Coaching with MTB Strength Factory for 2017

MTB Strength Factory trained racer, Charlie Hatton on the top spot of the podium.

MTB Strength Factory trained racer, Charlie Hatton on the top spot of the podium.

It is fair to say that 2016 was a breakthrough year for MTB Strength Factory and my riders with podiums and victories at home and across the world.  Working with and getting to know such talented riders has been amazing. It gives me a massive buzz to see them grow stronger in the gym and on their bikes, and when they turn the hard work into podiums and medals it makes it all worth while.

Here are just a few highlights from 2016: (If I listed all the good results we would be here all day!)

Charlie Hatton, Junior DH, Wideopenmag:  6th at World Champs, 1st overall in BDS, 6th in Vallnord World Cup.

Chris Hutchens, Elite Enduro, Wideopenmag: 1st overall Scottish Enduro Series, 3rd overall British Enduro Series, 37th at Irish EWS.

Veronique Sandler, Elite DH, Loose Riders: Leogang DH World Cup 16th and 2 other top 20 WC.

Joe Finney, Elite Enduro, NS Bikes: 14th overall British Enduro Series.

Oliver Parton, Youth Enduro, Pedalabikeaway: 1st overall British Enduro Series.

Duncan Ferris, Elite 4X, DMR Bikes: 1st overall British 4X series.

Kev Baines, Grand Vets Enduro, Hope Factory Racing: 2nd overall British Enduro Series.

Monet Adams, Elite Enduro, Wideopenmag: 17th Ireland EWS, Crankworx Les Gets DH 10th, 4X Pro Tour Fort William 2nd.

Maddy Brown, Women Enduro/DH, Pedalabikeaway: 3rd DH National Champs, 1st Eastridge BES.

I also coached riders who completed the Trans Provence, Trans Savoie, Ard Rock Enduro, MTB Marathons, and many more!

Now is the time to start getting your winter training going to prepare yourself for the 2017 race season and I am currently looking for riders and teams to work with.  I have already signed up a number of well known riders and a new team for this winter and all will be announced soon, so I only have limited spaces available for coaching, but if you want to work with MTB Strength Factory, then get in touch.  For an outline of what I offer, please check out my Coaching Page which explains what is available.  Other options are also available, including consulting services for teams and clubs as well as one off coaching days to suit your needs.  If you are serious about your racing or just love riding, and are willing to put in the work then drop me a line…. ben@mtbstrengthfactory.com.  I would love to hear from you.

Stay Strong

Ben

Factory Knowledge #1 – Knee pain and running.

Factory Knowledge is your chance to pick my brains.  It is your chance to get your MTB specific training questions answered and to take the steps required to become a better rider.

In the first episode, Ben from MTB Strength Factory talks about knee pain on long rides and about whether running is effective for mountain bikers looking to improve their fitness.  If you would like to have your questions answered then head on over to the MTB Strength Factory Facebook page and leave a comment by the video or on the wall.

Stay Strong

Ben

 

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.

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 12.03.19

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:

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 12.11.57

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

2016 Goals: Coaching and Racing

Heading into November and the winter training season, it is important to look ahead to next season and set some goals for training and racing.  For me, as a professional coach it is also an opportunity to set some professional goals, for my personal development and education in particular.  Below I will share with you my thought process and my own personal and professional goals.  I am going through this process with all of my riders at the moment, and you should too.

Coaching Goals

I have learnt a lot over the last couple of years coaching mountain bikers, and an important part of my self development has been constant evaluation of my methods and coaching approach.  I regularly ask myself if a programme was effective.  How could it have been improved?  Does a certain exercise or training method work for that particular rider?  By doing this I have learnt a lot.  It also exposes areas that I need to work on as a coach.

In 2015 I spent a lot of time, money and effort on my self development, in particular interning with top strength and conditioning coach, Darren Roberts who looks after extreme sports athletes from Red Bull amongst others.  This taught me a lot about my coaching style and helped me to shape and develop my general, over arching approach to training my riders.  He also made me keep a coaching diary which has been a useful tool for my personal development and self awareness.

