Monday, December 29, 2008

Coaching myself to Coach

A few weeks ago I was approached with the idea that I would make a good women's cycling coach for those new to the sport. I was a little floored because I never considered such a thing - in my mind, I'm a very amateur cyclist and I still have a lot of work to do on myself. Somewhere in my mind, this means that I couldn't possibly coach others. Aren't coaches supposed to be accomplished at their sport? I've never completed a time trial or raced with the "good" cyclists. I don't ride a racing bike and there are plenty of women who have ridden much longer than I have...

I also think about my interactions with others. This week, I was told by a friend that I don't communicate well and that I needlessly micromanage things. I took a tough love approach with a friend who was whining about "being a drag" when she comes along for a ride - none of those things seem very "coachy" to me. I lack patience and I'm demanding. I believe anyone can be a cyclist, but you have to be willing to adopt a positive mental outlook and push yourself - just like any athlete in any other sport.

Despite all of this, I admit, I keep thinking about it. So, in typical "Cristy fashion", I must also consider what would make me a good coach - and not focus solely on my personal areas of weakness:
1) I've been there and done that. I get the whining - I don't like being a drag either. But whining doesn't improve outcomes. Refocusing someones whining can be great fuel for performance when it's used correctly. Sometimes, we just need someone who can be positive for us when we aren't being positive for ourselves. Being positive doesn't mean you have to be agreeable...
2) I think my friend is full of crap and I communicate just fine - matter of fact, If anything, I over communicate. There is nothing wrong with me - this one is just a miscommunication, not poor communication. (Thanks for that one Big Ring Betty...I can always count on you to have my back!)
3) I may not be the best, but I'm figuring out what propels you forward when you want to be a better cyclist. I've started to take this seriously and I believe it's starting to show. I also know women and I realize that many of them have a fear of failure, a lack of self-confidence that they can perform as well as man, and in many cases, a general tendency towards poor self/body image. All of these things can be improved through cycling - especially if you have the right person by your side to encourage you to push on and remind you of your goals.

For many women cycling is a confidence builder, a great way to improve body image and general health. When cycling at a somewhat strenuous pace, the heart rate maintained falls in the fat-burning threshold which quickly attacks the stubborn fatty areas that women hate the most: abs, thighs and buns. Another point of interest for us ladies is that cycling also serves as a great way to relieve stress. In the November issue of Bicycling magazine, I read that cycling can boost the amount of neurotransmitters which allow your neurons to more effectively communicate with one another. Dopamine, in particular, is released to spur behavior that is associated with "feel good" sort of activities, making them more appealing. Those who know me know that behavior is my forte - and I can tell you the release of dopamine feels good which in turn reinforces whatever activity we were doing when it was released. It's also the neurotransmitter associated with addiction, but I digress... It's kind of like finding a $500.00 bill when you clean under the sofa. It makes cleaning a little more rewarding and your body tends to want to repeat the task in search of reinforcement (in the case of cycling, a let down of all of those feel-good neurotransmitters that encourage a positive outlook and better self-confidence).

I also know a little about coaching - it's really the concept of leadership as it applies to athletics. If I learned anything from Noel Tichy in graduate school, it's that in order to move others, you must first examine yourself and develop your teachable point of view (aka - vision, with a little enticement). You have to believe in what you are doing and be willing to teach others by walking the walk. You do as you want others to do - and you teach them the merits along the way. You make it your goal to teach others to continue where you leave off and to grow to surpass you. For me, the latter part of this whole concept is what makes me push forward. The idea that my impact on others could improve women's cycling is reason enough for me to read the manual and take the exam - but more importantly - to teach these ladies what it feels like to accomplish their goals and watch as their bodies and mental outlook make a dramatic improvement. I believe I can do this and believing in myself is the first step in showing others that it's okay to believe too.

Friday, December 26, 2008

As you wish...

