Maintaining and bettering your fitness when you’re mountain biking can be extremely challenging. However, there is a way to simplify it. If you take care of these 5 most crucial factors, you will be able to improve your mountain biking abilities and better your overall fitness.
It can be quite challenging to build endurance and cardiovascular capabilities during the on-season, especially because they often tend to be lost quickly in the off-season.
One of the best and most effective ways to build endurance is simply to increase the distance of your normal rides. One of the most basic theories in fitness often referred to as the overload principle claims that if you continually make your workouts or rides more challenging you will see better results and improvement really quickly.
Different experts take and recommend different approaches. For instance, one of the approaches you can take is to first take some time to build a solid foundation and then follow that up with a phase of building power. Some others take a more practical approach. For example, you can start by riding to work on a daily basis and then slowly work your way up by riding your bike more often. That can also give you a solid foundation for later workouts. It just takes a bit more time.
You can also opt for hiring a professional trainer who will lead you through this process and help you achieve specific goals. Once you meet up with a personal trainer you will be able to identify a certain goal and to establish a training plan. Throughout your workout, the coach has two possible dials they can turn: intensity and volume. Intensity refers to the amount of effort a certain ride requires, while volume refers to the ride distance or time. In case your workout pan does not allow any volume change, you can always up the intensity.
This means that if you don’t have enough time to finish longer rides with less elevation gain, there is still a possibility for you to hit a few rides per week but with a short distance and more elevation.
2. Climbing with a mountain bike
Many people hate this part, but whether you like it or not, if you want to see any improvement you have to climb at one point or another. Endurance and climbing sort of go hand in hand. However, climbing includes a certain technical aspect as well. No one likes to be the one that the group has to wait for at the summit. So, if you want to see better results in your fitness, climbing activities are crucial.
Firstly, if you want to enhance the climbing ability of your mountain bike, there are several modifications you can make. For instance, it is recommended that you choose a set of handlebars with a lower rise or simply take out a spacer or maybe even two under the handlebars. This way the rider’s weight will be slightly shifted forward which will place more weight on the front part of the bike. This part is especially important since many experts claim that weight position might be one of the biggest factors when it comes to climbing. Investing in high-quality full suspension mountain bikes is one of the best decisions you could make if you want to improve your climbing abilities since they are well-equipped for these types of rides.
It is ideal if you place most of your body weight where the power is transferred directly to the ground. That spot is on the back wheel when it comes to climbing. Even just by staying seated and shifting your upper body weight forward on steep sections will help you keep traction on steep and loose climbs.
Another great tip that should help includes opening your suspension. That is a great technical hack that will help you climb when the road gets bumpy. This tip can especially be helpful when you’re on fire roads and buff climbs. However, in case things get bumpy, it can actually be more helpful if you open the rear shock and let the bike contour the rocks on its own.
Intervals can also be very beneficial if you are trying to burn some fat. Not only that, but they will also help you improve your climbing abilities. Maintaining power and losing weight kind of go hand in hand because those two combined will make you go much faster when you are riding uphill.
Posture matters as well. It is very important that you keep a straight back at all times as well as it is important that you keep your shoulders wide open. This position will allow your lungs to open up more and help you take in more oxygen.
Remember that practice makes perfect. Take baby steps if you need to, but it’s important that you are consistent with your practices. Start with less troublesome roads and then work your way up to some more challenging ones. If you notice that your tires are slipping, try to keep your hips lower or even planted on the seat. In case the front starts coming up, simply lower your chest. Body position means a lot when it comes to conquering the slab.
3. Strength training
Strength training is another important part of mountain bike fitness. Adding strength training into your routine is highly beneficial since it can help you become more resilient and powerful when riding the bike.
Regular workouts will also help you improve your overall bone density as well. Having your bones broken might not be the most motivating factor out there, but that is why working out to prevent those major injuries is essential.
In terms of mountain biking, remember that bone structure will always follow bone function. By placing stress such as weight lifting or doing push-ups regularly on your bones, your body will start to respond to that stress by increasing the number of bone tissues and bone density.
Remember that your leg muscles are not the only muscles doing all the work when you’re mountain biking. Your shoulder, chest, and back muscles do the hard work too. They are responsible for controlling and handling the bike on unstable roads. Similarly to that, the core muscles play a huge role too. They are often involved in pumping and stabilizing your position on the bike.
Considering that pretty much your whole body is involved when you’re mountain biking, you might want to consider doing cross-training. Also, try not to train muscles as much as movements themselves. In other words, if you want to better up your fitness for mountain biking focus on compound movements such as squats, push-ups, and pull-ups. These movements will train your core, back, and bicep muscles. Since you probably can’t spend every minute of every day on a bike, working out regularly will help you prevent burnout or overuse injuries.
4. Rest and recovery
This topic might not be the most loved one, but it is just as important as all the other ones. Your body needs rest and that is something you need to be aware of, especially if you go on three or even four rides per week.
Letting your body rest does not necessarily mean you need to be lying down for two weeks. Go take a relaxing walk, do some stretching, or try out a yoga session. Take one day to rest and only do a light workout to get the blood flowing again. The focus of taking an active rest day should be on movement, but the light movement.
Try out the myofascial release, also referred to as foam rolling. It is one of the best ways to help your body recover. It might take you some time to get a hold of it, but the results are definitely worth it. Foam rolling benefits include pushing the lactic acid out of the muscles and loosening tight fascia that is covering the muscles. This way you are helping your body loosen tight muscles and relieve imbalances. These exercises are also beneficial for hamstring, hip, and forearm recovery.
Yoga and regular stretching have many benefits as well. Doing yoga or stretching on your rest day will help you reset your body as well as help you improve your overall mountain biking abilities. Many people fail to notice that the position we place our bodies in when we are riding a bike are very similar to positions we use when sitting at a desk and believe it or not, there are a lot of negatives to sitting down.
In many of those positions, our chest and abdomen muscles tend to become very tight. Hamstrings and some other core muscles may get tight too and that usually leads to the development of imbalances resulting in injury or pain in joints. That is why resting properly is not only important so that you can become a better mountain biker, but it is also important if you want to prevent some major injuries on your body.
Lastly, nutrition is of great significance if you want to build your endurance during races. This means that you need to properly fuel your body with the right nutrients if you want to better your overall fitness.
Many people tend to solely rely on carbs to build endurance for racing because our bodies are able to burn carbohydrates easier and faster than proteins and fats. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to take enough of these latter two nutrients. They are just as important.
During the endurance race, make sure you are eating every 30 to 45 minutes. The same applies for cross-country rides.
Hydration is crucial too because you’ll be sweating a lot while you’re riding. Sweat loss also brings sodium loss, which means that you should be taking in sodium as well to avoid cramping.
In conclusion, there are many tips and tricks on how to maintain and better your fitness when you’re mountain biking. However, the focus should be placed on these five main factors: endurance, strength training, climbing, rest and recovery, and nutrition. As long as you take care of these, you’re good to go.