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**How To

Tuesday Training – No easing up over Easter

I’m not a deeply religious sort of spud, but I’ll happily celebrate anything that means we get an extra two days off work. The weekend also falls slap bang in the middle of our second training week so we’ll tell you how to make the most of it from a fitness point of view in the regular weekly plan.

We’re also helping one of our guinea pigs with her own private resurrection after a season where it sounds like she spent more time lying next to her bike in a heap than on it. So get yourself ready to work up a suitable appetite for all those choccy eggs in time for Sunday.

Name: Caroline Mackinlay

Fitness aim: Want to lose the stone I have gained while sat around broken in 2001. Want to get my confidence back. Want to learn to climb hills so I don’t hate them so much. Want to win downhill races again.

We are talking about doing the Schwinn 100. My BF does want to do the Red
Bull but I just don’t see the attraction…

Normally I just downhill, but I don’t really know what downhill races are on
this year – if there are Dragon Downhills I will do them. Not doing NPS as I’m not confident enough at the moment and my shoulder isn’t up to the impacts. (I can’t go downhilling yet, I have only just started road and XC again).


Because of my injuries, I can’t go downhilling yet, I have only just started road and XC again. I head down the gym 3 times during the week and one or two rides at the weekend, but there’s nobody to play in the dark with round here :-(.

Local Oxford terrain is flat but I get to more “proper” stuff at the weekends (N
Downs, South Wales or Wendover). Realistically, I can do 2ish hours, 2 or 3 times during the week and then a morning and a whole day most weekends… I normally go to the gym, doing weights twice a week and cardio 2 or 3 times (half to one hour each time, either stationary bike or elliptical trainer, and I have tried a spin class but it turned out to be a “mash big gears slowly” class that hurt my knees). I’ve always just ridden, but I used to always have a base level of fitness and I always rode quite a lot so it wasn’t a problem.

2001 was a complete couch year for me though. Broke ankle in Feb, left wrist in May, right wrist 2 weeks later (was told the L wrist was sprained and I could still ride if I could hold on, but I couldn’t hold on cos it was actually broken!), and then broke my left shoulder at the end of August.

The spud speaks:

There’s nothing more demoralising than watching fitness drain away as you sit there immobilised. Finding you’re nervous as hell when you get back on the bike isn’t helpful but isn’t surprising either after a string of crashes like Caroline has had.

The great thing is Caroline is already back on the bike and determined to get back to her riding, and that’s the enthusiasm that will get her back to fitness in double-quick time. So let’s get stop those daft ideas about training for the Red Bull and Schwinn 100. It’s pretty clear Caroline doesn’t want to do them, and with motivation as hard as it is when you’re still clawing back to the level you took for granted, make sure you’re at least training towards something you want to do. The good news is that the Dragon downhill series is on again and there’s even an away-trip to the World Cup course at Metabief in August which sounds like a perfect event to set Caroline’s sights on.

Obviously the priority is to keep Caroline intact and that means training little and often rather than big one-off sessions that will leave her tired and more open to injury. Luckily Caroline’s training schedule is perfect for that allowing her to train several times a week, but we’d cut the times right down to half an hour of hard exercise with quarter of an hour warm up / down each side. Use the time you save to make sure you stretch very, very thoroughly to increase flexibility and reduce the chance of injury.

Try a mix of 30 second on / off and five minute on / off intervals (both five times each then five minute rest then five times each again) twice a week. These will make you sweat and swear but they’ll also crank your fitness up double quick. Until you’re sure your injuries are fully rehabilitated we’d stick to doing this in the gym (on bikes, steppers, treadmills and the rowing ergo if your shoulder can handle it) as it’s a much more controlled and injury-free atmosphere.

The weight you’ve put on will just come off with frequency of exercise and as you’re training hard your metabolism will be elevated for a long time afterwards, keeping you burning calories for longer than you’re actually working. Short bursts will also build lactate tolerance for mastering those hills as well as firing you out of tight DH corners at top speed.

What you must also start doing is getting out and riding at every possible opportunity. Even if it’s just buggering about balancing and hopping (as much as your injures can handle) in the back yard on a night. This is the way you’ll get your confidence back to tackle those Dragons and be sure enough of your skill to hit the start hut at Metabief.

One final thing never ride or train to the point where the injury actually hurts. A dull ache is fine and a bit of ice will work wonders but if it actually stabs or twinges then back off and get yourself back to a proper sports physio.

Coaching summary:

Make sure your target is something you really want to do.

Little and often is less stressful on your body than long slogs.

Practice means confidence. Confidence means relaxation. Relaxation means less crashes.

If an injury hurts, stop immediately and get it sorted.

