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MTB Coaching Day Q&A’s Dec, 2013

On December 2nd I held another open MTB coaching day on my LWCoaching Facebook page. I was online all day and kept busy with a ton of great questions. Being live meant some back-and-forth in real time with athletes. We got plans dialed! It sure was fun chatting and connecting with peeps.

Next LW Coaching Facebook Open Coaching Day is January 2nd. Need help planning out your season? Got a workout question? Come along and help make our January 2nd open coaching day bigger and better than the last one.

Here is the compilation of questions from our December Q&A.

Mark W:  I have a question about pacing with a power meter, 12 and 24 hrs Races. I have only been using a power meter for 4 weeks. What is the best readout on the Garmin to use, Power, Ave Power, Normalized Power? It’s hard to pace with just power as it jumps about so much, so for now I’m using both Power and NP Power on the Garmin display. So what’s best to race and train with?

Coach Lynda:  Mark, there are a few different issues here: jumpy readings, racing vs. training and pacing strategies. Let’s take them in order.

You can smooth out the jumpy readings by setting your instantaneous power display to be smoothed by 3 seconds.

Racing vs. training: the best strategy here is to always train with the power meter and develop a keen sense of what every power level “feels” like. This is often referred to as “calibrating PE”. In contrast, when racing long events it’s usually best to rely on your refined PE and pre-planned pacing plan. Do have the power meter on-board, but focus on your race rather than the numbers. Post-race, the power file reveals all and from that you learn and adapt. There are exceptions to this. I have worked with a few riders whose race arousal is so strong they are unable to pace by PE. If this describes you then 3 second power and event pnorm are good options to monitor.

Pacing strategies: I covered racing above, so here’s how to best pace training. For intervals with specific power goals, use 3 second power and average power in interval (lap) mode. Early in the interval you’ll have to work to keep power at or under the target average power, while the latter part of the interval you have to work to keep it up. The net result is an evenly paced, more effective interval session. Workouts without specific power targets are probably best done with the 3 second power and pnorm displays.

Sharon A:  With cross season wrapping up, what should I do to implement my training now. With cooler temps and less light, I am doing some spin classes. What would be beneficial to add to this?

Coach Lynda:  Sharon, the first thing to do is take a week off the bike and another week of very light activity. During those weeks review your 2013 season and set your goals for 2014. Decide what needs improved. The areas you can improve are the items that would be beneficial to add to your schedule.

Sharon A:  Do you find weight work to be beneficial in addition to cardio?

Coach Lynda:  Sharon, weight work, meaning heavy barbell work (deadlifts, squats etc) is great for most women for general health reasons such as bone density. It won’t make you faster on the bike. Core work and plyometrics are more specific to MTB racing.  If it is beneficial to you depends on your end goal. What is your goal?

Sharon A:  My goal is to improve my endurance on the bike. I race beginner now but should move up but find that I am so time crunched that I don’t get in all the training that I need. I need to get some tips on training smarter I think…

Coach Lynda:  Sharon, I have a series of TIME CRUNCHED training plans designed exactly for busy people with full lives like yourself. They take the guess work out of what you need to do to get the biggest bang for your buck with the time you do have available.

Erin P:  When training for races that are smack-dab in-between 50 & 100 miles (like, say, the Breck 68), do you suggest people follow your 50 mile plan or 100 mile plan?

Coach Lynda:  For the Breck 68 I recommend following the 100 km Mountain Bike Race training plan (100km = 62 miles)

Erin P:  Thank you Lynda.

Christina PT:  After cross season, what’s a good amount of time to take off and what does that look like? I have the Counting Coup in April.

Coach Lynda:  Christina, at a minimum, take a week off your bike then another easy unstructured recovery week. After that, assess where you are at with your physical and motivational status. If it has been a long season and you are feeling tired, take more time off. If you are chomping at the bit, get going again!

Christina PT:  Thanks Lynda

Tom H:  How long off the bike before you start to lose fitness during the middle of a training program? Also, how do you maintain as much fitness as possible when off the bike? Let’s say that in the middle of a training program, week 5, you take a 5 day “non-biking” vacation. Running/weights? Relaxing? Do a big training block the week before and use the time for recovery? Eat donuts?

