When daily life, family obligations and work responsibilities all take priority over riding your bike it can be hard to keep your fitness.
I signed up to Matt Mooney’s fitness newsletter quite some time ago. The emails he sends are full of useful tips when it comes to training, nutrition and motivation for mountain bikers. Some of the subjects over the last couple of weeks included Tips to drink more water, So, your legs burn on a climb and How to ride further.
Matt is a personal trainer and a keen mountain biker. He has combined both of those into MTB Fitness and the 12 Week Mountain Bike Training Programme.
After seeing the programme advertised on social media a few times, and looking over the website I took the plunge. Admittedly, at only £30, it wasn’t really a big risk. At worst I’d have a reference guide on nutrition and training to read over.
Once I purchased the programme, I received a fifty seven page PDF document. It opens with a brief introduction followed by sections on how to set achievable goals and what the difference is between training and going for bike rides. Handy information to read through, but if you’re like me you’ll probably only look at those parts once or twice.
The real meat is in the training plan itself. The plan is split into three four-week sections focusing on different aspects - correction, strength and power. Each section has two phases lasting two weeks each changing the exercises you perform. For every two-week phase the plan specifies workouts, intervals and a stretching routine. One of the main draws for me was that there are two versions of the programme, one that uses gym equipment and a second that uses only body weight exercises allowing them to be done anywhere - at home in my case as I don’t have a gym membership or any of the equipment. All the body weight plan calls for is some resistance bands, which I bought for under €10. I already had a pair of dumbbells which are helpful to add extra weight and intensity to some of the exercises.
You also get access to the MTB Fitness members group on Facebook. Here you can ask questions and get inspiration from other members. Matt himself is also quite active in the group and regularly answers questions related to the fitness programme.
So far, I’ve completed the first four weeks, which is the correction phase. This is designed to correct any imbalances, improve your posture and increase your range of motion both on and off the bike. There are three workouts per week which have taken me on average thirty to forty minutes to complete per session. I’ve had one or two gaps in my routine where I’ve skipped a few days and then had to go back a little and repeat a couple of days to get back on track. That first ‘month’ of the plan has actually taken me about six weeks to complete. The exercises include a range of squats, lunges, push-ups and crunches. If you really put the maximum effort in these will raise a sweat and you will feel the effects the day after.
In addition, the plan calls for two interval sessions per week. This is where I’ve struggled the most. I strongly dislike high intensity workouts on a static bike. I have no trouble pushing hard out on the trails, but being sat in a room, watching a clock with sweat dripping from my face is not my idea of fun. In reality I’ve probably only done a couple of these. Instead, I have tried to incorporate as many long steep climbs into my regular rides as I can, changing my normal loops to include the biggest climbs. These probably don’t achieve exactly what Matt intended with the interval sessions, but at least I’m doing something. That’s my excuse any way. And according to Strava I have set several personal bests on those climbs since starting out, which is a good result in my book.
Being only a third of the way in to the plan, it’s probably a little premature to expect mind blowing results. However, I do feel like the core workouts in particular have had a noticable effect on my riding, and in general, with better balance and stability on the bike. And the regular exercise routine has helped at maintaining, if not improving, my fitness despite not being able to ride as often as I would have liked.
I’m looking forward to starting the second part of the programme which aims to build strength. By thenend of the second month I hope to see noticable results in fitness and power on the bike. Although this will in large part depend on how strictly I stick to the plan.