• 08-01-2011
    rmac
    Commuting is ruining my mountain bike fitness
    I have been in denial for the last several weeks but I am pretty sure my mountain bike fitness has decreased as I have been commuting more. Very hard to be scientific about this but I thought I would throw out my experience and see if anyone else has seen the same. Sorry if this is a repeat thread – I looked but nothing obvious came up.

    I started commuting to work in March of this year. Prior to commuting I was mountain biking 5 – 6 times per week ~ 9 hours per week. Now I commute 3 - 5 times (7 ½ - 12 ½ hours) per week and mountain bike 1 -2 times (3 – 4 ½ hours) per week. My hours and mileage are both up since I have been commuting. Where I really feel the loss is on my week-end mountain bike ride that is 3 + hours long (and 3,000 ft vert). The last several of weeks I have really been struggling and have needed to rest quite often when previously I wouldn’t stop at all.

    FWIW I also swim/run/gym 5 - 6 times (5 - 6 hours) per week too. No shortage of exercise in my life. Even taking the day off (completely) before the long mountain bike ride makes little difference. Sleeping well and continuing to eat poorly.

    I suspect that the commuting lacks the hard climbs to an extent that I don’t have the strength when it comes to the longer mountain rides and 1 -2 mountain rides per week is not enough.

    Thoughts?
  • 08-01-2011
    nachomc
    I suck at mountain biking now that I have a kid and commute mostly. It's just not as hard, doesn't build the strength, etc. My commute is all flat too, which doesn't help when I go up the hill :)
  • 08-01-2011
    mtbxplorer
    Three thoughts:

    Make sure you are not bonking from lack of fuel on your long ride. Eat well the dinner before, a solid breakfast, and some energy bar or gel or real food that agrees with you every hour on the ride. And be sure to drink enough too.

    Marathoners know that if you want to run for 4 hours, or run up big hills, there is no substitute for training other than to build up to running that long, and running steep hills. You can't just do a bunch of short flat runs to prepare for a 4hr hilly race. no matter how many miles you log. So if you want to excel on 3hr + MTB rides, you may have to do more of them. Or just say, heck, it's normal to be tired after riding 3 hrs (my personal favorite) & quit while it's still fun & before you get hurt.

    On the other hand, if this really only occurred in the last few weeks, you may just have some bug bugging you. Or if you're eating poorly, you could be anemic or something like that, making you tired quicker.
  • 08-01-2011
    Glynis27
    I find that when I commute daily, I am lacking that punch in my pedaling. It hinders my road and MTB riding, but it's more obvious on the MTB. If I rest for a day or two my legs go back to normal. Not sure if it's my legs just needing time to heal or what, but I've been like that for years.
  • 08-01-2011
    Bikinaz
    I've noticed this same thing. What I try to do to compensate, is really push myself during my commute. When i see the little hills in front of me I stand up and attack the rise. Even if it's flat you can still stand up and attack for 2 to 3 minutes. Rest for 1 and repeat.
  • 08-01-2011
    ScottR1
    In five months you've gone from 9 hours per week to 10-17 hours per week? With 5-6 hours per week in the gym or pool? Are you sure you're not over-trained? One of my signs of fatigue is running out of gas on longer rides, usually in the middle of a 4-hour ride when I'm really really far from home/the trailhead/the car. You might try an easy WEEK, not just a rest day, like 2 commutes and only one ride on the weekend, and see if you last longer the next weekend. Could you also throw some variety into your commute? My office is only eight miles from home, but I've got routes available from 25 minutes to five hours. If you're SURE you're not over-trained, maybe try a 3+hour ride mid-week on a week when you're only commuting three days. Variety keeps your brain fresh, not just your legs. Make sure you eat a bit during those longer rides, and good luck finding a solution.
  • 08-01-2011
    Repo
    Starting to commute
    I'm interested in seeing what you figure out. I usually MTB after work a couple of days a week and one on the weekend, but have been working 7 days a week. I have been pricing out building a rigid 29er to commute and maybe ride with the family on the trails. I haven't thought about losing fitness from commuting. I was hoping to gain some by building a single speed that will make me work. I rode today on my 26" full squish in my 44/11 to try and help a little with my climbing when I can make it to the trails. It may not be much issue here because the most elevation we have on the trails is about 450' total. Nothing compared to alot of places.
  • 08-01-2011
    AndrwSwitch
    If you don't have time for another off-road ride, maybe you have time to take the long way home once a week - doing a 3 hour road ride will help keep you in shape for a 3 hour MTB ride.

