One of my favorite parts of my job is getting to meet and talk with other coaches who work with mountain bikers. While a lot of cycling coaches are still entrenched in the road riding mentality of training, there are some really smart coaches who are helping to push our sport forward.

One of these coaches is Jukka Mäennenä. Jukka is a 29-year old avid rider and coach from Finland. He's been riding close to 15 years in several different disciplines but for the past few years, he has focused mainly on Enduro and BMX racing. 

He is also a published author with a book about cycling that came out this spring. In English, the name of the book is "The Big Finnish Cycling Book". As the name states, it's a general book about cycling and all its disciplines that covers bikes, riding technique, training and even briefly nutrition. If you can read Finnish, be sure to grab a copy the book here.

Besides riding Jukka is interested in all things related to strength, movement, and endurance. He has attended several workshops around the world to learn more and studies daily to get better. He even came and spent some time with me at my facility a few years ago.

It had been a while since we had talked and I wanted to get Jukka on a podcast to share what’s in his new book, what’s new with his training programs based on what he’s been learning and how he is using the new Functional Range Conditioning mobility program with his riders. We got into these and some other subjects during the conversation and I know you’ll get some good info from it.

If you’re interested in learning more about Jukka, his blog can be found at www.super-sets.com. The blog is only in Finnish, but you can check out a couple of his articles written in English below.

StrongFirst.com - Use Goal Cycling to Stay on Target
Bretcontreras.com - Inside the Mind of Bret Contreras

You can also follow Jukka on Instagram at jukka4130.

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My colleague Jake Stephenitch is a strength and conditioningcoach based in the Chicago area who specializes in programs for BMX riders. Asa BMX rider himself he came across the power of strength training to improvehis riding and decided that he wanted to help his fellow riders by becoming acoach himself.

I’ve known Jake for a few years through email and socialmedia but had never had the chance to talk to him and pick his brain on hisapproach to training. After writing a great article on When Should Kid’s StartUsing Clipless Pedals I figured it was time to get him on the BikeJames Podcast.

Which is exactly what I did. I had a great conversation with Jake, covering a lot of topics like…

- Why would a mountain biker care about what a BMX coach hasto say?

- Advice on training kids

- Thoughts on flats and clipless pedals for BMX racing.

- How the PRI system has influenced his training programs.

- Why breathing is the most important thing for you totrain.

- His favorite exercises for improving core strength andoverall power

You can find out more about Jake at his blog www.sparkbmxtraining.com. And if youlive in the Sandwich IL area you can learn more about training with Jake athis gym by visiting www.sparkmovementfit.com.

I hope you enjoy this episode of the podcast and get somegood takeaways from our conversation. If you have any thoughts or questions besure to sure them in the comments section on my blog.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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Sports training is a delicate balancing act between several opposing factors.

For example, specificity and health - while you need your training to be specific to your sport, being too specific all of the time can actually decrease your performance.

You also have high and low intensity training - you need high intensity training to improve your high end fitness but too much of it can lead to overtraining and injury.

For us as mountain bikers it is important to keep this balancing act in mind, especially when it comes to our cardio training. A lot of riders have too much specificity and high intensity training in their program and need something to help balance things out.

Enter our old friend running.

Running is something that most riders would really benefit from adding into their routine. In fact, a lot of you would benefit more from adding in a run rather than an extra ride or bike based cardio training like spin class or a road ride.

Why is this? What makes running so helpful for us as mountain bikers?

In this new edition of the BikeJames Podcast I go over why you should start running, plus some tips on how to get the most out of it and get started right. If you are looking for an edge in your cardio training, then be sure to check out this episode to see is running might be what you’ve been looking for.

Here are the notes from this episode:

- This podcast is about running and how it can help you become a better mountain biker.

- Running is probably one of the best types of cardio training you can do in addition to your riding.

- For most riders it would actually be better to add in a run each week rather than another ride or bike related cardio. If you are riding 2-3 times a week odds are you don’t need more on bike cardio.

- Running is an inherent human gift and when we lose it there are physical consequences.

- Easier to get a workout in (15-60 minutes of running vs. 1 - 4 hours of riding).

- It helps improve your posture and feel for standing pedaling.

- It uses a contra-lateral movement vs. the ipsa-lateral movement you use on the bike.

- It is a great way to introduce true low intensity training to your program.

- Important to build aerobic engine to improve your anaerobic power reserve/ be a fat optimized athlete. Hard to do this on the trail since MTB is a high tension sport (like an MMA fighter wanting to spar for cardio).

- You can get low intensity cardio through riding on the road as well but 1) you should still use your mountain bike and 2) you should know if your goal is “health” or “fitness”, in which case most riders should go for a run instead of spending more time on the bike.

- To keep running low intensity you need to either focus on your heart rate or use nasal breathing.

