• 06-14-2018
    AlexB_510
    Tips/strategies for improving strength and endurance?
    Whatís up, everyone?

    Iím a 34 year old guy in decent physical shape (6í3Ē ish, ~180 lbs). I did a whole lot of mountain biking while I was in college, then moved on to other outdoor hobbies (surfing, ocean kayaking, fishing). Fast forward to now, and Iím just getting back into MTB after an ~8 year ďhiatusĒ. I still feel confident on a bike, but my strength and endurance arenít what they used to be...

    I want to get back in shape, quickly, so I can enjoy some full days of riding, trips to Downieville, etc, etc... Basically I want to get back to a point where Iím limited by the progression of my technical skills instead of my physical condition.

    Iíd love to hear your thoughts on how to do this. Obviously the short answer is ďgo riding - a lotĒ, but Iím hoping for a little more detail than that.

    Short, punchy, high intensity rides?
    Long, slow(er), lower-intensity rides?
    Mix of both?
    Interval training of some sort?
    How many day/week is best for increasing strength while avoiding overuse injuries?

    These are the kinds of things Iím curious about.

    Thanks in advance for any tips, strategies, and advice.

    Cheers!

    ~Alex
  • 06-14-2018
    Le Duke
    Tips/strategies for improving strength and endurance?
    Overuse injuries are going to be dependent on your ability to recover and handle work. And your bike fit and injury history. The former is pretty important, and I see some pretty horrific fitting bikes these days.

    I can ride 7 days a week and not develop any problems, but someone else might be limited to two weekday rides and two weekend rides. It really boils down to the individual in question. That said, humans are designed for work, and a lot of it, and you can build up to doing a massive amount of riding if you are patient.

    Iíd go with four or five rides a week and go from there. Donít go super hard at any point. If you find you can do this for a few weeks, and not feel any overuse injuries or residual fatigue, make one of those rides a super easy one, and make one harder than average. I might catch some flak for even suggesting this, but Strava is useful for tracking personal fitness gains, whether itís for climbs, descents or the total loop.

    Weight is a big thing, too. In addition to decreasing the denominator in the watts per kilogram relationship, losing weight will also help you shed heat easier. And require you to eat less to do the same amount of work. Carry less food, consume less water. So, less weight there, too.




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  • 06-14-2018
    AlexB_510
    Thanks, Le Duke!

    I donít have any serious prior injuries to worry about, but I do have some lower back pain and need to focus more on my posture and positioning on my bike (hip hinge instead of bending my lower back). As far as bike fit, I think my new ride (Diamondback Mission, XL frame) seems to fit me well. I havenít had it professionally fitted or anything, but it feels right. Saddle is about level with bars when raised to full climbing height (knees almost fully extended), saddle is about level, and when I place my elbow on the nose of my saddle my fingers reach to about the middle of my stem. Itís more comfortable than my previous bike, thatís for sure...

    As far as body weight, Iím already a pretty skinny/lanky guy. If anything, I expect Iíll gain a little weight as I lose what little fat I do have and replace it with muscle.

    Funny you mention Strava. I actually just downloaded it the other day! Seems like a neat app, but I can see how some might take it too far by pulling their smart phones out on the trail to nerd out on ride data...
  • 06-14-2018
    GuitsBoy
    Your cardiovascular fitness will take some time to ramp back up. I dont really think there are any shortcuts here. You just have to keep riding regularly until youre conditioned. But if you have access to a gym, or even want to do bodyweight exercises at home, adding strength will help accelerate your riding ability in terms of motor. Ive had a couple of long time riding buddies recently start hitting the gym with me once or twice a week, and in a very short time, they were making very large gains on the trail. Their riding had largely plateaued over the last couple years until they added the gym, and then all of a sudden it was a new record nearly every time they went out. I'm a firm believer in strength training being a great addition to cardiovascular conditioning by simply riding more.

    And yes, Strava (or any of the other tracking options) is a great tool, just dont let it get to your head too much. Everything in moderation, especially athletic social media apps.
  • 06-14-2018
    AlexB_510
    Thanks, GuitsBoy!

    I donít have a gym membership at the moment, but I am interested in adding some strength training exercises to the routine. I was thinking Iíd start with a simple routine of pushups, crunches (and/or other ab+core exercises), and possibly pick up some free weights at some point for curls, etc.

    Were there certain exercises in the gym that seemed most helpful? Iím not a big fan of gyms to be honest, but if there are exercises I can do at home with minimal equipment (not much space...) that would be cool.

    Thanks again for the tips, guys!
  • 06-14-2018
    kpdemello
    Find a good spin class. Best way to quickly get in shape. Go three times a week for two weeks and you'll see a marked improvement.

