Paradigms and Monsters

My Mother spent the better part of my formidable years researching and discovering better ways to teach children.  She is or has been on staff at some of the finest universities in the country, improving the science of education by improving the methods by which teachers teach.  She developed methods of teaching children based on the way the brain learns and then taught aspiring teachers her techniques.  Novel idea, huh?  Teach to the brain in the way it wants to learn.  She chose to take a hard look at the traditional teaching paradigm and look for a better way.  In doing so, she contributed to vast and positive changes in the curriculum and approach to teaching used by thousands of teachers today.  And she taught me to always look for a better way…

My Mom, Dad and I lived in a farmhouse built around the turn of the century for most of these same years and we often challenged traditional paradigms.  We showed horses against some of the wealthiest families in the equestrian world (and won!), yet we were a typical middleclass family.  We made school dance dresses from original patterns that my Mom and I designed.  We cleaned the house on Saturday mornings dancing and singing to music.  We gardened, canned vegetables and produced our own beef and eggs and heated our home with a wood stove like pioneers, decades before the trendy organic wave was ever incepted.  Life was fun and exciting because we did everything with zest.  We embraced challenges, so much so that I often didn’t realized I was facing a challenge.    Growing up this way, under the paradigm of creative thinking, has had a huge impact on my life and the way I see the world as not just haft full…more like three-quarters full and I know I can get more.  Half empty rarely even enters my mind because I always believe; I innately believe there is a way.

All of those years of experience, utilizing the creative way of thinking, transferred directly to my athletic career as well.  I have always fearlessly, almost naively, sought challenges and pushed limits of paradigms every day.  I do realize that I can’t always change THE world but I can change MY world.  And that’s where Curtis Cramblett comes in.  We are all aware of my hip issue; it is the injury-still-to-be-named yet it does still exist.   Recall that I sought out Curtis because I believed that there might be a better way than traditional physical therapy.  Boy, was I right, now more than ever.  I started seeing Curtis about a year ago and we spent three intense 2-day sessions working on nothing but making my hip work better.

After our last session, Curtis and I rode about 40 miles easy around San Jose.  Although he was still my doctor, the dynamic changed between us when we got on the bike.  The paradigm shifted, we were no longer in his office, we were on my turf!  Paradigms, apprehensions, assumptions blew away with the wind; walls came down as he became simply my riding partner and friend.  While we rode, our connection became more genuine and true, his passion for making me strong, fast and happy on the bike again like nothing I’ve ever seen in the traditional medical field.   No doctor had ever ridden with me and no doctor had even seen me in my element, dealing with the challenges of my forty-one-year-old professional cyclist body!

Curtis taught me something that day that became paramount:  toes to belly button.  Sounds silly, right?  Visualizing lining up the toes on my left foot to my belly button at the top of my pedal stroke made everything click.  This simple phrase created a light bulb moment:  my brain grasped the physical movement, it all fell into place and, with some effort and this phrase, I felt straight on my bike!  Talk about a paradigm shift, this was revolutionary in my world!

But here’s why it’s such a big deal:  shortly after that visit with Curtis and my “light bulb” moment, I retired from professional racing.  That’s right:  I retired, hung it up, called it quits, ended my career, and slid into the ranks of weekend group rider at best.  My abrupt retirement came as a shock to some and went unnoticed by most.  Curtis wasn’t surprised, he sensed my apprehension for another professional season before I did.  Let’s just say that it felt, without a doubt, like the time to retire.  Curtis, though, continued to stay in contact with me to make sure I was doing well.  And each time he called or emailed, he triggered “toes to belly button” in my mind.  Huh…right?

So fast-forward a few months to ironically our nation’s Independence Day celebration of July 4, and low and behold, I decide to race again.  After over 3 months of “recovery” (i.e. not riding, staying up too late, having a lot of non-cycling fun!), I commit to race the World Masters Cycling Federation World Championships in St. Johann in Tirol, Austria.  A good friend asked me to race the bikes he manufacturers (Stradalli) in pursuit of a championship and I relished the opportunity, I craved the challenge.  Quickly, I hired a coach (Chad Andrews of TotalCyclist) and assemble my posse (Pam, Terry, Tom and Melinda) and we get busy getting me fit and fast again.  Yet every single day, Curtis was there with me, his voice in my head, as I remind myself “toes to belly button” throughout each workout.  I had just 10 weeks to prepare to win a WMCF World Championship and Curtis, yes Curtis, had changed my paradigm.  Every workout counts in such a short training program, and Curtis helped me get fast again by getting my toes and my belly button in line every day.  All Curtis’ work last winter is STILL paying dividends.  Once again, Curtis has proven that he is amazing.

Sometimes, I don’t realize I’m pushing the limits of the traditional paradigm.  Every once in a while, I will call my Mom just to catch up and hang up feeling like I was speaking Greek and my Mom was speaking English.  This disconnect is almost always derived from some random paradigm I was instinctually pushing.  I can only suspect that, since my Mom learned creative thinking techniques as an adult that the skill, although highly evolved and sophisticated, is not instinctual.  But for me, I learned to think creatively as a child so it’s all I know and I can’t turn it off.  These calls can be brought back on track by me slowing down and explaining my thoughts and ideas.  This is all so ironic to me because, well, my Mom taught me to think this way from the very beginning of my life:  my Mom created a monster!  Essentially, she has greatly impacted my cycling career as well.

