And first things first, a Very Merry Christmas to Everyone!
My own Christmas spirit has fluctuated between 'lacking' and 'Overflowing' and most places in-between depending on whatever task I was involved in at any given moment in time. I thought this would be a good time to share with you some inspiration for the following winter months as well as reflecting on the year gone by and looking forward to what will hopefully be a big year or Pedal Precision in 2012.
I have to confess, I am not one of those people who thrives in the cold, wet, British winter. I wish I was, but when I look out the window and it is raining and the thermometer is straining to lift itself above freezing like a cyclist trying to do a chin-up, my mind casts back and dreams of days in bib-shorts and white sweat patches. That's not to say I don't enjoy a ride out in the winter, I have even been known to have a good time when it's lashing down, but I much prefer a cold, crisp day to a wet and windy one.
This in-turn means that I start to think of other ways to maintain a base level of fitness or spend time concentrating on other areas of conditioning over the winter, so I thought I'd pass on a few hints and tips in case you hadn't thought of them or are looking for something to help you come back stronger in the spring.
The first obvious avenue is to spend more time improving your flexibility. 'A cyclist doesn't need to be flexible' I hear you say. That's partly true, for the range of movement that we use we don't strictly need to be able to assume positions usually reserved for the cirque de soleil, but flexibility (or should we call it muscle elasticity?) is about much more than that and affects us greatly. Many athletes that I see demonstrate one or more areas where a tight or over-active muscle group is leading to a movement control issue and a set of painful symptoms as a result. When we use a muscle group in a constantly shortened position (in our case all of our lower limb) it has the tendency to continually shorten to fit this restricted range of motion. Clearly then it stands to reason that since all muscles have a boney attachment at either end, tight structures will affect the mechanics of how these bones move as we walk, run, drive and cycle. So, to cut a long story short and before I send folk to sleep, dedicate a couple of dark evenings a week to a stretching programme. If you're not sure how to stretch effectively find a good sports injury specialist or drop me an email and we can help guide you to get the most out of a flexibility session.
The second aspect I am going to try and concentrate on over the winter is a little additional strength and conditioning work. A good S&C programme will help improve your local muscular endurance and give you a chance to work out muscle groups which you might not work when cycling but will help you ride stronger for longer with out tiring. By this I mean small things like doing a little work on your shoulder stability will help you feel stronger on the descents (especially if you're a mountain biker) as well as helping support your torso more comfortably during long stints in the drops and even help you control any excess movement when on a really steep climb when you need to call upon your arms to pull on the bars. Even some speed work or Plyometrics might be the order of the day, because whilst we don't need to be Ussain Bolt, the ability to react to a break during a short Crit circuit or 'punch' up a rocky technical climb will be greatly improved. It also has the added by product of helping improve your proprioception and balance on the bike by also waking up a load of stabilising muscles that don't get a workout that often.
As luck would have it, a friend of ours has just set up a centre here in Manchester to help amateur athletes get the best strength training advice (think of a personal trainer but with even more knowledge and ability to tailor to your needs). Check out their website at www.fstacademy.com , I for one will be tapping into their expertise this winter.
With all the 2012 bikes now trickling their way into UK stores it is also a great time of year for geeks like myself to take a look at who has changed what geometry wise in their new line-up and what new models are out there. I can't help looking at a brochure sent to me without thinking "ooh, that would be a good geometry for someone with limited spinal flexion" or "damn, they've changed the seatpost angle on the medium, that would be perfect for that chap I saw last month. If you are thinking about a new bike for 2012 but are unsure which one, again just drop us a line and we'd be happy to talk things through with you, or arrange a proper assessment session to look at your biomechanics, movement patterns and flexibilty to ensure you get the right bike for you, not just the right bike for the shops weekly sales target!
Finally, looking back on this year, there have been a lot of lessons learnt, both from a business perspective and to help us continually improve and refine the way we do things to help cyclists get the most out of their bikes and their riding, we've worked with some really interesting people and developed links with some great teams, comapnies and charities. Next year we have lots to look forward to. Early in the New Year we will be moving into a new home at the National Cycling Centre at the Manchester Velodrome, so keep an eye out for news on that and a possible 'house warming' party! We will be working with more teams and hoping to bring you even more complimentary services, and there are also some very exciting plans for an Uber-Challenge that are beginning to come together, so watch this space. Well, actually, that's another thing, there'll be a new re-vamped, interactive website very soon, so that'll be the space to watch! (It's almost ready to launch and there'll be more information on there as well as the ability to interact with us and ask questions, and keep up with the latest news and gossip.
I said it before, but I'll say it again, have a lovely Christmas and may 2012 bring you everything you wish for.