James Wilson transcript

Written by Christopher Kelly

Jan. 7, 2016


Christopher:    Hello and welcome to Nourish Balance Thrive podcast. My name is Christopher Kelly. Today, I'm joined by the strength and conditioning coach, James Wilson. Hi, James.

James:    How's it going, Chris?

Christopher:    Good. Thank you. I wanted to get James on for the longest time. I've had fantastic results following his blog and podcast as well actually which I will link to in the show notes for this episode. Following James' training programs for strength training, I've gotten really good results. I think I first tried to get you on to the podcast about a year ago and didn't have much luck. So I'm kind of excited to have you on now.

James:    Awesome. It's probably about a year ago as some people know now I was starting to develop my new pedal. So I had some things going on behind the scenes. I was pretty busy and [0:00:51] [Indiscernible] told a lot of people by what was going on. I apologize for not being more available. I usually love to take any opportunity I can to come on and talk with people that have had luck with my -- I shouldn't say luck really because it's not luck, but had good results with my programs. I just love to spread the word and talk biking and training and all sorts of important stuff. Thanks for keeping on me and getting me on. I appreciate it.

Christopher:    No problem. We're used to talking about things which are quite controversial on this podcast, things like gluten sensitivity and blood sugar and diabetes and stuff like that. I think anybody who's easily offended by the idea of using flat pedals on a mountain bike might want to find another podcast to listen to because I know they're out there. I already posted one article on my website. It was overwhelming. It was by far the most engaging article I've ever written and it's partly because there was a mistake in it. But yet people get riled about this stuff, whether or not they should be using clippers pedals or not, but we'll get into that later.

James:    It definitely ties into my overall training philosophy. I think people understand how I view things. It's not an either/or sort of thing. It makes more sense. But like you said, there's a lot of knee-jerk reaction to stop, really a lot of things. You mentioned gluten sensitivity. It doesn't really matter, flat pedals or what does it in our circle, but every circle has that one subject that's just a little less contentious than religion in the Middle East peace process kind of thing. For us it just happens to be pedals. You start to mention anything about using flat pedals or they may not be as bad as people make them out to be. You start to find out real quickly what people's real thoughts are on it. Anyways, I'm sure we'll get into that.

Christopher:    Let me tell you a bit about my background with your training program. I've ridden mountain bike since I was a kid and then kind of fell out of it when I learned how to smoke and ride a motorbike and all that kind of stuff. And then got back into it more in my university years, sort of early 20s type thing. And then somehow I fell into road biking. I don't really know. I think it was something to do with moving to San Francisco. It seemed like all of my friends at that time had rode bikes.

    Eventually I bumped into a friend that was riding a mountain bike. He said, "Yeah. You're pretty fast. Did you try this? You should try racing." So I did and he was right. So even though I had a mountain bike and enjoyed riding that I was sure that riding the road bike was what was going to make me fast and competitive.

The thing I cared about most of all was my body weight. I would do anything to try and be skinny and I would try and do anything to make my bike as light as it possibly could. I really laugh now when I see some of the pictures of the old bikes I had that weighed like a full suspension mountain bike that wasn't very expensive but still only weighed 19 pounds because of the tight choice I've made. It's just completely ridiculous.

At that time I was really skinny and weak and my back used to hurt a lot. It took the fun out of mountain biking. So I know that's kind of a loaded question but let me ask you this. Why is strength training important for mountain biking?

James:    I really kind of have to take one step back because there's a big difference. Mountain biking and road cycling are kind of different flavors of the same sport. I have an article on my blog of why I hate the term cycling. I really hate the term cyclist because to lump everybody who ride a bike in as the same kind of athlete, it's like saying ball sport athlete. You know what I mean? Just because you have a ball in your sport -- let's say a golfer and a baseball player and a soccer player and a football -- you know what I mean? They all play with a ball so therefore there's this general category called ball sport athlete. We're all just going to kind of lump everybody into that. That's ridiculous.


People kind of laugh when you put it that way but that's exactly what's happened with the term cycling, and that's why so many people get confused as to what is the best way to get better at mountain biking because cycling, I mean we all know it's just a code word for road cycling or road riding. When someone says cycling or cyclist, really what they mean is road riding. The problem though is that road riding is a completely different sport than mountain biking is from our positions, from a metabolic standpoint, from an energy demand standpoint, from a strength demand, skill demand. When you start really looking at the sports beyond the fact that we're on something that has two wheels and we pedal to power it, you really start to see like "Man, these sports are nothing alike." Even the bikes that we ride are extremely different.

So there's a lot of confusion because want to get better at mountain biking, and a lot of the information out there that exists pretty much tells you how to get better at road cycling and there's this assumption that if you get better at road cycling, then that's going to automatically translate over. Now we arrive to the point where you found in yourself which is "Crap. This ain't working." Unfortunately that's where a lot of people come to me is that they have spent time, energy and effort following the traditional ways of trying to get better at mountain biking which usually involves a ton of road riding.

Honestly, we got to be the only group of athletes in the world that are told to practice in other sport to get better at your sport. You know what I mean? It's ridiculous. Both cyclists don't ride on the road. They don't ride their bikes to improve their cardio. They ride their bikes to improve riding on the road. For them, that's specific training. For us, it's just general training.

On the trail you have a lot more of what I call high tension cardio. Anyone who's been on the trail kind of instinctively knows what I'm talking about when I say high tension cardio. You've got low tension cardio where you're able to kind of sit and spin and it doesn't really take a lot of tension in the core legs to keep the pedals moving. But then you hit a hill or you hit a technical section where you got to start laying down a little bit more tension on the pedal. So usually when those RMPs start dropping down below like 80 RMP or you got to stand up and maneuver through something where you're not pedaling --

That's another thing. Pedaling kind of gets overblown. It's an extremely important part of mountain biking but it's not it. You know what I mean? What's funny is what most people don't realize is the best riders in the world actually pedal the least. For people that don't ride downhill, they may dismiss this but it still goes without saying. We had a guy, Aaron Gwin, who a few months ago wonderful a world cup downhill race after he broke his chain right out of the gate. He literally won the thing after only pedaling a few times to get out of the gate. He never pedaled once to get down and he still won.

What was funny is a few weeks before I had posted an article on PinkBike. If anybody [0:08:33] [Indiscernible] knows that site. It's an interesting site. I come across a study that looked at what does it take to be a successful downhill racer. It was funny because despite them purposely looking several times to try to prove that pedaling-based cardio fitness, especially as you can measure it in a lab, is directly related to mountain bike performance, especially downhill race, so they couldn't make that connection. But what they found was grip strength, endurance, had a direction connection towards the performance.

There's a guy named Gray Cook with Functional Movement Screen and Functional Movement Systems, and he has a really popular saying. The grip is the window to the core, that you can't have a strong grip without having a strong functional core. So when someone says that grip strength endurance has been found to be important for mountain biking, well, I read that back to being, well, core strength -- I don't really like the word core training because everything is core training if you do it right -- but core strength is extremely important, especially functional core strength and the way that it matters in how you're moving and using it.

