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

 

My Training: 4 Weeks of Strength

 

Squat Rack

Squat Rack

I think that for many people, especially those involved in endurance sports, strength training is misunderstood and rarely applied properly.  When I hear riders talk about doing winter strength training in the gym and how they did 30 reps of squats or whatever, I always want to say, ‘That is not strength training!!!!!’

Strength is the ability to exert maximal forces and to train your strength in the gym you need to move maximal loads through a full range of motion.  This usually means working with weights that are about 80% of your 1 rep max or higher for low reps, like 1-5.  Obviously there is a time and a place for higher rep ranges with lower weights; for instance you may want to put on a bit of muscle, or when first learning an exercise or movement.  Also, there will be supporting exercises that compliment the main lifts of squats and deads, and these can be carried out at higher rep ranges.

Below is my actual training I did over the last 4 weeks, starting on Monday the 3rd of November which was my first day working out of my new gym in Bristol.  To help put it all into context, I will first tell you a bit about my training history…….

The first thing that may surprise you is that prior to November I actually had a quite a long period out of the gym.  This summer I had a big crash at Afan and was unable to train properly for about 2 months, and when I was able to train I only had access to a crappy council gym which was ok, but not ideal for my needs.  I had trained regularly from April when I moved to Bristol up until late June when I fell off.  Before that my wife and I had taken a year out to go travelling and snowboarding so I had done loads of exercise and bodyweight training but very little gym work.  In early 2013, before going away for the year I was the strongest I have ever been, deadlifting 195kg, back squatting 155kg and being able to press 75kg overhead all whilst at 80kg bodyweight.

I was therefore coming into November knowing that I needed to get the basics nailed and that I needed to keep things simple and build my strength back up over the core lifts and movements whilst continuing to rehab my shoulder post-crash which was still hindering press ups, pull ups and overhead exercises.

Training Diary.

3rd Nov

3 minute Aerobic Test on Wattbike – DISGUSTING!

Deadlift:  8@60kg,  8@80kg,  5@100kg,  5@110kg and then 5×3@120kg

TRX Rows 5×8

Kettlebell (KB) Goblet Squat 4×12@20kg

Lying Leg Raises

Press Ups on Fists 4×8.  This is due to an ongoing wrist injury, meaning press ups on palms can be painful.

6th Nov

Back Squat 8@40kg,  8@ 60kg,  5@80kg,  3@90kg,  5×2@100kg

Attempted Overhead Squats but failed due to shoulder.  Pissed off.

Press 4×8@20kg

Pull Ups 4×5

Hanging Knee Raises 5×5

10th Nov

Deadlift 8@60kg,  8@80kg,  6@100kg,  5@100kg,  5×5@115kg

Superset of 5 sets of 12 Press Ups on DBs and 6 Chin Ups

Stiff Leg Deadlift with 4 second lower. 3×5@60kg

Hanging Knee to Elbow Raises 5×5

12th Nov

Front Squat 8@40kg,  8@50kg,  6@60kg,  4×5@70kg

Press 4×12@20kg

Had to cut short due to late client!

14th Nov

Back Squat 8@40kg,  6@60kg,  5@80kg,  2@90kg,  1@100kg,  1@110kg, 2×1@112.5kg

Kettlebell (KB) Swings 20@16kg,  2×20@20kg,  5×10@32kg

Press Ups (On hands but bad wrist taped for support) 4×10

Hanging Knee to Elbow Raises 4×8

17th Nov

Deadlift 8@60kg,  8@80kg,  8@100kg,  5@120kg,  2@130kg,  5×2@140kg

Superset of 5 sets of 14 Press Ups on DBs and 7 Chin Ups

Plank 3 x 1 min

Standing DB Side Bends 3×10 on each side @25kg  This was easy and I made a note in my diary to go 10kg heavier next time.

19th Nov

Back Squat  12@40kg,  8@60kg,  5@80kg,  5×5@100kg

Press  2×8@20kg,  8@25kg,  3×8@30kg – Shoulder feeling good today to increased weight to 30kg.

TRX Rows  4×12

Lying Leg Raises

21st Nov

Front Squat (4 second lower) 8@30kg,  8@40kg,  6@50kg,  5×5@60kg

Superset of 4 sets of 15 Press Ups and 6 Pull Ups

KB Cleans 2×10 each arm @20kg

KB Snatch 2×10 each arm @16kg – This KB work was more revision and practice as I have not snatched a KB in a couple of months due to shoulder injury.  As well as the main reps recorded here, I spent about 20 minutes practicing and working on good form with a variety or weights.

