Finding that Sweet Spot
Triathlon is like any other sport, when it is executed perfectly it is music in motion. Yet for most it is a picture of effort, concocted in physical and mental straining most commonly showing in the form of a contorted facial expression and bad form. Yet how do we find this “music in motion.”
Each season after quite some time away from the sport, I come back to it rejuvinated and excited. Of course, the first week feels great…then reality sets in, oh boy, I got a long way to go to get back in top notch fitness. Yet, with the time away my body forgets a little about form, so each season I get to start off fresh and do a little reteaching of perfect form, with the goal of taking where I was last year and getting 1 step closer to perfect form. I don’t think about speed my current pace, how many (or few) miles I am logging, I focus on form and leading races.
In each of the 3 sports there is a million different things to focus on, I will briefly talk about cadence today. Ideal turnover. It is the basis of how you swim, bike, and run. What is the ideal cadence? It is different for everybody and it changes season to season, and within each season.
The first thing to do is find your working range. In the pool it means going from a windmill to really long strong strokes. As you play with it, you’ll find a rythem, usually about 1.2sec/stroke. The bike is where we vary the most. You have the mashers, cranking out 70-80 RPM, the spinners which are over 100 RPM and everybody else is in between. Yes, Lance rode his TT’s in Le Tour’s at 100+ RPM, but he did not have to run after that. It is easy to find your max efficient cadence, simply start spinning in any easy gear until your butt starts bouncing in the saddle. Just before you started bouncing, that is your max cadence. The best way to find the min is pedal with 1 leg and the lowest you can spin without really stalling. Running, use a hill. Find that low cadence running up taking bounding steps up a sled hill, and then spin those legs fast as possible down.
Now we got our working range. Finding the sweet spot is a matter of time, and it is a touch different every day (based on Fatigue, conditions, ect). Now that we have our range, now we need to work each cadence range. That is why running and biking hilly courses are good, it allows us to work the full range. A great example for running is what we have outside right now. In the snow my cadence is ~70 (strides/min), on a treadmill I am usually between 87 and 93, when I am on the road, it tends to be in the mid 80’s. But that is why I like the off season and the variable conditions. It allows me to work the full range of my cadence without trying to find a 3 mile climb to run up.
The sweet spot, don’t worry about it, because if you are efficient over a large range of cadences on race day your body will do it’s job…and go fast!