Almost Spring! just a few more days to the 21st March and the official arrival of Spring – but when cycling around the hills the locals are all out preparing their vineyards and fruit trees for their coming growth. Today was the first day when the sun has actually been warm and I almost felt too hot climbing with a base layer beneath my cycling shirt. It felt good to be out cycling today – getting some exposure to the sun and production of vitamin D - and tomorrow it will be powder skiing in Le Fornet at Val d’Isère – where the micro-climate is still adding to the fresh snow. Still almost two months of the ski season to go and great skiing available now. No more need to use my trusty but trashed old Zag “Big” rock bashers to protect newer skis.
I’ve been cycling in shorts and T-shirt regularly all winter to work on “cold adaptation” and it has been superb! Today it even felt disappointing that the temperature is climbing. Across the valley are the North facing slopes of Les Arcs – at the Peisey west end of the ridge – the valley to the right being spanned by the cable car to La Plagne. There is snow still down to the valley floor 600 vertical metres below at the Isère river (Isère at 600m altitude here).
Although I wasn’t going really hard on the climb it was a good day for working on technique. There’s always a way to make a workout useful and enjoyable and mindful activity is always enriching, good for removing stress and great for stimulating creative thought. Taking the lead from the recent evolution in my ski teaching I realised – same as with the last running session – that there was the need to activate exactly the same sequence of muscle activation starting from the core. The adductors have to contract and in the case of pedalling the quads above the inside of the knee have to work. This “pulling in” feeling is probably related to the natural rotation inwards on the femur as the hip pulls backwards (natural in running – conscious in cycling or skiing!). In skiing the adductor issue becomes extremely obvious due to the rotation of the femur being exaggerated as the ski is turning the leg in front of the body. This is probably why I never noticed it in running or cycling before – yet lack of awareness of this issue has previously led me to metatarsal foot injuries due to it affecting footstrike (when running barefoot or with minimalist shoes). In cycling I realised that this new awareness of femur alignment stemming from the core (initiating movement from the core) was noticeably increasing my power and efficiency with the pedal stroke. During the leg recovery (pulling up on the pedal) the hip comes forwards and the femur has a slight and relaxing outwards rotation – though only enough for the knee to track forwards straight.
What’s interesting is how each sport – in my case Skiing, Cycling and Running, feeds new awareness to each other, due to slightly different emphasis with each activity.