Thursday, June 12, 2008

back from the ranch

(a clump of joshua trees, prickly, painful)

Back from the ranch a.k.a "Xantusia" under the hospitable care of Mssrs. Dan Empfield and Mark Montgomery, I am now endowed with the title of certified F.I.S.T. (Fit Institute of Slow Twitch), have a thorn from a joshua tree embedded in my scalp and am jonesing for a dog with a rinkly face on the other side of the country..and it transpired thus..

Susan Roman, one of my trusty PTA's in our Sag Harbor office, had in March brought the course to my attention. Both of us being triathletes, one of us being a total gear head (hint.. not me), and both of us dealing professionally in physical therapy on a daily basis with our injured triathlete and cycling friends, we figured that this course would be a good match for our triathlete -therapist - 3rd decade athlete brains.

Long haul flight to Ontario CA, pleasant drive uphill to the deserts of the San Gabriel mountains and up a bumpy sandy driveway to Xantusia, the coupound of the Empfield and Montgomery duo. Greeted by several of the 8 (rescue /vagrant) dogs that live there, we quickly settled in, aided by a bike ride up the canyon (8% grade), a beer and an early night.

(dan on day one, before he was fed up of our questions)
Day one of the course began after a gruelling uphill ride into a neighboring canyon, stopping only to view the valley or snap a quick photo of the desert views. The first morning, after breakfast #2, was mostly an introduction into the FIST method and philosophy, observation of a triathlete fit process, and much discussion. Four of the course attendees were professional bike fitters from TREK, one of whom was, no joke, a rocket scientist, now in R+D for the Wisconsin company. Another, a yoga therapist from Portland who is a much lauded fitter, specializing in riders with injuries (low back pain, hip arthritis, chronic injuries, neck pain etc.) An olympic medalist from cycling track in the LA games rounded out the group, so needless to say, there was a lot of Q+A time. Comments about fitting, concerns about the details, the equipment, the technical specifications of all and sundry, the aerodynamics of helmets, the pressure testing of nether regions on saddles: all fair game during the couse, lunch and dinner. Rounding out the night was a visit by each of the dogs, in turn, for a scratch, a rub, a paw or a dribble. I fell in love with Punkin', a squishy faces boxer mix with chopped off ears and the most wonderful demeanor, whispering quietly to her, vowing to sneak her into my carry-on for the return to Sag Harbor. Monty must have read my mind, pouring another beer, warning me about how everyone loves Punkin' (and likely growelling in his head.. "don't even try it girlie")

(ooh the downhill makes the climbs worth it..)
Day 2, another early morning ride in yet another canyon , with another gruelling climb, this time with the yoga fitter, who also happens to be a billy goat. Between gasps and splutters, I gave mono-syllabic answers to Michael the billy-goat about questions we had in reference to the fit progess, and how, as health care professionals, we could modify.. and dare I say (!) improve the process. Near the mountain top, I paused to chceck out a coyote (who looks JUST like the cartoon version, all skinny and ribs with pointy ears etc), take a photo.. actually glad for a rest, then continue on to the summit. We came back to the ranch, flying downhill, snarfed breakfast #2, and took up class again, complete with 4 or 5 of the dogs. This day wsa all hands on, or rather, fingers and thumbs.. as we fine tuned our measurement methods, becoming more skilled and confident with each practice. The methodology is interesting, if imprecise, but the outcome is great, smart and helpful. The client goes through the fitting process and on completion, has a set of measurements in a "universal bike language" that can be then applied to EVERY available frame on the market, to get the optimal fit.

(click on play to see me fit at a most aggressive 81 degrees.. and COMFY I might add!)

We did more networking, more comparison measurements, more philosophising about the application of the fit to mere humans (as opposed to the Ironman professional athletes that Dan is used to working with) and then had more beer at the end of the evening, watching the sunset spectacularly from the elevated viewing deck. (valley view from Monty's house)
Rising early but not so bright the next morning, I skipped the group trail run and gathered my thoughts.
How could I apply this in my PT practice? Quite easily actually, having 60 patients a day in the office increases the liklihood that we can get more people happier on their bikes.
Would I have a target market group for this application? Absolutely. Eastern Long island is chock full with weekend warriors, tri-heads and injured patients looking to return to cycling, or take it up as an alternative to pounding the pavement.
Could we improve on the product/ process? Completely. With our evaluation, assessment and analytical skills of PT and yoga combined, we can address the positional and functional issues that prevent optimization of position, and improve tolerance of non-inured athletes to aggressive positioning. This by a system of prescriptive exercises, not unlike what we apply in our PT office lives, coaching bodies to increase the liklihood of sustaining these positions, and activities, for the long haul.

Next blog: problems with the process, how S+S can improve it, and plans to take over the world.. well, not really, just plans to set up a comprehensive medical bike fitting service. Oh yea, and the thorn..dingbat walked straight into a joshua tree while discussing saddle design and women's saddle sores with the rocket scientist from TREK.
(sinead fitting stephanie after dinner)

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