Anyways, I post that article and all these people were freaking and ripping on me. And then a couple of weeks later he went a race without pedaling once. No one seemed to catch the irony of the whole thing except for me.

Anyways, the point is is that pedaling is an extremely important part but it's not the only part, especially on the trail.


You have a very large skill component, your ability to use momentum properly to maintain momentum. So that skill element requires a lot more mobility and strength. Strength is really just how stress-proof is your movement. If you can't even do a bodyweight squat, that's no good. We need to fix your mobility first. We need to get to move properly.

Now, once you can move properly, how stress-proof is that movement, how much stress can you put that movement under before it starts to break down? And that's where strength comes in. That's all strength really is when you do it properly. So now you take someone who can do a perfect bodyweight squat but you have them hold a 35-pound kettlebell to do a goblet squat and their squat form breaks down, well, their movement isn't very stress-proof. When you get that movement out on a trail and you put it under stress, it's not going to take a whole lot of stress work to start breaking down for you to start moving inefficiently again. Inefficient movement waste energy and it's also unbalanced. On the trail balance is everything.

One you kind of understand how strength helps stress-proof your movement, that good movement is really what helps you efficiently. People are always worried about "Oh, I got to add to the size of my gas tank." When people are doing cardio training what they're trying to do is like "I need to add to the size of my gas tank." Another way that you can go about this is also to improve your miles per gallon, improve your efficiency. So strength training really helps with that efficiency side. It gives your muscles, actually, access to more fiber. Something that they found is this whole idea of fast twitch and slow twitch. It's not quite as simple as that. During cyclic endurance events like running or cycling your body will shut down to rest certain muscle fibers and activating other muscle fibers and cycle through. So stronger you are the more muscle fibers you have access to in order to do that little cyclical thing. So it actually can directly increase your endurance by giving your body access to more muscle fiber.

When you really understand the dynamic nature of mountain biking and you understand how to improve the human body beyond just the unidimensional approach that most people take which is cardio training, if people understood the history of sports science, understand why cardio training is so important, it's not that cardio training is the most important thing in the world, it's just the first thing they could study and it's the easiest thing for them to study. So that's why it's been studied the most. It's not necessarily because it's the most important thing that you can possibly do to improve your performance. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't but there are so many other things that are important. Improving your high tension capabilities, improving your strength which is going to improve those high tension capabilities, is going to have a huge, huge organic impact on your performance.

I've had a lot of people tell me that they actually spend less time doing cardio training. Let's face it. If you got into cardio training, great, but I got into this riding my mountain bike. You know what I mean? If I can get better results and spend less mindnumbing time on a trail or out on the road, then I'm going to do it. That's really what strength training gives you is that it really just fast tracks that curve that you need to get past, the strength curve. People forget, just doing your sport is a form strength training. Someone who's ridden for 10 years, they have extremely high levels of sport specific strengths just from doing the sport.

If you're not doing things to offset that, you're going to run into movement and other issues that are going to cause overuse injuries and problems down the road. The thing is is that you can fast track that process through proper strength training. So instead of taking 5 to 10 years to build the levels of specific strength that you need to be able to really enjoy the trail and start dominating on a different level, you can cut that down dramatically through strength training. You're still going to get on the trail and ride. That's the most important thing you can possibly do. You got to get out on the trail and ride.


The point of a good training program is to fill in gaps. This is my last point and then I'll stop rambling here.

Christopher:    No. This is good.

James:    You want to fill in gaps. You want to look at what does my sport already provide me. My training program should try and fill in some of the gaps that it doesn't provide. So when you're out on you're mountain bike and you're riding on the trail what are you already getting plenty of? Cardio. That is cardio training. It's the most specific cardio training you possibly do is riding your mountain bike. So you're out there breathing hard. You're working your cardio system. You're getting plenty of cardio. Do you know what you're not getting on the trail? Mobility training, strength training, specific movement as it applies to skills training. So there are things that you're not getting on the trail that you need on the trail. You're not getting enough of it on the trail to dramatically improve it.

When you step back and you really just kind of look at things, it's like man, strength training is just the extremely obvious choice for a mountain biker because we get plenty of cardio already when we're out on our bike. So in my training program the last thing I need to do is add more cardio. From a gap standpoint, from a stress-proofing your movement standpoint so that you can maintain your balance and efficiency, longer in rides and understand higher stress, all of those things add up to just making a much better mountain biker. When you look at all that it's like why wouldn't you spend some time doing some strength training. There you go.

Christopher:    That's definitely very consistent with my experience. I cam remember when I did my first skills clinic with Lee McCormack who I know you know, who's been on this podcast. He rode behind me once on a trail in Marin, and was able to keep up with me without pedaling, just pumping the trail. Afterwards he said, "You're exuding energy everywhere. There's almost sparks coming out of your hair. You're pushing all of these walls to try and make up your lack of skills and lack of ability to pump the trail." It's helpful to have a huge aerobic engine but, as pointed out, you can't really use that to overcome the other skills that are necessary for mountain biking.

James:    Yeah. You can only do it for so long. Eventually you will run into that wall. There are a lot of riders out there unfortunately that they try to outfitness their way through bad skills. I had one of my great epiphanies at a skills camp. I'm watching more of the coaches try and help one of the guys get into just basic body position. It's like day one, lesson one, get to your basic body position.

This poor guy was just struggling. The coach is doing everything he possibly could to try to get him into a decent basic attack position. It just dawned on me all of a sudden. I'm like "I bet that guy can't touch his toes." All of a sudden I'm like "I bet that guy can't do a decent hip hinge. I couldn't get him in the gym and do a deadlift." So it's like now is when I realized that your skills are intimately tied to how well you move.

Obviously [0:18:46] [Indiscernible] picking them up and getting really good at them and mastering them but you should be able to pick up a high level skill in about 10 to 15 minutes without a whole lot of just crazy coaching. If you haven't been able to pick it up in that amount of time, you're not ready for it. There's some fundamental movement or skill that you do not have that uses is just not going to work. So if you're trying to learn a kettlebell swing and it takes you more than 10 minutes to be able to really pick it up be able to snap out some good swings, you're not ready. Your hip hinge was not where it needed to be.

People hate to hear this, especially skills coaches who try to cram everything you need to know. I'm guilty of it. I tell people right off the bat when I do my skills dance like, "Look, you're going to run into your wall. You're going to hit a point where your movement and your strength are what are holding you back, not your knowledge of what to do. You're just going to have to accept it. You're not going to learn how to do everything this weekend."

If you're trying to learn how to corner and it's taking you more than 10-15 minutes to pick up the basics of it and be able to execute it, you are lacking something. There's some movement still that you're lacking that you need to pick up.


That's kind of the other bonus. What I found is that when people move better and they're stronger, their skills kind of automatically improve and they're able to pick up refinements on their skills so much faster and so much easier. 99% of what people are struggling with when it comes to stuff really just boils down to bad movement and gaps in their strength. You fix those, it's amazing how much better you move on a bike and how a lot of these skills problems that people have kind of start to clean themselves up a little bit.

