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Improve your Bike Performance by Mobilising your Spine

Brad Hiskins explains the role of your thoracic spine and demonstrates how to mobilise it to boost your comfort and performance on the bike.

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Comfort and aerodynamics on a bike are two key factors to cycling efficiency, longevity and performance. Let’s explore these factors and educate ourselves on simple ways to increase our body’s capacity to absorb load and increase effectiveness in our cycling pursuits.

Cyclists, of all levels, would have spent time fiddling and adjusting their bikes to obtain the most effective set-up to enable comfort on those long Sunday morning rides. Even with this constant bike tinkering you will inevitably experience some discomfort through your back and/or neck. Sowhat can we do to adjust our backs rather than our bikes to achieve comfort?

Get that thoracic spine mobile!

Comfort

Your thoracic spine is the section of your spine that has the ribs attached, twelve in all (as there are twelve pairs of ribs). Having ribs attached to these vertebrae automatically make this section of your spine less mobile than your cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) spine. Therefore maintaining the little mobility of your thoracic spine is very important.

Why, you ask? Let’s have a look at the typical cycling posture. When seated on your bike you are in a forward bending position (trunk flexion). If you were to simulate this position on land you would look like Figure 1.

 

T-Rack 

Take note of the position of your head in this position; it is facing the ground. However when on a bike, you obviously need to look forward so your head has quite a dramatic change in position—it has to extend
through the cervical spine (Figure 2).

T-Rack

 

Your cervical spine is quite capable of doing this by itself. However this position is much more achievable and efficient if the thoracic spine also extends to take some of the load. It is this extension of the thoracic spine and its ability to bear some of the load that increases comfort levels through your neck and upper back.

See Figure 2 (hyperkyphotic) and Figure 3 (extended) for examples of movement coming predominantly from the cervical spine as opposed to the movement gained from the cervical and thoracic spine.

T-Rack 

Those who can achieve this thoracic spine extension will certainly experience less neck and upper back pain and hence increase their longevity in the sport.

 

Performance

Comfort will obviously improve performance. Reducing pain and muscular spasm from your neck and upper back will give you a physical and emotional advantage. Beyond this, an increase in range of movement in your thoracic spine will allow you to achieve a more aerodynamic position. A mobile thoracic spine allows you to lengthen your back into a streamline position, reducing air resistance and allowing you to travel at greater speeds with less effort and less deceleration. For those looking to improve their time trial ability, a mobile thoracic spine is a must. There are hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on devising changes to bikes to achieve tiny aerodynamic advantages, and similarly huge amounts are spent on helmet and clothing technology. It is highly advisable then to complement this by having the most mobile, aerodynamic spine.

A stiff, hyperkyphotic thoracic spine substantially decreases your ability to breathe freely and deeply.

Breathing Capacity

Your ability to breathe fully is substantially impaired with a stiff thoracic spine. Try the following to see what I mean. While seated, put yourself into a ‘hyperkyphotic’ (excessive curve) thoracic posture (see Figure 4).

T-Rack 

While in this position (and try to keep yourself in this position throughout the exercise), try taking a deep breath. Now, to experience the difference with a less stiff thoracic spine and a ‘better’ postural position, sit up straight, taking away the hyperkyphotic thoracic spine (Figure 5).

T-Rack 

Now take a deep breath. Note the difference. Hence a stiff, hyperkyphotic thoracic spine substantially decreases your ability to breathe freely and deeply. Needless to say, air capacity is vital for the amateur and the professional cyclist to enjoy a Sunday ride or to compete at the
highest levels.

The T-Rack

The T-rack, is designed to reverse the poor posture we find ourselves in during our daily activities or sporting
ventures. It simply acts to mobilise your thoacic spine by you laying on it. Whereas a swiss ball will conform to your stiff spine, the PTR will not. Hence, your spine will have to conform to the shape of the PTR which has been angled to achieve optimal thoracic extension while reducing excessive lumbar extension. The diagrams in figures 6, 7 and 8 show you how this is done in a simple sequence.

T-Rack 

T-Rack

T-Rack 

Furthermore, the PTR has a moveable head piece that adjusts to the length of your spine allowing people of all heights to use it comfortably.

The rack can also be used by a therapist during treatment sessions. If you have regular maintenance massages, take it along with you. Your therapist can help you stretch, or even treat you while you are on the rack.

