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Mountain Bike Your Best in 2014! Starting Right Now

As the 2013 MTB season is winding down (for many of us) it is time to prepare for next season. If you are serious about becoming the best mountain bike rider or racer you can be now is the time to act. All the knowledge in the world is worthless without action. Below is an abbreviated version of the questionnaire I use with our full-time athletes to evaluate their season and design their training program for the next racing season.  Use this to evaluate your riding “performance” in 2013 and help plan an even better 2014!

At some point this fall take a break from riding (if you haven’t already). Two weeks off the bike can do wonders for you! Hike, travel, surf, relax, read, do anything but ride your bike. Your body needs a break from riding and so does your mind. Don’t worry, two weeks off the bike won’t hurt your fitness much and for most of us it will make us stronger as we give ourselves enough time to recover from so much time spent on our bikes (a lot of time on the bike is not always the best thing, it becomes really easy to create in-balances and over use injuries). During your break set your goals for 2014. They are your goals so I won’t tell you what they should be as we all want different things out of riding and life.

I will tell you to set measurable goals that you feel are within your reach if you work enough (too high a goal makes it is easy to give up and too easy a goal doesn’t motivate you). Examples of great goals our students have set are: “Clean Widow Maker Hill!”, “Improve my max squat by 15% by April 1st.”, “Shave 10% off my fastest time on the long loop at McDowell by May 10.” If you are a racer be careful to set performance goals as well as outcome goals, as it is impossible to control how your competition performs! For example, I really want to win the World Masters Championships in 2014, but I have no idea who will show up or how hard they have been training (two things I can not control) so just setting the goal of winning might set me up for failure despite possibly having my best performance ever. Although one of my main goals is to win the race my other goals are; shave 7% off my race times from 2013 (where the tracks are the same in 2014), increase my max squat by 50% (to where it was when I was 40) by April 15th, to decrease my 40 meter sprint times (on my downhill bike) 20% by July 15th. For each of these goals I have set sub goals (example: increase max squat by 25% by Jan. 1) and process goals (example: work up from one five minute imagery session a week to six 10 minute imagery sessions a week by 7/15/14). If I achieve or surpass all of my sub goals and process goals I will know I have done everything in my power to perform at my best on race day.

Do you keep a riding/training diary? A diary is a big help in the following exercise and through out the season for finding factors that lead to changes in performance. If you haven’t kept a training diary in the past, start now. A training diary helps you learn what parts of your training are working and what parts are not. Reviewing it can explain “peak” performances and poor performances and is a great confidence booster by tracking all the hours of training you have put in. Your training diary should contain all information that affects your performance, morning HR (heart rate), recovery HR, weight, hours slept, hours training, time in HR or power zones, time using imagery, mood, what you eat, etc. Once you have established your diary it will be easy to find out “why” and test eating, sleeping and training concepts. Why did I feel so strong today? Why did I feel so sluggish last week? Simply look for patterns, examples: “wow, every time I eat pizza for dinner I feel sluggish two days later.” When I eat a big breakfast and do a morning ride I feel weak (need to eat earlier or lighter)”, “surprisingly I climb strongest the day after doing my favorite workout including squats and ab work”. If you really want to ride at your best start a diary today. Goggle docs is the perfect tool, just set up a spread sheet and once you get it rolling it will only take five minutes a day to keep up on.

Here is the abbreviated version of the questionnaire we use with our full-time students to help you analyse your 2013 season and help you set your goals for 2014.

Step One: Assess your racing season and your riding ability. Honestly and objectively answer the following questions about your 2013 season.

Did your skills improve over the course of the season?

What are your strongest skills? (cornering, jumping, steeps, etc.)

What skills need the most improvement?

How did the season go physically?

Did you start strong and get stronger as the season went on?

Did you fade in late July and August? Why?

Did you have the optimum combination of sprinting speed and endurance?

Did you pick 3 to 5 big races to peak for? Were you able to peak for those races?

How was your mental game?

Were you confident and riding to your potential or did you find yourself racing below the level that you know you are capable of?

Why?

What factors helped your confidence this season?

What factors hurt your confidence this season?

Did you a have comprehensive (mental, physical and skill) training program? What part of your program worked? What parts didn’t work?

Did your racing improve as the season went on?

Did you create and write down concrete goals?

Did you reach your racing goals?

Step Two: Use the answers to these questions as an evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses setting the foundation your 2014 season training program.

Set career, three years from now and this season’s racing goals (top three over all in my state series, etc.), physical training goals (decrease my 50 yard sprint time by 15%, increase my maximum squat by 20%, etc.), skills goals (improve balance, improve cornering, etc.) and mental training goals (improve visualization, learn relaxation techniques, etc.) for your 2014 season.

Racing Goals:

1. Career goal

2. Three year goal

3. This season’s goal

Physical Training Goals, to allow me to reach my racing goals:

1.

2.

3.

Skills Training Goals, to allow me to reach my racing goals:

1.

2.

3.

Mental training Goals, to allow me to reach my racing goals:

1.

2.

3.

Work with your coach or consult a book such as The Mountain Biker’s Training Bible, by Joe Friel; James Wilson’s MTB strength training programs; or Lynda Wallenfels coaching  to create a training plan to reach all of the above goals. Why a coach? A coach can provide you with a structured training program designed to reach your goals, keep an objective eye on your skills and physical training, motivate you and share his/her wisdom, all of which will speed up your improvement.

Step Three: Act on your training program! Ride! Workout! Visualize! Constantly update your goals and training program based on improvement or lack of improvement.

Remember, unwritten goals are just dreams, goals you write down you will commit to and strive to reach. Good luck next season and feel free to call or e-mail with any questions.

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3 replies
  1. Geoffrey says:

    First of all, weird that I am the first to comment.

    Secondly, this is a great post! It really got me excited for next year, and a desire to focus on certain things. As I was considering how to design my goals, I thought of a couple questions that I will be pondering prior to creating the goals. I thought I’d share them, in case it might help someone else:

    - What was my single most joyous riding day? What made it such? (I want to make more days like that, and make more days that are like that, but even more so.)

    - Is there an chunk of trail or portion of riding that I avoid or that frustrates me? Why? (This leads to what I want to make sure and focus on and improve)

    For me, the joy comes when I have great vision. I am looking at where I am going, and just riding and having fun.

    The frustrating point is a series of small jumps that I avoid, but am confident I can do them with a little bit of mental training and practice.

    As a side note, I enjoy looking back and seeing where I have made great strides. It helps motivate me to keep going after things.

    Anyway, keep having fun. I sure will!

    Reply
  2. Hiro says:

    Hi Gene,

    Give some advise to the seniors who still love to improve skill and strength in mountain biking. I passed mid-50 and start to feel body parts screaming last couple of years. Sometime bad knees, elbows prevent me to push hard. Can’t do the suggested training schedule due to sore neck and shoulder. Love to here from you about how to set goal for someone like me(us?).

    Reply

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