Category Archives: Equipment

ASANAS ON THE WATER – SUP AND YOGA

This story ran in the Rutland Herald & Times Argus on 7-10-2016, written by Linda Freeman, Field Editor and Correspondent for ACTIVE VERMONT.

Last week on the Active Vermont page you read tips on how to choose your own SUP. Once selected, what next? What can you do with a SUP? The short answer is “a lot.” A stand up paddleboard is legally a vessel and can be used much like a kayak or canoe. One or more users can navigate ponds, lakes and rivers for sport, recreation or fitness.

Standing up is a lovely way to tour. The vantage is just that much better and what is below the board is easily seen. Looking straight down you will see far more than glancing across the top of the water from a seat. Though the very idea of standing on something potentially tippy in the middle of a lake can be daunting, it’s really not so bad. In fact, there’s no rule that says you must stand. You might want to begin seated or kneeling. In fact, if there’s a stiff wind and you really need to get where you’re going, you might want to lower your mass and cut through less wind.

But back to your first time out. Because I was skeptical about the touted simplicity of SUP, what I had heard of as “user friendly,” (yeah, right), I knew I had to try it before writing about it. So I did and will share the few bits I learned.

Begin, of course, with the right SUP and the correct length paddle. Don’t forget your pfd (personal floatation device), leash, water and sunscreen. (Refer to Active Vermont, July 3, 2016.)

If you start from the shore, simply push the board out a little way, lay the paddle across like an outrigger, put one knee on the board, then the other, and voila you’re afloat.

At this point the paddle is much too long to be effective, but will do something. As soon as you are ready, take your time, find a centered balance on the board, and straighten up. At first you might be tense, (I sure was) but allow yourself to move with the board and start to paddle.

Find a functional alignment: feet parallel, about hip-width apart, toes pointed forward, knees slightly bent tracking over the toes, back erect, and looking where you are going. “Much like bicycling, when your forward momentum increases, your stability increases as well.” (www.rei.com)

With one hand over the end of the paddle and the other partway down the shaft, begin to make sweeping strokes close to the board. There is a way to refine a “J” stroke that will help keep you tracking forward, but you will need to switch sides regularly anyway. The longer you’re on the board, the more comfortable you will be. Try standing slightly fore or aft and see what effect that has on your paddling. Practice turning and using so many of the same techniques that you would use with a canoe. The wider your board, the more stable. Soon, however, unless the water is really disturbed, you should find yourself relaxing and enjoying the ride. And, oh yes, don’t forget that the strength of the paddle stroke comes from your core and not just arms and shoulders. With arms relatively straight, twist from your torso to execute the stroke. Paddle wrong and you’ll tire too quickly.

“The paddle in the water is your 3rd leg of stability,” Mike Strojny said. As assistant retail manager at Umiak Outfitters, he has seen many newcomers to SUP. “A couple hours and you should be good. Wrong equipment is a problem. When it comes to technique, a lesson helps accelerate the learning curve.”

Finally, wear a swim suit. If you fall, you want to fall into the water, not on the board. Just be cool and pretend you meant to take a dip.

YOGA and SUP 

Yoga on a stand up paddleboard is not new. In fact, Wikipedia refers to this as an “emerging sport,” and cites its acceptance within an “international community.”

The Huffington Post lists the following reasons to practice Yoga on a paddle board. Certainly, if your Yoga is getting stale, SUP makes it a uniquely different experience. Because of the unstable base, you need to refine your technique and, in the process, get a better workout. Once you accomplish your goals, there is a sense of empowerment; and, because it is “a touch scary,” your success is well-earned. Furthermore, it is noted that the practice can be calming with more attention paid to breathing. It’s fun and it’s beautiful.

A quick Google search will find SUP and Yoga alive and thriving in Vermont. In the Killington area SUP Yoga is in its fourth season. (www.killingtonYoga .com). At Waterbury Reservoir both Grateful Yoga and Siren SUP with Merin Perretta and Anjali Budreski offer multiple classes each week into September. (www.umiak.com).

“FLOAT YOUR YOGA ”

Merin Peretta, SUP yoga.

Merin Perretta, SUP yoga. Photo courtesy of Merin Perretta.

Merin Perretta brings to her teaching a rich and varied background with personal, physical and intellectual depth. “I took my first Yoga class at the age of 15 or 16 with my sister at a Community Center in Newton, Ma,” Perretta said. “There was a lot of meditation and I liked it.”

Perretta has always been fitness-based and athletic. Her Yoga experience “planted the seed. It took a long time to germinate and set down roots.” First there was a move to the Northeast Kingdom where she found a little studio that “drew me in,” she said. As her Yoga learning and practice continued, Perretta went on to enhance her bachelors degree in medical sociology with a masters degree in counseling. Today in Montpelier Perretta pursues mind-body integration through her work as a certified personal trainer and Yoga instructor.

When Perretta and Budreski met, “we totally hit it off,” Perretta said. Both teach at Yoga Mountain in Monteplier. “I’ve learned so much,” Perretta said. “I’ve found my Yoga platform at Yoga Mountain.” Perretta and Budreski both love SUP and both love Yoga . “We’ve got to bring this to people,” they said. Siren SUP was born of their shared enthusiasm. The two became business partners planning their SUP classes as well as a trip to Costa Rica in March 2017 to a surf and paddleboard destination where they hope to work with women of all ages, engaging all the element of youth, coming of age, and maturity. It will be about sister groups, partnering, Yoga and, of course, SUP. (For more information visit http://trilliumhealthworks.com)

My own experience with Yoga on a paddleboard happened a few weeks ago on a beautiful, though breezy, sunny day on Curtis Pond in central Vermont under the guidance of Merin Perretta. I had never, ever, been on or near a paddleboard. Perretta was unfazed. I do, however, practice Yoga and, though relatively new, am also relatively comfortable with some of the asanas.

What are asanas? Though strictly speaking asana may refer to a seated stillness, asanas in Yoga are often referenced as postures, or the physical actions of Yoga . Though Yoga is indeed about far more than exercise, it is often the place where most of us begin.

So to begin at the beginning, I managed to stand up and paddle and reach the point where I might try a few simple asanas. Working from a tabletop postion, on all fours, was easy and a real start in adapting to the movement of the board on water.

Transitioning into downward facing dog, basically a pike position with hands and feet on the board, added something new. As I looked back past the end of the paddleboard (for all purposes upside down) the play of the water against the board did weird things to my eyes and balance. Looking the other way in camel pose was another story. As I looked up at a cloudless sky the world seemed still; so much easier.

Trying a few poses lifting one leg, twisting, stretching or moving from plank to the board were all done with a sense of exploration. Strangely aligning from bow to stern on the board was do-able (warrior I or pyramid pose) but aligning with the long side (warrior 2 or triangle poses) was far more challenging. Just as I was feeling pretty good in dolphin pose with one leg in the air (sort of half standing on my head) I looked to see Perretta in a full head stand. Oh well. The sky’s the limit I guess.

The bottom line is that if I can do this, anyone can. Each class,similar to my experience, is taught with respect for what each individual brings to the board. No previous SUP or Yoga experience is needed.

WHY YOGA ON A PADDLEBOARD

SUP yoga class taught by Merin Peretta.

SUP yoga class taught by Merin Perretta. Literally Asana on the Water.  photo supplied by M.Perretta.

Perretta, who practices her Yoga with precision focusing on alignment and fitness, also brings to her work a deep sense of the mental, emotional and spiritual. “Yoga is 1% theory and 99% practice,” she quoted.

