Huge congratulations to those who decided to take advantage of our 6 month pre-season cycling season pre plan. If you completed the program you should be in the best shape of your life going into this upcoming riding season. I promise all of those deposits you put in your cycling savings account will pay off as you get into racing this fall. Lets get ready to race!
As a quick review lets go over a few things we talked about this last 6 months during your training. You should have a good foundation on how to become a killer cyclist and have a deeper understanding of what it means to train as a high-level athlete.
Here's a recap of what we've covered, and hopefully what you have been able to apply:
The ultimate goal of our cycling program is to build lifetime cyclists who love their bike and love to ride singletrack. If you can glean a bit from these lessons you will certainly be a little closer to this point of MTB nirvana. See you all on the trails.
Last week you received a challenge to go out on an Epic ride, a ride that is beyond where you think your current capabilities lie. Did you take this challenge? What did you learn about yourself? How did you push your abilities and improve?
If you didn't, go out and try it this week. Don't worry about how far others are riding, just push past where you have been in the past. If your longest ride is 5 miles, do 7 or 10. If your longest is 100 miles, try for 110 or 120. If your focus is not long rides, then extend your short hard intervals slightly longer, or add another interval to your planned set. The point is to take where you are currently sitting with your personal records and push them just a bit further. This is how athletes grow and progress, one small but important step at a time.
One of the great opportunities we have during base training is to incorporate these long, epic rides to not only build our muscular endurance and fitness, but to test our minds when we are tired and sore from an extended period on the bike.
Epic rides are such a great opportunity for mental growth. When your body is extremely tired and you are focusing on the technical skill of a trail or road section your mind becomes singular in thought, meaning that the fleeting thoughts you may typically have running through your mind about day to day stuff quiets down. You are able to focus on a singular thing. The attitude of that focus is very important, and it can mean failure or success to your ride. May I suggest some thought practice to keep yourself disciplined and motivated during your tough efforts:
This week is going to be short and sweet and focused on base fitness, which is the foundation of all your cycling training. The best time to build your base (with strength and long rides) is in the winter and spring before your main season. In our case base fitness has been build through navigating the 6 energy systems during our 6 month training plan with a consistent focus on longer base miles throughout all of the blocks. It's also important to throw in those long rides during your in-season training to keep that base fitness level high. You have probably noticed that our pre-season and in-season plans both integrate long weekend rides to keep your base tank full.
So why does it matter if you have base fitness? Shouldn't you just go out and practice your 1, 2, 3 or 4 lap race over and over to get fast at that distance? While this will increase your fitness and probably make you competitive on race day it won't build the foundation you need to be a great cyclist moving forward. You will only be able to build so high without a strong base below you. Just like building a tower to the sky would require a large, firm concrete foundation, you need your base to keep training to your potential.
So, get out there with some extra food and water, plan an epic course this weekend and see how far your body can take you. I think you'll be quite amazed what you are capable of!
As totally awesome mountain bikers in training, we’ve spent the last 20 weeks training our bodies for hours each week, always seeking a competitive edge. We’ve discussed the mental aspect of our training shortly, but I want to take a deep dive this week into mediation and mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation, in the simplest of terms, is one approach to training your brain and becoming a more well-rounded athlete. Living more mindfully in our fast-paced society can help you with everything from performing better during training and racing to simply improving recovery and focusing on your task at hand.
Apps like Calm or Headspace can help you to start a mindfulness practice. Through practicing guided meditation you can learn how to accept the idea of simply slowing down to open more space for mindfulness. With some practice you can learn to do this practice anywhere, not only with your phone app, but during your day to day activities, at home, school, or especially on your bike.
Benefits of Meditation
Researchers report that meditation induces a host of biochemical and physical changes in the body collectively referred to as the “relaxation response.” The relaxation response includes changes in metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and brain chemistry.
The power of the brain is magical if we are able to harness it! Below are some of the documented benefits of meditation.
