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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is my second year of racing and training and I have hit a major performance plateau. I race 2 or 3 weekends a month and train moderate to moderate hard with a group of younger riders twice a week. I also try and get out and spin slowly by myself one a week.I race sport and seem to be finishing around 4 and 5 consistantly.

I feel I am basically in a state of maintenance and not getting stronger, however I do not believe that I am over trained. All my energy seems to be geared towards holding on to the speed I have. My workouts tend to be a little more sluggish at the start as compared to the begining of the season however I can go a little longer now.

Is this typical? Do gains in strength and speed come season by season or after specific events or changes? How did you progress and what does your performace/time curve look like?? I feel that I am at a point in riding where genetics is my limiting factor. My younger club riders seem to get alot stronger every week but It may just be in my head.

Any comments or stories
 

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racing is racing is racing... we'll basically. I raced track for a long time back in highschool and from my running experiance you always hit platues. Best thing I have found to get over them is to change up your routine. You do anything long enough and you are going to get stuck.

My advice is hangout with the riders that are beating you ( i did this in track all the time), and figure out what they are doing. Also have someone video tape you to figure out what you might be doing wrong... seeing myself on tape helps me out with all sorts of problems i have with surfing, running, biking, and anything else. Sometimes seeing yourself do something you can be more critical, because you are not pre-occupied. Also research alot... there are alot of people that know alot more than you so take advantage of it. Get a book or read online.
 

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rest and start over

If this is your 2nd season of training and racing you are not at your genetic potential yet. The aerobic system takes several years to develop its potential. It sounds to me like you are doing a lot of racing. I prefer to take a break from mountain bike racing after my first peak say in June and then focus on the basics of training again to build up to another peak late summer. If done right the second peak will be the strongest. The mistake I think most people make is trying to maintain a peak all summer which can lead to overtraining, burnout or stagnation.
 

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so true about taking a rest... you need like at least 3-4 weeks after any season of racing

ozone said:
If this is your 2nd season of training and racing you are not at your genetic potential yet. The aerobic system takes several years to develop its potential. It sounds to me like you are doing a lot of racing. I prefer to take a break from mountain bike racing after my first peak say in June and then focus on the basics of training again to build up to another peak late summer. If done right the second peak will be the strongest. The mistake I think most people make is trying to maintain a peak all summer which can lead to overtraining, burnout or stagnation.
 

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"""The mistake I think most people make is trying to maintain a peak all summer which can lead to overtraining, burnout or stagnation."""


Man...the story of my life. Been off from work for 1.5yrs and ride/train hard most everyday. Like pulling teeth the take a recovery day. Early summer I felt I peaked as I was consistantly finishing in the top 5-7 spots in sport all of a sudden. Been training even harder since..but now feel tired, rundown, and my quads are always sore at the beginnings of my rides. Guys that I beat months ago are still advancing, while I feel stagnant and stale. This is my 1st full season(started last year midseason in sport)and I'm still learning obviously.

Thanks for the insight action,

Duck
 

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just noticed this

mdf said:
I race 2 or 3 weekends a month and train moderate to moderate hard with a group of younger riders twice a week.
I just noticed in your post the use of "moderate". During the race season your workouts should either be very hard or very easy (maybe one day a week of moderate on a long slow ride). Moderate training pace leads to moderate race pace. Try doing some intervals above race pace.
 

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On your left.
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my thoughts

I'm certainly no training expert, but I do seem to get a lot out of what little I put in. First I'd say Expert riders (I assume that is where you are headed) are not inherently faster than top Sport riders, the big difference is the endurance. Experts do ride faster than Sports because the endurance training leads to speed because there is no slowing down cresting the hill, on the flats, etc. where Sport riders might try to recover. Also if you have more endurance you are more able to push on the climbs. Of course Expert riders also do intervals to build raw power.

Sounds to me like you and all your friends are getting faster and you just don't know it. You should have an established ride of ~60min that you can time yourself on. Judge your progress on that, not on how you feel.

But it also seems that you should use some of these races as training. And you may need to take 5-7 days totally off the bike - do that every other month. Remember - riding doesn't make you stronger, recovery does. The riding is telling your body WHAT to adapt to, but recovery is when it actually happens. So, if you're tired and can't ride at near peak intensity, the you are just telling your body to adapt to something lower than you are capable of. Ride HARD 2 days, take a day off. Recover Thurs & Fri, light ride on Sat and race on Sun.

