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I am a teacher in Georgia and have the go ahead with the administration to start a mountain bike club/team for next fall. My understanding is that there can be no practices 'til August 1st. I am concerned about the overall fitness level of riders and am wondering if some would share a pre-season work out program for students. thanks- brianW
 

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Thanks for making this happen in your school.

Practices are limited for insurance window reasons. More importantly the limits are encouraged out of a recognition for issues concerning the well-understood impact of use/overuse of the growing muscles. In the 13-16 y/o age range many of these tissues are in very sensitive developmental stages. Too much repetitive usage over too long a period at that age and you can take young riders out for the season.

It is inviting, and very common, for new enthusiastic adult leadership to want to really get things going. Experienced coaches see a longer term and more gradual approach. Some leaders, though, just don't seem to want to listen out of concern for victory. There is far more to this whole thing than that.
 

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There is nothing unique about mountain biking in terms of "overuse of growing muscles" let alone "repetitive usage over too long a period."

Year round athletes in football, baseball, basketball, vollyball, water polo, track, XC, etc. as well as year round multi-sport athletes handle the rigors of their respective sports just fine.

Why is mountain biking, especially at the NICA level, so much more "dangerous" as you seem to infer?

Regardless, you've taken the discussion out into the weeds since the OP's racers are in no "danger" given the limited runway they have before their season starts.
I'm not inferring anything; I am telling you.

There are many features unique to cycling. The body position alone rounds the shoulders, shrinks the development of the pectoral muscles, drops the neck/cranes it at the skull (called bronto neck) and applies an unnatural curve to the back. Don't want to believe me? Read Tom Danielson's book on Core Strengthening.

And most simply: the fixed position on the seat and repeated pedaling motion just cannot be denied. And then there is the real demand for endurance, surpassing any high school sport, requiring very specific dietary and conditioning regimes. Ignore those and injury and accident rates climb.

I challenge the statement that year-around sports are just fine. They have their fallout physiologically, especially for the younger participants. The three-sport athlete is statistically uncommon so does not figure into the sample. Football is getting resistance for their tendency to push year-round occupation with their sport. The segway with club/high school/club is running into the same thing in soccer. Same with volleyball. They just burn the kids up and devil take the hindmost. Parents just roll their eyes. Many just put their foot down and I say, bless them; rest and pace are a very important part of development and training. A sense of proportion is invaluable.

Those traditional sports cited use the body very differently from sport to sport. Transitioning from one to another as the sporting seasons change relaxes certain body demands. If you have been coach who has developed mountain bikers at the high school level then you know that you get athletes who have come from other sports. (The full-fledged frosh mtber, kitted, fitted, and fed, is an anomaly.) You have been able to see the remnants of those sports; good concentration, a certain dedication, stamina, different kinds of power out put (soccer vs. cross country running), injuries from impacts, shin splints, patellar displacement, tendonitis, chronic injuries.

Figured into this whole equation is how the demands of the consecutive nature of all of these sports can, and do, effect social and familial aspects of the developing teen. Responsibilities to church, synagogue, scouts, dance and academics have to fit in there. Then there is burnout. These are all very real factors which are demonstrated during in the 12 years I have done this particular work and the 40 I have worked with teens.

One of the most important things we enjoy, being at the vanguard of this relatively new phenomena in sports, is that we are not saddled with the arcane presumptions, expectations, and goals from the traditional sports. These sports developed in a different time under an industrial, just walk-it-off, model. We know better now. Just look at rules about managing head impacts and the evolution of helmets.

Teens, for as bright, pliant and able as they can seem, are still only this far from being children. They are developing in major ways. It is somewhat less an issue for girls as they are about 1.5-3 years ahead in their physiological development. With 13, 14, 15, 16 year old boys you can watch them grow like bamboo. Some coaches don't understand this until they realize that these boys are outgrowing bikes each year. What do you think is happening to bodies, muscles, and connective tissue, all of which grows at different rates (hence: going pains!), that really haven't lost their elasticity and had time to match-up up properly.

Every year new folk enter the scene with the same ideas about workouts and seasons and how they should be. Every year we all take a deep breath and try to communicate what we already know. The problem is adults think like adults and want to treat their teens like adults. 4 or 5 years of coaching will change that. If you don't have that yet, well, then you have to listen to someone or risk damage. It is not as if NorCal/NICA just makes this stuff up. These are all factors that are pretty well understood.

If the OPs league has a limited season then different considerations go into play of course. But keep this in mind. NorCal seasons allowed 3 months of training before the first race and those kids still went on to Nationals and represented well. The older riders, 16, 17, 18 (juniors and seniors) are in a better position to manage the higher demands of advanced workouts and time. These boys went to the Worlds. But, again, these are a statistically small portion of a League, about .5-1%. Another 85% of the athletes will never ever see a podium.

So you have to ask yourself: who are these programs serving? What goes into creating success for them?
 

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Mike, thanks for the well thought out and experience backed reply. I appreciate that you don't just pull information out of your ass. I read your post with great interest, the whole time thinking about my team and their growth, and how I affect that.
 

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Actually just getting them all on bikes that work at the same time is challenge enough. The goal for the first ride of the season was to get there and back again in one piece.

Keep it fun!!
 

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In my opinion, it is smart to take advantage of the limited pre-season team sessions permitted under the rules to have a few meetings/gatherings focused principally on skills and the beginnings of base fitness and related things for entry level riders (e.g., teaching the basics of fitness training, and nutrition, often a totally new topic for beginning riders). The more avid/experienced riders will probably not need this as much because they have a better idea what to do and likely are riding on their own, but will enjoy getting together to ride.

Mike's points about the hazards of overtraining are good ones. That is why pre-season sessions are best limited to skills and base fitness. The team members will be much better prepared to begin the more difficult training when the season begins if they are already comfortable riding for more than 60 minutes, know how properly to turn, stop, descend, clear small obstacles, etc. And they will be better prepared to compete safely in their first race.
 

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I think that a well rounded approach is probably best. Focusing on any one aspect will ultimately do more harm than good for teenagers.

Granted my family is probably more active than most but, through the summer we do all sorts of things. My wife enjoys tennis so she spends at least five hours a week playing with our girls and we try to get out and ride at least once a week. Both of our girls also enjoy distance running and are on the fall cross country team and the three of them are starting to do some trail running as well. Both girls (twins) are planning on joining the tennis team next fall (hmm, conflict with tennis may ensue) and they are also on the ski team during the winter. I also try to continue riding at least once a week with the one that competes in NICA through the fall, winter and early spring - Yay Fatbikes!

As the spring mt bike race season approaches they are both on the track team getting great endurance training. While it may sound silly I think their Wii Fit workouts help to keep them limber and able to move without stretching and damaging muscles, ligaments and tendons.

We try not to take any of it too seriously and constantly stress that it has to be fun. It's not about placing well or winning it's about being out there and doing it!
 
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