Build A Base
Before you start working on speed or intensity, you need to develop a basic level of fitness and endurance. This way you will be able to build the body up so that it can handle higher-intensity workouts. If you're just starting, try to spend four to six weeks in this base-building mode first. Try to keep up with a frequent, consistent, low-intensity-effort workout regime and then gradually add speed and intensity to your exercises. Also, consider riding three or four times a week for about an hour or two in this period. The key is to figure out your limits. Don’t force yourself to do more than you can, because you might not be able to repeat the effort in a couple of days.
Also, make sure you are eating healthy food that is going to fuel up your body. Consider eating more fresh veggies, fruits, whole grains, and as less processed food as possible. Hydration is also very important. It is recommended that you hydrate with an electrolyte drink during your rides. And in case the ride takes too long, make sure to bring a gel or energy bar to supplement the hydration.
After these four weeks of base building have passed, follow it up with one dialed-back recovery week, and then incorporate intervals on one or two rides per week. For the first two weeks, your workouts should consist of a 30-minute ride for warming up, followed by five-second intervals of intense effort and then 10 to 20 seconds of rest. Consider doing five reps followed by a longer break as well. As time passes, build up your intervals and start doing 20 seconds of all-out effort rides followed by 10 seconds of rest.
Aim to get to eight reps. When you’re doing those timed intervals, you can use the runner’s concept of fartlek - a Swedish term that means "speed play" and is a form of interval or speed training that can be effective in improving your running speed and endurance -.to determine the smaller sections of your track. For instance, try using power lines, trees, or some other landmarks as visual goals for shorter intense efforts. Then, after some time, start swapping one short-interval workout for longer lactate-threshold intervals: five-to-10-minute efforts at a pace you can hold for about 20 minutes.
Burn Through Turns
Whether you are a beginner or an advanced rider, cornering is one skill that you can never really stop improving. This is where most of the riders end up killing their speed. However, there is a way to avoid this. Try using less energy by holding your momentum through the turns. What you need to do is set up early, in a wide stance on equally weighted pedals, open the knees as much as you can and the bike will be able to lean beneath you. Don’t make the mistake by leaning your whole body too. You only need to lean the bike.
Once you lean the bike, you will be able to get the side knobs on the tires and they will grab traction and hold the edge. Be careful and try not to brake in the turn since it can cause skidding. What you should do instead is brake before the turn. That will end up easing off the brakes as you curve. Lastly, you need to be looking through to the exit and turning your body.
Float Over Rocks And Roots
There are going to be many obstacles on this trail such as roots, rocks, and bumps. However, these are all small enough obstacles that you can easily ride over with good form and a little momentum. You need to be standing on equally weighted pedals and with your elbows out. Bend in your knees and ankles and approach the obstacle at jogging speed. You have to keep your eyes focused as far down the trail as possible. You absolutely must avoid looking down. Try to use your peripheral vision to hold your line. Don’t lean on the handlebars. That can end up weighting your front wheel down and cause it to snag. It’s important to keep your feet heavy and your hands light. In this case, your arms and legs are shock absorbers as you ride over these obstacles.
Master The Basic Front-Wheel Lift
For those bit bigger obstacles on the level or downhill slopes, you need to learn how to do the basic front-wheel lift. It is basically a simple three-part move. Those three parts are load, explode, and lift. All you need to do is approach the obstacle in a ready position by standing on equally weighted pedals, look ahead, and bend your elbows and knees.
Step 1: Load
In this first part, you need to compress your front shock. The way to do it is by loading the handlebars with all your upper body weight and bend your elbows as much as you can.
Step 2: Explode
When you feel the shock rebounding, straighten your arms explosively. This movement should feel like a clapping push-up.
Step 3: Lift
The last step is to lift the front part of the bike. You need to bend your arms and lift the handlebars. That will end up raising the wheel even higher. The timing is the crucial element of this move. It also depends on the speed at which you are approaching the obstacle. Once you get the front wheel over the obstacle, the rear wheel will easily follow.
Crush Uphill Obstacles
Uphill obstacles are a different story. Getting over them can be very exhausting and you need to use an energy-saving technique, or in other words, the pedalling front-wheel lift. You need to use it when you're seated and need to get over an uphill root or rock. Make sure you are starting this move with your dominant foot at the top of the pedal stroke. Imagine it as if your foot is starting at the position of one o'clock. Give the pedal a hard punch to six o'clock and lean back with your shoulders at the same time. Lean back with your whole shoulder weight, straighten your arms and let your front wheel rise. However, you shouldn’t be pulling up on your hands too much. The power from the pedals would be what’s bringing the bike up.
Maintain Your Bike
However, maintaining your bike and keeping it in good shape is important just as much as everything else we’ve mentioned so far. It only takes a few minutes of regular bike maintenance for you to save yourself from a long walk, or even worse, a trip to the emergency room. Even if you don't know how to fix your bike, it's still important to check it and take it into the shop before you start riding it. Make sure you go over the entire bike. Look for any worn out parts, cracked or broken areas, or anything that seems off.
Some minor problems can easily turn into bigger issues if you don't fix them in time. It is also very important that you choose an adequate bike for these activities. Riding a bike in the city and the mountains are not the same things. So, if you plan to work on your mountain biking skills you need to invest in a high-quality mountain bike that will last you a long time.
Ride With Better Riders Than Yourself
Riding with other people who are also passionate about the same hobby can be very beneficial. You’ll get to learn many new things this way. Observe and see how they position their bodies in certain turns or when going down or up the hill. Watch how they handle obstacles or how they fix their bikes on the trail, and so on. Some of the skills can be easily picked up when riding with others. You can find a local group of riders and ask them to join their routes.
Don’t forget to relax your body while you’re riding the bike. Let go of any suspension you have in your arms and legs. Stand up and allow them to absorb all the obstacles and bumps ahead of you. Once you learn how to relax your body, the bike will practically be floating over the obstacles. Also, make sure to release the grip on the handlebars. Holding on too tight for a longer period of time will cause your forearms and hands to fatigue and it will be harder for you to control the bike.
Find a way to spend time riding the bike as much as you can. Ride your bike to the store, the mailbox, the coffee shop, and so on. This way you will be able to constantly practice your skills and reinforce them. Set a challenge to yourself to ride up the curbs, dodge potholes and outpace Chihuahuas.
Lastly, taking time to recover is also very important. Don’t neglect it. This is when your time gets to rebuild itself. After you finish riding, take a recovery drink mix or any healthy snack within 20 minutes of completing the ride. This will fuel your body up and help it relax properly. You can also go for any of the protein mix combinations such as a mix of protein and carbohydrate. This will help you flush the blood through fatigued muscles. It will speed up the recovery process. You will feel much better after this recovery period and you’ll be ready to hop back on the bike feeling well-rested and ready for new obstacles. Also, it is often recommended to take one or two days completely off the bike. You can either use these days to relax or do a cross-training session, just to mix it up a bit.
In conclusion, perfecting your mountain biking skills pretty much boils down to constant practice. However, that doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need proper rest. Find a balance and see what works best for you.
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Lena Hemsworth is a lifestyle blogger, foodie, and lover of a good book. She's an everlasting enthusiast who believes that there is nothing better than starting your day with a hot cup of coffee.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.