Friday, April 25, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
How Will A Strong Core Help You Go Faster?
Mountain biking is a sport that requires your kinetic chain. The kinetic chain refers to the link of muscles starting from the neck, through the shoulders, back/ABS, legs and finishing at the feet. Just imagine you are climbing a steep hill; which muscles are you using? You are most likely pulling on the handlebars with your arms, shoulders and back muscles to provide leverage for your legs to push upon the pedals. Your core happens to be at the point that links the upper and lower parts of your body, allowing you to gain leverage from your arms. Without core strength, any efforts to increase leg or upper body strength are being wasted. Your core is also used as a platform that your legs push against, known as the peddling platform. With a stronger core and in turn, a stronger peddling platform, you will have a more powerful and more efficient pedal stroke.
Strengthening The Core
There are two primary ways to strengthen your core being both dynamic and static. Dynamic exercise refers to moving the muscles while as you can guess, static exercise refers to holding the muscle still. Dynamic exercises generally work major muscles while static exercises bring in secondary or supporting muscles which stabilise your body. It is important to incorporate both types of exercise although, you will get better results by focusing more on the static spectrum of things.
- Sit ups/crunches for the front of your stomach (six pack)
- Side crunches for your obliques
- back hyper extensions/Superman's for your lower back
- Back hyper extensions can be done at the gym on a back extension machine
- If you don't have access to one, you can lie with your tummy on an exercise ball (or even the floor) and lift one arm at the same time as the opposite leg as one repetition. Switch arms/legs for each rep.
The prone hold is a fantastic core strengthening and stabilising exercise. To start the prone hold, lie on your tummy then prop yourself up on your forearms and your toes, similar to a push up position. You want your back to be relatively straight but you can allow yourself to have a slight bend, pointing your back side up towards the roof. Don't let your hips sag to the floor.
For a beginner, aim to hold for 30 seconds and for a bit more advanced aim for 60 seconds. try to incorporate sets of 3 or so to give your core a good workout. Do your prone hold after your dynamic exercises to really strengthen the core and aim to progressively overload (see definition of progressive overload in cycling fitness basics )by increasing duration per set by about 5 seconds each week.
If you can incorporate some of these exercises (especially the prone hold) each week I can insure vast improvements to your riding. Check back after a few more posts (when you have ripped ABS) for some advanced core exercises.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
The Effects Of Stretching
When you stretch, you are increasing the flow of vital fluid to your muscles which clears out lactic acid and brings with it nutrients to repair and rebuild. Stretching also improves the amount of vital fluid that can go to your muscles which greatly improves performance during exercise. Have you ever felt stiff and sore the day after an intense workout? This performance decreasing feeling can be made better through a regular stretching routine. Remember that even if you aren't working hard on the bike, it doesn't mean that you can't be improving performance.
When To Stretch
The best time to stretch is directly after exercise while, your muscles are still warm. Stretching after a workout greatly improves recovery, making you better, sooner. It is also great if you can include one or two flexibility sessions during the week as this will greatly improve your results. All you need to stretch is an open bit of floor, so it is easy to slot in a session when you are watching TV or surfing the web.
Stretch everything to gain maximum effect. Hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, glutes, back, triceps, shoulders, pectorals and anything you think I've missed. Aim to hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and even repeat for a greater effect. If you don't know how to stretch a certain muscle or area please ask me by leaving a comment or by sending me an email to email@example.com
By stretching your muscles, your joints also gain flexibility which will greatly reduce injury, both acute (happens in an instant eg, after a fall) and chronic (develops over time/overuse injury). Having flexible muscles also reduces the risk of a tear. Mountain biking is great in that it is low impact making it gentle on your joints, however as we all know, if you get on a bike, you will fall off at some stage. For an article on how to prevent falling and how to reduce injury check it out mountain bike anti-stack training.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Before I get into any anti-stack remedies I thought I'd run you through my latest accident. I was riding on some local fire trails, yes fire trails, when a 90 degree off camber corner got the best of me. Mid way through the corner my tyres slid out from underneath me, so I rotated my torso so that I was landing on my front, with the intent to brace myself with my arms on impact. Here, my first point of contact was my left knee, followed by my arms, chest and chin. My chin hit the ground with only low to medium impact but was enough to split the skin. In my landing plan, I took into account my direction, the ground surface and most importantly my speed. I was fortunately not going very fast so I had plenty of time to pick my landing technique. Please keep in mind that aiming to land on my front was appropriate for this crash and in most cases I would not recommend this form of landing.
How To Eat Dirt
A lot of the time you fall with very little time to think, but in order to land safely, you need to put some strategy into this. If you have enough time, run out of it before you hit the ground. If not, try to relax your body and roll when you land because if you are stiff, you are more likely to break something or get bad abrasions. Before you fall over, try to find a soft patch of pine needles, grass, leaves or at least somewhere without any rocks or sticks to land on. If you find yourself going over the handlebars in a superman position, instead of landing on your hands, risking injuring your arms and shoulders, try and perform a commando roll to minimise impact.