And then there’s the fun part. Speaking of SUP Yoga she said, “If you’ve even a glimmer of curiosity, try it. Encounter it, look it in the eye, and do it.”

But perhaps more importantly the experience deepens a Yoga practice and expands it to include more than navigating the poses on water.

The unstable surface challenges core strength and balance, yes, and there is a playfulness about the process. But there is also a connection with your immediate yet vast environment; with water, sky and air.

The board becomes your mat, the space in which you engage. It becomes your partner and your teacher. You learn to release, to float. You may sit, kneel, stand or lie on your board, your Yoga mat in action. You feel buoyancy and relate physically to the movement of the water, to tides, to flow.

Your perspective is organic. When you seek your drishti, your focal point, you may need to look inward.

When you finish your practice, you lie supine on your board, eyes closed, and give yourself to the water’s surface, be it active or still. You feel and sense rather than see and do. Your board gives you feedback from your practice. You learn which muscles worked and which joints opened. You feel your spine, hips, skull, heels, elbows and hands against a stiff but moving surface. It makes you think about where you’ve been and where you are going, and then perhaps relieves you of thought. Flow is a word often united with Yoga . On the water, flow is quite literal.

For me, my take home was a very real example of what in Yoga is called Sthira and Sukha, steadiness and ease. Uniting these two qualities that could be perceived as opposites, is profound. Finding a balance between effort and ease significantly impacts sports performance as well as daily living. Striving for strength, energy and capability; then softening with ease, release and freedom, just might be what it’s all about.

Wha’SUP? The growing sport of stand up paddling!

 

Stand Up Paddleboard, or Stand Up Paddling, or simply SUP, may be here to stay. Skeptics dubbed the sport another passing fad, but that was sometime around 2001 or 2002. Here we are, more than a decade later, and we see boards strapped to car roofs, beached on shorelines, and, of course, on the water.

Here in Vermont, most SUP paddling is done on flat water, though Lake Champlain, power boats and even a windy day can give the paddler rock and roll. In other areas, SUP is more closely connected to its surfing roots from places such as Hawaii and with names such as Laird Hamilton.

Standing up to paddle can be traced back for centuries. Old paintings and a multitude of anecdotes suggest SUP possibly dates back far more than the early 20th century. Of course it’s probable that Native Americans stood in their canoes to paddle up river, but the claim that in Peru as long ago as 3,000 BC, and possibly even Pharoah’s daughter, the one who found baby Moses in the rushes, was standing up to paddle, necessitates unsubstantiated acceptance. (To read an intriguing and short history of SUP go to http://www.supthemag.com/complete-short-history-sup/)

Assuming you find the sport of SUP interesting and would like to give it a go, there are many ways in which to do so. By all means, rent a SUP or borrow a friend’s, and get on the water before you decide to purchase. However, remember that when you do, you may not be on the board that is most appropriate for you. It’s a good way to taste but not to digest. And, to be sure, a SUP lesson is a great way to begin.

SUP - a family adventure photo by L. Freeman

SUP – a family adventure
photo by L. Freeman

Once hooked, you will want your own board, paddle, leash and pfd. (Note that a Type 3 USCG approved personal floatation device is mandated by law. If you are over 12 years old, you do not need to be wearing, but must have one easily accessible on the deck. Twelve and under must be wearing.)

HOW TO CHOOSE A BOARD

How do you choose your board? The best answer is to visit a water sports store where an informed associate can give you good advice, not just sell you a board. Finding the right board is not rocket science, but it really does matter and must meet your individual needs, fitness level, body type and budget. Buy the right board the first time and your purchase will be cost effective in the long run.

For more information I visited Umiak Outdoor Outfitters on South Main Street, Stowe (www.UMIAK.com) where Mike Strojny, assistant retail manager, spent unhurried time answering my many questions. Here’s what I learned.

What do you want to do with SUP? Is it for fun and fitness or touring or maybe even racing?

There are basically two types of hulls from which to choose: planing and displacement. A planing hull is flat and wide like a surfboard, costs a little less money to build and therefore a little less money to buy, and “is the board that most recreational customers come into the store looking for,” Strojny said.

“We think most people should buy a displacement board because Vermont lakes and ponds are flatwater.” And why is that? A displacement hull is straighter and faster. The front and back (bow and stern) are slightly pointed allowing the board to be moved forward with less effort. A displacement board is a good choice for the recreational paddler who wants the option to spend his or her hours and effort touring. Displacement boards are far more stable than one might think and versatile in their use be it fitness, cruising or even yoga.

SUPs are built from the inside out, whereas a kayak or canoe is built from the outside in. Foam inside is wrapped in a fiberglass sock. While there are many kinds of boards, and some are extremely attractive, Strojny suggestions caution. “They’re like a nice sports car; it’s what’s under the hood that counts.” The variables are the materials (a plastic board will weight 45-50 pounds while its carbon fiber equivalent only 20 pounds or less), board length, width, thickness and volume. A textured mat or surface on the top of the board provides stable footing.

Put in simplest terms, the bigger the person, the longer the board needed. Also to be taken into consideration is where you will paddle, the size of your car roof, where you will store the board when not in use (an inflatable SUP folds up into a wheeled suitcase), and perhaps how far you will need to walk to the beach. Width affects stability. A board 31-36” wide will be more stable; one 29 or 30” will be faster. Volume is a mathematical equation of length x width x thickness. The answer suggests the board’s ability to float with a certain amount of weight on it. All boards have a fin to help tracking. Paddling skill aids in keeping that straight line while wind factors present problems of their own. Roughly speaking a smaller person, woman or child, might shop for a 10-11’6” board while a larger or taller person might move up to a 12’6” board. Athletic ability and fitness definitely play a role as well.

What else do you need? In addition to your SUP and PFD, you need a paddle leash. “Four people drowned a few weekends ago,” Strojny said. “Not around here. Lake Tahoe and elsewhere. They didn’t have a PFD and they didn’t have a leash.” Strojny went on to explain that a SUP can also function as a large floatation device. It’s unlikely that you will hit your head when you pitch off of one. You are, after all, standing. Most likely you will land in the water and, with your board attached by a leash, can reel it in and clamber back on, or at least hold yourself up until help arrives. Wearing a PFD (there are some that can be worn unobtrusively around the waist), is, of course, the ultimate safe way to paddle.

Finally you need a paddle. Yes, you use only one and it is very long. A quick measure is to stand on land with the blade tip next to your feet. With one arm extended straight up towards the sky, the end of the handle should be at your hand. On the board in the water, you will hold the top end with one hand and partway down the shaft with the other. Some paddles are adjustable, others are custom. Less expensive paddles are heavier and can cause stress to joints, fatigue and just maybe take away from the joy of paddling. Small, narrow blades and light, stiff paddles made of fiberglass or carbon fiber allow for more dynamic paddling, a faster cadence if desired, and a less tiring experience that can make racing, yes, but even touring more enjoyable. Sometimes it takes surprisingly little effort to move forward, but equally significant is the core workout you will get.

Oh, and one more thing. You will need a roof rack on your car, usually the bars already there will do. Hoisting the board to the roof is as easy as your board is light. Simple straps usually get the job done.

SUP FESTIVAL

Burlington SUP Festival 2016, photo by L. Freeman

Burlington SUP Festival 2016, photo by L. Freeman

I met Roxanne Scully at the 2nd Annual Burlington Paddleboarding and Windsurfing Festival, June 25, 2016, on one of those perfect Vermont days: sunny, breezy, lots of people eager to participate, vendors happy to answer questions and hopefully make a sale, kids, dogs, and boats and more boats. Festive indeed.