    I think mountain biking requires a punchier style of riding than road riding tends to favor. Make sure you're varying your route, incorporating hills, and throwing in some traffic signal sprints.

    I found having a 40/28 smallest gear was not realistic for me when I have to carry stuff up hills. So I got smaller chain rings for my commuter, and rides for which I need them don't break me down as much as fighting my way up hills with the previous gear and a load used to.
  • 08-01-2011
    Berkeley Mike
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by rmac View Post

    I have been in denial for the last several weeks

    No shortage of exercise in my life.

    Sleeping well and continuing to eat poorly.

    I suspect that the commuting lacks the hard climbs to an extent that I don’t have the strength when it comes to the longer mountain rides and 1 -2 mountain rides per week is not enough.

    Lots of info.

    Lots of effort.

    Poor diet

    You are burning yourself up..
  • 08-01-2011
    mrbigisbudgood
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    Lots of info.

    Lots of effort.

    Poor diet

    You are burning yourself up..

    Agreed.

    Overtraining is a nasty *****. And if you aren't eating well......ouch.

    Start using commuting in a different way. Switch up your routes. Ride slow a couple days a week for active recovery, and I mean no breathing through your mouth kind of slow.
  • 08-02-2011
    Jonesy33
    Two things:

    First, you really might be OVER training and that's the real culprit.

    Second, and this one seems pretty intuitive to me... put togehter a training plan and make training rides out of your commute. If your normal route doesn't allow this becaus eit is too short, goes through too much traffic for a steady ride etc... make a route that both gets you to work eventually and gets in a real training ride. My commute is OK for days I want to get some sprints etc in, because it is a lot of traffic lights etc. interspersed along open bike lane riding (live in germany where the bike lanes are great and are traffic-light rgulated just like vehicle lanes) but it sucks when I need a steady tempo ride. Int his case I ease it through town as a warm up and then lengthen the out-of-town portion of my ride with a loop or two around some singletrack and fireroads.

    I guess what I'm saying is change it so your not just commuting, but instead you're going on a training ride that just happens to end at work.
  • 08-02-2011
    rmac
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ScottR1 View Post
    In five months you've gone from 9 hours per week to 10-17 hours per week? With 5-6 hours per week in the gym or pool? Are you sure you're not over-trained? One of my signs of fatigue is running out of gas on longer rides, usually in the middle of a 4-hour ride when I'm really really far from home/the trailhead/the car. You might try an easy WEEK, not just a rest day, like 2 commutes and only one ride on the weekend, and see if you last longer the next weekend. Could you also throw some variety into your commute? My office is only eight miles from home, but I've got routes available from 25 minutes to five hours. If you're SURE you're not over-trained, maybe try a 3+hour ride mid-week on a week when you're only commuting three days. Variety keeps your brain fresh, not just your legs. Make sure you eat a bit during those longer rides, and good luck finding a solution.

    Good thoughts. My shortest route on the commute is 17 miles one way - not sure I want to take a longer route.

    Hard to say about the over-training. In February I had a 17 day period where I rode (mountain) every day including two 3+ hour rides each week. Swimming running and gym staying the same (5 - 6 hours per week). I felt great, possibly stronger than usual.

    I am also having a hard time NOT commuting - it's become an anathema to drive to work. I probably have a semi-hidden personality disorder that is getting exposed here...
  • 08-02-2011
    rmac
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    Lots of info.

    Lots of effort.

    Poor diet

    You are burning yourself up..

    Hard to say for sure. The poorish diet didn't effect me as much before - possible it is catching up with me finally though.

    Interestingly enough a week and a half ago I sut back on sugar and upped the healthier stuff (and protein) to see if it would help - too soon to tell yet.
  • 08-02-2011
    rmac
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Jonesy33 View Post
    Two things:

    First, you really might be OVER training and that's the real culprit.

    Second, and this one seems pretty intuitive to me... put togehter a training plan and make training rides out of your commute. If your normal route doesn't allow this becaus eit is too short, goes through too much traffic for a steady ride etc... make a route that both gets you to work eventually and gets in a real training ride. My commute is OK for days I want to get some sprints etc in, because it is a lot of traffic lights etc. interspersed along open bike lane riding (live in germany where the bike lanes are great and are traffic-light rgulated just like vehicle lanes) but it sucks when I need a steady tempo ride. Int his case I ease it through town as a warm up and then lengthen the out-of-town portion of my ride with a loop or two around some singletrack and fireroads.

    I guess what I'm saying is change it so your not just commuting, but instead you're going on a training ride that just happens to end at work.