So, in the end, when I challenge the rules and I push your buttons…errrr…I mean limits and paradigms…what I’m doing is simply seeking to find the best way.  And I want to know what you think, not because I think you’re wrong, but because I genuinely want to know your perspective.  I’m hoping to learn something from you, from your words or even your body language, that might lead me to a new paradigm.  On the bike, finding a better way meant seeking out someone like Curtis Cramblett who has an amazing intuition for the human body and soul alike, who takes years of riding, training and experience with cyclists and countless methods and practices and finds the best way to bring my body back to it’s most efficient and powerful self.  He does not think of my body in the traditional sense.  Curtis thinks about movement and space and efficiencies.  Finding a better way to help my body move on the bike is his way of life.  Curtis pushes the paradigms of science and he is a monster, like me.  I’m thankful for Curtis, not just because his work continues to live on in my life but because he understands my need for more and better.  For Curtis and I, the pursuit of new ideas and solutions will never end.  It’s the ride, the experiences and the relationships built along the way that fuel me and the desire to challenge paradigms just to know if a better way does exist that fulfills me.  I know no other way and nothing makes me feel more alive and more content.

So what happened in Austria?  I won.  I won a lot.  I won 3 out of four races including the World Masters Cycling Federation World Time Trial Championship.  It felt great, amazing, unbelievable.  And guess what?  My Mom was there, watching me live in my own unique paradigm.  Awesome.  So what’s next?  I am open to your suggestions.  I know I will ride my bike with joy and I know, whatever I do, I will find my best way to do it.

Mamma Said There Would Be Days Like These…Just Not Every Day!

Most days I am happy and I laugh a lot.  This has become my mantra of sorts, because it makes me smile, and because it’s true.  The truth is that keyword in my mantra is “Most.”   This one word, “Most,” nullifies all my superhuman inclinations:  bad days are inevitable.  Bad days are normal for everybody and now, I am normal!  Because before Curtis, every day used to be a bad day on the bike for me.  But now I am spoiled and usually feel good on my bike so today, a bad day, feels dramatic.

There would be no ups without downs, I know.  Just like everybody else, I don’t like the downs, however I have learned to appreciate them for what they are:  Contrast.  I can actually tell myself, convincingly, that having a bad day is a good thing.  Bad days now remind me how far I’ve come, because on the bike, that’s all I used to have.  They are clear-cut, indisputable evidence of the level of happiness my bike and I have achieved in a very short period of time.  Again, I’m far from pedaling in textbook form, but most days, I’m happy on my bike again.  Then comes a bad day.

I write for you, and for myself, when I feel inspired and so passionate about something that I just can’t contain it.  My emotions are powerful and sometimes they feel like they are pushing up off the bottom of the deep end of a swimming pool that is my heart.  My emotions plant squarely of the floor of my depths and then explode up to the surface with a power I can’t contain.  That’s what has happened today, on a bad day, and I want to share my bad day because I am inspired by how alive it has made me feel.

Today, my form is terrible.  I cannot control my hip at all.  My pedal stroke all over the place and I cannot force my brain to send the right signals to the right muscles at the right time.  The result is that I feel out of control and as twisted as ever, worse than any pretzel.  I feel frustrated inside, deep in my heart.  The powerful exhilaration that comes with good form is equally matched by today’s frustration and anxiety. Frustration and anxiety have a strong hold on me and I haven’t experienced them in a while.  They are all-too familiar because I used to feel like this every time I rode my bike.

A long time ago I taught myself a trick:  I learned how to step aside of my emotions, title them (i.e. nervous, fearful and anxious make regular appearances in my emotional race repertoire).  Once each emotion has been property titled, I pry their tiny hands off my throat so I can breath again. I can’t make them go away but I certainly don’t have to endorse the fury they are attempting to create inside me.  I leave them alone to fly around my aura; they are there but I am completely detached from them.

Frustration and Anxious rode about 65 miles with me today.  And I laughed at them; I even tried to drop them, with no luck.  I allowed them all sorts of excuses for showing up uninvited, the usual “I’ve been training hard,” “Maybe I’m dehydrated or bonking,” and finally, “Mamma said there would be days like these.”  The latter makes the most sense and actually feels like a gift. There are so many cliché’s on this topic for good reason:  bad days happen and they are real.  I feel blessed today because every day used to be a bad day and now I’m having one to show me how good I usually feel.  So today, I embraced the power of my emotions; I have goose bumps and I feel so alive.  Now I can’t wait to see how I feel tomorrow because I am inspired and fearless.

Bad Day Video – Click Here

PS Today, I was not only bless by the power of a bad day but also the presence of a video camera AND the local South Florida doctor that Curtis found for me.  When I’m flying down the road and getting too big for my britches, feel free to pull this video out and remind me to appreciate it all.   Below are Diana’s words, describing what she does for me.  If you would like to see Diana, please email me at ksanders@circuitsport.com.

A special thank you goes out to Rudy Robaina and Real Deal Bicycles in Jupiter, Florida who helped with the video and comentary to Diana while I was riding.  Thanks Rudy, couldn’t have done it without you!