Roxanne and her husband, Russ, began with The Spot, a “surf style restaurant” near the Burlington waterfront. Along came a new sport, paddleboarding. “My husband and I started this whole venture,” Roxanne said. “There was an article in the NY Times about Russ. After that he became the go-to person for paddle board.” The Scullys mixed business and pleasure. Russ became a rep for Starboard paddleboards and soon the couple started selling out of their restaurant. It was not long before they opened WND&WVS (say it quickly and you’ll get wind and waves, of course), a SUP, windsurf and other types of water sports store. (www.wndnwvs.com ). When asked about the popularity of SUPs, Roxanne said: “I think it’s just the beginning. There are so many different ways to use it from enjoying the sunset with your family or dog to racing. There’s a large spectrum of what you can do.”

Though the festival was for SUP and windsurfing, I saw only SUPs. And I saw many. Juxtaposed against the backdrop of sailboats and cruisers, boats of mixed size and use, some moored and some in action, were dozens of people of all ages on a huge variety of boards. Some were adept, some a bit anxious. Some boards were slim, some were large enough for a family, some short, some long, some hard and some inflatables.

I noticed a woman wearing a dress, but holding a paddle. When I asked her if she was having a good time she told me that she was down to three boards. She had tried the inflatable and was surprised by how hard it was, not rubbery at all. But she did find it a bit “bouncy” on the water. She then tried one that was more sleek and a better performer. Finally she tried one somewhere in the middle, a board that was stiff on the bottom but had a soft covering on top. She was still uncertain. But one thing was for sure, she was going to buy one of these boards and SUP on Lake Champlain.

As noted above, paddles are important. But let me introduce you to Steve Berson of Oblio Paddles. (www.obliopaddles.com) When Berson first explored the world of SUP he loved standing on the board, but was uncomfortable with the concept of a single paddle with a single blade that had to be switched from side to side and sometimes caused balance and/or tracking problems by its very nature. Why not design a long paddle with a blade on each end with a rotating grip that would serve as an aid to balance (much like the tightrope walker and his pole) and would provide rhythm and symmetry to smooth the rough edges of an otherwise seamless sport? So he did. The process began in March 2014 in Morrisville. The first year was spent in development and prototyping. Today there are different models available ranging in price from $229-$429 and made of fiberglass, a composite, or top of the line carbon fiber.

Even this Welsh Corgi enjoys SUP on the Lake. photo by L. Freeman

Even this Welsh Corgi enjoys SUP on the Lake. photo by L. Freeman

Over the years we’ve learned that stand up paddleboarding is not limited to the big surf of Hawaii or southern California; or, in the State of Vermont, to larger lakes like Champlain or Bomoseen; or even Vermont’s smaller lakes and ponds, surrounded by summer camps and home to both motorized and non-motorized water craft. In fact, one may not really know just how much this sport may grow. SUP is one new kid on the block who may have moved in to stay. Perhaps this IS just the beginning. Perhaps in years to come we will see many variations on the SUP theme.

This story first appeared in the Rutland Herald & Times Argus Sunday newspaper,     7-3-2016 written by Linda Freeman, Field Editor and Contributor to Active Vermont.

John Spinney – Triathlete and Coach

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT LONG-TERM SUCCESS:  MEET THE ATHLETE – JOHN SPINNEY

John Spinney wears two hats; both are professional and both represent life-long passions.

John Spinney at 2015 Ironman Mont Tremblant Ironman Hawaii Qualifier

John Spinney at 2015 Ironman Mont Tremblant Ironman Hawaii Qualifier

The first, some might say, is his real job. As post-secondary transition coordinator at the Vermont Agency of Education, Spinney works in the field of special education, helping students transition from high school to college to career, forming partnerships between schools and business.

His other hat might be better identified as a baseball cap or cycling helmet. A competitive triathlete, Spinney has made his own transition, from podium to coach.

Spinney, who lives in Waterbury with his wife, Lindsay Simpson, grew up in Guilford, Vermont, in a closely knit family who lived and worked professionally and compassionately with individuals with special needs. Spinney’s present was clearly informed by his past. His parents modeled lives based on education, embracing disabilities. Furthermore, he spent his childhood with four siblings; two of whom were special-needs adoptions with Down syndrome.

Add to that a varied and competitive enthusiasm for athletic activity, and it is easy to see how Spinney became who he is today. After a lifetime of running, riding, swimming and skiing, he may have found his calling as a coach whose vast competitive experience fuels his ability to connect with athletes of all levels and at one of many stages of their athletic growth and performance.

BACKSTORY  In 1993, Spinney graduated from Brattleboro High School, where he had run cross- country and bike raced. Tim Chock and Barbara Walsh, then and now owners of the Brattleboro Bicycle Shop, “taught me everything I know,” Spinney said. It is under the wings of this small, local bike shop that Spinney first experienced team racing of a surprisingly good quality — public-school kids in a prep-school league.

There was a Time Trial series out of West Hill Shop in Putney, a program for aspiring youths from the New England Cycling Association, and maybe 50-65 bike races a year for the 16-year-old Spinney. He began to burn out.

Interestingly, while in high school, “alpine ski racing was actually my first sport,” Spinney said. But there also lurked the “inner ski bum,” he said. During his years at Johnson State College, Spinney ran cross-country, bike raced, coached Mitey Mites at Smugglers’ Notch, and finally found his way onto mogul fields.

With teaching license in hand, Spinney headed to Waterville Valley Academy, where he did what so many young ski academy instructors do, combining several jobs in one as house parent, classroom English teacher and mogul instructor, integrating dryland training in the academy’s program.

TRIATHLON  Today Spinney is identified as a triathlete, but it took awhile for him to realize the personal impact of the sport. “I did my first triathlon at 14,” he said. “I was mostly a bike racer but dabbled in triathlon.”

A ski injury in his senior year at college kept him off the hill, but nudged him in another direction. “It took a couple years,” he said. “My back was killing me.” “You know what?” he said to himself, “I’ll just do a bunch of triathalons; riding isn’t that long.”

And then fate stepped in. The Vermont Sun Triathlon series has been in existence for over three decades. On July 22, 2000, Spinney entered and subsequently won a Vermont Sun sprint triathlon. More importantly, at that event he met Lindsay Simpson. Spinney unabashedly states “It was love at first sight.”

Their story is one of connection: personal, professional, athletic, and certainly a mutual commitment to values and ideals.

Though they went their separate ways for awhile, daily communication and a good bit of creativity eventually brought them together again where Lindsay taught and served as house-parent at the Lowell Whiteman School, now Steamboat Mountain School, in Colorado. They never looked back. In 2001, the couple drove to Burlington and in 2006 were married.

John Spinney and Lindsay Simpson, PIneland Farms trail festival 2014. In 2016 Simpson returned to Pineland Farms to win the Women's 50 Mile Race.

John Spinney and Lindsay Simpson, PIneland Farms trail festival 2014. In 2016 Simpson returned to Pineland Farms to win the Women’s 50 Mile Race.

Conventional wisdom might suggest that it is unwise for life partners to coach or be coached by the other, but in the case of John and Lindsay, it works. “Lindsay never loved swimming and cycling,” Spinney said, “but she loves to run.” Over the years he has coached his wife to become a highly successful ultra-distance runner, qualifying this year for Leadville, the ultra race that separates and distinguishes them all. Lindsay, in turn, acts as John’s support crew, whether in Hawaii for the Ironman Championships or in his day-to-day efforts. They live, work and train as a team.

