It’s more than just logging mile after mile. I’ve surmised that if I do everything i can to “win off the bike,” then I’ll give myself the best chance to win on the bike. Accomplishing this will acquire a strategic, four pronged attack. Each quadrant building off one another, success incumbent upon design and implementation. Starting to sound very scientific right? Well, it is and it isn’t. Simply put, the four areas I’m focusing on are nutrition, SPECIFIC strength training, recovery/prehab, and “mental well being.” All of this will lend to higher quality training rides and theoretically, better results.
Nutrition– This is simple, dial things in as tight as they need to be. I know what I should be eating, that’s not necessarily a problem. The amounts I’m consuming are an issue though. It’s incredibly difficult NOT to overeat on Baby’s amazing food! My wife is an amazing cook and she’s very good about keeping things “Paleo” and gluten free and that makes an impact for me. Ingesting a decent amount of gluten causes me to wake up looking at least 10 years older and has my joints feeling rusted. As the off-season volume tapers down, so will my caloric intake. I’m also going to be more diligent about cycling carbohydrate intake to have glycogen stores peak on race days. My plan is dedicate an entire post to MY NUTRITION philosophy’s very soon.
SPECIFIC Strength Training- This is an area that I really feel I dropped the ball on last year. I came into Mountain Bike racing as a “Strength Athlete” basically. Although not very strong relatively, this type of training (including Crossfit) was my background for many years. I felt this gave me some advantages in regards to bike handling and power output. It also hampered me somewhat by carrying a bit too much overall mass. I let the pendulum swing back and almost abandoned the strength training component completely. I bought into the typical Endurance athlete dogma of staying sport specific. I do agree with this to an extent, but I’ve come back to the mindset that trading three riding hours a week to the gym will reap greater benefits. These three strength sessions will include single leg work, scapular retraction, and mid-line stability. I felt MAJOR impacts after only 4 weeks of working this training back in. My legs felt much more powerful and and I was also able to control my breathing much better. The latter is no doubt due to the programming of the training and the Crossfit/metabolic conditioning aspect. Sam Nix at Crossfit Dallas Central has been an intricate part of this process.
Recovery/Prehab- I’ve had a few people ask me how I’m able to handle higher levels of volume and still be able to recover. The answer isn’t very complicated: I’m very specific about recovering as hard as I train. There are a few factors involved here. One of them is my relative training age. I’ve only recently started training as a cyclist and my body isn’t as beaten down as some others who’ve been in this game for much longer. I also think my strength background helps quite a bit and my body doesn’t get as effected by longer rides and higher volume. But I’m also very specific to make sure I fuel properly leading up to, during, and IMMEDIATELY after my rides. This means making sure I’ve consumed enough of the proper calories leading up to my rides, that I stay on top of my hydration and nutrition during rides(Skratch Labs anyone?) because this will help minimize damage and promote recovery. Once the ride is complete, I’m sure to consume my favorite post workout fuel in the form of Stronger Faster Healthier “Recovery” protein, 10 oz coconut water, and a couple over ripe/brown spotted bananas. I guess this last part could just as well fit into the Nutrition aspect, but I’m going to let it nestle in right here. Another term that ANY sort of athlete needs to be familiar with is MOBILITY. This means stretching, yoga, etc. Do a little research and figure out what you need to do. I can’t tell you how many riders I’ve encountered that are dealing with low back issues. In my experience, 80% of them have a tight psoas and hips. I had an Achilles issue late last year that kept me off the bike for almost two weeks. This was a direct result of not being diligent with my mobility and having Plantars Fasciitis flare up on me. Long story short, spend an hour or two a week on mobility and you will reap incredible benefits. I also spend quite a bit of time in an Epsom bath. These baths also work into the mental well being side of things and they are great for alleviating soreness and setting me up for the next day’s activity. Lastly, and this may be one of the most impactful recovery factors for me: Graston. I almost hesitated to share this because it’s so effective and I feel like it’s given me a big advantage. Landan Webster of the Kinetik Chain in Dallas has been able to get me back on my bike and in the gym on days when I can hardly stumble into his office. Do yourself a favor and schedule an appointment with him or a member of his team.
Mental Well Being- Positivity and confidence have been invaluable for me in regards to this last year of racing. I also think it’s hard to hold onto these things at times. I was there yesterday. After numerous great rides, I rolled into RCP for a 50 mile training ride and proceeded to wash out at speed TWICE within the first two miles. What was even more frustrating was that I knew I had the wrong front tire on my bike and I should’ve read the terrain a bit better. So what did I do? Well, I shouted a few expletives at first and then I picked up my bike and got back on the trail. I knew it was going to be another 4 hours of riding and I needed to shake it off and avoid anymore stupid mistakes. My knee hurt, my arm hurt, and my ego hurt a bit, but I moved forward and did what I had to do. For me, it’s finding the person, place, or activity that gets me in that positive state of mind. This topic could start to get very long winded, so i’ll leave it at this: The effects of stress can be staggering, add a high volume of training and competition to that mix and those effects are exacerbated. GET YO MIND RIGHT!
Regardless of your life’s endeavors, I really think everyone could benefit from taking a little time to focus on these elements. It’s all relative and eating better, picking up some weights, stretching, and just plain being happy are universally GOOD things…the internet says so!