With a long, brutal winter facing me I decided to follow through on a lifelong ambition and take up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. As part of the process I picked up a book called Zen Jiu Jitsu: How to Improve Your Game 100% in 30 Days. While it is a book about how to improve your BJJ game in just 30 days, the principles talked about in it apply nicely to mountain biking as well. At the heart of the program is the ability to identify an area of weakness and then design a plan to address it.
This can be tough for a lot of riders because it involves thinking about their riding in a different way. In order to identify an area of weakness you first have to acknowledge that 1) mountain biking isn’t a “talent” and different aspects of riding can be improved and that 2) you suck in some of those areas.
Some of the different areas of mountain biking include skills like pedaling (seated & standing), body position and cornering and/or fitness like attack position endurance or standing pedaling power. The more specific you can make it the better, but don’t get too specific – we want to focus on principles more than specific methods.
Once you’ve identified an area of weakness you need a plan to address it specifically. This too can be tough because it requires that you look at your workouts and rides as something that can create very specific responses in the body and that you focus on a specific area rather than trying to train everything at once.
Again, you need to think more along the lines of movement principles than recreating specific movements from the bike in the gym. Standing on a wobble board doesn’t make something more “mountain bike specific,” the basic movement patterns being trained do.
This also doesn’t mean that you exclude any other types of riding or training, just that you make a conscious effort to focus on your chosen area as much as possible. Once you have chosen an area to focus on and have the drills and exercises you need to do so then commit to working on this area at least 5 days a week for the next 30 days.
This can be broken up into mobility work, strength work, skills drills and focus rides but every day you train you should have some element of your area of focus present.
After 30 days, take a 1-2 week break and then repeat the process. There is always something you can get better at, and as you progress those things will get smaller and more specific and will require more concerted effort to move the needle. Some other things I took from the book
: - Be mindful of what you do.
While turning the brain off and just “riding” is fun it doesn’t help you improve.- It takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master something.
This reinforces the point about being mindful of what you do and that you need to have patience with the process.- Study at other “schools.”
In the book the author talked about the benefit of going to another school every once in a while to train. He said it was good to experience different rolling styles and energy levels of the school and students. I think this is extremely valuable for mountain bikers as well – try a different type of riding every once in a while, try to go out with another local riding group or take a skills class from a new coach. - Keep the White Belt Mindset.
Be humble and always assume that you can learn more and get better. - Be aware of the Anti-You.
This is the thing that intimidates and frustrates you. It could be a specific section of trail or a type of riding skill you don’t posses (yet) but the Anti-You is the mirror you need to break to take your riding to the next level. A lot of riders spend a lot of time and effort avoiding their Anti-You instead of seeking it out and facing it, which is why so many riders stop progressing at a certain point. - Remember the sage advice of Tyler Durden: This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.
In my next article I'll post an outline on how to use this concept to Improve Your Body Position 100% in 30 Days...
MTB Strength Training Systems is the world leader in integrated performance training programs for the unique demands of mountain biking. As the strength and conditioning coach for World Cup Teams and 3 National Championships, his programs have been proven at the highest levels. James has helped thousands of riders just like you improve their speed, endurance and skills on the trail. Visit www.bikejames.com
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