Bottom line, I'd say you should do a 2+ hour ride 1x per week (on the road with your MTB) and do intervals 1x per week, and work in other rides/races around that.

mdf said:
This is my second year of racing and training and I have hit a major performance plateau. I race 2 or 3 weekends a month and train moderate to moderate hard with a group of younger riders twice a week. I also try and get out and spin slowly by myself one a week.I race sport and seem to be finishing around 4 and 5 consistantly.

I feel I am basically in a state of maintenance and not getting stronger, however I do not believe that I am over trained. All my energy seems to be geared towards holding on to the speed I have. My workouts tend to be a little more sluggish at the start as compared to the begining of the season however I can go a little longer now.

Is this typical? Do gains in strength and speed come season by season or after specific events or changes? How did you progress and what does your performace/time curve look like?? I feel that I am at a point in riding where genetics is my limiting factor. My younger club riders seem to get alot stronger every week but It may just be in my head.

Any comments or stories
 

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You should expect to get better every year normally for at least 10years. Up to a point of course.:)

The experience you've gained from racing helps for pace/ tactics and training year round toughens you up too.:)

The interesting thing about overtraining is that you're only overtraining if you don't realise it. Once you know you're overtraining you can do something about it.

It sounds drastic but the best and fastest way to recover is to try and spend a week in bed! Stretching and quality food every few hours make it training. :eek: You won't lose fitness because your body needs the time to recover from the last 8 months? of training you've inflicted on it.:)

Remember the golden rule for recovery: "Don't stand if you can sit, Don't sit if you can lie".

Have at least 5 days off the bike and only do a short, gentle ride on the weekend. After all that rest it'll take a few rides to really get going again (Keep them steady too) but by the middle/ end of the second week you're guaranteed to be flying!

Normally you'd ride a little more than that during the rest week but if you want to get off a plateau that's how I'd do it.:)

For improving race performance: Keep a training diary so you know what you're doing and can keep track of performance. You want distance, ride time, avg speed etc along with a note of how you felt during the ride. Keeping track of your resting pulse in the morning is useful too.

New equipment could be worth looking at eg. bike, tyres, skinsuit etc to try and find some extra speed.

If in doubt throw money at the problem has always been my motto.:)

Ozones suggestion of taking a break from racing and doing some more base work is a very good idea too which could give you some good results later in the year.
 

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Race training

You don't say exactly what you do, but I get the feeling from your post that your training is somewhat general, and aimed at conditioning. That may be why your racing performance has plateaued... you've gone as far as a generalized conditioning program can take you, even though your non-racing stamina may still be improving.

Race training is different, and is tailored to the demands of racing. For instance, you mention "spinning slowly", but a winning racer needs the ability to explode into action to pass and attack, to sprint to the start of a singletrack, to go very hard just before a hill to keep momentum as long as possible, and so on. I agree with those who suggest you read up on how successful racers are preparing themselves, and consult with experts.

It reminds me a bit of what an NFL player said about his team's weight training routines - "We don't lift to be better weightlifters, we lift to be better football players." So, my FWIW tip is to make sure your training program is actually preparing you to race, not just to be a longer-lasting bikerider.
 

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If you don't have one, get a polar s520 or higher. That way you can really get yourself a training diary. Plus, get a coach to help you interpret the info from the Polar, just the right way.
 

