12 Week Mountain Bike Training Programme - The First Month
The first month has been completed! In reality, I’m actually about to begin week 6, beating my previous record for sticking with this programme.
The goal set out in the plan for the first 4 weeks is correction and building a base for the following months. Correcting posture issues caused by too much sitting in everyday life. Correcting muscle imbalances, between front or chest and back and between your left and right sides. Increasing your range of motion. All of these will limit your strength and power on the bike, and the benefits of correcting these issues are not limited to mountain biking.
As a result, a lot of the exercises this month - bearing in mind I’m following the home workout plan - work both arms or both legs independently. And the interval sessions are at a relatively low intensity, but for a sustained period of time and at a high cadence.
I’m quite pleased to say I missed very few sessions over the month. I think I managed to every single workout routine, 3 per week. The schedule changed a little from week to week, but I managed to squeeze them all in. The intervals were almost as good, I think I missed a couple. I dislike interval turbo training immensely, so excuses don’t need to be overly convincing to make me waiver, but I don’t think I missed any of them due to a lack of motivation - it generally came down to the balancing act of family life with a four-year-old, work and five weekly training sessions while also trying to fit in some actual mountain biking. There is, after all, no point in training hard to get fitter on my bike if in doing so I use up all my riding time.
Now you are probably wondering what if anything has four weeks of work achieved, and are there any noticeable benefits after the first month. I know from the brief gym training period of my life that you are told not to expect any major effects until after at least six weeks. However, I’m happy to say in this case that rule doesn’t apply. Combined with a diet change starting just prior to the training, I have lost a good six kilograms in weight. No amount of carbon fibre parts on your bike are going to save you that much weight, and it’s a lot cheaper.
Quantifying the effects on my cycling is a little harder. I didn’t get a whole lot of riding in towards the last few months of 2018 prior to starting the programme. And the riding conditions this time of year bear no relation to those from last Autumn. However, my last couple of outings have involved both significant amounts of climbing and trails covered in momentum sapping mud. With those conditions, Strava has awarded me several climbing personal bests and, while not beating dry condition times, on the trails I’ve been surprisingly close even setting a few third and second best times.
Climbing doesn’t feel any easier, you’re still pushing against gravity, but as the saying goes ‘it never gets any easier, you just get quicker’. Not only quicker but with a lot more energy left when I do reach the top. On the descents fitness only plays a part in your overall performance of course, and I need to work on my technique some. But overall I feel a lot more comfortable and flexible on the bike. On longer runs, my legs are comfortable standing up for longer. And on short sharp climbs or flat sprints, I feel like I’m putting more power down while standing.
Overall, the results I’m seeing, whether real or imagined, are good and certainly motivating me enough to keep working through the plan. In hindsight, the one piece of advise I would give is to make sure you go for plenty of outdoor trail rides to not only measure your progress but also to keep you motivated to continue.
Month two is a big change though and a bit of a shock to the system with a focus on strength.
Or, if you are unsure, a great place to start is to join the MTB Fitness members group on Facebook. You don’t have to be signed up to the programme to join, and you can talk to people currently following the plan as well as those that have either completed it or are still considering it. Matt himself is also active in the group and happy to answer your questions.