Programs (2/11/08)

Who do you listen to and what do you base your findings and assumptions on?  These are questions filled with variables and variables that shift as we acquire knowledge and skill.    The new rider is a clean slate -  amped on finding a new discipline and thirsty for ways to harness the excitement into results.


Information comes in many forms.  Some plunge headfirst into an endeavor and start wailing, while others take the pragmatic approach looking for cues to clear the runway.  How do we sample the methods and find what’s best for us.
We need to establish what we respond to and mesh that with an existing system or adapt it to one of our own design.
There are templates and there are fundamentals but there is not one ‘way’.

For me, the approach is marked by two separate learning experiences, both yielding unfavorable outcomes.

The first was guitar lessons.   It wasn’t a total setback but it surely wasn’t a gain and exemplifies  how over instruction can temper desire and motivation.  At seventeen I took some  lessons from a professional musician.  He started me with foundation stuff – scales, theory and exercises before I could make any sound, but the introductory portion went on so long without ANY kind of gratification that I grew bored. My interest still remained  and four years later I bought some song books with finger chord diagrams  coaxing  out  sounds that resonated.


Once I built the strength and coordination to maintain a rhythm I returned to the valuable theory that now had a purpose and value.  So, a false start.  Not a total loss but an example of how a more balanced/even presentation may have preempted the delay and got me participating sooner.

The second example required a more involved time investment  to truly test the techniques and changes that were applied.   I grew up near a golf course where you could make cash money toting bags and by extension got into the game.  Taking  to it naturally I was competing with a 5  handicap at age 16.  All self taught no lessons or instruction.  Mimicking pros and applying it to practice moved things forward quickly.  The club professional saw what I was doing and offered me his expertise free of charge.   He fully revamped my swing selling it as necessary to get to the next level.  The Johnny Miller square-to-square system was popular in 1977 and the pro taught this as gospel.


He assured me initial difficulties with the dramatic  alterations would eventually yield a much purer and professional striking of the ball.  I committed to  backwards momentum and higher scores with the promise of future glory.
Occasionally I hit a shot with bigger trajectory and crisper spin–enough times to keep me interested but not enough to reproduce and sustain under pressure.

It was a long process.  A full year before my scores returned to near where they had already been, but that was infrequent at best.   Ultimately I had to confront that I had gone a long way down the wrong road and attempt to make my way back.  I had veered so far from my natural move that I could not consistently reproduce what I had been trying to do.  There wasn’t an easy way to go back to the original style.  Too much had been altered from what had been an unconscious smooth rhythm.  I tried for a long time and it was no longer there.

The cycling stroke, while having many components,  may not  be as vulnerable as the golf swing  for instance,  yet it still has its own uniqueness and groove .   You hear of athletes who ‘have it’ then lose it.  Place kickers, pitchers, hitting a baseball or exacting a serve in tennis.  All of these can mysteriously come and go, especially when too many alterations are made and natural motion/ confidence erode.


I learned a hard lesson about deviating too much from what is produced organically.  Perhaps a more sensitive teacher could have made small fundamental shifts and maintained the aspects which flowed from the start.  Years later, after abandoning the game, I saw a  home movie of me at 12 years old, choked down on a too big club and ripping a tee shot.  It already looked pro.  The reality was that very little change if any was required.

If you watch top performers in any sport there are similarities in rhythm and point of impact but how they get there are quite varied.  There needs to be a balance in emulation from what you see and what you own body can do.   It can’t be forced and going against body type is swimming up stream.

I guess I’m trying to say be selective and sensible in who you take your advice from.
It is a rare teacher who can instantly know the full scope of your ability, background and circumstance.  It is up to you to articulate those factors into the program and be aware of what you have and what you are working with.


There are a host of ‘in the park’ riders all kitted up with moves, looks and  gear, but you put them in a race and they go backwards. To the untrained eye they may look “pro” and that is good enough for them.
Then there is the hammer.  Maybe not text book according to the manual but able to use the body over and over.  Efficient in the right places and moments. They may have a quirk or a hitch but they can reproduce that aspect over and over and, in fact, that is what gives them their rhythm and groove and by extension their power.

It may be something that is not ‘supposed’ to be there, but take it away and the mojo is gone.
As much as you need to learn the parameters of what you are doing you need to know yourself first so these matters can intersect. Along with that, being able to step back and see the bigger picture helps you put the trends of the moment against the greater sweep and evolution of what is going on, and thus pick and choose the aspects best fitting.

Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t make it right.


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