Enduro Training Camp: 9th-16th April, French Pyrenees

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I am really excited to announce the first ever MTB Strength Factory and Altitude Adventure, Enduro Training Camp this spring.

Set in the stunning Pyrenees Orientales about 40 minutes East of Andorra, Altitude Adventure have been serving up amazing riding to mountain bikers from the UK for many years.  They have been featured in numerous articles in Singletrack, MBR and MBUK amongst others and people keep on coming back for the epic, natural riding on offer.

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The week is designed for anybody who wants to improve their fitness and skills for enduro racing this season.  It will be a mixture of uplift and pedalling to get you to the best trails in the area, with each day’s activity carefully chosen to offer you different challenges and to develop you as a rider.  This area is a hotbed of French MTB talent with riders like Damien Oton hailing from the region and training on the same tracks that you will be riding.

To compliment the riding you will be doing, I will be doing daily flexibility and mobility work with you all, helping you to recover and educating you on how you can improve this often neglected aspect of MTB training.  Without turning it into a school trip, there will be talks and presentations from me and Ian and Ange (Altitude Adventure and both ex WC level riders!) in the evenings to inform and educate you so that you can race at your best this summer and beyond.  We will cover topics such as nutrition, training, race prep and tactics, as well as offering you almost unlimited opportunity to pick my brains on all things training related!

Whilst we are calling this a training camp, it is not a fitness based camp with endless interval training and sprints!  Whilst you should come back feeling fitter and stronger on the bike after so much riding, including time at altitude, it is just as much about sharpening your skills and getting lots of demanding technical trail riding done, and even riding under race conditions using our timing kit.

If you are planning on racing enduro this summer and you want to go into the season better prepared than ever, then this is the trip for you.  The cost is £695 including:

7 nights ensuite accommodation with jacuzzi on site!

6 evening meals, all breakfasts and packed lunch on all riding days.

All your drinks – although you probably won’t be hitting the beers too hard on training camp!

Guiding, coaching, and uplifts.

Education and practical sessions with Ben from MTB Strength Factory.

You will have to arrange and pay for return flights to Barcelona as well as paying for transfer.  You will also need to pay for one evening meal out during your stay.

If you have any questions relating to the MTB Strength Factory side of the trip, including training, content and so on then please feel free to email me direct on ben@mtbstrengthfactory.com.  If you have questions about the area, accommodation, what bike to bring, flights etc, then it is best to visit the Altitude Adventure website or drop them a line on info@altitudeadventure.com being sure to mention MTB Strength Factory when you email them!

This trip is going to be so much fun as well as taking your riding and racing to the next level!

 

The Power Files: Getting Started

Over the coming months I am going to be writing regular articles about my experiences of training with power.  As you may be aware, power based training is the best way to train for bike sports, as it offers you so much data for analysis, as well as real time information about your training so that you can train at correct intensities to illicit the training effect you require for your chosen event or discipline.

The guys over at Saddleback have been kind enough to lend me a Stages Power meter for my road bike, and I will be using it with my own Garmin 520 cycle computer.  The power meter is a left crank arm that has a stain gauge attached to it, and you simply replace the existing crank.  Amusingly the power meter is actually worth more than my actual bike!  It doesn’t actually matter to me though as the road bike is just a tool for training in order to improve my MTB performance, so I just need it to work.  The other piece of kit I will be using is a heart rate strap that works with the Garmin computer.  Finally, all of this data and information is fed into a training website, called Training Peaks (TP).  The TP online training app is a bit like Strava on steroids, without the competition element and corner-cutting.  It gathers all of your info from a training ride or race and presents it in a variety of ways, enabling you to analyse your strengths, weaknesses, progress and fitness.  The possibilities are pretty staggering and also somewhat intimidating at first!

Set Up

Initial setup of the Garmin and the Stages PM were really simple……  Remove the old crank, fit the new one, fit the computer on the bars, pair them together and off you go.  Although I have a lot of experience training with power with my Wattbike, I felt that the best way to get started was with some baseline settings and head off for a spin.  On my return I could upload the data to my TP account and start to look into my ride in more detail.

