In the Ultimate MTB Workout Program I have a couple different cardio workout programs specific to DH and XC racing. They are basically interval workouts based on the different length of effort during a race and I have gotten a lot of questions lately about which workouts are the best to follow for Super D racing and trail riding.
In a nutshell, the DH intervals are shorter and more intense while the XC intervals are a bit longer and have a bit more volume. This presents a problem for the rider who falls somewhere between the intense 3-5 minute scramble that is DH racing and the 2-3 hour pedal fest that is XC racing. Here is how I have been telling people to decide which one is best for them…
If you feel that you are lacking in overall horsepower then use the shorter (30-60 sec.) intervals in the DH interval program. These short, hard efforts are what your body needs to increase its raw power output. You have to be able to go as fast as you want in the first place before you work on sustaining that effort.
If you feel that you have the horsepower you need and that you simply can not sustain it over the course of a 15-60 minute ride then you need the longer intervals in the XC program. These tempo style intervals (sub-max efforts for 1-5 minutes with active recovery between intervals) work on your bodies ability to sustain power for longer. This will help you keep your legs feeling strong at the end of a ride.
I’ve mentioned it once already but it bears repeating – you have to be able to go as fast as you want in the first place before you work on sustaining that effort. Don’t assume that longer is better when it comes to getting faster at Super D and trail riding. Sometimes you need to put the “endurance” stuff on the backburner while you simply work on going hard and fast.
The basic idea is to objectively look at your weaknesses and then choose training options that address them. Don’t just guess at what you need or blindly follow the common training “wisdom” in your riding style.