Hanging Knee to Elbow Raises 4×8

25th Nov – Week 4 of Programme and a Recovery Week.

20 minutes of mobility work and movement.

Super deep KB goblet squats with 5 sec hold at the bottom position.  5×5@24kg (2x12kg KBs)

Shoulder stability work on TRX.

20 minutes of stretching and foam rolling.

27th Nov 

This was also supposed to be a recovery day of quality movement and stretching, however I got offered a day labouring on a new MTB and BMX track in Bristol for Architrail who I occasionally work for.  This was actually a total beasting, pushing really heavy wheel barrows across a grassy field and up a hill as well as carrying heavy stuff all day.  Not what I had planned, but I gotta pay the bills!  I did 20 minutes of stretching in the evening though.

Present……..

That brings us nicely to the first week in December where a new 4 week training block begins in the run up to Christmas.  On Monday the 1st (today) I will repeat my 3 minute Aerobic test on the Wattbike and hopefully get a better result as I should be stronger and more powerful than 4 weeks ago.  Over the next 4 weeks I will incorporate more variety into my training and more intensity as I am well aware that I took things pretty steady to get started.  Importantly it all fits in with my long term strategy to prepare myself for next season so I don’t feel like I am behind or anything!  As I go forward I will have to review and evaluate the last 4 weeks and that is where my training diary is essential to my long term progress and goals.

I hope that this is helpful to you in some way.  It is not about showing off (I have a long way to go anyway) or about saying that this person or trainer is wrong and that I am right, but it is about letting you know how I do things and a bit about why.

Stay Strong

Ben

 

New Training Location – Bristol

MTB Strength Factory Gym

I am really pleased and excited to announce that MTB Strength Factory will be using an awesome, private gym in West Bristol from November.  The gym is called Functional Fitness and I will be training clients there for this winter off-season and going into next year.

It is not a great big globo-gym full of machines, TV’s and cardio-equipment, instead it offers a great space to develop as an athlete, with barbells, kettlebells and your bodyweight.  It is run by a couple of really good trainers with a great ethos about training and I am really pleased to start working in that environment.  If you look closely at the photo, it even has monkey bars!  How cool is that?

To accommodate the type of training I want to do with my riders I will also be adding some more barbells and discs, and a Wattbike for power training and testing.  In case you have never used a Wattbike, they really are the best tool around for indoor cycle training, measuring power, HR and many other factors, allowing us to monitor your progress and test regularly as well as putting you through some precise and gruelling winter workouts.

The gym is in Ashton, West Bristol.  It is only a few minutes cycle from Parson Street train station and 10 minutes from Bedminster. Check it out on Google Maps below:

LOCATION

I am just finalising the details of exactly what training packages and prices to offer, however if you live in Bristol or the general area and think you may be interested in training with me for recreational riding or racing, then please drop me a line on ben@mtbstrengthfactory.com.  Distance packages will also be available with details to follow next week when the website will be updated.

I look forward to seeing you in the gym soon!

Stay Strong

Ben

 

Post-Season Assessment

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For most mountain bike racers across the UK, the racing season has finished, barring a few smaller regional races and we are going into a more chilled out period of riding for fun, doing other off-bike things and just not worrying about racing, training or performance.  Typically, after this down time, racers will start training again in late October or November with a new programme and full of motivation for another winter of hard work to prepare for the next season.  Whilst, on the whole I am talking about racers, many recreational riders may be going through a similar process and just thinking about riding further or harder next summer too.

In order to make the most of winter training when it starts, we really need to have an appreciation of how the most recent season went.  Which tracks suited you?  Did you feel strong on sprints?  Did you perform better on long or short courses? Wet or dry races? etc etc.  This is called a post-season assessment, although no doubt other people have different names for it too.

Without carrying out a post-season assessment of your performance and abilities it is hard to properly plan for the next season in order to maximise your training time and to get the best possible results.  The assessment of your previous performance allows you to build on strengths and target weaknesses to help you become an all round faster rider.  Faster riders win more races – simples!

First of all you need to look at the demands of your discipline, whether that is DH, XC, enduro or marathon and think about the qualities that matter.  For instance an XC racer will need to be able to make fast starts, race up long climbs at a relatively high power output and will need good race tactics, which are quite different to the demands placed on a DH racer.  You then need to measure or record how weak or strong you think you are at each factor, based on the last season of racing and training.  You can use a simple scale from 1 to 5, where 1 means you are one of the worst in your category at any particular factor, and 5 is where you are one of the best.