For this winter my education focus is on developing my bike programming further, particularly using power meters, and using the excellent coaching interface on the Training Peaks software and website.  Whilst I am familiar with training with power, through use of my Wattbike and have programmed successfully for many riders, I need to build a more in depth knowledge of the intricacies of training with a power meter.  To do this I am riding with a Stages Power meter on my roadie and getting properly into the weeds of what it is capable of, especially when paired with my Garmin Edge 520.  I also have a very experienced and knowledgeable rider who is going to help me and speed up the learning process.  Similarly, I have a guinea pig lined up who will be coached with his power meter over the coming months, allowing us to learn and make mistakes together.  The specific goal is to have the knowledge, experience and confidence to offer power-based coaching to riders across the UK from early 2016.

Training data!

Training data!

My other main coaching goal is to go to more events and races with my riders and really improve the support that I am able to offer on a race weekend.   The long-term coaching goal is to coach somebody who wins a World Cup or World Champs, and to get to that level I need to refine exactly what I can provide at a race to give the rider the maximum chance of success.  This is about keeping track of recovery and nutrition, developing a good pre-race routine that works for the individual rider, and generally supporting them so they can perform.  I will be attending one or two BDS rounds and probably the Fort William World Cup where I should (fingers crossed) have more than one rider competing in 2016.

In the gym, my focus for my education is going to be on human movement, bodyweight training and mobility.  This is partly down to personal interest, and partly down to the realisation that most of my riders who work a 9-5 get the most benefit from learning to move better and increasing their mobility.  Whilst I have always worked on these qualities, I am going to prioritise them more before moving onto lifting weights.  I will be attending a couple of courses and seminars in 2016 as well as using books and online resources to deepen my knowledge on these subjects.

 Racing Goals

2015 was a great season for me, reaching my personal goals of finishing consistently in the top 30 of my age group at the UK Gravity Enduro (RIP) series.  I felt that my riding came along a lot, partly due to riding with faster people and partly down to some excellent skills coaching with Pedal Progression in Bristol.  For 2016, and the newly formed British Enduro Series, my goal is to consistently finish in the top 20.  I would also like to get a top 10 at a regional race such as the Mini Enduro.  To achieve that, I have identified a number of training goals to work towards:

Jumping.  It has got a lot better in the last year, but I still need to work on it, especially when things get fast or when the landings get a bit sketchy!

Airtime with Ride Ibiza

Airtime with Ride Ibiza

Cornering. It sounds simple, but I need to continue to improve my basic technique, especially when the corner is flat and slippy.  I will be getting more coaching and spending some time practicing in my own time.  I am currently a bit one sided and turn left a lot better than I turn right.  I want to bridge that gap.

Repeat Sprint.  I am naturally a pretty powerful rider.  I can put out about 2000W on the Wattbike, but my ability to perform repeated maximal sprints was not as good as it should have been for the 2015 season.  Going into the new year and early spring, my programme will make this a priority.

Mobility.  I am fairly flexible and mobile, but feel like I can achieve more to make me more relaxed and fluid on the bike.  I will be doing more bodyweight work this year, with a focus on the mobility and movement that I mentioned earlier.  In particular I am prone to stiffness in my lower back over the course of a riding weekend and if I can move better and be more balanced then I should be able to prevent this.

Pistols.  I can already do pistols on both legs, but my right is a lot stronger.  I would like to be able to do 20 on each leg, developing left/right symmetry as well as strength endurance critical for long, demanding stages.

Riding Goals

These goals are less important to my racing, but are still aspirations I have for the year ahead.  They will help to motivate me to work hard and to ride my bike lots.

Ride 100 miles on the road.  Basically I have never done this and I think it would be a good challenge, so this winter I am going to build up to it.  I am mostly worried about my gusset!

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Race the ‘Ard Rock Enduro with a load of my riding buddies and have an awesome weekend.

Get to the mountains – Alps, Pyrenees, Whistler, I am not picky.  Just get me on a chair lift!

Ride down Mt Snowdon.  It just looks like so much fun, except the push to the top.