“I love what I do,” he said. When speaking of his work, “These are two jobs I am passionate about.” When speaking of his life, it is his marriage that brings a smile to his face. QT2 systems coach

For Spinney, in 2008 it all came together — competition, athletics and education — when Jesse Kropelnicki, founder and managing director of QT2 Systems, coached him through a pivotal year of Iron Man training.

For Spinney, teaching and competition morphed into coaching, drawing on personal experience in practice, performance and recognizing the need to understand how people learn. Under the umbrella of QT2 Systems training are five cornerstones. Preparation (training and nutrition/rest) combines with execution (race-fueling and pacing) and the fifth cornerstone, mental fitness, to produce the race outcome.

QT2 logic refers to the model that helps build programs across lines dividing endurance sports, makes the principles applicable to multiple sports, and with appropriate adaptations to multiple athletes with varying skills and body types.

QT2 training involves the whole picture. Which energy system is needed for a key race? What is the current fitness level of each athlete, his or her strengths and weaknesses? How should one explore conditioning, diet, recovery and the all- important mental component? What is the athlete’s limiter, and how does that inform training and ultimately results? “If your coach can’t tell you why you are doing a particular workout, then get a new coach.” (Jesse Kropelnicki, www.qt2systems.com) It must all make sense; and it must work.

Spinney is serious about what he does. He is a numbers guy. His work is structured, not restrictive. He stresses the need for balance. He will alternate a hard year of intense competition with a year that is perhaps equally demanding, but more for fun.

When coaching, Spinney looks for the 1 percent rule: “Where are all the little 1 percent things you can improve as an athlete? Look for the little dials. That’s my job,” he said.

The bottom line is endurance. “It’s all about long-term success,” he said. “Mobility, body work, nutrition, maintaining muscle mass,” all are critical. But perhaps the most critical of all is one’s Daily Performance Environment.

Active Vermont: Spinney on Daily Performance Environment

This is the glue that keeps the athlete together — and leads to the ultimate fitness developing tool: Consistency. You get injured or sick or burnt out and you lose consistency and lose fitness.

Key items for the DPE:

Daily bodywork. (self-myofascial release work followed by targeted stretching, 3-5 minutes twice a day) I have all my athletes think of this in the same way as brushing your teeth a.m. and p.m. The goal is mobility and limit soft-tissue adhesions which often lead to inflammation in joints which can lead to injuries.

Stay mobile, stay healthy, stay consistent. The other thing I always say to my athletes is: Bodywork should be commensurate with training load. If you’re training really heavily, then the amount of time given to bodywork should be increased; while less bodywork is needed when training load is light. There should be a quick and easy way for the athlete to do this. Items should be kept in one place for easy and time-efficient access. At minimum, I recommend firm-foam roller (bonus points for spiky-foam roller), softball (an actual softball), and a golf ball or Foot Rubz ball.

A mutual acceptance among the parties in your household of overall fitness goals and also a successful balancing of the spousal-approval units (SAUs). This is a big one and arguably the most difficult one to achieve, but it is a cornerstone of any highly successful athlete. There is an agreement and a balance in the household around the commitment needed to perform. The athlete also is committed to keeping the SAU bank full and knows when to fill it. It is all a balancing act. Diet and meals, daily logistics, dividing up of chores, supporting each other, and being in a true partnership. I am in no way an expert at this, but constantly trying to get better and be a better partner.

An acceptance of the type of diet the athlete needs to be successful. In our household we use the “The Core Diet” (http://www.thecorediet.com/). This is essentially a diet based on specific timing of macronutrients and micronutrients. We use “core” windows of time and “noncore” windows. Core windows are when we are not training — we eat only core foods: lean meats, veggies, nuts, seeds and lowfat dairy — no processed sugars of any kind; all nutrient-dense foods that promote overall health and recovery from workouts. Then before, during and after workouts are “noncore” windows. In the noncore windows we eat fuels designed for performance like sports drinks, gels, powerbars, recovery drinks, etc. The whole diet is very dynamic and depends on where you are in terms of the timing of your workouts.

Maintenance of gear and fuels. Keeping your bike in top-performing order, making sure to replace run shoes when they are getting broken down (stay healthy), making sure you have fuel for your workouts. No bonking allowed (it is super catabolic and hurts immune system — stay healthy).

Healthy supplement routine aimed at robust health. A good multivitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D. (For supplements, I recommend Klean Athlete — all of their supplements are third-party tested by NSF and free of any banned substances). Visit: http://www.kleanathlete.com/.

Prehab routine. This is a specific strength routine aimed at areas of sport-specific weakness. Usually twice a week.

Other notes. I currently coach 14 athletes ranging from Pro triathletes to age-group triathletes, one elite masters marathoner, and three Ultra runners. I am self-coached, which is pretty cool. I can modify workouts and customize on the fly, based on my recovery status.

Sleep. Sleep is easily the most potent recovery tool available to athletes. Aim for eight hours a night consistently. (Maybe sneaking in a nap here or there.) Many people struggle with this one due to the logistics of their life with kids, intense job, etc.

If there are any ways for the family to work on this together, the dividends can be huge, with better overall health and recovery, thus improving their athletic performance. You can track your sleep with a great app called “sleep cycle” in the App Store. I’ve used it for years and swear by it.

John Spinney is a competitive triathlete and training services specialist, QT2 Level 3 coach, USAT Level 1 coach. He can be reached by email john@qt2systems.comIMG_4323

All of the above appeared June 12, 2016 on the ACTIVE VERMONT page, Linda Freeman, Field Editor, Rutland Herald & Times Argus Sunday paper.

Wearables v. Unplugged

 

UNPLUGGED?  DIGITAL ADDICTION IS ATTRACTING ATTENTION

Unplugged  Jeb Wallace-Brodeur;  Winter hikers from Vermont unplugged as they descend from the summit of Mount Flume in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Unplugged Jeb Wallace-Brodeur; Winter hikers from Vermont unplugged as they descend from the summit of Mount Flume in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Time to deliver the mail, to deliver you on target in this new year and make the most of your time. Before we do that let’s take one step back and ask a key question. Could you go one day a week unplugged? That means not plugged into a device of any sort, but plugged into the moment, plugged into reality, instead of virtual reality. If the answer is no, you could not go a day without your device, maybe that is your new year’s resolution. To plug back into you and those around you!

If the answer is no, then let’s figure out why. Or, as this is a fitness article, let’s figure out if your devices are serving you or are you serving them? We know from brain imaging that a ping, ring or vibration for most people activates a dopamine squirt in the brain. Simply put, dopamine is a chemical created in your brain that is generally released and is associated with a reward response. However, too much “reward”, like too much of any good thing, can quickly become not a good thing. That is why we’re now seeing more and more digital addiction as devices surround us every day. Hence, the pressing need to unplug on a regular basis.

But let’s go back to the first sentence. Mail delivery; how does that relate to what the fitness world and to what marketers are calling wearables? Before wearables, we relied on training by feeling, or what exercise physiologists called RPE, rate of perceived exertion. There are a variety of RPE scales, 1-10 and 6-20 tend to be the most common scales used. The scales correlate on the lower ends with exercising easily, and as the scale progresses, exercise increases from moderate to hard at the top end of an RPE scale. Training by feeling is like delivering the mail to the right street. It generally gets you close to the destination of exercise that is on target.