    My commute is 95% bike paths which is great at 5:30 in the morning with no one out. I find I can push the pace almost the whole way with almost no stops (500 feet elevation gain) and get to work tired and buzzing. I am reluctant to ride the road (twice hit by cars years ago) and get in the stop/start sprints but probably good advice. I commuted every day last week and at 17 miles each way got in 230 miles of fast paced commuting. I am reluctant to take a longer route without relaxing my pace. I look to the mtb to get in the varied pace (grind/cruise etc).
  • 08-02-2011
    mtec
    You're simply doing too much with too little recovery time. Recovery is just as important as the exercise itself, and your body is tired.

    Exercise is a bell curve, there are downward slopes on either end of "ideal"
  • 08-02-2011
    mikeb
    and this is exactly the reason i ride to work SLOW. after all, nobody wins the commute 500.

    i've also found that after roughly nineteen years of daily bike commutes, i need to take a day or two off from time to time. it becomes monotonous.

    good luck getting this all sorted out, rmac.
  • 08-02-2011
    jrm
    If your fitness is suffering
    with that schedule then your over training and not allowsing your bod to recover.
  • 08-03-2011
    jeffscott
    Yup...

    You ned to first let your bidy recover...

    Then you need to let it recover every week.

    That means some easier workouts or more days off.
  • 08-03-2011
    rmac
    I hear the resounding message of over-training. I will give 'resting' a try and see if it makes a difference (I hate resting :)).
  • 08-03-2011
    Berkeley Mike
    Cutting back on sugar, on the face of it, always seems like a no-brainer. However, it does have some positive dietary functions that you need to cover.

    In broad brushstrokes and high activity levels and dietary changes are a very challenging combination.

    I have had luck with keeping track of food intake with:

    http://www.fitday.com/

    A free membership allows you to go online and record you food and fluid intake in a database creates a nutritional value and total s it up. There are standard values for foods and ways to customize special foods not on the list. Take care with that part. I over valued a food and underfed myself for a period of about 3 weeks. Ooops!

    It has an additional component which assigns values to your activity and helps you to compare the two modalities comprehensively for general balance between food intake and energy output.

    It's not the last word but it is a pretty useful device.
  • 08-04-2011
    Dann C
    Where do you find the time for that all!?!?
  • 08-04-2011
    rmac
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Dann C View Post
    Where do you find the time for that all!?!?

    I get up early to ride and hit the gym at lunch (2 minute walk from the office). I also do gym classes with my wife on the week-end so that counts as 'date' time.:D It takes me just 45 minutes longer to ride home than drive so that's really the only additional cost.
  • 08-04-2011
    rmac
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    Cutting back on sugar, on the face of it, always seems like a no-brainer. However, it does have some positive dietary functions that you need to cover.

    In broad brushstrokes and high activity levels and dietary changes are a very challenging combination.

    I have had luck with keeping track of food intake with:

    http://www.fitday.com/

    A free membership allows you to go online and record you food and fluid intake in a database creates a nutritional value and total s it up. There are standard values for foods and ways to customize special foods not on the list. Take care with that part. I over valued a food and underfed myself for a period of about 3 weeks. Ooops!

    It has an additional component which assigns values to your activity and helps you to compare the two modalities comprehensively for general balance between food intake and energy output.

    It's not the last word but it is a pretty useful device.

    The first few days of cutting back on soda, chocolate, candy etc I switched to 'healthy' sugar. I juiced 3 oranges, 1 grapefruit, 3 apples and 1/3 of a pineapple per day. I Immediately chugged some of it and froze most of it in a waterbottle and drank it as it melted (on the morning ride and at work).

    I will check out the food intake tracker - thanks for the link.
  • 08-04-2011
    AndrwSwitch
    OP - what does sleeping well mean to you?

    I ask because I'm starting to be reminded of a potential roommate who interviewed in my house several months ago. She said she got up early, had a protein shake, and went on a training run every day. (She was a triathlete.) Turned out she slept something like five hours a night. We ended up going with someone less psychotic, but I couldn't help wondering if she was actually getting stronger - when the topic gets discussed over on the XC racing/training forum, people generally come out against training when someone should be sleeping.

    I don't sleep enough myself - when I have somewhere to be in the morning, that and my tendency to stay up too late don't leave time. By Friday, I'm definitely weaker on the bike than I am on Monday, when I've had a couple full nights of sleep. In a long-term sense, I wouldn't be surprised if I'm weaker on the bike, and in general, than I would be if I slept more.
  • 08-04-2011
    rmac
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    OP - what does sleeping well mean to you?