The PTR is designed for the travelling cyclist as well as the homebody. There are two versions of the Portable Thoracic Rack. The first is a robust model fashioned from aluminium that is more specifically for home and regular use at gymnasiums. The second is an extremely strong and lightweight (700 grams) robust plastic model that fits neatly into sports bags making it an easy tool to carry with you.

For further information about the Portable Thoracic Rack, see www.t-rack.com.au

 

 

 


Brad Hiskins has a Bachelor of Science (maj. Exercise Physiology), a Diploma in Soft Tissue Therapy, and has worked as Head of Service for the Athens Olympic Games, Soft Tissue Therapy service provider to the Australian Team at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympic Games, Head of Service for Manchester and Melbourne Commonwealth Games and Soft Tissue Therapist at the Australian Institute of Sport from 1994 to 2005. He has long been a provider of soft tissue therapy to numerous national sporting teams and AIS athletes.

 

Karl is a keen age group triathlete who races more than he trains. Good life balance! Karl works in the media industry in Australia and is passionate about the sport of triathlon.

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Review: Suunto 3 Fitness. A Fitness Watch for Beginners

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The Suunto 3 Fitness is the latest release from Suunto, a brand well known to triathletes. Straight away you can tell by its sleek looks that Suunto wants you to be wearing this watch 24×7, in direct competition with the Apple watch and the latest Garmin. Its looks belay its price, and you will seriously struggle to tell that its a fitness watch at all once on.

To that end, I would say the Suunto 3 Fitness is more of a fitness companion for the fitness and wellness crowd (you know those people in activewear taking up valuable coffee shop spots) instead of a dedicated triathlon watch, and in this area, it does a reasonable job.  However, this is a triathlon specific website and content, so I’m going to review the watch from a triathletes perspective.

Suunto 3 Fitness is a cool looking watch for everyday use.

 

Top end features

First off the positives. The Suunto has a few surprising top-end features, given the price. The first is it has an integrated heart rate monitor, which for me when compared to my Garmin Fenix 5, was very accurate. During my runs, it seemed to capture my heart rate accurately, within a few beats of my Garmin heart rate strap.  It’s a pleasing feature, which means you can go strapInbuiltt of the time.

Inbuilt heart rate monitor with high-end features

Battery Life

This is where the Suunto shines. Suunto officially says that the watch will last 30 hours when connected to the phone for GPS and five days with standard health tracking and Bluetooth notifications etc.

My testing showed far better numbers with the watch lasting a good two weeks, packed full of full distance Ironman training. For those that hate charging this watch is a godsend.

Movescount is gone, tell your mates, when you can connect

Suunto took the opportunity to update their rather sparse Movescount platform with a new updated Suunto App. It’s indeed a huge step up and in my opinion visually better than Garmin Connect.

It measures the usual suspects, heart rate, calories etc., but also EPOC – which measures post-exercise oxygen consumption. An interesting stat that is based on the fact that your body uses more oxygen post-exercise than during (for a period of ~48 hours), therefore burns more calories than during the event. I can see this reasonably handy for exercise-induced asthmatics, to help regulate their use of medication.

One feature that I quite enjoyed was the ability to track pace and effort on the Google map of your run, which helps to explain to your coach why your pace dropped up the hills.

Track your performance using Google maps

Also, you have the option of posting your run’s Strava style within the app. Its a bit kitschy given we all use Strava, but it can help if you’re looking for local running buddies.

Ability to post publicly is a cool, albeit scary proposition

One major problem is that I struggled to connect the watch to the App, most of the time. It is an arduous process that I found would only work if I deleted and re-paired the watch – a fiddly workaround for sure.  To be fair though, the product is new, and I recall early Garmins having the same problem, so I’m sure it will sort itself out over time.

Peripheral connectivity

I’ve always struggled with Suunto’s decisions around limiting connectivity in their watches, and this is no different.  To use an external heart rate monitor or monitor cadence or speed on your bike, you need to buy yourself one of the Suunto Pods.

Now, this is in a similar vein to traditional fitness watches such as Apple or Samsung, however, as a triathlete, this closed system doesn’t cut it.  Personally, I have an ANT+ power meter, Bluetooth smart trainer, ANT+ and Bluetooth heart rate monitors, ANT+ bike head units, the list goes on, and I cannot connect any of these peripherals that I use day to day.