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The screenshot above is the actual data from my first ride out with the Stages PM fitted.  At first it seems crazy, but with some reading, some patience and lots of experimentation, it soon starts to become more clear.  The main graph shows the whole ride with the different lines showing different metrics; cadence in yellow, elevation shown by the grey shading, heart rate in red, power in pink, speed in green and temperature in blue.  You can also see some summary info about the ride in the right hand column, and if you scroll down it gives you further insight into your ride and how hard it was.  To get to the info that you actually want, you can clean up the graph, removing things like temperature and speed which are unimportant to me.  I can also zoom-in to various sections of the ride to analyse my efforts more closely:

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As you can see, this screenshot is of the main climb from the original ride, including the flat sections immediately before and after.  From this I can see how long this part of the ride took, my power, heart rate and so on.  Although this was just a spin to figure out the new equipment, if it was a training ride with a specific goal related to climbing, I would be able to determine whether this aspect of my ride was successful or not.  Had I ridden within the correct training zone for the climb?

Hopefully you can see appreciate how this sort of information can benefit you in your training.  It is especially valuable for the time-pressed rider who wants to make the best use of their limited training hours, as well as for top level athletes looking for an edge.  Training with power is not cheap, with a Stages crank costing from about £500 and the cost of a GPS being a couple of hundred pounds, but when you weigh up the performance benefits that is can bring, it is actually pretty good value.  That £500 may get you some lighter wheels that may speed you up a bit, but if your fitness sucks then even the lightest carbon hoops won’t save you!

In the next instalment of The Power Files, I will go into the terminology of power based training.  Normalised power, average power, training zones and so on and what they mean to you as a mountain biker.

Stay Strong

Ben

Building Endurance

MTB Endurance

Endurance is the ability to keep on going and ride all day; up hill, down single-track and everything in between.  It is an important physical attribute whether you just want to ride laps of a trail centre with your mates or race an XC or enduro event.  At the extreme end of MTB endurance are 24 hour and marathon races, as well as multi-day stage races requiring consecutive long days in the saddle at high levels of effort.

Endurance can mean a few different things, depending on your goals and your ability as an athlete.  For a beginner, new to exercise and MTB, increased endurance could mean being able to ride for over 2 hours with minimal stops.  A more experienced rider may work up to their first 60km off-road ride, including 2000m of climbing and plenty of descending.  An XC racer may only race up to 2 hours at a time, but needs ‘speed endurance,’ which is the ability to maintain a high pace for a long period of time.  The marathon rider needs to be able to ride almost non-stop for 8-24 hours at a time.  For the purposes of this article, endurance will mean the ability to ride further or for longer periods.  Speed and power endurance will be covered in future articles.

Here are a number of factors that affect a rider’s endurance and some tips to help you improve them……

1. Genetics:  Some of us are built for explosive, powerful movements, and others for long, endurance type events.  Usain Bolt will never make a good endurance athlete!  You can work to reach your genetic potential for endurance, but you can’t beat nature.  If you are naturally a more explosive rider you can still make good progress with a proper training plan though, so don’t be dis-heartened.

2. Bodyweight:  Power to weight ratio plays a part in how far you can ride, especially in hilly or mountainous areas.  Quite simply, if you are carrying excess body fat (or too much muscle bulk from the gym) then you are using loads of extra energy, meaning you can’t ride as far or as fast as you would if you were leaner.  The best way to improve your body composition is to cut down body fat levels through good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.  There are lots of ways to do this, but on the whole you should keep your diet as natural as possible, drink lots of water, eat loads of veggies, and cut out sugar and processed foods.  In the MTB Strength Factory Nutrition Guide I take you through a 4-week experiment where you learn about which foods work with your body and which don’t, allowing you to make a personalised nutrition plan to improve performance on the bike and help you loose excess body fat.

3.  Fuel:  Chances are that if you can’t ride longer than 2 hours, then you are not fuelling your body properly.  You will need to have a meal that is high in carbs, with some protein and a little fat before you ride in order to fuel your efforts.  You may also want to use energy products or just carry some water and a bar or two to keep you going.  Either way, you will need to plan and prepare your food for long rides.  A great way to improve your endurance is to become more efficient at using stored carbohydrate from your body and to use more fat as fuel instead.  One of the best ways to do this is doing ‘energy work’ where you ride at low intensities for increasing durations whilst in a fasted state.  A great way to incorporate this is on a morning commute.  Ride in at a steady pace and have brekky when you arrive instead of before you leave.  Just be careful not to, ‘Bonk’ and build up the distance gradually.

