As I sit here and write this post, I’m hoping that my husband will be home before I need to go and get a glass of water. I don’t want to have to get that glass of water myself, as we keep the glasses in a head-height cupboard and I’m really not sure I could lift my arm high enough to get a one out! Water may also not be a great idea, as it’ll surely lead to the need to pee. The loo is upstairs. Could my aching quads cope??
The reason my muscles are grumbling is that I recently decided to give strength training a go, to complement and (hopefully) improve my riding. Now, I’m suffering from DOMS – the inevitable side effect of such a crazy idea!
On our trip to Ibiza in October, I realised that it’s my fitness that really lets me down on rides. Technically, I seem to be going from strength to strength, but I just don’t have the fitness to go with it. I was being dropped on every climb and it was getting me down.
What luck then that Ben Plenge, the founder of MTB Strength Factory, was out in Ibiza too! We were able to have a really good chat about the benefits of strength training for mountain bikers and, when we got home to the soggy soil of the UK, I got in touch with him to sign myself up.
I was really anxious before our first session – an assessment, where Ben was to test my strength and flexibility to inform the training plan he would put together for me. But I didn’t need to be. Ben is really friendly, non-judgmental and genuinely passionate about helping people achieve their training goals. He watched closely as I struggled with the flexibility tests, offered encouragement in the strength tests and took all the information away to write a plan just for me.
I started the training the following week and instantly loved it. I’m the first to admit that there’s a whole heap of work for me to do on strength and flexibility. But I’ve never found the quite the right type of exercise for me before. In strength training, I’ve found something that I really enjoy, that leaves me buzzing and feeling like I’ve really achieved something. I think the fact that it’s measurable helps me; I know if I’ve managed a couple of extra press ups this week, or a few more kilograms on the bar, and it gives me the motivation to keep going when my arms or legs are screaming.
I’m hoping that this motivation will translate to my riding too, so when I feel that familiar burn in my thighs, I can use the same willpower I’ve discovered in my training to help get me up the last few meters of a hill. As I’ve said before, I often have a negative voice accompanying me on rides, telling me I can’t do it, so if I can take the positive approach I’m learning in my strength sessions, and use it on my rides, I really feel like I’ll have gained something amazing (on top of the fact that I should start to find the tough climbs and long rides a little easier).
I’m still very much at the beginning of this strength training adventure, but I’m truly loving it. This week I managed to deadlift 40kgs. Let’s see what I manage in my next session. And how it all plays out on the trails…
Have you ever tried strength training? What other exercise do you do alongside your riding?