By Martin Sigrist
Previously I’ve talked about using “stacking” to transform a workout from being just about improving physiology to instead not only get you fitter but prepare for all aspects of whatever challenge is being trained for.
Stacking isn’t just for cycling. It’s a powerful concept that can be used in all aspects of life.
My wife told me of a great example and I thought I’d share it as a reminder that whenever you are riding a bike you can, if you want, get better at many things at the same time rather than just one. And it needn’t be just getting better at riding a bike — though it can help there too.
Here is an example of how stacking can work to achieve something that may otherwise be pretty difficult, getting young children to learn a poem off by heart and have fun in the process.
Many schools start each day taking attendance to check who is present.
Usually the class teacher reads out a list of children’s names in alphabetical order and each child responds by saying something like “present.”
Somebody had the brilliant idea of instead, asking each child to remember a line from a poem. The first child in the register remembers the first line, the second the second and so on.
Then instead of saying “present,” the child says their line of poetry.
So by the time all children have registered the complete poem has been read aloud. (with the teacher reading out any missing lines or those needed to finish.)
The children found this was fun and by a simple process of repetition not only learned their line but the whole poem.
Hey presto! A mundane boring necessity has become a fun educative experience. The children will probably be able to remember and recite that poem for the rest of their lives.
Of course it need not be a poem. The same principle would work for multiplication tables or learning the basics of a different language such as counting or a set of useful phrases like “Hello”, ”Thank you” etc.
Back to cycling.
It need not be children in a classroom. It could be a rider on a bike trying to get to the end of a hard race, trying to set a new PB (personal best) on a climb or hit an interval target that feels just out of reach.
All workouts done with the intention of getting better should aim to check out mind hacks to find which work best. Different things will work for different people and so the more you try out for yourself the more likely you are to find something that helps.
One well established form of hack is using a mantra — a phrase that you repeat to yourself to keep you going. A famous one you’re probably familiar with is Jens Voight’s “Shut up legs!”
Another hack is to force yourself to just do a set number of pedal strokes once you have reached the point at which you think you are going to crack. It need only be a small number but it could be critical. In a race it may mean that you winning when you may otherwise have lost, in training it is the seconds at the end of hard intervals that have the biggest payback in terms of gains.
Both are examples of dissociation, giving the mind something to think about so taking its attention away from the pain in your legs.
The brain though can get bored, so it helps to add variety.
So, as a suggestion, the mantra could be a line from a poem and every so often you move onto the next so that you, too, learn a poem like the children did. Or the count could be in a foreign language. Or anything else that takes your fancy, it doesn’t matter, whatever works for you works.
So you can get fitter, set a PB and get smarter, all at the same time.
More bangs for your buck, the essence of stacking.
(Email me on [email protected] if you want more info on this or any topic I have raised. I will get back to you, though it may take a few days.)
Now among the world’s fittest sexagenarians Martin Sigrist started riding on doctor’s orders in 2005 and had to push his bike up his first hill. Next year he soloed the Tour de France. He has since experienced every form of road cycling from criterium to ultra endurance. His ongoing mission is to use the latest in science and technology to fight a, so far successful, battle against Father Time.