One of the first wearables, in a consumer sense, is now known as the ubiquitous heart rate monitor (HRM). A heart rate monitor simply does that, measure your response to exercise, which is generally associated with an increase in heart rate as exercises becomes more difficult. Training by heart rate will show several patterns over time, but I would argue that training by heart rate is like delivering the mail to the right block on a street. It gets you close to the intended address, but not to the exact house all the time. The house you’re trying to deliver your mail to is the house that has the right intensity of exercise at the right time. The danger with heart rate training is generally most people just play the high heart rate Olympics, seeing how high they can get their heart rate up each workout. This isn’t a system that will support sustainable fitness. Rather it is a system that will ensure that the mail will get farther and farther away from the intended address as time goes on, farther from becoming a fit, happy and healthy person.

Perception and heart rate are fickle responses to a variety of stressors. They are affected by many variables. The key ones are generally sleep, nutrition, stress, hormonal variation and hydration. Often those five are interconnected. Each (and other “stressors”, including positive stressors) has an impact on perception and on heart rate. For example, if you haven’t slept enough or ate a big meal the night before exercise you might feel sluggish the next day. That means, what was an easy workout yesterday might feel hard the next day and your heart rate might be higher or lower than usual. Again, your fitness mail won’t be delivered to the right address and you won’t be making the most of your time.

That is where wearables and measurement come into play. Many of you likely received Fitbits, Garmins, Misfits or Jawbones (or one from a host of other companies), power meters or another type of GPS devices or apps over the holidays. Or you’ve already been using one or many of them. The real question is, are you using them or are they using you? Do you know what that data overload means and why you’re doing what you’re doing?

The key functions of devices like Fitbits (the most common wrist wearable) are to measure steps, purported calories (which in most cases when compared to lab results are highly inaccurate), heart rate, and sleep. There is other data you can mine from these devices, but those are likely the key metrics. A power meter (usually associated with cycling or rowing) measures watts – just like the power a light bulb uses. A power meter measures the power one produces while exercising. Finally, a GPS usually is used for outdoor exercise and measures pace per mile. In the very near future we will be potentially wearing oxygen measuring devices and accelerometers are already being used in the commercial marketplace to measure speed of movements.

Whatever device you’re using, the key becomes the use of the information to create positive change. If you’re not using the information (inferring meaning) and tracking progress then you’re likely using the wearable as a toy, a digital distraction that is eliciting a digital dopamine response. Some are calling this digital cocaine.

However, if you are using a wearable to create a better sleep pattern for example, or to increase your pace per mile, set steps goals every week, or increase your wattage output with the same or lower heart rate, then you are on the right path. If you are doing these things (or other strategically tracked and utilized metric), using the data to create change, then you are delivering your fitness mail to the right address every time you use your wearable or device. You are using a feedback loop called assessment (data) to inform instruction to create change. That change will be a newer, stronger, fitter, and faster you in the year ahead. And a smarter you by unplugging from your devices once a week and plugging into your life. Wishing you miles of safe smiles in 2016 and a fitness quest that is dialed in. 

Joey Adams, M.S. Exercise Science, Intelligent Fitness, Metabolic Specialist, VO2 assessments and performance analysis. www.intelligentfitnessvermont.com

WHAT ARE WEARABLES?  Fitness gadgets flood the market. Becoming more and more easily accessible, these gadgets run the gamut from Fitbits to power meters measuring everything from calories burned to oxygen processed.

You see them on your coworkers’ wrists. You wear them in your Spinning® class, on your cross country ski, even in the pool. You sleep in them at night to determine your resting heart rate and you check in with them to see how you’re feeling.

What we call wearables is high level technology that may even surpass that of computers and smart phones. Narrowing the topic to fitness, wearable tracking devices do just that, and more.

Of course there’s the element of GPS that can find your location, plot a course or record your travel. Fitness tracking devices can also give you immediate access to pace, speed, distance, time, altitude, heart rate, watts, calories and oh so much more.

Furthermore, this data can be uploaded to a computer program used to record and store workouts or compare with previous training sessions, assessment and sharing with others such as a coach or training partners or competitors.

Wearables, as opposed to hand-held or equipment mounted, come in a staggering variety of styles and models. The technology in each is similarly efficient and reliable. The difference is primarily one of individual needs and preferences.

For example, are you a runner, cyclist or swimmer? Do you want to record your effort during weight lifting of your heart rate in the pool? Do you want to know where you’ve been when snowshoe touring or where you need to go to find the next shelter on the Long Trail? Do you want alarms to notify you if you are leaving a training zone or reminders to get up out of your chair and move a bit? Are you fine-tuning your competitive performance or simply wanting the motivation to lead a more active daily life while you check to see how much you are sleeping? You could, after all, just be looking for a fitness watch as some new bling.

Yet wearables have stepped far outside the restrictions of watch design. Leading wearables include Jawbone, Garmin, Fitbit, Microsoft Band, Moov Now, Misfit and Polar. Wearables are found on wristbands, clip-ons, glasses, shoes, helmets and even socks that tell you when to buy new ones or headbands that interpret dreams.

For years runners have worn chips to clock their race time and other micro chips have been implanted in pets for identification.

Those uses are tame compared with some of the more weird devices such as Ping garments that allow social networking on Facebook, digital tattoos, pet pac collars that transmit bio data directly to the family veterinarian, and a tweeting bra that, yes, allows the wearer to use Twitter. (And we thought amazing the early tracking devices worn by seniors who tend to get lost.)

Mind you, I do not condemn the use of wearables. I confess that I am an athlete heavily reliant upon my heart rate monitor and power meter. Both have helped me train more effectively and given me confidence to push to the next level. Perspective, however, is an important tool in our training toolbox. Balance is, as always, imperative.                                 Linda Freeman

These articles first appeared on the Active Vermont page of the Rutland Herald & Times Argus on January 29, 2016.

FUN-FOCUS-FLOW-FIT-FORM-FUEL-FITNESS-(avoid FOOEY a/k/a/ phooey!)

Joey Adams, metabolic specialist and esteemed athletic coach, contributed the following to ‘ACTIVE VERMONT’ on March 29, 2015. Read on:

The pursuit of fitness has varying “rules”. Do this, try this, don’t do this, eat this, not this. Yet, where is the fun in any of that – in following someone’s dogma? So, without being dogmatic, I’d like to start with the concept of FUN in re-defining the pursuit of fitness.

When I think of the concept of fun, and the creation of my F rules (Fun-Focus-Flow-Fit-Form-Fuel-Fitness to avoid Fooey!) in pursuing fitness, I always use fun as the litmus test. As a true Vermonter, I think of Ben and Jerry and their famous quote, “if it is not fun, why do it?”

I then immediately think of the experience of watching my own children at play and now pursuing their own fitness passions. I’m captivated by their total immersion in their sports. It LOOKS like fun. You can see it on their faces and in their bodies’ expression.

So I offer you this, when it stops being fun, when you don’t look forward to your wellness pursuit in whatever form, it is time to stop and change course, shake it up, try something new. Get outside, try a new sport, take a new class, dance, move, play, create!

Chris Cover, 3-28-2015, having fun on the bike, Ironman 70.3, Oceanside, CA.

Chris Cover, 3-28-2015, having fun on the bike, Ironman 70.3, Oceanside, CA.