4. Programming:  How do you expect to go out and ride for 6 hours if the longest you have ever ridden is 3?  This is the harsh reality that a lot of people find when they go to the Alps for the first time and they get knackered on the first long day of riding and end up having a silly crash!  You need to build up your distances gradually.  Write a basic programme where you build for 3 weeks and then have an easy week.  Do a short ride after work one day where you do some intervals and some skills work and then a long ride on the weekend……. Week one: 25km, Week two: 30km, Week three: 35km, Week four: 20km.  You then repeat the 4 week cycle with longer distances, so Week five would be 30km and so on until you reach the desired distance or time that you need to ride for.

5.  Efficiency:  We can become more efficient on the bike by improving pedalling technique, body position and even bike setup.  When we are more efficient we can ride further or faster for the same amount of effort.   You can get professional help for your bike setup at your LBS who should help you out unless you are a bit of a dick.

6.  Flexibility:  If you are really tight with poor flexibility and mobility then you will be restricted on the bike, affecting your efficiency, speed and endurance.  You may also pick up injuries or suffer from lower back pain, meaning you can’t ride as far as you would like.  My approach to flexibility is ‘little and often.’  Do some stretching most days, and always do some basic mobility before a ride, especially if you are straight out of the car or straight from your desk.  The best athletes are supple, and can move freely.

7.  Weakness:  The further you ride the more likely it is to expose your weaknesses.  If you always get the same pain on a  long ride then that is a clue that you should listen to.  Maybe the muscle in that area is weak or not working properly?  You can use your bodyweight or go to a gym to get stronger, just make sure that you work with good form and that you integrate it into your broader training plan.  Also check out my MTB specific Bodyweight Strength Programme to put you on the right track!

8.  Mental:  Don’t be intimidated by a long day riding.  Just ride at your own pace and take sensible precautions like having enough food and water.  Ride with more experienced and fitter people to give you confidence.  Finally, remember that endurance is very trainable, even in older riders , so get out and ride!

Stay Strong

Ben

Scotland – Enduro World Series and World Cup

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I have just spent the last 2 weeks up in Scotland, racing the Enduro World Series and then going to watch the World Cup in Fort William.  Despite the fact that it rained EVERY DAY, it was a great trip with awesome riding and racing and lots of fun times with my riding buddies and my wife.  Here is what I got up to and my training-related thoughts about the 2 events and some other random stuff too…….

Home for the EWS!

Home for the EWS!

The EWS at Peebles in the Scottish Borders is known for being one of the most technical, steep and slippery tracks on the EWS circuit and this year was no change.  The constant rain meant that the steep and root infested stages around Innerleithen were super slippy and getting a clean run would be very difficult.  Practicing all day Wed and Thurs and resting on Friday, I felt fit and strong on the bike although not quite at race pace as I had only had the bike for a couple of weeks.  I found my riding to be quite inconsistent and found it hard to get a rhythm in practice.  Some parts went really well and I rode right at my limit and at other times I was making silly mistakes, including a pretty big crash at the bottom of stage 7 at Glentress that left me with a pretty multicoloured thigh for the next 10 days!  I think that the main issue for me was getting in the right frame of mind.  Maybe the scale of the event and the quality of competition got to me a bit, but I found it hard to relax and ride my best.  I need to have a think about this and work on improving it in the future.

The inconsistent theme continued on the Saturday with some sections going really well, even catching the rider in front and other sections of the course feeling like I was a toddler without stabilisers for the first time!  By the end of day 1 of racing at Innerleithen I was feeling very second hand, having had quite a big run in with a tree, leaving my shoulder very stiff and sore, and with a stiff wrist and finger from punching a tree in the tight sections.  I was sitting about 200th out of 269 in E1 category and that would have put me in 12th in E2 category out of about 100 riders riding the same course.  I was hoping for better results from day 1 and felt a bit frustrated.  The main thing that I took away from day 1 is that I am just not used to riding and racing such long downhills of 5 minutes or more.  I need to improve my race conditioning by doing two things:  1- Increase the length of my conditioning sessions in the gym ton reflect longer stage times.  2- Actually ride some bigger hills and tracks and do them in one go rather than in sections with a chat to my mates half way down.