    I would also recommend weight training. Squats, lunges, and more squats. 1-2 times a week after spin class for best results.

    If you don't want to do the gym thing, here's a workout that is great for leg strength/endurance :

    10 Air squats
    20 lunges
    20 jumping lunges
    10 jumping squats

    Rest 60-120 seconds, repeat cycle. Work up to 5X through.

    Combine that with 3X weekly rides of 1 hour of nonstop rolling hills (road or trail, whatever works - just push hard for the entire hour and in a place you won't get hung up on techy stuff). Might be good to throw in interval training on the bike as well (pedal hard up hill for 30 seconds, do that like 10X times on a ride).
  • 06-14-2018
    Fajita Dave
    Great advice already but I'll just add I found consistency to be the single most important factor. It takes a while to build fitness but there are measurable losses within just a few days of being lazy. Effort level should be 80% easy / 20% strenuous over the course of a week. If you ride 5 days a week make 4 of them easy and 1 ride as fast as you can go. Even on slow days its good to mix up the effort level so the whole ride isn't just slow and boring. You get stronger on your rest days but a rest day doesn't mean you need to be inactive.

    If you look at the training schedule of pro athletes its amazing just how easy they take it on most of their training rides and mix in time at the gym.
  • 06-14-2018
    GuitsBoy
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AlexB_510 View Post
    I donít have a gym membership at the moment, but I am interested in adding some strength training exercises to the routine. I was thinking Iíd start with a simple routine of pushups, crunches (and/or other ab+core exercises), and possibly pick up some free weights at some point for curls, etc.

    Were there certain exercises in the gym that seemed most helpful? Iím not a big fan of gyms to be honest, but if there are exercises I can do at home with minimal equipment (not much space...) that would be cool.

    No worries if you prefer to avoid the gym. Like anything else there are good and bad gyms. The crap ones have a bunch of uber-bros slamming weights and grunting for attention. The good ones have regular-bros slamming weights simply to get stronger. Either way it can be intimidating for the uninitiated. If you can link up with a buddy that already goes, the equipment available at a gym will be unmatched. And youll find most of the bigger guys there have been at it for decades, and are usually the ones happiest to give help/advice to newbs. But all the same, it requires venturing outside of your comfort zone.

    Youre on the right track as far as incorporating a routine at home. General pushups, pullups, and core work is a good start. At first concentrate on compound movements that incorporate larger muscle groups rather than isolating single muscles like biceps or triceps. While compound pushing and pulling movements are important, leg work will give you the biggest return when you take it out to the trail. Unfortunately, legs are perhaps the hardest to trail without weights. But to get you started, you can do bodyweight squats, pistol squats, wall-sits, glute bridge, box jumps or just google "bodyweight leg exercises" for countless other options. You can also get creative by lifting things around the house. Theres tons of information out there just a google search away. But the important thing is to get started, and keep at it. Even if you only do one workout a week, and only one set of each exercise, you're coming out WAY ahead compared to not doing any at all. Youll be putting down more wattage to the cranks in short order.
  • 06-14-2018
    MSU Alum
    I'm almost 66. 5'8.5" tall and 165 pounds. Turns out, the secret to fitness is to be 34, 6'3" tall and 180 pounds. I'm jealous!
  • 06-14-2018
    GuitsBoy
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by MSU Alum View Post
    I'm almost 66. 5'8.5" tall and 165 pounds. Turns out, the secret to fitness is to be 34, 6'3" tall and 180 pounds. I'm jealous!

    And in addition to making sure that you're young, dont forget to pick parents with very good genetics.
  • 06-14-2018
    MSU Alum
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by GuitsBoy View Post
    And in addition to making sure that you're young, dont forget to pick parents with very good genetics.

    That's #1!
  • 06-14-2018
    AlexB_510
    Haha!!!

    Iíd say being 66 and still mountain biking puts you ahead of the crowd for sure. Keep it up!
  • 06-14-2018
    AlexB_510
    I think Iím doing OK with my parentís genetics. My mom and dad hiked across the country (Delaware to California) in their early/mid 60ís after they retired!
  • 06-14-2018
    John Kuhl
    For me its all about the climb. Long steep climbs will help get you there.
  • 06-14-2018
    MSU Alum
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AlexB_510 View Post
    I think Iím doing OK with my parentís genetics. My mom and dad hiked across the country (Delaware to California) in their early/mid 60ís after they retired!

    Nice!
  • 06-15-2018
    quite.right
    Additional to the forementioned Squats and Lungees I recommend running outdoors and kettlebell session at home.
  • 06-15-2018
    MSU Alum
    All joking aside, if you are looking to be competitive in races, or you want to be very fit, all around some sort of "program" makes sense. P90x, or a weight lifting regimen or juggling bowling balls will work wonders....I've been considering doing something like that for about 40 years.