Physical Therapy varies widely from one therapist to another based upon there training AFTER PT School. PT school provides the foundation, which should be fairly uniform for the basics. But, just like any other program of study, there are good programs and there are outstanding programs. In PT school, which has progressed from a certificate program, to a Bachelor of Science, to Masters Degree, to the current entry level degree: the Doctor of Physical Therapy, each professor can stimulate the student to continue their studies and promote lifelong learning. IF the new graduate finds the right catalyst, they can find themselves learning from a guru. A guru is one of the worldwide elite innovators of the body in motion. I happened to find myself in one of those programs: The Institute of Physical Art.

As I said earlier, foundational study does not ensure that the graduate will aspire to the same level of care as every other graduate. I can’t speak for the whole, but I have found my niche in the minutia of neuromuscular training. That is the blend of how the muscles and nerves coordinate motor control to maximize efficiency of movement. Components of this philosophy depend upon the natural reactions of the human body, and body tissues to respond properly when joint alignment, joint mobility, soft tissue elasticity, mental awareness, proprioception, motor response time, endurance, and a few other components are addressed. The elite athlete needs all of these components to be maximally functioning in a coordinated manner to achieve their full potential. What I do, is examine the parts as a whole and individually to achieve optimal function. Clearly, when one ages, they accumulate minor and major traumas that take their toll on a few of the joints and tissues. Throughout the 20’s and 30’s one can mask those deficiencies and keep their performance level at a competitive peak. The muscles and joints that are overworked to create the illusion of efficient performance start to break down at a noticeable rate. Eventually, the traumas add up and one can no longer recover from competition and stressful workouts quickly enough to stay at peak performance. With PT aimed at restoration of each joint, each body tissue AND the combined function throughout the system, those abused tissues can relearn coordinated movement/efficient movement.

Diana Johnson-Ford, DPT, MSPT, CFMT

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Certified Functional Manual Therapist

Gifts & Resolutions

My holidays were, in short, Unbelievable!  If you know me personally, you might recall that I like to use the word Unbelievable for very specific reason: positive ambiguity.  The word can apply to almost any situation while implying something really good.  Truthfully, something could be Unbelievably bad…but not in my world.  I live where things are generally happy and where Unbelievable equates to good, really good or really, really good…and almost always with some sort of twist.  And I like it that way!

For Christmas, I received the most Unbelievable gift.  For the first time in nearly three years, I rode with no hands!  If this sounds like a silly gift to be excited about, you’re busted for not reading my blog: THIS WAS THE FIRST GOAL!  I’ve been so crooked for so long that I completely lost the ability to ride no-handed.  If I let go, I felt like I would fall and I could not even begin to control my bike.  I needed my hands on the bars to push myself straighter and to literally maintain my balance on the bike.  Curtis and I had established that riding no-handed would be a sure-fire sign that I was making serious progress to being straight.

While riding on Christmas Eve, just like every other ride, I tried no-handed.  With absolutely no expectations, I pushed myself up off the bars and let go.  And I did it.  I rode no-handed for about five seconds.  It took my breath away and at this moment, time stopped, all sounds went silent, nothing moved but me.  The sun stopped setting and the ocean was still-calm.  I felt nothing, absolutely nothing, but me, my bike and my exhilarated soul exploding inside. Immediately, I tried again and this time I stayed up for closer to ten seconds.  On the third successful attempt, I cried.  My own voice rushed through mind:  I am straight(er), I did it, Curtis and I did it!  For the next hour, I kept trying with much continued success.  Pure exhilaration flooded my body, my heart and my soul for the rest of the ride home.  This is what Curtis does for you.  He helps you believe and then he helps you make it happen.  Merry Christmas to me from Curtis.

So in the days following the big no-handed breakthrough, I have continued to make progress and can ride longer and longer without my hands on the bars.  It feels Unbelievable!  Containing my excitement is difficult for me, though, so I’ve been telling everyone.  Reaction to my big news has been a bit of a disappointment.  Honestly, aside from a select few, most people aren’t as impressed with my new skill as I am.  Most cyclists must take riding with no hands for granted and I suppose they assume that any pro cyclist can ride no handed; they all do on television, in the Tour.  Everybody on the group ride can do it, what’s the big deal?

Ok, slight letdown but I’m still excited and so are those who know what it means to me.  I’m still celebrating and I’ve consciously decided that I won’t ever stop feeling exhilarated by what excites me.  This philosophy has led me to my resolution this year:  I will not be stifled.  I will live freely and madly and passionately and celebrate what makes me feel good.  Those who are not sure what to do with me and my fire aren’t for me and I wish them well.  Those who embrace my passion and join me in my mad life are coming along for an Unbelievable ride and will be relished by me throughout my life.  Resolution 2012:  I will not be stifled.  Bring it on, 2012, I feel good!

Here is how Curtis made it all happen for me this week, physiologically speaking anyway:

Curtis’ Quick Summary

Kristin has the common presentation of a cyclist who has hit the ground. Most cyclists will lose one or two components of the pedal stroke, most lose more than one. These components are:

1.) The ability to hinge at the hip over the top of the pedal stroke and

2.) To ride without significant deviation or twisting and

3.) To be able to push down on a pedal without a significant rotation and appropriate efficient engagement of the muscles that push.

