January
23

Why was she out there in the first place?

Note: Several people have pointed out to me that the ride in question was not an “aerobic base miles” ride but may in fact have been a time trial or sprint workout. I apologize for not having all the facts, I did search around but did not find anything on the exact type of workout she was doing when I wrote this post. And while this particular ride may not have been a “base miles” ride I would still bet that “base mile” rides make up part of her overall program.

While she may not have been logging “aerobic base miles” she was still logging “road miles”. I think that road cycling is not as beneficial for mountain bikers as many assume it is and that it is potentially dangerous for obvious reasons. My main point is that we need to get away from road cycling being such a heavy influence on our sport.

—————————————————————————————-

Not sure if you saw but defending World Cup DH champ Rachael Atherton got hurt in training a few days back. Obviously training injuries are a part of the job for a downhill speed demon like her, right?

While this is true, the sad part of this story is how she got hurt. She didn’t get hurt on her mountain bike ripping some sweet downhill run, she got hurt while logging miles on a road bike! For the love of God, when will this insanity stop?

ratherton_accident_car

First, I want to say that this is not a slam on Rachael in any way. She is doing what she thinks is best in her quest to stay on top of the podium. Tradition states that ALL mountain bikers need to log road miles to get into shape and she is simply following the advice that her coach gave her.

But, the fact that she was out battling cars doing something that is not only unnecessary but perhaps counterproductive can not go unmentioned. Why on earth was she out there in the first place?

For years we have been told that you need to log base miles in order to increase your VO2Max, which will help you endure the later, more intense stages of training. The fact that whoever is coaching her has not been keeping up on the latest in performance training science is pretty sad.

In the last several years there have been studies that have shown that the fastest, most effective way to increase VO2Max is with interval training, not with aerobic training. Fitness is a very specific thing. Being fit to ride a road bike is not the same thing as being fit to charge a downhill run. Yet mountain bikers have been misled by coaches who look only to road cycling (one of the most “tradition” entrenched sports in the world) for their training ideas. That may have given us a start in figuring out training programs for our unique and relatively young sport but we can do much better.

I seriously challenge anyone out there to explain to me why a downhill rider, who competes for an intense 2-5 minutes, needs to log road miles other than “its tradition”. Hopefully when my newest client Aaron Gwinn gets on some World Cup podiums this year, after not having logged a single base mile, people will start to realize that there are better ways to approach training for downhill racing.

And Rachael, if you read this please know that I hope you recover quickly from your injuries and can get back out there to defend your title. And shoot me an e-mail if you want to learn how to get faster without having to brave traffic or need some help getting your shoulder back up to par.

-James Wilson-

photo credit: Sven Martin

The Ultimate MTB Workout Program

The Ultimate MTB Workout ProgramThis workout program is designed with one simple purpose – to be the best mountain bike training program on the planet. When you are ready to take your training program to the highest level possible then you can’t do better than this workout program. Based on my years of working with some of the best riders on the planet, this truly is the Ultimate MTB Workout Program.
Learn More

Social Comments:

WordPress Comments:

  1. Neven says:

    I believe that she was time trialing, which would be much different than logging long slow base miles.

    Reply • January 27 at 8:55 am
    • bikejames says:

      But time trialing is still a road cycling training tool and the whole point of the post is that we need to stop looking to road cycling to get training ideas and start to realize that our sport is unique and needs it’s own training systems. Coaches are doing the athletes in our sport a disservice by blindly applying techniques from road cycling to mountain biking.

      I personally don’t think that using a road bike for training is extremely benficial and it is potentially dangerous for obvious reasons.

      James

      Reply • January 27 at 11:04 am
  2. Name says:

    Dude,
    Stating your opinion on training methods is one thing, but trying to get a plug in for your system using someone else’s misfortune is another thing entirely – not cool.

