Sadly, mountain-biking is fraught with hazards and the potential to be injured is always there. The injury could be anything: muscular, a breakage or something that required surgery. Either way, there’s usually a point at which you’ve done rehabilitation and the injury has laid off, but now you need to bridge the gap between being able-bodied but weak, and being able to get back in the saddle without risking re-injury.
Follow then these simple rules. Make sure you train unilaterally, that is to say, each limb separately. Because if you train on both sides, the stronger side will compensate for the weaker, meaning you’ll get nowhere. For the arms, this may mean single-arm dumbbells, while for the lower body such exercises as split squats.
By doing things right like this, you’ll gain confidence in your overall recovery not just physically but mentally as well. And the more confident and fitter you are on returning to the saddle, the more satisfied you’ll feel back in the saddle.
Doing exercises to increase your cadence will help you get muscular strength in your legs that in turn will allow you to pedal more quickly. The leg extension is a good one for this. All you do is sit on a bench that has a pulley system with some weights attached to it.
Sitting on the bench, your feet are pressed against a bar that when raised by lifting your feet up, raises the weights. After you’ve figured out how to do it, get yourself some kind of plan or schedule and stick to it.
Try, for example, doing a couple of sets of this exercise with twenty repetitions between, giving yourself about 30 seconds between each set. You’ll find that you’ll progress up the weights quickly, and the right weights for you will be the ones that challenge you during ten repetitions but that ultimately you can complete.
Use pedals wisely
When you’re out riding your bike next time pay attention to the pedal stroke. Instead of just stomping down when you pedal, try pushing and pulling the pedal around in the full circle. If you pedal in circles for three minutes and do that a couple of times, then you’ll soon find that you’re reaping the benefits.
Then concentrate on lifting your knees higher, as by doing this you will make the ‘up’ of the pedal stroke around ten times more efficient. The idea is to get speed from the entire pedal stroke and not just the down part.
Another tip is that when you’re riding, try to do speed blocks: that is, stay on your saddle and go, say, for 20 minutes, as fast as you can. After doing that a number of times you’ll find your fitness will be improving.
Training for long rides
The road is long, with many a winding turn, and to tackle it you’re going to have to build up by doing many similar rides in order to get used to being in the saddle for a long time. How best to do this? Well, if you’re intending on going on training runs, make sure you do them with friends that are more or less doing the same thing as you or at least have a similar level of fitness.
If you manage to go on some long, even terrain, road rides in the weeks before undertaking a big run then you can end up losing weight and strengthening your body. Alternatively, you could try interval training. This is best done on a (quiet) road. Pick a hill and ride to the top of it at full-pelt, measuring your heart rate when done.
On the flat straights choose a distance and time yourself, then see if you can make it better.
Pi-what? Yes, Pilates, a form of exercise and physical fitness system that was developed in 1900 by the German physicist Joseph Pilates. It works by strengthening the key muscle groups – the back, chest, abdomen, and buttocks.
Why is this important for cycling? Well, although cyclists usually have very muscular legs, naturally, through all the pedaling they do, often the rest of their body doesn’t match this development. This means that problems can then occur, particularly when fatigue sets in after riding.
Pilates places emphasis on natural, overall strength and creates the long, lean muscles that cyclists need to thrive. Particular exercises that would be useful to cyclists are Pilates Push-up, the Swan, Swimming and Front Support.
In 2018, there were over 11 million people practicing this worldwide. Strengthen your core and be less prone to injury when you get on your bike and ride into the blue yonder.
Buy a heart rate monitor
It’s good to be able to monitor your intensity while training and make sure that what you are doing lies within the target heart rate zone. One of these machines can provide you with your continuous heart rate, tell you if you are within your target zone, as well as let you know how many calories you’re burning.
If you’re going to use it while you ride then best get one that straps to your chest, and offers such features as workout feedback, GPS and a facility to download data. A cheap one could set you back as little as $20 but bear in mind that you’d receive the bare minimum with this.
Top of the range heart monitors, on the other hand, can cost as much as $200. Choose wisely, and make sure that whichever one you set upon, it’s convenient enough for you to use, as sometimes the more features you get the more difficult it can be to navigate.