These inabilities need to be rectified thru three components:

1.) Mechanically untying the stiffnesses and tightnesses that are literal brick walls, limiting her ability to appropriately lengthen and compress structures

2.) Once those structures have appropriate flexibility, the specific muscles in that same area need to be able to fire, or awaken, again.  These muscles frequently become “asleep” because of their poor use or their inactivity over a period of time; stiffness in the area will decrease their ability to function, either completely, or at least with appropriate coordination and firing patterns.

3.) When Kristin’s brain has remembered how to engage these muscles on a local level, these muscles then need integration back into whole body.  In Kristin’s case, she needs the ability to push down on the pedal. This will be achieved through a more efficient and balanced position and basic coordination, back into a whole body of efficient movement and then, finally at 90 to 110 pedal strokes.

Research has recently shown that our brain starts to lose “muscle memory,” or the neuromuscular coordination, quite quickly.  Researchers have looked at the brain’s map of two individual fingers with a functional MRI.  A person will wiggle one finger and then wiggle the next finger while the MRI watches the brain activity live.   The movement of these two finders can be seen on the MRI map of the brain.  After twenty minutes of movement where the two fingers are tied together, the brain looses the ability to differentiate the two actual and different fingers.  The effect on the MRI is similar to what you might see on an actual paper map that has started to fade, loosing the distinction between 2 states, separated by a state line.  These two fingers, according to the brain’s distinction, start to be blurred together as one after just twenty minutes of being tied together.  The brain will start to lose that muscle memory of how to individually control each individual finger in those twenty minutes and, maybe more importantly, it can take up to two hours for that brain change to revert back to the original and correct individual moment skill.

Our brains make up only 2% of our body weight, however, use 20% of the bodies glucose.   This is important because the real estate of the brain is proven and clearly quite valuable and, to the same end, can be quite costly if not properly cared for.  If the brain can save energy by seeing two fingers as one, or in a cyclist’s case, by not using a particular muscle or a particular joint then it will quickly adapt and quickly lose or change that movement pattern or that muscle memory.  This is a very common occurrence with injury and has been frequently shown with low back patients in the way they engage their core 5, 10, 20 years after they have had an injury; the pain has gone away yet they are still not activating local muscles (hodges and hides).

Please remember that outside of going to see a local therapist for mobilization or manipulation of a joint, one must also undertake very, very specific neuromuscular nerve muscle re-education.  The process I use, muscular re-education, gets local muscles, and the surrounding muscular system, functioning again.   I use techniques that were originally developed for the purpose of treating patients with strokes and spinal cord injuries over 50 years ago by Dr. Herman Kabat, MD and Maggie Knott PT.   These techniques are encompassed in techniques called PNF and are incredibly powerful for patients and clients with diagnosis of everything from spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury to amazing athletes like Kristin.

Do Not Settle

Today’s ride was #?$%*! incredible! I hate to use the cliché but today was, in short, THE modern times cycling cliché:  no chain.  Today was the ride that makes it all worth while, today’s ride is why I’m still racing my bike at forty-one years old and why I’m putting all this extra effort into getting myself right with Curtis.  Today’s ride was #?$%*! incredible!  Let me back up and tell you why this ride rocked my #?$%*!* world…today I did something different.

Actually, I have been doing a lot of things different lately.  2012 will be a season filled with many new things, like working with Curtis, who is absolutely different and better than any PT I’ve ever known.  Now, I’m working with a new coach.  Robbie Ventura at Vision Quest Coaching, who helped me find Curtis, connected me with Jason Schisler.  Clearly, Jason did not read the disclaimer from my first blog entry; I’m fairly certain I’ve overwhelmed him several times so far!  But Jason is extremely knowledgeable in working with power, which, I am not.  And he clearly has a vision for my training for the season and in preparation of my goal race at Elite Nationals, which, I do not.  So, as we are getting to know each other, I am following his lead in training.  In our first conversation, Robbie on the phone with us, Robbie asked me about my sprint.  “What sprint?” I replied.  “Exactly,” Robbie said.  So, after a bit of haggling, we agreed that my focus would always be on the TT goal but we would also give my sprint a bit of attention…something I’ve NEVER done!

Here is another cliché that actually applies:  Change is good.  My head believes this but the rest of me sometimes needs a little coaxing. I can definitely wrap myself around facing change head on, though.  Once I’m committed to the change, I’m whole-heartedly IN even though it’s not always an easy road to hoe. Change can be scary and bring about all sorts of doubts; I do feel afraid of the unknown sometimes, for example, courses I’ve never raced, riders I’ve never competed against, and today, a new coach and a workout I’ve never done: sprints.  Change is good…scary…good…scary…right.  Another cliché that applies:  if I always do what I’ve always done, I’m always going to get what I’ve always gotten.  I sought out Curtis, who is far different than the usual PT (see attached video, for example) and the result is stellar.   Now I am choosing to believe in a new coach who thinks I should sprint.  OK, change is good, so-far-so-good anyway, and at this point, that will have to be good enough for me.

I have developed my own routine for dealing with most of my emotions, in this situation, doubts and fear directly associated with change.  Not that it always works but at least I have a plan:  recognize it, rename it and file it.  I call it a re-frame.  Here is an example:

1.)   Recognize it:  I have doubts and feel fearful about my workout and my training.  These emotions are making my stomach feel unsettled and my legs not work right.  My shoulders feel tense and I can’t really breath that well.  My head is cloudy and I can’t focus.  I’m not sure I should be doing this.  Heck, everything is new these days and that give me plenty of doubts, fear and anxiety across the board.