    Reply • January 27 at 9:11 am
  3. Carlie says:

    I have only logged about a years worth of riding myself, and I will continue to wonder why drivers show such disrespect to cyclists.
    While I agree with you on how Rachels approach on improvement should be aimed toward her ultimate goal, I do have to say that I ride which ever bike I can to help improve my endurance when it comes to mtn biking. I also do tri’s, therefore I know that from my digging uphill on mtn bike drastically improves my climb on a road bike. With that said, I feel like the two workouts can go hand in hand depending on your goal. One must prioritize.
    Although your workouts will help during off season, there really is no ‘off season’ for me. I ride mtn bike in what ever inclement weather. Except for a tornado, therefore, thats when I’ll pull out your trusty techniques 🙂
    Carlie

    Reply • January 27 at 9:17 am
  4. Ronan says:

    Yes I agree, but maybe they were doing interval training like sprinting for 2 mins / coasting or something?
    I did remeber seeing some footage from last year where they were training (using road bikes) in Newport beach. There was footage of them being stopped by cops for breaking a 20mph speed limit on the walkfront.

    Reply • January 27 at 9:22 am
  5. Dan says:

    Rachel Atherton is a world champion, as is her brother. They are sponsored in part by Redbull which is undoubtedly up to date on the best training techniques available and do everything possible to put their athletes the highest level possible. What you just wrote is a ridiculous ramble that makes little sense except that you think you are better in some way than whoever is coaching her and would like her name on your business. I respect your ambitions. Sure, interval training is crucial to getting faster, but so is a base. Both are needed in their own respects. I’m not going to argue with you to whether I or anyone else is right or wrong since you have your own way of doing things which obviously works for some well respected people, but I think that blogging about what a world champion could do differently based on a lot of speculation and little knowledge of the actual training regiment she may do with an offer of your assistance is probably not the best way to go about anything.

    Reply • January 27 at 11:26 am
    • bikejames says:

      Why do you assume that the trainers provided by Red Bull are up to date on the best training techiques for a unique sport like mountain biking? I would argue that they may not be. And why are base miles needed for a downhill rider?

      She got hurt in training, period. Having an athlete get hurt in training is one of the worst things that can happen in my opinion. If she had gotten hurt in the weight room I would have had a blog post about that. As a coach you must minimize your athletes risk in training while trying to maximize performance. I think that asking a downhill rider to battle traffic is not needed and is dangerous which makes its inclusion in a program questionable.

      James

      Reply • January 27 at 11:35 am
  6. T-Bone says:

    You have your opinion “bikejames” but I don’t agree completely. I’ve been riding mostly Downhill and Freeride for 3years, and I do own a road bike that I ride on the trainer and commute to work on 20miles a day when the weather is good may thru august. I’ve found that it does help me to ride the road bike some but each rider/ individual training methods are different and results very -some good, some bad. Your program may work for you and others but not everyone, hell some riders don’t train, and just ride and still are some of the worlds best. For downhill and freeride to be the best is to have the bigger set of balls when hitting drops, rock gardens ect ect rather than flat out sprinting (I’m not a fan of Sam Hill but he gets lucky a lot where and when he continues to carry speed instead of braking ) I also heard there was a guy that raced chainless at some point over in the UK that his results was impressive. So Rachel may have been out for simply a road ride, sprint training, but it was her choice. Like roadies, and xc,fr,dh,bmx whatever you ride there’s a risk for anything to go wrong and blaming cross training/ or riding something different for a change does not add up to me.
    Even though your not admitting it you did offer your program to her “And shoot me an e-mail if you want to learn how to get faster without having to brave traffic or need some help getting your shoulder back up to par.” I doubt you would train her for free…lol
    I admit I’ll say your right when Aaron Gwinn makes podium, hope he’s gotta big pair to keep up with the Atherton’s, Peats, and Hill’s alike in the world’s-

    Reply • January 27 at 12:06 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Thanks for your opinion. I’ll admit that riding some road will help you, if you have no other training program. But “better than nothing” is not the same as “the best”.

      And yes, downhill and freeride takes balls but if you are too tired at the end of a run to stay in control of your bike then all the balls in the world won’t keep you from ragdolling down the hill. If interval training will help you ride as hard, fast and long as you want while taking less training time and keeping you off the road then why would you not want to take advantage of it.

      And I would probably give her some free advice. I’m pretty good about giving away free advice, or maybe you had not noticed my blog?