Now one can say that most triathletes tend to go overboard on gear, to which I can personally attest, however, all my equipment actually gives me an idea as to how to race and train, and not being able to talk to it is a big no-no to me.

Now the big hairy no-no. No inbuilt GPS

The watch pairs to your phone to leverage the inbuilt GPS of the phone and contains only an accelerometer in the watch. This, in my opinion, is a critical oversight, particularly for triathletes.

The first thing that I noticed was the huge discrepancy between the accelerometer and the GPS. The accelerometer was almost, 1min/km quicker, which had me on an easy run running 4min/km pace. While this is great for my ego, it’s terrible when trying to prepare for a race.

Pairing the watch to my phone didn’t give much better results with a 30-second difference. Given the watch uses my phone’s GPS, you’re always going to get vastly different results when compared to both Suunto’s and Garmin’s higher grade watches.

Secondly, as triathletes, for the most part, were not allowed to race with a phone, which effectively means you need to get a watch for training and one for racing. Inconceivable!

Overall

As I mentioned at the start of this review, the new Suunto 3 Fitness polarised me somewhat. On the one hand, its a pretty solid fitness watch packed full of top end features at an entry-level price.

But as a triathlete, its lack of GPS and dependency on the phone effectively eliminates it use during race day. So, unfortunately, it’s a big thumbs down from me. Save your pennies and get a Suunto Spartan, or even better choice a Garmin 935XT.

  • Price
  • Features
  • Applicability

Summary

Lack of GPS makes this a triathlon deal breaker

Pros
- Well priced
- Top end features given the price
- Better app

Cons
- Why no GPS?
- Suunto connectivity
- Connection drop outs

3.3
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The Sufferfest Releases a New Range of Indoor and Outdoor Plans to Cover Just About Anyone

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The Sufferfest, a comprehensive training app for cyclists and triathletes, announced the release of 67 new training plans on TrainingPeaks, creating a library of over 100 free plans for a novice, intermediate, and advanced endurance athletes. The plans incorporate indoor sessions from The Sufferfest’s catalogue of structured workouts, technique drills, and outdoor weekend sessions to better accommodate year-round structured training. Integration with TrainingPeaks—the industry leader in digital training solutions—allows athletes to take advantage of advanced data analysis and performance management features.

Designed by elite coaches Mac Cassin and Neal Henderson at APEX Coaching, the new collection of training plans from The Sufferfest includes plans designed to prepare athletes for specific events like triathlons, time trials, metric centuries, full centuries, mountainous gran fondos, and sportives. The outdoor workouts are built using TrainingPeaks’ Workout Builder, allowing them to be easily exported to compatible cycling computers or fitness devices. Optional yoga and mental toughness sessions can be added to any plan, further cementing The Sufferfest as the only training platform to provide comprehensive training for an athlete’s body and mind. To access all 102 plans, all users need is a subscription to The Sufferfest and a free account with TrainingPeaks.

“Many athletes lose focus and structure when they transition to riding outside in the warmer months,” said Cassin. “The new event preparation and outdoor/indoor plans are perfect for athletes who don’t want the quality of their training to go out the window when they head out the door. And because the plans are designed around an athlete’s Four-Dimensional Power profile, they are much more effective than generic plans that don’t take a rider’s unique strengths and weaknesses into account. Once an athlete completes the Full Frontal fitness test in The Sufferfest app and gets their comprehensive power profile, they can choose a plan that is tailored to develop their overall fitness while driving improvements in the area they need it most—whether it’s sprinting, sustained efforts, VO2 efforts, or repeated efforts.

“A training plan is only as good as the coach who designed it,” said David McQuillen, CEO of The Sufferfest. “Our partnership with APEX Coaching gives every athlete with a subscription to The Sufferfest access to the same coaches who train the best cyclists and triathletes in the world. By adding these new training plans we’ve expanded the ability for endurance athletes to take advantage of the most innovative, cutting-edge sports science available, no matter what the weather or time of year.”

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A New Workout to Build Muscular Endurance from The Sufferfest

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The Sufferfest, a comprehensive training app for cyclists and triathletes, today announced the release of their latest endurance workout, G.O.A.T. Adding to their library of over 50 structured interval workouts designed by elite coaches, this session features officially-licensed footage of the Swiss Alps from The Col Collective.

