Two Big Mountain Biking Myths That May Be Holding You Back on the Trail.

There are two big myths in the mountain community that hold back many riders. The myth of the “natural athlete” and the myth of the “magic pill” have played a huge role in depressing riders confidence for years.

I will start with the “natural athlete”. Many people seem to think that the best people in sports are gifted or born with natural talent and that simply isn’t the case. While we all probably know someone who seems to do well in any sport that they try (which sure can be frustrating) these “natural athletes” were not born that way and sadly they rarely reach their potential. Reaching your potential requires work (which if done right can be fun) just ask Micheal Jordan. If anyone ever looked like a natural athlete it was MJ, wow, the man could fly. Micheal Jordan was far from a natural athlete though, did you know he got cut from his team his freshman and sophomore years?

That’s right, Micheal Jordan wasn’t as good as 10 other kids his age in his town yet we don’t know the name of any of those kids who were “better” than him do we? Why is Jordan’s name etched into our brains? Because he worked hard at the fundamentals of basketball and worked hard in the gym and MJ reached his potential. Tennis great Chris Evert says “I was neither the fastest or the strongest in the game at the time” yet she was ranked #1 in the World! Golf great Tom Kite is legally blind without his glasses, describes himself as an average putter who drives the ball short yet he won the US Open at 42!  (from The New Toughness Training for Sports, James E. Loehr) Anyone who has ever met me was probably under whelmed at first, I walk funny, have asthma and two massively separated shoulders. Heck I never came close to passing the “Presidential Fitness Test” as a kid. Yet despite not being a “natural athlete” I have done okay for myself in snowboarding and mountain biking.

If I had had Micheal Jordon’s work ethic and more importantly his belief system I would of gone even further in both sports. It was my belief in the “natural athlete” being better than me that kept me from giving a 100% in my training. Yes, even if I had given a 100% I would never be able to beat someone with Ned Overend’s lung capacity in a cross country race but it would of been fun to see how close I could of come. Luckily skills don’t take big lungs. So stop labeling yourself, be the best that you be everyday and you will astound yourself.

The “magic pill” or “pros secret” does not exist. So many people think that if they just knew that “one thing” that Steve Peat, JHK, Sam Hill, Ryan Trebon, or whoever their hero his knew they could ride as well as them. Well I hate to break your heart but there is no magic pill or secret skill, the way to the top is the basics. Mountain biking, like most sports, martial arts, ski racing, motocross, auto racing, gymnastics, etc. requires mastery and maintenance of the basics to do well.

Unfortunately, just like in martial arts and ski racing these basics are not intuitive so first you must learn the basics. Learning them is easy with the right teacher, mastering them requires work (even with the best teacher). The Magic Pill? Knowledge and mastery of the basic core skills. If you, a friend of yours and I wanted to become great at Karate what would be the best path? Lets say your friend took those boring “wax on, wax off” lessons from a master teacher for 6 months while you and I “practiced”  everyday by fighting each other who would be better at Karate at the end of the 6 months? Despite having less “practice” time than us your friend would be head and shoulders above us in Karate skill. For more myths that may be holding you back check out my free course on the 10 most common mistakes made by most riders and how to fix them.

A little Zen: Try to look at life with a “Beginner’s Mind”, with a beginners mindset you are open to all possibilities, with an “expert” mindset your choices are very limited. Think how many “experts” have been wrong, experts once thought the world was flat, and that no one can run a mile in less than four minutes. Having a beginners mindset really helps you put your ego aside, learn and enjoy life more.

Create a great ride!

How to keep motivated this winter for summer mountain biking!

How to keep motivated this winter! (this is part two of a series on staying motivated and goal setting, if you missed part one you can find it here http://betterride.net/?p=873 )

Goal Setting

“Any time some one asks me, “teach me something new”, I know they are not into mastery. If you want to master anything you have to do it over and over again”. Anthony Robbins

  1. With goals we create the future in advance.

  2. ’53 Class of Yale, 3% had specific, written goals. 20 years later in 1973 when interviewed those 3% were happier, enjoyed their life more (which I know are subjective measuring) what isn’t subjective though is that those 3% were wealthier than the other 97% of their class combined!