    I ask because I'm starting to be reminded of a potential roommate who interviewed in my house several months ago. She said she got up early, had a protein shake, and went on a training run every day. (She was a triathlete.) Turned out she slept something like five hours a night. We ended up going with someone less psychotic, but I couldn't help wondering if she was actually getting stronger - when the topic gets discussed over on the XC racing/training forum, people generally come out against training when someone should be sleeping.

    I don't sleep enough myself - when I have somewhere to be in the morning, that and my tendency to stay up too late don't leave time. By Friday, I'm definitely weaker on the bike than I am on Monday, when I've had a couple full nights of sleep. In a long-term sense, I wouldn't be surprised if I'm weaker on the bike, and in general, than I would be if I slept more.

    Sleep needs seem to vary by person. I sleep fairly early and get about 7 hours per night. I am often sleepy during the day so probably not enough. The satisfaction of riding to work instead of driving gets me out of bed pretty easily.
  • 08-08-2011
    Buster Bluth
    Sounds like you are going to have a jammer.
    :eekster:
  • 08-08-2011
    can't get right
    I was wondering the same thing but I thought it was because I have been commuting on a 46x16 SS. If I give myself 1 day rest before a big ride I am usually good to go.
  • 08-08-2011
    Pete Otis Towns
    My mountain bike riding has gone down quite a bit since I started commuting. I try to commute everyday in the summer. My problem is after commuting 26 miles round trip the last thing I want to do is hop on the mtn bike.
  • 08-08-2011
    byknuts
    get bigger gears and then mix it up.
    56x17 solo, only 2 sections of my commute where I can spin it out. by end of season I should be on the 16, in terms of power my mtb'ing ain't suffering a bit.

    40x15 with trailer/kid, once unloaded my spin's much smoother as well.

    fyi: there's technically no such thing as an "off bike" day for me and hasn't been in about 2 years, so upon reflection I haven't a clue how my current mtb'ing would stack up to my riding of, say 4 or 5 years ago.
  • 08-08-2011
    mikeb
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Pete Otis Towns View Post
    My mountain bike riding has gone down quite a bit since I started commuting. I try to commute everyday in the summer. My problem is after commuting 26 miles round trip the last thing I want to do is hop on the mtn bike.

    same here. i've found that commuting can kill the joy of cycling, especially if it's all on crowded city streets. i try to mix it up a bit by using different bikes, but there are times when i still come home glad to get off the bike.

    it really helps that i have the option to ride about five hundred yards of trails each way.

    thank goodness i just got laid off for a month so i was able to do some REAL riding...but thank goodness i just went back to work this morning...so i can have at least an hour of saddle time every day.

    taking a break from commuting by bike is a good thing.
  • 08-14-2011
    electrik
    Sounds like the addition of the commuting mileage has interrupted time that allowed you to recover previously... eventually if you keep going you will slowly grind your fitness into the ground. Go nice and slow on the commute unless you've cut a training session out.

    Finally, to chime in with others...

    Getting strong happens during the recovery period and increasing mileage is not the same as increasing performance.
  • 09-07-2011
    rmac
    Follow up thoughts and observations.
    Initially I rode a little less and took more time off but noticed little difference on my mountain rides. Most recently (the last two weeks) I went the opposite direction and continued to commute and work out every day as well as mountain ride over the weekends but I added two midweek mountain rides too hoping they would help increase the mountain fitness. This last week end I felt MUCH better on my mountain rides and clocked my fastest time up one of my local climbs and completed my fav 3 hour mountain ride with energy to spare and felt like I could charge even the last climbs. It was a little difficult to get motivated to ride home and immediately turn around to mountain ride but it was actually fun and quite a buzz.

    I also realized that even though I am tired after my commutes to work and home I am still not really pushing myself that hard so yesterday I tried doing my commute as interval training. Whenever I approached a straight section or even slight hill on the bike path I sprinted/charged it (to the point of gasping for air/collapse)(it would have sucked to be riding with me passing and being passed constantly), I relaxed (to normal commuting speed) after the interval and then went again. Same on the way home. Today I can barely walk. :)

    I suspect that I was not riding my commutes hard enough to maintain mountain fitness and adding the mid-week mountain rides remedied that. I further suspect that if I treat (some of) my commutes as interval training opportunities I will have better mountain fitness; plus THEN I will probably need some rest days.

