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How-to: Train without Training 8

You want to be faster right? Unfortunately, “just riding more” is not going to win you any races; you’ve got to push yourself. Dedicated training, however, requires both time and monetary resources that not all of us have. Luckily, there are several things you can do on your regular rides to noticeably boost your fitness and skills. They won’t always be easy, but they work. Plus, you can do them on any ride, and no one will be able to accuse you of actually “training.”

Remember, there is the potential for injury with any training technique; if you don’t feel comfortable doing any of these things, don’t do them. I’m not a doctor or a physical therapist, and your health is your responsibility.

No granny gear - Start by telling yourself your largest cassette cog is off-limits. That means all the time, on any climb.  It will hurt at first and you might have to stop a few times, but you will eventually be able to ride all of your trails without the granny gear. Then, if you can, take away the next largest cog.

No Resting - If you have a chance to pedal, do it. Rollers, flat sections, and easy declines all invite you to take it easy and conserve energy, but don’t. Keep your heart rate up and your power on. Eventually you’ll build up the fitness to pedal hard every chance you get, and your buddies won’t stand a chance at keeping up.

Minivals - Minivals are a few intervals thrown into your regular rides, as opposed to dedicated workout days focusing on intervals. A time-tested technique to build fitness and strength, intervals get results quickly.  For timed intervals, simply go as hard as you can for twenty seconds and then soft pedal for forty seconds. Repeat this three times in a row and call it good. Intervals take a lot more out of you than it seems. Gradually increase the time under effort while decreasing recovery time, and/or add more intervals to your ride.

Seat Down Challenge - It’s easy to cheat on this one if you have a dropper post, but don’t. Put your seat down and leave it down for the entire ride. You’ll be forced to stand more, which engages your whole body, working muscles you don’t usually work while seated. This one can be hard on your lower back, so make sure to stretch before and after.

Chainless Downhill - Flow, cornering, line choice, and effective braking are all enhanced with chainless downhill training. Without the benefit of pedaling out of turns, you’ll have to maintain momentum through them by staying off your brakes and planning your attack. Instead of actually removing your chain, shift into the lowest gear so if you forget to not pedal, you won’t gain any forward momentum.

Incorporate these techniques into your rides and you’ll soon enjoy more speed and endurance without having to admit you are training.

Credit: Art's Cyclery / Vital MTB
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