Waking up on Sunday morning I knew that I would not be able to race properly.  I could not lift my right arm past shoulder height and my wrist felt pretty weak too so I decided to withdraw which is a bit of a bummer.  For me, as an amateur racing for fun, it is just not worth it, especially being mid-30’s and self employed!  The silver lining was that I got to watch the pro’s come down the final stage into Peebles and that was awesome!  They are at another level and it was inspiring to see them riding so fast on such tricky tracks.  Maybe I will do another EWS next year?!

The week leading up to the World Cup, my wife and I had planned to ride loads, but it did not stop raining the whole time so we only got out once.  Fortunately it was an awesome ride at a little trail centre called Laggan Wolftrax.  This place is really unique in that it is mostly on really grippy (even when wet) rock.  I have never ridden anywhere like it and even if you don’t normally ride trail centres, I would urge you to check it out.  It has some cool features including a massive North Shore style rock roll which was loads of fun and is something I have never seen in this country before.  The cafe is also pretty decent!

You probably don’t really need me to talk much about the World Cup as the MTB social media and web world has been flooded with content, so here are some thoughts about seeing it first hand and the physical considerations for racing DH at a high level.

Every rider who did well was f**ked at the bottom.  No matter how fit they were, they all gave 100% to the final sprint and motorway section.  The lesson here is about mental toughness and determination.  If you want to do well you need to give it all, and push through when the legs and lungs are screaming for you to stop.  This can and should be developed in training, both on the bike and in the gym.

The best riders raced smart and conserved energy on the windy top sections of the moor so that they would have more power available to sprint hard and clear the massive jumps on the motorway section.

The top section is rougher than it looks on TV!  You need to be smooth, relaxed and on the right lines with good upper body strength to move the bike around and pump for speed.

For such a long, sustained track where you may only sit for a few seconds during the whole 5 minutes, core strength and endurance is critical to enable you to maintain a good riding position, absorb hits and put down power when you need to.

Manon’s crash was pretty huge and could have been a lot worse.  As well as her helmet and body armour protecting her from injury, the fact that she is a high level athlete certainly helped too.  Muscle is like armour, protecting the skeleton and organs from injury and impact.  I would also bet that she does regular neck training as part of her strength programme and this will help her to bounce back from big crashes as well as protecting her at the time of the crash.

DH MTB World Cup

DH MTB World Cup

The atmosphere in the finishing arena at For Bill is amazing!  Get it on your MTB bucket list if you have not been already.

I am now back to the gym and back to work.  3 Weeks until UKGE round 2 in Grizedale and the trails back home are dry and dusty.  Happy Days…

Stay Strong

Ben

 

Training By ‘Feel’

These days it is easy to become convinced that in order to train properly, you must have all the latest tech toys and gadgets on your bike and body…….. GPS, cadence sensors, HR monitors, power meters, smart phones and apps, turbo trainers and the list goes on.

Whilst all of these items can help your training if used correctly, there is another way that is both cheap and simple, and with practice it can be quite reliable.  Training by ‘Feel’ is where you use your own perceptions of intensity to gauge how hard you are working at any particular time on the bike.  It is about getting to know your body and learning the signs that tell you how hard you are working.  Once you can do this, you can then train at certain intensities for specific periods of time as part of a training programme and you will need nothing more than a watch.

Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is the name given to the scale that sports coaches and scientists use to monitor efforts in athletes in training.  It is simply a number that reflects how hard you are working at that time or that reflects how hard you worked over a period of time.  Whilst there are different RPE scales, I like to keep it simple and use a scale of 1-10 with my athletes, with 1 being really easy, barely breathing or moving and 10 being the hardest you could possibly work.  With a simple scale like this I can use it in the gym; “How hard was that last set?” or I can use it for programming rides; “I want you to ride at RPE 2-3 for 3 hours.”

Training by feel you get to know certain markers that give you clues as to how hard you are going.  Can you hold a conversation?  If so you are probably at an RPE below 4.  Speech practically impossible?  RPE 9 or 10.  Feeling moderately uncomfortable?  Probably RPE of 7-8 and so on.

