Don’t Take It Per­son­ally... But Maybe You Need to Harden the F#*k Up

Words by Ja­clyn Delacroix

Mountain Bike for Her - - Contents - Words by Ja­clyn Delacroix

Have you ever won­dered why some peo­ple seem to make huge im­prove­ments when they start train­ing whereas oth­ers seem to hit a per­ma­nent “plateau”?

If you are one of those peo­ple who has al­ready made huge leaps and bounds for­ward and are con­stantly im­prov­ing, then you are prob­a­bly familiar with what I’m about to dis­cuss. How­ever, if you al­ways watch your friends get bet­ter, stronger, faster, while you seem to be on those same 15 lbs dumb­bells in the gym and still walk those same sec­tions on your favourite climb­ing trail, then this ar­ti­cle is for you. Keep an open mind and read on!


Yes, that’s what I said. Now let me ex­plain a lit­tle bit more be­fore you get of­fended. How did you get bet­ter at rid­ing down­hill? You pushed your­self, of­ten out­side of your com­fort zone. The peo­ple that usu­ally ad­vance the quick­est are those who take more risks and push harder. Why would this be any dif­fer­ent when we are talk­ing about other im­prove­ments?


You pedal up to your favourite trail. It takes you just as long now as it took you last year and the year be­fore that. Why? Haven’t you won­dered why you never get faster? It’s sim­ple: your body has adapted to head up the hill at the spe­cific pace you have set for it. The first time you did it all those years ago, it re­ally hurt. In your mind, it prob­a­bly still hurts ev­ery time you do it. But your body has adapted to this pace; it won’t go faster as you’ve never pushed it to go faster. The same the­ory ap­plies to your in­ter­vals: are you re­ally push­ing hard enough when you do them?

How many times when you are ped­alling up that hill or do­ing those in­ter­vals do you feel like you may just throw up? And I’m not talk­ing about be­ing a lit­tle bit winded… I’m talk­ing about full-on where you can hear your heart beat­ing in your head, you are gasp­ing for air, and you have a mo­ment won­der­ing if you may just ex­pire from ex­er­tion. You fi­nally stop be­cause if you keep go­ing any fur­ther you will throw up.

I know it sounds just aw­ful, and I’m

not say­ing ev­ery ride should be like this, but some­times this is ex­actly how your ride should be. If you want to get faster, then you need to start think­ing about how hard you are re­ally push­ing your­self. Let’s be hon­est. Un­til you push your body to the edge of its lim­its and un­der­stand just how much it can re­ally take, your car­dio im­prove­ments may be sub-par or even non-ex­is­tent. Keep that in mind next time you are faced with a hill.


A sec­ond rea­son your friends may be sur­pass­ing you is weight train­ing. Do you lift? You should con­sider start­ing. For a re­fresher on the im­por­tance of weights train­ing, read my ar­ti­cle in the Septem­ber/Oc­to­ber 2014 is­sue. Just adding weight train­ing to your rou­tine will au­to­mat­i­cally im­prove your hill climb be­cause stronger mus­cles equal bet­ter en­durance. On top of that, those mus­cles can be trained to be­come even stronger and more en­dur­ing.

Although more and more women are dis­cov­er­ing what sort of weight train­ing they should be do­ing, there is still a strong trend for do­ing too many reps with weights that are too light. Although this has its place, and you likely saw ini­tial im­prove­ments, ask your­self what hap­pened af­ter the first cou­ple of weeks. Not a lot. The body adapts to push the weight, mean­ing you don’t need to get any stronger.

My rec­om­men­da­tion: Lift heav­ier weights and al­ways re­tain good form through ev­ery rep. Chal­lenge your­self with a heavy weight. Per­haps on the first and sec­ond set you can lift it, but by the third, your mus­cles are strained un­der the weight and you are phys­i­cally un­able

to push out an­other rep. The mes­sage is to chal­lenge your mus­cles and de­mand them to get stronger.

Again, push­ing your mus­cles to fa­tigue and fail­ure is not a sce­nario for ev­ery work­out. But by push­ing your body out­side of your com­fort zone, you are go­ing to see tan­gi­ble im­prove­ments. You will get stronger, and have the op­por­tu­nity to trans­fer th­ese im­prove­ments from the gym to the bike.


While there are many ways to im­prove in moun­tain bik­ing, take this one mes­sage away: chances are you can work harder and push your­self more. Try a per­sonal trainer to mo­ti­vate you and help you at­tain your goals. Even if you just need help to de­ter­mine how much weight you should be lift­ing, qual­i­fied train­ers can help you de­sign a pro­gres­sive pro­gram and help you un­der­stand how to safely push your lim­its. Be­fore you know it, you will be wait­ing for your faster friends at the top of the climb.

Re­mem­ber Rule #5.

Photo: Clay­ton Raci­cot

Photo: Ja­clyn Delacroix

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