- Use the Maffetone formula of 180 - your age for heart rate.

- Only breathe through your nose (hold some water in your mouth to help enforce this).

- I recommend using minimalist running shoes like New Balance Minimus.

- Warning: Running takes some specific conditioning of the lower leg and feet so don’t overdo it.

- Start with walking, then half walk and half jog and then finally jogging the whole time.

- Start with 15 minutes and build up to 30 - 60 minutes, 1-3 times a week.

- Add in 3-5 sprints once a week to round things out.

- Sprints should be short (5-15 seconds) and you should focus on being smooth at 80%, not fast at 100%.

- Don’t Get Hurt! Be sure to warm up and do some practice sprints first.

- 1 Hard Ride, 2 Moderate Rides, 1-3 Easy Runs plus 1 sprint day is a good weekly cardio schedule for most riders.

- Adding in some running to your program can help improve your performance and overall health.

I hope you enjoy this podcast, let me know if you have any thoughts or questions on it in the comments below. Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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As a kid I remember that I could see myself being 30-something but 40 seemed pretty old, almost like life was pretty much over at that point. I laugh looking back on it now because one day I woke up and I’m the “old guy”.

And while life is far from being over, at the same time I have to admit to myself that things certainly aren’t the same.

By the time we hit 40 a lot of us have some wear and tear going on. Maybe it is from a previous injury or maybe it’s just time catching up with us but either way, making sure that we can improve our strength and power on the trail without blowing ourselves up in the process is important.

Over time I’ve found that there some important things you can do as you get older to keep riding strong while staying healthy and durable. These include:

- Find ways to improve your strength and fitness without having to place a lot of load on the body.

- Learn how to work with your body and focus on expanding your 80%, not hammering against your 100%.

- Focus on skills training and not excessive on-bike cardio training.

- Work on maintaining and improving your mobility.

- You’ve got to crawl like a baby to ride like a man (or woman).

In this webinar replay I go over these tips in a lot more detail. I’m basically going to share everything I’ve learned up to this point about how to keep the 40+ rider training and riding strong.

Now, I’d also like to point out that these tips are not about trying to win your age group or achieve a KOM on STRAVA. While you may get faster, this webinar is more about teaching you how to improve your durability and health while enjoying riding more.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

p.s. You can now get the only program made for the 40+mountain bike rider for just $19. Click below to learn more about the 40+ MTBRider Program and how it can help you enjoy riding even more.

Click here to learnmore and get your copy for just $19

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One of the things I love about mountain biking is the blending of fitness and skill it requires. I’ve often described mountain biking as the love child between an endurance sport like distance running and an action sport like surfing, making it a unique sport to both participate in and train for.

This is one of the reasons that skills training is such apopular subject among riders. While some riders try to “out-fitness” their way through everything, a lot of riders recognize the need to improve their trail specific skills.

And so every year thousands of riders invest countless hours and money in attending skills camps, watching videos and reading articles and books in an attempt to improve their fundamental skills on the trail.

But what if some of the most popular advice that is being given isn’t really the best way to teach someone the desired skill?

Worse yet, what if some of this advice was actually holding you back on the trail?

Well, unfortunately that is exactly what I’ve found to be the case. After spending years trying to apply the normal skills training advice to execute basic skills like Body Position and Cornering, I came to realize that a lot of what we are taught has us focused on the wrong things.

The problem that I found was that most of this skills training advice was either blindly applied from another sport (usually motorcycle riding) or it sounded good in theory but it actually went against how the human body is designed to optimally move.

By focusing on the specifics of our sport and respecting the human body in the process I found I was able to improve my skills much faster and, better yet, I was better able to apply those improved skills to new trails and situations.

Over the years I’ve had the chance to work with hundreds of riders and I’ve found that there are 3 pieces of skills training advice that are pure myth. These 3 things actually hold back a lot of riders who try to apply them.

And while I’ve talked about them all at one point or another on my blog and podcasts, I wanted to put on a free webinar that goes over these Top 3 MTB Skills Training Myths all together.  Here’s what you’ll learn in this free webinar:

- Why "elbowsout" is the wrong way to get your arms in the right position...and what simple cue can get your elbows in the right place every time.

- Why "lightlights, heavy feet" can result in an unbalanced position that robs you of braking power, traction and cornering stability...and what you should be focused on to maintain the best balance in any situation.

- Why "lean the bike and not your body" may work on a motorcycle but is the wrong way to corner your mountain bike for maximum traction and balance...and how a childhood game is the key to unlocking this skill.

- And much more…

Like I’ve said many times before, I’m not a “natural rider” and I’ve had to work hard to improve my skills. I invested a lot of time and money in the process and yet I always found my ability to consistently apply a lot of the advice I was given to the trail.