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How long have you been training the way you are currently training? The way it works is that you put you body in a state of stress. During recovery it adapts to whatever it is you did. Every now and then you need to make some changes because your body gets used to what you've been doing to it and it stops adapting because it no longer needs to. I've heard wieght lifters say around every 3-4 weeks they change there routine. I don't know how this relates to an endurance athlete. Personally I go by feel, I can kind of tell when I need to change things up. It's important to keep a training log and use a heart rate monitor to keep track of your progress during your current training. I've heard that a rise in your resting heart rate is an indicater of overtraining.
What do you eat everyday. If you eat crap your body won't recover. Nutrition is so vitally important. This guy I work with makes all his food on Sunday and containerizes and lables it for the week. That way he doesn't have to worry about running out of time to eat. He's mostly a weight lifter and only rides a road bike to help with the wieghts. Do you take vitamins? Any supplements? Recently I started to lose a lot of wieght really fast. Like 10 pounds in about 3 weeks. Some people might think this is good, maybe it is. I think it's too fast. I took a close look at my diet. I've been concentrating too much on getting enough protien so I wasn't getting enough carbs so I bought a protien supplement. Maybe it's in my head but I feel better already because the supplement is compact and doesn't take up so much room in my stomach leaving more room for carbs. It helps that I cook for a living so getting a good variety of food easily is not a problem.
Do you stretch enough? Another thing that is easily and often over looked. I don't think it's enough to stretch before and after rides. Stretch through out the day and before bed. Stretching improves bloodflow to your muscles improving recovery.
Like everyone else said- take some time off and start over again. I just went through what you did. I happened to go to Florida on vacation for a week. All I did was go swimming everyday. I felt kind of weak when I got back, but now I think I'm much faster if I hadn't taken that week off.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks for all the input, i am going to start a journal. Maybe my performance expectations are too high for my second year...not sure. I eat very healthly but lately for the the last two months I have been really hungry, so it is possible I am not eating enough. I would estimate that I consume 2250- 2500 calories at 155 lbs. After a race on sunday and early monday I eat alot more.

Here is my general training cycle: Any comments would help!

sunday- 15 mile race about 1 hr 15 min.
monday- no ride
Tuesday- recovery ride at moderate hard intensity, 15 miles group ride
wednesday- rest
Thursday- road ride 30-40 miles; less intense than mt bike but longer more social type ride
Friday- rest
Saturday- solo ride on the mountain bike, moderate intensity on gravel roads
Sunday- off/ solo ride same as above
Monday- off
Tuesday- very high intesity 15-20 mile group mt. ride, 1 hr 15 min
Wednesday- off
Thursday- road ride 30 miles; intense but not too hard for sunday race, 1hr 15 min- 1 hr 30 min
Friday- off
Saturday- moderate intense 5 mile pre ride, 30 min
Sunday- 15 mile race about 1 hr 15 min
 

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mdf said:
Thanks for all the input, i am going to start a journal. Maybe my performance expectations are too high for my second year...not sure. I eat very healthly but lately for the the last two months I have been really hungry, so it is possible I am not eating enough. I would estimate that I consume 2250- 2500 calories at 155 lbs. After a race on sunday and early monday I eat alot more.

Here is my general training cycle: Any comments would help!

sunday- 15 mile race about 1 hr 15 min.
monday- no ride
Tuesday- recovery ride at moderate hard intensity, 15 miles group ride
wednesday- rest
Thursday- road ride 30-40 miles; less intense than mt bike but longer more social type ride
Friday- rest
Saturday- solo ride on the mountain bike, moderate intensity on gravel roads
Sunday- off/ solo ride same as above
Monday- off
Tuesday- very high intesity 15-20 mile group mt. ride, 1 hr 15 min
Wednesday- off
Thursday- road ride 30 miles; intense but not too hard for sunday race, 1hr 15 min- 1 hr 30 min
Friday- off
Saturday- moderate intense 5 mile pre ride, 30 min
Sunday- 15 mile race about 1 hr 15 min
try some really EASY spinning (30mins to an hour) on some of the days that you currently have "off". also, if you're always hungry, eat more, or at least eat more protein. protein shakes here and there are a good way to get it.
 

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xctico said:
If you don't have one, get a polar s520 or higher. That way you can really get yourself a training diary. Plus, get a coach to help you interpret the info from the Polar, just the right way.
I think purchasing a S520 or alike is really not needed for MTB training. The most I ever used my HR was 2 times a week for particular sessions like SE and intervals. Wearing a HR monitor for a long road ride or MTB is far from informative IMHO.
 

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Increase your intensity

Make your long moderate rides longer...........long enough to feel quite tired when you're finished; but don't do so many "moderate pace" rides. The long moderate-to-brisk pace may be good for aerobic endurance but it won't make you muich faster when racing your mountainbike. I find that one long ride per week is good for me. A few years ago as a Beginner the long ride was about two hours; now as an Expert my long rides are four to six hours.

