In the American sporting world, the month of July is known for two things: not yet football and no more basketball. However we are blessed with the MLB all-star game, Wimbledon, and Le Tour de France. The latter of which is an incredible race of grueling aerobic endurance, quick bouts of power, and draining muscular anaerobic endurance. In other words, cycling is about sustaining force production. However, I do not want to over-simplify this wonderful event. Le Tour de France spans weeks, placing great requirements on being light weight, efficient, and strategically accurate over the course of the tour. You do not need to be an expert in cycling to learn some valuable lessons from these tremendous humans.
Here are 6 things you can learn from Le Tour:
1. Efficiency pays off in the long run – The Tour covers 3,664km (2,276 miles) this year across Western Europe. That is a lot of pedaling. There is no room for technique error or a mis-firing muscle. For example, in 2012, the champion Bradley Wiggins cycled for 87 hours, 56 minutes and 40 seconds with the second place finisher only 4 minutes behind. A 0.001% decrease in efficiency would have placed Bradley Wiggins in second place. The same can be said for training. Anything that is not perfect will slow you down. Perfect your efficiency.
2. Extra Weight = Extra Work – This can be interpreted in two ways: 1.) Equipment: Go to any competitive exercising competition and you will see a gluttony of equipment for sale. Is it really necessary? Most of the time the special equipment is just going to slow you down so DITCH IT! 2.) Excess bodyweight will slow you down: Instead of focusing on building muscle, focus on getting stronger. Similarly, if you focus on getting "fitter," the weight usually will melt off. Here’s a related post to read more on this.
3. Teamwork Triumphs – Even though cycling has individual glory, teamwork is what got the champion to the top. The team is responsible for protection, motivation, strategy and understanding what is going on around you. Sound familiar? A good training partner should do all of that – protect you from distractions, motivate you through difficult times, provide strategy in training and understand and apply new information.
4. Pacing and Pouncing – Each stage of Le Tour involves two major strategic parts: pacing (staying in the peloton) and then pouncing. If you do not pace the first 4 hours correctly, you will not be able to pounce in the last 20km. On a long 20 minute AMRAP, you cannot go all out from the get-go, you need to pace, stay in the pack, and then towards the end, when you have positioned yourself perfectly, explode and finish strong.
5. Eat for the Job – Cyclists know exactly how many calories they are burning in a given stage based on lean mass and heart rate monitors sending information back to camp. Using this information, team organizers are able to create a nutrition strategy that is perfectly in tune with macronutrients needed for recovery without causing unnecessary weight gain. If you training hard, you need to eat enough whole foods like vegetables, fish and sweet potatoes to support recovery, but not enough to cause weight gain. Bring this checklist with you the next time you go stock up on food.
6. Determination is Powerful – Watch the close-up shots of the cyclists and notice how pained their faces look as they try to win the stage. When the finish line is in sight, all the science goes out the window and the victory comes down to who wants it more, who can push through the pain. How determined are you to lose weight? How determined are you to get that new back squat max? Here are 7 things mentally different from those who succeed, and those who do not.
Le Tour de France just concluded this past week. If you missed it completely, try and remember to catch it next year. It’s quite the sight to see.
Now tell me about you, what from the above do you need to be focusing on? Do you need to work on your efficiency and technique? How about focusing on building strength and not necessarily muscle? Are you eating properly for "the job"? Comment below and let me know!