Taking an XC rider as an example, if he immediately overtakes the few riders in front when the race starts he could put down a score of 4 or 5 for ‘Race start.’  The same rider may struggle and lose places on long, climbs and only score a 2 for ‘Long climbs.’

The important thing to do is to use your actual race results and memory to aid you and not just make it up.  You can also use results from in-season testing, like power output, HR data or gym based tests like vertical jump.  When you look over your results, think about the characteristics of that course or race and how you approached it and how you faired.  This will all help you to fill in your post-season assessment.

The assessment does not have to be based purely on hard facts however, and the way you feel and perceive your racing is also important.  For instance the people you ride with may have opinions about the way you ride and race.  Similarly there may be photos and videos that will give you clues about your riding style.  Check out Roots and Rain for race photos and see how your body position and cornering technique measure up to the best riders.  If it is crap, then get some coaching!

Let’s look at an example for an XC racer:

Worst Below Ave Average Above Ave Best
1 2 3 4 5
Start X
Short Climbs X
Long Climbs X
Tech Sections X
Flat Course X
Mud X
Dry/Dusty X
Running with Bike X
Finish Sprints X
Short Races X
Long Races X

From this basic assessment we can see that the rider is probably a heavier, more powerful rider than many, who struggles with longer climbs and courses, but excels at short sprints and powerful moves, and with average bike handling skills.  To become a more rounded rider for the next season we could address a number of things or take a number of approaches based on the assessment results:

As the rider is already strong and powerful, less gym time may be needed to develop those qualities.

The rider may benefit from a reduction of bodyweight (without losing power).

The rider has average bike handling skills, so time should be dedicated to becoming above average for next season.

In the new year, more long duration intervals and hill repeats should be included to develop speed on longer climbs.

None of this is very complicated, and with some careful thought and analysis of your results you should be able to draw some conclusions to make sure you get your winter training right and don’t just go off in the wrong direction and waste your time.  I will be carrying this process out with my riders over the next couple of weeks and it will be instrumental when we are designing the programme for the winter months.

Stay Strong

Ben

MTB Strength Factory Athlete on the Podium

Joe Finney UKGE 3rd PlaceI am a little late writing this as things have been super hectic – Sorry!

At the last round of the UKGE at Grizedale in the beautiful Lakes, MTB Strength Factory trained athlete Joe Finney took an overall 3rd in Masters category for the series!  It was a huge achievement for him as Masters is sooooo competitive and quick at that end of the field, with ex World Cup DH legend Andrew Titley taking the overall win.

Joe has shown so much improvement over the season and has worked really hard on his riding and his physicality, growing stronger week in and week out, just using his bodyweight and kettlebells twice per week with me on his decking.  Simple but effective for sure. Next year he will move up a category to either Elite, or Expert if they decide to form it as a new category for 2015.  I am looking forward to training him for the winter now, and you can expect some fast racing from him next year.

This is what Joe had to say about our training:

“I need to say a big thank you to Ben Plenge of MTB Strength Factory for the fitness training over the last few months, the proof it is working can be seen in my results. I never did any structured training prior to meeting Ben and I have to say it has been a revelation! I wish I had put in this effort when I was racing Downhill… If you are looking for a coach in the Bristol area I can highly recommend Ben, and if you just want some guidance or a basic training plan Ben offers a basic strength training programme for just £18, a bargain of you ask me, available online through his website.”

If you are a MTB racer and want some training and programming to prepare you for 2015, then I will be taking on new athletes in mid-October.  Exact prices and packages are TBC, and if all goes to plan I will be operating out of my own gym in Bristol shortly, so watch this space!

Stay Strong

Ben

 

Strong Enough For Single Ring: On-Bike Training

MTB Training

The third in the series helping you to get stronger for riding a single-ring setup is all about what you can do on the bike to prepare yourself for the change-over.  Some of it is pretty straight forward, some of it needs a bit of maths and some of it is going to make you sweat……

Coming from a triple chainset:  This is fairly obvious, but you basically need to spend more and more time in the middle ring, and leave the granny ring alone as much as possible.   The key here is to do it gradually and to record how you get along.  Maybe you ride one weeknight for an hour and do a longer, 3 hour ride on the weekend.  Start off just hitting the mid-week ride in middle ring until you are able to complete your route without shifting down to granny.  If you can’t do it then keep a diary. e.g. Wednesday ride, single ring except for the last 200m of Castle Hill.  The following Wednesday it may just be the last 100m and so on.  What we measure, we improve.  Apply this to the longer rides and crack on until you are confident you can make the switch and still enjoy your rides.