    Otherwise, just ride fun and hard. You'll get in shape very rapidly.
  • 06-15-2018
    AlexB_510
    Thanks again, everyone.

    Iím not interested in racing in the near future, but might consider an enduro at some point when Iím a stronger rider. (Iím not a competitive person when it comes to sports, but enduro races sound like they could be fun.)

    Iíve got a few friends in the area who are very strong riders... Looking forward to (kindof) keeping up!
  • 06-17-2018
    theycallmeE
    Lots of great advice and info here already. I'll add one thing that has helped me a ton...

    Google "functional fitness". These whole body exercises that combine strength, balance, power and intensity are, in my opinion, the best thing for mountain biking which requires all the same elements. Also, the focus on core strength is huge. The OP mentioned some lower back pain, some of which we probably all have. Getting my core stronger has helped me stay relatively back pain free, and added lots of power to my riding.

    Good luck and enjoy the riding!

    E
  • 06-17-2018
    John Kuhl
    ^ +1 on building ones core strength. This has helped my bad back a lot.
  • 06-18-2018
    b rock
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AlexB_510 View Post
    I want to get back in shape, quickly, so I can enjoy some full days of riding, trips to Downieville, etc, etc...

    Iíd love to hear your thoughts on how to do this. Obviously the short answer is ďgo riding - a lotĒ, but Iím hoping for a little more detail than that.

    Short, punchy, high intensity rides?
    Long, slow(er), lower-intensity rides?
    Mix of both?
    Interval training of some sort?
    How many day/week is best for increasing strength while avoiding overuse injuries?

    Plenty of good advice here, even if it isn't what you wanted to hear, as the main reality for building endurance for pedaling for hours is to slowly build up to it, so you don't injure yourself. I'd love to hear shortcuts too though, as I'd like to help my friends who don't ride much be able to keep my pace climbing.

    I would guess that the leg strength exercises mentioned above will get you the most short term gain in pedaling speed, at least for short punchy climbs. Interval training typically is a time saver too. Either way, you just have to increase the intensity of workouts slowly over a few weeks, so you don't get sidelined with an injury.

    If you're mainly focused on shuttling/Dville, maybe pedaling is less of a concern though? Either way, the core work is something I should do too probably, as all that attack position can give me a sore back sometimes. There are a couple of MTB specific core training workout vids out there, including GMBN on YouTube, but I haven't tried them.

    This isn't practical for a lot of people, and isn't a short term fix, but if you can bike commute in relative safety, all those miles add up, especially if you have at least one climb, even if it is only a few hundred ft of climbing a day and only a few miles one way of commuting.
  • 06-18-2018
    AlexB_510
    Tips/strategies for improving strength and endurance?
    Thanks again, guys!

    I am looking forward to some trips to Downieville and other shuttles, but the vast majority of my riding on a day to day basis will involve climbing. I just mentioned Downieville, etc, because I want to get into good enough shape to make the trip worthwhile instead of being pooped out after one run.

    I definitely plan to focus on core work in addition to endurance (lots of pedaling) and strength (squats and lunges). My lower back pain comes from minor scoliosis, and my PT said increasing core strength and working on my posture is the best approach.


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  • 06-19-2018
    theycallmeE
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Skeggs1993 View Post

    This isn't practical for a lot of people, and isn't a short term fix, but if you can bike commute in relative safety, all those miles add up, especially if you have at least one climb, even if it is only a few hundred ft of climbing a day and only a few miles one way of commuting.

    ^This!! It's astonishing how a few commutes per week can get you to a really solid base of fitness. And they work great for slow, recovery rides too.
  • 06-19-2018
    boomn
    My bike has been my gym for a while now and within that context the biggest gains are when I "pedal over the top" (as Ned Overend put it). After you finish attacking a climb of any length don't pause or even slow down to catch your breath, just shift up and keep going. The effort you put in when you're already winded and tired earns big returns in endurance. Just that point of focus helps keep me from slipping out of attack mode

    *but do be careful about what features you attempt while tired, and pay attention to back muscles especially that can be strained when you're trying to hustle a bike while tired
  • 06-19-2018
    AlexB_510
    I just installed a dropper post yesterday, so now ďpedaling over the topĒ is much easier. No more stopping to fiddle with my seatpost QR at the beginning and end of each climb.

    My last ride (yesterday) looked like this:



    (Two Cinderella Trail loops and a Big Trees loop, if youíre familiar with Joaquin Miller)

    The dropper post eliminated at least six short stops (unnecessary breaks) that I didnít need. Good stuff.


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