With the off-season right around the corner I wanted to share a few tips on how to make the most of it. As a lot of you know all too well right now, how you end the riding season has a lot to do with how much time and effort you put into your off-season training.
Too many riders get stuck in a cycle where they don’t see much improvement from year to year and most of the time it stems from one of these 3 mistakes.
When planning their off-season training I usually see riders make 3 common mistakes that really come back to haunt them. Nothing sucks worse than spending hours and hours training and see little to nothing for it on the trail.
To help you avoid these mistakes I’ll share these 3 mistakes with you here:
Mistake #1 – Not allowing yourself an off-season.
Now first, I want to define the term “off-season”. To me this term simply means the time of year where your priorities shift from applying your fitness and skills to the trail to increasing your potential fitness and skills.
As we all know, some areas don’t have a traditional off-season where they are forced off the bike by bad weather. Even in areas with bad weather, snow bikes and other things still allow the hard core the option of riding year round.
And while continuing to ride all year would seem like a good thing on the surface, even these riders need to spend a few months focusing on improving their basic mobility, strength and skills. This doesn’t mean that you don’t ride, simply that you fit riding in around the other stuff instead of the other way around.
So yes, you may need to turn down a ride or cut a ride short so you can maximize your other training efforts but in the long run this will help you continue to improve year after year.
Mistake #2 – Doing too much cardio work.
This one seems a little counter-intuitive when you first look at it, which is why so many riders fall victim to it. I mean, at the end of a hard ride you are huffing and puffing so surely you need to do a ton of cardio in the off-season to improve that, right?
Not so fast, my friend. As I’ve written about in this article defining the difference between cardio and endurance, cardio is just a part of a much bigger picture.
Now, this isn’t saying that you don’t need to do any cardio work, just that it doesn’t need to be the centerpiece of your entire program.
Early on during the off-season you want to be focusing on improving your mobility and restoring movement quality, which is tough to do if you are logging a lot of hours in the saddle. This will switch as the season gets closer and you need to get your cardio dialed in but focusing too much on cardio will actually make it harder to perform well late into the riding season.
I mean, think about it. During the riding season you are riding a lot and that riding does count as cardio. In fact, it often isn’t your cardio decreasing that results in late season slumps, it is a major erosion of the strength and mobility base.
And that usually starts with not having a strong base to begin with, often because it was never prioritized in a constant effort to work on “cardio”. Take some time to build a stronger movement and strength base and it will last longer throughout the season, giving you the foundation you really need to ride strong late into the riding season.
Mistake #3 – Using a program not designed for the unique demands of trail riding.
This one is huge – mountain biking is one of the toughest and most unique sports on the planet. It isn’t “road riding on dirt” or “dirt biking without a motor” and it requires a unique set of fitness and skills.
While looking to other sports for training ideas is fine, blindly applying the training programs from one sport to ours because they look similar on the surface is a mistake. Sure, it may be better than nothing but if you want to optimize your training time then you need to use a program that understands all the ways to help you ride faster on the trail.
Since mountain bikers tend to have certain movement dysfunctions and cardio weaknesses that hold them back on the trail it only makes sense to prioritize those in your training program.
You do need to maintain balance and not neglect your other movements and types of fitness but unless your program can do that while also solidifying the areas that get worked the hardest on the trail you’ll run into plateaus.
So, in short, you do need to allow yourself an off-season in which you don’t just focus on cardio or use a program designed for another sport. Use that time to improve your overall fitness and skills with a priority on those things you really need to last you through next season.
Too many riders get stuck in a cycle where they don’t see much improvement from year to year and most of the time it stems from one of these 3 mistakes. Make sure that you avoid them and you’ll be well on your way to riding with more speed, endurance and confidence year after year.
Have you fallen victim to one of these mistakes? Or do you disagree with one of the mistakes I listed? If so please post a comment below, I’d love to hear them.
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Until next time…