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Reinvent Yourself

Posted by: on January, 17 2012

By Christie Aschwanden, Bicycling.com Don’t settle for being the cyclist you already are. Turn your limitations into strengths–and achieve things you never thought possible. Here’s how.

Catherine James fell in love with cycling while churning through the bike legs of triathlons. As a result, when the Greenville, South Carolina, resident started getting into road racing in 2004, she naturally preferred to pedal on open roads, and against the clock, rather than to race in tight, fast elbow-to-elbow packs. “I thought my strength was endurance riding,” she says. Problem was, most races on the local calendar were criteriums, the high-speed, short-course events that reward surges and sudden moves instead of the ability to pedal long distances. In fact, James found the herky-jerky pacing so alien that she was tempted to avoid the races altogether. “There was a big fear factor involved,” admits James, now 37. “I lacked confidence.” But James soon realized that if she wanted opportunities to race—and to be competitive—she had to learn to excel in crits. So three years ago, she started working with Dan Shelby, a certified coach and exercise physiologist at The Edge Endurance Training Center in Greenville.

Shelby was undoubtedly qualified to help a rider face down self-imposed limitations. When he was in college in the early 1980s, he says, he considered himself “hopelessly inept” at sprinting. At a spindly 5-foot-11 and 135 pounds, he was made for going uphill. Then he started riding with the best masters field sprinter in his area. “We’d do 30 to 50 sprints a week, every town-limit sign, every short climb. It was crazy, but I got faster and smarter,” Shelby says. He didn’t often win these contests, but he transformed himself into a competent sprinter by increasing his top-end fitness and learning to hold a faster wheel to the finish, skills that helped him earn some seconds and thirds in races.

James and Shelby discovered something that’s likely true for you, too: It’s possible to turn yourself into a different kind of cyclist—one who excels at the kinds of things you once thought were limitations. And it doesn’t matter whether you aspire to fill a display case with trophies or simply want to enjoy the mental satisfaction of having conquered a weakness: Once you learn how to assess your skills and abilities—and how your body responds to training—you’ll be well on your way down the road to reinvention.

Limits You Can Push
In one sense, human beings are like cars: Some are built to go faster than others. At the elite level, there are the Corvettes and the Porsches, specially designed to push high speeds. But most of us are more like a Honda Civic or a Ford Taurus—not the world’s fastest or most versatile, but capable enough to handle most rides.

While there are limits to the body you were born with, you have a much wider range of potential than you might think, says exercise physiologist Jonathan Dugas, coauthor of the Science of Sport blog and director of clinical development at the Vitality Group, a wellness company in Chicago. And you don’t have to be blessed with the physique of a Schleck brother or the lungs of Thor Hushovd to tap into it. Unless you’ve been training scientifically at a peak level for years, it’s unlikely you’ve hit your genetic potential, Dugas says.

Found on Bicyling.com