Coach Lynda:  Tom, you start to lose fitness after a week off the bike. When you know you have a non-biking vacation scheduled, take advantage of it and schedule your recover week on top of it. Then you can relax into your vacation knowing you are not missing any training time. Stay off the donuts tho!! LOL.

Tom H:  Will other high intensity training like Crossfit, running, beach sprints, etc help anything, or is does that not quite translate?

Coach Lynda:  If you are very bike fit then cross training will not make you faster on the bike. If you are overall not very fit, any activity will raise your fitness and make you faster on the bike. Crossfit in particular will probably make you look better and be healthier but will make you slower on the bike.

Tom H:  Ok, one more question. Is there any truth to the whole “train with a heavy bike, race with a light one” thing? Should I try training more on my huge heavy 6″ travel bike with downhill tires and then jump on my light race bike? Or should I just go ahead and train on the bike I will race on to become more familiar with it? What’s your recommendation?

Coach Lynda:  Training fitness is all about power to the pedals and you can do that on any bike. Training tech skills is an entirely different thing. Adding DH skills on your 6″ travel bike will transfer to better XC performance but knowing exactly how your XC bike responds at race pace is essential too. If you have both bikes ride them both hard. Variety in your training will add more value and increase your skill set. It is way more fun to mix it up too. More fun in training is always better.

Scott P:  Hello, I was considering the Masters 40+ Mountain Bike Training Plans which would take me into the racing season. I was wondering what to do during the season to maintain the fitness obtained from the training. Thank you!

Coach Lynda:  Scott, that depends on how closely spaced your races are and how fast you can recover from each race. When the races are spaced 2 weeks apart you can repeat weeks 11 and 12 from the Masters 40+ Cross Country Build Peak and Race Training Plan for a nice race and recover schedule. //

Vicente R:  Hi, I am a MTBer who do triathlons looking to improve my power on the bike, and also prepare for the BC Bike Race next year (7 days stage race), without abandoning my training for triathlons, which are the best options, can both disciplines be prepared together MTB and Triathlons season

Coach Lynda:  Vicente, you can definitely do both but it does take compromises. I recommend putting a large emphasis on your bike training. In the pool focus largely on technique and avoid the big yardage sessions. Stay under your injury threshold on the run and put the bulk of your training on the bike. Triathletes have successfully used my TIME CRUNCHED series of training plans for their bike training then added swim and run training on top

Vicente R:  Thanks for the advice, I was thinking about 7-Day Mountain Bike Stage Race, I was wrong, it is very time demanding, isn´t it? Are your plans including indoor works? I mean, rollers or trainer workouts? Please let me know, once again thank you.

Coach Lynda:  Vicente, many of the workouts can be done on the rollers, trainer, road or MTB. The duration and intensity of the ride is the key. You have the option to choose the way to get the workout done in the manner that best fits your training locale.

Catherine H:  Hi. I am ready to start my training again for MTB bike season starting March 2014 with my main race in July or August. I went ahead and purchased the LW Coaching Category 1 Cross Country Base Training Plan but am now seeing the Masters 40+ plan which may be better for me. I am 42 women and full-time worker with only about 10 hours a week to train (at max). I do Endurance racing 50 to 100 mile MTB racing. Do you think that I would benefit from the 40 + Plan? And will it assist me in the long distance racing I need? BTW my problem areas are sprinting and recovering from those times without over doing it. Thanks so much.

Coach Lynda:  Catherine, given your profile either the Masters 40+ training plans or the TIME CRUNCHED MTB training plans will fit better for you.

Cody R:  How do you advise your athletes when recovering from significant injuries and training layoffs?

Coach Lynda:  I have no templated response for this. It all depends on the injury or reason for lay-off? For example, if it is an upper body injury like a collar bone you can get on the trainer and work hard fairly quickly.

Chris T:  Hey there! Going to hit my mtb race season in April. Do you have any plans I can use now to build a ridiculously phenomenal base? I’m rested and ready to go but not on any specific plan. Thoughts? My main focus is 100’s and some 50’s. Thanks!!

Coach Lynda:  Chris, I have 5 different Base training plans available. Tell me more about yourself and I will recommend the best plan for you. Age? Near race weight? Gears or single-speed? Time-crunched? Distance and date of first race in April?

