Peaking at the end of the season

With the many late season races around the corner, such as the Iceman Cometh race – the largest mountain bike race in the country, and countless cyclocross regional and national championship races about to happen, peaking for these races becomes a priority. If you have worked hard all season, you certainly want to go out on a good note and fuel the fire for next year with a great feeling fast race. So, to feel good late season, keep in mind these few simple tips.

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Mid-season transition for cyclists

Whether you race often or not, taking a break mid-season and changing gears is always a wise decision. That is of course if you are not preparing for a peak race in the middle of July or early August, and even if so, taking a transition after that peak race will still be a wise move. For cyclists targeting races in May and June, intensity and greater weekly volume needs to be part of the game plan starting in March, leading to four or five solid months of working hard to make fitness and strength gains. At some point, giving your body and mind a complete break will help you advance; otherwise staleness, plateaus, and burnout can happen easily. The following are a few tips to help you structure a mid-season transition, to get you back on the path to making gains through the end of the season. Continue reading

Missing training – Adjusting the plan

Whether you train with a coach, on your own, or use a pre-written program, you are going to need to adjust your training program at times. General fatigue, lack of time, and life in general will always play a role in preventing training and missing training days. So what do you do? The good news is a few days missed will not affect training at all. It will throw you off a little both physically and mentally but there are ways to adjust.

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Adaptation to Training – How Strength Gains Happen

To make gains in fitness, daily consistent hard work to build training stress (and fatigue) is necessary in order to create the need for the body to adapt. How you adapt to the fatigue will solely depend on how you train, and what systems you targeted. Adapting, the part of training most commonly overlooked, all depends on how well you recover from the training fatigue you have accumulated. Individual responses to training stress may differ, depending on genetics and fitness levels; however, there will always be an individual limit to the level of fatigue that can be handled before you lose the ability to adapt to any amount of training stress.

The General Adaptation Syndrome, a three phase response to physiological stress, was introduced by Canadian biologist Hans Selye in 1936. John Garhammer, Ph.D., a specialist in biomechanics and physiology, later took Hans Seley’s work and applied it to resistance training and exercise conditioning. The work of Selye and Garhammer established the groundwork for learning how the human body reacts to training stress, and more importantly, how it adapts.

Let’s discuss and apply the three phases of the General Adaptation Syndrome (the alarm, resistance and exhaustion phase) to endurance training.

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Core Strength for Endurance

Most, if not all, athletic movements require you to activate your core group of muscles to help complete the movement. From a quarterback’s throw to the pedal stroke of a cyclist, your core provides you with the stability and power needed through every motion. Every time you lift your leg, you rely on core muscles to do so. Each time you hop a log with a bicycle, ride through technical terrain, or make a turn, you rely on core muscles. So during a long ride or a race, a core that fatigues fast will lead to weaker legs, upper torso, and arms, which will lead to a loss of power, loss of coordination, and a slower effort. A weaker core will ultimately reduce your overall potential as an athlete.

Building endurance requires a repetitive movement such as the repetitive movements used to run or ride a bike. When you think about it, while you’re running or riding your bike, your legs are moving anywhere between 4000 to 6000 repetitions an hour. That’s a lot of movement. Moving your legs that often over hours and hours of time builds endurance. Continue reading

Strength and Conditioning needs of a MTB Athlete

As trail racing grows in popularity, the physiological needs of a mountain bike athlete become increasingly important to examine and understand. Racing a bike along a trail will require a different set of skills compared to racing on the road. Knowing how to power through a turn on the trail at 20 mph takes skill, and your entire body. Core strength is an essential element in off road cycling, as is the ability to produce greater amounts of power and force, working above your threshold ranges, for short to moderate durations. But core strength and the ability to perform short powerful efforts is not the only need of an off road cyclist. The ability to recover from each effort while continuing to pedal at a moderate to fast pace will play an even more important role.

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Developing muscle endurance is one of the most important performance factors for all mountain bike athletes. More than 50% of all mountain bike races are done at a moderate intensity, which requires muscle endurance. Approximately 30% of all races are spent working at a high intensity.

Trail races will require navigating rocky terrain, hopping over logs, or climbing short steep hills.  All of these challenges will require a rider to produce short to moderate bursts of power at threshold or above. The ability to recover from hard short efforts, while continuing to pedal at a fast pace, is a key element to increasing fitness and speed as a mountain bike athlete. Unlike a road cyclist who can draft from a team of riders while recovering, or coast downhill, a mountain bike cyclist needs to recover without the help of others while pedaling uphill or downhill on the trail. Riding downhill on a trail is work, requiring isometric muscle contractions and a strong focus. So the more power you can produce while recovering, working in your aerobic power ranges, and dealing with other forms of muscle fatigue, such as isometric contractions, the faster you will be in the race. Continue reading