Now here’s the next phase of the training plan for the rest of you.

The weekly plan

We’ve got a whole Bank holiday ahead of us but we want to make sure you hit it fairly fresh rather than crucifying yourself early in the week, so it’s a steady interval session that you’ve met before.

“Quite saw legs” What?

Really concentrate on mentally preparing yourself to nail each part of the session. Just keep remembering that making the effort now for the final part of each set will make sprints, hills and anything else you care to tackle a whole lot easier come summer. Warm up gradually for ten minutes until you’ve got a bit of a sweat on. Then increase speed until you hit the threshold level you worked out last month. If you need a clue – it’s somewhere between the point at which your legs start to burn, and the point where you start having to think about trying. You shouldn’t have enough breath to hold a conversation, but your shoulders shouldn’t be rolling and you shouldn’t have gritted teeth.

If you ride once a week hold this intensity for three minutes. If you ride twice a week hold it for four minutes, if you ride more than that hold it for five minutes.
Now relax and spin (drop down a whole chainring’s worth of gears at the front) for a minute before accelerating up to threshold level again.

Only do one “Quite saw legs” session per week, but fitter folk can ride more repetitions each session: If you train once a week repeat the ride and rest sequence five times. If you ride twice a week repeat it 7 times, if you ride more than that go up and back again 8 times.

Now ride home gradually reducing your effort to help your body flush the waste products out of your muscles.

If you’re keeping a training diary to track progress, write down what the session felt like, Heart rate (if available) and where you got to in the session. Also make a note of what weather was like, what bike you were using, trail conditions etc. so the test can be repeated at regular intervals.


Now you’re getting used to training pace, you can ride more varied terrain. Ideally, find an offroad loop you can ride a lap of hard in the appropriate time. This has the added advantage of letting you practice corners or other technical sections repeatedly, increasing your speed and smoothness through them each time. You’ll soon be railing the singletrack ready for race day. Just one word of caution though, don’t include anything too steep – either up or down – or it’ll be hard to keep your pulse rate down.


As it’s a hard session it’s best to get this one early in the week so you hit it fresh. If you’re running multiple sessions per week we’ll leave you to play the rest by ear. If you’re tired then take it easy, if you’re raring to go fit another hard session in. Keep concentrating on your base fitness with firm continuous rides rather than short, sharp, shock sessions. You’ll have plenty of time to sharpen up with them later in the year, and pushing too hard now will leave you a spluttering, coughing wreck.


By repeatedly taking the body to the threshold between efficient muscle use and flat out burn, you train yourself to recognise that level, as well as being able to accelerate up to it easily. This will be particularly useful coming out of slow corners or winding up for the last charge of a race. The session also allows you to spend more time at the threshold than a continuous session for the same cumulative effort, and it’s much easier to hold the level for two minutes than it is for a whole 30 minutes.

This creates a more responsive fitness base for everyday riding situations as well as preparing you for the sprint / technical bit / sprint / technical bit nature of most races.

The Bank Holiday What?

You’re probably not lucky enough to have four full days to ride but hopefully you can manage one big epic and a shorter ride maybe on the Friday. Take the shorter ride just as a quick roll-out to enjoy riding local trails in the daylight but don’t go making yourself suffer if your legs are still tender from the previous session.

For the big ride, get the most from your extra day off work recovering, by making sure it really is as big as possible. If you can’t remember any suitable rides, then get yourself onto the forum rides section and see who’s going where at your sort of ability. Pace yourself well enough to finish the ride, but don’t got trying to stick to any specific heart rates or training levels and concentrate on grinning not grinding the gears. There’s plenty of that to come later ;-).

On the Monday do your best to sneak out for a very gentle 20-30 minute recovery ride, just to flush some fresh blood through your legs so you don’t ache quite as badly on Tuesday.

Coach Potato’s Chip Tips Quadriceps stretch

The quadriceps (four major muscles on the front of the thigh) are the last of the three big leg-muscle groups. They’re not as prone to overtightness and transmission of stress to the rest of the body as hamstrings and calves are, but it’s still important to keep them stretched for the health of your knees.

The simplest and effective quad stretch is to start by standing on one leg. Then, with the opposite hand, grab the foot of the other leg and pull it up towards your bum. Pull it as far up as possible so you feel the muscle tighten and then hold for 15 seconds, breathing slowly as you feel the tension decrease. Rest the leg and repeat twice again before switching to the other leg.Well that wasn’t hard was it?

That’s all for now, so have a good week and if anyone really wants to lose weight we’re offering a special service allowing you to send us any unwanted chocolate Easter eggs to the staff at Bikemagic who will dispose of them safely. Mail Maria now to sort out the details.


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