As many transition into the well-known “base" season, it is easy to feel a bit lost. Fellow athletes, friends, and foes on STRAVA are rolling out the miles and boasting huge days in the saddle. Social media pours out pictures and videos of people "on the grind". Post-season anxiety can build when you feel like you're going back to the drawing board or losing fitness gains from the year. I'm even subject of this myself and find worry creeping in. However, this year –if any– is an indication of what diligence, balance, and having a curated approach to training can do for you...despite everything else.
Long, monotonous days on the bike certainly have their place, but there are a few key aspects of training and everything else off-the-bike that are crucial in preparing for the coming season. As you make the shift this early winter, don't neglect how a basic strength training routine can impact your experience. Now is the perfect time.
The benefits of strength training are growing more and more apparent. As World Cup style courses are evolving into more technical and demanding tracks, athletes are steering away from body-typing, and the science is reaching the public, we are seeing a push towards time in the gym. Aerobically, everyone can "get fit" fast. However, strength training can dramatically improve overall raw power, repeatability, injury prevention, and (wait for it) even aerobic fitness! Strength training is actually super variable in and of itself and is also super time efficient. Going into the gym and lifting heavy is great, but it is something that has to be built up to. It's actually amazing what all can be done in your home with simple, basic moves. Challenging your body with dynamic and varying exercises, building core strength, and touching up on your upper body are extremely helpful and enable your body to work properly. Supplementing some dynamic work in like this does loads for activating important muscles throughout your body AND improving imbalances.
Some key aspects of my strength routine are to include those that are targeting stabilization muscles and/or isolating a body part to prime my body –like including a balance pad/board and doing single leg activities (these are usually a variation of Split Squats, Pistols, Single Leg Dead Lift, or others). Then, I dial in those traditional workouts like front and/or regular squats, deadlift, etc. I usually make circuits that include an upper, lower, and core exercise to get solid rest between. Tossing in core exercises in between sets is super easy to do and helps add that little bit of attention to the full core. As far as upper body, it is often neglected by cyclists because they feel they “don’t need the weight”. Mountain bike racing demands a lot from your upper body…and if you can’t answer that demand then riding becomes sloppy. This can ruin your recovery throughout the race, leave you trailside picking yourself up, or just wasting energy making up time.
CONTACT ME PLEASE if you would like a bit more info or want to get an idea of a good routine to follow –I'd be happy to help!
*For a bit more on strength in the gym and the science behind it, I highly suggest this podcast by Mark Sisson and Jacques Devore.
Carson Beckett, 22 // UCI MTB Racer // Coach // // Student // Outdoor Enthusiast