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  1. #1
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    Newbie....Training through winter

    Hello all, sorry to ask yet another newbie training question. A bit of background, I grew up racing BMX as a kid for 11 years (was selected as part of Team USA for World Championships one year....long ago haha) and then go heavily into Motocross (eventually holding my Pro License before a knee injury ended those dreams haha). I just did my first MTB race a couple weeks ago and am now committed to running our local the entire series next year....I had SO much fun! My question is, what do some of the seasoned/experienced MTB XC racers do for training throughout the winter. I own a treadmill, a Concept2 rower, and a trainer (have a road bike I use with this). Besides using those 3 pieces of equipment, I would like to do some "power, agility, balance, and core" workouts......SO, what are some suggestions :-)? FYI, I will be racing CAT3 XC next year....courses range from 7 to 9 miles and generally last about 1 hour. Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Formerly of Kent
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    At the risk of over simplifying things, work on your threshold.

    2x20min intervals.
    Tempo.

    And, buy one of Joe Friel's books.

  3. #3
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    i honestly take about 2 months off in the winter to kind of decompress. I like to run and do some strength training. If the weather is nice, I will go and do a fun mtb ride.

    When I trained hard in the winter I did intervals on the trainer. I find it impossible to do endurance on the trainer. I have limited time and can't handle sitting on the trainer for hours on end. I usually did the intervals from "Time Crunched Cyclist". Then when the weather got better, I would do long road rides.

  4. #4
    Formerly of Kent
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    I understand taking two months off from "training", but if you're not riding your bike for two whole months, that's a LOT of fitness lost.

    No, I'm not saying you should be near race shape year round. But, you should try to get on the bike a couple of times a week, race your buddies up and down the local mountain, and blow out the cobwebs from time to time. A couple times a week. Have fun, and keep some semblance of fitness.

  5. #5
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    With your bmx and moto experience you will hands down be the best bike handler in Cat3, probably anywhere in the country in Cat3 (probably cat2 as well), so fitness on the bike (specificity) is your #1 goal. I used to race cat1 mtb with a guy who raced pro moto in Europe, - your bike handling and descending will not be an issue, you will get frustrated with guys in front of you slowing you down on the descents.

    How long have you been 'fit' on the bike?, meaning feeling like you can ride for an hour or two including some hills without dying? What's winter weather like in your area? I've ridden through the last 2 winters, it's often 35-40f here and drizzly, and I really enjoy my winter rides. If you're not in your 20s anymore, it's hard to get fit quick, when I was in college I could ride hard for 3 months after winter and be ready for cat1, now in my mid 40s it's a lot harder to get fast, so I also think it's really important to not take too much time off. My rule for my training is: no more than 2 days off in a row, no more than 3 days on the bike in a row (rest is very important too). As I understand it, you're really just trying to build a fitness base for the first couple of years, -just ride your bike(s) a lot. I find having a road bike to be helpful, there's more guys I can ride with, it fits on the trainer well, and I can sneak in a workout by riding out to my dads (45min ride) when my family is going there for a Sunday afternoon.

  6. #6
    Brant-C.
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    do a one hour ride three times per week then do a two hour ride on the weekends. you will be great at the downhills. just need to have that throttle ready when the trails point upwards. as you get closer to the races you can start doing intervals. come back and ask for more advise three months before the first race.


    Quote Originally Posted by superx421 View Post
    Hello all, sorry to ask yet another newbie training question. A bit of background, I grew up racing BMX as a kid for 11 years (was selected as part of Team USA for World Championships one year....long ago haha) and then go heavily into Motocross (eventually holding my Pro License before a knee injury ended those dreams haha). I just did my first MTB race a couple weeks ago and am now committed to running our local the entire series next year....I had SO much fun! My question is, what do some of the seasoned/experienced MTB XC racers do for training throughout the winter. I own a treadmill, a Concept2 rower, and a trainer (have a road bike I use with this). Besides using those 3 pieces of equipment, I would like to do some "power, agility, balance, and core" workouts......SO, what are some suggestions :-)? FYI, I will be racing CAT3 XC next year....courses range from 7 to 9 miles and generally last about 1 hour. Thanks in advance!
    I just like riding my mountain bike.

  7. #7
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    Awesome, thanks for all the replies guys...I really appreciate them! Thanks for the kind comments too regrading bike skills :-). I did my first race a couple weeks ago and I kind of felt the way that Jim mentioned.....I would pass guys several times through the woods and descents but would GET passed when it opened up to long double-track sections. I am turning 30 in the beginning January, so no, I'm not a teenage any longer haha. I kind of feel the same way as you guys are talking, I just simply need to start spending some serious time on my bikes. Do you guys do plenty of "core" workouts like with medicine balls...I'm thinking that makes sense for mtb racing.

    Another question would be, how do you guys feel about putting more miles on a road bike and not so many on the mountain bike. I only have 1 mtb therefore it is my race bike....I just tend to think I don't want to be putting a ton of hard miles on my mtb through the week and expect it to perform top notch come the weekend.

