Travis Woodruff is a USAC Level I (elite) certified coach who
holds a B.S. in Kinesiology with emphasis in Exercise Science. Heís coached
riders to five MTB National Championship wins and has over 10 years of personal
racing experience. Since 2005 heís competed as a pro mountain biker and has
coached full-time. His business, Momentum Endurance LLC, is based out of
Tucson, Arizona where he hosts wintertime training camps.
Question: I want to be fast for some early season national races
but I live in a cold climate. How do I get fast when it is still so cold
Racing Fast After a Tough
The early start to the national-level mountain bike season
creates a tough situation for riders living and training in wintery locations.
Despite numerous challenges that exist, it is completely possible to have
successful early season performances. In recent years the national circuit has
kicked off with March races hosted in Arizona or California while Sea Otter has
remained a mid-April staple. To be in race-ready condition it typically takes
several months of consistent training which means that training begins long
before conditions are favorable.
I started my cycling career in Wisconsin and know firsthand how
brutal the winter months can be when trying to ride consistently. Memories of
countless hours spent on the trainer or facing sub-freezing temperatures on
messy snow covered roadways have not left even though Iíve called Tucson,
Arizona home during recent winters. Many of those who I coach still embrace
their winters so I continue to strategize ways to make the most of each riderís
situation as it pertains to training for the early season. Itís important to
note that embracing winter is much different than dealing with it, and itís
this pro-active mindset that is extremely beneficial when a rider must make the
most of their circumstances.
Two Midwest riders have had some excellent early season races
that stand out in recent memory. Jenna Rinehart (Mankato, MN) placed 9th in the
2009 Sea Otter XC and Mike Phillips (Milwaukee, WI) placed 9th in the 2008
Fountain Hills, AZ NMBS XC. These racers have certainly achieved other
noteworthy results, but these finishes exemplify two successful winter training
Set the goal and be motivated
It all starts with a
lot of motivation. Only when a rider is inspired to excel, does fast racing
become possible. Putting this motivation to work in the right direction is
equally important. This is especially true when an athlete must work through
less than desirable conditions in order to achieve their goal. With attention
set on a goal, a focused athlete is more willing to do the required work than
are their lesser-motivated counterparts. With high motivation it is possible to
stick with a plan and embrace challenges as they come. Having a coach can help
direct your efforts and a support system in place will help you keep everything
When conditions are
poor itís wise not to squander training time, so a little extra organization
and encouragement can certainly help. A few dedicated training partners will go
a long ways to keep spirits high when the temperatures are low. Planning for
early season success will allow you to achieve it.
Train hard (specifically)!
During weekdays when
training time and daylight are most often limited, completing workouts that
specifically address VO2Max or Lactate Threshold fitness are excellent options
(indoors or out). A ride of 60-90 minutes can be highly effective this way. The
Ďoff seasoní is an opportunity to improve by incorporating race-like intensity
in your workouts. This is especially true when your training volume cannot be
relatively high. With a training plan tailored to improve specific components
of your race fitness during the weekdays, weekends can be dedicated to longer
duration workouts. These longer workouts should be done outdoors and on the
bike when possible. If riding outdoors isnít an option you can supplement in xc
skiing, snowshoeing, or just about any other aerobic winter sport.
As the races get
nearer, more of your weekend training should be done on the bike, but earlier
on itís equally effective to do the snow sports instead. Starting with a couple
of hours and gradually extending workouts longer each week as you adapt will
allow for progression. Keep in mind that youíre doing very high quality riding
during the week, so itís okay for the weekend workouts to have less structure.
As long as youíre building your aerobic endurance theyíll be doing the trick.
Keep it in perspective
Many riders adhere to
the mantra that winter training needs to be low intensity training. While this
might work for a rider who is able to accumulate a large training volume, it is
certainly not the best option for a rider coming from a wintry environment. It
is important to build intensity into the mix so that youíre always improving
the components of your fitness that have the biggest impact on your racing
results. In doing so, youíll be specifically prepared for the speed and
intensity of the early season races.
Training through a
tough winter will never be easy, but neither is racing. With an early season
goal and a lot of motivation itís possible to show up ready to race fast
despite the wintertime challenges. Just be sure to have fun with it and embrace
the experience. For every one racer who trains successfully through a rough
winter, there are a countless number who wonít find their form until later in
the season. See what works best for you and always strive to find a healthy