"training is bad for you. training, followed by rest and proper nutrition is good for and will make you better prepared for the event you are training for."
i know graeme obree, and graeme obree knows me, though probably not (in his case) where he'd recognise me in w h smiths in argyle street. i can't put his name forward as being the guy that got me into cycling in the first place; that is robert millar's preserve, but similarly to robert, the parochial scot within cannot but admire the way graeme not only left much of his competition standing, doing so in his own inimitable style. as far as scotland was concerned, he was/is one of our own.
not too long after i started selling bicycles on the island, graeme opened the bike box in my erstwhile home town of prestwick and i dropped by a couple of times when visiting my parents. there's no reason why those on whom fame has unceremoniously dropped (if not necessarily fortune) should be anything other than pleasant, amenable human beings (though a disproportionate number undoubtedly aren't); graeme was as easy to converse with as if we'd been at school together.
of course, i have no prowess on the bike to speak of, so that was, in effect, the end of that for at least the time being. the bike box closed after a couple of years and the nearest i got to mr obree in the intervening years, was naming a column in the local newspaper and subsequently this website, thewashingmachinepost, based on the true, if somewhat apocryphal knowledge that 'old faithful', graeme's hour record winning bicycle, was at least partly constructed from washing machine parts. the post has been around now for nigh on sixteen years, and there are many too many who are unaware of the name's origin.
"like all great sportspeaople he knows his craft intimately, everything he can consume about cycling, aerodynamics, physics, force, athletic performance he has consumed in abundance. in the words of another scottish cycling great, robert millar, he's got the t-shirt." john beattie, scottish rugby international.
i bumped into graeme at the braveheart ride a few year's back, then again last year, when we invited him over for the ardbeg gourmet ride. in overall terms, graeme hasn't changed a bit; i don't think he truly realises just how fast and fit he still is, he has a humility that belies his considerable achievements, and is no less eccentric than he ever was. as our after-dinner speaker for the gourmet ride, graeme had nothing prepared, yet spoke for at least an hour, totally off the cuff. he was brilliantly entertaining and humorous, but such was his personality, that if he'd recited his shopping list we'd have cheerfully applauded.
"everybody who rides a bike knows how to pedal, just the same as anybody does not drown in deep water knows how to swim."
everything, right down to the fact that he claims his current handbuilt bike is cerise, not pink, is done the obree way, which is a really cheesy way of introducing graeme's latest book.
i have previously printed extracts from this book while it was in the latter stages of preparation prior to publication, but for those who missed them, 'the obree way' is not a narrative that you'd settle down in the bath to read at the end of a long, hard day. instead, it's a training manual based on graeme's considerable expertise of track racing, time-trialling and the occasional hour record. as with everything he does, no stone is left unturned; fastisdious wouldn't be too strong a word.
over the years, i have read and reviewed a wide variety of training manuals, most of which have been expertly written and compiled, but rarely, if ever, has a traing manual come along that is anything like this. as i have gone to great lengths to point out, probably to the extent of tedium, i have no intention of involving myself in specific training, nor have i any real need to, but this book makes me wish i had. many authors base their training regimes on the use of heart rate monitors, power meters, periodisation and several other items of nomenclature that require a degree in physiology to comprehend.
"i have seen...where the training mentality has led to fatigue and diminished performance and sometimes injury and illness. science has a term for this, the law of diminishing returns, the point at which output exceeds return."
if there's one thing missing from 'the obree way' it's obscure references for those in the know. though graeme's training demands much of those willing to place themselves squarely in his hands, it's probably the most accessible cycle specific training volume you'll ever hold in your hands. witness my opening quote; who else would tell you on the cover of his latest training manual, that training is bad for you.?
from the man who famously prepared for the hour record by eating a bowl of cornflakes, obree has an unconventional attitude to the more usually prescribed sports specific foods. he contends that there is no point in being obsessive in this aspect, and simply to continue to eat normal family meals. the secret, he maintains, is to be selective about which parts of those prepared meals you wish to consume, and to do so in moderation. as he says, we're not living in a space station, so we can eat real foods that contain all the nutrients and calories required.
"it is a good question to ask when any product is being advised and (whether) financial transaction is involved, but in the field of nutrition there has been a trend towards refined foods such as protein, carbohydrate and vitamins that are more expensive than their real-food counterparts. advocating real food has no financial gain."
the book is in large format softback, very easy to read, superbly if a tad eccentrically illustrated, and if you're serious about your cycling in the competitive realm, i can think of no more important work published in recent years that will help you achieve that which you may have set out to achieve. a more general approach to bike setup, turbo training, preparation, breathing and stretching is complete anathema to graeme obree. every last aspect is examined in the most minute of details; pretty much as you'd expect in fact. his manager, charlie milarvie, told me that he and graeme worked out that over the seventeen year period of the book's gestation, when broken down, graeme wrote an average of ten words a day.
believe me, it was well worth the wait for every last word.
"part of our human character is to choose that which is easy over that which is hard, and i do realise that there is a lot of information and new ways of training put forward here to undertake. i too am not immune to procrastination and of slipping back into old and easier ways. perseverance will take you to the eventual benefits that you hope to realise."
'the obree way' is available for purchase from graeme's website at a cost of £30 plus postage. and on yet another of those parochial moments, in the midst of the book's photograph section is an image of graeme's and his brother's bikes leaning against the world famous phone box at carnduncan on islay's west coast.
posted wednesday 21 december 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................