    Thanks again for all the replies!
    Blake

  8. #8
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    If you do what bcaronongan said (all winter); I'll put my money on you for cat3. I don't think it matters which bike you ride, your skills are good enough that you could do all your training on a stationary bike. I use a 'winter bike' for most all my workouts, a cheaper lower end (but not horrible) mtb that I can just park in the garage wet and dirty after a ride. Race bikes stay clean and in good shape in the basement.
    30 is young, I'm 46 and have whipped myself back into shape over the past 2 years, if you ride regularly you will see big and fast improvements in your fitness.
    In my routine I add: situps, pushups, pullups, back exercises plus stretching at the end of every bike workout, I'm already warmed up and it only adds 5 minutes to the workout. That's working for me.

  9. #9
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    Great to read this, I'm kind of in the same position myself as regards fitness for XC. I wouldn't have anywhere near the bike handling skill of OP'er but find I don't lose places on the decent, only the climbs where I just haven't got the power in the legs.

    Here's what I've started doing for the winter. Will keep it up as is for 10 weeks and re-evaluate if necessary:

    I'm doing 1-2 laps of a trail I marked out (pretty much the same length as an XC race lap) once a week for skill/fitness/fun based work. Plenty of short, sharp climbs which I try to push hard near the top, then try my best to not stop pedeling just after to get my body used to race conditions. I do hill repeats once a week, usually up at as fast a pace as I can manage, rest only on descents. Climb is 10-15 minutes and I can usually only manage 2, maybe 3. An hour long ride once a week, this started out being 20k and is now 26 so I am getting faster slowly. I'd like to fit in either more hill repeats or trail time but time is the issue.

    Every Wednesday I do circuit training with a group of friends (one is a personal trainer which is handy!). We mostly core work and sprinting. Pyramids of burpie, squat, press-up into sprint then recovery jog. Usually up to 5 and back down to 1. Then we do 2 circuits of around 10 core excersies. All in all takes around 30-40minutes and we would be absolutely dead after it. Can really notice a difference in my core doing this, even once a week. Having a group to do it with makes all the difference. I'd like to step that up to twice a week but my body can only handle the once at the minute.

    I also enjoy going for a short run on the beach so I do a 3k and a 5k every week at an easy pace, just random days when ever I can fit it in. Ususal bring the dogs. Will step that up over time as well.

  10. #10
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    Paraic; I train on a similar trail, I can do it race-pace in less than 20min, but an average ride is slower, and it has several short sharp hills, - but nothing longer than 2minutes. I rode nearly exclusively on this trail for a year and a half (starting in bad, non-rider condition after 20 years off just 2 years ago), and finished top 3 cat2 in each of the 5 races I did in the spring, I rode about 3x a week all winter.
    'Specificity' is REALLY important; that means to get fast on the bike the vast majority of your workouts need to be on the bike, the other stuff is helpful, but it will not replace time on the bike. In your position, I would ride 3 times a week minimum, even if 2 of those are on the trainer for a half hour when that's all you can fit in. Be obsessive about doing those 3 rides a week.

  11. #11
    mnoutain bkie rdier
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    You are going to be a beast the second your cardio is up to par! I race with Johnny O'Mara (he is a bit older). He destroys his competition and gives Tinker a run for his money.

    Also, the Bostrom brothers are always fast on race day.

    Most guys are building their "base" during winter. Long slow miles. Once we get close to the race season, we typically hit the intensity workouts.

    I second the idea of purchase a J. Friel book, although I have never read one.. They seem fairly respected by the respected here on MTBR...make sense?

    Cat 1 So. Calif fwiw..

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    At the risk of over simplifying things, work on your threshold.

    2x20min intervals.
    Tempo.

    And, buy one of Joe Friel's books.
    +1 on 2x20 and Tempo. Friel is good, but do not buy into long slow rides unless you are putting in at least 10-12 hrs a week.

    Friel talks about doing SST (sweet spot) during base now.
    "Although we are usually told to avoid zone 3 training, this is the block in which I have seen the greatest gains in FTP. Zone 3, especially the upper portion, seems to be quite effective for producing aerobic fitness and yet not overly demanding on the body requiring frequent or extended recovery. It seems I saw such a finding in a paper by Dr. Eric Bannister a few years ago but I’ve been unable to find it. He’s the one who developed the TRIMP system. Allen and Coggan in their excellent book, Training and Racing with a Power Meter, refer to the upper end of zone 3 and the lower end of zone 4 as the “sweet spot” and a range that is very effective for producing aerobic fitness."
    Joe Friel - Training for Advanced Athletes, Part 5

    Sweet Spot Part Deux | FasCat Coaching :: Cycling Coach for all Cyclists

    As you get closer to race, then fine tune with intervals
    Preparing for first MTB race of the season

  13. #13
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    You didn't mention your body weight. To be fast on the climbs, you need to be skinny. I dropped 10 this spring and am the fastest I've ever been. I used to be into weight lifting when I was younger, now I try to keep my arms as scrawny as possible....

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