You're absolutely right. If you watch a good rider, like I said, you can just tell, they look effortless. And then you watch a not so good rider and they look like they're just hacking at the trail.

There's another article on my blog that I wrote on arete which is the Greek word for excellence but with style and grace. The Greeks understood that it wasn't enough to just do it. You needed to have some style and grace with it as well, that the really good ones possess that style and grace, especially with mountain biking. We don't encourage, we don't put in people's minds like "Man, have some balance, have some style, have some grace. Don't worry about how fast you're going. Just worry about" -- I hate to use the word look like you know what you're doing because you want to more than look like it, you want to know what you're doing, but you do. You want to have that -- where someone was to see you riding the trail from across the way which is -- see the way that you move on the bike it would be like "That's a good rider," wouldn't even need to see anything else but you can just tell a good rider when you see one by the way that they move.

You can have two riders who have the same Strava times, for example, or finished similar places in a race series, and they're going to be looked at as like the same rider but you got one dude who was you, sports coming out of your head to get that -- just pedaling your face off and horrible skills and just blowing speed in every corner but, dude, you got the engine to peddle out of it. You know what I mean? And then you got the other guy who's smooth and fluid. Maybe he doesn't have the huge aerobic engine but he's making use of everything that he's got. I think the guy who's getting there with a little more style and grace is kind of leaning more towards being more like in the spirit of mountain biking. I don't know. This is just philosophies and stuff. I know we all just kind of need to hold hands by the far and sing Kumbaya because we're all the same. We're all the same family but…

Christopher:    It's an interesting point. I think the guy that is smoother and more stylish and does better with the skills is probably also going to be the guy that's more consistent. So the guy that's winning the series points, the guy that comes back does well year after year rather than the guy that gets one good result and then crashes and breaks and his collarbone, and then recover from that, and crashes and break something else.

James:    Yeah. We also have the phenomenon of the good local rider. This is something I tell people. You have to make a distinction between a good rider and a good local rider because there are people out there that are great local riders. They know their trails like the back of their hand. They know where to get the pedal strokes in. They know where the corners are coming up. You know what I mean? You ride with these guys and their fast. But, man, you get them off of their local trails, you get them into something unfamiliar, all of a sudden they're just wrecking left and right or they have to slow down significantly. These are the guys that are always "I got to get used to this new trail before I can rip it." They've always got a ton of excuses as to why they can't ride quite as fast and at the same level outside of their comfort zone, outside of the trails that they know.

Again, that boils down to exactly what you're saying, a more consistent rider. If you have authentic skills, then you will be able to apply those authentic skills under any circumstance. But if you're just relying on "Man, I got really good fitness and I know my local trails like the back of my hands. So I'm going to do really good in my local race series. I'm going to do really good with my local riding group," but you venture out of those things and all of a sudden you're not really as good of a rider as you thought. That's just kind of something else.


With new riders it's tough because you come in and you don't know who to look up to. You come and you're looking up to everyone. Honestly, you can't look up to everyone because not everyone deserves to be looked up to, not everyone knows what the hell they're talking about and knows how to help you get to that same level either.

If you're just judging based solely on Strava times or who's doing the best in the local race series or -- again, sometimes those two things overlap, sometimes they are the same person. And it depends. What do you want out of riding? If you want to have the smooth style and grace side of it then look at what riders and have that do kind of thing.

It's such a more consistent ability to apply your skills and have fun. That was one of the things that always frustrated when I first started riding. Sundays I would go out and I would just be killing it just like "Oh, this is so awesome. I just love being out here." I always kind of get sad at those rides because I knew that my next ride wasn't going to be that good. You know what I mean? It's just kind of a consistency thing of like why are some days I'm on the chart like I'm going to kill myself and other days I'm killing it, I'm doing really well. For me it was when I started to realize that it all boiled down to I was moving differently on those bad days. I wasn't moving as well. My balance points weren't as good.

Again, as I started to figure out how all this movement stuff tied in to my biking and my performance, my performance got a lot more consistent. I got rid of those quote "bad days" where you're just like "Jesus, man. I should've just stayed at home today."

Christopher:    I've had those days.

James:    Yeah. Across the board it helps you a ton. I guess my point is there's definitely more than one way to skin a cat. The way that I'm talking about is not the only way because you will find guys who are amazingly fast on the trail and they are not very skilled. I guess my point is is just that realize that there are two different ways, that their way isn't the only way either even though it's the way that's usually emphasized and glorified more. Don't try hard. You know what I mean? Because that's what the skills part is. Don't try hard. Don't try to go fast and you'll go fast.

The other side is "Fucking go fast, man. Freaking sports is coming out of my ears" kind of thing. Both of them can work but I found for longevity and consistency and stuff like that, and fun, emphasizing movement skills and stuff like that definitely helps or works better.

Christopher:    This is good news actually because I have a lot of doctors on my podcast. They talk about the importance of maintaining lean muscle mass for all types of other reasons including Joe Friel who I had on a couple of weeks ago. He talked about the importance of strength training. I think most people listening will already be sold on the idea of strength training. Let me ask you this. I really hate going to the gym. Does that mean I can't be included in this strength training thing?

James:    No. I hate going to the gym too, man. It's a zoo in there. I used to manage a gym for a few years down in Texas, a couple of years. It was very interesting. We used to refer to it as general population and stuff. It's like "Can we put this out there in general pop? Are they going to hurt themselves?" Anyways, running a gym is an interesting thing.

You don't need to be able to go to a gym. When people strength training, again, it's what are we talking about. Terms have value but they also start to become limiting. Like the term cyclist has value but, like I mentioned earlier, it becomes very limiting. In the term strength training, it's same thing. It has value but it quickly becomes very limiting for a lot of people because in their mind strength training equals heavyweights and lots of equipment and probably a lot of straining and sweating and maybe some big muscles coming along with it that they don't necessarily want.

So hopefully most people listening to this podcast I think, it sounds like, are a little ahead of the curve. "You can strength training away. It's not going to make you big and bulky. You can strength training away. It's going to help your sport."


It's a principle base thing. Methods are many. Principles are few. Methods may change. Principles never do. If you just understand the principles of what you're trying to accomplish -- the human body has got -- depending upon who you talk to. I prefer the six basic things. You got push-pull. You got squat. You got your hip hinge. Loaded carry I think is a huge one. I don't know if you have a lot of people talking about doing loaded carry.

Christopher:    No. Explain to me what a loaded carry is.

James:    So if you think about it the exercises that we do in the gym were stationary, it's a dynamic stationary movement which is an oxymoron. When you're doing a deadlift you're not really going anywhere, ore you're doing a squat, you're not really going anywhere. You're just lifting weight up and down. The gym can produce zoo humans. You can get some really cool gym tricks down and they still don't transfer over to the real world as much as a lot of these functional training pieces.

Christopher:    Like bench-press.