      James

      Reply • January 27 at 12:18 pm
  7. Pumper says:

    T-Bone :You have your opinion “bikejames” but I don’t agree completely. I’ve been riding mostly Downhill and Freeride for 3years, and I do own a road bike that I ride on the trainer and commute to work on 20miles a day when the weather is good may thru august. I’ve found that it does help me to ride the road bike some but each rider/ individual training methods are different and results very -some good, some bad. Your program may work for you and others but not everyone, hell some riders don’t train, and just ride and still are some of the worlds best. For downhill and freeride to be the best is to have the bigger set of balls when hitting drops, rock gardens ect ect rather than flat out sprinting (I’m not a fan of Sam Hill but he gets lucky a lot where and when he continues to carry speed instead of braking ) I also heard there was a guy that raced chainless at some point over in the UK that his results was impressive. So Rachel may have been out for simply a road ride, sprint training, but it was her choice. Like roadies, and xc,fr,dh,bmx whatever you ride there’s a risk for anything to go wrong and blaming cross training/ or riding something different for a change does not add up to me.Even though your not admitting it you did offer your program to her “And shoot me an e-mail if you want to learn how to get faster without having to brave traffic or need some help getting your shoulder back up to par.” I doubt you would train her for free…lolI admit I’ll say your right when Aaron Gwinn makes podium, hope he’s gotta big pair to keep up with the Atherton’s, Peats, and Hill’s alike in the world’s-

    Heard of pumping? You don’t need to pedal to gain speed but you do need burst strength to pump the terrain enough to get it. It’s not all about not braking either.

    Reply • January 27 at 1:18 pm
  8. sam says:

    haha some people just don’t get it,whats the point in riding a road bike if you want to be a faster downhiller? You’re better off to do the intervals on your dh bike,Aaron Gwinn and blenkinsop 2009 watch them waste up,with no roadcycling

    Reply • January 27 at 3:02 pm
  9. Dan says:

    @bikejames
    What makes you think that you have the authority to challenge everything but your beliefs in training? Until you have multiple world class athletes under your direction on the podium or articles published in legitimate scientific journals, I don’t see much reason to believe your hype. Base miles are crucial in my opinion because it gives you a better foundation to build your workouts on, and it also allows you to do more diverse workouts and ride for more than an interval workout if you want to. Not everyone lives in the same place or has access to the same facilities to train, and many people have different goals, therefore there is no way to legitimately issue a blanket statement that no one should be on a road bike or no one should be doing fitness rides and intervals are the best and all you need. Granted, you don’t need to do near as much as someone racing road, and I don’t think that roadies even need to do as much base as many of them do, because usually when the shit hits the fan, it’s not that they weren’t fit enough or couldn’t do a 200k race, its that they didn’t have the power to close the gap…
    In the end, the thing that it seems you are missing could be that mountain biking is really about having fun. Even if it is someone’s job, it’s because they enjoy it. Being able to go out and enjoy a trail (or road) ride and still get in a workout while on the ride and be able to do what you need to on and off the bike the rest of the week is very important.

    Reply • January 27 at 3:29 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Do i really need “authority” to challenge other training beliefs? Where exactly do I apply for that? If no one ever thought outside the traditional approach to training and had the balls to stand up and say something then we would never advance.

      And can you back up your claims that you need base miles with some sort of rational arguement? I’ve already pointed out that you don’t need it to increase VO2Max, so why else would you need it as a DH rider?

      And if you knew anything about me or my program you would know that FUN is what I am all about. If you enjoy riding a road bike then fine, but if you think that it is a good training tool then I would beg to differ. Most mountain bikers that ride road do so out of a sense of obligation that it is what they must do in order to excel, not because they want to.

      I am just trying to let people know that it is not needed and counterproductive from my point of view.

      James Wilson

      Reply • January 27 at 7:26 pm
  10. Karmen says:

    Wow, some people really took offense at your blog. When I read it I mainly thought something like this: James really believes strongly in his method and his research on it and is bummed that someone got hurt doing something that he sees as an unnecessary training piece and is putting it out there as an example.