Coming from a double chainset:  We basically want to apply the same technique as before, however most double chainsets are 28/40 or 26/38, meaning that if we plan to run a 32 tooth single ring (at least at first) we need to be a bit clever with figuring out the gear ratios.  If you are planning on going to a 32 tooth ring with an 11-36, 10 speed cassette then we want to simulate this with the current setup and gradually build up.  On the new setup your lowest gear will have a ratio of 0.89. (The wheel will turn 0.89 of its circumference with each full revolution of the crank). To achieve an almost identical ratio with the smallest ring being 28 on a double chainset you would need to be in a 31 tooth ring on the cassette.  Depending on your cassette you may or not have the exact size ring, but it gives you an idea of where you need to be.  My final tip on applying this is to use the limiter screw to adjust the rear mech so that it does not shift into the largest cog, and then when you get to the point on the ride where you really need the extra gear, you can wind it out and get full range again.  Just record your progress and build up until you don’t need the extra cog(s) on the cassette.

Training sessions to help improve leg strength:

1. Force Reps.  This is a demanding workout that can put a bit of added strain on your knees, so if you have had knee issues in the past, it is probably best to skip it.  Similarly, if your knees hurt during the workout, then stop.  You will need a relatively steep hill, 5-8% is ideal and it only needs to be 50 m long.  Spin into the hill at a slow pace and then shift into a high gear at the bottom.  You should then do 6 full revolutions of the pedals in a seated position, pushing as hard as you can.  As a guide to which gear you should be in, you should not exceed a cadence of 50 rpm at the cranks (a bit slower than 1 revolution per second if you don’t have a computer with cadence function).  You should be putting a very large force through the pedals and it should be demanding.  Rest for 3 minutes, spinning easily and repeat 3- 5 times in total depending on fitness and training level.

2. High Gear Hill-Reps.  This is less strenuous on the joints and is more accessible to most riders.  You will need to use a moderate gradient hill that allows you to climb for 2-4 minutes.  The first rep should be done in your usual gear, spinning up at a moderate effort.  Recover for the same amount of time that the first rep took and then repeat, but 1 gear higher.  Continue this process until you drop below a cadence of 60 rpm.  Record your results in a diary and next time try and ride further in the higher gears.  For beginners this should only be done once per week, and twice for more experienced riders.

A final note on bodyweight:  Quite simply, your ability to ride up a big, steep hill without a granny ring is all about your power to weight ratio.  If you are weak, but a healthy weight, you can get stronger and more powerful, making good progress towards your goals.  If you are overweight then all of the above points need to take a back seat and you need to shift the body-fat as a priority, both for your health and your MTB performance.

Have fun out on the trails and I hope that this helps you on your journey to being stronger and faster on your mountain bike.

Stay Strong

Ben

Daily Maintenance – The Baby Squat

 

Baby Squat

As a mountain biker it is super important to look after your hips and back, so that you can ride comfortably, move around on the bike and get the power down when you need to.  This basic mobility drill is something I have my athletes do every day for a couple of minutes, as well as before training or riding.

It is called the Baby Squat.  It is called that because that is how babies and toddlers sit naturally.  Interestingly it is also how most of the developing world sits as it is how we are meant to rest when not lying down.  I have even seen people sleeping in this position in Iraq and to me at the time it was mental!  Now I understand better though and have worked gradually to a point where I can sit like this for 10 minutes quite comfortably.

Most of you reading this will spend a lot of time in chairs, at the office, driving, reading this or watching the TV.  The problem is that a chair is not a natural position for us and it leaves our hips really tight and unable to move as freely as they should.  This manifests itself on the trail with lower back, hip and sometimes knee pain, so obviously if we want to enjoy riding more, we need to improve our hip mobility.

Watch the video below and try and find a couple of minutes per day to work on it and you will be surprised at the difference on the bike.

The Baby Squat is also part of the warm up drill before each session on The Bodyweight Strength Programme available here.