G.O.A.T. is a 42-minute interval workout created by world-renowned coaches Neal Henderson and Mac Cassin from APEX Coaching. Designed to help athletes develop neuromuscular coordination and muscular endurance, G.O.A.T. is built around eight, two-minute, low-cadence intervals. Using The Sufferfest’s proprietary Four-Dimensional Power™ platform, every interval is precisely calibrated to the rider’s personal fitness level. Each effort corresponds with a climb up some of the most iconic passes in the Swiss Alps. Mike Cotty, legendary endurance cyclist and founder of The Col Collective, serves as a tour guide during the workout, providing insight into the unique character of each climb.

“To be efficient on the bike you need to engage as many muscle groups as possible, including your glutes, quads, and hamstrings,” said Cassin. “The high-torque, low-cadence efforts in G.O.A.T. are one of the best ways to improve your ability to effectively recruit and coordinate all of the muscle fibres in your legs and develop a smooth, powerful pedal stroke. Because of the demands of generating high power at a low cadence, the workout puts a similar amount of stress on your body as a much longer base ride, making it a perfect session for building muscular endurance and boosting FTP.”

“We continue to build our library of structured workouts to help time-crunched athletes target specific aspects of their Four-Dimensional Power profile and get maximum benefit with minimum time investment,” said David McQuillen, CEO of The Sufferfest. “The focus on low-cadence, high-torque efforts in G.O.A.T. gives the same muscular endurance benefits as a three-hour base ride, all in under 45 minutes. Add the Col Collective’s incredible footage, Mike Cotty’s singular commentary, and the motivational push of some Sufferlandrian Laser Goats, and you have the makings of a classic workout.”

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The New Suunto 9 GPS Watch Provides Amazing Battery Life

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Suunto announces today the new Suunto 9 – a multisport GPS watch designed for athletes who demand the best from their sports watch. Suunto 9 delivers an amazing battery life – up to 120 hours with GPS and an intelligent battery life management system with smart reminders to ensure your watch will last just as long as you need it to. The robust Suunto 9 is made for long, arduous training and racing, and it is tested to the extreme with thousands of hours testing in the toughest conditions.

Suunto 9 is compatible with the new Suunto app that keeps a log of your training, daily activity and sleep, and enables sharing your training logs and engaging with others in the Suunto app community.

Suunto 9 collection

Intelligent battery technology with smart reminders

Three predefined battery modes – Performance, Endurance and Ultra – deliver from 25 hours to up to 120 hours of recording time with GPS tracking on. Additionally, you can create custom battery modes to best suit your needs. When you start a recording, you’ll get an estimate of how much battery life you have left with the current mode. If it’s not enough, switch to another mode at any time.

In addition to the battery modes, Suunto 9 uses smart reminders to help you ensure you have enough battery for your next adventure. Some reminders are preemptive based on, for example, your activity history to make sure you are fully charged for the next outing. If the watch notices you are running low on battery during an exercise, it will automatically suggest changing to a different battery mode.

Tested to the extreme – thousands of hours testing in the toughest conditions

Suunto 9 is designed and built to meet the demands of professional athletes. Tested to the extreme with thousands of hours of real use in the toughest conditions by Suunto’s internal testing team and athletes all over the world, it is your trusted companion to confidently see you through any adventure.

“Durability and precision, attributes at the core of Suunto design heritage, are highly valued by our athletes, and one of the elementary reasons they trust and choose us,” comments Markus Kemetter, Suunto Product Line Manager. “To ensure this, we put the Suunto 9 through vigorous testing. First in our testing laboratory, exposing the materials and the build to various elements and forces, including drop, freeze/thaw, humidity and immersion, and later by our skilled and passionate team of field testers and athletes, who for months have used the watch in their training and everyday life.”

“When talking about training or racing tools for any adventure or endurance sport, the first thing I consider is durability, because it actually gives you the chance to just focus on what you need to do”, comments Mauricio Méndez Cruz, Suunto triathlete and Xterra World Champion. “For me, GPS track accuracy during training and racing has become, not a tool, but a weapon of choice and by this I mean that with it I have become a lot more precise, efficient and confident on my moves during racing – which, at the end of the day, is what makes me be at the top of the podium”, he concludes.

Suunto FusedTrack™ for more accurate track and distance

On long ultra runs, battery life is often the limiting factor for recording distance and track accurately, as GPS is a heavy drain on the battery. Suunto’s unique FusedTrack™ algorithm combines GPS and motion sensor data to improve track and distance accuracy. This allows you to extend battery life by lowering GPS power without significantly compromising accuracy.