2.)   Rename it:  I am still the same rider (and person, for that matter) I’ve always been, inside and out, and actually I’m a better cyclist because Curtis has made me more powerful and happier on the bike already…so give this coach and workout a chance.

3.)   File it:  How can I judge a workout I’ve never done, anyway?  Give it a-go, you just never know…heck, give everything a-go…you never know what’s around the corner.  At this very moment, I have nothing to lose and plenty to gain…especially with a sprint like mine!

Done, I’ve convinced myself and conquered my doubts and fear, for the moment at least.  It’s not always easy but this is how I work my plan.  When I am successful at dealing with my fear, the out come always feels the same:  empowering!  Today I feel empowered, so motivated and energized; the feeling I have is that I’ve stood toe to toe with the emotions that were trying to control me and I tackled them head-on with every fiber I possess.  I don’t always beat fear but when I am able to manifest what’s inside me to combat things like doubt and fear and I win, I feel powerful.  Today, I feel powerful, #?$%*! powerful!

My workout wasn’t anything fancy, a bunch of short sprints just to get the hang of the form and dust off the high-end cobwebs.  But I rocked it- look out Theresa, Shelley, Leah, Joelle and Erica!  Ok, just kidding, maybe I’ll never be there in the finish with you ladies BUT for a stage racer, I ROCKED!  Today’s workout was just plain FUN and I LOVED it and it reminded my why I’m a bike racer!  After the sprints, my pedal stroke felt great and I wanted to ride MORE; I would still be riding now if it hadn’t gotten dark!  I felt such a high, and no chain, that I did not want to get off my bike and then it dawned on me that I was feeling the culmination of three things:

1.)   All of Curtis’s tireless efforts in straightening out my body and my mind, an unexpected bonus.

2.)   Jason and Robbie’s fresh Vision, there is a reason they call it Vision Quest Coaching.

3.)   And ME- I have the power to be stronger than I ever have been before!

The truth is that I have the power to make the most of my future; I have the power inside me to make the most of my last season.  Yet, I am lucky to have Curtis, Jason and a few select others backing me.  Today’s ride will get me through some tough days that I know lie ahead and now I’m more committed than ever to taking on whatever it takes in pursuit of my goal.  I’m also committing to you to not give in.  I will not take the easy route; I will not cave.  Take what I’m telling you about myself and run with it.  Seek out new people to help you, look for fresh ideas and new ways of thinking.  Don’t settle for what you’ve always gotten.  Call Curtis, call Robbie and Jason if you want.  They are there for you- there is MORE out there for you.  Do Not Settle.  I want you to feel empowered like I do today; it feels #?$%*! wonderful!  Thankfully, once again, I am inspired to be Fearless.

The Emotional Piece

I don’t really have any pain in the traditional, physical sense, to speak of.  I do feel physical tension from time to time; I feel like something inside me is tugging at my knee from my hip.  But pain, none, not the physical kind anyway.

There is another pain, though: the emotional kind.   Emotional pain comes from inside and, for me, it has been based on frustration and fear.  I have been frustrated for two reasons:  first, because I know I have more power and I’m just not accessing it because of my hip and twist, and second, I can’t stand riding like this, feeling so wrong on my bike.   My emotions were intensified by the fear that the only solution to relieve my frustration would be to give up riding my bike altogether.  I love riding and hope to keep riding after racing, for the rest of my life, for the pure fun of it.

The fears and frustrations have been so great at times, only to be made worse by the endless stream of people who say the can help me but haven’t and by their seeming lack of understanding. Yikes, scary, but true. 

It suddenly hit me that all this time, I have been one Rolodex removed from working with the top people in our sport.   What have I been waiting for?  I picked up the phone and after making a couple of calls, I was connected with Curtis.   For me, working with Curtis required quite a bit more effort that finding him did.  I live in Florida and Curtis is in California.  Yet, within the first hour of speaking to Curtis, we had the beginning of a plan and within the next hour, I had purchased a plane ticket!  This is what athletes do:  they seek out the best for help and do whatever it takes to make it happen.

Flying across the country (and back) to see Curtis was actually the best decision I’ve ever made in my cycling career.  You have probably heard of other people, some of whom consult with big cycling companies and bike manufacturers.  Their names are on the products and behind the designs and I’ve actually seen some of these people along the way.   But Curtis is different.  Curtis is for YOU.  He puts his name behind YOU.  He puts everything he has from training to skill to creative problem solving and uninhibited innovation into making your body function correctly and in conjunction with the bike.  There are no rules, no paradigm, no cookie-cutter fixes.  In the time we spent together, he assessed that my problem is a 3-pronged issue:

1) Flexiblity – especially at my hip

2) Local stability – the bolts of my cannon holding it on to the canoe (soon to be battleship) are weak like noodles

3) Coordination- the ability of my ship to work as a whole is poor, my body has trouble integrating local strength with global coordination and putting it all together

Clearly, this was NOT a bike fit!  More details will come about the specific work we did together and what Curtis is having me do now.  But here, today, I want to define Curtis because, as far as I know, there is no one doing what he does, how he does it…so I’ve come up with a few of my own:

Bike Fitter– yes, Curtis has one of the best reputations in the world for Bike Fitting

Body Fitter– more appropriate to me because my bike is straight and we did NOT adjust my bike!  My bike is straight, I’m crooked!

