By Tina Meinhardt, PT, DPT
Winter is in full swing, and that means many of us are spending less time on our bikes and more time either indoors on the trainer, or spending time outside on the ski slopes. Maybe you've ever been taking some time to relax? However, this downtime doesn't mean your training regimen should come to a halt. In fact, winter is the perfect opportunity for mountain bikers, especially as we age, to embrace strength training and lay the groundwork for a successful spring riding season.
How many of you spend more time in the gym over the winter? If you're shaking your head, "I don't, but I should!"- you're absolutely RIGHT you should!
Strength training is beneficial for people of all ages and athletic backgrounds. It is absolutely necessary to help you increase your bone density, protect your joints by increasing your muscle strength, and improve the health of tendons and ligaments.
The Importance of Strength Training for Mountain Bikers:
Strengthening key muscle groups, such as quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, back, shoulders and core, can significantly improve your biking performance. Stronger muscles provide better stability and control, essential for navigating challenging terrains.
Mountain biking demands a high level of physical fitness, and a robust strength training routine can help prevent injuries. Strengthening muscles around joints and improving overall stability reduces the risk of strains, sprains, and other common biking injuries. Falling or crashing is sometimes a part of this sport, and if you have good muscular support around your joints, it can be very beneficial to help reduce your risk of sustaining injuries.
Endurance is a critical aspect of mountain biking, and strength training plays a pivotal role in building the stamina needed for rides, and the ability to power up steep features in the middle of a long climb. Improved muscular endurance ensures you can tackle any obstacles the trail may present, without fatigue setting in prematurely. This will also allow you to ride safer and with more control.
Balance and Coordination:
The uneven and unpredictable terrains of mountain biking require exceptional balance and coordination. Strength training exercises that focus on proprioception and balance can sharpen these skills, making you more adept at handling technical trails. As muscles become stronger, they also become more responsive and better at maintaining control. This increased muscle activation enhances overall body control, which is essential for maintaining balance on a mountain bike.
Improving Reaction Time:
Strength training often involves rapid movements and changes in body position. Dynamic exercises contribute to improved reaction times, enabling mountain bikers to respond more quickly to unexpected obstacles or changes in terrain. This quick responsiveness is a key component of effective coordination on the trail, keep you riding confidently and safely.
Why Strength Training Becomes More Critical as We Age:
Combatting Age-Related Muscle Loss:
Sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle mass, can impact individuals as early as their 30s and accelerates with age. Strength training becomes crucial for older mountain bikers to counteract this natural decline and maintain muscle mass.
Improving Bone Density:
Aging also brings a decline in bone density, making individuals more susceptible to fractures. Weight-bearing strength exercises contribute to maintaining bone density and reducing the risk of fractures during falls.
Joint Health and Flexibility:
Arthritis and joint stiffness can become more prevalent with age. Strength training exercises that encompass a full range of motion can help improve joint health and flexibility, ensuring a more comfortable ride and position on the bike.
As metabolism tends to slow down with age, incorporating strength training can rev up your metabolic rate, by increasing the amount of lean muscle mass. This not only aids in weight management but also contributes to overall cardiovascular health.
Winter Strength Training Tips for Mountain Bikers:
If you're new to strength training or returning after a break, start slow- choose lighter weights and higher repetitions, and shorter workout sessions, then gradually progress. This approach minimizes the risk of injury while allowing your body to adapt.
Include Functional Movements:
Tailor your strength training routine to include functional movements that mimic the actions required during mountain biking. This specificity helps train the muscles and neural pathways responsible for balance and coordination, translating directly to improved on-trail performance.
Adequate rest and recovery are essential, especially as we age. Incorporate rest days into your routine and consider activities like yoga, easy spinning, walking or stretching to improve flexibility, flush out lactic acid and reduce muscle soreness.
Consult a Professional:
Seeking guidance from a fitness professional or physical therapist can ensure your strength training program aligns with your specific goals and addresses any pre-existing conditions that might need to be considered when starting a strength training program.
Winter is not a time for mountain bikers to hit the pause button on their training. Instead, it's an opportunity to invest in strength training, laying a solid foundation for improved performance and resilience on the trails.
LET'S GET IT!!!
Are you looking for a new online fitness program to help get you started? Look no further, Coach Tina has you covered!
"Winter Fit" Online Home Strength Training Program for Mountain Bikers is NOW AVAILABLE! Start it anytime, in the comfort of your own home!
Check out the Rowdy Ryder Academy YouTube channel for exercise demonstrations, mountain bike skill tips, and MORE!
Coach Tina is the owner of Rowdy Ryder Academy, located in Arvada, Colorado, and also founder of Denver women's mountain bike club "Girls, Gears and Beers." She is a licensed physical therapist and mountain bike coach, with previous background as a personal trainer and sports performance coach (since 2002) prior to receiving her Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree in 2015 from Mount St. Mary's University in Los Angeles. She has trained clients from all ages and fitness backgrounds and is available by appointment. She recently received the CrossFit Level 1 Trainer certificate in October 2023, which she uses to help create effective strength and conditioning programs for her clients, to not only excel in their sport but in daily life.
Find out more about Tina's strength and conditioning services and programs, online fitness programs available, as well as mountain bike coaching clinics in Denver, Colorado at her website below:
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