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.

10 Tips for Mountain Biking in Sand.

10 Tips for Mountain Biking in Sand.

Its fall and time to start heading south to ride which means desert riding season is upon us!  Riding in deep sand can be frustrating experience. If you follow these tips it will be much more enjoyable.

1. When trying to apply power in a straight line, sit back on your saddle a little and pedal forward like on a recumbent (so the “bottom” of your pedal stroke is about 4 o’clock instead of 6). Missy Giove taught me this 15 years ago in Moab and it really works.
2. Use an easy gear (pushing a hard gear will dig you down into the sand) and be realistic about your speed. You will not be able to accelerate quickly or even maintain much speed in deep sand.
3.  When going from hard pack to sand realize that this is going to suddenly slow you down. Although I always stress riding with your weight centered on your bike, this is one of those instances where you want to get your weight back a little as you transition from hard pack to sand. If you hit sand centered you will immediately be forward as your bike will slow down in the sand but your body will keep going forward.
4. When coasting, stand and shift your weight back a little so the front tire doesn’t sink in.
5. Don’t worry if you get a little off line, as long as you are vaguely going where you want to go
you are fine.
6. Do not steer! Changing directions in sand is done gradually by leaning/using counter pressure, trying to quickly change direction will make your front tire “crab” and dig into the sand.
7. Stay centered on your bike in corners, the urge to “creep back” will take weight off the front wheel (good in a straight line in sand bad in a corner) causing it to slide out.
8. Look ahead, where you want to go (I know that you already know this but you aren’t doing it), I stress this a lot because it is huge! Looking ahead is not 3 feet in front of you (the last time you stopped in sand where were you looking, that’s right, you were looking right where you stopped, it is so easy to say, “yeah, I know to look ahead” but it is very hard to actually look ahead (2-10 seconds ahead on the trail)). We spend 45 minutes explaining vision, how to use it correctly while riding and doing vision drills in our BetterRide camps and clinics and then expect you to spend the next 3-8 years doing the drills we teach to master this. Knowing to do something is way different than actually doing it.

9. Relax! Relax your grip, breath, smile and don’t fight the sand (as it will win).

10. Wide tires really help you float on top of the sand. If you are headed to Moab or other areas with a lot of sand a big 2.3-2.5 inch tire with big tread will help greatly in the sand.

Learning/improving takes place best away from riding on trail!

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!).

Email from reader about stem length and bar width. (from New Zealand!)

I love getting happy emails from students but happy emails from halfway around the world from riders I have never meet?! That is cool! Feels great to be helping riders all over the planet.  Here is the email:

Hey there
Low, wide bars.

I am 5 ft 8, broad shouldered and ride a medium Ibis Mojo.

Until last week I had an 80mm stem, 670mm bars set at (XC) saddle height.

I had thought this a great setup.

However after pondering your suggestions for a while I finally made the change:

60mm stem, bars 1.125″ below saddle, and 725mm width.
Wow.
Amazing.

No downsides, no oversteering, just way way better stability, agility smoothness and control.

My local trails have heaps of close trees and rocky banks, however the increased stability combined with greater agility means the extra width is not an issue.

And with more practice things will only get better.

My bike loved cornering before (low BB etc) however it settles into a turn much more quickly and is just plain way more fun.

Downhill braking is much nicer, and climbing is uneffected.

And the front end is way better planted over the rough stuff.

cheers!

Rob