Bike Whisperer– YES, he has crazy intuition and mad skills in sensing tension and pain

Spirit Lifter– his soul is so good…maybe my Bike Guru? ABSOLUTELY

All of the above apply to Curtis and now it’s clear why his references simply call him “A-MAZING!”  Is this a shameless plug for Curtis?  Maybe, but the way I see it is there is no reason to show you everything without telling you that you have the exact same opportunities as I do.  You don’t need a fancy Rolodex.  You only need the desire to be your best.  That’s it.  Plain and simple.  Anyone can do what I’m doing…all of it is available and possible to you.  If your goal is to win a medal or simply keep yourself on the bike, do whatever it takes.  Make decisions about opportunities in your life that you can look back at with a smile.  Face your emotions head-on, figure out what they are and where they are coming from.  Make yourself proud and be fearless.

Turning My Canoe Into A Battleship

Imagine firing a cannon.  Imagine the brute force that a cannon puts out to launch a cannon ball thousands of feet in the air.  A massive amount of energy must be dissipated as the cannon fires.  Remember Newton’s law…for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction, right?  So if we fire a cannon off of a battleship, the sheer size and stability of that ship allows for massive torque and easily absorbs the energy.  But what if we fired a cannon off of a canoe?  The cannon ball would not fly very far, and the canoe would be sent hurling in the opposite direction.  Why?  Because the canoe offers no stability.  My left hip is a canoe; it can’t handle the torque. It shoots off in the opposite direction, pretty much out of control wherever it wants to go.  Curtis is going to make my hip into a battleship!

How Bad is It?

The most clear example I can think of to give you is that I am so crooked on the bike with so little stability that I can no longer ride with no hands.  Before the crash that caused my body to be twisted, I could easily ride with no hands.  Embarrassing, but true – I can not ride no-handed.  What Pro- what Bike Racer for that matter- what Group Rider- can’t ride no handed?

To compound my frustration, I’m often called upon by my team for the duties of Road Captain.  This literally adds insult to injury.  Road Captains are experienced and tactically sound riders who generally aren’t the Hot Shot.  It’s a perfect job for me because I am very qualified, and I love contributing to the team’s success.  In short, my job is to read the race, be in communication with my teammates, make any necessary quick decisions and go BACK TO THE TEAM CAR for big decisions.  Here is where the trouble starts…I cannot ride no-handed so I cannot stuff my jersey with bottles to bring back to my teammates. I have a lot of trouble grabbing on to a bottle being handed to me out the car window in the first place.  This is bad- my DS can attest to my many squeals and shrieks as she accelerates me back into the back of the peleton while I’m holding on to a sticky bottle.  I feel like I’m out of control and she’s going to toss me either right under the car or right in the ditch.  Scary to say the least…and embarrassing.

Curtis’ analysis is quite a bit more scientific, but still simple.  With my left foot in the three o-clock position, he dropped a vertical line straight down from the front of my knee.  He then measured the distance from the pedal spindle to that line, hence the distance of my knee behind the spindle.  He created the same measurement on the right side.  The results were staggering:  my left knee was more than 4 cm behind the spindle, my right less than 1 cm behind the spindle.  For a small rider (I am 5’6” and ride a size 48 road bike, seat height 64.7, set back 1.6 cm), I am WAY OFF.  I am over 3 cm twisted, and my pelvis is shifted to the right and rotated with the left side back.  HUGE problem.  I looked at Curtis and he said to me, “Don’t worry, we can fix this.  It doesn’t take much to untwist people.”  And so I get off the bike and we get to work…and that’s when I started to cry…

The emotional component of this is big.  I love racing my bike.  I love just riding my bike, and I cried because I’ve feared that I would lose it.  I love the people and the relationships.  I love being part of something big, and I love helping my teammates flourish.  I love the successes and even the screw-ups, because I see them as opportunities.  But 3 cm off, wow, that’s a lot.  This is when I first realized that Curtis is amazing. We had spent no more than thirty minutes together at this point; I’m crying and what does he do but stop, and give me a hug.  I hardly knew the guy at this point. I’m crying, and he’s ok with it!  At that moment I knew we would fix this, and I say “we” because Curtis had just shown me his commitment to my goals.  WE will fix this.  WE.  I’m not alone is this quest.  Curtis understand my problem, believes in me, and WE will get my power back.  WE will get my happiness on the bike back.  That’s why I cried. The incredible up side is that I can get a LOT better.  There are huge gains and improvements in my future.  This cup is half full.  So I took a deep breath, wiped the mascara off my face…and then the real work began…

Podium Insight Article by Lyne Lamoureux

Posted on 29. Oct, 2011 by lyne in interviews

What if on your final year of your professional cycling career you decided to try and fix your body to go for that elusive National medal? What if you decided to share the journey, the good, the bad and the ugly, with everyone? What if you decided to open that curtain to show the injuries and aftermath that can happen in cycling?

That’s exactly what Kristin Sanders is doing as she approaches her 41st birthday. If you know Sanders, you know that she is full of energy and is embarking into this project, or as she says “the project is me”, all in.

“I have decided that 2012 will more than likely be my last year and I’m not holding anything back. I’m going to see the top person to fix me.” Sanders explained.

