Can ski training actually be productive in the summer without heading to a prestigious summer camp at Mount Hood, Chile or Europe? While those destinations provide the obvious on snow experience, there are other ways to improve fitness, strength, tactics and FUN without ever carving a turn on the snow.
Traditional “dryland training” incorporates weight, agility and interval training that can provide a stable base foundation for your upcoming season. Still, next season is a LONG time to wait to feel the thrill of speed or hear the wind in your helmet as you rip your favorite descent, or weave through some of the best glade sections. Unless…you ride a mountain bike!
Leg/Core Strength and Fitness: Mountain biking requires muscular endurance in combination with aerobic and aneroebic bursts or efforts. Your leg strength will improve if you ride your bike as a part of a regular fitness or training program. Over time, your body will become conditioned to the lactate “burn” that you feel at the top of a long climb…the same feeling you have during the last section of a long GS run! Mountain biking, like skiing, is also a dynamic sport. Rarely are you perched on the top of the seat just pedaling. Core muscle strength on a bike is required and improves with practice as your body position changes actively through turns, over rocks or logs, and as the grade of the hill increases or decreases.
Looking Ahead and Choosing a Line: During my ski coaching days one of my mantras was “line is everything”. It is nearly impossible to choose the right line if you do not look ahead. Mountain biking is no different, if you look at the front tire, you will not be prepared for upcoming changes in terrain. Like skiing, mountain biking changes based on hill pitch, rhythm changes, turn radius, surface conditions and of course speed. If you look ahead, through the turns and past the section you are currently navigating, you will be prepared and you will find yourself will making automatic adjustments and line variations to avoid potential obstacles.
Looking where you want to go is great advice in mountain biking. Your body and hence bike, will usually follow your eyes. If you fixate on that large rock in the trail, or the sapling at the bottom of a compression turn; more than likely you will get the opportunity to meet those objects of nature up close and personal! As you gain experience you will be surprised how, when looking ahead, your speed will increase, but the time you have to plan and navigate terrain will also increase. Have you ever had that perfect run skiing where things seemed to happen in slow motion…where you heard no sound, no chatter, no distraction? I would bet those runs are the times you were “ahead of the course”, and your line and tactics were more the result of instinct and natural feel.
It’s Just Plain Clean Fun: Why do we ski/ride? Friends, family, the thrill, and life-long memories and activity are some great by-products of both skiing and mountain biking. Your best powder day, that perfect mogul run, a strong race finish…you remember those days. When mountain biking the feeling and exhilaration is very similar. Try carving a long banked dirt turn as you enter a section of flowy single track lined with saplings as you follow the wheel of a friend, “fighter pilot style”, as your speed increases… without cracking a smile.
The “Circle”…Skiers Make Better Mountain Bikers: For some reason, more often than not, there is some truth to that statement. Over the years my family has had great success and joy “Completing the Circle”. We introduce our Winter ski friends to our Spring/Summer/Fall cycling friends. We turn skiers in to cyclists and cyclists into skiers. Cycling and skiing are outside activities, and both are lifetime sports. If you have skied, do you, either as a parent or as a child, remember that first chairlift ride or first true carved turn? Do you remember removing the training wheels and watching or taking that the first pedal stroke down the sidewalk or grass? Part of the thrill of each sport is the willingness of a participant of any age to briefly ignore gravity, be a kid and just enjoy the combination and balance of speed, fresh air and unconnected time in an otherwise connected world!
I Wish They Had This When We Were in School: As a freshman in high school in 1980, I said those same words to myself and then out loud with a group of friends I skied with. We wanted to start a ski racing team at West Milford High School. We approached school personnel, had a coach volunteer to lead the team and eventually met with the school Board with future Olympic Gold Medalist Donna Weinbrecht helping to lead the charge! The following year our high school team became official. I raced through high school, coached at the same school in college, and continued coaching at various levels for another 15 years as I started a family and introduced them to the sport that I loved. During that time, I also discovered cycling, and I am smiling all through the year as a result!
N.I.C.A. (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) :
Our Core Principles are: Strong Body, Strong Mind, Strong Character, Inclusivity, and Equality.
Those of us that have found mountain biking later in life have all spoken the words out loud… “I wish we had this when we were in school”. Like skiing, the bike is the tool, the conduit or path to a lifetime of amazing adventures and friendships. Reach out, support and spread the word! Parents, mentors, coaches, students…N.I.C.A. does exist in New Jersey and it is here to stay!
And I dare you…at any age, when you have that perfect afternoon on the bike, try not to crack a smile at least once, or better yet, see if you actually “Laugh Out Loud” for real!
Yours in Skiing and Cycling – David Kahl, NJICL V.P.