Monday, October 06, 2008

Why Biofeedback (Physiological feedback or Clinical psychophysiology)?

No doubt you've noticed coaching, bike fitting, bike prices creep slowly, and steadily, upward for no apparent reason.  Most pros don't pay, so they shrug off the extra cost, only for the paying customer to see it as a annoyance; and don't question the services or finding an alternative over a few bucks.  But we all have a breaking point, and what does a price increase for your fit do to to many who want help.  For most, it will send you straight into the arms of a competitor or just a basic fit. 

A good question?   What do you get with a given fit?  An eye? A video? Or do you get something that really teaches you and makes a difference for you?  That $10,000 bike is not going to teach you how to ride better.  So why use biofeedback?

What is Biofeedback.   Biofeedback actually refers to clinical applications where physiologica signals from the body are used for (VISUAL) or aduitory feedback during therapy or training session.  It has been subject of thorough scientific research ever since.  

Over 5,000 scientific publications can be found in library form on the Internet.

So if biofeedback works, why is it not used as it could be?  Its simple, its the cost e.g. our system runs about $40,000.  You bet very few bike fitter's are willing to vest into the game at that level, and you can bet that a bike store is not!  We feel it is worth it to show our dealers more truth when they are here to train in our school.

So why is this type of high-tech slow to be used? This type of high-tech can also remove the subjective ideas of a coach or say a trainer device on what you need to do!  We see people learn the wrong applications all the time.  That means it can reduce the sells of these devices, plus the jobs from those who have the many years in school in physiological and psychophysiology applications.  Most centers are not willing to pay the cost, as they will just hire someone who in most cases cost much less.  So they attempt something much different, save money, yet attempt to skin the cat.  

Biofeedback is very useful when applied to stress-related disorder or health problems related to your 'behavior' or you 'lifestyle'.  Our focus is your behavior on the bike and how we teach your brain!  No one can  get into your muscles and look at the motor firing and see what you need to do.  Power is just the sum of your effort.  How do you know the tone of a fast moving leg and how the muscles are working?  They are told you need to do this or that because someone else does it?  Not so!  

There are a number of people that suffer on the bike from  problems, in which were in the past described as having a significant 'psychosomatic' component.  Examples are chronic tension headache, hyperventilation, even migraines, burn-out, stress related symptoms and so on.  For the most, these problems often require a multidisciplinary approach. This is where biofeedback can usually be applied with good results, actually more so than neruofeedback.

Research has indicated that chronic stress often leads to overactivation of the sympathic nervous system.  The (autonomic nervous system) is responsible for functions such as; the acceleration of the heart rate, the constriction of blood vessels, the raising of the blodd pressure and more.  The stress also impacts the hormonal system.  Think how the above impact cycling.

Just as we need (homeostasis) in our life, we need that constantly balancing state to deal with the chronic stress that can interfere with the process of cycling.  Your immune system can even be stressed negatively, leading to long term chronic issues as well.

Biofeedback shows the physiological effects of stress and your 'behavior' as they occur.  In the hands of someone trained, a biofeedback system becomes a very powerful tool that (VISUALIZES) the effect of your stress or behavior and helps the client to go through a faster learning process. 
That's right, you have to lean!

In this process the client, while up on the bike, becomes aware of these effects to work out in their body and how they can make the required 'behavioral' or can we say 'cycling lifestyle' changes.  

We have many examples of clients who come to us and have developed a habit, as they have been told to do this or to do that. Most of this chronic tension is in the neck and shoulder muscles (uppper trapezius) and many have headaches as a consequence.   The resulting phenoena (pain) roots are the person lack of understanding where they carry their tension.
The cool thing, is the tension is visually displayed on a computer screen and through sEMG-biofeedback the client learns to become aware of this tension and release it before it leads to cramps, painful muscles, etc...  

The point is not to show you how much we know, rather allowing you a way by making these 'behavioral' changes and even make them disappear altogether.   Now think of the pedal stroke and how we can allow you to see the tension of your legs as they spin at 100 rpm!  

With biofeedback, you can actually help a person to become aware of the effects of chronic behavior that the the root of their performance. In the example of sEMG used about the neck and shoulder muscles that causes restricted bloodflow, fatigue, build-up waste products and finally pain, the user can observe their sEMG as they apply relaxation techniques and immediately see (feedback) the results.

We know that the strongest men don't always hit the ball farther and that holds true for the pedal stroke!

The main principles in cylcing are:

  • Through observation of the physiological processes in their own body, you become aware of the negative effects of the behavior.
  • Application of the better techniques, you see immediate physiological effects (feedback) can be seen and trained (operant conditioning).  This accelerates the learning process in making the required behavioral changes e.g. Georgia Gould, Reba Rusch, going to the top of the game!
  • The training results can be monitored over several sessions. Thus the improvements and the results of this method can be very objectified and measured over time e.g. better behavioral equals more watts over time!
There are disadvantages!  The main disadvantage is that it requires that the client is "actively participating".  In most cases behavioral changes can not be achieved by a "pill" or on command.  It involves a learning process and thus requires time and your motivation.

Four important factors are required in order for biofeedback to be effective:

  1. Rebiable equipment that can repeat the feedback each and every time.
  2. A trained experienced clinician who has used the equipment over the course of time.
  3. A motivated client who has a open mind to change their ways towards improvement!
  4. Enough time (sessions), too many don't find the time change.  Learning seems to be hard for most?, But if we can get them to learn they reach their goals very fast.
In most cases, the negative effects of biofeedback come from  the many people and their ideas on the subject of cycling that dis on the use of biofeedback and its applicaitons.  It seems that those same people don't have a $40,000 high-tech tool, so they have to push their ways, so they claim they can skin the cat another way.

Biofeedback is not a cure for everything and everyone on the bike, but it is very powerful and we have watched many go straight to the top, even taking many world championships.  When they do so, it is always the same story, where did they come from?

If you don't have 20 years to learn, biofeedback can allow you to "get it right" the first time! 
In todays world, there are many who want make a living from teaching you how to pedal and ride your bike.  Just look at the journal and note how many place ads e.g. We make you perform,  camps, etc... pushing the latest training techniques.  Its very hard to sort through and there are many mass market ways to get you on your bike.  Regardless, you have to still learn and do you have 20 years of preparation and focus to  or just a short time while you still have the motor.

One thing is true, it takes impeccable preparation and focus to reach your goals e.g. Kristin Armstrong from Boise, ID.   It took her about 8 years!  She even won a world championship while on Team Lipton, a team we provided support through Craig Upton.

We all need more morale and accomplishments from a win e.g. (USA vs. world) can do just that.  Let's hope other's have lifelong dreams of making history.  It can be done!

Biofeedback can just lower the time it takes to to get there!  Why would you want to subject your learning with poor skills?  Now it the time to learn, in the fall, so you can focus on the game in the spring.

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