Optimising Your Mountain Biking Performance
By Myprotein Endurance Writer Rob Walker
Have you decided to take up mountain biking? Are you looking to compete and get involved in mountain bike races? Check out these top tips by Myprotein Endurance writer Rob Walker as he describes his experience in a 24 Hour mountain bike race.
1. Put in The Hours
Training for a mountain bike race… especially a 24 hour one is intense and not for the faint hearted. If you’re serious about competing you will need dedication and hard work, I spent a Northumberland winter getting my miles in, running, hurting myself on my turbo trainer at early hours of the morning in a cold, damp garage. Make sure you make a plan and put in the hard work an hours- failing to prepare is preparing to fail!
2. Find a Partner and Make a Team
For the 24 hour race I partnered with a friend and raced a pair. The race was scheduled for August and from April it gave us some time to do some decent training.
Working with a partner meant we could motivate each other and allow each other time to rest, this included 24 hours of racing mountain bikes around a set lap of 8 miles; one on, one off.
Of course, it wasn’t just down to hard training, and it certainly wasn’t easy racing… teamwork played a massive roll whereby we had a pit crew of 3 other people looking after us, a van (with jetwash), 2 tents, a gazebo and a lot of food and drink.
Nutrition before and during a race is essential to your performance. Below are some top tips to remember:
1.Use Sports Drinks Appropriately
The problem is that most sports drinks feature just the right amount of carbohydrates. Any more carbs and it puts too much osmotic pressure on the intestines and you cramp because your body actually has to add water to get the calories out. So, you’re sitting around the camp drinking sports drink and eating snack food and you blow the perfect formula designed by the manufacturer.
Go steady on sports drinks when riding too, and alternate them with water. This is easier to do on a lap by lap basis. Try:
-Taking a bottle of energy drink or water on our bike, but have a pocket full of small snacks – pretzels, haribo, nuts – so you can dip in and out as and when. Put the selection of whatever small snacks you’ve decided to take in a small plastic cup. This goes in your jersey pocket and will keep the pocket stretched open so you can reach in easily. It also stops all your loose nuts, sweets etc. making a mess in your pocket.
-If you’re racing MTB and don’t want the hassle of opening a bar, take a sports drink but don’t overdo it.
-If you’re running, you can usually hide a gel somewhere in your short belt, or when cycling you could just stuff it in the leg of your shorts. Thats a good option for triathletes in skin suits!
2.Drink Water With Every Meal
The lesson is, if you eat solid foods, drink water with them to reduce the osmotic pressure. Eat chilli, rice, pasta – whatever you like. If you have dietary requirements, have something veggie or vegan. Just make sure it’s not another energy bar or a gel. Choosing a nutritious meal makes it a lot more enjoyable, too!
3. Consume Real Foods As well as Sports Foods
To avoid dreaded stomach pains, that can cause an inability to eat and ruining your performance during an event, go steady on the sports foods and mix them with other things. It’s simple; your body is burning hundreds of calories an hour. This requires a nutritional balance.
Training and nutrition aren’t the only things that can affect a race and your performance…Mentally you have to prepare too. I made a choice that I would not let negative thoughts enter my mind. It was a bit easier because I knew I was racing for my friend, but they still creep in… ‘this is rubbish’ … ‘it hurts’ … ‘that last lap was awful’… it’s important to focus on the outcome and your goal and aim for a positive finish.
The Finish: A Take Home Message
Following these guidelines allowed myself and my partner to finish 5th out of around 37 other pairs … if you fancy testing your endurance, physical and mental capacity, I highly recommend giving something like a 24 hour mountain bike race a go.
But remember…You can prepare your body as well as possible but there are other things at play; nutrition, weather, logistics, your bike… that’s just the start.