Whilst it takes time to learn the signals that your body produces, if you concentrate on using this technique for a few weeks of properly structured training you can start to become fairly effective at using it to gauge intensity.  The beauty is that you don’t need to charge anything up, monitor numbers or download any data.  You simply make a plan and ride.  Learning to train like this also has one real benefit for those of you who regularly use a heart rate monitor for training.  As you may know a HR monitor is great for monitoring intensity over longer efforts, but is very limited for short efforts of 2-3 minutes or less due to the fact that it lags behind.  If I want somebody to perform 3 x 2 min efforts at a high intensity, the HR monitor is pretty useless until the end of the first minute as it is trying to catch up the whole time and so there is not point using it.  Training by feel and knowing how hard you can go for 2 minutes without any outside assistance is a great skill for an athlete to have.

Table showing RPE:

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The message to take away here is that by learning about your body and how it works and feels, you can effectively monitor how hard you are working and therefore you can train effectively.  It will never be as accurate as a power meter, but then a power meter costs hundreds of £’s and training by feel is free.

Stay Strong

Ben

Developing Sprint Power

Sprint Training

Being able to accelerate your bike, sprinting down the trail is an important skill especially for racers.  Most riders don’t understand how to train their sprint power though and as a result just don’t get the gains they want.

There are two main approaches to develop your maximal power on the bike which will let you sprint harder and faster.  The first is gym based strength and power training and the second is on-bike sprint training sessions which I will concentrate on today.

In the gym:  Before you think about doing power work, you need to be strong.  In fact most people will get a more powerful sprint just by doing some proper strength training in the gym.  If you are strong, you are more likely to be powerful.  You should focus on the big compound lifts like squats and deadlifts (heavy with low reps) and compliment that work with single leg exercises like lunges, step ups, and Bulgarian split squats.  As mountain bikers your quads (front of thighs) are probably quite well developed and your hamstrings (back of thigh) and glutes (ass) are probably fairly weak so you need to make these weaknesses a priority.  When doing single leg work, always train the weaker leg first and over time the difference will become smaller and you will become a stronger, more rounded athlete.

There is no point having really strong legs if your back and core are weak as piss as you will just leak power and probably end up with back problems.  Make sure that you train your core using your bodyweigth in lots of different directions and using various methods.  As a starter, front and side planks are a good bet.  Aim for 2 min front and 1 min each side as a basic standard.  Whilst squatting and deadlifting in particular will strengthen your back, you should also do some back extensions either on the floor, over a swiss ball or on a back extension bench (don’t use the crappy machine!).

That was a brief overview of what you can do in the gym to build real strength to help you sprint your bike hard and fast.  Whilst the gym is important for developing crank-bending torque you really need to get out and actually sprint to make the biggest gains.

Bike Sessions:  This is where I see people make a lot of mistakes with sprint training.  The most common thing you see is people sprinting up and down a set distance again and again and without any rest.  They are totally blowing out of their arses and their legs are burning after the first sprint and by the  4th or 5th they are barely sprinting at all.  Only the first sprint of the set is actually training max sprint power.  Whilst this may be a productive anaerobic interval training session that may aid you in other areas of your training, it is not going to actually improve the amount of power that you can put down out of the start gate at a race.  To improve max power for sprinting you need to sprint at your maximum., not below it.  Most people can only sprint at maximal pace for maybe 3-8 seconds and then take about 5 minutes or more to recover enough to do it again with similar intensity.

Although they are not riders it is interesting to know that the Jamaican 100m sprint team do sessions with 100m sprints with a whopping 30 minutes rest in between sprints!  That way they can recover enough to do each sprint at maximal intensity (speed) and by doing so, train their bodies to sprint as quickly as possible which is why they win so many medals!  I know that you don’t have 3 hours to train 6 sprints, but carry on reading and I will show you the way…..

Let’s look at a typical sprint session that you could do out on a fire-road or on a quiet lane, free from traffic:  From a standing start, complete 6 x 30 metre max effort sprints with 5 minutes rest in between.  In between reps, keep warm and moving but basically rest and recover in time for the next effort.  Make sure that every rep is aggressive and you are mentally focussed.  You can’t hold back anything!  Obviously you need to complete a thorough warm up first, including a 60-70% effort and will need to spin your legs out at the end as well.

A session like this won’t leave you sore and feeling really tired but don’t underestimate the toll on your body from training like this.  You should only do these sessions once or twice per week and they should be followed by an easy training day to make the best gains from the session.