 “The goal is to go me straight, get me on top of my pedals, accessing all the power that I have and seek a medal at the National Time-Trial, so that’s the focal point. But the bigger picture is that, kind of woven into the very fiber of me, is this desire and urge to reach out to people.”

“So what I want to do is share this experience with other cyclist, specifically women because frankly people don’t talk about injuries a lot at the professional level but everybody has them. It’s part of the sport or part of any sport that(everybody is) either on one side or the either, (everybody)  has some little thing that could be big or small, either you’re going into it or coming out of it but everybody has them and everybody deals with them and nobody talks about it. I hope that I inspire people of all athletic levels, and maybe some who are not even athletes, to take stuff head on and face it, to know that it’s okay, your body is not perfect and that you can still accomplish amazing things if you put your mind to it.”

And so, Sanders is sharing her thoughts online on her new blog, 41andfearless. At the same time, we will be frequently catching up with her via words, videos to get her thoughts on her progress.

An athlete for all her life, where she practiced four sports at the elite level, Sanders found that her body is somewhat not cooperating anymore.

“So when I’m riding my bike these days I feel like I have all this power, all this strength but on my left side I can’t access it, it feels like my foot is in front of the pedal. My right side feels like it’s fully engaging and pushing a lot of power. My left side feels like it’s just kind of flailing out there on its own. I’ve been through all kinds of analysis and rehab, trying to figure it out, exercises and stretching and strengthening and nothing has really worked.”

She has no idea where this body issue came from, but she does have different theories. “I have a little bit of history with migraines, which are neurological, so I wonder if it could be a neurological, that the muscles just don’t fire properly on the left and over the years of racing my bike, the motion became more and more exaggerated.  Another theory is that it’s from a crash, I had a pretty bad crash four years ago that was on the left side, so possibly I knocked myself crooked and I never got right. Or maybe from that crash I developed some bad habits from trying to compensate because, of course, I didn’t take two weeks off and fully recover. I took two days off and went to another race.”

After doing research to find a physical therapist, Sanders chose to work with Curtis Cramblett of Revolutions In Fitness. “I’m going to see the top person to fix me, and I’ve gone down that path and gotten some incredible references on Curtis Cramblett who, quote, is “amazing.” I’ve gotten that reference on him from two different people at the very top of the sport.”

The first session with Cramblett was done over Skype video.

“He asked me to do a few different things so he could watch the way my body naturally moved. He picked up on the littlest tiniest details of the way I twist and turn and the way that my body functions, things that I can somewhat feel but would never have been able to put my finger on until he really pointed it out.  Little tiny things like the way that my toe moves, he was able to pick up over the skype session, it was amazing.”

It’s not just the left side. “He actually noted in that first skype session that there are some things that happen with my right foot that are contributing to my situation.  I assumed that this was a left side issue but it’s really a full body issue according to Curtis. I went through all these movements and he showed me some beginning level exercises to start to trigger different muscle movements. He taught me a few, four or five little things that I’m doing right now that I can actually feel changing the way my body moves. It’s pretty cool.”

One the trainer, you can see Sanders left hip moves up off the saddle when she pedals with her let side.

“The way you can tell is the Giordana logo on the back on my shorts, it’s perfectly square and it’s exactly on the same spot on both sides. On the right side that little Giordana logo is perfectly still, on the left side, that little logo moves up and down, up and down as the hip moves up as a I pedal. When I rode on the trainer at the beginning of our session, it was pretty dramatic, we went through analysis and then he showed me a few exercises, I actually did them while he was watching me to make sure I was doing them correctly and at the end I got back on the trainer.  The movement was around 40% resolved.  (My hip) was moving 40% less in an hour and a half time.”

Throughout the session, Sanders was given exercises to do. “It’s not even extensive stuff, it’s not strength work, it’s little tiny things like rolling a ball with my foot and controlling the way my foot moves on that boll, it’s the tiniest little things. I’m not in the weight room, I’m just learning ways to control my body differently and the way that it needs to get back to working so that I function properly.”

One of those exercises was on the foam roller. “I have not known, through all the years that I’ve been trying to sort this out, if I was tight, or weak, or loose, or strong, or what. I didn’t know if the foam roller was a good thing or a bad thing and if I should do it on the right side or the left side.” Sanders laughed. “I just didn’t feel symmetrical and so (Curtis) having me rolling on the left side and controlling my right foot and a few (other) different things he taught me in that one hour session has changed my body 40%, which is incredible.”

The second and third sessions with Cramblett will be in person, this weekend.

Once she gets further along with her work with Cramblett, Sanders will sit down with her coach to plan for the USA National Championships.

“I’m going be working with a coach on that and we haven’t laid out the plan yet because Curtis is going to be a critical piece.  Curtis and I are at the beginning stages of my situation analysis and once we have analyzed where I’m at and what it’s going to take from his end of the project, the project being me, then we’ll be able to determine exactly what is going to go on on the bike in terms of becoming a better cyclist.”