Stay Strong

Ben

Racing Roundup

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I am back from sunny Scotland (really – it was actually sunny!) and I am glad to say I survived the Enduro World Series, with its long climbs and super-tech stages, it was a real challenge for me.  Below I will talk you through some of my thoughts on how I could better train and prep my body for an event like this.  If you have not read it already, then check out my report from the UKGE race the weekend before where I talk about my preparations for the EWS and how I felt coming into it: http://mtbstrengthfactory.com/racing-riding-racing/

Starting  on the Saturday morning I felt fresh and strong on the bike and I was certainly glad that I took the Friday off as a total recovery day.  The sun was out and the first long transition from Peebles all the way to Innerleithen was actually pretty relaxed, with 90 minutes allocated for the ride out.  I had about 15 minutes to spare to compose myself and sort myself out before the first stage.  I don’t know what was up but I had a shocker on the first stage and really struggled to find any rhythm and flow on the trail, having a couple of crashes and plenty of nearly moments.  Half way through the stage was a sickening 600m fire-road climb that was a total killer, especially in the sun with my full face on, and the best way to attack this was to get the Reverb up and spin up as quick as you could.  Even Jared Graves didn’t just sprint this!  I would have liked to put in a bit more gas into this climb feature, but held back a little partly due to the seriously steep drop in off the road at the end of it and partly because it was stage 1 of a 50km day.

Stage 2 was pretty similar for me with a comfortable transition followed by a really tricky stage where I had a big over the bars into a rock garden which was not cool.  I was just riding like a total loser and getting a bit frustrated to be honest.  Luckily, there was a long ride out to stage 3 and I took a little time to ride on my own and have a chat with myself about how my day was going.  I knew I was a better rider and that if I just chilled out I could get down the hill smoother and of course quicker.  Stage 3 is where things started to look up for me and despite it being the steepest and most tech of the whole event, I stayed on the bike and got a pretty clean and controlled run in that I actually enjoyed.  Knowing that I had that behind me and with only 1 climb to go and the last stage which I loved, I was starting to feel a lot happier and was actually pretty phsyched about hitting the last stage and getting a bit more flow and speed going.

Climbing up to stage 4 I realised that I was actually feeling pretty fresh as I spun up, and certainly felt better then I had at the UKGE event the previous Sunday.  I was well up for the last stage and rode it really well, getting my best result of the weekend of 168th in the male category, including all of the pro’s and 1 min 20 behind Nico Lau which was pretty good in my book!  As I spun back to Peebles and the end of the day I was thinking about how I felt on the bike and realised that the previous week of racing and practice had acted like a sort of training camp and I had gone into day 1 of the EWS feeling fitter and stronger on the bike then I had felt just 1 week before.  If you remember my write up about UKGE at Inners, I decided that more long distance rides were needed in my programme.  Well it seemed like the combination of a whole week of long, hilly Scottish riding and some proper rest and food had really paid off and I was feeling good.

Innerleithen Gravity Enduro

After eating as much as I could on the Sat night, I woke up on Sunday feeling a little stiff, but generally pretty good.  A lot of people were worried about the first transition to the top of Glentress, but me and the lads around me knocked it out without any real dramas and with time to spare, including the legendary ‘Spooky Wood’ climb.  I was surprised how good I felt and knew that the Sunday stages were more flowing and fun and I was really looking forward to the ‘shorter’ 38km day and hoping to get some better times in and stay on my bike.

The Sunday went really well and I rode the stages as fast as I could.  I felt smooth on the bike and strong on the pedals, and did not fall off all day which was a result!  These stages were so much fun and the crowds were amazing, cheering you on, and shouting ‘Get off the brakes!’  I finished the day buzzing, and feeling like I could have pedalled up for another go on stage 8.

I finished in 188th out of 223 in the Men’s 18-39 category, including all of the pro’s and EWS team riders.  In the end I was pretty happy with this result, and looking back critically I have the following thoughts on my training and preparation and what I can do to become a better rider and racer:

1. The bottom line is that I need to be a better rider and bike handler!  It is hard to admit to, but most of the guys around me on the race were just better riders.  I have come back from Scotland a better rider, but there is always room for improvement, so I will be getting some coaching to try and improve myself further.

2. I have grown stronger on the bike over the 9 days in Scotland, however I do need to put in a few more regular over-distance rides so that my all day endurance is better.

3. I need to do some more work on my anaerobic endurance, working on intervals from 2 to 5 minutes to improve my stage fitness and ability to really push myself on the inevitable fire-road climbs that seem to crop up at these events.

4. My upper body, back and posture always felt strong and able to cope with the stages, so I will work on maintaining that.  Interestingly over the course of the 9 days I did lose some muscle mass from my chest, shoulders and arms despite eating loads and all the technical riding.

