Basic Bike Training
by Matt Flygare
It's a common idea: ride hard, and you get
better at it. Meaning, the best way to get in shape to ride your bike is
to ride your bike, right? Well, that may be true in principle, but it
takes planning to become the best rider you can be. To reach your genetic
potential, you can't just go out and ride at random. It doesn't work. So
let's talk about what to do, and why you're doing it.
The author tests his training level on the Pine
There are three different energy systems that are used in any activity
(including mountain biking). They are the aerobic, glycolytic, and the ATP
systems. All of these systems are used, all of the time. But how much any one
system is used depends on the duration and intensity of the activity.
We're going to focus on the aerobic system and its relationship to our
mountain biking prowess. But first we'll talk briefly about the other two
systems, the glycolytic and the ATP.
The ATP system uses adenosine
triphosphate (ATP) to produce on-the-spot energy. This is the sprinter in
us all. ATP is the power to give 100% effort -- maximal power, but only
for a few glorious seconds. In this system, adenosine triphosphate is
broken apart chemically, for a quick surge of energy.
| Once the ATP is
gone, usually around 10 to 30 seconds, we cannot sustain the surge. Your
body must replenish the stores of ATP. The time to replenish ATP is called
the recovery time.
The ATP system -- for quick bursts of power.
To train the ATP system, we do maximal effort for a short duration,
followed by a complete recovery. This is "burst" exercise, such as
sprints. Since these exercises require maximal effort, they must be used
sparingly in your exercise routine.
||The glycolytic system is also called the anaerobic system. Glycolytic
effort lasts longer than the ATP system, but it's not as intense. That is, it
can't produce the same output of energy. The average person can work his
muscles 2 to 10 minutes on the anaerobic system. In this system, glycogen is
broken down to lactic acid in an oxygen-poor muscle. Those burning quads after
that long hill-climb -- lactic acid.
Anaerobic effort -- like those grunt climbs at
You can increase your anaerobic capacity with training, but there is a
limit. You're training your body to deal with increased amounts of lactic
acid, so you can function longer at a higher intensity. This is
"resistance" exercise, such as weight-lifting, or that sustained
grunt climb to the top of the ridge.
|The aerobic system is the "bread and butter" of cross-country
biking enthusiasts. This is the system that's the power behind the pedals for
those long days on the mountain. In the aerobic system, blood delivers oxygen
to the muscle, which uses that oxygen to break glycogen completely down to
carbon dioxide. This is a more efficient, and more sustainable, source of
energy for your pedals.
Aerobic -- effort you can maintain for a while.
The aerobic system is for activities that are longer than 5 minutes in
length. This is the system that we'll spend a lot of time training. So how do
we do it?
I'm always reviewing really good training programs, but in most cases, they
require huge amounts of time and resources. So you want a program that's
beneficial, without having to quit your day job.
To be really useful, a fitness program must be written for a specific
person, using his own starting point and his own goals. With that in mind,
I'll give some general guidelines to help you out. These guidelines are meant
for us weekend warriors who have a wife, kids, and a full-time job.
The most important thing is adherence. If you can't do your exercise
program, it won't help you. You must be able to fit it into your own situation
and schedule. You need to work on your aerobic ("cardio") fitness at
least 3 days a week. You can use biking for a cardiovascular session. I like
to mix in some running and stair-climbing. These are weight-bearing exercises
to promote strong bones and healthy joints.
If you have the luxury of a good trail that's close-by and varied, you can
custom fit a training regimen to the the type of biking performance you
desire. The key is creativity: if you have a great trail you ride all the
time, your body will grow accustomed, and you won't develop as a rider as fast
as you could. Instead, use the trail like an exercise machine to improve your
||Repeat the hill climb as "intervals." Set up sprints at certain
sections of the trail. Use that gnarly downhill as a technical "climb and
bomb." See the trail as a set of free weights. Your only limit is your
own lack of creativity.
Use your favorite trail as a training course.
Set up your ride with specific training goals and areas of focus. Throw in
some sprints, technical work, and training intervals within your ride. Mix up
your rides. Do the trail backwards. Have fun.
Make your training rides long and intense enough to test your endurance and
skill. But don't come away completely nauseous. You can wear your body down
("reverse training") if you work at it too hard. You know what's a
comfortable length and intensity for a training ride.
Stationary Bike Training
If you have a stationary bike, it's a great way to train. It's easy to sit
in front of the TV and crank during the news. (Hint: there are thousands of
overweight couch potatoes who have recently given their unused stationary bike
to the local Salvation Army or Deseret Industries. I can always find a
half-decent stationary bike there for around ten bucks! Just be sure the
crank-arm length is similar to your bike.)
||As a guideline, I try to get in the saddle at least 3 times a week. I set
specific goals that I want to work on. For example, I might work on
hill-climbing power. Even if I have a specific area of focus, I try to mix
various riding styles into every workout.
I do some off-the-saddle hill
climbing (high resistance, low r.p.m., standing on the pedals), some sprints
(lower resistance but cranking as fast as possible), and some cruising
(moderate resistance and slower revolutions). I aim for a workout of 20 to 90
|I know several high-level XC racers who will plop down in front of the TV
and burst out a two-hour training ride on the stationary bike. If you aren't
hitting the trails regularly, like during the winter when time and day-light
are scarce, this type of ride is especially good.
Don't automatically add time to your routine. Any increase in duration or
intensity of effort needs to be gradual. Don't burn yourself out. Also
incorporate some easy recuperation rides into your regime.
here for page 2: Cross-training and Strengthening