The winter is the best time to improve your skills and take a mountain bike skills camp. Learning takes place best away from the sport you are learning! That’s right, if you are spending a lot of time doing a sport it is hard to improve. This is true because perfect practice is what builds skill, not simply doing something for hours. There is a general rule among coaches, teachers and physiologists that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a sport (or a game, an instrument, etc.). While your goal might not be to master mountain biking the more time you spend doing deliberate practice the better you will get.
When I rider says, “I ride 20 hours a week! I am getting tons of deliberate practice!” I have to smile as chances are not one minute of that 20 hours was deliberate practice. Deliberate practice means working on one specific skill (or movement) with a focus on quality, not quantity. Many skills, such as cornering involve a lot of different movements/components which means practicing “cornering” is not deliberate practice. Deliberate practice would be practicing vision through a corner three times, stopping and analyzing what you did right and wrong then refocusing and doing it three more times. This is hard to do when a beautiful singletrack is beckoning you to ride it! In season it is hard not to just go out and ride mile after mile with a big grin on our face! The only problem with riding as much as we can is that we get really good at what we already are doing, which is often a series of bad habits. So to improve we have to step away from the trail, learn the proper techniques and then practice these techniques one at a time with a focus on quality. This is why you see all the basketball, football, ski teams and pretty much every sport requiring skill teams doing drills more than 70% of their practice time!
Use the off-season to learn the correct core skills and then practice them with a focus on quality and your skills, confidence and enjoyment will soar. Snowing outside?! Hit that parking garage and spend 20 minutes doing the core skills drills we teach in our camps and then spend 10 minutes imaging perfect technique. A few weeks of this quality practice (mixed with resistance training and cardio work) will do more than years of just winging it on the trail (according to Ross Schnell who said, “I learned more today than in the last 10-11 years of just riding” (in a rushed 3.5 hour lesson, BetterRide camps are 19-22 hours over 3 days!).