5. My mental preparation could have been better.  I really think that the first 2 stages on the Saturday could have gone better if I was more relaxed and had gotten myself in a better mental and emotional state to race stages that I knew were super hard and at my technical limits.  Generally this is not much of a problem for me as I am a confident and positive person, but maybe the difficulty and the fact it was a ‘World Series’ event got to me a bit.

6.  I was happy with my nutrition, kit and bike prep and feel that none of these held me back.  As I said before, the Torq products were very good and kept me going all week.

Looking back it has been an amazing experience and I will certainly enter next year if it comes back to the UK.  I have learnt a lot and developed as a rider and head towards the UKGE at Afan in a couple of weeks feeling fit, fast and confident.

Stay Strong

Ben

Big thanks to Doc Ward for the photographs!

Jerome Clementz Interview

Yes, you did read that correctly!  On Friday, before the Enduro World Series racing kicked off at the Tweedlove Bike Festival in Peebles, Scotland, I managed to grab JC for a couple of minutes to ask him a little about his training.  I think it says a lot about Jerome, and our sport in general that I was able to do this and that I just spent the weekend racing with the best riders in the world on some of the gnarliest terrain and tracks going!

Massive thanks to Jerome for his time, although I was a little sad to hear he hates the gym!

Check out the video and then read my thoughts below……

As a mountain biker in Britain we can often bemoan the lack of real mountains and lift accessed alpine tracks that our European cousins enjoy, however what we lose out on in sheer altitude, we gain in all year round ride-ability.  Living in the mountains, JC has to cross train through the long and snowy winter, primarily using cross country skiing for his off season training, with relatively little time on the bike.  Whilst keeping training specific to the sport is very important, especially as you near the race season, using skiing as winter training can actually be very effective for bikers as he has shown himself.

The movement pattern of cross country skiing and ski touring is actually very similar to riding a bike, especially when we look at climbing on the skis.  Both sports rely on a lifting of the bent leg in front of the body, followed by a powerful triple extension of the hip, knee and ankle to propel the athlete forwards.  Regular and steep climbs on the skis can really develop the strength in the legs, especially as you have no gears to help you.  If it gets steep, you just have to work harder, and this is exaggerated further if you are carrying a pack with warm clothes and equipment.  You are also able to conduct very similar training sessions as part of a structured programme, including long, steady flatter efforts, intervals, hill reps, power work and other workouts that a bike programme would cover through the winter months.

Whilst obviously not at the same level as JC, I actually have some fairly similar first hand experience of this from this winter.  I was lucky enough to spend the winter running a ski chalet in the French Pyrenees with Altitude Adventure meaning that I did not ride my bike at all this year until I got back to England at the end of March.  Knowing that I would be racing my bike in April I prepared by doing a lot of snow shoeing with my snowboard on my back to access backcountry and off-piste locations.  This was really demanding, both on the lungs due to the altitude, and also on the legs and back, carrying my kit, the board, and me up some pretty steep, sometimes powdery mountain sides!  On my return I felt pretty well prepared physically, and the bike speed came over a few weeks of steady riding, with some intervals as well.

Whilst I was disappointed to hear that JC gets bored of the gym (come and train with me?!?!), it was good to hear that he uses a trainer and also educates himself in order to best prepare himself physically.  We can all learn from a trainer, a more experienced rider or from reading, and if JC can find time to do it, so can you!  We did not go into much detail as you heard, however he must work hard to keep his core strong, enabling him to put the power down and to move freely on the bike to make it change direction in such crazy ways as only the top riders can do.  Personally, my approach to training this area is to use the big lifts and whole body moves primarily, however if you are not doing that sort of training, then some floor work or work with a swiss ball can certainly be beneficial when performed with intensity and a within a proper programme.

So, that was my short training interview with current Enduro World Series Champion, Jerome Clementz.  I wish him a speedy recover and all the best.

Stay Strong

Ben

Free Stuff Friday

Tomorrow is going to be the first ‘Free Stuff Friday!’

The first 5 people to buy one of our MTB Bodyweight Strength Programmes from the website on Friday will get a free MTB Strength Factory T-Shirt as seen below!

The t-shirts are high quality organic cotton, made by the cool dudes over at Exempt Clothing. They are super comfy and look great and their tee’s normally retail for about £20, so this is a total bargain when the programme only costs £18 and is covered by our money back guarantee.

To buy the programme just visit:
http://mtbstrengthfactory.com/mountainbike-strength-training/

Stay Strong

BenMTB Strength Factory T-Shirts