training: the Way of the 1%

crankpunk’s always been an adherent of the path of least resistance. often incorrectly identified as ‘being a lazy schmuck,’ the POLR provides numerous benefits if followed correctly. low blood pressure, less stress, low expectations, and a lack of worldly possessions (also know as ‘being poor’). aim low, motherpunk advocated, and you’ll rarely be disappointed...

the POLR can be adapted to your cycling. if you read the recent training post about High Intensity Interval Training vs LSD, you’ll know what i mean. i say adapted because, for example in the case of HIIT, it hurts like a bitch but just takes less time than traditional LSD training – which is more like the path of most resistance least, if you get me. anyway, the general point i am struggling so flappingly to make is that, as far as training is involved, our eyes and ears are best kept open for new methods and ideas. the old can be cherished all day – if it works. otherwise, root it up and start again.

Britain, so long known for dreariness, underachievement and pomposity in so many spheres, is a case in point. the recent Olympics were heralded as a disaster before they’d even started. on the organisational side, incompetence on a mass scale was eagerly anticipated, and as for the athletes, well, they were going to let the nation(s) down again, weren’t they?

well, no. exactly the opposite, in fact. on a bureaucratic level the London Games were arguably the most successful in the history of the modern Olympics. on the field, on the track and in the velodrome the British athletes excelled in a manner so joyous that they even succeeded in rescuing the Union Jack from the far right and the bovver boys, turning it into a symbol of unity and celebration. no mean feat, that.

and they did it not by following the model of the British footballers who competed, miserably as it happens, as a GB team for the first time in many years. those overpaid nancies had none of the togetherness of the rest of the Olympic team, and exhibited more of the old British mentality (namely, the world owes us) than the new. the successful Brits threw out the old handbook and started anew, and in many ways that new mentality was very much inspired by the successes of the GB track cycling team throughout the Noughties. there, in plain sight, was a template for reconstruction. take apart a system that isn’t working, work out why, and rebuild it brick by brick so that it will function at the highest level. leave no pebble unturned, no cranny unexplored.

how does this relate to the POLR? well, if your aim is to go through a mountain, you’ll break your neck running straight into it – but if you work at it incrementally, daily, in bite size chunks, then you have a better chance of achieving your goal. it is perhaps the same goal, but a different path altogether. no massive jumps for short-term but unsustainable gains, no motivation-sapping failures, and, critically, no sense of entitlement. you don’t just get given it. you earn it. throw that ego out of the window and let the emergency services deal with the splat on the pavement.

and so we come to the Way of the 1%, also known as the ‘marginal gains’ theory. it was this philosophy, or approach, if you like, that brought the successes of the GB track team over the years and of Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins this season. it’s pretty simple: you look at every aspect of your preparation for a specific event, and identify where improvements can be made, no matter how small. sleep, recovery, diet, clothing, equipment, even the seats on the team bus (apparently designed to alleviate pressure on certain organs and thus aid recovery), every aspect is explored and considered. here and there, between rider, mechanic, manager and coach, little 1% gains are picked up, and before you know it you have a 5-8% improvement in performance.

Matt Parker, the sports scientist who worked with Team Sky until 2010 and who worked with the GB cycling team until very recently, spoke just after the Olympics about the management team’s commitment to the hunt for these marginal gains:

“We are obsessed with getting the details right; we are relentless in pursuit of it. It’s not easy for other federations to do, because of the details involved. It’s about everyone being the best they can be – the carer not leaving anything behind, the mechanic testing everything – but it’s not just two weeks. It’s two months, two years. When you put that in place, your chances of success are higher.”

Matt Parker

Parker is on his way to working his magic with the national English rugby team and will bring the same philosophy to their set-up. when with Sky, he worked on the team’s hydration, their protein-based recovery drinks, and allocated a specific  and rigid 10 minutes only for the post-race debrief from the coach, so that post-race discussions would not hamper  recovery. he also studied the riders’ individual sleep management, the timing of delivery of team equipment, and the use of anti-oxidants such as fish oil and Montmorency cherries.

so how does the regular rider incorporate the Way of 1% into their schedules? let’s take a look.

1. go to sleep earlier

 whilst new research has shown that the ideal amount of sleep for the average person is between 6 and 7 hours, we cyclists aren’t quite ‘normal people’. simply put, if you are training with some intensity you’ll need time to recover, and the best time to do that is in bed. getting to bed just 30 minutes before can mean speedier recovery. this will allow your muscles just that little bit more time to recuperate and leave you fresher for the next day’s training.
er… okay… anyone else feel weird seeing this?
2. eat more fruit & veg
fruits and vegetables are an invaluable source of vitamins and antioxidants and there are few of us who eat enough. the recommended 5 portions a day is a good point to aim for. some fruits and vegetables are especially good for cyclists, such as cherries, and beetroot, the juice of which might taste like a slap in the mush but can increase performance by up to 16%.
gotta love your cherries
vitamin C will help ward off colds and coughs, whilst vegetables such as broccoli contain powerful antioxidants that can help prevent cancer.
3. hit those intervals

i know, they hurt, but they work. check out the sufferfest for some very decent training vids.

4. train your weak point

if you’re bad on the flats, hit the flats, poor in the hills, get in those mountains.  it’s a common myth that training in the mountains will weaken your flat speed, and vise versa re climbing. if you train right, you can train flat all month and still kill the hills – it’s all about power to weight ratio. in many ways it;s more about you mental approach to the two disciplines, for what else is a climb, really, than either a short sprint (if a short climb) or a grinding TT (if longer)?

5. keep a clean drive train

doesn’t matter much if the rest of your bike is layered in mud, the drivetrain is the schnizzle when it comes to forward motion and it better be dazzlin’. a Dutch pro friend told me that you can lose as much as 15 watts per pedal push with a dirty DC and i have no idea if it’s true, but, come race day, my chain is always clean.

6. check your position

i fully recommend a professional bike fit. it costs less than new wheels and a TT helmet and it can change the way you ride forever. ask around, get a good guy or woman, and give it a go. when i had mine done my slightly tight back disappeared and, though i ended up more upright, my power increased considerably. if you can’t afford that, have an experienced friend take a look at your style. work also on your pedaling technique, preferably on an indoor trainer, and remember to pull as well as push when putting in big efforts.

7. enjoy

simple buy very effective. dump the ego. you’re not Eddy Merckx, and neither am i. we are just guys and gals who like to ride bikes, and though crushing souls may drive us secretly, losing perspective of the brotherhood cycling brings and the sense of fulfilment it can add to all aspects of your life is really rather silly.

so smile, even when it’s hurting!

if Lance can do it, you can too!

ok fellow crankpunks, bon chance!

2 thoughts on “training: the Way of the 1%

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