Several of you have sent me very kind emails to let me know that my blog hiatus has been long here's a quick update on what I've been up to:

I did finally break down and buy it and I kind of hope TSD reads this b/c I'm feeling really guilty that I didn't buy it from him. I had a set aside budget amount and I needed to get all that I could with what I had to spend. I found a deal that included the wireless computer which I hoped would work on the rear wheel so I'd be able to use all of the features as I ride (it was indicated that it WOULD work on the rear wheel...but it didn't...oh well...another reason to buy a Garmin some day...). I hope TSD won't be too mad at me...

Here it is - the Trainer:

The new computer:

For Christmas, Santa was good to us. He brought Julia so many Littlest Pet Shop Toys that I guarantee their stock will go up 30 points by the time the markets re-open and A Nintendo DS game (which was the Littlest Pet Shop Garden Jardin DS Game). Her grandparents also got her a refurbished iMac so she will quit monopolizing my computer...:) You gotta love my "techie" family. Santa brought Aaron a really big dump truck and "Gordon," "James," and "Annie" from Thomas and Friends. Gordon, by far, was his favorite. He was content to lay on the floor connecting and reconnecting Gordon and his tender. He even gave him a kiss from time to time. I got a bright green ipod shuffle to use when riding my bike (the 20G I have is toooooo heavy) and a Starbucks gift card that should keep me warm and toasty for a while! The blog fairy worked on my blog too - which was a nice gift. It's not drastically different but the frames are wider - which I like.

I've ridden at Stone Mountain several times since my last post - I'm continuously amazed at it's beauty. Take today for example, Big ring Betty and I took a spin around the mountain and when we started out, I remember thinking it was a "dreary day". After a warm-up around the small loop, we headed around the big loop. Just past the place that first had such an impact on me, I looked to my right to see that the mountain was partially clouded by fog. It was really pretty stunning! When I'm at the mountain, I find beauty in things that would have previously gone unnoticed.
I'm working hard on the bike this winter but I think I can work harder. I don't really know how to take it to the next level but I'm going to figure it out. I've had two really great friends helping me out - "Fixed One" and "Mr. No Response" have been very supportive of my quest to improve. Just their presence has had an impact - they provide me with motivation to keep working and that means more than I can express in words or writing.

So be calm blog readers...I didn't disappear...I promise to add "more frequent posts" to my list of New Year's Resolutions.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


This one:

Jet Fluid Pro

VS this one:

Fluid 2

or this one:


What would you choose? Do I really need the Jet Fluid Pro? Is the Fluid 2 REALLY that much quieter than the Magneto? I've found pretty good deals on all three.... Do I need the climbing block or is the wheel stabilizer enough? Should I get a mat - it'll be on carpet most likely...

I'd love your input...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Why do you read my blog?

and never post a comment??? I have ways of finding these things out...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Alone, but not lonely.

I remember a time when I couldn't be alone without feeling lonely. I was never happy unless I was in a crowd or on the phone or in a relationship. It's strange how you can live life that way without really realizing that you don't know yourself or what it means to be content. You never really have a chance to think through how you really feel and evaluate what you hope to accomplish. Really and truly, nothing you do - everyday life or leisure - should ever be dependent on the presence of another person. We should make our choices and live our lives with passion and excitement. We should reach for the things we want, avoid the things that make us unhappy and banish the idea that we aren't "able" so long as we are alone.

