conditioning question

In order to get in some sort of suitable(he laughs) conditioning for Cal MUni weekend. I am riding technical MUni on one day on the weekend for about 1.5 hours to 2 hours. The riding gets my heart going very strongly and I just work on skills on technical terrain. During the week I am starting to Nordic track. I am currently up to 15 minutes. I want to get to 25 minutes in two weeks and stay at that for the remainder of the period until CMW on October 17.

I can’t do much else for conditioning as my schedule doesn’t allow it. In order to do the Nordic track I need to be up at 4:45 a.m and the days offer no time to do it, even in the evening.

My question is: Should I Nordic track every day or alternate and only go every other day? What’s the best for the body? On the “off” days, I guess I could walk the dog for the same amount of time, but that offers little benefit as its just not very fast.

Any thoughts or recommendations?


For something like a muni weekend, I’m thinking a nordic track won’t do you a whole lot of good, but my recommend–if you have limited conditioning time–is to focus your efforts on cardio, versus on endurance. Whether using the NT, walking the dog, or riding, try to work in some intervals training. If you’re not riding much, it may be the best way to avoid sucking major wind when you’re out on the trail. Or so my two-cents claims.

Do you have any paved hills near your house? Even though trail riding may not be convenient mid-week, if you have some decent short, steep hills in or near your neighborhood, you could get a good little interval training regimen going on your muni, which even without the dirt and boulders, will still have you closer to trail shape than a nordic track. I think the cross-over works. As an example, it’s now getting dark too early for me to do my traditional 15 mile climbing route on my 36-er after work. So how do I finish training for next week’s Bike MS tour? I toss my 29-er in the car, drive about 5 minutes away to a neighborhood that has a long steep uphill, and climb, descend, climb, descend, etc. until dark. The climb from bottom to top takes me about 4 minutes, but it’s 4 minutes of major cardio, heavy breathing. Then I beat it back down while my heart rate recovers, turn around, do it again. Even though I’m not logging the major miles on my coker, I’m building the strength and power, which will help when I hit the big hills out on the ride.

I’ve done this in the past to try to prep for Moab. Admittedly, that’s a bit closer a comparison…paved hill to slickrock hill…but I still think any time you can get on the muni pushing your cardio–dirt or not–will help.

That’s cool you use a Nordic Track. I used to have one many years ago, as part of off-season training for real nordic (skating mostly) racing. Those years taught me alot about conditioning. Way too much than I have time to write now, but I’ll try to contribute some basics that work for me.

I find training for muni to be very similar to training for xc skiing, because they’re both “total body” sports. You essentially have three “needs” you’re training for: endurance, strength, and power. You get all three just by riding the muni, but cross-training can be very beneficial to any sport. For example, I’ve found that strength training has REALLY helped me feel more “in charge” of the muni, especially when steering & correcting using the seat handle.

BTW, obviously you’re also training for TECHNIQUE, muscle memory, etc., things I lack in a big way right now as a beginner, but since your question is just about cross-training I’m just focusing on that. Also it’s important to note that beginners do not get the same aerobic effect in an hour of muni-ing that pros get, because we spend so much time on UPDs. So cross-training is a great way to keep in shape so that when we CAN hop through rock gardens like a gazelle, we have the endurance to keep going for many more miles.

Back to your question. I would recommend getting up to at least 25 min. sessions on the Nordic Track, preferably 30 if possible, at least 3x a week, preferably 4. The purpose of this is to raise your aerobic conditioning, endurance, and anaerobic threshold (that line you cross when you start breathing like a locomotive). Check your heart rate and try to hover at 70 percent max (max = 220 minus your age). So if you’re 50, your target rate would be 119. The formula varies depending on your conditioning, you can check the web for more on this.

And man, that Nordic Track (or any exercise machine) can get REAL boring, so think about mixing it up with some running, swimming or other aerobic activity.

One cool thing about the Nordic Track is you’re working arms & legs, mostly legs, so it’s probably a great choice for muni.

Then add in some strength exercises. Just a quick 20-min session doing 1-2 sets of dumbell curls, military press, pushups, situps, bar dips and pullups is good. You can do legs too, but I think you get enough of that on the muni rides. Try to do this 2x - 3x a week.

As for power, that explosive ability to stab the pedals hard and fast when you need to, probably the best training for that is the muni.

