This article originally appeared in issue 13 of Mountain Bike for Her.
I like to use the winter months to get prepared for my next summer. I take the time to work on any imbalances I may have created in my body from riding my bike excessively all summer, as well as identify any improvements I want to make from my previous summer. Once I have have worked out what my goals are I sit down and put together a program for myself based around achieving them.
For most of you engaging a personal trainer isn’t cheap, especially a good one. So for this issue I have decided to put together a basic winter training program so you too can be ahead of the curve when summer returns. Keep in mind that everyone is different, we have different base levels of fitness, different chronic injuries, and even different levels of knowledge of how to perform the exercise I am prescribing in a safe manner.
This won’t work for everyone, but I have tried to keep it as general as possible to work for as many of you who may be interested in doing it as you can. Under the weekly training plans I have given you two options, a suggested minimum amount of commitment to see results and then a more ideal amount of effort. The first would require around 4-5 hours commitment per week whereas the section option is more along the lines of 10+ hours of training per week.
Workout Weeks 1-8
I have split your gym training into two stages. The first 8 weeks are designed around the idea that you have not set foot in the gym recently. As the weeks progress the reps will decrease but that also assumes that the weight will increase. Each set should be done using a weight that makes the last 1 or 2 reps just doable with good form.
I am making an assumption that push-ups will begin from the knees, as you progress through the program you will graduate to full push-ups, only going back down to your knees when you feel your form is about to get sloppy. Farmers walks are done as a lap of the gym, and any split leg exercises is reps per leg (no cheating by splitting the reps in half) Finally, Rest period is a suggestion only, if you need more take a little more.
Workout Weeks 9-12
Now that you should have a bit of a base, it’s time to have some fun! Yes I am aware that I have a odd view of what the word fun actually means, however, the next 4 weeks should be enjoyable. Do your warm-up, including exercise specific warm-up. The goal with your working sets is to get to 8 reps, with a heavy weight with good form. Rest. Repeat. If after a few sets you can’t still get to eight reps, lower the weight a little.
Do this for 5 to 8 sets, listen to your body, if you are super tired and time crunched do 5, if you are feeling strong then do 8. Now for the fun bit! You will see there is space to write down the weight you lifted, the number of reps and the total, As an example, if you did 8 reps with 45lbs plates on the dead/squat bar that’s 142lbs per rep, or 1,136lbs per set. Do that 5 times and the cumulative total, 5,680lbs. That can be a lot of weight for someone to lift in a short period of time, that means your body needs to adapt, ie you are going to get stronger.
Although it’s not on the spreadsheet, I would carry over your core exercises into the last 4 weeks as well, once you have finished the exercises run through your ab-wheel roll outs and prone jack-knifes to keep getting that core stronger.
Warm-ups: Always spend some time warming up your body, when you get older it will thank you for it. Warming up also gives you an opportunity to see how your body feels, if you have any tweeks or unusual aches and pains.
Rest Day: Like it says, this is a day of rest, not biking no commuting, no gym, short walk if you really need to do something.
Intervals: High intensity exercise followed by low intensity recovery.
Example: Bike, run, row 10-15 minute warmup then 90%-95% perceived effort for 3 minutes, recover for 3 minutes at low intensity. Repeat for 3-4 more times. Cool down for 10-15 minutes
Paced Ride: This is where you ride slightly above your comfortable "pace" for the duration of the ride. ride length is generally shorter due to this so think between 1 - 2 hours depending on base fitness.
Cross Training: I know some of us enjoy doing activities that aren't mountain biking, here's your opportunity to go and enjoy those activities.
Long Ride: This is where we get the hours in and work towards increasing the distance we can ride, try to keep a consistent pace with minimum stops. Work out what you initial base distance is, each week try and increase that distance by 1km - 2km.
As we get further into the program you will notice the option to do multiple Long Ride days, this is important for those of you planning doing multi day adventures, you need to build up the endurance to ride long hard days back to back.
Social Day: Have fun doing something active, Duh!
Stretching: Try and spend a little time stretching out after every workout, even 10 minutes of stretching can be beneficial, stretching can improve flexibility and reduces muscle tension. If you aren’t good at committing to stretching then consider signing up for a Yoga class 1 or 2 times a week.
As I mentioned at the start, there is no one plan fits all, the absolute best training plan an individual can get is one that is tailored to you, that focuses on your specific strengths, weaknesses and goals as well as your physical ability and prior exercise knowledge. However, I also believe that getting out and doing something is better than sitting on the couch doing nothing and hoping that you will somehow magically be fitter next summer.