So despite the fact that it’s only days away and you’ve decided to enter the 2016 Gravity Enduro National Championship at the last minute. You may have been feeling brave about it after your third beer with the boys in the shed whilst unwinding from your last ride but now the reality has hit and you’re actually committed. So, with only a few days to go what can you do to optimise your performance on the day?
Training: On the lead up to the start of the race you won’t be going from zero to hero but you still will be able to improve your base level fitness significantly. Building up your cardiovascular energy system in a short period of time is much more realistic than trying to build muscle in a short period of time, so instead of making your leg muscles more developed the focus should be on training what you’ve got and making that as rock solid as possible. It’s worth sitting down and having a look at the training you’re doing at the moment and just seeing how compatible that is with the upcoming race. If you know the race will have short, steep climbs and long flats, then repeatedly doing your local DH (downhill) loop, although probably a lot more fun, isn’t specific enough of a training type to optimise your performance on the day. Even marathon runners train at a variety of intensities and there’s no reason why it’d be any different on a bike. Although, you may expect the course or conditions to be one way things can change on the day, weather can play a role etc. Getting in a variety of training loads/intensities can make you a more rounded rider and set you up to be better prepared for any race day emergencies that may occur. Besides your race specific training consider adding the following into your training schedule to make you a more rounded, more prepared rider:
1. Repeated hill sprints
2. Riding the same section repeatedly but using different gears to work your cardiovascular system and muscles in unique ways
3. Holding an unfamiliar pedalling cadence for a short familiar loop
4. Session purely focusing on pedalling technique
Hydration/food: One important thing to realise with hydration that a lot of people neglect is that there’s only so much hydrating your body can do 2 hours before the race. Although this definitely is an important time to be taking fluid in, the 2-3 days leading up to the event is equally as important. Hydration, just like fitness doesn’t happen overnight, if you want your body to be optimally hydrated you have to start putting in a conscious effort to keep your levels topped up days before the race. With our muscles comprising of about 70-80% water it just makes sense to give the body more of what it wants.
Everyone is different and there are many figures floating around out there both in text books and in the black abyss of Google regarding just how much water we need for optimum performance. The general consensus is that 2-4L of water is sufficient. Obviously if you’re a 6’6” 110kg male who sweats a lot you’re going to be towards the higher end of the spectrum for necessary water intake and if you’re a 5’2” 50kg woman who’s always freezing you’re likely going to be towards the lower end of the spectrum. However sweat rates, body temperature, etc are highly specific so always listen to your body and err on the side of caution.
Regarding what to use for hydration generally a mix of fluids is the best. Consider running water in your drink bottle but some sort of electrolyte based sport drink (Hydralyte, Gatorade, etc) in your Camelback. Water is great at re-hydrating you but if you’re a heavy sweater additional to the fluid you’re sweating out you’ll also need to replace those salts and minerals that you’re losing via sweat and a sport specific drink is the most appropriate tool for the job.
Stretching: Every day we’re learning more and more about stretching, all the different types of stretching that exist and how each type effects athletic performance. One thing we’re moving away from is static stretching. An example of a static stretch you may be familiar with would be down at your local footy oval you might have seen the local footy players doing static hamstring stretches before the game begins. This is a prime example of how we DON’T want to stretch immediately before attempting to display the peak physical excellence we’ve trained so hard for! Although there are more and more studies coming out daily we currently know that holding a stretch for long periods of time (30sec-2min) will immediately and measurably decrease your peak power output and with no measurable decrease in injury rates between those who did or did not static stretch before the event (a pre-event, sport specific warm up is much more valuable in decreasing injury rates). The type of stretches you do before the race should be vastly different to those you do after the race too. As a general rule of thumb you want to take the sport specific joints through their typical ranges of motion briefly so you still lengthen the muscle fibres and prepare them to do so during the event but it’s not necessary or helpful to keep them in that position for extended periods of time. When you see the football players swinging their legs in the air kicking imaginary footballs this is an example of a sport specific stretch that will not have a short term negative effect on performance. After the event is finished is when it’s appropriate to spend more time in each position really giving the muscle time to decrease it’s resting tone and lengthen back to its normal length. Remember we want to stretch to strain not pain so make sure the stretches aren’t painful or excessively uncomfortable.
Matthew Grosser, Ad. Dip. (Myotherapy) AAMT
SA Integrated Therapies
225 Grote Street, Adelaide SA 5000
Phone: (08) 8221 6600