Winter Training: Why We Should Work on Strength and Mobility.

‘Next year we’ll be stronger.’

This is something my riding friends and I promise each other every year. Often, we do a bit and then it drifts away. This year however, I am determined to make a big effort to commit to a long-term goal of improving my strength.

Why should we mountain bikers strength train and work consistently on our mobility? Why is it even more crucial for us women?

Benefits

First, to begin at the beginning. Our basic riding position – the ready or reset position (I hate ‘attack position,’ what the heck are you doing attacking stuff??!!) requires good mobility, posture and core strength. You will be travelling over rough, bumpy ground and need to be able to move around the bike as the terrain changes.

Secondly, as I’m sure you keen riders know already, mountain biking batters your body! The stronger and more stretchy you are, the more able you will be to bounce back from injury. You’ll also have a better chance of avoiding injury when the inevitable meeting with ground happens.

Goal Setting

I’m sure many of you have entered races or booked on weekend events or riding holidays in 2024. To perform at your best and be able to ride for 5-6 days in a row you’ll need to do some preparation now. The fitter and stronger you are, the more you’re going to enjoy that race or holiday to the Alps. I have most definitely benefitted from getting stuck into a training programme in preparation for all the above. It simply makes an enormous difference to your enjoyment. Yes, you can use determination and ibuprofen to get you through your event or holiday but, you’ll enjoy it even more if you’ve put in some effort beforehand.

Mobility

Riding mountain bikes makes your body tight. The more you ride, the tighter you’ll get. The tighter you are the more likely it is that you’ll suffer pain in your lower back, neck, knees and hips. Also, you’re not going to be able to get your body into the shapes needed to ride efficiently and with with good technique. A good example is twisting your hips to corner effectively. Another benefit of good mobility is that it will increase your ability to get yourself out of trouble when things start to get sketchy. If you do hit the ground, you’re more likely to bend rather than snap!

Strength

Ok, of course mountain biking improves your overall strength and fitness. However, if you want to ride multiple bike park laps and enjoy rather than simply survive an uplifted Alpine/enduro type holiday, then being stronger will mean you enjoy it more. Let’s face it, descending steep rocky, techy trails is a lot like doing a load of very unstable press-ups. If it gets a bit sketchy, then your ability to push yourself back up off the bars rather than just collapsing forwards could well be the difference between a close call or a nasty ‘OTB’ and subsequent injury.  Obviously, it’s not only descending on a bike that requires strength but climbing and hike-a-biking in the mountains needs increased leg power, back and shoulder strength too.

E-Bikes

Next consideration is for those of us riding e-bikes. Yes, that wonderful motor will get you up the hills but, what about feeling in control of that 23kg beast on the descents? If you want to be a ‘pilot rather than a passenger’, you need some solid core, hip, lower back, and upper body strength. What if the walk mode stops working? What if you run out of battery or a fault develops mid-ride? These are all too familiar situations for all e-bike owners so a bit of strength training could certainly help you out of a pickle! Plus, even on bridleways, you’re going to find that you may have to lift your e-bike over gates and stiles. Yes, they’re not meant to be there on bridleways, but the reality is that many of our legal rights of way are not e-bike friendly! My aim for the summer is to be able to lift my Specialized Levo above my head!

Final Word

All of us, at any age can benefit from strength and mobility training. But, as we get older we lose muscle mass at an alarming rate. This is even more significant for women in either perimenopause or menopause . At this stage it is even more critical to strength train and build and maintain that protective muscle mass. We want to continue to enjoy this wonderful, freedom giving, life affirming activity well into old age. It’s absolutely possible but to give yourself the best chance to attain this goal, you know what to do. Get strong and get mobile and be consistent!

Personal Recommendations:

Strength Training Programmes

I am currently using the excellent Over 40s MTB Programme from The Strength Factory. I’ve used this before and found it excellent. It got me through a block of PMBA Enduro racing and an epic 6-day Atlas Mountains riding week in Morocco.

***Ben Plenge of The Strength Factory has very kindly given a 20% off code for all RideHigh MTB followers. Please visit The Strength Factory website below and use the code RIDEHIGH for 20% off the Over 40s MTB Programme. Oh, and if you are already an experienced gym goer, Ben has said that if you email him directly, he’ll sort you out with the discount for one of the other programmes! How cool is that??!!***

Mountain bike strength and fitness coaching – Strength and fitness training for mountain bikers (thestrengthfactory.uk)

Mobility

I am a massive fan of online yoga and practise daily. Ever since smashing myself up in a climbing accident I’ve found that if I stop doing yoga then the back pain returns and general aches and niggles.

My go-to is the wonderful, funny, and down to earth and… FREE Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. The 30-day journeys are a brilliant start point.