Todays post is from another of our local DFW riders, Joe Tegerdine. Joe is mostly a recreational rider but this past summer he got his first taste of racing at the Erwin Park Summer Series. He fell in love with the sport and has also been competing in the DORBA fall series.
Cross Training For Mountain Biking
So if variety is the spice of life, then cross training is the spice of training. Not only does cross training add some variety and break up the monotony of a regular training regime, it can be very beneficial to an athlete’s over-all physical development and performance. This is especially important for tolks like me who love to mountain bike, but can only make it out to the trails one or two times per week. If I sat around on the non-trail days, then I would do a lot of sitting around… and well, we all know what sitting around will get us… fat, heart attacks, laziness and many other unwanted and useless side effects. So instead of waiting for the next time you can get out on the trail and tear it up, I suggest implementing a cross training regime that will make those days on the trail even better and safer.
Now, just to make sure we are speaking the same language, what is cross training? Simply put, cross training is a training method that mixes different sports or fitness activities to improve a person’s performance in their core activity. So if you’re a mountain biker, then mixing in some running, swimming, weight lifting, crossfit, etc. into your training regime would be cross training.
The trick is to utilize each activity you choose to focus on an area that will make you a better mountain biker. For instance, whether you are a recreational rider or a racer, you will need to sustain your heart rate at varied levels for extended periods of time. Therefore, choose an activity that will allow you to keep your heart in the same HR zone as when you ride and push the intensity based on your riding style.
Take me for example, before I started racing, I primarily used mountain biking for recreation or to help me train for Obstacle Course Racing (OCR and not to be confused with non-competitive “mud-runs”). Depending on the distance of my next race, my goal on my mountain bike was to go as hard as I would in the next OCR event, whether it was a sprint or a long distance race. So if my next OCR was a 6 mile sprint that would take me an hour to complete, then a typical training session on my bike would be for an hour with my heart rate at around 85%.
This is cross training for mountain biking, utilizing sports or activities that are different than your core activity to improve your performance in that activity.
Now, because I lack the appropriate acronym following my name, you know, the ones for personal trainers, physical therapists, doctors and such, I’m not going to go into intricate details of the physiological benefits of cross training. You have Google for that. What I am going to talk about is my personal training regime and how cross training has helped me stay in shape, perform well as an athlete and have a whole heck of a lot of fun doing it!
Areas of Focus
So what type of activities help make a better mountain biker? A lot of them!
One of the great things about mountain biking is that it requires the use of a lot of different muscle groups and strong cardio fitness so you have a lot of choices. I like to break mountain biking down into six areas of focus.
- Upper Body
- Hear & Lungs
- Brain (focus)
On any given day, I will focus on one or more of these areas during a workout and the intensity and time will depend on my fitness goals. A typical week for me would have 3-4 days of “off the bike” workouts and 1-2 days of mountain biking. On the “off” days I may do sprinting, plyometrics, weight lifting, spinning, distance running, trail running, etc. all depending on my area of focus. For example, I learned early (still learning since I’m still a newbie to racing) that to be a competitive mountain bike racer, I had to be able to sprint at a maximum intensity for extended periods of time. This meant that I would have to be able to get my heart and lungs conditioned to withstand these bursts of intense stress without gassing or burning out. Thus running sprints on a track/road is an excellent way to simulate this activity.
If you’ve never done it, I encourage you to get out and do a set of Super Eights. It’s a 20 minute workout where you sprint at full intensity for 30 seconds, then jog for 2 minutes for 8 repetitions. This is a great workout for improving heart and lung capacity and for weight loss!
Another workout I like doing is plyometric circuit training. Plyometrics, or jump training, are exercises that are designed to increase speed and power by having muscles contract explosively in short periods of time. You can Google some examples of these exercises. I like to do 10 different exercises in max repetition intervals for 45-60 minutes. This is a great way to improve your explosiveness in the saddle, especially for quick starts, accelerations out of turns and sprint finishes.
These are just a few examples of workouts I like to do that have helped me be a better mountain biker and more competitive racer. I am sure there are dozens more and I would love to hear from you about what you enjoy doing or a particular workout that has improved your riding ability. The important thing to remember is to set goals, track your progress and keep changing things up to keep your training regime interesting and fun. Decide what type of rider you are and tailor your program to meet your riding goals. Do you want to win a local race or be able to finish 3 continuous loops on the local single track? I also strongly suggest using a heart rate monitor and watch during all of your training sessions. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to measure the time and intensity of your workouts. You can’t improve if you aren’t measuring your progress, setting benchmarks and pushing yourself to reach new personal bests. Remember, your success will largely depend on setting goals and committing yourself to keeping with your plan… now get to it and enjoy your next ride!
A little about Joe... I have been a recreational rider for years, having enjoyed riding in far-flung places like Taiwan and locally in the U.S. I made my first foray into racing this past summer in the Erwin Park Summer Series and am hooked! I ride a 2007 26″ Specialized Epic, but am in the process of upgrading (more to come on that)… it is a terrific ride and good enough for a few Cat 2 wins, but not what I will need to take my racing ambitions to the next level! I have competed in sprint triathlons and have finished in the top twenty over-all and 2nd in my age group in a number of Spartan Elite Obstacle Course Races. My family and professional life keep me busy, so I have learned to adapt my training and still compete at a high level.