Chris T:  Thanks for responding! I’m 38 racing around 160#. Riding an epic with plenty of gears. Not time crunched. 5/10 is first real race which is a 60 miler. Also – I’m training to be ultra-competitive. Thanks!

Coach Lynda:  The Category 1 Cross Country Mountain Bike Base Training Plan is the plan for you. This twelve week Cross Country Base training plan is designed for Category 1 racers serious about taking their performance to the next level. This is an intensive and challenging plan that assumes you have a serious commitment to racing and have podium goals. Starting this plan asap will take you to mid Feb. Then progress on to the 100 km Mountain Bike Race – Personal Record Plan to add the endurance, climbing strength and speed to peak for your 60 miler on 5/10.

Chris T:  You have to do this again. Because of today I have direction and a training plan. I’m sure many others need guidance too. Thanks again!!

Bobby B:  Ok so i am doing your base plan but this question is more equipment related. 75% of training is done on my road bike I just found out that my road bike has 172.5 cranks on it and my mountain bike has 170 cranks is this something i should change so they are the same or am I overly concerned about this for no reason?

Coach Lynda:  Bobby, best case scenario is to have all your crank lengths match. I’d call this one a mid-priority detail. Good to change if you can get to it but it is not going to derail your season if ignored.

Rich D:  I’m up to over 140lbs this weekend. This makes me angry. Who can I blame?

Coach Lynda:  Rich, it is probably just bloating from your stubbed toe or maybe PMS. You’ll debloat soon. Don’t worry, be happy.

Rich D:  I want to beat Gerry “The Pflug” Pflug. How do I do that?

Coach Lynda:  Follow my Single-Speed mountain bike training plans.

Rich D:  If I cloned Gerry “The Pflug” Pflug and then put the clone on that training plan, would the clone beat the original Gerry “The Pflug” Pflug 100% of the time?

Coach Lynda:  Absolutely

Jason A:  Thanks again for the Q & A. Now that winter weather has arrived I’m not always able to get out for an endurance ride which has me riding indoors. What is a “go to” trainer workout to replace an endurance day? I can stay focused for one hour to one and half hours on the indoor trainer.

Coach Lynda:  Jason, do you have something fun and aerobic that you can do outside on your endurance days? What are your options other than the trainer? Any other indoor options?

Jason A:  Yes, I can always run or hike when riding isn’t ideal and the occasional xc ski when we have snow. Indoor options other than riding the trainer; yoga, body weight exercises.

Coach Lynda:  I recommend limiting your trainer time to 60-90 mins in one session. Make up the rest of your training time with your “other” options. If the endurance ride for that day has any intervals or specific work to be done, do that during your hour on the trainer. For a 3 hour endurance ride an example would be to tally up 90 mins on the trainer, a 30 min run or snowshoe and a 60 min ski OR 60 min trainer and 120 mins ski. Tally up your hours in a way that feels more like fun recreating for you than a work chore.

Mark S:  What’s the best way to train your tendons for ultra-endurance races while carrying gear for multi days? I developed Tendinitis in the last 400 miler.

Coach Lynda:  Ouch tendinitis can be a show stopper. Prehab everything constantly. Start today! Stretch, strengthen and balance all body parts involved. Train with your gear loaded on your bike. Triple check your cleats and shoes are in good shape and all your equipment is properly fitted. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet and ensure you have no tendons flared on the start-line. Which are your trouble-maker tendons? Give me specifics and I can return with specifics.

Mark S:  Yea, it definitely stopped me. Right and left hamstring at the top of my calf toward the outside.

Coach Lynda:  Mark, that is a common one in the endurance crew. Go get a physical exam from a sport focused physical therapist and get tested for muscle imbalance, weakness and activation.

This type of tendinitis indicates under-active and weak glutes, tight hamstrings and a weak core. You need a strong core to stay on your bike in good ride position for many hours and riding does nothing for your core strength.

Laina Z:  I have done 3 of your plans in the past but it has been a couple years of winging it so time to follow a plan again. I work full-time and teach one spin class per week. I have done more endurance racing in the past but think I will focus on the 3 hr events for 2014. I currently weight train & do some HIIT training besides riding when I can. Which plan is best for me? I’m 46 & would like to be faster but I will be somewhat limited on weekdays for riding.

