Mountain Bike Climbing Video Tips (Back Pain Saver and Power Producer)

When I purchased my first two mountain bikes the guys at the shop told me to tilt my seat slightly toward the rear so I “would slide back to the more comfortable part of the saddle and take weight off my hands”. Turns out, they were right, if you only ride retaliative flat terrain! If you have long, steep climbs that setup can lead to back pain and greatly restrict your power output, by tilting your hips backward making it nearly impossible to hinge forward. This causes you to use lower back instead of your strong gluteus maximus and hips to power your climb.

Modern mountain bike design has greatly evolved over the last few years, finally getting longer reach measurements so we can be stable and use a nice short stem and the headangles have gotten slacker making descending much less scary! Two things I have been preaching for years here (see this article on the most confidence inspiring mountain bike: http://betterride.net/blog/2016/confidence-inspiring-mountain-bike-fun/  ). Most companies are still missing the final ingredient which is a steeper seat tube angle so we aren’t sitting over the rear wheel! My bike has 74 degree seat tube angle, while forward thinking companies like the Canfield Brothers Toir has 77 degree seat tube angle, putting your more over the bottom bracket than the rear tire. This makes climbing much easier! (by keeping your weight more centered so low don’t have to hinge way forward when climbing to keep the front wheel from lifting and so it doesn’t feel like you are pedaling forward like on a recumbent!)

Have you tried tilting your seat slightly forward and down? Slid your seat forward on the rails?  I would love to hear about your experiences or any questions you have! Please feel free to share this article with anyone you think would benefit from it.

Never Bonk and Eat all the Bacon You Want

I was wrong! For the last 25 years I thought I needed a large volume of carbohydrates in my diet to do any form of endurance exercise. Even my 80 year old grandfather laughed about how when he played football for The University of Virginia in the 1920’s “they didn’t know about carbohydrate loading and ate steak the night before a game”. Turns out my grandfather had the right plan (as long as there was a lot of fat on that steak and no potato with it).

I know it sounds crazy but you can eat as much fat as you want (because you can’t eat a lot of fat, it fills you up!) and teach your body to burn fat for energy instead of carbohydrates! As long as you restrict your carb intake (usually less than 50 grams of carbs, a 12oz Coke has 42 grams!) you will also lose weight on this diet (or, if you already have a lean build, maintain you weight). The best thing, you can’t bonk! Even a lean professional endurance athlete has 100,000+ kcals of fat (energy to burn) vs. 2,000 kcals of carbohydrates*. *http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/the-bodyrsquos-fuel-sources This way of eating is know as Low Carb High Fat (LCHF), The Keto Diet or in South Africa “Banting”.

Everyone who knows me can’t believe how much I eat! My nickname in college was tapeworm! When I raced cross country I ate over 6,000 calories a day (10,000 on big days), I ate more pasta than you have ever seen, then finished it with a half gallon of ice cream! Yet I weighed 167 pounds (at 6’3″) I now weigh 190 and people still think of me as being slim (must have been really skinny in my xc racing days!)! I had to eat a bar every 30-45 minutes on a ride! My breakfasts were legendary, 3 eggs, 3 pieces of bacon, a quarter of a cantaloupe with a big handful of almonds, 6-8 oz of yogurt with a cup or two of granola (and I would be starving by noon).

On the above diet, after eating that big breakfast, if I did a three hour ride from 9:00 until noon I would eat at least two Kate’s Real Food Bars (360 calories each) and one Clif Builders Bar (270 calories) and finish the ride at Milt’s with a burger, fries and LARGE milkshake.

I was the friend that annoyed friends on long rides! “Let’s keep going, my metabolism is kicking!” I would say after the shortest of breaks. Then I was the one begging friends for food, “I didn’t think this ride was going to take so long, anyone have a bar or some trail mix?”

