Friday, July 06, 2012

The Tour, P90X, & A Guy Called Wiggo

To me, by far the most interesting storyline in this year’s Tour de France involves Bradley Wiggins. On the road he might be deemed a boring racer but when you lift the hood and see how’s he’s prepared for this year’s race it’s a fascinating story that brings back memories of creating P90X.

I’m inspired by training systems. Not just the day-to-day efforts that athletes use to prepare for events but the entire scope of training for a goal. During our P90X development Tony was generally focused on making the hardest and most creative workouts he could while I was strategizing how we’d integrate them into a system. A lot of how it came to fruition was stuff I’d learned from the Tour.

In fact, I have a memory intrinsically linking the two. While Tony was putting the hurt on the first 90X test group in LA I was in a hotel in France digging through data I’d been compiling from un-official test groups through our Message Board community attempting to do the opposite. I vividly recall a conversation with my colleague Isabelle, about stress tolerances of athletes vs lay people. We were both in Europe on different agendas but each had Beachbody projects foremost on our minds. She was there working with some Olympic athletes in Italy, but also had a program she was working on for us. I was there for the Tour, to witness Lance Armstrong attempt tp re-write history while trying to create a fitness program that might do the same.

Armstrong won his Tours by forever alerting the template cyclists used to train. Instead of logging thousands and kilometers and then racing into shape, his team devised a periodizational training plan focused around one big peak, the Tour de France. In his mind, no other race really mattered.

This is exactly what we were trying to do with P90X, alter the template for home fitness. Instead of making another sweat-fest cardio program, the idea was to systematically break down your body and build it back up over time, targeting all of your physiological factors in one program. On this balmy night in Grenoble my challenge was how to modify the training system we’d created for the broadest demographic. This required some hedging on the tolerance levels of regular folks vs athletes to accommodate the greatest number of people without injuring or overtraining them.

iconic climbs/iconic no helmet fashion

The results of that trip were that Armstrong made history, I wrote a couple of articles on the Tour, cancellation of Isabelle’s proposed Beachbody program leading to her wedding our CEO, and P90X Lean. All of which comes full circle around a guy called Wiggo.

Maybe he’s the P90X2 of cycling. Riffing off of Armstrong’s template only took Wiggins to the podium of a grand tour. Not satisfied, he’s re-shuffled the deck of cyclist training card with an audacious new plan using a coach with a swimming background. Like P90X did with home fitness, they’ve scrapped pretty much every traditional notion of how to train for bike racing. No “base miles”. No “racing into shape”. Not even Armstrong’s throw away races. Just blocks of training followed by a test race taken seriously, periodizided to include a few minor peaks leading to a major one.

Preliminary results are stunning. He’s won every race he’s targeted as a test, something even Armstrong never managed. And if he can indeed parlay that into a Tour victory he’ll have once again altered the training template for those harboring Tour dreams. And while he still has many detractors who dig up his past failures or say he’s peaked too soon, most of the industry “experts” said we’d never sell P90X.

Of course he hasn’t done it yet. That’s precisely while I’m watching. The first big test is tomorrow. For me, the drama will be more than what we see on the grimacing faces of men pushing their bodies to the limit. It will be the validation or failure of a new training system, which is something that excites me even more than sport.


Josh said...

We'll see. Evans v. Wiggins. There really couldn't be a more boring race. Why are tour contenders now so friggin' boring? No one will attack, they'll just sit watching each other in the hills and let it play out in the 2 long TTs. zzzzzzz.

At least Sagan appears to have some ego and character.

It's a long time since the days of Cippolini and friends. Any chance Sagan will show up in a leopard striped skin-suit? Doubt it.

Plus, it would appear that the peloton can't even ride bikes anymore. Cruising along at 40kph on a flat and straight country road, and half go down? Jesus.

Was nice seeing Dave Z off the front all day.


Willy Voet said...

Yeah, apparently you can't attack 15k from a mountain summit without a haematocrit level of less than 60. Sad. We need more doped up racers. And not just EPO. We need more lunatics like Pantani who'll do a line and shoot out of the pack with 150k still to race. Where can you get Belgian mix these day? Obviously the lads could all use some.

Super Mario said...

In my day crashes in the peloton were from guys being so hopped up they couldn't control themselves. I think the guys out there now are simply falling asleep. What ever happened to panache.

Forza, eh!?

Josh said...

"For me, the drama will be more than what we see on the grimacing faces of men pushing their bodies to the limit. It will be the validation or failure of a new training system"

or the validation or failure of a new doping system.


Reed said...

Josh, you obviously missed the Dauphine. Wiggins and Evans made it pretty interesting, mostly Evans. I've never really enjoyed watching him, but he made some great attacks and worked hard to make them stick. If he races the tour the same way it will be the most interesting one in a while.

Bring it.

Matt Withers said...

What designates someone a boring racer.

And congrats, your post has me interested in checking out the Tour for the first time since Armstrong retired.

Anonymous said...

Steve---Thanks for some background. Made me wonder about how much time athletes take off AFTER a competition. I've found that after a competition-level effort, my body is cooked for AT LEAST 3-4 days. What's your sense?

Josh said...

What makes someone a boring racer? Scientifically speaking anyone with a hematocrit below 60.

But, if someone is willing to attack at the risk of failure - that's exciting. Sitting and matching other people's attacks = boring.

Evans, despite what he did in the Dauphine is pretty boring. Could be that he's just bleh to watch on the bike.
He and Leipheimer just sit there. Mind you, he's a much better rider than Leipheimer, but still.

Horner could be exciting, and if he'd found the doping, er I mean training program, 15 years ago that he has now - he would've killed it.

Josh said...

Watching the Tour is waaaay more exciting now that Lance is gone. In the first place, if you're watching on American TV, every third word out of Phil and Paul's mouths is not Lance. I know they had to do it because of the sponsor dollars that the Texan brought in, but . . . jeesh.

In the second place, there are actual blow ups - which probably has to do with the fact that everyone is racing with a hematocrit pegging the inside of the legal limit, rather than pushing the limits of their hearts exploding.

Bike racing, like horse racing, is a funny thing. No one wants to watch slow and methodical. We want speed and insanity. Which is why both sports (is horse racing a sport?) are rife with doping.

Which brings us back to a long ago argument - so what? Who gives a shit? Let them dope and dope. Everyone gets to dope. That levels the playing field. Don't want to dope? Go work at Lowe's.


Seth Mauldin said...

Steve Edwards said...

a-la Armstrong Wiggo took everyone to the woodshed. A-la Armstrong, this incited a lot of doping talk. Didn't surprise me at all.