Only when I started to think outside the normal “skills training box” did I start to find ways that worked better for myself and my clients. I hope that you’ll check out this webinar replay where I’ll share a lot of the hard learned lessons I’ve learned along the way and hopefully they can help you enjoy riding even more.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

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One of the things that gets lost in the “cardio training” conversation is that cardio is very specific to how you train it.

This is why tri-athletes need to run, ride and swim – the cardio from one isn’t going to help in the other areas. They need to spend time training their cardio system to support the specific demands of each discipline.

While this extreme example is pretty obvious, things get a little murkier when we try to look at the cardio demands for mountain biking.

The problem is that we keep running into the basic pedaling = cardio equation.

You know, the one that tells us that if we aren’t pedaling we aren’t really working on our mountain bike specific cardio.

This simplistic equation – which actually works pretty well for road riders – is the reason that mountain bikers are told to focus cardio training almost exclusively on the lower body.

Here’s the problem, though.

Cardio built through the lower body has little transfer to the upper body.

Now, this wouldn’t be a problem if we were road riders and the upper body wasn’t used as much.

However, on the trail we use the upper body. A lot.

This is one of the big things that separates mountain biking from road riding as a sport – the upper body demands on the trail are many, many times higher than on the road.

In fact, despite many looks at it there is no direct connection between your VO2Max (which is primarily measured using lower body dominant methods like running or cycling) and performance as a mountain biker.

However, one study found that there was a connection between how fast you could ride downhill and your grip strength endurance, which ties in directly to what I call “upper body cardio”.

To me, this means that complete cardio training for the mountain biker includes both upper and lower body cardio training methods. In fact, most riders have pretty decent lower body cardio, making upper body cardio the real missing link in their program.

The problem is that our modern fitness culture has forgotten how to do this. Their attempts at “upper body cardio” have produced laughable contraptions like the upper body exercise.

But the ancients seemed to understand this need very well and had several training tools and systems that they used to condition the upper body. These tools are hundreds and even thousands of years old and were used to build wrist strength, shoulder stability and core strength along with the elusive upper body cardio…all things that we need as mountain bikers.

These tools include not only the Kettlebell but also the lesser known Indian Clubs and the Gada/ Steel Mace. When used together they allow you to build an upper body that is strong, resilient and able to much better handle the trail.

Over the last few months I’ve been doing a lot of work with these tools and have learned a lot about how they can benefit us as mountain bikers. And I’d like to share some of these exercises and training strategies with you in this podcast of a webinar replay.

In this podcast I’ll share more about why upper body cardio is so important, why grip training is the new core training and why I feel these training tools are the future of mountain bike training. I’ll also show you my 3 favorite exercises for each tool and how you can incorporate them into your routine.

Until next time...

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

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Abel James isn’t your usual fitness expert. Or at least, he certainly didn’t set out to be one. But for thousands of people around the world that is exactly what he is…and he earned that title the hard way.

As he puts it, one day he woke up and realized that he was fat and sick despite following the advice of doctor. At only 24 years old, he had turned into one of those people you see in the drug commercials who had “found that diet and exercise didn’t work”.

The difference, though, was that instead of looking for another pill to fix the problem Abel started thinking that maybe diet and exercise did work…maybe he had just been doing it wrong.

So he started to do the opposite of when he had been told. And just like George Costanza found in the episode where he did the opposite of what his instincts told him he found that he was seeing much better results (sorry if the Seinfeld reference is lost on you, go watch the reruns on Hulu).

In just 40 days he had dropped 20 pounds and seen a dramatic improvement in his health and fitness. What was more, he did eating more and exercising less than he had been.

What Abel found was that when you feed your body with clean food and quality movement that it wants to thrive. We aren’t born to be sick and falling apart as we get older, our diet and lifestyle just make it seem that way.

Now he spends his time helping to educate more people about the truth behind unleashing the health and fitness that they deserve. And through his Fat Burning Man Podcast (#1 rated fitness show on Itunes) and his book the Wild Diet he’s helped a lot of people around the world to do that.

A few weeks ago Abel took some time to join me for a webinar to share some of his insights and lessons. As a fellow mountain biker Abel had some unique insights into how to apply the Wild Diet and Lifestyle to some of the challenges we face. We also touched on things like…

– Intermittent Fasting

– Fueling up for a big day on the trail

– How to know what to eat to stay fueled on the trail

– How much do you need to eat and drink while riding

– Eating organic on a budget

– How to get your body to learn to burn fat for fuel

…plus much more. 

Learning how to eat and move in a way that works with our body is one of the most important things you can do to improve your riding and your life. Abel’s ability to take a complex subject and make it understandable and actionable is a great resource that you should be taking advantage of.

You can also learn more about Abel James at www.fatburningman.com and you can get your copy of the Wild Diet while you are there as well.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

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Top 5 MTB Exercises to Maximize Results on the Trail

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Getting better at mountain biking is one of the harder things to do in the sports world. Unlike most sports that only require one or two skills or fitness qualities, riding a bike on dirt requires a lot more.