Sanders raced on the Colavita Forno d’Asolo team which announced that it would not continue in 2012. Sanders has secured a new team which will be announced in the next few weeks.

http://www.podiuminsight.com/2011/10/29/kristin-sanders-is-41-and-fearless/

 

THE SKYPE EVAL: Initial therapy assessment on Kristin Sanders by Curtis Cramblett

Kristin is an amazingly dedicated athlete that comes to me today with a perfect goal:  getting a medal (a goal she has never been able to reach before).   In the past Kristin has hit the ground multiple times, like most of the cyclists that I have worked with.  Her most serious and significant crash was in 2007; she landed on her left side, had a serious concussion, hitting her shoulder and the outside of her left leg.  Pretty soon thereafter she started to have left knee pain and cramping on the outside of her left quad.   Like most other cyclists she has received multiple evaluations treatments and diagnosis without significant progression in her symptoms.  For Kristin, this has included a knee surgery for a probable torn meniscus without any resolution.   It has also included a diagnosis of femoral nerve impingement without any conclusion to her symptoms. 

Kristin is a dedicated cyclist training 20 plus hours per week in a traditional 3 on 1 off mode thru the winter.  She is a strong cyclist, having raced professionally since 2003.  She is also a strong multi disciplined athlete, having been an elite level swimmer and tri-athlete as well as an equestrian national champion.   

My initial evaluation with Kristin, as with several clients, was done via Skype on the 9th of October 2011. This evaluation revealed her chief complaints, which includes feeling out of alignment and twisted on the bike, such that her left foot is in front of her pedal and she can’t get on top of her pedal.  She also feels like she is leaning on the bike with in equal weight distribution on her hands.   Next she reports that she is unable to get her left knee in line with her foot, such that her knee on the left side travels toward the outside.  As with most clients, she has worked with many variations of shims, cleats and shoes, which have not done much to change her symptoms.  Lastly she feels like she just cannot push thru the pedal stroke or drive thru the pedal and she has power that she cannot get access to.   This initial evaluation via Skype also revealed, thru movement, testing a stiff left hip in its inability to appropriately flex or close at the top of the pedal stroke, especially when combined with rotation of her left leg to the inside (internal rotation).   This was exceptionally apparent at the top of her left pedal stroke where she had decreased coordination and had an exaggerated pelvis hike on the left side coming over the top.  Her right foot showed history of an old injury, her old foot fracture in her mid foot.  She also had poor strength and coordination in around her lower lumbar segments ability to stabilized and flex especially in a cycling position on her left side.   Other objective notes were made, however outside of the scope or the detail for this article.  Based on this above, a more detailed evaluation, her home exercise program for her first visit included using a foam roller to increase the flexibilities of her quads and outside of her thigh (illio IT Band, foam roller and active/dynamic stretching of her glutial and paraformas muscles)  Neuro muscular reeducation/ a waking up of her left core especially at her lower abdominals and finally some cross training as she starts into her off season including swimming. 

DISCLAIMER: Read this before reading!

I’m a handful.  I know it.  I can’t help it.  I LOVE living, feeling alive.  And I love people.  So, I’m throwing a party…a HUGE party.  The guest list is enormous, endless…really!  You’re all invited!  But consider yourself warned, this is not for the weak nor the weak at heart.  I’m about to show it all…I’m a bit anxious, exhilarated, fired up and not holding anything back.  Here’s what’s up:

After seven seasons of a very colorful and incredibly satisfying professional career, I find myself missing one thing:  a medal.  Sure, I love fashion and handbags and jewelry but this medal is different.  The medal I’m seeking is from USA Cycling…I don’t have one.  I want one.  There, I said it.  It’s out there now for all to know.  But at forty-one years old, can I pull it off?  I certainly know what it takes, dedication is my lifestyle; passion is woven into my fiber.  But this is the first time I’ve been forty-one years old.  I FEEL strong and I FEEL young…but the body is tweaked here and there.  I have a plan…

Through extensive research, I’ve found a secret weapon:  Curtis Cramblett (www.revolutionsinfitness.com).  Curtis comes with raving reviews from the very tip top of our sport (and I did check, Curtis!).  My tweak is a yet-to-be-named hip twist thing.  Maybe from a crash, maybe I was born this way.  In short I cannot get on top of my left pedal, I feel crooked on the bike and I can’t access power that I just KNOW is there.  Curtis is “THE GUY to fix me.”  And that’s a real quote for a big-time pro…and so is “he is A-MAZING!” 

I’m fired up.  Lots of hard work lies ahead of Curtis and me, but we are fully committed to getting me straight, finding all my power and going head-on, fearlesslessly, pursuing a medal in the US Elite National TT.  This might be my last shot; retirement is in my near future.  We’re going for it together, so I don’t feel alone:  Curtis, me, the wonderful people I am lucky to be surrounded by in my life and all of you.  

Everybody has something, an injury, an nagging ache and pain, but nobody ever talks about.  No secrets here.  I’m sharing the entire experience with you through this blog and in conjunction with my fabulous friends Lyne Lamoureux and Stephanie Gutowski at Podium Insight (www.podiuminsight.com).  You get it all:  the secret (and often taboo), behind the scenes look at dealing with my tweak and everything Curtis and I do from analysis to rehab to equipment adjustments to strength training and on the bike training. Plus, I will share with you my power tools…no, I’m not talking SRM files.  I’m talking about my real edge:  the psychology of me, my approach, my frame of mind!  I hope you become inspired, motivated and fearless, just like me!  I believe in me; and I want you to believe in yourself!     If you’re not quite there yet, that’s ok.  Just stay with me… this will be my gift to you.