James:    Yeah, bench-press. Or even again like so let's say that you can deadlift twice your body weight which is like that upper benchmark that I usually give people. When you can deadlift twice your body weight and not be the hardest thing in the world that you've done, you're strong. Strength in the hip hinge is not one of your issues. But now you got to grab two 50-pound buckets and carry it across your yard. You're just struggling. You're like "What the" -- you know what I mean? "I can deadlift three, four times this amount." That transfer from that kind of stationary to actually moving with weight and having to handle load whole you're moving rather than you kind of standstill and moving with the weight.

Loaded carries are things like farmers walks. People watch the strongman competition. You've seen the dudes grab the big heavy things and walk as far as they can. That's the traditional one. So you got your farmers walk where you got the weights down at your side. You got rack walk if you're familiar with kettlebell training. That's the rack position up at the chest where you hold the kettlebells before doing shoulder presses and stuff like that. Overhead as well. So those are your three main positions.

You can do two arms at a time or you can do one arm at a time in those three positions. And then you can start mixing them up. So I can hold one down on my side in the farmers walk and hold one over my head or hold one in the rack and one in the farmer. Just between those three positions you got a huge amount of different combinations that you can put together. And then you can start putting in, if you have access to sandbag or something like that. So doing like a bear hug where you bear hug the sandbag and carry it and shouldering it, putting the bag on your shoulder and walking with it. Even if anybody does sled stuff, like pushes and pulls on sled.

All of those things kind of fall into the loaded carry category. Like I said, it's just kind of working on the skill of you being able to move under load. Like high tension breathing which is something that's extremely important for us on the trail. Your ability to breathe properly under tension is huge. That's what's going to make [0:33:54] [Indiscernible] gasping before you get to the top of the hard hill and making it over it. If you understand how to breathe properly under tension and you're able to oxygenate your blood and all that stuff better then you're going to be better under those situations. These are tough things to train necessarily on the bike or through a traditional cardio training method. Loaded carries are really good for that.

We think about core training. It's not just your abs. It also includes your upper back. Your core is if you cut off your head, arms and legs, that's your core. So the upper back is kind of the forgotten area of the core that we don't really think about. You'll see people doing planks and they got perfect form but you'll see this horrendous rounded shoulder posture and stuff going on. You're missing the whole thing there.

So that's a big area that's of weakness for us as mountain bikers. That upper back area, that ability to maintain our shoulders back and down on the bike, we get into this crap. We think like "Oh, that's just normal. You just have to have that rounded shoulder posture." No. You don't. You don't have to have that.


You can do the things to combat that. That rounded shoulder posture is terrible for you. It throws off your balance on the bike. Again, just going back to basic balance. You literally cannot breathe properly when you have your shoulders rounded forward like that. You can't access the top part of your lungs. You're cutting off how much oxygen you can take in.

Again, without cardio training, if I can get you to improve your posture and improve some basic breathing habits under load, you're going to have better cardio and endurance on the trail without ever doing a single interval or anything. You know what I mean? That's the other thing is there are so many different ways that attack this idea of endurance and cardio without just looking at pedaling as the main way to do it.

The loaded carries are amazing for the upper back and the posture aspect that so many of us need to work on. For mountain bikers, man, that's like one of those miracle things. If you're not doing them and all of a sudden I get you doing some loaded carries, all of a sudden I look like a genius [0:36:19] [Indiscernible]. You're like "Man, I'm feeling better, I'm moving before, I'm performing better." It's like "Yeah, dude. I'm a genius." It's just that simple.

Loaded carry, that's one that a lot of people miss when they're looking at putting their workouts together. They may throw something like that in every once in a while but very few people actually do that every workout. I'm a big believer of Dan Gable's saying. If it's important do it every day. If it's not important don't do it at all.

So is it important that we squat every day? Is it important that we hip hinge, that we push, that we pull, that we do the loaded carry? I fall into the [0:37:00] [Indiscernible] camp with the movements. He has what he calls the six movements or everything else. You can look at this as like the core stuff if you're needing some specific core work, you need to do some single leg work. It's kind of like "Well, what do you need to work on? What are your specific gaps?" And then that's what we're going to put in there.

I personally like to put things like the windmill and the stick windmill in there which are two great exercises that don't get nearly enough play and enough use in people's program especially mountain bikers. If you can't do a stick windmill and you can't do a kettlebell windmill, good luck cornering properly because that is the body movement, that corkscrew movement that you do to perform a kettlebell windmill is the exact same movement that you need to be able to execute on your bike to corner properly.

Your original question was do I need to go to the gym. We can find things that you can do outside of the gym that help you push. You can do a push up. You do a pull up. Your squats and hinges. All of these things, these are principles. Now I can figure out what method I'm going to use to work on these things. Okay. You can have a kettlebell, a single kettlebell. You can get a great workout with it. You can have a single dumbbell. You can have just bodyweight. You start to get limited with bodyweight. I think bodyweight stuff gets a little overblown. It's extremely important but this idea that all you need is bodyweight forever is not 100% accurate.

So you don't have to go to the gym. You can have very minimal equipment. In fact one of my favorite tools I've been playing around with, and I just did a blog post on it yesterday, is the steel mace which is an amazing tool. I don't even think they'll let you in a gym with that thing. I guarantee you they'll kick you out if you came in with that thing. They'll think it's a weapon. It is. It's a weapon. It would look like it came out of a medieval battlefield. It's a super fun training tool.

I got a 10-pound mace. Sometimes I'll just go out in my yard with this 10-pound mace. I'll get a great workout with just that. You definitely don't need to go to the gym. You don't have to have access to all its equipment. If you understand the principles of what you're trying to accomplish then it's really easy to figure out "Well, what methods do I have access to? If it's just my body weight, fine. I'll figure out." You can push and pull and squat and hinge. You don't need a whole lot of fancy stuff or fancy equipment. You definitely don't need to go to the gym.


Christopher:    I will link to this. If you're listening to this and these exercises that James has been mentioning, I will link to this in the show notes so you can find them easily. I was thinking I have all of those things. I have a sandbag already that I haven't touched in a long time. I was also thinking I have a child. She weighs about 35 pounds. You could do a loaded carry with a child or even two kids would be probably pretty good.

James:    That's the original loaded carry, man. This is kind of getting maybe a little off subject. There's a huge epidemic that I've recently become aware of because I realized I was part of the epidemic myself and part of the problem in some ways. I've got to work on becoming part of the cure. We have a society full of zoo humans. They can perform a couple of cool tricks but you get them outside of this basic comfort zone --

The idea is before modern society came along we had to do a lot of things on a consistent basis. A lot of us, we lose this stuff. How many adults do you know that can throw with accuracy with both arms still? How many adults do you know that could hang from tree branch for 30 seconds?

We're men in our modern society. We don't need to be able to do that. The problem is is that there are underlying issues that you don't realize are there. It isn't just the fact that you can't throw. There are movement and structure issues that are keeping you from being able to throw. Those are going to come back to hunt you down the road.

Athletics is about being a zoo human. It's a really cool trick, man. Being able to ride a bike really fashionably forward is a really cool trick. The analogy that I use is this. If I got hurt and I needed someone to run or ride a bike real far ways away and then come back and help me, then I would want a marathon runner, I would want a cyclist. But they're going to be worthless if a freaking rock fell on me and I need them to help pick it up off of me before I get crushed. But then you flip that to a power lifter. Well, I'm going to want that dude there if the rock fell on my but good luck finding someone to go run for help and make it back in a reasonable amount of time.