    Reply • January 27 at 6:25 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Thanks, that is exactly what I meant. But i guess that if all you see is negative where ever you look then that is bound to be what you see. Too bad so many people have that outlook…

      James Wilson

      Reply • January 27 at 7:35 pm
  11. Darryl Cram says:

    She is very lucky. It doen’t matter what training program she was on, but most of you would have seen:
    “hopefully she will have learned something about wearing a helmet, not listening to music in traffic, and riding on the correct side of the road”

    Reply • January 27 at 8:07 pm
  12. Rusty Wouters says:

    Ok peeps… listen up. You can look in any physiology text book that is newer than 20 years old and find that there is at LEAST one good reason for NOT riding a road to train for DH. Here it is… and yes, it’s different than James’ VO2 max concept. Check it: There are 3 types of muscle fibers; fast twitch (anaerobic) fibers, slow twitch (aerobic), and a transitional fiber that is not fully understood in the scientific realm, but can be trained to become aerobic or anaerobic. Now, the amount of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers CANNOT be changed, EVER. The only thing you can do is train those fibers for more efficiency and better output. So, if you ride road you will train the aerobic fibers which are small and wirey (think marathoner’s legs). These muscles will literally starve in an anaerobic environment so they DO NOT work well. The fast twitch muscle are meant for pure power and strength and when trained are big and bulky (think power lifter). If you want to be a sprinter – sprint. If you want to ride your bike for 23 days straight – then do it, but don’t expect to be able to hold your breath and huck multiple objects.

    OK, so I’ve spoken of the two well known fibers, but what about the others. It is theorized that in whatever training you do you can “recruit” these transitional fibers to play along and “learn” to become more aerobic or more anaerobic. Without getting into too much physiology babble, I would like to say that there ARE benefits to riding a road bike like burning your beer gut off. We know that low intensity aerobic training burns fat. However, I highly doubt any professional rider has that problem. Therefore, i would suggest to train for your specific event because a person doing the wrong training is literally training the wrong muscle fibers within the muscle- which in effect will make you weaker.

    James Wilson is correct about the latest research in anaerobic training benefits for heart fitness and VO2 max, but it’s more than that. You have to look at the muscles too and details involved. A great reference is the Textbook of Medical Physiology Eleveth Edition by Guyton and Hall which is what I’ve become VERY familiar with during my Doctor of Chiropractic education at Life University, Marietta, GA. Email me if you want more info and stop bashing someone who is trying to help all of you that call yourself mountain bikers.

    Reply • January 27 at 8:58 pm
  13. T-Bone says:

    Everyone has there points one way or another, but we are all different and not robots…to be honest when I ride my road bike to work or on the trainer it isn’t to make me a faster on the downhill stuff…its mostly to keep my legs going on something with pedals when I can’t get to the mountains to ride- I heard in one of James’s articles on commuting to work by mountainbike instead of a road bike- that fine if you live in town but riding a 45lb bike 20miles round trip and working 10 1/2 hrs standing all day isn’t fun to me….but I ride whatever I can because I love to ride, and wanna stay fit…and as well I’ve been out of riding due to my clavicle being broke which now 3months out looks like surgery is in my future but in the meantime riding my trainer, and hitting the gym’s bike I feel like I’m not doing anything wrong and I feel it will keep me in shape for when I do recover to get back in the saddle.
    Where I’m from there are not many of my kind into dh/fr mostly xc and roadies. So for me to get fit enough to ride my dh/fr rig up the same mountain with these guys so I can be social with all kinds of riders I feel in a way I am trying to be adapt for any riding that comes up. James Wilson’s program and Rusty Wouters input are good and I’m not knocking them, but again we are all different and I guess in the end results tell the tale. Some of the best riders in the area I know ride xc and road. So seeing for me is believing and I can’t help that. But the best way to train in my opinion is to just get out and ride period.

    Reply • January 28 at 7:09 am
  14. T-Bone says:

    Here is the full article- she wasnt wearing a helmet, riding on the wrong side of the road…ect ect. check it out.

    Atherton was training on her road bike with brothers Gee and Dan when the collision happened. She said in an interview following the crash: “Got in a fight with a truck … and ended worse off than I imagined.”

    Hugh Holden, a California Highway Patrol officer, said Atherton had been riding on the wrong side of the road and it looked like she was to blame for the collision. He said it was unlikely she would be prosecuted.

    Atherton, who was not wearing a helmet at the time, said: “I was pinning it down the road listening to AC/DC. Head down, looked up, there’s a truck coming. I was like, ‘Oh my God, what’s going on?’ So I swerved and he swerved the same way. And then we swerved left. And then I was like, ‘This is not good’, so I just … braced, tensed as hard as I could.”

    Atherton hit the car head-on, with her bike taking most of the impact and her face and shoulder hitting the windscreen. Her shoulder is dislocated and severely swollen, and is due to be operated on soon.

