Friday, February 11, 2011

Newton's Laws of Training

I'm pretty sure Sir Isaac Newton was a triathlete, despite the obvious liability that he died a good 250 years before the sport was invented. A little known fact: Newton's Book 'Principia Mathematica' was originally called the 'Principia Mathematica of Triathlonia' but he was under pressure by the Royal Society to focus his efforts on Universal understanding in lieu of multisport.

History has a way of obscuring the details, so allow me to enlighten you... People accuse Newton of gaining his idea of gravity from the fall of an apple. Despite his depiction as Noble and the moniker of 'Sir', Isaac was a regular blue-collar bloke. In reality, Newton fell off his bike while waiting for on-coming traffic. He spent a copious amount of time rehabbing allowing him to develop his now famous Laws of Training.

Newton's First Law of Training
Newton, as a lad, could not compete with the older boys in town. He realized that he would not be young forever and watched the professional triathletes and amateurs alike. He noticed distinct patterns in their training and recorded them diligently. His major breakthrough arose when he realized how athletes got inspired to train. He noted on several occasions that triathletes were a lazy bunch. Once you got them moving, they worked-out hard. At the end of the session, athletes would resume their pre-workout positions. This epiphany lead to his first law, which originally was quoted as saying, "Triathletes in motion will stay in motion while triathletes at rest will stay at rest unless given direct orders from their coach or spouse."

Newton's Second Law of Training
Cervelo's Original Areo Fram
When Newton was old enough, he entered the labor force. His first job was as a design engineer for Cervelo. Cervelo made several advances in bicycle technology in the late 1600s that go mostly uncredited.  For example, most bikes came customary with a 100 cc wheel set. Cervelo believed that a larger front wheel reduced air resistance and provided a smoother ride. They hypothesized that a 10x increase in diameter was ideal. Since Newton was a hands-on kind of guy, he had many a conversation with the athletes that were being measured for bikes (back then, all bikes were custom). The common understanding at the time was that only the rich could afford the carbon fiber rides and the lower classes were dealt in steel (not much has changed, apparently). Due to the weight differences, the steel rides repeatedly had a difficult time keeping up with the carbon fibers in a 40k time trial. Newton proposed a second law of triathlon that stated Force is proportional to mass and acceleration, all of which were directly related to the amount of money spent on a bike. This is the expensive law. Cervelo was mostly displeased with this law as they believed that all of the bicycles, regardless of materials, were top notch. Once Cervelo moved away from custom bikes to manufactured bikes, Newton left the company. Aluminum frames were later found in Newton's lab as a prototype in one of his many efforts to bridge the class system.
Newton's Aluminum Proposal
 Newton's Third Law of Training

Note the rudimentary swimmer
Upon leaving Cervelo, Newton noticed that the swim portion of the triathlon was largely neglected. And, since he didn't have a swimming background, Newton wanted to learn the difference between good swimmers and bad swimmers. He became a regular at the local YMCA, showing up for Masters classes and club practices with his pen and notebook. Some of the parents became concerned about the way Newton frantically scribbled notes. Newton assured the nice Christians that his intent was strictly academic and showed them a copy of his discoveries (right). They accepted his explanation and went out of their way to aid in his cause. Parents will do anything to help their kids get faster. Newton noted that the better swimmers used their entire arm efficiently, from the elbow on down to the tip of the fingers. Propulsion was induced by pulling the arm backwards, not forwards. The harder the swimmer pulled, the faster he went (mind you, this was when the YMCA actually meant Young Men's...). He also noticed that whatever the right arm did, the left arm surely followed. This observation lead Newton to the conclusion that for each swimming pull, there was and equal and opposite swimming pull.

Other work by Newton

Newton's Wetsuit Prototype
Newton was much more than a 3 law kind of guy. His work in the pool lead to more profound thoughts of swimming improvement. Newton observed that the better swimmers had a higher proportion of their bodies at or above the surface of the water. This concept allowed him to consider possible flotation devices that enveloped the entire body. His works later inspired Dan Empfield towards the creation of the first triathlete-specific wetsuits, as seen in one of Newton's original drawings. (Note- Newton was not an artist and not ashamed to tell you so.)

 There is a rumor floating around was that Newton eventually migrated to the United States in the mid-1700s. He was believed to have been survived by several heirs who inherited some of Newton's more advanced training techniques only allowed to be seen in the family. It is possible that Sir Isaac and Mark Allen may be related. You decide...
Sir Mark Allen-Newton?

Sir Isaac Newton

So there you have it.

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