of my racing is over the summer months. When should I start my training for the
Answer: There are two potential answers to
this question, 1) right now or 2) it depends. Cycling specific training to
prepare for racing ought to start up at least three months prior the racing
season in order to race well. Prior
to beginning your specific training itís important to have a fair amount of
general fitness established.
Jumping right into high intensity bike rides typically doesnít work well
without first establishing a solid foundation or base to build from. This can
be done on the bike or with cross training.
Most of us mountain bike racers enjoy having
an off-season because itís a chance to pursue other winter sports and interests
that effectively serve as a means to maintain our general fitness. Itís completely possible to keep
equally active during the winter months by skiing, snowshoeing, skating, hiking
or otherwise making the most of opportunities to be outside and active. If you tend to hibernate during
the winter months rather than keeping active then itíll be best if you start
some training right now. Get out
there and enjoy some cross training or start putting in some time on the bike. If you already keep an active
cross-training schedule throughout the winter then the real question is when to
transition into bike-specific training so that you best prepare for those
summer time races. Weíll focus on
this scenario since most of us already keep plenty active with cross training.
Consider Three Factors
To what degree do you want to improve
relative to last summerís results?
How much cross training are you currently doing and how might this allow
you to transition into bike specific training? When is your first high-priority
If you want to achieve similar results to
last summer, then itís simple enough to refer to your training log in order to
know what type of training will be required. Most of us like a good challenge and are always looking for
ways to improve our riding so rather than running the same plan
as last year, it might be beneficial to begin bike-specific training sooner or
perhaps by maintaining some cycling focus even throughout the winter months by
doing a few weekly trainer workouts.
The more youíre looking to improve your racing, then the more focus and
work youíll have to dedicate to on the bike training. Cross training will keep you generally fit, but it certainly
wonít keep you fast on the bike.
How well your winter regimen might transfer
into your bike training needs to be considered. Transitioning from a couple
days of strength training and some weekend skiing right into five or six days
per week on the bike likely wonít go all that well if such a change is made in
a single week. Gradually build in more rides, even if that might mean some time
on the trainer to get things started off.
And finally, knowing when you want to be
going strong on the bike will help you to plan accordingly. Having a specific
race in mind is great, but not entirely necessary. Knowing approximately when youíll want to be going strong
can work well enough and this way you can select those high priority events
once the season draws nearer.
Working backwards from the start of your race season is a great way to
organize your preparations.
The Three Month Approach
final month prior to your race season youíll want to be doing plenty of fast
riding both on and off road. Workouts that replicate the intensity of your
racing will be a must and rides ought to be long enough so that youíll be well
prepared for the distances that youíll be racing. Incorporating fast group
rides can be a great way to challenge yourself while simulating a race
environment. MTB rides will allow you to dial in your bike handling skills so that
youíre ready for fast racing on the trails.
Two months before your race season is a great
time to bolster your maximum sustainable pace or power output. Much of the training can and should be
dedicated to improving your threshold power. Longer weekend rides will help to reinforce your endurance
while also providing a chance to dial in your riding skills. Seek out long
climbs and/or aim to improve your power on the flats.
Three months before race season it is wise to
finalize your transition into bike specific training if you havenít already
done so. Replacing the cross
training workouts with rides and steadily increasing your workload on the bike
is the goal. Getting used to the
challenges of day in, day out bike focused training can take some time and this
month is your chance to improve the consistency of your workouts. Rides that include cadence specific
drills and also plenty of tempo paced rides can be great ways to build back
This three month approach will certainly have
you prepared for the summer season though it should be adjusted according to
your goals and previous training experiences. Each pre-season is a fantastic opportunity to work hard and
refine your training strategy.
Write down your goals, put in the hard work, and see how it affects your
riding. If youíre having fun and
going fast then itís likely a great combination that youíve created.
See you at the races this summer!
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.