I’m lucky enough to be a part of a mentorship group run by Results Fitness, which is one of the top 10 gyms on America and operated by Alwyn Cosgrove. Alwyn is known in the strength training industry as The Man when it comes to designing programs and he has been a huge influence on my career so I am pretty stoked to get a chance to learn directly from him a few times a year.
While he has a lot of great info, one of the more profound things he talks about when it comes to program design is the concept of “releasing the brakes”. While he uses the analogy of a car, I’ll make it more relevant to us by using a mountain bike.
Imagine that you want to go faster on your bike. So you start looking over your bike for stuff you can replace to lighten it up. You also start looking at training programs to help you get fitter. Meanwhile, your brakes are misaligned and the rotors are dragging like crazy – you can’t put your bike in the stand and get the wheels to spin around once they are dragging so bad.
What do you think is the fastest and easiest way to go faster – lighten up your bike and work on your fitness or simply get your brakes to stop dragging first? Obviously you would want to “release the brakes”, so to speak. After you do that all of your other efforts to go faster will be more productive.
The practical example they gave was this – imagine that you want to add in an extra set of intervals to increase your cardio fitness. However, you are working out first thing in the morning and have not eaten breakfast. You are already in a catabolic state and any extra training will simply break you down even more. Your lack of fuel is holding you back no matter how hard you train. Don’t step harder on the gas (train harder) until you have released the brakes (eaten something).
There are numerous examples of how to apply this principle. If your mobility levels suck then adding in more sets of deadlifts won’t help as much as adding in more mobility work. If your core strength sucks then adding in more intervals won’t help as much as getting your core stronger. If you don’t eat breakfast then adding in the next “super supplement” won’t help as much as simply eating first thing in the morning. And so on and so on…
I guess that this is why the first couple phases of The Ultimate MTB Workout Program (www.ultimatemtbworkout.com) seem so “easy” at first glance. They are designed to release the brakes holding back most mountain bikers first and then start adding in performance enhancement techniques. However, just like the example of getting your brakes properly aligned, releasing the brakes will help you go faster even though you haven’t done anything considered “performance enhancement”.
Make sure that you have the simple stuff covered – nutrition, mobility, core strength – before you look to add in a bunch of advanced techniques. While it seems simple and certainly not “cutting edge” the truth is that these simple things are what is holding most people back. Release the brakes and watch everything else start to take off.