So that's a really good kind of example of how someone who's really fit in one area is still a little bit of a zoo human. You know what I mean? This is where the double body weight deadlift comes in. People who can't deadlift their own body weight, well, dude, if someone that weighs your own weight was in trouble in a burning house and you needed to pull them to safety, they're probably screwed. You probably won't be able to do that for them. People are like "Oh, it's ridiculous." You'll never know when this stuff is going to happen.

It's just kind of sad that as humans we lose these innate beautiful abilities that we were born and blessed with. We just let them deteriorate. We look at these narrow little niches of fitness and say, "That's it. If I can ride a bike really far and really fast, then that's what matters. It doesn't matter that I can't throw, I can't jump, I can't run, I can't swim." You know what I mean? That's not good. That is not good for us to get to that point.

That's the thing. The reason we got to do loaded carries in the gym is because we don't carry our kids as much as we used to. We don't carry things around as much as we used to. So now we got to pretend to do that crap in the gym. Understanding that you still have to do things like purposely going on hikes and going to the mall and carrying your kid. You know what I mean? Thinking of ways like "How do I use this fitness in a real life situation instead of like" -- people probably have seen this freaking picture. You got the escalator. People are riding up the escalator to go to the gym. The gym is at the next level up. They're riding the escalator to go to the gym. It's kind of the same thing. If we're in the gym and your doing farmers walks and then you go to the grocery store for a short trip and you make sure that you got the stroller for your kid because you don't want to have to carry them, there's a freaking disconnect there, people. There's a disconnect there.

My point is you can anything. If you become aware of not becoming a zoo human and finding ways to challenge your innate human abilities on a more consistent basis just going out.


I've been taking my daughter on what I call [0:45:20] [Indiscernible]. We go out in this little overgrown area near my house. We're crawling around and following deer trails and hanging on trees and throwing rocks and lifting stones over our heads. As kids we used to call it playing. You know what I mean? That's what we were made to do and that's what we need to do. Trying to encourage people to get out of these narrow little boxes that we put ourselves in -- we got the gym and we've got our bikes. Man, just go out on a freaking hike. Instead of following the path just say "I'm going over there" and go. Make sure that you're not breaking any laws and trespassing on private property and stuff like that.

Just get outside of our freaking comfortable little society every once in a while and actually use this stuff. You'll start to discover some really, really interesting things about fitness. Squatting is all about getting your butt low and being able to keep your eyes still on the horizon. It's not a power move. You're not squatting hundreds of pounds out in the woods. You know what I mean? If I can squat all this weight but you can't squat down low and be able to kind of walk around and maneuver down in that position down low, that's a zoo human trick.

Anyways, it's a little off subject but just kind of something for people to keep in mind as they're thinking about this stuff and training. Remember, man, we're not mountain bikers. We're human beings that ride mountain bikes. We're not whatever, fill in the blank. We are human beings first that do whatever that is. We've got to keep an eye on the human being rather than just focus on that end product so much.

Christopher:    It's really interesting to hear you talk like this because you sound a lot like Katy Bowman who has also been on the podcast. She's a biomechanist. She's of exactly the same opinion. She persuaded me to get rid of my stroller a long time ago. Your parents think they're doing you a favor by buying you one of these things but they're really not.

James:    Her name sounds familiar.

Christopher:    Katy Bowman. She has a book called, I believe it's called Movement Matters. I'll link to this in the show notes. I can't recall it. She's really brilliant. She's a very minimalist to everything. Her house has got no furniture in it.

James:    I swear I think I know who she is. I think I heard her on the Joe Rogan podcast.

Christopher:    Yeah. Quite possibly.

James:    Okay. Yeah. She had a great comment that I use on people all the time. We're the weird ones because we have couches in our living room. We think that people that don't have a couch in their living room are weird but when you look at the number of people in the world that don't have a couch in their living room versus the number of people that do, we're the weird ones. It's been really interesting how different things come into your life that all kind of keeps pointing you in a direction.

Christopher:    Yeah. Exactly. [0:48:22] [Indiscernible] original book was called Alignment Matters. It was really just the first five years of her blog. The new book is called Move Your DNA which is an excellent book too [0:48:35] [Indiscernible].

So we're going to talk about flat pedals then. So your strength training programs and listening to you speak, in particular the philosophical stuff that we've just been talking about has been really helpful for me in enabling me to get better on mountain bike. I've upgraded to pro. I'm doing pretty good right now. I'm sure that the strength is a big part of it.

I'm also sure that the flat pedals, particularly on the mountain bike, were instrumental in helping me improve my skills. Before I was just riding mountain and I didn't have the weight on my feet a lot of the time. I think this is a deadly sin for mountain biking, and you'll soon find out. When you start riding flat pedals, you'll find out pretty quick whether your weight is on your feet or not. Where do the flat pedals fit into your training philosophy?

James:    Flat pedals basically go in my training philosophy because I believe that natural movement trumps everything else. One of the biggest lies that the cycling industry, I'll use that term again, ever got us to believe is that riding a bike is "different." I'm sure we've all heard this from people. They're like "Oh, riding a bike is different." Somehow all the rules of movement get thrown out the window as soon as you throw a leg over your bike and it's just like "Well, we can make up whatever we want."


It's like "No, no, no. Let's take a step back and look at how the human body optimally moves." Now, how do we apply that to the bike? Unfortunately when you do that you start to see some very different things that cause some very different ideas than what we're traditionally told from the cycling world. We forget that a lot of what we're told from the cycling world, it was literally theories that were created by guys with bowler hats and [0:50:28] [Indiscernible] mustaches over 100 years ago when the safety cycle, which is what we know as the bicycle, was first invented. Most people don't realize what we know as the bicycle has only been around since the late 1800s. 1880s, 1890s is when they created what we know as the modern bicycle.

When it was created people did their best to try and come up with ideas on how we power this thing. They came up with these good ideas. They couldn't really test them but they sounded good. It just got repeated so many times that we all just started taking them for fact. Like I said, when you start digging into the actual science and stuff you start to find some very different things.

First of all, you have to kind of walk back a little bit. When people tell you that you need clipless pedals they'll usually say things like "It will help you pedal more efficiently. It'll help you climb better. You pull up on the backstroke." So we're given these reasons for why we need to wear clipless pedals. When you start to ask "Okay. That's great but what do you mean exactly? Where is the proof? When you say pedal more efficiently, what exactly does that mean?" You start to get some blank stares from people when you actually start following some of these statements up with questions.

I don't know, man. It's a huge giant freaking ball of wax that it's just gotten to this point that it's so hard to know where to start with people. At the end of the day the way that I try to explain to people is that there's no science out there that supports the idea of pulling up on the backstroke. As a cycling community, mountain bikers, road riders, everybody, at some point we have got to move past this outdated theory of pulling up on the backstroke. There are no core efficiency studies to back that up. I have EMG readings that show that that's not what happens. There was a video I'm sure you probably saw [0:52:50] [Indiscernible] was it Global Cycling Network?