  3. A goal not written down is just a dream!

Whether you are a weekend mountain bike rider who just rides to get out in nature for some fresh air or a determined mountain bike racer it is tough to stay motivated to stay in shape during the off-season.

Like most mountain bikers I am not always super motivated to workout or train on cold winter days. The riding and/or mountain bike racing season seems so far away it is tough to stay motivated in the winter. The winter is a great time to assess your riding season and your goals and set new goals. Follow my season wrap up and goal setting worksheet, then do something I learned from Dan Milliman in his book Body Mind Mastery, he says, “Set your goals then put them aside and focus on being the best you can be on any given day”.   He goes on to explain that by focusing on goals that are often 6 month to 5 years away it takes us out of the moment and we don’t enjoy our day to day life.  He tells us that victory is fleeting and if we don’t enjoy the journey on the way to achieving our goals what is the point.

An example of this in my own life is doing intervals (85-100% efforts for intervals 30 seconds to 6 minutes). I would often say to myself, “Gosh, I hate intervals, feeling like you are going to puke for 5 minutes, resting and repeating is miserable, but if I want to win (the World Masters/Angel Fire or what ever my goal was that season) I have to do them”. As you can imagine I didn’t do them as much as I should have and every time I did do them I did not enjoy them. When I won a bronze medal at the UCI Mountain Bike World Masters Championships in 1999 it was the happiest moment of my life, until the next morning. I woke up, was proud of my medal, then thought about the last 9 months and my current situation. I was in Montreal in a beat up ’84 VW van with 197,000 miles on it, an exhaust leak, and three smelly mountain bikers, not sure if it would get us home, I was broke (actually a couple grand in debt to my credit cards), had no job, no place to live, all my “stuff” was in storage and had no girlfriend to come home to (and I had not had a girl friend or a date for a long time). For the 9 months leading up to the World Masters I was really focused on my goal. In those months I did my intervals, I hit the gym hard, I ate really well, went to bed early and was probably not the most fun person to be around. Going to bed early meant no dating, I was sacrificing my social life. Intervals are tiring and I looked at them as being painful, not fun, I was punishing myself. To train so hard and race the national schedule I quit my job in April (not enough time to train, recover, travel to races and work). As I assessed these months and my current situation the thrill of victory quickly faded.

Not only is the thrill of victory short lived, what happens when you come up short or don’t even get the chance to go for your goal (you get injured, lose funding, change careers or set a different goal, etc.)? Now you did all that sacrificing for nothing! All those intervals and I am not even racing, what a waste. Well, if you did the best you could each day and enjoyed the journey their was no sacrifice.

A year later I went back to the World Masters set on winning and finished second in the qualifying round! Unfortunately in the final race run my chain came out of my chain retention device in the first turn and my race was over (I stopped, put the chain back on pedaled furious into the next section and the chain came off again, I coasted in to 8th or 9th place). This was one of the most disappointing moments of my life. I had the Silver Medal in the bag and with a solid run I could have easily won the Gold. When I woke up the next day I was still a little disappointed but I took stock of my life and realized it was no big deal, just a bike race. I was in the best shape of my life (which at 34 felt great!), I had a great girlfriend, a good job and a cool apartment to return to. What a difference from the year before!

Now I set my goals then focus on being the best I can be at each given task on the way there. When that task is intervals I am not doing them to win a race, I am doing them because I enjoy the challenge of pushing my body that hard and the good, exhausted, but satisfied feeling I get afterward. Knowing that I am 44, in great shape and getting stronger with every workout is a great feeling.