Improve your reaction time. There are plenty of exercises out there to help in improving your reaction time so run an internet search to give you some ideas. Having a quicker reaction time will give you more time to plan your landing, reducing risk of injury.
Strengthen your shoulders. Cyclists are prone to shoulder injuries due to shoulders often being the first contact point in a fall. Be sure to include upper body and shoulder strengthening exercises in your training regimen to reduce potential injury and to give yourself a bit of extra body armour.
Practice your commando rolls. Get on some soft grass or foam mats and practice rolling. Start with your hands and knees on the ground and push yourself to give you a smooth, controlled roll. Progress to rolling at speed or from a leap and even from different angles so you are rolling sideways or pulling out of obscure positions. This will improve your ability to cancel impact shock in the event of a crash
Practise the track stand. Having good balance from practising the track stand will make you more stable when riding at speed and through tight technical sections, greatly reducing the risk of having a fall. I have done an article on the track stand here.
Wear appropriate armour. If you have a pretty hardcore riding style or find yourself crashing a lot, look at investing in some knee/shin and arm/elbow protection. You can get neoprene styles which may be more comfortable when peddling, or you can opt for big hitting free ride protection.
If you get on a bike, you are going to fall of at some stage. By following the precautionary steps listed, you can minimise the impact of hitting the dirt and maximise your on the bike time.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
p.s I just wrote an article on how to get faster now!
As you can probably see this is a reletively new blog. I am interested to know what you all think of it so far and what I can do to make it better. Is there anything you would like me to write about or is there anything you would like to see more of? If you have any suggestions, questions or comments please let me know by either dropping a comment or by sending me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for checking out my site and I hope to hear from some of you soon!
Basic Interval Workout
Here is a basic interval workout to get you started:
1o min warm up - light spinning, gradually increasing speed
5-8 sets of 3 min at about 70% effort
2 minutes recovery in between each set
10 min warm down
total 45-60 min
Keep in mind:
- When you start writing your own programs, keep in mind that the shorter the effort, the higher the intensity and vise versa. Longer efforts will help to develop your ability to sustain your lactic threshold while shorter efforts develop speed and power. If you are planning a long term program, do the longer intervals (3-5 min intensity) first and shorter (10-30 sec) intervals later in the season.
- do intervals a maximum of 2 times per week to prevent overloading your body as intervals are very taxing.
- consult a health professional of you have a heart condition or have a history of heart conditions before performing intervals
- The recovery in between efforts is as important as the effort itself so remember to back the intensity right off in the allocated recovery time.
- your recovery consists of gentle spinning and it is important that you don't stop to rest (unless you are feeling ill, feel an injury developing, having a heart attack etc.)
- intervals are meant to be hard work so STOP BLUDGING!
stay tuned for an article on using your heart rate monitor for intervals.
Monday, April 7, 2008
Anatomy of the wheel
Understanding the anatomy of the wheel makes wheel repairs easy. The wheel consists of the hub (central moving part), rim (the outer ring), spokes (the straight, wire-like parts that hold the wheel up) and the nipples (small threaded part used to connect the spokes to the rim). The spokes hook onto the hubs and are laced in a certain pattern onto the rim. There are spokes on the left and right hand sides of the wheel which need to be balanced in tension to ensure a true wheel. The spoke tips are put through the holes in the rim and the nipples screw on top to create spoke tension. If a wheel is out of true, the spoke tension on either side is uneven, pulling it out of alignment.
Tools Of The Trade:
- spoke key (use one that fits your spoke nipples properly. It should be the smallest size that fits on the nipple)
- matchsticks and blue tack (or a truing stand if you can get your hands on one)
- tyre leavers
DIY truing stand
To true a wheel you need to see exactly how far the wheel is moving side to side. You can buy a truing stand or you can improvise by blue tacking match sticks to your fork legs or frame tubing next to the rim.
It isn't completely necessary but I find it easier to true the wheel with the tyre off. Put the wheel in the frame/fork ready to be trued.
With your DIY truing stand, move the matchsticks close to the rim on both sides so that one of them touches it at the peak of a wobble. You then need to find the central point of each wobble as they usually cover a couple of inches each.
Once you've found the central point, there should be a corresponding spoke on the other side. If the wheel wobbles to the right, tighten the central spoke that is on the left side as this will pull the rim back into alignment. Keep in mind that one spoke will pull across the value of about six. Always work out the biggest wobble first and then progress to the minor problems.
To tighten, put the spoke key on the nipple and and turn clockwise (when viwed from above) about one third of the way. The direction you turn the nipple on each spoke is the same regardless on whether it is a left or right hand spoke. How much you tighten each spoke depends on how severe the wobble is, as the smaller the movement, the less you will need to tighten.
Continue to spin the wheel to find and correct any wobbles remembering to work on both sides. The wheel is true when it moves no more than one milimeter. Sometimes when putting the tyre back on, the bead doesn't sit perfectly making it look out of true; this is why I take the tyre off when truing so I can get a more accurate alignment.
Your wheel should now be straighter, stronger and more responsive than ever before!