Shifting Gears: Mastering the Art of Transition

By Marilyn Trout | 01/18/12
Shifting Gears: Mastering the Art of Transition

hobvias sudoneighm, “monsieur velo ~ gears 1” October 18, 2004 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

We’ve teamed up with Marilyn Trout, certified USA Cycling Elite Coach to answer Voler Newsletter List members’ training questions. You can view her coach profile at Send your cycling inquiries to Marilyn, and for a limited time, if yours is selected to be answered in our Training column, Voler will send you a $20 gift certificate that can be used towards any purchase from the Voler Store at To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at, and type “Voler Training Question” in the subject line of the e-mail.


Shifting gears. The mechanics of it seem so simple. Just a click and the change happens. Oh, that life's transitions could be as prepared and straightforward.

Perhaps it's because I'm a coach and want to dissect a complicated situation down to simple components, to develop a seasonal plan, to prevent injury rather than cure, to journey with an athlete to an irresistible goal, to battle the odds, to dig for potential. Or perhaps, it's because I'm a curious individual who wants to discover the "whys", the patterns, the solutions from overlooked "insignificant" details, to dig for the hidden treasure. Like most things, it is probably a combination of all of the aforementioned that has me on the quest to discover the art of "shifting gears" and to talk with the people who seem to have mastered transition in their lives. Shifting the gears through injury, relationship, health, loss, retirement, employment, children, significance.

Digging a little deeper, here's a writer's perspective about literary transition:

Transitional words:

  • Help bridge the gap smoothly between ideas; indicate a shift of thought or contrast.
  • Provide the glue that holds ideas together. They provide coherence (that hanging together, making sense as a whole) by helping the reader to understand the relationship between ideas, and they act as signposts that help the reader follow the movement of the discussion. The two kinds of transitions are those of logic and those of thought.
  • Create powerful links between ideas and can help you to understand the logic... However, these words all have different meanings, nuances and connotations. Before using a particular transitional word, be sure you understand its meaning.

Significant words from a rather insignificant source, English 101; smoothly bridging the gap, shift of thought, coherence, making sense of the whole, understanding the relationship, signposts, powerful links between ideas to understand the logic. There is even a word of caution for simply using a transitional word, be sure you understand its meaning before using it.

Phew. What a task that would be to analyze each transition we go through every day. However, there is something to be said about understanding the principles of transitions and having fewer wounds on the other side. "Shift changing" both on and off the bike, daily annoyances to life-altering circumstances, both from without (usually forced and external) and from within (personal choice), or both quick (injury) and slow (aging process.) The elements of transition are like teeth in a cog. You need each one to make smooth shift changes and with each missing tooth, things go progressively worse.

Understanding the transitions a rider needs to master can come from good team support that has the athlete's interest in mind. Certainly, a seasoned coach can offer the "glue", provide coherence, help understand the relationship between training principles and execution, and recognize meaningful "signposts" that distract or point to the goal. The coach helps keep the cog intact.

A hidden treasure that my coaching colleague, Peg Labiuk, and I have cracked open, involves the lives of those that have experienced significant transition in their athletic careers. The Voler readership has contributed to our queries and we will share from their experiences, as well as our own discoveries and musings, throughout the coming year. We continue to welcome your input.


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