    Who knows if any of this is really true though. None of this is scientific and my diet change may have had a delayed benefical change on my mountain fitness. Bonus is that I am slimming down and tightening up.
  • 09-08-2011
    ScottR1
    Good update. Why do you ride home, then go mountain biking? Why not ride home on the mountain bike, and take a dirt detour before finishing the trip home? I admit, the first couple times I did this I felt silly grinding up 1200' of pavement climbing on a full-suspension bike, but the 1200' of rocky fire road descending half an hour later removed any embarassment I might have felt at the beginning. It's also easier to avoid motivation problems with getting home on one bike and immediately hopping on the other bike if you don't actually GET home until you're DONE riding. As winter approaches and lights become necessary, staying on one bike for all your riding also means you don't have to move your lights back and forth between bikes all the time. Or buy two light systems, but now I'm spending your money for you - sorry. Good luck on your training, sounds like you're making progress.
  • 09-08-2011
    rmac
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ScottR1 View Post
    Good update. Why do you ride home, then go mountain biking? Why not ride home on the mountain bike, and take a dirt detour before finishing the trip home? I admit, the first couple times I did this I felt silly grinding up 1200' of pavement climbing on a full-suspension bike, but the 1200' of rocky fire road descending half an hour later removed any embarassment I might have felt at the beginning. It's also easier to avoid motivation problems with getting home on one bike and immediately hopping on the other bike if you don't actually GET home until you're DONE riding. As winter approaches and lights become necessary, staying on one bike for all your riding also means you don't have to move your lights back and forth between bikes all the time. Or buy two light systems, but now I'm spending your money for you - sorry. Good luck on your training, sounds like you're making progress.

    Good points. I live right next to the mountains (foot hills) in Denver and ride away from them for my commute. There are trails close to the bike paths I take to work but no real hills. I would basically have to pass my house on the way to the mountain trails. A couple of other reasons:
    1. I actually like riding the road bike to work and back and dislike riding my other bikes for commuting (about to change in the snow I suspect). I have adjusted to the road bike since I started and the mountain bikes feel like total slugs by comparison.
    2. Light is on my helmet :). Separate rear light on my camelback – not used for commuting.
    3. I lug quite a bit of stuff to work and back and am happy to dump that stuff before going up the mountain – kind of refreshing to drop 10 – 15 lbs (I think) before heading out again.
    4. Some days I have to pick up the kids so don’t go straight out.
    5. Weird though it may seem I change out of the spandex shorts into baggies for the trails (what’s up with that????).
    6. Need more water for the mountain rides.
    7. It’s oddly cathartic making a complete switch and somehow rejuvenating.
  • 09-08-2011
    herbn
    commuting is a less than ideal training method,it's twice a day at least 8 hrs apart , it reduces the recovery time and the second half of the commute is most of the problem,you tend to go harder at night. If you could do a fully hard ride to work in the a.m, get to work shower ,rest before work, then get a ride home at night,that would be ideal.
  • 09-08-2011
    Alana
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by rmac View Post
    Follow up thoughts and observations.
    Initially I rode a little less and took more time off but noticed little difference on my mountain rides. Most recently (the last two weeks) I went the opposite direction and continued to commute and work out every day as well as mountain ride over the weekends but I added two midweek mountain rides too hoping they would help increase the mountain fitness. This last week end I felt MUCH better on my mountain rides and clocked my fastest time up one of my local climbs and completed my fav 3 hour mountain ride with energy to spare and felt like I could charge even the last climbs. It was a little difficult to get motivated to ride home and immediately turn around to mountain ride but it was actually fun and quite a buzz.

    I also realized that even though I am tired after my commutes to work and home I am still not really pushing myself that hard so yesterday I tried doing my commute as interval training. Whenever I approached a straight section or even slight hill on the bike path I sprinted/charged it (to the point of gasping for air/collapse)(it would have sucked to be riding with me passing and being passed constantly), I relaxed (to normal commuting speed) after the interval and then went again. Same on the way home. Today I can barely walk. :)

    I suspect that I was not riding my commutes hard enough to maintain mountain fitness and adding the mid-week mountain rides remedied that. I further suspect that if I treat (some of) my commutes as interval training opportunities I will have better mountain fitness; plus THEN I will probably need some rest days.

    Who knows if any of this is really true though. None of this is scientific and my diet change may have had a delayed benefical change on my mountain fitness. Bonus is that I am slimming down and tightening up.


    That's the problem, sometimes bikes are too efficient! You could also add some weight to your panniers, nothing like an extra 30lbs on the bike to get your HR up easier.
  • 09-08-2011
    herbn
    i can pedal my road bike just as hard on intervals as my glory zero,but the resting intervals just don't seem as effective on the glory.