One more element is stretching. Especially for us older folks, I can’t stress the importance of stretching enough. It keeps up limber, flexible, less injury-prone (or able to recover from one faster) and much more. Do it while you watch TV.

This is a really basic program, old school. There have surely been many advances in physical conditioning that you can read about or discuss with a professional trainer. Interval training, plyometrics and other activities can be part of a well-rounded program. And of course, don’t overdo it, and consult with your doc if you’re going to start really pushing it beyond your normal regimen.

I’m sure there are countless pro riders who have really effective routines, and hopefully they’ll contribute here and give us all some good pointers. Hope this helps.

It’s best to take days off, keep it light every other day, or what I would do; cardio one day & strength training the next.

A workout I like:
*20 squat jumps - squat, explode up and land back into your next squat.
*50 knee push-ups.
*20 double leg lifts - lay on back and when your legs get virtical lift your legs and hips as high as you can.
*30 swimming - lay on stomach w/ arms overhead and raise alternating arms and legs, like a freestyle stroke.

I could get in 4 sets w/ a couple of minutes for stretching at the end w/in 30 min. Since I do it w/o resting, it gets a decent cardio workout as well.

Some other things you might want to try:
*Hopping back and forth over a bench w/o stopping. And/or doing the same w/ pausing for an instant on top of it.
*Jumping lounges - do a lounge, jump switch feet in the air and land back in a lounge.

If you bring an extra shirt, you could do the above workout on your lunch brake.

A long time ago I heard about a semi-pro athlete (I forget the sport) who would do stuff like walking lounges around the office when he went anywhere and 50 push ups/leg lifts/etc every time he got up from his desk, which he did several times an hour. This allowed him to be as compettitive as he could be w/ pros, short of quiting his job (he was attracting intrest of some big sponsors, he said if he got some of those, he’d quite working).

I think running, w/ a few short sprints, would be better than nordic track. Like running laps and sprinting 30~40 yds each lap. Improving your sprinting could help w/ some UPD’s.

To keep from getting bored doing things like cardio, I listen to music or books on tape.

I am also using a Nordic Trak and find it a terrific cardio workout. I am up at 5:00AM and use the Nordic for 45-55 minutes. Contrary to what was said above, the Nordic Trak gives a great cardio workout. I think it is terrific for general conditioning and it has helped my MUni ability greatly.

Taking days off is more important if you are doing weight training, where your muscles really do need a day to rest. It is less important to take a day off between cardio workouts. Let your body tell you when it wants a day to rest. I try to do 5-6 days each week on my Nordic.

All cardio can be boring. A lot of folks watch TV. After I lot of practice, I can go at a fast pace and read the newspaper! No kidding. I rip out the individual pages I want to read and place them on a music stand at eye level. When I finish a page, I throw it on the floor and read the next one in the stack.

when I want a change of pace (and it is light enough outside in the early morning), I do multiple laps on my MUni around my house. The house is built into a hill, so every lap has an uphill and a downhill. My rough, bumpy lawn is harder to ride on than a well-ridden off-road trail.

+1 on OK for cardio every day, weights every other. Or weights every day too if doing different muscle groups. There’s also great variations on cardio that increase fitness while adding variety. LSD’s (long slow distance at target heart rate 70 percent max) help build an endurance foundation, good to do once every week or two. Interval training (going hard for a few minutes, slowing down to recover, then doing it again for several reps) can raise the anaerobic threshold. Speedplay (random bursts of speed) is a fun variation on intervals that isn’t so rigid and painful.

Many seasoned riders might think we’re crazy talking about all this cross-training, wondering why we don’t just get out and ride. For me, the main reason is I’m a beginner and with all the UPDs and balance-checks I simply can’t get a great cardio workout on the muni yet. But even when I can, I’ll still like the variety.

And yeah, Nordic Track rocks. Cross-country ski racers have incredibly high V02 max numbers, due to the combined leg and arm exercise (and probably from training so much at higher altitudes). Since muni is ALSO a leg/arm combo sport, the NT sounds excellent.

For me it’s mainly a time thing. If I’m looking for maximum skill improvement w/ the least amount of time, it’s best to do some strength training and cardio.

I’ve found that about 25% of my total uni time should be spent doing some sort of cross training, more if I can’t get to the trails often, less if I ride every day.