Riding faster, longer and with more confidence on the trail requires you to juggle not only cardio training but also mobility, strength and skills training. None of these things are optional and only by having them all in your plan can you really hope to see dramatic results.

This is why having a system to help you make sure that you are focusing on the right things at the right time is important. There are a lot of different ways to improve but without knowing the right questions to ask and how to answer them you can easily make a bad decision.

Yesterday I held my latest webinar where I shared my FPI System of Program design. FPI stands for Focus, Progression and Integration and it shows you how I filter new information into the right “buckets” and how I choose which bucket works best for me at that time.

In it I shared…

- Why it is important to have a system to filter new information in today’s Information Age

- How to make sure that your plan is focused on your needs

- Two ro three reasons why riding a road bike is a bad idea for mountain biking and the simple solution that will give you much better results

- Why your brain is the most important thing to consider when looking at a training plan

- Why pedaling based fitness gets overrated and why you need other ways to work on your cardio

…plus much more.

After the presentation I answered some great questions about assessing your skills level, what a training block looks like and why the something as simple as kettlebell training can give you better results this off season than another winter spending countless hours on a trainer.

You can download the slides from this webinar by clicking the link below:

FPI System of Prorgam Design Webinar Slides

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

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I have a confession to make.

This may surprise you to hear but the truth is that I am kind of lazy. I mean, I’m not wanting to just sit on the couch watching television and eating Oreos…at least not all day…but I really don’t like to work hard for no reason.

But this also motivates me. Yes, I know that being “motivated by my laziness” is an oxymoron but somehow it works out.

I think that this is because even though I am kind of lazy I still don’t want to get my ass kicked. I like to be good at the things I spend time doing – like mountain biking - and to make up for my unwillingness to work like a dog all day long I try to think my way to making the most out of the time I do spend working and training.

Enter the “hack”. Hacking is a popular term these days and it basically represents a way of approaching things by working smarter instead of harder. You do this by finding the right things to focus your time and effort on so that you can get most of the results in much less time.

At its core my entire coaching career has been motivated by finding these hacks and applying them to my own training and then to the training of my clients and customers.

I certainly don’t have a ton of time to train – not when you factor in family, work, riding and some other hobbies on the side. And from the feedback I get from other riders neither do they.

So to help myself and the riders I work with through my prorgams get the most out of their training time I apply what I call BioPower Hacks.

Now first, like I explained in this previous blog post, Biological Power is a new and improved way to look at Endurance Training. Instead of focusing almost exclusively on one factor – cardio training – Biological Power takes into account all of the ways your body both produces and uses energy to create power.

Understanding how this concept applies to improving your mountain bike fitness and skills is the key to making the most out of your training time. Only by integrating all 4 systems that make up Biological Power can you hope to have the best program possible.

Which is why knowing how to hack into your Biological Power – or BioPower as I call it – is the key to having the best training program possible to fit your lifestyle. The less time you have the more of these hacks we can apply to squeeze the most out of the time we have.

And for the first time ever I’m sharing these BioPower Hacks with you. I use these principles to help guide the training programs I write for riders as varied as World Cup XC Pros to weekend riders who just want to have more fun and stop being the last one on group rides.

In this new webinar I tell you…

- Why riding a road bike in the off season will actually slow your BioPower transfer to the trail

- Why your brain is the most important thing to consider when creating your training program

- How to get the most transfer from strength training to the trail

- How hard and how often to ride to get the best results

- How to structure your rides based on your discipline

- Tons of Enduro Racing specific tips and strategies (they just seemed to keep coming up)

- The #1 reason that riders don’t see the results from their training program

- Why controling your arousal levels may be as important as how “fit” you are

…plus much, much more.

It has taken me over 10 years of helping riders at all levels to come up with these tips and strategies and I hope that you can use them to speed up your learning curve and avoid a lot of the mistakes I’ve made.

You can download the slides from the webinar below:

BioPower Hacks Slides

I hope that you get some good things to thing about from the webinar, especially as we head into the off season. While it seems like a long ways off, most of the time it comes down to who made the best use of the time between riding seasons that sees the most improvement from year to year.

Which is why on Wednesday I’m going to be opening up registration for my popular Off-Season Group Coaching Program. This is a new and improved version of the one I did last year and it combines my years of experience with the latest trends in strength and conditioning, taking all of the guesswork out of how to improve this off season.

I’m also really excited about the new additions to the Skills Training portion portion of the program. But more about that on Wednesday.

So check out the BioPower Hacks webinar and get some actionable tips to help you get the most out of your training program. And if you want someone to be your coach and take all of the guesswork out of the process then keep an eye out on Wednesday when I open registration for this off-season Group Coaching Program.

Until then…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

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