How to INSTANTLY level up your MTB riding

How to INSTANTLY level up your MTB riding

Call it motivation, inspiration, competitiveness, pride, or even stubbornness. Whatever it is, there is a strange phenomenon that happens when you publicly join a group challenge. Capabilities come out from hiding in you that you didn’t even know existed.

Video version of this story HERE

Let’s get this out of the way, I am not an expert, doctor or trained advisor on any such matter. All of this is just my opinion, and not to be taken as guidance of any sort. Boom

Let’s rewind just a little bit. 

I love to MTB, and I just got a new ride earlier this season so motivation to ride wasn’t in shortage. I’ve been tracking my ride with a bike mounted Wahoo Elemnt and recording the rides to Strava for years. Grant's Strava you can check me out here. 

Over the course of this season I have been trying to increase my riding endurance by trying to get in at least 2-3 MTB rides a week and more if possible. I was being pretty consistent with getting out, until Capt. COVID finally got me. I was lucky enough not to get a terribly bad version of it, but I wasn’t able to ride for two full weeks while it worked itself out of my system. 

I thought I had lost all my fitness when I got back on the bike. My cardio and muscle fitness definitely took a hit, but after a few rides it was coming back. One of my regular riding partners and I started thinking about what we could do to keep progressing with our rides and avoid the boredom that can set in later in the season from doing the same trails over and over. 

I thought I needed to increase my “fitness” level and my endurance and ability to ride more would increase. So I tried all kinds of exercises, like weight and cardio training. Both had serious shortcomings that seemed to keep me off the bike recovering more than they helped. 

So what other options are there? How about a group challenge, like the ones in Strava. So that’s what I did. I created a group challenge and invited folks to join. The challenge was: Climb at least 9,000 ft in one week. Simple, right? 

This is where things got interesting. I’m not sure about you, but my inner voice loves to procrastinate, make excuses, and just not do things that seem hard. Let me skip ahead real quick, the best thing that came out of this challenge was that I learned that the protests the mind comes up with are basically nonsense. And if you wait to do something until you feel like it, you may never do anything. I also found that sore muscles aren’t the end of the world, and you can ride through them; they’ll eventually loosen up and cooperate. I also learned I can ride multiple days in a row; I used to think I needed a day of rest inbetween to recover. And I learned once I’m on a roll I just want to keep going. I wanted to rack up more and more climbing. 

Again, I’m not saying any of this is “good” for you, or that it will lead to stronger muscles or anything like that. In fact it may be counter-productive to overall health and fitness. But, in my opinion what I learned that I feel is even more valuable than fitness. I learned I can do whatever I put my mind to. Even if it hurts, I can keep going. There is always more in the tank than your mind wants you to think. I can say that I am now mentally tougher than I was before taking on the challenge. I can also see why those extreme running races are popular, it’s addictive to push yourself further and further. 

So what’s next? A 12k weekly climbing challenge? Yeah maybe. If you want to join, drop me a note/comment below, or better yet, follow me on strava or visit the El Roo website and sign up there with your email.  

Main Takeaways:

  • The voice inside my head is lazy, and is always trying to find reasons not to do stuff. This includes going for rides. 
    • I am pretty competitive, or I don’t want to look bad, or both? At any rate, publicly stating you’re doing something, and having your progress visible while having others working toward the same goal is super motivating. 
    • There also seems to be some level of momentum you gain as you progress toward a challenging goal. I noticed that I wanted to keep up the level of activity, almost like I didn’t want to lose my new level of riding. 
  • You can ride with sore legs and a tired body. 
    • It seems like there’s a bit of magic in just getting out and starting to pedal. The legs will loosen up, and even if it feels like your power is down and you’re riding through peanut butter, just keep going. It’s ok if you think you're slow. 
  • There’s a strange satisfaction with doing something hard.
    • It’s like being in a secret club, all you need is a t-shirt that shows you did it and the whole thing would be complete.
  • Conclusion.
    • Who knows if any real gains were made in things like strength, endurance, technical skill and so on. 
    • But do those things really matter all that much when you’ve got your mind working towards something, and there’s nothing that can stop you? 
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