Even if you can’t do it YET, the key is a growth mindset. You can always learn, evolve and grow. It is in these moments that one can experience what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called FLOW. This is the moment of the autotelic experience, or of being immersed in the moment, a zen-like experience.

Eckhart Tolle would call it the “Power of Now” (1997). It is those experiences one has in the pursuit of a passion, of a time warp, where one loses the sense of time.

So if you’re working out and you find yourself looking at the clock, it is time to go back to the first F rule, time for some FUN. But, if you’re experiencing flow on a regular basis, move to the next F rule.

FIT. Your stuff has got to fit you. This comes down to EVERY contact point that your body makes with the ground or gravity or friction. I cannot tell you how many people who, when asked where they got their shoes, equipment, etc., and how they chose it, answered: “I got it online, it was a good color, or I thought it was the right one.” Inappropriate equipment leads to a path of injury through one’s endeavor. When a foot strike is wrong, a bike too big, or even a yoga mat too slippery, injuries and setbacks are waiting to happen.

This is where it makes sense to go to a local vendor, do research and spend time checking out what is right for you and your unique body.

For example, most running shoe fittings can take an hour or two to ensure you’ve got the right shoe (and the left one too). The clinician should have you run in multiple shoes on a treadmill and even do a video analysis to ensure proper fit that will enhance proper form.

Any equipment you buy should come with a warranty. If it doesn’t work for you, within reason, your provider should help you find what will and make the appropriate exchange.

Assuming things FIT, you’re now ready to work on FORM. Form is simply how you move in your endeavors. Do you move well, or are there imbalances? If you are a creature of the 21st century, you likely sit a lot, or have a job or life-demands that strengthen one part of the body over another. (I think about all those times I carried my kids around on one hip while doing something else with the other hand. Ouch.) It all adds up and translates to poor form caused by body asymmetries that derail your training. In addition, when you exercise, if you go at it too hard, you tend to favor strengths rather than addressing weaknesses, which in turn exacerbates weaknesses.

Think of the cognitive demands of Tai Chi, dance or any activity that requires precise form (which in actuality is everything, if done well).

Often the movement patterns developed as a basis, for the aforementioned activities, are done with slow movements first, adding on more complex patterns once those are mastered and then adding speed. So why start to sprint when you could walk, jog and then run?

It is during the slow pace that there is cognitive space to think about form. When I workout hard, form is the first thing to go; I’m just trying to survive. The body will follow the mind, not the other way around. A thought elicits a body response. We can be the masters of our thoughts and thus our movement and reactions.

F rules build a foundation, and now that you’ve grasped these, you’re ready for FUEL, repeatedly mistaken as the first rule. When people come to me for a metabolic test, they often think they have a slow metabolism. I’ve been assessing people’s metabolism for over a decade. In all that time I’ve tested less than three people (out of thousands) with slow metabolism, and those people were on very restrictive diets, unfortunately starving themselves fat.

For most people the key to weight management is to eat enough, eat early and often. Eat like a king or queen in the morning (it is called break-fast for a reason), a prince or princess in the afternoon (why the midday meal is biggest in many cultures), and a pauper in the evening (circadian rhythm slows and the body favors storing evening calories as fat).

The other concept to FUEL is to eat during exercise. Depending on your activity and intensity, if you know you’re going to exercise for more than 60-75 minutes, you need to eat 200-300 calories per hour. Too often I work with people who forget to eat during an event or workout and then pay the price towards the end.

Finally, after quantity and timing, remember to refuel post exercise. We are primal people, just a little better dressed than our paleolithic ancestors. But, at that stage of ancestral development we were either running to get food or running from being food according to the Paleo Diet for Athletes (even though I would argue no cookbooks survived from that time). Research supports eating within one half hour post exercise. It doesn’t have to be a lot; it could be a balanced meal as simple as fruit and nuts.

Fuel and timing help build the new, better, stronger you. Isn’t that one of the reasons why you do what you do?

Your F rules are in line. You’ve mastered and embraced FUN. You’ve discovered FOCUS that led to FLOW. Your gear finally FITS because of the guiding hands and eyes of a specialist. Your FORM is impeccably evolving and you are continually vigilant. You honor your FUEL needs. You have created a deeper FITNESS FOUNDATION.

The other choice, when any F gets out of balance is to just say Fooey (you could put in your favorite F word), but there’s good news. You then go back to FUN and start again, maybe in a new direction. When I was out of balance, I found yoga and meditation in my arsenal and I’m sure I will discover other fun things in my future.

Wishing you miles of smiles down your personal road to wellness, balance and peace…and as always, lots of fun!

Joey Adams, M.S. Exercise Science, Intelligent Fitness, Metabolic Specialist, VO2 assessments and performance analysis, www.intelligentfitnessvermont.com, “Getting workouts on target and making your time count.”

JOEY ADAMS

JOEY ADAMS

MEET JOEY ADAMS: Joey Adams, who has an M.S. in Exercise Science from Colorado State, is a Metabolic Specialist.  “I specialize in assessing human performance and metabolism to help people make the most of their time by understanding their unique physiology,” Adams said. “My end game is to help people understand how their body works with the time and skills available to them.” Adams, who lives in Shelburne, travels throughout New England to test.

Meeting with Adams, one recognizes that there is more to his work than a job description. Adams finds a way to connect the nuts and bolts of training and teaching with the essence of humanity. For example, Adams teaches at Shelburne Community School and Champlain College where he  “aspires to inspire kids to question everything around them, including authority, and prove everything they know so they can become the masters of their future.”

In his personal life, Adams is a devoted family man and generously dedicated to his students. “I’m an evolving compartmentalizer,” Adams said, “and stay true to my personal mission statement: Be true to myself, my family, and my students. Be present in each moment. Accept that I am human and try my best every day. In doing so I have the ability to create positive change.”

New research, new studies explained and books written, tout the importance of the mind-body connection to personal health and individual performance. Adams has ridden the crest of this wave. “For the past 5 years, the mind-body connection has been the driver for me,” Adams said. “This goes back to my earlier years working with corporate wellness. So many people think of their body as a vehicle to move their head from meeting to meeting rather than the interconnectedness between them.”

Adams prioritizes sleep hygiene as part of daily health and well-being. He practices yoga and meditation each several times a week, trains balance and functional movement, follows a vegan diet and lifestyle and the guidance of a naturopath. As a vegan he believes “that small changes than an individual makes can have a bit of global impact.”

These practices dovetail perfectly with the physical part of the equation and Adam’s expertise as a multi-sport athlete including cycling, cross-country skiing, skating… “ There’s not a sport I don’t love,” he said. “Currently it’s following my kids’ interests.”

Adams practices what he teaches and learns. By living an active lifestyle he relates to his students who yearn for more and to his clients who bring their hearts as well as bodies to the quest for higher performance. He models what he coaches and digs deep into mental and physical components of competition as well as daily life.                                [by – Linda Freeman]

HOW TO HANDLE A TIME OF CELEBRATION…

The month of December means many things to many people, but often a season of excesses – excesses of stress, holiday parties, food, drink, spending, and perhaps more significantly, scurrying to end one year well, personally and professionally, while preparing for the start of the next.

It is often a challenge to prioritize, to keep values in order and to maintain one’s sense of humor by not taking oneself too seriously.

A reminder of Christmas playfulness.  Photo taken at Shelburne Museum 2014.

A reminder of Christmas playfulness. Photo taken at Shelburne Museum 2014.

