Endurance Training is by far the favorite subject of mountain bikers everywhere. No matter what they ride or where they are from, more riders want to know how to improve their endurance than just about anything else.

And for good reason. Endurance Training is the most specific of all of the physical qualities you can train and represents the pinnacle of the Sports Specific Triangle. It doesn’t matter how much flexibility, strength or speed you have if you can’t sustain it on the trail where it matters most.

But this has also led to a lot of confusion about Endurance Training, especially as it relates specifically to us as mountain bikers. Like I’ve pointed out before, the term “cyclist” is usually just a code word for “road riding” and no where does this matter more than when picking an Endurance Training Program.

In this new podcast I go over everything you need to know about Endurance Training for mountain biking. You’ll learn why it isn’t the same thing as cardio training, what the most valuable cardio training you can do is and some tips to help you pick the right Endurance Training program for you.

Click below to listen to this episode or you can download the MP3 file by clicking on the “Download episode” link.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Here are the notes from this episode:

– Endurance Training is the most specific of all the physical qualities and it is built on the foundation laid by Flexibility, Strength and Speed.

– Endurance isn’t just “cardio training” and encompasses much more than just your ability to pedal.

– You can’t build a better mountain biker with a Frankenstein’s monster approach to Endurance Training.

– Too much general cardio training can really interfere with your ability to benefit from your trail rides.

– The best cardio training you can do is to ride your bike on the trail. It is the only true Specific Physical Prep we can do and everything else falls under the General Physical Prep category.

– Road riding on a road bike is SPP for roadies and GPP for us which makes it something completely different.

– Mountain bikers need to focus on using mountain bikes to train on. As Musashi would say, train with the weapon you use in battle.

– Inefficiency training is a very underutilized training method and the main reason riders have a hard time transitioning their training fitness to the trail.

– Your endurance will be the most specific with the pace and movement patterns you use the most.

– Think like a track runner and focus on the specific times/ distances you race, specifically the paces you need to perform like you want to.

– Look at under- and over-distance training based on those paces.

– Decide if you need to focus on getting faster or sustaining your pace for longer.

– When using indoor workouts make sure you focus on your weaknesses like standing pedaling and low RPM grinds. Workouts should reflect the types of efforts you will use on the trail.

– Be careful using HR, Power or other external numbers to drive training if you don’t use them during a race/ on a trail ride. Use RPE instead.

– In the off-season there should be a focus on cross-training at first to help avoid pattern overuse injuries and challenge the cardio system in new and more challenging ways. Riding a road bike is cross-training but not far enough removed from mountain biking to offer these same benefits.

– Use combo drills and kettlebell swings to work on the non-pedaling endurance side of things in the gym.

– Two hard cardio days a week are plenty to see results. You can put in more days but they need to be moderate and easy days to keep the training load from being too much – more is not better, better is better.

– Remember the role that drugs play in our ideas about endurance and cardio training and that for most of us it is more about smart energy management than just working harder and harder.

Endurance Training is the most important part of your training program but it has to be built on a solid foundation of flexibility, strength and speed. You also have to make sure you aren’t falling into the trap of doing more and more cardio instead of focusing on improving the quality of the cardio you are doing.

When you get it right, though, the right approach to Endurance Training can make a huge impact on your riding. Hopefully the info and tips in this podcast will help you find the right approach for you.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

4 thoughts on “Endurance Training for Mountain Biking

  1. Michael Tuttle says:

    One of the best ways to strengthen my endurance on the MTB, for me, is I keep my road bike on a cyclops trainer. Warm up for 10 minutes 90-100 RPM in an easy gear. I then switch to the hardest possible gear and pedal sitting for 4 mins. at 50-60 RPM then stand for 1 min. Sit right back down and do it again 4 -5 more times, never switching gears. At the end of the last set, staying in the hardest gear, I sit back down and pedal really hard, at about 80% effort for about 1 min and then as hard as I can for 20-30 seconds. I immediately switch to an easy gear and pedal for 2 min at 100+ RPM, then 2 min at 110+ RPM, then 1 min at 120+, then 1 min at 130+, then 1 min as fast as I can go. This gives me heavy, continuous tension on my legs for 25-30 min and then it’s like rolling over the hill. The worst thing you can do is stop at the top of a climb, in my opinion. I like to roll over the hill and go from extreme tension to low-tension with high RPM’s, going from muscular to neuro-muscular, thus extrapolating out the highest effect of the workout. By rolling over you create new motor neurons in the brain and teach it to extend it’s previous limits. This has helped my endurance amazingly. You really can’t duplicate this on the trail plus 30-mins at high tension is worth 2-3 hours on the trail. It’s great on those days when you want to really get quality for little quantity.

    • bikejames says:

      Great insights into how your using your training to simulate the demands of trail riding. Getting that high tension component is important, thanks for sharing.

  2. Hugh Miliation says:

    Hey there! I’ve been following your site for some time now
    and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Kingwood Texas!
    Just wanted to mention keep up the fantastic job!

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