Now I eat a breakfast consisting of three eggs (cooked in butter and bacon fat!), 4 pieces of bacon and half an avocado. Then I ride from 9am until noon and I just drink water on the ride (have now learned to drink an electrolyte drink)! When finished I have a smoothie and hamburger with a flax seed bun (made without wheat), avocado, tomato and I’m stuffed!

I tried the Atkins’s diet 18 years ago and leaned out until I had a six-pack for the first time in my life but I couldn’t ride more than 30 minutes without running out of energy! The missing ingredient was fat!

Now, this LCHF diet isn’t easy to do at first, there are hidden carbs in almost all prepackaged foods. You have to cook/make most of what you eat. Also, the first week of switching to this diet many people get the keto flu (you feel nauseous and lack energy for a few days to a week), to fight this you need to increase your intake of salt, magnesium and potassium.

It’s also not all bacon, all the time! You still need a lot of fiber, so eat your veggies!

I’m no expert on diet though so I am just speaking from my experience, the experience of a few friends, asking every doctor I meet and from what I have read. If you would like more information I have included quite a few links below (or simply search LCHF Diet and you will be astounded at the amount of information)! Research has proven this diet to be safe, sugar (carbs) are what cause people to become fat and other issues, not dietary fat! When the world went “low fat” obesity and diabetes skyrocketed!

Have you tired to eat this way? Are you currently eating this way? I would love to hear about your experiences or any questions you have! Please feel free to share this article with anyone you think would benefit from it.

Addition information:

This great video from Peter Attia explains Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) for athletes really well: https://vimeo.com/51891286

www.dietdoctor.com has great films, Ceral Killer, That Sugar Film, Film: My Big Fat Diet, about Canadian First Nations Obesity, and written content. They will ask you to join but you can do it for free.

https://www.ketovangelist.com/, full of great articles and 135 podcasts and

MTB Safer, Stronger Every Ride Starting Now

MTB Safer, Stronger Every Ride (second article in a series on how mountain bike safer, first article here: http://wp.me/p49ApH-1nc )

This year I hit the ground really hard three times and surprised myself by walking away from all three crashes (at 51)! I am also putting way more power to the pedals! At the end of last summer I thought my riding days were coming to an end, the back pain that had been bugging for the last 15-17 years was getting worse and had tendinitis so bad I couldn’t ride for almost a month. Then in January I was simply getting out of my wetsuit and my back went out! I was pretty depressed.

I knew something had to be done and I had no idea the fix I found would make me feel 15 years younger, give me more energy bringing back my zest for life, the power to climb faster in much harder gears and protect me when I take the occasional slam! The photo above is from 51st birthday ride where I flatted at about 35 miles an hour and my wrapped around my seat stays tossing me on to a rock slab! All riders on that ride were amazed I was okay minus a skinned elbow. It was a long walk out but I was so happy to be walking and not being airlifted out!

What has made this transformation in my spirits, energy level and durability? Strengthening and stabilizing my “core” (what an over used and misunderstood word!). Your core is more than your “abs” and low back! Your core is like a girdle of muscles in your mid section, some of the most important actual stabilize your spine giving you a strong foundation for almost all body movements. I wrote about my final bike pain fix (that took me from a constant pain level of 3-4 and riding pain that quickly would go from 3-9 to a zero with the occasional 1-3 while riding) here: http://wp.me/p49ApH-1jw

The quickest and longest lasting physical improvement you can make for your riding is strengthening and stabilizing your core. In a week you will notice it in two weeks you will be blown away. By simply doing the exercises in the book “Foundation”, and other adding core exercises (I’m not a personal trainer and a highly recommend you have one teach you the correct exercises as doing them incorrectly can lead to injury) you will quickly see an improvement in your riding, less back pain, better posture and more energy! I add core exercises taught in yoga (plank and side plank), some taught by James Wilson (The all fours opposite arm & leg extension, and Kegel exercise (lying on back, knees bend with heels near buttocks and lifting mid section), leg lifts (performed vertically on “dip/leg lift apparatus”, or hanging), inverted crunches, and a bunch of Swiss ball ab exercises to the “Foundation” exercises.