I rode at the speedway tonight - alone. I passed two walkers and one bicyclist who appeared out of nowhere (maybe he got off the express bus?) but only for a lap or two before disappearing again. I wasn't lonely - not even for a moment. When I first began to ride, if there wasn't someone willing to go, I stayed home. I thought I couldn't ride or I wouldn't be motivated without having a friend along. As I pedaled along in the bus lane, I practiced keeping my cadence steady and riding with no hands. I increased my cadence with control and I explored the difference between gears found on the small and large chain ring. I stood for two minutes, then I sat for one; I repeated the drill over and over again - almost automatically. At some point the notion hit me to sprint one part of the track and then spin the other. At the end, I had drilled myself for over 22 miles. Every mile was dark, quiet (except for my ipod) and desolate. For the first time in a long time, I wasn't lonely. As I circled the track I considered the similarities between reading and riding and smiled at the silly comparisons I was able to make between "word-attack" strategies and "hill-attack" strategies. I realized that you can differentiate your rides, just like I teach others to differentiate their instruction. Whether you ride alone or if you ride with others who have a different level or skill set, you can achieve your goals independently using the same course or even the same bike. Cylcing is an amazingly social activity although you are almost always focusing on your own personal areas of needed improvement. I sang a little (poor walkers...I hope they had ear plugs) and I dreamed a little. At the end of the night, despite my reluctance to ride, I felt an calming sense of contentment. In a world where things can so easily spin out of control - I was in control and thinking clearly.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I still can't feel my toes!

As part of my winter training plan, I joined the 7:00 a.m. "shop ride" this morning to tackle 38 miles in 27 degree weather.

The shop ride is led by Mike Stigers and is "billed" as a training ride for those who want pointers and tips about riding. My focus: hills. I need better attack strategies - I have strong legs but I don't always approach hills in the right manner. Many times, by the time I'm halfway up, I tend to give up or at least back off out of fear that I won't make it to the top with any energy left to spare. It's really not the hill I'm afraid of, it's what comes afterwards. The A riders climb the hills and continue at a respectable pace. I need to keep up.

On the ride, I was accompanied by the creme de la creme: Stigers, Max, Roby and Scott. Talk about feeling like a 5th wheel! As I struggled up the hills, they laughed (not at me), talked about pro racing, ribbed each other about their respective alma maters, etc. What was hard work for me was an easy ride for them.

I don't intend to give the impression that the ride was less than stellar - I loved it, I never felt left behind and for the most part - the guys were very supportive. Especially Stigers and Scott, but then they always are when I'm lucky enough to tag along.

I know that participating in these rides will take me to a new level and I know that I can't get to where I'm going without pushing myself to do more than I think I'm capable. I began cycling to gain fitness; my course has changed because I'm addicted. My confidence lacks and I know I need to focus on that point if I expect to move forward.

The tundra time trial was mentioned to me today and as anyone who knows me would expect, I was adamantly opposed. I know, as Scott put it, that it's a good beginner's time trial, but the thought scares the hell out of me. I'm going there - I'm just not sure I'm ready yet.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Dark Side of Happiness

I went on the best ride EVER on Wednesday night!

Stone Mountain has earned it's place in my heart forever...

I've never ridden in the dark before but it's a whole new way to experience a ride. The entire park had a quiet peace about it that was calming and exhilarating at the same time. The trees seemed to whisper and the water beside the mountain was still and made little sloshing sounds that I could barely make out over the sound of the slight breeze rushing past my ears. The Christmas lights were around the park in various locations and they illuminated the sidewalk and road in a way that enabled me to see the on-coming walkers and cyclists who passed by. The others that passed would say "hello!" and there were no cars nearby to drown out the sound of their voices. The park police waved kindly and waited for me to pass when they needed to turn and travel in my direction. I couldn't make out the beautiful leaves like last time, but I could hear them crunch under the weight of my bike and I could imagine that the pretty colors I had seen on my previous visit had faded to a coppery brown as they fell to lay along the road. The nearly 20 miles of hill climbing went very fast and although my body was very tired by the time I turned back into the parking lot, I was sad that the ride had come to a close. As I loaded my bike onto my bike rack I knew I'd be back for more...

Sometimes, the value we place on a ride is measured by our speed, distance or the riders who are along for the trip. For me, the value of this ride was in the beauty of the dark, the sounds I experienced and the feeling of calm and satisfaction I felt after the ride. There is something about a first encounter that will always hold a special spot within your memories...but I hope the passion I experienced will continue be with me and that I'll never forget the serenity of the night.

Cycling is truly my therapy.