Through meditation, we can actually rewire our brains to enhance positive traits like focus and decision making while diminishing the less positive ones like fear and stress. Meditation isn’t about changing your personality or turning off certain thoughts. It’s about practicing awareness and listening to your interval voice. You’re learning to observe emotions without judgment to have a better understanding of self and those around you through acceptance.
The benefits of meditation come with practice, just like anything new. I suggest starting out using a guided meditation video or app that is relatively short in duration. 5-10 minutes is a great place to start. There’s no perfection in meditation practice, but just like any exercise, frequency and consistency are key! Find a comfortable place to sit undistracted with optional soothing surroundings, like a candle or diffuser. Make your meditation space a place truly welcoming to return to frequently as you grow in your practice.
Just like anything new, it may take time to embrace the unknown of your quiet mind. You may have sessions that you simply don’t feel connected or grounded. Keep showing up with an open heart and peace will fill those unknown spaces with abundance.
Soft Tissue/Mobility and Sleep emphasis as part of Recovery
In the past we have discussed stress and recovery as part of our training regimen. Because this week is a recovery week I want to emphasize again two of the most important parts of recovery, soft tissue work and sleep.
Over time riding and lifting can build up tight areas and even tough scar tissue if you have prior injuries. It’s important to keep your muscles firing appropriately, relaxed and in the correct alignment to handle all of the wonderful abuse you dull out during training. Because cycling is a sport with repetitive movement this is especially important. Daily self-massage (foam rollers, massage balls, massage sticks, etc.) is time well spent and can help you bounce back from or prevent injuries. Personally, I like to do this each morning after I wake up to start the day on the right foot. Tie this into your meditation/mindfulness practice.
Sleep is perhaps the most important recovery tool. Aiming for 8-9 hours of sleep everyday is ideal. Often, in periods of high stress, it is more valuable to skip a workout in favor of more sleep. There are many ways to improve your sleep quality. Most importantly, GET OFF YOUR PHONE AT LEAST 1 HOUR BEFORE BED! Studies show that the blue light sent out by your smartphone or tablet will actually sabotage your sleep and recovery. Practicing improved sleep techniques like a warm bath, warm drink, and relaxation before bed can assist in improving sleep.
The next block will be our most intense yet with some all-out sprint intervals. Get ready with some excellent recovery this week. Train hard, Recover Harder!
Last week we spoke a bit about our WHY for riding bikes. This week lets dive into our WHY for racing bikes and how to prepare ourselves mentally for racing.
While riding for fun is amazing and awesome, here are some reasons to seriously consider racing your bike (all great reasons and spoken by professional amateur racers, AKA other Pocatello Pioneers):
Now for those who already know they love racing lets talk about a few tips that can help you sharpen your skills and move you up the pack of racers.
At some point we all need to pause and think about the reason we mountain bike. (Getting pretty deep here folks) Let’s be honest, mountain biking is not an easy activity and if you want to continue in the sport you should probably be doing it for the right reasons. So, what does that glorious 2-wheeled machine bring to your life and what is your motivation to keep riding? Here are a few of the reasons I’ve heard from racers on the team (All are very legit, by the way):
I’ve talked to a number of middle or high school racers who’s biggest concern is not being as fast as the other kids. They hesitate to even participate with a worry that it won’t be fun, or they won’t be able to keep up. It’s understandable that this would be a concern, but let me share a little secret with you... Are you ready? Unless your name is Nino Schurter or Kate Courtney, there will always be someone else faster than you! On some days, even those two world champions are not on the podium. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are, as long as you show up and have a great time!
So, if you have even an inkling of love for your bike, you should get out and ride. If you don’t yet know your WHY then spend a little time on the trails with that purpose, and find out what part of biking brings you joy. After all, it is supposed to be fun. I can promise that once you find your Why and tap into it, your bike will take you to wonderful places that nothing else can.