Coach Lynda:  My Masters 40+ Cross Country Base Training Plan and Masters 40+ Cross Country Build Peak and Race Training Plan are the right plans for you. These plans contain strength training. You can follow that part or continue with your own strength program if you feel it is successful and drop the strength part from the plan.

Heidi V:  Also what’s your take a riding a heavier bike (28lbs ) for XC rides, better training or just make you more tired? Upside of course is tongue flapping in the wind on the DH…

Coach Lynda:  Training fitness is all about power to the pedals and you can do that on any bike. Training tech skills is an entirely different thing. Knowing exactly how your lighter XC bike responds at race pace is essential. Ride all your bikes hard. Variety in your training will add more value and increase your skill set. It is way more fun to mix it up too. More fun in training is always better.

Heidi V:  I live in an area where there isn’t much flow riding, lots of climbing and after a year doing endurance SS how important is it to practice my “spin” right now and think about leg speed in a base phase? Do you suggest any drills. I’ll be commuting but this again is on dirt and involves climbing. Can a concentrated roller effort help? Trainer? Drills or don’t sweat it?

Coach Lynda:  Heidi, rollers are fantastic. You can combine a recovery spin with high cadence work on the rollers for a beneficial session. Also, on your commute, if you have flat areas, shift into an easy gear and spin on the higher end of your comfortable and efficient cadence range to increase that.

Andy P:  Do you recommend strength training for light weight riders? I was planning on hitting the gym for some leg work for a couple months, and maybe adding a single speed to the mix.

Coach Lynda:  For very light weight riders I do recommend strength training. Single-speeding is fantastic for building specific core, upper body and leg strength.

Jen H:  What is a solid test to measure progress using a power meter? How often should these tests be done? I’m interested in a quantitative measure of fitness gains with my “return” and don’t want to miss any key fitness milestone gains.

Coach Lynda:  The best test you can do is one that is repeatable that you can track over time. My top pick is the 20 min time trial for a standalone test. However, with power meter data you can graph out any power duration over time, 1 min, 5 min, 20 min and 60 min are the prime ones I look at. This is more useful than an occasional test.

How often to test all depends on your training cycle. Roughly every 4-6 weeks is what I like. With consistent power meter data you don’t need to test at all in some training cycles. Workout data can give you all the answers you need. Training is testing and testing is training is a common phrase thrown around by coaches.

Jen H:  I ride lots of different bikes and can’t equip them all with a power meters. For what training rides would you most strongly recommend using a power meter? Any recommendation on power meters? I’m on a budget!

Coach Lynda:  I recommend putting the power meter on the bike you do the most training on. If you put it on your MTB you can still do your intervals on it on the pavement or dirt.

I like Stages and PowerTaps for training. Power-Taps are heavy and involve replacing the rear wheel but are the most reliable IME. Most riders take the heavy wheel off for racing. Stages are light weight and fit on your crank and everybody leaves them on for racing. If I was buying one for myself tomorrow I would buy a Stages…

Jen H:  Thanks for answering all these questions! Here’s another: should a rest day be a complete rest day or is it okay to do a core workout? What about a weight workout?

Coach Lynda:  Jen, rehab/prehab, core, stretching and yoga are great to do on a rest day. I’m more cautious about putting strength training (meaning heavy work with weights and barbells such as squats and deadlifts) on a rest day. If it is a hard training block, a taper or a race week the answer is always no on lower body work and maybe on upper body work. If it is a rest week and the athlete is showing good recovery from all sessions and fitness progression then yes.

Karen S:  Hi Lynda, Thank you so much for great plans! Placed 2 nd woman overall at Wildcat 50 this year. I have used this just finish plan for two years each time improving. Next year I’m doing Whiteface 100k and the NUE series. Mainly 50 and Hampshire 100. How would you stack plans?

What do you recommend for recovery after a race?

Plus how do you feel about 29 ers? Feel the need to upgrade my bike also this year. Riding a Specialized Era 26er. I did notices I had to work my butt off to keep up with the 29 ers. But I also did awesome on the technical parts with the 26er.

Thanks again for your plans and being an awesome coach!:)


Coach Lynda:  Karen, thanks for the nice words about my coaching and training plans.