Another important consideration is when to sprint uphill, downhill or on the flat.  They all have their own demands and training effects and should be programmed differently:

Uphill sprints are the most demanding as you have to overcome gravity in order to accelerate forwards.  The resistance to each pedal stroke will be high, requiring a lot of leg strength and the final speed and cadence will be lower than downhill sprints.  These are important for developing power for DH and 4X racers in pre-season but are generally not performed too close to racing due to the stress it places on the body.

Flat sprints are the middle ground between high speed downhill efforts and high force up hill efforts.  They are still important for developing your sprint power and can be done closer to competition if adequate recovery is programmed.

Downhill sprints are as much about technique and commitment as any physical ability and that is why they are so important.  They teach you to spin at a high cadence and get you used to the high speeds of maximal sprinting in a race, particularly down the start ramp at 4X.  They are less demanding on the body, but are more race specific and are best used closer to competition to ensure you are sharp on race day.  You need to be totally committed and think about gear selection and changes over the first 10 metres or more.  Due to the higher speeds, make sure that you wear your helmet and other gear; if you break a chain at top speed you will be flying out the front door and it won’t be pretty!

Another consideration is pedals; do you practice clipped in or on flats?  Even if you race in clips, I would recommend that you train on flat pedals to develop a smooth and powerful pedalling technique.  The real power is on the downstroke and not pulling the pedal up at the back, so don’t worry about losing power.  As well as pedal technique you should have a look at your body position and overall sprint technique.  Get a friend to video you sprint training and compare it to the top racers online.  I bet their body positions are a lot more extreme out of the gate as they put the power down!

The bottom line is that to develop your max sprint power, and therefore acceleration, you will need to sprint maximally in your training.  Repeated efforts with increasing fatigue will not allow this to happen.  Sprint – Rest – Repeat – Recover – Race Faster.

Stay Strong

Ben

Great Feedback on the Bodyweight Strength Programme

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I got a great email out of the blue yesterday from John F, pictured riding in Les 2 Alpes, who bought a copy of the Bodyweight Strength Programme earlier this year.  Check out what he had to say…..

Really been enjoying (?!) the workouts Ben.
Documenting them has been massively helpful in seeing my progression and motivates me when I need it. I’m onto my 5th week now after redoing my consolidation week 4 as I picked up a flu bug and was floored for a week.
Pull ups were never my strong point but now I am able to knock out a decent set of reps of good quality. I am also finding that with the finisher that I am able to maintain or even increase my reps during the 20secs as I go.
I live in the Highlands of Scotland and the snow has had a detrimental effect on how much I have been able to get out on the bike so having a session in the gym is keeping me going.
My snowboarding is coming on too! Lol.
Anyway, thanks for the tips and the motivational emails.

If you want a simple, effective and proven programme that you can do anywhere, then check out the Bodyweight Strength Programme for only £18 and covered by my money back guarantee.

Bodyweight Strength Programme

Bodyweight Strength Programme

Stay Strong

Ben

Fat Loss

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Mountain Bikers, beer and cake go together like Charlie Sheen, hookers and coke, however too many beers and cream buns and it won’t be long before you start bulging out of your shorts and sweating like a sex offender on the uplift bus.  Excess weight is not your friend on the bike, especially if you happen to be the type of rider who wears a lot of lycra.

Saving weight on your bike has been at the centre of many a marketing campaign for all the mainstream companies, and continues to this day, including in the world of gravity oriented racing as well as XC.  To save 500 grams from your bike it would cost you literally £100’s probably, and whilst when your mate lifts your bike up in the car-park they will be impressed by the svelte and slender weight of your whip, if you are still fat and out of shape you will still get dropped on the climbs anyway.  It fascinates me that you can go into a shop and spend £50 on a bottle cage to save 3 grams on your bike, but so many riders don’t consider spending on skills or strength coaching that will actually make you faster.  Next time you are going to buy a £4000 carbon bike, drop down to the aluminium one, and save a grand.  Then give me £500 to get you strong, flexible and fit and £500 to a good coach (like Pedal Progression) for a long term series of sessions to give you the skills to pay the bills.  You will be faster and leaner and you will have more fun.

Anyway – how to lose the fat…….

At the heart of this is your diet.  This is more important than anything else here as it holds the key to your long term health and longevity.