If you want to get faster you have to ride faster. Yes, it really is that simple. Your race pace won't improve unless your training pace is at or above your race pace. Of course you can't go out and train at race pace every day as that won't allow the body time to recover and become stronger. Try a couple of interval sessions each week. Start with sets of short intervals, one or two minutes per interval. Go as hard as you can and still maintain the effort for the full length of the interval. Then rest for the same length of time. Repeat that sequence five times and then rest (easy spin) for ten minutes. Now go through another set. Just do a couple of sets when you start out. After a few interval sessions you'll have a better sense of how long you can maintain the intensity and how many sets you can complete successfully. The key is that you should be maintaining a much-faster-than-race-pace effort while doing these short intervals. My comments regarding intervals are based on my experience in attempting to improve my race speed. There are all sorts of variations on HOW to do intervals, it may take some time and study to find what works best for you. The simplistic way of looking at it (and I have a simple mind) is that you are teaching your body AND your brain to put out a greater effort than they are accustomed to by forcing it past its limits for short periods of time. As you become stronger and faster it will be worthwhile to increase the length of time for each interval.

If you're a serious racer the social riding will have to become secondary. Race training has to be specific and it has to focus on YOUR needs. Your race training needs are rarely fullfilled by group rides with friends unless that group ride is something like 30 to 45 minutes of anerobic hell.

Paying attention to diet and weight are important but don't get caught up in the fad diets or excessive use of suplements. Natural foods are best. (As opposed to living on protein shakes and sport drinks.)

The biggest challenge as you add intensity to your training is figuring out how much rest you need. Rest enough so that your training sessions are high quality efforts; I've found that beating a tired body does little to improve the physical or mental capacity for racing. Don't talk yourself out of starting a training session just because you feel a little tired or sluggish but if your muscles are always sore and you can't meet your training goals then you likely need more rest between training sessions.

Oh yeah............and if you can ............think of training as fun, even when it hurts (which it will or you aren't doing it right).
 

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mdf said:
Here is my general training cycle: Any comments would help!

sunday- 15 mile race about 1 hr 15 min.
monday- no ride
Tuesday- recovery ride at moderate hard intensity, 15 miles group ride
wednesday- rest
Thursday- road ride 30-40 miles; less intense than mt bike but longer more social type ride
Friday- rest
Saturday- solo ride on the mountain bike, moderate intensity on gravel roads
Sunday- off/ solo ride same as above
Monday- off
Tuesday- very high intesity 15-20 mile group mt. ride, 1 hr 15 min
Wednesday- off
Thursday- road ride 30 miles; intense but not too hard for sunday race, 1hr 15 min- 1 hr 30 min
Friday- off
Saturday- moderate intense 5 mile pre ride, 30 min
Sunday- 15 mile race about 1 hr 15 min
AFTER you've had a rest you want to push the volume up substantially. That appears to be only 4.5hrs max riding per week.

You're only riding the distance you race so there's no endurance comfort zone for you at the end of a race.

As a very rough guide for racing you need to be doing at least 10hrs a week of mostly road miles to be truly competitive at Sport/2nd/3rd cat level and 15hrs a week+ for Expert/1st Cat racing on or off road.

Don't go straight out and start doing that much immediately because you'll overtrain again straight away!

I'd suggest building up steadily. The best way is to spread the hours over 3 rides per week of the same length with a rest day or two inbetween. Either do your group rides and then do extra miles afterwards or skip the group rides completely and concentrate on longer rides for a few months.

Try starting with 2 hours 3 times per week and add 1/2 hours on as you start to feel stronger.

A pulse monitor is nice but a normal cycle computer is enough to chart your training to begin with.:)
 

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Saying that training 10hrs per week will make you competitive in sport is not quite true, though I get what you are saying. He could structure his training well, be smart, work hard, recover correctly, and train 8 hours per week and be competitve. Same goes for expert, and all the volume depends on the kind of racing you do. Almost all of my races, sport and expert do the same length (18-28mi). What makes an expert and expert is not only that he trains alot, but that he is experienced, fast for longer periods of time, and that he trains SMART. Just my .02.
 

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Here is what I do say during base 3.

Monday: 1hr recovery ride
Tuesday: Strength Endurance (3x 10min at E2ii @ 55rpm moderate grade climb)
Wednesday: 2hr steady ride (or E1 MTB)
Thursday: Intervals
Friday: 1hr rec
Saturday: MTB ride 3-4 hrs
Sunday: Roadie for about 4.5-6 hours

I do 8,12 and 24 hour races and this is an example of base 3 training. A bit tough but my endurance has increased quite noticeably and on average I ride an entire ride a stronger (Not race pace) pace.
 
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