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Short but hilly bike rides still beneficial?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
I'm a long time skier and a former sport-class mountain bike racer and amateur triathlete. When I was racing MTB's and Tri's, ski fitness was obviously never an issue. My race training consisted of either very long (4-6 hours) or very hard (45 min at peak intensity) workouts.

Now that I'm quite a bit older, quite a bit heavier, and not racing at all, ski fitness is an issue. Couple that with the fact that I'm skiing 10 days a year instead of my former 40-50 days and a week of skiing is very tough.

My true love on the mountain is bump skiing. My decline in fitness has changed me from an amateur bump competitor to one of those guys who makes 10 good turns in the bumps and then needs oxygen or CPR.

With work and kids, the time I have available for working out is limited. I can usually find the time for 3-4 very short workouts during the week and one longer one on the weekends. I'm riding an MTB again as that has always been the most effective way for me to gain ski fitness and lose weight. Much more than running, in fact.

My question is around workout duration. Are those short, 20-30 minute mid-week MTB rides doing any good at all to improve my fitness. I've always felt that a little is better than nothing at all but I'm not sure if that's physiologically correct.

During my short rides, I do get my heartrate up into the 80% range quite a few times because the area I ride in is pretty hilly. I can simulate that bump skiing feeling (gasping for air and burning quads) at least 5 times during my 30 minute rides.

Is this little bit of workout helping at all?
post #2 of 6
Every little bit absolutely helps.
How old are you kids? If they're young you could get a buggy and pull them around with you, that way you can combine fitness time with family time.
post #3 of 6
Kevin, I have had a lot of the same issues as you. Although I never competed in MTB racing or in any kind of skiing. I lost a lot of fitness and workout time/ski days when my son was younger. Between, house, career, family.. there just ain't much time left.

Keep up the biking - yes the 30-minute workouts help. I used to go for longer rides very early morning on Saturdays with another guy that had the same time-crunch issues. We could get a couple of hous in and be home by 9AM. (although it was never easy to get my ass in gear that early).

As the kids get older you will get more time to persue your own interests. I take my son riding and skiing now and we have a great time - that is the reward for sacrificing personal time earlier.
post #4 of 6
riding helps, but it's not the very same muscles. core strength is less an issue on the bicycle, sometimes it can be seasoned with technique on the bicycle but you need to have excellent body awareness and muscle engagement skills. when I train on my road bike I focus on using different muscle groups for different periods of time. but I'd prefer to train on the mtb.

the best training is hillclimbs, the steeper and tougher the better. stay seated and pedal with hugely quiet upper body, working the big muscles thoroughly.

as you age, even the cycling won't be enough. I'm 44 and notice the past 2 seasons that my excellent cycling fitness hasn't been quite enough. usually at the end of the cycling season I'm in great shape, resting HR in the mid-to-high 40s. but strength and stamina, rather than repetitive fitness, are the key to skiing excellence.

also, balance diminishes without use. bicycling can be very balance-dependent, or simply rote memory keeping us upright. the more you work your balance and proprioception the more it pays off in skiing.
post #5 of 6
I agree with Gonzo – cycling alone is not enough, but it’s better than nothing. I’ll put in around 5000-7000 miles a year, but know that if I don’t do some strength training going into ski season then it’s all for naught.

Cycling does give a great base from which to work from, but come ski season (or pre-season) you need more core strength and plyometric exercises. Skiing is a hugely plyometric / anaerobic activity – especially bump skiing.

Riding a bike for 30 minutes with your hill intervals that you mention is a good start (they have hills in Atlanta? Kidding … just kidding). But, you’ll need to throw in some strength training exercises in there for explosive power and strength stamina (versus aerobic stamina, which is what cycling is really good for).

Pick your longest favorite bump run and do hill intervals that last at least as long (time), and up to twice as long. All out maximum effort – none of the 80% crap … not good enough.

If you don’t have time to make it to the gym then there are plenty of exercises you can do without weights. Example: Pistols – simply squats without weight. You want a GREAT leg workout? Do some one legged pistols. That’ll not only work the muscles (ALL of the lower body), but also develop your balance and core strength as well.

Do you have a Swiss ball? If not get one and find your favorite core exercises. You’ll be amazed at how whimpy you’ll feel at first. Your core is key – if it’s not strong then all of your other muscles get overworked trying to compensate.

Bottom line is that cycling = good. But, cycling + plyometric + core = better. I know, I know – you said time is an issue, but you’d be surprised how much you can do in a short amount of time without having to go to the gym.
post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
Good stuff, thanks all. Ironically, the one thing I DO have more time for is the gym. My wife just joined our local Y (which is HUGE and very nice). It's open late and early. I could head there after the kids are in bed if I had to. Any good total-body weight workouts you could recommend? I'm sure I could find dozens with a couple Googles but if anyone happens to have links to some good ones, I'd appreciate it.

Thanks again!

And yeah, Atlanta has a few hills They're short but steep. After living in the West for the past 15 years, it's VERY hard to get used to living in the Southeast. In addition to a complete lack of day-trip skiing, the cycling is even very different. When I lived in San Ramon (Bay Area, CA), I could ride a 12 mile climb without putting my bike in the car (waaaa...I miss Mt. Diablo). Here, I couldn't ride a 12 mile climb without putting my bike on a freakin' airplane. Sorry for the rant. I'm just experiencing heavy West Coast withdrawls lately I just have to keep reminding myself that at least my mortgage payment is half what it was for 2x the house.
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