Friday, April 16, 2010

Running form, swimming form... why not pedaling form?

My tri team here in Austin TX, T3, just recently conducted a demonstration as to what the team can offer to its members concerning pedal stroke efficiency coaching. We had about 20 team members attend the demo, and I believe we'll end up having a good amount of those who attended the demo participate in a form-focused coaching session related to their pedaling efficiency.

I bet you're thinking, "Hey, that's great Tom. Why do I care about this?"

For some reason, it seems the normal triathlete operates under the philosophy that it's all about hard training... volume, volume, volume. We normally, when learning the sport, don't pay very much attention at all to specific technique work until one of two things happens...

1. We get injured (99% of people fall into this camp)
2. We stop getting faster through volume alone

When starting out in the sport, the opportunities to improve in each of the disciplines are plentiful, and offer almost instant return on training investment. If you're getting out to train, you're getting faster - almost no way to get that one wrong. As we get more experienced and the volume begins to pile up, inefficiencies in form begin to turn into wear and tear that can turn into injury, or stagnation in improvement.

If I had my first year of triathlon to do over again, I'd do it much differently - I'd focus almost exclusively on form, and in all of the disciplines. That effort spent will certainly yield two things...

1. Reduced risk of injury
2. Overall better performances with greater capacity for improvement with volume

The particular example that's kicking off this thought process for me is the bike... nowhere in endurance sports is the extreme volume philosophy stronger than cycling. It seems to work in most cases, but I'd imagine that even those who don't encounter injury using the volume philosophy would achieve even better results through greater focus on proper pedaling efficiency. Early this season, I've made a point to spend more time on the Computrainer... the spinscan tool can help identify weaknesses in your pedal stroke and provides real-time feedback as you ride to let you see for yourself if changes you're implementing are helping to correct them. Using this tool along with a trained (hopefully USAT certified) coach can help you get there even faster.

Certainly, running is probably an even stronger case for this point - increases in quality of running form can enable running speed/efficiency far faster than volume ever could, and with greatly reduced risk of injury.

Are you running with a group that has quality coaching resources? Are you focusing on form rather than volume in your efforts to gain speed? Have you ever used a resource such as the computrainer to determine where to focus your cycling form improvement efforts? If you're saying 'no' to any of these questions, I'd recommend you give it a shot! You'll love the results.

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