In that spirit, I share with you what has become an annual tradition – the writing of a holiday poem gifted to me from the wonderful athletes I train at BCBS of Vermont.  These folks are burdened with bucket-loads of work and stress yet diligently and with good humor take time several days per week to exercise during their lunch break.  (Kudos to BCBS for providing this opportunity for them!) I love this poem because it is funny, irreverent and yet captures the energy and enthusiasm of each. These people “get it”.  They “get” that cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and just plain choosing to be active is what daily life should be. They, in turn, are reaping the personal benefits while their employer reaps the benefits of employee loyalty and performance.

Take a few minutes to sit back and enjoy this year’s offering.  Picture a group of men and women dressed in athletic attire sweating it out in a dedicated studio space in which a collection of free weights, stability balls, jump ropes, medicine balls, ladders, foam rollers and the like reside. Periodically I schlep in my large bags of “toys” – Bosu trainers, wobble board, rocker board, dyna bands, dyna discs, cones, tubing, agility dots, slides, and a collection of balls.  Woohoo! Sometimes we meet outdoors and sometimes we take to the halls for lunges, skips and jogs. But, throughout all there floats the sound of “c’mon, you can do it,” and “good job” as camaraderie is articulated.  And of course there’s my “Are we having fun yet?!”

A Visit from Elf Freeman

 Twas the week before Christmas and all through the gym Everyone was moaning and groaning, “Oh, let the fun begin”…

The mats and the weights were distributed with care; And we hoped that we weren’t in for a tortured affair.

 The victims were scattered all over the room; Thoughts of caterpillars and side planks still loomed

While visions of lunges and wall sits danced in their heads, Taylor said loudly, “I’d rather be sleeping in my bed”

 When inside the gym there arose such a clatter, We sprang from the mats to see                    what was the matter.

Away to the doorway we flew like a flash, Like when Linda gave orders to make a mad dash

 The weight of the weights in our newly gripped hands, Gave a luster of sweat to the tightly stretched bands

When what to our wondering eyes should appear, Is a red haired lady with all of her gear

 She’s a little slave driver so lively and quick, I knew in a moment I was going to be sick

More rapid than eagles the stretches she gave; And she whistled and shouted                           and called us by name

 Julie and Renee and Janet and Will, Get on one leg and only stand still!

Susan and Holly and Lisa and Tom, Touch your left knee to your right palm!

 Run then walk, now walk then run, She asked with a smile, “Are we having fun?”

To the top of the Bosu to the end of the hall, Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!

 Stop and go the other way she proclaimed,We could all feel our quads going up in flames!

Back to the mats with post and with haste For some more exercise at a fast pace!

 More pushups, more sit-ups and more rotation too, It was not time to bid Linda adieu!

Hoping and praying that the torture would soon end, Tom knew he couldn’t do one more bend!

One by one we glance at the clock, And each of us can only gawk!

For it is 1:30 and it’s not through; There was at least 10 more minutes and we all knew.

 Our droll little bodies drawn up like a bow, And the flab of our chins were as white as the snow

The stump of our legs held our bodies beneath, And the steam it encircled our heads like a wreath

 She was bubbly and happy a right jolly ole elf, And she laughed when she saw us                        in spite of herself!

But I heard her exclaim, ere she drove out of sight—

                                      “What a great workout today, you’ll feel it tonight!!!!”

Seasons Greetings and Peace to All.

Seasons Greetings and Peace to All.

 

 

 

Bespoke (Custom) Cycles

Every rider deserves a bike that fits, a bike that is made for him or her, a custom cycle.

I hurried out the door of the Seven Cycles factory in Watertown, MA, intent on beating Friday afternoon rush hour traffic. With visions of bicycles dancing in my head, I heard a voice with jovial Irish accent calling out to me. (It was near Boston, after all.) “Getting ready for the Tour de France,” he shouted, then laughed hilariously. Really.

Putting aside the obvious, (I have neither youth nor gender to compete in the Tour), what did he mean? I’m not good enough for a custom bike? And THAT is the misconception.

Just what is a custom bike? When you couple the words bespoke (made to order) and bike you have a custom bike. A stock bike (think Specialized, Trek, Canondale, LLBean; that long row of bikes hanging in your local sporting goods store) comes with frame already sized and materials already chosen for you. Your options include shop modifications to what is available and a range of prices based on materials and components.

A bespoke bike is built from top to bottom for a specific rider. Measurements and angles fit the individual, materials are selected from steel to carbon-fiber composite frames, titanium and even bamboo. Components, or the miscellaneous parts of the bike that transform it from a diamond-shape to a bike on wheels with gears and brakes, are pieced together in a way that completes the puzzle of the unique. Then there’s appearance where one can go wild with individualization.

Before I launch into the virtues of a custom bike, note my disclaimer. I am relatively new to cycling (5 years is new in a sport that lasts a lifetime) but passionate. I love the training as well as the freedom, the cycling buddies I have acquired as well as concerns. I am neither an accomplished athlete nor a couch potato and my 20s and 30s are far behind me. I have had surgery that makes cycling a better choice than running. My strength is endurance not power, my time is restricted by work and I am anxious about dangers. Yet I have goals and dreams that I hope to achieve.

Because of my love for cycling, I sincerely believe that ANY bike that provides enjoyment, that puts you on the road or the trail, is a good bike. Though a case can be made for the similar costs of a custom built bike and a high end stock bike, if one’s budget (or values) simply forbid a custom, well, so be it. Just get out there on whatever you’ve got and be happy.

After riding two stock bikes that simply weren’t right for me, I took the next step, a bike built to meet my specific needs.

I ride a Seven. (Note, Seven is just one of many reputable, excellent makers of custom bikes. I can speak from personal experience and so use Seven as subject.)   new fillyAn impeccable bike fit by Ian Buchanan at FitWerx in Waitsfield along with his perfect guidance in selecting the right components, resulted in a bike that is unpretentious but, from the first pedal stroke, confirmed the wisdom that a bespoke bike is the way to go for some, for those of us who can define what we need in a bike, can assess what is wrong with the stock bike that we are riding, and how much we are willing to invest in time, effort and budget. Until you know what you are looking for and are willing to prioritize, you’re not ready.

Seat Post

Seat Post

If I had to summarize in one word what my new Seven has given me, it is confidence. This confidence is the result of an ongoing process, but the bike sure helps.

Seven Cycles is know for the select, high-end frames built in their small New England factory. Are these bikes built only for the competitive cyclist or the super rich? More and more the answer is a resounding “NO.”

“Custom is not about the pro,” Rob Vandermark said. Vandermark, founder and president of Seven Cycles, is also inextricably involved with product development, always searching for the next bike, the next use.

“A custom bike is much more than just fit,” Vandermark said. “It is a path to being a stronger climber, riding that first century or 3-day tour, avoiding injury. It is a path to making the best possible [cycling] experience.”

Custom drives performance, comfort and safety. Performance defines custom.

Anyone who spends hours in the saddle, who can’t wait to get outdoors to ride, whose passion fuels the necessary effort and whose idea of heaven is balanced on two wheels, deserves a custom bike, one that is built specifically for him or her.

Building a bike customized to an individual is a team effort. “Fit is a small slice,” Vandermark said, “10% of the value. For the majority, rarely is fit the primary driver. It’s more about use.” Also important to customers is paint and appearance that makes the bike unique.

While I understand what Vandermark is saying, and certainly he knows his customers, I find that here on Vermont roads and in our cycling community, fit is very important. Perhaps, however, we are saying the same thing.

