MTB SC Podcast #37: High Tension vs. Rythmic Cardio & Mental Lessons from Fighters

Here’s what I cover in this edition of the MTB Strength Coach Podcast:

– High Tension vs. Rythmic Cardio Training: This past weekend I had a “eureka” moment where I suddenly realized what the other cardio component to trail riding is. For years I’ve been trying to articulate why you can’t just pedal your way to better trail fitness and in this podcast I explain why you need to focus on High Tension cardio.

– Book Review: A Fighter’s Mind – Inside the Mental Game: This is a book I just finished and it contained a lot of great lessons on the mindset needed for training, achieving greatness and making the most of life. In it the author interviewed great fighters from the past and present and found out what it takes to push themselves beyond “normal” and I found the book to be very inspirational and educational…highly recommended.

You can download the MP3 file below:

Download this episode (right click and save)

You can listen to the podcast directly below:

If you have any questions or comments about anything you’ve heard on this podcast please post them below and I’ll get to them ASAP.

-James Wilson-

Social Comments:

WordPress Comments:

  1. Rick Beauchamp says:

    James, great podcast. I have always wondered why alot of coaches preach the long and slow training when there is very little long and slow riding in mountain biking. The Rythmic is great for recovery or riding with the grandkids but I want to make it to the top of the hill so I can ride down and do it again. Great Podcast.


    Reply • February 9 at 1:23 am
  2. John K. says:

    Awesome podcast as always James. Lots to think about.

    You make this point, but I do think it bears repeating: practicing 10,000 hours won’t necessarily make you great. It has to be deliberate practice. I see this in my other art, playing guitar. You can mindlessly noodle around on the guitar for 15 hours a day and it won’t improve your skills. An important tip I received from a guitar instructor is always practice your weakness. Most people practice the things they are good at because it feels good. But true deliberate practice is when you identify your weaknesses and train to improve them. Anyways that’s something you’ve talked about lots on this website, but it’s such an important point.

    I think another important point you make is that people who are great at a sport aren’t necessarily the most talented – they are the most talented at practicing.

    Reply • February 9 at 10:34 am
  3. Rick Beauchamp says:

    John K. I like your response, when I read something like that I think back on my racing season last year and go over what my weakness was and were I can improve. I know what I do well and I will do best by improving those areas that I was weak in. Great response.

    Reply • February 10 at 8:09 am
  4. WAKi says:

    Great podcast.

    ekhem khem kheee kheeem… reagarding no one coming to you with … I am a complete amateur, and generaly a weak rider. I am very happy then that i am actualy the only person that came to you that blows off on low tension efforts and like high tension stuff. I get so tired of running on flat, as soon as I start running a steep hill I feel I that’s great. I have a 11-34 casette, I use two largest cogs very very rarely with 22 granny, and only for recovery if a “mild” uphill forces me to. When doing intervals/sprint I don’t drop the gears much for rest zones, because it just makes me tired. Pedallingwise low intensity, cadence above 100 just kills me. I fell great around 60 seated!

    I do some road on my commuter sometimes and I do step hard on pedals, because regular pedalling just wears me out. I want to explode if I pedal steadily for longer time.

    It doesn’t change the fact, that intensive technical trail riding wears me out after like 30mins.

    Reply • February 10 at 10:58 am
  5. Daniel says:

    Is there a technique that can be used on the trail to minimize the heart rate spike following a high-tension effort? Should you try to maintain the tension a little longer than you need to in order to accomplish this?

    Reply • February 11 at 8:52 pm
  6. Jason Murray says:

    I just finished listening to this podcast and had an “ah ha” moment of my own. Almost 10 years ago I decided to race in my local XC series. I trained in the “traditional” style before I discovered how to adapt strength training to MTB. And while I never had any problems with the distances in the races, I would always blow up at the top of climbs. Keep in mind in my neck of the woods climbs are all short, sustained climbs are 10 minutes tops, and even those are few and far between. I always thought I simply needed to do more hill repeats, so I did, but it never helped. Now I understand what was going on. It was that high tension endurance James talks about here. I think with my focus in recent years on strength training, mobility work, etc. I would probably do better now. Almost makes me want to try again, almost, but not quite.

    Reply • March 29 at 9:26 am
  7. Hayden says:

    I wonder if this high tension effect is at least partially from not breathing? It just seems to me that there is a natural tendancy to hold your breath with “high tension efforts” or at least not breath properly. Is the slow heart rate therefore a response to the oxygen depletion and then when you finish and breath properly the heart races as it pumps fresh oxygenated blood to the starved muscles?

    Reply • April 15 at 3:34 am
    • bikejames says:

      I would say that if you are holding your breathe then that is wrong, you probably don’t want to just hold it while pedaling hard. However, partially holding it or doing what is known as the Valsalva Maneuver (think about taking a poop) is unavoidable on the trail and a natural reaction to high tension efforts. There is no way to avoid this on the trail which is why it is important to train. The more muscular force you have to create, the more tension you have to produce in the core to provide the platform.

      Good question though, as I hope people know that holding your breathe is not what I was talking about.

      Reply • April 15 at 7:51 am

Add a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *


Follow MTB Strength Training Systems:
James Wilson
Author and Professional
Mountain Bike Coach
James Wilson