True to Suunto’s sports expertise, Suunto 9 is packed with over 80 sports modes and delivers convenient wrist heart rate measurement from Valencell Inc. The watch comes with full GPS route navigation, sunrise/sunset times, storm alarm and many other great features for athletes and outdoor adventurers.

Share your passion with Suunto app

Pair Suunto 9 with the new Suunto app to track all your adventures, as well as follow your long-term trends, including daily activity and sleep. Easily share your greatest achievements and connect with others in the app community.

The smart mobile connection keeps you on top of your daily business with incoming call alerts, messages and notifications to your watch. Suunto app is available in the App Store and Google Play.

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Review: Zone3 Activate Triathlon Range Introduce more Vibrancy and Comfort

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I am sure I’m not the only male triathlon aficionado that gets a bit sick of the standard blue and black drab garb that we have to hoof around in. Zone3 is mixing it up a bit for both male and female athletes by introducing a bit more variety and colour in their range.

For those that don’t know Zone3, it is a 10-year-old UK triathlon brand. Born out of university by a team of athletes. Zone3 is more commonly known for their incredible wetsuits and sponsorship of top end triathletes such as the Ironman Texas and world record holder Tim Don.

Zone3 target their triathlon appear at the beginner/intermediate level triathlete, however, the features and comfort performance competes against the top end brands in the market.

Activate Tri suit smooth lines and sharp colours

Features

I was lucky enough to try out both the Activate Trisuit one piece and the Activate two-piece top and shorts. Both products have a truck load of features, but the key ones are:

  • A TriLite, triathlon specific chamois, that’s sized to help us run and swim without impediment
  • Flat locked seams and zips to avoid irritation
  • Silicone UFO grippers specifically built for triathletes, that grip on the inside of the knee

Comfortable chamois

Field Testing

I took both the products through an open water and pool swim, a couple of 20km runs and a few 6-hour rides and I have to say I was impressed by the comfort of both products. The overlocked seems and tri-specific chamois didn’t produce any level of rub or chaffing and I didn’t notice any level of interference with my abysmal swim kick.

Striking colours and design

One major, frankly outstanding feature for me is that the UFO grippers are beyond just marketing hype. They prevent the shorts from rolling up, something that anyone trying to wrestle on a wetsuit in the dark on race morning will attest to as a complete pain in the neoprene.

Looking good on race day

Now I did mention the snazzy colour scheme before and the Zone3 triathlon apparel doesn’t disappoint. With a variety of colours and fancy designs, you will certainly look brighter than the normal triathlete, just make sure to wipe the snot off our face to maximise photo opportunities.

Overall

What is truly amazing about these products is the price. At $120 for the full triathlon suit and $90 individually for the top and shorts, the Zone3 triathlon suit range represents phenomenal value for money given the pricing and feature set. Combined with online sales you could easily deck out a whole seasons racing and training wardrobe for half what you would pay anywhere else.

  • Features
  • Design
  • Value for Money
  • Durability

Summary

Great value for money with striking good looks.

Pros
- Well priced
- Top end features

Cons
- Could do with a larger range of cool colours
- Durability could be a problem with lower cost materials, but time will tell.

3.8
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HUUB release third version of Aegis wetsuits

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Explicitly designed for triathletes, the Aegis /// is perfect for the beginner to the serious or expert triathlete who want both comfort and performance on race day.

The Aegis was HUUB’s first mid-range wetsuit family to take inspiration and key features from the brands’ top-end names such as Aerious and Archimedes, making it a best seller, always offering both performance and value for money, and therefore commanding the market at that price point.

HUUB’s founder and owner Dean Jackson, commented, “The Aegis family of suits offer much more than the price would suggest, with features descending from our flagship Archimedes it has created a price point defining suit that delivers more than expectations.” 

So what do you get for the Aegis///’s price tag of £299.99? The brands exclusive X-O Skeleton™ for exceptional alignment and stroke efficiency, superior panel patterns offer Rotational Freedom™ and ease of stroke, plus a Breakawy Zipper™ delivering the fastest transition. The wetsuit provides you with HUUB’s exclusive buoyancy levels of 3:5 for men and 3:3 for women. A sleeveless version is also available.  

Explicitly designed for triathletes, the Aegis /// is perfect for the beginner to the serious or expert triathlete who want both comfort and performance on race day.

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