit with a modest climb at about 19kph average for 21km. Great endorphin inducing workout.

The cool thing about rollerski workouts is no part of your body escapes unscathed. All the bits get impacted, but none overly so like on the bike. Cycling mainly taxes your fore and aft motion leg muscles. Skiing gets those, plus lateral leg muscles, your core and upper body. As a cyclist, I have huge upper body deficits, something I plan to work on this fall.

On a bicycle, everybody has about the same friction to the environment. This is rolling friction of the tires and aerodynamic drag. There is little in technique to improve this, other than going to TT equipment/position. So everybody is within a few percent of each other. There is some technique to pedalling efficiently. Power Cranks can illuminate deficiencies in one's spin cycle. But still, most cyclists get it and are within a few percent of each other. Therefore, going faster is mostly just a matter of training. To go faster, you try harder. You'll probably get faster.

Skiing is completely different. Trying harder without addressing technique deficiencies ingrains bad habits. I can attest to this. Trying harder just wastes more of your output kilojoules in the form of hotter wheels and excess sweat running down your face. For someone that has attained high levels of fitness, going slow in order to learn how to do something right is the hardest thing in the world to do. Takes patience. Hoping for some better results in 50km races this winter. I will do it by continuing to go slower on the rollerskis this fall. I do need to ramp up the rollerskiing hours though. It is unlikely 1-2hrs per week will score a sub-3hr 50k marathon.

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