What’s the best way to get faster in mountain biking? TO GO HARD! That might be what you’re thinking…
But really, there’s a bit more to it. I think most people are pretty well-informed by now and understand that they don’t need to be going hard to get a training benefit. Those easy rides really are just as important!
By simply riding, you’ll get better at riding…just as you would if you tried juggling. On the other hand, if you want to maximize your time you’ll follow a training plan. Lots of us design our own periodized training plans, but do you add the right kinds of things?
Below are 5 things you need to add to your MTB training plan, regardless of the type of racing you do:
In mountain biking there are lots of times that we sprint without even knowing it. This could be something as little as a really hard half-stroke to get over a rock, or bigger and more noticeable like coming out of a corner.
Plyometric exercises help us make our muscles more usable and more powerful at the same time. During a plyometric workout, every effort is maximal, which means that you don’t need to spend a huge amount of time doing them. I wrote more about plyos here!
Whether racing downhill, enduro or XC, performing well in MTB is going to depend on your level of aerobic fitness. It’s great to be able to sprint hard, but you need to repeat this over and over.
Threshold intervals are long and not overly hard, but help to raise the level of your aerobic fitness. A higher aerobic fitness means you can recover faster between hard efforts and focus on shredding hard…and then sprint again! The nice thing about doing threshold intervals is that you won’t be totally smoked afterwards, which means you can ride the next day.
Is your training working? How do you know? Feeling fitter is one thing, but tracking your performance can help you understand what’s actually going on.
I like to test for critical power using a power meter. All you need to do is a series of time trials of varying length (2-20 minutes), and the results with give you better insight into your strengths and weaknesses. (HINT: most mountain bikers are pretty weak in the 20min test)
Rest is super important. Train hard and rest harder is the old saying. I wrote before about having a good off-season, but don’t forget about recovery between hard sessions of before moving to the next hard block.
I usually have my athletes rest in the week before testing their critical power so that we’re not comparing performances from times they might be tired.
Fun is the whole reason you got into mountain biking in the first place! If you’re always staring at your power meter instead of cruising along with friends, you might be missing out on some fun. Schedule at least one day a week to ride with a group on your favorite trails!Fun rides are also a great time to work on your skills.
Of course there’s more to it than just adding these to what you already do, but as part of a periodized plan these might help you see more gains out on the trails.