Christopher:    Right. I did watch that video.

James:    Yeah. So we got a guy who literally was trying to prove that you needed to pull up on the backstroke by clipping in and pulling up on the backstroke and do this thing. And then they put him on flats. I don't know if you almost fell out of your chair when you saw what flats they were putting him on. [0:53:12] [Indiscernible]

Christopher:    [0:53:13] [Indiscernible] wearing his clipless pedals [0:53:14] [Indiscernible].

James:    Yes. He was wearing his clipless pedal shoes with some crappy cheap flats. How on earth is this a fair comparison? But then at the end of the day he was actually more efficient on the flats because he couldn't pull up on the backstroke. The flats forced him to pedal properly. That's where people get lost. It's not either/or. It's that you need to use flats to develop your skills and your pedal stroke, and then you can use clipless pedals to enhance your good technique if you even decide that you need to go to clipless pedals because that's the problem is that once you ride flats for a while and you get good on flats, you realize that the performance advantages that are attributed to clipless pedals really are not there. They are nowhere near as huge as people lead you to believe. If you even decide to go to clipless pedals, the idea is you'd still want to use the same pedal stroke and technique.

Clipless pedals don't allow you to use your legs differently. This is the hard part to get people to understand is because they have been led to believe for so long that clipless pedals actually allow you to use your legs differently. You can't pull up on the backstroke if your feet are attached to the pedals. So it's that ability to use your muscles differently than they can on flats that the cycling world is attributed the difference in performance to. Like I said, when you actually look at the science you see that's not where the differences are coming from, that you actually want to pedal the same way whether you're on flats or clipless.


The idea of pulling up on the backstroke results in less power and less efficiency has been -- there's not one lick of evidence that points in the other direction. Everything that's out there points in the direction of don't pull on the backstroke. Nothing points in the other direction and yet I'm the crazy one. I got actual science on my side but somehow I'm the crazy.

Christopher:    Right. I could link to this in the show notes actually. There are two studies in particular. James has a flat pedal manifesto PDF document which is very good actually. I'll link to that in the show notes. There are two citations in particular which I think are really good studies. Tommy Wood has been on my podcast a few times. He's a research scientist that knows how to read science. He was also convinced by this idea. I think it makes intuitive sense.

I've realized that the nomenclature here is confusing for people that might not be experienced mountain bikers. So when we say clipless pedals we mean pedals with clips. It's super confusing. So [0:56:13] [Indiscernible] these SPD tight quad pedals where your foot actually attaches to the pedal. So that's what we mean when we say clipless. The way clipless refers to the fact that there's no cage going under your foot which was another type of pedal that nobody really uses anymore. So these flat pedals, there's nothing attached to your foot to the pedal at all. It's just a shoe, just a normal sort of tennis style looking shoe but hopefully it's got a grippy rubber on the bottom of it.

I think this makes intuitive sense. We posted something on my blog and we got a lot of heat for it. Maybe I should link to this too so you can read it because it's kind of fun. It makes intuitive sense when you think about how hard you can push with your quads how hard you can pull with you hamstring. There's an enormous imbalance there.

James:    Basically what they found is that you pedal your bike same that you run, walk. There's basically lower body locomotion. There's a way that your body creates lower body locomotion. We want to apply that to the bike. Again, a lot of the cycling coaches and stuff unfortunately don't understand the dynamics of the human organism.

For example, we have these things called passive mechanics. We're not a dumb machine. We come prewired with certain ways to move. For example, these passive mechanics that I just referred to, when you extend hard with one hip it automatically triggers the opposite hip flexor to pull the other leg up. This is automatically happening without you thinking. Your body is just pulling the leg up hard enough to get it in a position so that it can push. Like you said, our power movement is pushing. Extending our joints is where our power comes from.

So when you're telling, it's same thing. You're just trying to pull up hard enough. People are like "You're not pulling up on the backstroke." No. You need to pull up on the backstroke. You're just not trying to overpull. You don't need to pull hard and then let your body automatically has you do that if you just focus on pushing down hard that that triggers the other hip flexor to fire and automatically pull your leg up. This is just how the body is made to work. You don't have to think about it.

I hate to say this but the cycling world leads the sports world in doping and is probably one of the farthest behind when it comes to actual training science and application of what we're doing. When you look at the running world and where they're at with the stuff, it's mind-boggling. They have done extensive studies on trying to change people's running stride. They have found that whenever you try to have someone consciously manipulate and change their running stride that you screw them up, that you make them less efficient and slower, and that the best way to fix someone's running stride is, surprise, surprise, have them run, have them run.

You want to have them be functionally fit. What you don't want is someone trying to overcome a movement or strength dysfunction through bad form. So if you're doing the things that make sure that you move well and you don't have any strength gaps and you just run, your body's going to naturally develop the running stride that works best for it. Very few high level running coaches will purposely try to manipulate people's running strides like that anymore and yet we still have the cycling world being told that we need to concentrate on the four parts of the pedal stroke. You've got to push over the top and pull here. You know what I mean?


It's like wait a minute. Wait a minute. All of the science coming out of the running world shows that you can't do that. You can't consciously change someone's pedal stroke or running stride for the better. When you understand it, this stuff applies to the bike as well. These rules don't change just because we're on a bike. It just reinforces this idea of why pulling up on the backstroke doesn't work in the real world [1:00:43] [Indiscernible] because you're having to consciously change what you naturally do which doesn't work, it doesn't work.

Obviously there's a fine line. You can obviously coach somebody a little bit to clean up some minor technique flaws and stuff like that but when you're talking like gross motor pattern changes, I need you to completely forget about pushing and I need you to pull. Like I said, nothing backs that up outside of tradition. Once you get outside of the echo chamber that is the cycling world, you really start to learn some pretty interesting things that go completely against what we've been telling people to do.

Christopher:    So tell me about your flat pedals then. I've been using flat pedals for years and getting good results with them and really enjoying the comfort of them if nothing else. What was it that you saw with the existing flat pedals that run the market that made you think "I need to make a better one"?

James:    I'll tell you, man. It's funny. I was thinking about that this morning. We all suspend disbelief. Anyone who's using clipless pedals has suspended disbelief at some point in their life. You know what I mean? You're like "This isn't right but everyone tells me that it is so I need to do it this way." It's kind of the same thing originally with pushing through the ball of the foot. A strength coach I never have people push through the ball of their foot in the gym. You know what I mean? I just kind of had to suspend my disbelief a little bit because that's what everybody says to do and that's what the cyclists do and that's what the best in the world do. So I'm going to suspend my disbelief. I'm going to push through the ball of the foot when I'm pedaling my bike.

But my problem was is I kept thinking like "Why am I training my foot to do something different in the gym than what I'm doing on the bike?" So I kind of naturally started to migrate to more of a midfoot pedaling position because there were a couple of things that came up. One, I did an interview with a guy named Greg Choat. He was the first guy to point out to me that "Well, you know your foot doesn't break contact with the pedal, right?" I'm like "Yeah." He's like "What I mean is that you want your foot to be midfoot."

