Cyclists put their bodies through a lot of physical hardship. Many other sports people may find it humerous that a cyclist may injure themselves. As so often, cycling is recommended as a form of recovery sport. But the demands of Marathon Mountain Bike racing and Stage Racing are very intense. Cyclists who persue these disciplines will be putting their body through hours of hard use, and often without the opportunity for a smooth pedal stroke that road cycling and racing allows.
Blair Martin is an accomplished cyclist and runner, and runs The Body Mechanic clinic in Sydney, Australia. We spoke about the demands of Marathon Mountain Biking and Stage Racing for an amateur sportsperson – and what it can do to their bodies. For the majority of competitors, who are not Elite, their lifestyle, work commitments and approach to training can be some of the biggest challenges to overcome. Martin highlighted these issues as we discussed the work he and the Body Mechanic Team undertake.
“There are a few origins for the issues that we see. One of them is that peoples bodies will condition themselves to the demands of what they do all day everyday. We tend to adapt to an office job, or sedentary posture, more so than we would like to for our bike riding. If you are an elite athlete who does it professionally, you have the time, inclination and ability to do plenty of stretching, go to bed after your training session and do all the general fitness management tasks.”
Stretching, yoga classes, plenty of recovery time and a dedicated nutrition regime are all very important when you are aiming to perform at your best, and preparing to do so. And this is where the difference lies for sub-elite competitors.
“For the rest of us, it’s all a bit of a chore, as we are trying to squeeze our training around our busy lifestyle. As a consequence something is going to give. If you have eight or ten hours a week to devote to training, you just do those eight to ten hours riding, and that remaining fifty hours is spent in a sedentary posture.”
Certainly, this will ring true for many Marathon Mountain Bikers. We can only devote so much time to our sport. Martin continues, explaining how such a high volume of remaining in sedentary position is detrimental to our performance on the bike. This is a common problem that Martin sees.
“The way that our body adapts to work is counter productive to riding the bike” Martin states, in no uncertain terms. “So what we try to do is establish some things that the person can do in the course of the day that doesn’t impact their lifestyle greatly – but will positively influence their body. This way, when they jump on the bike, they are ready for it.”
The mind is also a funny thing, and Martin explains that he also treats many cyclists (among other athletes) who have been looking for a psychological re-inforcment of sorts.
“Some athletes are looking to be psychologically re-assured that their body is prepared for the event. And so they try to simulate their race conditions in training. It’s a case of too much too soon, and their body hasn’t adapted to that.”
Many of us will associate with this. It is called ‘cramming’.
“What cramming will essentially do is significantly expose you to injury risk. So your chance of standing on the start line in one piece are severely hampered. A Tour de France cyclist will be on the start line knowing that they have perhaps ten years of professional racing experience. They haven’t done a three week tour at 46km/h to make themselves psychologically reassured that they can do it. They just know they can do it.”
Although the requirements for an amateur cyclist training for a Marathon or Stage Race are different – the concept is the same. Long term consistency in your training, day afetr day and week after week, is essential.
“Succesful, consistent training should assure us we are prepared for our event. Not one particular training session. So it is important to be strategic about what you can fit in – and not breaking yourself in the process” enthuses Martin.
Martin went on to discuss how you can manage your body during a stage race, and the specific requirements of bike setup for Marathon Mountain Bike racing. This will be covered in the next instalment.