It’s cold outside, and in many parts of the country, the weather is frightful. But that’s no excuse to kick back all winter and watch the snow pile up on your local trails. Spring is on its way, and the singletrack will be dry before you know it. Here’s how to start training to get in shape for mountain bike season.
1. Tackle Interval Training
Anyone who has taken a couple of spin classes knows that there are two types of cardiovascular workouts: intervals and endurance. Intervals push your heart rate out of your comfort zone to a point of near exhaustion, then bring it back down and repeat. These high-intensity exercises are a perfect way to prepare for getting up and over rocks and grinding up short hills on the bike without completely losing your breath. Develop a ride on the indoor trainer or hit the cross-country ski trails for some Nordic skiing. Skate skiing is one of the most high-intensity activities out there, and classic skiing isn’t without its benefits. Aim to do interval training two to three days per week.
2. Add Endurance Days
While we’re navigating between obstacles on singletrack, we’re doing anything but watching the clock. That’s because mountain biking takes both physical and mental focus. Get your body (and your mind) ready for the long haul with equally long rides in the gym, or take it outside with a ride on a fat bike or a road run. While it’s possible to do high-intensity interval training with either of these sports, take it easy and get some miles under your belt to make sure you can go all weekend when the weather clears. Aim to do endurance training two days per week.
Check out Endurance Cycling: Training Tips and Exercises to get started.
3. Don’t Forget Your Upper Body
Cross-country mountain biking is about more than just your legs. Prepare your arms, shoulders and core with cross-training circuits in the weight room. Don’t have a gym membership? Classic push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and plank pose are all excellent at-home maneuvers for building those muscles that might’ve atrophied in front of the fire this winter. Aim to do these every other day.
4. The Hardest Part…Maintaining Technical Ability
The hardest part of regaining fitness for spring mountain biking is trying to prepare for the technical aspect of riding trails. There isn’t anything that quite mimics the sensation of riding down a hill with a tremendous amount of sensory input. Try a yoga class that features balancing poses (especially cross-body ones like “reverse dancer’s”), stand on a Bosu ball while doing your weight training at the gym, or invest in one of those surfboard desks so that you stay behind the handlebars this spring, not in front of them.
Photo by Bryan Rowe.
5. Get Your Bike Tuned and Fitted
Last but perhaps most important, don’t forget to give your bike a maintenance check before the snow melts. There’s nothing worse than realizing the weekend is calling for sunny weather, but you have a flat tire and totally forget how to change it. Also, if you have never had your bike professionally fitted to you, now is the time to book an appointment. This way, you’ll stave off injuries and make sure that your mountain bike is a finely tuned machine for spring, just like you.
Feature photo by Bryan Rowe.