I believe that one of the most important times of the year for any athlete is the off-season but especially us mountain bikers. I know, I know. I hear it all the time, “what off season? I ride all the time bro.” To that I say, “I can appreciate that, but please just hear me out."
When a client or friend says this to me, the first question I ask them is, “Do you not want to get better?” And with an objective crinkling of their face, the inevitable answer is, “of course, that’s why I ride so much, to get better.” Trust me, I’ve experienced this type of conversation in every sport I’ve coached, no matter if they're amateurs and professionals, with the same response. You see, It’s very difficult to maintain a high level of performance without sufficient amounts of rest. Importantly, if you don’t schedule it into your weekly, monthly and yearly schedule (officially called a “Periodization” see example below), you will continue to ride at the same level you have year after year.
Therefore, part of every athlete’s annual Periodization plan (whether an amateur or pro) needs to include a time period during the off-season where there is at least 30 days off the bike. It’s during this time that the body can unwind and decompress from miles and miles of trail riding and the toll that the mountain biking position takes on the body. Since many amateur, and even pro riders, don’t really know what to do in the transition between the end of season into off-season training, I created a simple way for you to determine exactly how to assess your 2016 season, called the “End of Season Questionnaire.“
It’s a list of probing questions to make you think a bit about your riding or racing performance over the 2016 season, which will help you create a better plan for off-season training for 2017. Click here to download the FREE assessment.
Here are a few of the questions in the free End of Season Questionnaire for you to glean insight into exactly how you performed this riding/racing season.
1. Did you have a rest and recovery plan in place for race weekends, including a practice plan? Did it work? 2. What were the particular areas of your body that you found weakest, or were the most problematic in your riding? 3. Any nagging muscle issues you had?
Many times after riders fill this out I hear that they didn’t realize certain things until they actually sat down and starting thinking about it.
- “I had an epiphany about why I was struggling half way through my rides, and it’s I wasn’t eating enough during most rides!” Or, - “I didn’t recognize how much my riding was actually affecting how tired I was.”
Of course, that last one is actually a pretty funny statement if you think about it, but what this person was saying proves my point about rest. When you don’t provide your body rest days and periods of time of rest, it will eventually catch up to you and your performance will drop like a bag of rocks! All right, if you truly have a desire to improve for the 2017 season, one of the best things you can do is to take 30 days off between now and the end of the year. Here in Colorado, we’ve had one of the warmest falls we’ve had in a long while so we’ve had an extended riding season because of it. However, in no time the snow will be flying and the temperature will plummet and when it does, I will begin my 30 days. I’d say most people take Thanksgiving or Christmas time off since it is a busy time of year.
Here's my challenge to you... when is your time off going to start? Make your decision now and mark it on your calendar! Now that you have a brief understanding of the importance of rest, let’s look at a few ideas of what to do during these 30 days off the bike.
#1- Get in the gym.
Start training this week! Each week, do 2-3 weight training sessions; two cardio or cross training workouts (see below) and take 2 days OFF.
As far as a workout, I always encourage riders to be sure to include each of the following “primal movement patterns,” each of which is crucial for on and off bike athleticism:
• Squat • Lunge • Push • Pull • A ‘hinge’ exercise like deadlifts • A rotary exercise
In fact, try this quick "primal movement pattern" workout. Do 15 reps of each move and two to three sets in a circuit format with 1-minute rest between sets…
Use all forms of cross training. I’d suggest mixing it up. Do the rowing machine. Its emphasis on leg drive, hip hinge, and posterior chain strengthening is beneficial.
“Run Forest Run!” Yup, Run. It’s a very primal exercise that many of us mountain bikers haven’t done in a long while (like me, I think it’s been 10 years since I ran a few times a week!) and it’s beneficial to the transfer of ground reaction forces through the body; the deep spinal stability system; micro-stabilizing of the pelvis and an overall great cardio workout.
Climb. Indoor climbing is a terrific workout on all levels. Like running, climbing is very primal and a strong 'cross-pattern' trainer for the nervous system. It can help us riders 'balance out' our body from the same-sidedness that our downhilling position creates, as well as strengthen the shoulders, forearms and especially the hands!
Another sport I’d highly recommend is going to a 'parkour' gym. These workouts are not only a blast but one of the best at bringing together each of the workouts listed above. It’s the granddaddy of human expression of movement and can expose movement weaknesses that, when turned into strengths, greatly improve your athleticism on the bike.
Lastly, don’t forget enjoying what the winter season has to offer! Ski, xc-ski, board, snowshoe, ice climb, get into the backcountry, shoot… get on a snowmobile!
Look, in the end, all I’m saying is spend 30 days off your bike. As much as I know most of you think that’s such a grim thought, remember, doing other sports and activities for us mountain bikers in the off-season is SUPER IMPORTANT to contributing to your success not just for next season, but for years and decades to come.
Ok, so here’s how you can put this together as a training schedule:
Monday- Gym workout Tuesday- Run/ Parkour/ Row Wednesday- Gym workout Thursday- OFF day Friday- Indoor Climb/ ski/ board/ xc-ski / snowshoe, OR, gym cardio day Saturday- Indoor Climb/ ski/ board/ xc-ski / snowshoe, OR, gym + small run Sunday- OFF day
Now that you have a “plan,” go ahead and choose your "30-days-off-your-bike-time," while simultaneously starting the video workout and #1 and #2 listed above to get your off-season training off on the right foot!