I recommend you start with my Category 1 Cross Country Mountain Bike Base Training Plan, followed up with the 100 km Mountain Bike Race – Personal Record Plan

After an endurance race I recommend 3 days off the bike and then 4 days of short easy recovery rides.

Most important part of a bike for endurance racing is that it fits you. If you are very small a 26er may be your best option. Most racers will be faster on a 29er.

Marcey R:  I love to do the 100 mile ultra series on my SS but live in Raleigh where there are only rolling hills. I find I can’t compete with people who live in Asheville or other areas with real mountains. Sometimes I’ll ride with a 10pound weighted vest on or put on a rack with a 10-15 pound sandbag on it but the longest hill I have access to is less than 4min long. Any suggestions?

Coach Lynda:  Marcey you are creative riding with sandbags! I like it. Keep cranking out those 4 min hills at power L5 on your SS to build your climbing intensity. The ability you are missing without long climbs to train on is threshold. Do you have long flat areas to train on? I recommend using a geared bike to train tempo on the flats in power L3 starting at 30 mins non-stop L3 and building to 90 mins per session.

Marcey R:  I don’t have a lot of flat where I live (not to flat, not too hilly but bad if you are trying to train one way or the other!) but I do have a geared bike. Thanks for the suggestions.

Coach Lynda:  You can stay in the tempo L3 zone over rolling terrain with gears.

Lori S:  Question about off season training. I’m finishing up my race season soon and will start skate skiing working towards a 32k race Feb 1st. My key mtn bike races are early July so it gives me 24 weeks to follow your Masters base training then Masters 50 mile plan. How much cycling should I do before I start the base training in Feb considering most riding will be indoors on rollers? I don’t want my legs to forget how to pedal in circles.

Coach Lynda:  Lori, ride the rollers a minimum of twice per week to maintain pedaling efficiency. Doing the bulk of your endurance base training on your skis is great.

Darryl S:  I’m an experienced, self-coached rider & racer who rode sub-9hrs at Leadville this year with high expectations and an equally high motivation level. I commute to and from work (44 miles round trip, 250ft climbing in the morning, ~800-900ft on the way home). I do this 3-5 days a week depending on where in the season I am. I also do one solid MTB ride on the weekends. During base & build phases what is the best way to utilize this schedule to prep for endurance XC racing? I know this is a broad question and there are a ton of specifics needed to provide a clear answer but any info would be appreciated.

Coach Lynda:  Darryl, Broad questions are cool but they get broad answers too. Commuting is great and you can fit all of your training into your commuting time if you are creative. You are welcome to ask specifics.

Tom P:  Hi Lynda, What’s your take on Crossfit?

Coach Lynda:  Bottom line as far as MTB racing goes is that Crossfit, without question, will make you slower on the bike.

As long as you remain uninjured Crossfit will make you a healthier more rounded athlete than a fast skinny cyclist. Does Crossfit fit for you? Depends on your goals – be fast or be healthy?

I am a Crossfitter and I love it. I find it amusing. It has made me heavier and slower on the bike but hopefully has increased my bone density. I will find out in April at my DEXA scan.

Bobble M:  Okay I’m in just without the beet juice. I’m finally getting a lot of weight off after the surgeries on my spine, I’ve been doing a lot of road biking and I want to do some local 1/2 marathon races early in the year but not sure which plan to use. I was looking at the first time x-country, beginner x-country and 50 miler plans but not sure which one would be the best way to go. Thanks!

Coach Lynda:  Congrats on your weight loss. How much more do you plan to lose? Do you have the green light from your Dr to train or still have limitations?

Bobble M:  20 more (no really) and no problem on the doctors orders.

Coach Lynda:  Bobble, I recommend you start with the Weight Loss and Base Training Plan to establish your base and continue your success with weight loss.

James R:  I started racing for a team four years ago and I’ve worked my way up the expert (24 mile races like ICUP, 12 hrs Sundance and other races). Last year I was on a trainer 5-6 times a week for about an hour each day to decrease the ‘pain’ of starting racing in the early spring. (this helped this past year). This upcoming year I plan on tackling longer endurance races 50+ miles. What should I do to better prepare for these endurance races? I’m interested in any diet suggestions and any upper body workout recommendations.

Coach Lynda:  James, to transition from XC to endurance start by establishing a good aerobic base including lots of non-stop tempo training (power L3) along with solid core strength.