Your foot acts differently depending upon whether it stays in contact with what it's on whether it comes off of what it's on. So if it comes off of what it's in contact, like if you're running, jumping, anything like that, then you do want to push through the ball of the foot. But if you're in the gym and you're doing deadlifts or you're just sitting down on a chair or you're bending down to pick up your kid, your foot is not breaking contact with the ground or what it's on. In those cases what do you? If you've ever been in a gym and you had a trainer yell at you, I'm sure, "Keep your hills on the ground. Don't come up on your toes." Well, why in the gym are we told like "Don't come up on the balls of your feet"? If pushing it through the balls of your feet is better and stronger then how come in the gym that's not what we do?

He was the first guy to point out that difference. I never actually realized that the lower leg acted differently depending upon that scenario. So all of a sudden I'm like "Yeah." So I started using the midfoot pedal position more. Again, you're able to recruit your hips better.

There are actually a couple of studies that I found in this whole process. One study looked at the midfoot versus the ball of the foot pedaling position. Their theory was, because of some study that came out a few years ago that showed that 7.5% of your pedaling power is coming from the calf muscle pushing and pulling that you were going to lose that 7.5% with the midfoot position. So they were setting out to prove that this midfoot position was actually inferior. What they found was that there was no difference in power or economy. So basically you didn't lose any performance.

What was interesting was they found that the stress shifted. When you're on the ball of your foot the stress is on the Achilles tendon in the calf. Anyone who's had plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis or just really tight calves or anything like that can probably nod their head and say, "Yeah. I can feel that tension there."


When you move to the midfoot the tension moves to the hips. So you remove the excess stress from the more sensitive calf and ankle joint and you move it to the hips.

What was really interesting is that with another study I found that it shows that the hips are the main driver of the pedal stroke at all intensity. So basically this idea that the quads are the most important muscle and they're the driver of the paddle stoke is not true. At any intensity your hips are always the main driver of the pedal stroke.

It just kind of seemed to me that if you take these two things together, if the midfoot position optimally recruits the hips, and the hips had been shown to be the main driver of the paddle stroke, wouldn't that seem to indicate that the science would favor a midfoot position? Again, it's kind of funny. When you actually take a step back from this echo chamber and you objectively look at the science and what we actually know, you're like "Dude, we're pedaling all wrong, all wrong."

So once you move that midfoot position it starts to change some dynamics with your foot. But the problem is if you want to optimize that midfoot position you have to stabilize both ends of the arch. This is what led me to my pedal that I created. I can still remember [1:06:32] [Indiscernible]. I'm sitting on the trail and I'm pissed off that my shoes and my pedals -- I'm like "Man, I am tired of finding the right spot and then one little thing knocks it out of whack, and I got to get my foot back in the right spot." My feet don't feel as strong and supported as I wish that they were. Why do my strong stable feet turn into an unstable, unbalanced mess on the bike?

All of a sudden it just hit me. The thought that went through my head was "Why don't I need stiff soled shoes to squat and deadlift in the gym? Why can't I expose my feet to hundreds and hundreds of pounds of stress in the gym, what more stress than they see on the bike, and yet they remain strong and stable? As soon as I get on my bike they're unbalanced and unstable. Why is that?" It just hit me. Because the ground supports both ends of the arch of your foot. The arch is one of the strongest forms in nature as long as you support both ends.

This is why they tell you don't come up on your toes in the gym because as soon as you come up on your toes you are destabilizing the arch. One, you make it harder to recruit the hips, but you also destabilize the arch which makes it harder to transfer force into the ground.

I just realized that because every pedal out there has been the designed from the assumption that you need to push through the ball of foot even though we know that that's not the case. That's why none of the pedals actually provided that platform. So I realized that I was going to have to make it. So I went home and measured my foot and realized that about 5 inches long I'd be able to get my big toe knuckle and my hill on the ground. So I'd be able to push through my whole foot. When you stand on these pedals it feels like you're standing on the ground. You don't have that kind of moment of sensational shift where your feet are getting used to being on pedals and then you get off your pedals and your feet are getting used to being on the ground. That doesn't happen because your foot recognizes the stability of this pedal as being the same type of stability that it gets on the ground.

So once you get that position, it just changes everything with the pedal stroke. So now you get no flex out of your foot. So your arch doesn't flex and you're also not getting flex out of the ankle because you got this midfoot position. You don't have this long lever that you're trying to control with the pedal being out on the ball of the foot and your poor ankle working like hell to try to counteract that leverage. So you're getting no flex out of the foot and you're not pushing forward into the toe box anymore. Now your foot is actually level.

I just want to make sure people understand. This doesn't mean you can't shift your weight to your toes or to your hill. You can still shift your weight forward and back. It's just now you actually have the option of a true neutral. You're not on your toes or have your hill dropped. Usually on the bike you're at one or two extremes. So when you're on your toes you're constantly pushing forward into the toe box.

So this does two things. One, this is where you get your numb toes from, numb toes and sore feet. That's coming from those toes being shoved into the toe box with every pedal stroke and every time you stand up. The other thing that this does is you're literally pushing forward and trying to kick your foot off of your pedal.


This is one of the reasons that people kind of gravitate towards clipless pedals especially at first is because they have a hard time keeping their feet on the pedals. And that's because their weight is biased to their toes and they're literally trying to kick their feet off their pedals. So as soon as you get your foot stabilize, you got a good strong midfoot position, as you come over the top of the pedal stroke you're not leaning with your toe. You're able to come over and actually drive down with your whole foot, your hill and the ball of the foot. So that completely changes the forces going into the pedal which gets rid of almost all of that over the top sensation that you get sometimes where your feet feel like they want to fly off the pedals especially like rough, choppy stuff, if you're trying to pedal through that.

That was kind of the inspiration of my idea. I realized throughout this journey that, I hate to say it, but clipless pedals aren't better than flats. Just flat pedals have shitty design. Once you get a good flat pedal design, man, it really bridges a lot of those gaps. I would put these pedals up against a pair of clipless pedals. They may not win in a power meter contest but they're not going to lose. When you add in the fact that now you've got the freedom of flats and you've got the comfort that you can't get from any other pedal out there because you're not shoving your -- my toes never go numb anymore. It's amazing. It was one of those things that I didn't even think about [1:11:44] [Indiscernible] like a long ride with my prototypes about the time when you're usually like "My pinky toe is getting numb" or whatever. Now I realized that, man, my feet feel great. It took me a little bit to realize what was going on but that's when I realized I guess, because I'm not shoving my toes into my toe box all the time.

As you can tell, I'm pretty excited about it. I personally think that this pedal is going to really change a lot of people's minds about the whole flats versus clipless thing. Like I said, I think that we actually have a flat pedal now that really doesn't have any drawbacks to it. It just comes down to changing how the foot interacts.

