By Team ICG® Master Trainer Jim Karanas

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. — Leonardo Da Vinci

The tendency of the western mind is to expand and be progressive. The desire to “take it to the next level” is part of that, the goal of it. Progression is inherent in physical training. Until periodization became popular, all cardio-based training was based on progression. With periodization, cardio training still progresses, but in circular modules.

One of the things indoor cycling has been said to do is help someone “take it to the next level”. I used to use the phrase all the time. It suggests linear progress, which I”™ve come to realize is not optimal, or even possible, in all training situations.

People like progress. Cyclists, club members, our class participants like to see themselves getting stronger. We like it ourselves. There's value in achievement. Achievement is invigorating.

Progress toward most goals is accompanied by measurement. In cycling, the attitude is, “If you can measure it, you can improve it.” Progress toward goals is also accompanied by learning. Learning to use heart rate effectively. Learning better technique. Learning to train with power. If we keep learning and adding more, the premise is, we”™ll progress ever faster. In some cases, that”™s true.

For a while, and up to a certain point.

A lifetime of training and riding a bike undergoes an ebb and flow (see my post “The Four Levels of Motivation”). As we continue to train over a lifetime, we of course get older, and desire often ebbs. The excitement behind achievement diminishes, largely because our performance does, along with our energy. We need, and search for, ways to bring back the energy.

The thing is we often look for energy in the wrong place. What can actually provide the greatest return of energy is not increased achievement, analysis or learning, but a return to simplicity.

Over centuries, the wisest philosophers have advised us to keep things simple.

Cycling, particularly indoor cycling, is simple. It”™s a basic relationship among cadence, gear/resistance, and intensity. More accurate ways to dissect and measure a workout, or complex structure and patterns, will at times increase performance. After a while, though, they will just induce fatigue. That”™s because our greatest source of energy will never be metrics. Or thinking. Over-analyzing will actually make things worse.

This is when a return to simplicity is best for a rider.

When you rollout, or start a class, the shift in consciousness is profound. The repetitive, circular action of the pedals creates a state of mental relaxation. This isn”™t the time to over-cue, give detailed instruction and make things “mental.” The sensation of internal energy can”™t be sensed when the mind is busy. If the mind is allowed to clear so the body experiences the simple act of turning a pedal stroke, then we (and the students) can feel the energy, the alertness, the aliveness, whatever you want to call it.

Turn off the computer. Forget performance. Feel the energy that comes from the sheer pleasure of riding a bike.

Measuring things, making things complex can sometimes be good for training. Over time, though, it can create fatigue and kill desire. Riding a fixed-gear bike with the computer off is one of the simplest and best ways to reinvigorate someone — and reconnect someone with the joy of riding a bicycle.

If you want to be successful, it's just this simple: Know what you're doing. Love what you're doing. And believe in what you're doing. — Will Rogers

Jim Karanas
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