For nutrition I recommend a modified Paleo diet. On recovery days eat 100% Paleo and on training days add in extra carbs, training fuels and recovery drinks to enhance fitness development.

Lorin W:  Any tips and training to not get hurt and prevent injuries when crashing?

Coach Lynda:  Lorin, that’s a good question! First thing to prevent surface injuries would be to wear more body armor. If you were my kid I’d have a neck brace on you!! Training-wise, adding Yoga to your training is the best thing you can do. It will increase your balance and core strength. Mostly it will increase your flexibility making you more resilient and less likely to tear a tendon or ligament on crashing.

Kevin Mc:  I’m a 47 year old, beginner racer. I raced a couple races about 20 years ago and started again last year. I’ve lost 70 pounds in the last year and a half and still want to drop another 20 or so. Last winter I hit the weights pretty good and took about 4 spinning classes per week. I’m already pretty strong, so I really don’t think I need to improve my strength. So I’m basically using 50-60% of my max weight and taking only a about 30 seconds between sets. Does this sound like a good plan? Also, I’ve started taking yoga and I just took my first Pilates class tonight! So I’m correct in concentrating on my core more so than typical weight training in the gym?

Coach Lynda:  Kevin, big congrats on the weight loss. That has to feel great. You are right on track adding yoga and Pilates to your routine and backing off the strength training. That will pay off with better flexibility and efficiency come bike racing season.

Kevin Mc:  Thanks Lynda for the great advice and motivation!

Brian K:  Any general or specific thoughts on training while sick. It’s that time of year when we just can’t stay away from sick people and sometime it gets passed around.

Coach Lynda:  My philosophy is that you can’t build fitness on a sick body. Focus on getting/staying healthy. Backing off a single day while you feel just a little under the weather can save a full blown flu from developing. Training sick is never fun either and with no high priority races imminent being conservative always is the ticket.

Brian K:  Thanks for the info and advice. Sounds about right for me. If I can focus on resting and eating well then my down time is reduced. Times I wasn’t able to get the rest (work related) or proper nutrition it was a longer ordeal.

Brittany M:  When riding up hill mtn biking, I tend to shift into my easy gears. What is the best way to attack a hill so I do not loose momentum? What drills or techniques could I use to get stronger and faster pedaling up?

Coach Lynda:  Spinning up a hill in a race can be a good strategy if you are in a triathlon and need to save your legs for the run or an endurance race with 4 more hours of racing ahead. Spinning up a hill is a good technique to have perfected.

Staying in a big gear and using momentum to get over the hill is much faster and may be the accurate strategy depending on your race situation. This is another good technique to have available in your repertoire. To practice this, hit short steep hills fast in a big gear. Pedal hard seated on the lower section of the hill then about halfway up transition to standing. The goal is to get over the top of the hill with speed before your cadence has dropped below 60 rpm. Shifting gears on the hill is sometimes required but it is best to do no shifting and crank over the hill.

Kristie P:  I have a heart rate monitor, what zone should I train in? When racing I seem to run out of breath before I run out of leg strength, how do improve that?

Coach Lynda:  Kristie, you should train in the zone that corresponds with the physiological ability you are targeting to improve.

If you run out of breath before leg strength you have lots of room to improve (that’s a good thing!). The best thing you can do is to train your sub-threshold ability in heart rate zone 3. Start with 30 mins non-stop in zone 3 and gradually build up to 60 mins.

Jean P:  I’ve just started training for a marathon in late March and plan on doing The Snake Time Trials in Jan, Feb, Mar. I’m using a training plan that only requires 3 days running per week but wants 2-3 more days of non-weight bearing cardio like cycling, swimming. Perfect for my timeline! However this plan made me think about days off and after some research I’m finding articles that say I should take 2 days off because of my age (46). However I feel fine right now at 10-14 hrs per week of cardio. The run work outs do seem intense compared to what I have been running (1 day track, 1 day temp, 1 day long). What are your thoughts on how many rest days I should take?

Coach Lynda:  Jean, If you are sleeping, recovering well between sessions, staying healthy, maintaining body weight and keeping up your energy level for daily activities you have the perfect number of rest days. Base your rest quantity and quality on your own reactions rather than a specific number.

Read November LW Coaching open MTB training Q & A’s here.

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