When I work with people in the gym and I tell them like "All right. Everything that we do boils down to three areas; feet, hips, shoulders." Same thing on the bike; feet, hips, shoulders. If your feet are balanced, if your hips are what it need to be, if you're feeling the tension in your glutes and the top of your hamstring, not in the lower back or like the belly of the hamstring, if shoulders are where they need to be, you're feeling the tension in the upper back, the shoulders aren't hunched up towards ears, some of these basic principles. If you can apply these basic principles to these three areas, to any skill or any exercise that you want to do, you're going to do it pretty darn good.

Again, I coach balance on the feet being such an important aspect of movement and yet none of the pedals on the market allow you to achieve a truly balanced position on the foot. That's what the Catalyst Pedal does is finally gives us a pedal that's going to allow your foot to interact with a surface that's actually what is designed to thrive on and not leave it unstable and unbalanced.

Christopher:    Right. So the pedal is actually longer than a normal flat pedal.

James:    Yeah. It's 5 inches from front to back. Your normal flat pedal is about 3 and 3 quarter inches. It gives you an inch of contact space on the top. It's no wider than a normal flat though. This is one of the things that always piss me off about the other oversized flats out there is whatever they made them longer, none of them get to the 5 inches that mine are. They also make them wider.

Christopher:    And then you clip them on everything.

James:    And then you clip them on everything.

Christopher:    I've tried that. Yeah.

James:    God. It blows my mind, dude. I can't ride oversized flats where I ride because of the rock clipping problem. So I designed these things with that mind. They're longer to support your foot but they're no wider so you're not exposing any extra pedals to rock strikes or anything like that. So they completely disappear under your foot. When you step on them, they're gone. You don't look down and see any bits of them poking out somewhere.

Christopher:    That's interesting.

James:    Yeah. I tested the crap out of these things, man, dirt jumps, downhill, cross-country riding, I took them to Moab or the whole enchilada on them. I've had experienced riders try them, new riders try them. I can't find anything that I would change on these things, man. There's not an increase in rock strikes. There's nothing.


I was to someone about this the other day. There's no situation where I'm like "It's a little bit of a tradeoff." It's better 99.9% of the situation but there's this one little spot over here where it may not quite be as good. There's nothing. There's never been that spot. It's either as good as a normal pedal or better. I'm pretty pumped on it, man.

Christopher:    Yeah. I know. I'm excited. I've ordered mine. I'm excited to get them. Why don't you tell people where they can get these pedals?

James:    Yeah. You can find out more pedalinginnovations.com. That's the name of the company. The Catalyst Pedal is the name of the pedal. Pedalinginnovations.com. It's got more info. I've got a bunch of science stuff that I was referring to linked there.

In all honesty, these are the only pedals on the market that are backed by actual science people. Every other pedal out there is backed by nothing but marketing hype and theories. There's no actual science to back up. You'd think that the SPD pedal was based on science. You know what I mean? No. This is baseline theory. They engineered that sucker. Again, this is the only pedal that actually has science kind of pointing in the direction saying, "That guy might be right."

Christopher:    Excellent.

James:    Yeah. I do back them up with a 30-day money-back guarantee. I know it's winter right now and whatnot. It's really just kind of a money-back guarantee. I'm fully confident [1:16:40] [Indiscernible] pedals.

The only thing is you got to be open to changing your foot position. I will say I've had a few people who weren't blown away by the pedal. 80% of people who've tried it were blown away. They're like "Holy crap! Man, that's amazing." The other people were like "That's pretty good." They are the people who just would not stop pushing through the ball of their foot. There were a couple of them who just drove me nuts. It's like no matter what I told then, the ball of the foot was still over the top of the axle.

If you're not willing to change your foot position a little bit -- yes, it does take a ride or two to get used to. And people got to remember, if you watch kids ride, kids use a midfoot pedaling position. You're not having to learn a new pedaling position. You're just remembering one that you forgot because when you got older somebody told you that you didn't know how to do it right.

Christopher:    Yeah. I know. I'm lucky I don't fall into that category because I look at the wear pattern on the bottom of my [1:17:39] [Indiscernible] and it's smacked-bang in the middle of the shoe. For some reason even though I ride clipless a lot too it hasn't really worn off of me.

James:    Yeah. Again, you have to consciously think about it. If you just naturally ride your foot will go to that midfoot position. If you're not consciously trying to override it, then you won't. But that's the thing. The people that are really hard core -- one of my buddies [1:18:09] [Indiscernible] it's what I've trained myself to do. I'm just like "Man, that's like coming into the gym and showing me how you deadlift," and me saying, "Hey, man. You shouldn't use your lower back so much. Try it a little bit differently. Yeah. It's going to feel a little weird at first and you might not be able to lift as much weight." But then you turn around and tell me like "I'm just going to keep using my lower back. I don't really care."

I understand that that's what you know and I understand that you feel like that's what help you perform better but the reality is pushing through the ball of your foot has not advantages over the midfoot position. Actually I can make several arguments about disadvantages that it has.

If you are open-minded and you're willing to try something different and give it a couple of rides, trust me, it does not -- the only thing you got to do is think a little about your foot placement. Once your foot is there you never have to think about it. It doesn't move and it doesn't feel weird. If you're used to putting the ball of your foot over the axle you're going to have to be a little conscious of putting your foot in a different spot when you put your foot on your pedal. After a couple of rides -- it took me about halfway through my second ride. When I stopped having to think so much my foot just kind of started automatically going to the new position. Once it's there you don't really have to think about it.

If you're willing to try something a little different -- like I said, it's actually based on some science -- then the pedals will work out great. If you're just stuck with pushing through the ball of the foot and you're not willing to try a different foot position -- I still think the pedal would give you a little bit of an advantage over a normal flat but you're not going to get the intended kind of game changing differences that the Catalyst Pedal can give you. That's the only kind of caveat. You got to be open-minded and willing to get your foot in the right position.


Christopher:    I'm definitely willing to do that. This has been great. Thank you very much, James. I'm really grateful for your time. So pedalinginnovations.com is where you can find the pedal. I will, of course, link to that in the show notes. James' website is bikejames.com. I always get that confused. Bikejames.com. So I will, of course, link that as well. You've got training programs and you've got all kinds of fantastic articles.

James:    Yeah. I got a ton of free stuff. I've got several free 30-day programs that people can check out if they just kind of want to get an idea of what it looks like. There's a ton of free stuff there. I do have full programs, everything from a full -- what I call the Ultimate MTB Workout Program down to, I call it the No Gym, No Problem Bodyweight Program. Wherever you're at, whatever equipment you got access to, however much time and energy you have to put into your program, I've got some sort of answer for you to help you get the most out of that time.

It really just comes down to helping people to have more fun on the trail. I know what strength training has done for me and how much it helped my riding. I just love hearing from people like you that help them as well. That's what keeps me motivated to keep getting the word out and help save some people from some mindless mundane hours on the trail and actually get them some result-producing swings going or something like that.

Christopher:    Yeah. I know. Thank you very much. I really appreciate your time.

James:    Yeah. No problem, Christopher. It was fun, buddy. We should do it again sometime.

[1:21:33]    End of Audio

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