Maybe you have some goals for the winter or for the summer ahead?  It is really handy to write them down and make yourself accountable for your actions and your performance.  On a cold, wet evening when you just can’t be arsed, thinking about your goals may just get you out the door to go riding.  Setting goals does not mean you take all the fun out of riding.  It does not have to be deadly serious, but it is just about making the most of your time on the bike and adding some structure to your training if you need it.

If you are serious about your training goals, then maybe consider checking out my Coaching Packages for this winter.  With different options suitable for riders across the UK as well as in the Bristol area, I am sure that we can find a way to work together and smash your goals.

For more info about Coaching with MTB Strength Factory, please follow this link: http://mtbstrengthfactory.com/coaching-mtb/

Stay Strong

Ben

We are moving gyms!

As of yesterday (1st July) I have moved into a new gym to train all of my riders.  It is a lot bigger with plenty of kit and heavy stuff to pick up and throw around. It also has loads of space to move around which is really important to me and the way I train people.

The other benefit of moving gyms is that I can now take on a few more riders for coaching and may even run a class or two over the winter to compliment my MTB training workshops that will also run over the winter.

If you want to come and visit me for a chat about MTB training and check out the gym then get in touch by emailing ben@mtbstrengthfactory.com.  For now though, check out this little video tour I did!

Address: 13 Brookgate
South Liberty Lane
Ashton, Bristol, BS3 2UN

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

Changing Things Up In The Gym

 

Joe's Programme

Things can get stale in the gym pretty quickly unless you change things up from time to time.

That’s why last night I ran my rider Joe Finney’s session a bit differently to normal.  We were a little short on time, and Joe was a bit tired and sore from riding Moto on the weekend, so rather than going through a really structured session I decided to put the session into Joe’s hands to see how he got on.

I prescribed what I wanted to achieve in the session and wrote it on the chalk board and the rest was down to Joe, selecting what he wanted to do and when and also selecting what weights to lift for the deadlift in order to reach his 2000kg target for the session.  If the session only took 20 minutes then that would be it – all finished for the night and job done!  It was simply about getting a prescribed amount of work done on his terms.  Here was the plan in case you can’t read my writing on the picture!

Deadlift 2000kg

Goblet Squat @20kg x 50

Press Up x 60

Get Up x 30

Mountain Climber x 100

Fat Bar Chins x 20

KB Swing @32kg x 40

This workload is within Joe’s capabilities and is neither easy or super hard for him.  It will have a beneficial conditioning effect as well as the strength and power gains from the big lifts, due to the non-stop nature of the session.  It took about 25 minutes of steady graft in the end.

The key message I think is that there are so many ways to get stronger, fitter and in shape for any goal.  The key is to vary the training stimulus so that the body and mind do not adapt and are always kept guessing.  Whichever path you take, you should be committed and you should believe in the programme and your ability to succeed.  By doing this I gave Joe ownership and responsibility for his own training and self-development and this is a powerful tool for a coach to wield with his athletes.  Tomorrow night we will be doing something completely different in terms of stimulus, format and outcomes.  That is how you grow physically and mentally as an athlete and rider.

Stay Strong

Ben

 

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

 

We Are Recruiting Riders!

MTB Strength Factory Racer

As you may have already seen on Facebook or on the website, the MTB Strength Factory will have access to a great training facility from 1st November in SW Bristol.  After a successful spring/summer of coaching athletes for National level racing as well as helping a number of trail riders across the UK, it is time to look ahead to the winter and preparations for the season ahead.

I am currently recruiting trail riders and racers from Bristol and across the UK who want to train with MTB Strength Factory over this winter and beyond.  I can provide face to face or distance training for men and women across all MTB disciplines and across all levels of ability.  The main requirements are that you will love riding your bike, be open minded about training and willing to work hard to achieve your personal goals.

There are a range of coaching packages to suit most people’s needs and wallets and you can find them on the Coaching page of this website.  As well as that I can offer power testing on my Wattbike where we will set up your power and heart rate training zones so you can train at the correct intensity for maximum results.

If you or somebody you know may be interested in working with MTB Strength Factory, then please get in touch and we can arrange a no-obligation chat to discuss how best to work together.  ben@mtbstrengthfactory.com

Stay Strong

Ben