    Gee said: “She was just lying there and … because I saw the pickup, I was like, ‘Mate, my sister’s dead”… I honestly thought I’d lost her at that point.”

    Investigations into the crash are continuing.

    Training on the wrong bike didnt hurt her, but her choices to wear no lid, riding the wrong side of the road and numerous things played the part. She is lucky to be alive in my opinion.

    Reply • January 28 at 7:27 am
  15. Rusty Wouters says:

    Dang, no amount of training will keep your skull intact! In response to T-bone: I DO agree that pedaling is better than NOT pedaling. I was merely pointing out the best way to go beyond average fitness. However, there’s no way in hell you could say that “staying fit” and becoming the strongest mountain biker are the same thing. I know how good it feels to jump on one of my steeds and just ride. I also know that jogging, swimming, and a million other things will make you fit. But, what James and I are speaking of is improving your specific mountain bike discipline the smartest, fastest way possible. Keep in mind being able to pedal a 40 lbs sled with your roadie buddies has nothing to do with the shear anaerobic spurts of gravity events. Also, training only for gravity events (as I first hand can attest to) will suck your xc legs right from you.

    My only point is that you have to compromise in your training: be great at anaerobic strength OR be great at aerobic endurance OR be an all-rounder and suffer on the high end of either. (Note: keep in mind, anaerobic training DOES increase your aerobic threshold somewhat, but aerobic does nothing for your anaerobic thresholds.) I, personally, love being an all-rounder. <— This just means I’ll never be Lance and I’ll never be Peaty.

    Reply • January 28 at 10:24 am
  16. T-Bone says:

    Rusty Wouters- “I, personally, love being an all-rounder. <— This just means I’ll never be Lance and I’ll never be Peaty.” I feel the same way about where I want to be totally. But must correct you I don’t ride my fr bike on the road just my single speed road bike. But I do want to be able to ride the fr bike up the stuff the xc guys do. But as far as staying fit, since I currently have limitations till my clavicle heals me staying fit is pedaling on the trainer or road bike- and keeps me from sitting on the coach gaining weight lol. Right now with my injury I cant afford attempting to ride on the trails with the risk of injuring myself worse right now. But all the input here has been good.

    Reply • January 29 at 5:16 am
  17. T-Bone says:

    meant couch instead of coach haha my goof

    Reply • January 29 at 5:17 am
  18. Eric says:

    I don’t necessarily think your opinion is wrong, James. I do however think it is slightly classless and definitely unprofessional to make a plug for your training program at the expense of another cyclists misfortune. An upstanding response could be to admit that your presentation was less than professional. However, your responses seem to continue to be very defensive…
    I’m not trying to be negative, just exercising some “constructive criticism”.
    Cheers, Eric

    Reply • January 29 at 10:37 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Here is what I don’t understand about this mindset – I am looking out for Racheal, not using her misfortune to my advantage. I wish with all my heart that she had not been hurt. I lost my entire senior year on the cross country team because of a stupid training injury that was caused by my coach having us do something that was not needed (we were jumping over hurdles in wet grass and I tunred my ankle). I want nothing more than for mountain bikers to learn how to train in better, more efficient ways.

      The fact is that she got hurt in training doing something I feel is unneccessary for her to succeed. I think that using the misfortune of one to educate others on ways to avoid that same type of misfortune in the future is the best way to make a positive use of that misfortune. Some people obviously disagree with that – they feel that you should just keep quite and not try to stir up some intelligent discussion on the subject of riding a road bike for off season mountain bike training.

      I came at this from a positive place and just because some people only see the negative in it doesn’t change what was in my heart and mind when I wrote it. I am looking out for mountain bike athletes and calling out the coaches who are presenting you guys with old, outdated training methods. Racheal’s accident gave me a chance to stir the pot and get people thinking.

      I think that just letting that chance pass wold have been lazy and unprofessional on my part, but that is just my opinion.

      James Wilson

      Reply • January 30 at 9:47 am
  19. Jim says:

    An interesting topic I agree about target training for sport. But also from experience when you enjoy the discipline of road riding, use it to focus train for endurance mountainbike- it works. However, I agree with James’s training principles on core strength methods, high intensity intervals as being a critical part of the MTB training puzzle and even more important for a downhill rider so can understand what James is pointing out in the article.

    Reply • January 30 at 4:06 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