By Greg Conderacci
Where do you find the kind of form that will funnel your energy more efficiently and effectively? Here’s one story.
I remember, as if yesterday, the first time I sat on a real racing bike. One of the guys in my dorm had a white Peugeot 10-speed and offered me the opportunity to ride it around the quad. It was like crack. I was instantly hooked. That was 1969. I’ve been riding thousands of miles a year since then. Someday, maybe I’ll get my form right.
Every sport, including life, has its own form. Sometimes, the form can change radically, like when Olympic Gold Medalist Dick Fosbury invented his famous back-first-over-the-bar “flop” in 1965 and changed high jumping forever.
The purpose of form is to direct your energy — in all its flavors — as efficiently as possible. When you’re going to ride a bicycle 500 miles at a stretch, as I did in the Texas Time Trials years ago, even the tiniest changes can have a big impact.
Recovering from a Form Disaster
Like when my saddle broke. I was only about 80 miles into the race when my saddle collapsed, tipping me to one side. Talk about loss of balance. It’s difficult to describe to a non-rider the disaster a broken saddle implies. On long rides, microscopic differences in position on the bike can make enormous differences in performance and comfort. Some riders go all their lives without finding the perfect saddle position.
So, with a broken saddle, I was looking at a form game-ender. Both my saddle and my form were gone in a single crunch. Even if I could go on, I was sure to suffer extra knee, back, and neck pain. Fortunately, friends scrounged some old saddles, and after a couple changes, I found one that worked fairly well. Thanks to them, I recovered enough form — and balance — to ride 500 miles in just 40 hours.
Finding Good Form
How do you find “good form”? Obviously, it depends on what the object of the form is, but there some good places to look:
- A coach. Usually form begins with advice from an experienced mentor who can look at you dispassionately and give unvarnished advice.
- Energy buddies who care about you and are willing to support your quest for form. They could help you with everything from a better driver swing to a better resume cover letter. See this earlier article on Energy Buddies.
- Self-help books and videos can be a good second choice and they are often readily available.
- Videotaping yourself in action. Since every smart phone is a video recorder it has never been easier or less expensive to see yourself as others see you. On your next ride, ask your energy buddy to videotape you from different angles.
- Yoga and other activities that are heavily form-driven will often yield an “aura” that will spread to other activities.
- Practice. Practice. Practice. To quote the great Eddy Merckx: “Ride as much or as little, or as long or as short as you feel. But ride.”
The Fallacy of “Cheap Grace”
Notice that, in our modern world, we work hard to get around form, since it takes time, energy and practice to acquire, polish and keep it. There is a never-ending hunt for a short-cut, for “cheap grace.” Usually, technology is ready with an answer. Red Bull is a short-cut for “real” energy. Texting “TU” is a short-cut for a thank-you note. Missing your daughter’s first school play but wiring her roses instead is a short-cut for being a parent.
Every piece of technology gives us a choice. Socrates bemoaned how writing reduced the power of memory…because people didn’t have to remember as much if they wrote down information. Replace your sense of direction with a GPS and your sense of direction goes away. Take the elevator instead of the stairs and your legs become weaker. Replace form with a short-cut; form goes away.
Next: When You’re in Flow, Anything Goes
Greg Conderacci is a marketing consultant and a former Wall Street Journal reporter, non-profit entrepreneur, and investment bank chief marketing officer. In Getting UP!, he brings you the same skills he teaches at a top graduate school and Fortune 500 companies. Lots of people promise better performance … Greg proves it. Using his energy techniques, in 2015 he rode a bicycle across America in just 18 days — averaging 150 miles a day.