Fit is more than measurements. Fit is a rider profile of body type, age, fitness, athleticism, flexibility, strength, goals, type of riding, where, how often and even attitude. (Is the rider competitive or recreational, audacious or timid, brazen or anxious?) Perhaps this is, after all, what Vandermark calls “use.”

A committed rider “deserves” a bike designed and built to address his needs, wants, apprehensions and strengths. Such a bike helps that rider to achieve success, maximize time and enjoyment, and ride in such a way that his body functions harmoniously throughout hundreds of thousands of repetitive pedal strokes.

To write in detail about building a bike, I would need to write a book. It’s been done. I recommend Robert Penn’s “It’s All About the Bike.” Penn writes in eloquent detail about the frame, the soul of the bike, as well as the components, materials and design of his dream bike. He dismisses bragging rights about weight, but speaks convincingly of the geometry of the frame that “sets the parameters…Get the geometry of the frame wrong and you could end up with a bike that is at best uncomfortable, and at worst, dangerous to ride. Get it right, and the bike will have the handling characteristics you desire.”

At Seven Cycles, for example, Five Elements of Customization are clearly spelled out. Fit, includes comfort and injury management; handling and performance means that the bike is tuned for the way you are going to ride; tubing and materials are tailored to meet the riders’ needs; there is an infinite array of features and options from which to choose; and finally, the future. How well have you planned for years down the road?

Where a bike is built from the beginning, there is no stock, no inventory. At Seven Cycles, employees (clearly cyclists; note the “commuter parking lot,” an eclectic collection of bikes parked in the backroom) work with one bike at a time from start to finish, conception to shipping room.

Because I was already in love with my bike, my visit to the Seven factory (tours are available to anyone who wants to schedule) was not needed to convince, but to inform and confirm. It did. There’s nothing slick about this place. Thankfully. It is a place in which men and women are artists and take seriously their role in making dreams possible. A bike begins with a box of unrecognizable things and a manila folder with specs and notes pertaining to that one and only bike-to-be. From step one the contents of the box/folder become an identity. The resulting frame is meticulously crafted, painstakingly checking alignment and welding perfection until, in the final analysis, the frame is inspected and tested by “The Enforcer.” If any part is found wanting, there is no patch. The build begins again.

Frame

Frame

Vandermark, engaging, enthusiastic and immediately comfortable, brings to Seven Cycles a mix of savvy yet ardent practices and technical skills. His own background as a sculptor and mountain bike racer drive the confluence of art and science in both his bike and business design.

It is foolish to think that a bespoke roadbike frame is the total story. In fact, Vandermark has cycled his way along routes from city traffic to the open roads, from deep woods and challenging trails to racing and casual sojourns. Based on personal experience, and always open to new horizons, Vandermark has designed bikes to accommodate a variety of purposes and riding styles. From road and mountain bikes, to cyclocross, gravel, and future travel bikes, Vandermark keeps his proverbial finger on the pulse of cycling trends. And each is built for the individual.

A candidate for a custom bike must be willing to make informed choices. A bespoke bike has a price tag. For some it might be equivalent of a monthly mortgage payment, or possibly even the cost of the entire house that one’s grandparent purchased way back when.

Extravagantly selected options could lead to an unaffordable purchase. On the other hand, the custom process allows a rider to weed out the extras that are inappropriate or irrelevant. For example, on my own bike I reduced the cost by eliminating a paint job, and choosing components that are sufficient to meet my needs and no more.

Furthermore, an avid cyclist often lusts for new and different bikes. Once one is built for him or her, there is no need to keep shopping. Perhaps, in the long run, a bespoke bike is the economical approach after all.

But, the bottom line is choice. If riding is what you choose to do and what inspires and gladdens your heart, giving yourself the best possible experience with a custom bike might just be the sugarplum that dances in your head during this and every cycling season to come.

Understanding Running Shoes

Let an expert help you find the right shoes to support your walking and running.  You will put hours and miles into your training, so be sure to respect the most important tools you require – your walking/running-specific footwear.

The following appeared in the Rutland Herald/Times Argus Outdoors Section on Sunday, March 30, 2014.  To read the full story, visit www.timesargus.com and look for “getting down to the sole of the matter.”

“If the shoe fits wear it?” Wrong. According to Tim Carter, owner of Fleet Feet Sports in Essex ( www.fleetfeetburlington.com), to select running shoes means to consider the 3Fs: Function, Fit, and Feel. “Price,” Carter said “is irrelevant. The shoes have to fit. That’s relatively easy. But, they must work. That’s the key.”

Just because a shoe fits, it doesn’t mean it’s the right shoe for you. The fact that they are comfortable is initially even less important. It is function that takes precedence and “if you don’t get that one right, the others don’t matter,” Carter said.

Before selecting a pair of running shoes, your training partners for about 500 miles, it is imperative to have your feet assessed. Pronation is not a bad thing; over pronation is. The normal footstrike lands on the outside corner of the heel and rolls through the foot to push off the big toe as a lever. “Normal, neutral pronation is just the flexing of the foot when you strike,” Carter said. It is the body’s shock absorber.” It is pronating too quickly or going beyond the normal range that is disadvantageous and can cause trouble. Considering the repetitive motion of step after step, it is easy to see that even a slight problem can crescendo into big trouble.

“About 2% of people supinate,” Carter said. “They pronate too slowly and remain on the outside of the foot rolling off the pinkie.” Size and shape must be measured, but they must be measured to reflect the movement patterns of the foot.

Shoes are categorized as minimal, stability, motion controlled and trail runners. About 20% of the population can safely wear a traditional neutral shoe with no correction to the foot, a shoe that lets the foot work naturally. Minimalist shoes are basically a foot covering and might do for some. If a runner has perfect feet and takes the time (a long time) to gradually accustom his body to running in these “barefoot” shoes, they may be just fine. “ There is not a problem with the shoes,” Carter said, “just the people who wear them.”

There is a vast array of stability shoes that are designed and built to allow the runner to move through the foot strike in an anatomically and functionally appropriate manner. A motion controlled shoe, on the other hand, tells your foot what to do and guides you through the movement. Often heavy, these shoes accommodate those with problem feet or larger runners. 

 

Shoes must meet function.

Shoes must meet function.

“Trail shoes are a separate entity,” Carter said, a breed of their own, with soles designed to handle the challenging terrain of trails as well as the slippery surfaces of a Vermont winter, “when it is yucky out.”

“Brand doesn’t matter,” Carter said. All brands make all functions. First you must identify your function needs. Be open to fit that may change by several sizes throughout the multiple shoes and versions of shoes available. Be prepared to try a size that you might not have thought possible. Your foot measures differently when it is weight bearing and when it is not. You should be measured at different points of your gait cycle. “There’s no difference between running and walking,” Carter said. In fact, he recommends running shoes for walking.

“Price is not an issue of function,” Carter said. “It is, however, of quality. Once you get to $110, there’s no difference.” When function is determined and you know your size, then it is time to consider how a shoe feels. Try on several and compare. Walk in them. Run in them. Then choose.

Oh my, today’s running shoes are colorful. You may or may not like this. Enter the 4th F: fashion. At this point it’s your choice, your taste.

Buying running shoes is perhaps the most important step to connecting all your other steps into a safe and efficient running gait and successful experience. There are no shortcuts. It is the one significant expense you will have. Be informed and invest wisely. Your feet are what will be asked to sustain many miles of effort, dedication, sweat, fatigue and joys. Treat them well.

“Active Vermont”  Linda Freeman