Guest Article By Jeff Knox
“I want to be fitter and stronger,” that was basically what I wanted out of my training so I could go faster on my bike. This was back in 2010 and my motivation was an event known as the Megavalanche at the Alpe D’Huez in France.
It is raved about by anyone who has ever done it and ranks as the number one mountain biking competition to do before you die.
On paper it looked to be tougher than anything I had ever done before and I knew I needed to up my game if I wanted to get a decent result. I basically thought that if I spent some time on my bike, lifted some weights and did a few spin classes then I would be in good shape…boy was I wrong!
The problem was that the training I was doing was badly structured and I just wasn’t doing the right things to get excellent results. In the end I qualified not too badly but I knew it could have been much better and the race was a disaster with me struggling by the halfway stage and basically crawling across the finish line.
I now know what the issues were but at the time it was essentially a bit of a voyage of discovery to find out what had gone wrong. I had heard bits and pieces about interval training in the past but always thought that just slugging it out for long distances was the key to success.
I then started to research it more thoroughly and was finding paper after paper showing amazing results in short time periods when compared to the long, boring style of cardio I was used to doing.
Boy was I starting to feel stupid! It looked like I was missing out on a style of training that could give me massive performance gains.
I also started to look hard at how I was going about my weight training and began to discover how I could include bodyweight exercises into the mix in addition to some of the more standard exercises I was doing such as deadlifts, squats and kettle bell training.
I quickly realised that unilateral exercises were going to benefit me massively on the bike to get great strength in the legs to stand up and really mash the pedals. I also started to do some interval sessions with bodyweight exercises when I had a bit of spare time away from the gym. They’re so quick and easy to do that you can do them almost anywhere!
The main interval training I started doing was on the stationary bike in the gym after doing a weights session. I began with short work intervals with longer rests because it was pretty tough and it was also a good idea to start this way to avoid any injuries.
If memory serves me right I started with 15 second almost flat out work intervals with 45 second rests for 8 sets and gradually worked towards doing longer work intervals with shorter rests as my fitness improved and am now at a stage of doing 35 seconds as hard as I can go with 25 second rests for 10 sets which is pretty brutal but the rewards on the trail are well worth it.
The change in my style of working out has had big benefits to how I can ride my bike on the trails. I can stand on the pedals and climb big hills whereas before I would have to give in and sit down pretty quickly. The same goes for my sprints and because I still have energy left in the tank I can really push hard which means I get more and more enjoyment out of the bike. I’ve also lost over half a stone which is pretty darn nice!
My results have made me want to let others know how good interval training is which led me to create my website www.intervaltrainingexercises.com which has lots of great information on interval and resistance training and the best workout I came across was Turbulence Training by Craig Ballantyne.
It’s crazy the number of workouts he has created and there’s so much there that you would struggle to try them all. All I need now is to get back to France and conquer that mountain. Bring it on!
– Jeff Knox