Dan Millman goes on to explain that if we do our best everyday we will not only enjoy our lives more we will likely exceed our goals. So look out next year, I am training hard and enjoying my life more than ever! Who thought I could still beat half the pro field at 45?!

Think of training as something that will make you a better, happier, more successful person, not as a sacrifice. The real sacrifice is spending all that time and money traveling to fun riding spots like Fruita or Moab and wishing that you had more energy and could ride more. There is nothing worse than finishing poorly in a race and thinking, “If I had just…. practiced a little more… trained a little harder…. etc. Saying “what if” is a sad way to go through life (and I have done it too many times in my life). “He just beat me because he practices/gets to ride more than I do”. Yep, that probably is why he beat me. That and he wanted it more than me which is why he practiced more than me.

At 44 and even when I was younger I have never raced to win. I race to do my best and there is no bigger disappointment than letting yourself down. So whether you are training for a long mountain bike ride in Moab next spring or the biggest race or your life, train hard and have fun!

Third Place 1999 World Masters Championships

Now is the Time to Start Working Towards Your Best Season Yet in 2011!

Now that the 2010 season is over (for most of us) and you have had a few weeks off from serious training, riding or competition it is time to prepare for next season. If you are serious about becoming the best 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 my full-time athletes to evaluate their season and design their training program for the next racing season.  Use this to evaluate your performance in 2010 and help your plan an even better 2011!

Do you keep a training and racing diary? A diary is a big help in the following exercise and though 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 can explain “peak” performances and poor performances and is a great confidence booster by tracking all the hours of training you have put in.

Step One: Assess your racing season and your riding ability. Honestly and objectively answer the following questions about your 2010 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 2011 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 2011 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 and/or James Wilson’s MTB strength training programs 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 while working around your schedule, an objective eye on your skills and physical training, motivate you and share his/her wisdom speeding 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 questions, suggestions or to start a personal coaching program.

Challenge, the most fun part of life?

Isn’t it funny how we often seek the easiest path even when we know the tougher path will be more fun and more rewarding? If we look back at our life the easy victories are not the moments we remember and cherish it is then moments when we were challenged that stand out. After failing at climbing the “widow maker” in Grand Junction at least five times and walking it each time over two years it is the time I finally climbed it that I can remember like it was yesterday. Lets face it, anyone in reasonable shape can walk their bike off a tough climb but riding it is much more rewarding! So go out and challenge yourself on your next ride. Go 10 feet further on the widow maker climb, shave 2% off your fastest lap time on your favorite loop, clean that step up maneuver that keeps intimidating you, ride 4 mile or 30 minutes longer than you ever have, push yourself a little harder. You will thank yourself and feel better after meeting a challenge head on and conquering it.

I returned to Bromont, Quebec for the first time since 2002 for a race last weekend and nearly chickened out! The course was steep, rocky, with a fair amount of rocks, fun to ride and little scary to go race pace on. Then it rained! The steep sections were now an inch deep in mud and I was scared, “will I be able to make the steep turns in this muck? Will I be able to slow down? I am getting older, I don’t have anything to prove, maybe I should just take this weekend off…” was running in my head. I had to stop for a fallen rider in my first practice run in the mud and was scared to restart with muddy tires on the steep off camber rocks so I went a round. Well, that didn’t help my confidence, so despite being soaked and cold I took a second practice run and made it down slower than when it was dry but I made it down clean! Well by the time my race run rolled around 3.5 hours later the course had been torn up by over 150 riders and when I hit the steep section it looked really ugly and fear hit me again but the enthusiastic fans (I love racing in Quebec, quite a few fans braved the rain and mud and had hiked up to the toughest sections of the course) urged me on and I dropped in and railed the steep, muddy and off-camber section! Wow, that felt good! I haven’t been that scared of a downhill course in years and it felt great to look fear in the eye and go for it again! I am not recommending you do something over your head (which even if you make it you will just feel lucky) but go out and challenge yourself.