Oct 29, 2008

Cross Training

As different as cycling and surfing (with swimfins) might seem, there's a way to derive similar fitness benefits from both activities.

This is poignant for me, because we're now living in Eastern Washington -- 5 hours from the coast -- for an indefinite period of time. (Caring for my mother, who's 90.) The obvious way to stay in shape to ride a mat would be to swim with fins at the local Y... and I may do that, especially next summer when the inland heat turns unbearable.

But there is a way to get tremendous benefit from cycling in a manner that relates to using fins. The key is the placement of your saddle. As you raise, lower, and move the saddle back and forth, different muscle groups come into play.

You can't, however, do much about the muscle groups you use when you are swimming with fins...other than changing fins.

So, what I started doing a few months before we moved up here was to kick as hard as I could for as long as I could on a mat. I paid close attention the what areas of my legs started to fatigue first. Then, I repeated the same process riding my bike. I climbed up hills in a seated position putting out as much effort as I could. Again, I noted what area of my legs became fatigued.

I began to move my saddle around until the same muscle group (mostly the outer part of my quads) fatigued first. I rode hard for a few weeks. Then I went for a mat surf. It felt like I had been in the water a couple hours every day...both in leg strength and "wind." Cross training in this manner really worked!

Generally speaking, the further forward and/or lower the saddle, the more effort is transferred to the upper parts of your legs. A higher and/or further back saddle shifts the effort to your lower legs. There's nothing new about these observation...and, this is an oversimplification. Further, it's important that your bike saddle position be comfortable when riding longer distances. There's some fiddling involved, and it take a lot of miles to really get it all fined tuned.

No one, least of all me, is saying that riding a bike is as fun as surfing...but it's a good alternative, with added fitness benefits for anyone who surfs or swims with fins.


Photos By Nathan Backous said...

Hey PG, nice A.Homer Hilsen there. I definitely have thought about splurging and getting one for myself but I'm pretty happy with my 30 year old Centurion Pro Tour (much like a Rene Herse campeur bike, but Japanese, so its much more standardized).

You should get the Rivendell Reader (www.rivbike.com) to do a piece on mat-surfing, I bet they'd do it. Although they'll want an all wool wetsuit, a waxed canvas mat and leather fins.

When are we going to have a PNW bike/mat safari?

Anyone else out there combining matting and cyclo-touring?

PG said...

Hey Nate,

Actually, I sort of/kind of know a couple guys at Rivendell (Keven and Grant), and they perk up when we talk about mat riding. If we do a surmat/cyclo tour, I think they might show some interest!

A waxed canvas mat with a wool wetsuit probably isn't a bad idea! I know Grant would go nuts at the mere thought of it!

Your CPT is a bitchin' bike!

Check one out here...


pranaglider said...

Couldn't agree more with the bike / swimming exercise crossover! I would love to see a journal article on a mat/cyclo tour thru say Big Sur or NZ! Once again the mat comes thru as the most functional and adaptive wave vehicle ever. Mat and fins would be a small light weight addition to your touring gear. Mr. Petersen's preference toward the simple yet functional approach to cycling would certainly help him see the beauty in the simplicity of mat riding.

MAT MAX said...

The mat+bike concept is such a great topic! Having been deep into this combo for 20+ years, I'm happy to know that others find similar satisfaction and benefits. Matting and biking are like sister sports that share the same ethic of light and simple fun, that provides endless challenges, with easily accessible limitless horizons of performance and insight. I reckon that bikes are another vehicle ideally suited to exploring "the innermost limits of pure fun". A mat and bike tour sounds like an extra-good time. New Zealand might be a reasonable venue for such an expedition. The only problem is that most of the roads are quite narrow and hazardous. (No shoulders and big trucks.) I reckon that a summertime South Island NZ bike&mat rideabout would be the call, as there is less traffic, and a much slower pace down there...

PG said...

Actually, even a non-surfing bike tour with mat surfers would be great. What a finely tuned slice of humanity that would be! :-)