Three Ways to Step Up Your Game
Author: Nick Swanson: Owner and Coach for Through the Wall Training, LLC
Have you ever wondered how that riding buddy of yours is always so much stronger than you on climbs, or seems to have an extra gear in his or her legs compared to you? It could be that they are just genetically more gifted, but chances are it has more to do with how they train. Here are three ways to change how you approach training, so you can make the jump to the next level and leave your riding buddies in the dust.
Step one? Be consistent in your training. Consistency is arguably the most important factor in endurance sports training. There is an old adage that says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in something. If you are constantly missing prescribed workouts, you can’t consistently increase your training load, which is required to improve stamina and power.
Everyone needs a rest day or two, but try to keep it to just that: the occasional day off for active recovery. Otherwise, when you’re out on a ride, always try to push yourself to consistently improve one aspect of your riding. It’ll pay off in the long run!
A second key component of your training is to vary your workouts. I see many endurance athletes just doing the same workouts every day at the same intensity (usually zone 3). These athletes tend to be in pretty good shape, but have been at the same level of fitness for quite some time. Training like this will result in improvements for novice athletes because it builds aerobic fitness well. However, once an athlete reaches a certain level, improvements will likely slow or stop. The hard days need to be very hard and the easy days have to be easy to promote recovery.
For example, an athlete could do dedicated blocks of training focused on improving his or her neuromuscular adaptation. After that they may then work on anaerobic capacity and anaerobic endurance. They could also focus on training right at their lactate threshold. Performing testing across all of these varying time intervals can shed a lot of light on where strengths and weaknesses lie and where you should devote additional time. The first step in this process is to build a power profile. You can learn more on power profiling in this blog post by Training Peaks.
The last component that endurance athletes need to consider to reach the next level is strength training. Elite endurance athletes incorporate strength training into their overall program; the amount and nature of that training varies throughout the year from being a focus in the offseason, to simply maintaining your levels during riding season.
Strength training enables you to increase your power by building lean muscle mass. Its greatest benefit may be that it increases your economy: in other words, it requires less output to maintain a certain effort because you are more efficient at doing so.
Bonus: Improve Technical Ability
The three changes mentioned above apply to all endurance athletes. Here’s a bonus 4th for mountain bikers in particular: improve your technical abilities. Minutes can be made on long downhill sections of races if you are a strong descender. A rider with weak technical abilities will tend to ride in the same conservative manner, and cost him or herself what is essentially free time!
Remember, with every Chasing Epic trip you purchase, you’ll get an 8-week customized training program on TrainingPeaks.com to help you achieve your goals and become a better rider… because we all know that you have to GET UP TO GET DOWN!