Guest Post – Sam from Pedal Progression

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This winter Sam (From Bristol based coaching company, Pedal Progression) and I are doing a skills swap.  I train him once per week in the gym and give him a bodyweight training session per week to do at home and in return he is doing a skills coaching session with me once per fortnight at a variety of riding spots across Bristol and the SW.  The aim…..  We both want to ride faster!

Here is what Sam has to say about our training……

“Being 6 foot and 65kg’s, the phrase ‘skin and bones’ gets used a lot by my mum when we greet! I’ve always undoubtedly been a physically weak man but being a skills coach I’ve tried to ignore that fact when I get on my bike and over the years I’ve just focused on moving my fairly agile frame around on the bike to make things easier. Over recent years though, I’ve noticed myself reaching a plateau due to being weak towards the bottom of long runs. Making mistakes due to getting muscle fatigue on my hardtail at a winter race last year was the first sign my strength was letting me down on the bike.

When Ben from Mtb Strength Factory moved to town I immediately wondered if there was another way to improve my strength for riding other than my previous gym experience. Pushing heavy weights on machines worked fairly well in the short term but I soon lost the little muscle I gained as soon as I stopped. I wasn’t really able to keep it up with my fast metabolism as I needed to eat nearly 6000 calories a day and none of the lifts I was doing were specific to being able to fight a 40lb downhill bike.

As I struggled to do 6 press-ups this summer I wondered that if the fastest riders train to get stronger then so should I if I want to improve my riding. My goals are to be able to ride those long tracks and not make stupid mistakes getting caught out of position when it gets gnarly and can’t wait to test myself on some races in 2015. Helping to prevent injuries as I get nearer 30, so I don’t miss days at work, was another aspect of wanting to give strength training another go.

The skills swap was also exciting in that it would give Ben and I the chance to see how our two worlds of expertise inevitably collide, allowing us to analyise the way we deliver our own programmes and make tweaks to make them even better for our customers.

In the 6 weeks that I’ve been training with Ben, he’s smashed my perception of what going to the gym should be like for a mountain biker. I’ve been to his gym once a week and used the online strength programme to train at my house with no weights or expensive equipment to supplement the gym stuff. With Ben’s watchful eye, it’s been easy to focus on my goal knowing that every lift or body bending move is going to absolutely make me better on the bike.

Being a rider, he knows exactly which movements and muscles you need to focus on in a workout in order to maximise your gain out on the trail. The programme so far has also given me ample time to rest – being able to ride the next day rather than being totally destroyed is really important for me!

The key thing for me though has been the workout’s focus not only on the weight you lift but also the movements involved that go into making you more supple, flexible and ultimately able to use your strength properly on a bike. I’ve eaten well, as I usually do, but not focused purely on gaining weight like I did 5 years ago. There’s no doubt that I was doing it all wrong in the gym before and that my posture and core strength are now on the right track again. I feel stronger already and more aware of the strength involved in the movements that I do on my bike and if you want to go faster like I do then that is priceless.

Bring on the races!”

Stay Strong

Ben

 

Prioritising Your Races For Improved Results

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For those of you looking forward to a busy 2015 MTB race season, now is the time to start planning which races you will be doing and which ones are most important to you.  Some of you may have already done this, but as not all the race series have announced their firm 2015 dates yet, it is not always possible to do so early.  As a general rule though, you should have it all sorted by the new year as your training plan from January will be built around the summer’s racing and your priorities and goals.

The first thing to consider is how many races or events you can actually do over the season.  You should think about cost, travel, time off work and also your physical ability to perform week in and week out for a prolonged period of time.  You may find that you will get better results by entering less races, allowing you more time train.  Bear in mind that after a hard weekend of racing you may take a few days to totally recover and if you are racing consecutive weekends then this basically leaves you no time to train.  Also, do not underestimate the mental strain of racing, especially if you are a competitive person.  Racing too much over the summer can burn you out and leave you lacklustre and less focussed on training and racing.

Assuming that you have decided which races to do, you now need to have a think about which ones are most important to you and which ones less so.  The reason you should do this is that you will want to properly peak for the most important races to give you the best chance of a good result, however you can’t peak for lots of races as you will lose fitness over the season.  Generally races are divided into “A” “B” and “C” priority races with “A” being the most important and “C” being your least important races.

You should start by selecting 1 to 4 “A Priority” races that will be your biggest focus next season.  Picking these races can be tricky and it is important to think it through properly.  For instance you may immediately think the National Champs in your discipline will be an “A” race, however you know that this race will bring out all of the strongest and most competitive riders.  Can you actually compete against them?  If not then maybe you should prioritise another race that may have a slightly weaker field, for instance a national series race on the same weekend as a world cup.  It will still be a hard race with a strong field, but your chances of a good result will be greatly improved if the top riders are away on WC duties, meaning that if you peak properly and put in a good performance you could get a solid result!

Next you need to add the “B Priority” races to your calendar.  These will be fairly important races that often make up the bulk of the race season, especially as they tend to be made up of rounds from a race series.  Consistent attendance and performance ensures a good overall result with these races so they are worth being fresh for and whilst you won’t properly taper your training in the run up to the event you may reduce your training somewhat in the week before so that you are fresh.

Finally, the “C Priority” races are added to the race calendar.  These races are nice extras that you basically train straight through.  They basically become part of your training programme.  The results are not important and you may not even put in 100% effort for these races.  They can still be valuable in their own right though, for things like developing race craft and tactics and for trying out pre-race routines.  For instance you should not ever try a new warm up or pre-race energy drink before an important race.  You should experiment in training and then test it out on a “C” race to see if it works.  Keep a diary and use these races to make sure that you are best prepared for the bigger races throughout the season.  If you are feeling fatigued mid-season then you should look at skipping any “C” races that you may have planned.  Think of them as a nice-to-do part of the main season and a great way to get race sharp in the early season.

Based around the prioritised races you have in your diary now as well as your personal and work life you can construct your training plan to build up to an peak for the “A” races whilst training through the “C” races and something in the middle for the “B” races.  The exact way you will do this and how you programme it will depend on you, your discipline, experience and level of racing which is why I have not gone into it here.

Remember that if you have any questions about this article you can post them on my Facebook Page and I will do my best to answer them.

Have a Strong Christmas

Ben