FACT:  There is no such thing as a healthy fat person.

FACT:  You cannot build performance without health.

Your diet should be as natural as possible, based around vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, poultry, some nuts and seeds and a few other bits and bobs like eggs.  You will need to learn to cook.  You will need to plan meals and prepare packed lunches.  If you are fat then trust me – you don’t need an energy drink to get you around the Blade at Afan.  Water will do just fine and you should drink plenty of it and always filtered as tap water is full of oestrogen, chlorine and all sorts of other stuff we don’t want or need.  Keep it simple and cook from scratch.  Avoid sugar like the plague and eat as many greens as you can fit on your plate.  For a more in depth guide to how to approach nutrition as a rider, check out my Nutrition Guide for only £9.

Assuming your diet is OK, there are a number of training approaches that you can use to help shed the weight.  Rather than prescribing exact workouts, I want to give you an understanding so that you can apply them yourself.  I want to introduce the idea of being in-efficient in order to promote fat-loss…..

If you are a mountain biker then you probably ride bikes all the time, and are therefore rather efficient at it.  Riding further or longer may help, or it may just lead to you getting fatter (trust me on this one!).  You could do some intervals as they are pretty effective, however as you are so well adapted to riding your bike, you are actually quite efficient, making it hard to really burn the fat.

A great option is to start strength training.  This will benefit you as a rider as well as being very effective for fat loss.  Quiet simply, build muscle to burn fat!  If the general population starting using strength training instead of fashionable ‘cardio’ bullshit then they might actually lose some fat when combined with decent nutrition.  FYI: I used to run a very successful London bootcamp based around strength training and intervals to get people to lose fat.

Now, outside if the gym let’s think about a different type of strength training; taking a 30kg sandbag and lifting it up, carrying it 20 metres, putting it down and repeating on the other shoulder.  Unless you are a builder, I would suggest that you are not well adapted to this type of training and therefore it is really in-efficient for you to do.  Doing this for 3 minutes, 5 times would be a pretty awesome fat burning session as well as great training for your core and back.

You basically need to give your body a new shock or training stress that it is not adapted to so that you are in-efficient in the way you carry out the task.  Movements should be whole-body and your heart rate should get pretty high.  Keep durations quite short; 2-5 minutes and recover in between.  Simple drills like get-ups are great for this and can be done anywhere and any time.  Simply stand on the spot, then get down and lay on your front with arms extended, then stand up and repeat onto your back.  Try that for 2 minutes flat out and see how hard it is!  Just remember to warm up first.

On the bike training for fat loss is also possible, especially for those of you who don’t ride much over the dark and wet winter months  and are therefore less adapted to riding all the time.  Doing hill reps, sprints and time trials can all help you to get your fat burning going as long as you are eating right and taking the time to recover properly.  The key is to do something that you are not used to.  Do you do a weekly interval session and still need to lose fat?  If so, then you need to change it up or do something off of the bike instead.  You may want to try doing some fasted riding first thing in the morning before brekky.  It is effective for many people, just watch out for the dreaded bonk and if you do too much then you may start burning up hard-earned muscle and losing power as you lose the fat.

The final part of the puzzle is your wider life.  Stress, sleep, emotions, trauma, work and so on.  Health comes from being happy, content and on top of your stress.  You should sleep at least 7 hours per night and do everything you can to insulate yourself from the stress of modern life that catches so many people out.  Stress is one of the biggest killers in the western world and is disastrous for your health.  If you are chronically stressed then you need to take action, seek help from friends, family or a professional (talking is always better than drugs in my opinion) and make it a priority to reduce your stress.  You need to be comfortable with who you are, and accepting of the present, no matter how out of shape you may feel.  The past does not matter, you just need to look forwards and make sure that above all else – You Love Yourself & Believe You Can Do It.

Stay Strong – Stay Lean

Ben

New Athlete: Liz Fowler, Current 4X National Champ.

Photo Credit: Adam Richardson

Photo Credit: Adam Richardson

I am really happy to announce that last week I started working with Liz Fowler, the reigning Women’s 4X National Champion, who also represented team GB at the Worlds in Leogang this summer.  She is going to be going into the 2015 season fitter and stronger than ever and has set some high goals for herself, so watch this space!

 

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