While it's easy to know that training consistency is important for fitness gains, it's quite another to get yourself out and active when your brain and body says stay on the sofa, especially when the return on investment lessens with time. Luckily, we've got six tips to keep you going.
It won’t come as a surprise that even professional riders, who’s careers often depend on their race results, find it difficult to maintain the motivation to train in order to improve mountain bike fitness. And that’s simply because effective training can be really tough. It doesn’t help either, that the fitter you are, and the more advanced you are as an athlete, the harder it is to keep making progress. It’s the simple law of diminishing returns.
And when progress stalls, the desire to jump on a static bike and do a painful high-intensity interval session can be too much to bear. Factor in driving to the gym or other friction points and next then you know you’ve missed a couple of training sessions and your fitness and motivation are on a downward spiral.
Now if you’re reading this article, we can safely assume that your livelihood does not depend on your last performance on the bike. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from the pros and use some tricks to keep the desire to train alive. So we’ve outlined six key ways that will help you stay on track with your training so you can take your riding to the next level. Some you’ll already be doing, others you may not have considered before, but there’s something here for everyone. And even if you only take one tip away from this article, we’ll consider that a win.
1. Have a clearly defined goal for your training.
What is it that you want to achieve with your training? Is it to get faster on climbs? Do a 60km ride without bonking, or simply feel stronger on and off the bike? Knowing what you want to achieve makes it so much easier to have a coherent training plan. It’s why people hire coaches, and follow training programs.
Not only does it hold them accountable, but having a training plan, even a bad one is better than not having a plan at all, and that simply because you can build off it.
Also, don’t be afraid to adjust your goals as you achieve them. It’s okay for the focus to change. So you should evaluate your training progress every 12-16 weeks, to make sure that it is supporting your current coals.
2. Take a more carrot, less stick approach.
Mountain biking is your hobby, so treat it as such. There’s nothing quite like planning a trip with friends to motivate you to train more or harder, or at the very least, get out on your bike more often than normal in preparation for the big adventure.
And it doesn’t need to be some bucket list destination that costs an arm and a leg either. Whether it’s Madeira or Merthyr, simply riding trails that you’ve never ridden before is a massive buzz in itself, where the effects will long outlast the trip.
So if you ride the same loop, with the same people, every Sunday and desperately need a change, instigate it.
3. Get a training partner.
This one is totally underrated, but very effective as it’s much harder to duck out of, say, a heavy squat session when your training partner is expecting you to be there. And while it is less convenient to commit to a specific time to train, rather than simply going to the gym when you are free, scheduling it with someone else who will hold you accountable will dramatically increase your chances of getting it done. And consistency is king when it comes to training.
Also your training partner doesn’t need to be one of your riding buddies. In fact, training with someone that doesn’t ride can be eye opening, as they will have very different strengths and weaknesses to you, so you can really push each other on, rather than coasting together.
4. Compete – in person or online
For some riders, there’s nothing quite like the heat of competition to light their fire. And it doesn’t matter if it is the fear of failure that drives you forward or the burning desire to prove yourself in the public arena, they are both sides of the same competitive coin. And if that’s what motivates you to improve, use it as a tool. Pushing your limits in competition can also be a great training stimulus in and of itself, and if nothing else, it will let you know what you are truly capable of, which again has huge benefits for your training.
If the idea of entering a mountain bike event or competition fills you with dread, apps like Strava are a great way to see where you stand in the pecking order, and there’s nothing quite like a spot of healthy, albeit virtual, rivalry to really boost your motivation.
5. Book a riding skills session
Now, you’re probably thinking, what does skills coaching have to do with training motivation? Well, it’s kind of a reverse approach. If you use skills coaching to make you a better rider, it can motivate you to do other things that support your riding; like training, getting better sleep and fueling properly.
Also if you make big improvements in your riding ability, riding can become easier and more fun, which just gets you more excited about riding. And if you’re excited about getting out on your bike, you’re more likely to train for riding.
6. Reduce your friction points
No, that doesn’t mean you should rush out and buy that new kashima coated fork. It’s about minimising all of the things that can trip up your training. It can be something as simple as always having our kit bag packed and ready to go, snacks included. All you need to do is grab it and walk out the door when it’s time to train.
Now, if walking out the door is followed by jumping in the car to drive to the gym, that could be a big friction point, so you may want to consider setting up a home gym. It doesn’t need to be IG ready, and the money you save on membership fees and fuel will eventually offset the initial outlay. Home gyms aren’t for everyone though, so if you work from home, going to the gym and being around other like minded people could be exactly what you need.
Working towards fitness goals? Check out some kit recommendations that will help boost your bike speed and performance too. How about the best mountain bike upgrades (that don’t cost the Earth) or the best groupset you can afford for smoothing shifting.