I really hope you take action and strengthen that core! You will be highly rewarded on the trail!

Let us know about your core routine and how it has helped you. Feel free to share this article with anyone you think would benefit!

Mountain Biking and Back Pain, The Final Piece of the Puzzle!

If you have been reading my blog for awhile you probably know that I have been suffering from back pain for the last 10 years or so. I had found some temporary cures and a lot of pieces of the mountain biking and back pain dilemma but had not found something that got rid of the pain for good. I have found the problem and the solution to my back pain! Since many of you have asked I will share the cure I discovered. Remember, I am simply a mountain bike skills coach so I left the details up to the experts.

It all started with this article aptly titled Why Your Approach to Fixing your Low Back Is making It Worse : http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/why-your-approach-to-fixing-your-low-back-is-making-it-worse BTW, I have no relationship with this website other than owing to them my sanity as this article and the ones below fixed my back pain!

Note: Before doing anything to do with your back make sure something isn’t really wrong such as a bulging disc, slipped disc, fractured disc, etc. See a doctor and make sure your body can handle these therapeutic exercises before you start.

I’m still doing a lot of the exercises/stretches I have blogged about in the past as I feel they are important to this process. By process, I do mean process, you will have to do your version of my back routine daily (some pieces twice a day if/when you notice your back pain starting to flare up). My original mountain biking and back pain post can be found here:  http://wp.me/p49ApH-Pp  

The new exercises I have found MUST BE DONE BEFORE all of the exercises in my previous article. As a matter of fact, most of the stretches and yoga postures in my previous article can exacerbate your back pain if the new exercises aren’t performed first. It turns out mountain biking isn’t the pain culprit in my back pain, it is all the sitting I do, while writing articles like this and driving from camp to camp (or driving, flying then driving again!).

The main new “exercise”, lying on your back with your feet and legs up a wall. Sounds hard and complicated, huh?! Seriously, one of my students emailed back, “that’s it” and replied, “yes”. It seems to simple and easy to be true but this “exercise” is life changing!

mountain biking and back pain

This simple exercise will eliminate most back pain! Photo courtesy of Breaking Muscle dot com

For details on how to do this correctly (doing almost any exercise incorrectly can lead to more damage than good) and why it works so well please read this article: http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/banish-pain-permanently-basic-drills-to-repair-your-posture I do the above for two to fifteen minutes at time one to three times a day and always for at least two minutes before doing yoga or any back, hip or core stretches. When driving long distances I will often pull over and do this and yesterday I did between rounds of working on my bikes (as by back always starts to hurt when working on my bike).

The second one is lying on your back with your feet and lower legs hinged over something at knee level, like a couch. More details on it in the linked article above. Honestly, I don’t do the other three exercise in the article (but I probably should). The angle of the knee bend is really important so I don’t want to most a photo, I want you to read the linked article and do all of these exercises correctly!

I have also been working on my standing posture using the exercise in this article: I added in this posture exercise and now I can stand through a two hour concert with no back pain! http://bit.ly/1DWCHKD This allowed me to stand for two hours, on a concrete floor at a concert without ever having the urge to stretch my legs or feel any back pain! I had not been able to do that since my early thirties!

The next piece of the puzzle is rolling out your gluteus medius with a lacrosse ball. I thought I had written a blog article on this but apparently I haven’t. Here is a video describing this process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5KlQtqnGNE when he mentions “it’s easy to find the muscle” he means when you touch it it will hurt a bit!

My routine, I start with 2-15 minutes of the legs up the wall exercise (easy and relaxing, great time to meditate)  then I do 5-10 minutes of gluteus medius rolling on a lacrosse ball (OH, the pain!, you may want to start with a tennis ball). Then I do the exercises in my previous article linked above. It takes an hour a day on average but I feel it is worth it!

I really hope this helps you! Please post your results here or email me, would love to hear if/how this is working for you.