I am very excited for this polished video highlighting 5 steps to learn to bunny hop over Cyclocross Barriers. I also share the key training tool you can use to learn to flow over things (and eventually jump, unweight and bunny-hop too!)
This is a great question and one that becomes too polarized. I believe that many cyclists, especially non-elite/age-group/masters aged athletes who have to balance work, family, health, and travel with their training can really benefit from being able to run.
Should you run? or do you want to run? Or do you need to run?
If you struggle to get enough workouts in or to maintain your training discipline/routine with travel, weather and other challenges than running can be a very effective and something I personally use and believe has greatly enhanced my performance as a cyclist. Uphill running especially I think offers a potent stimulus for trained cyclists who may struggle to push hard enough on the bike.
If you are traveling I think it makes sense that some of the short-term causes of detraining (e.g. plasma volume) can be mitigated if you can do something.
Past injuries may inform if you should run (and perhaps if you should ride cyclocross) I believe many people can get to some form of running but it takes time and focused work ( run:walks, mobility, skipping and eccentric-strength work, mixed-soft surfaces, walking and hiking and footwear are among considerations)
Do you live in a wintery or less-than-ideal cycling location? I grew up and live in Canada. If you don’t have other activities to do you can not train without going crazy on the trainer, yes even with ‘smart’ trainers. Running is very flexible to weather and terrain but pole-running, hiking, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, fat-biking and other options do help, albeit generally require more specific conditions, terrain or equipment than running.
Specific considerations for the ‘should I run for cyclocross’ question
Does it make sense to run without your bike if you only will have to run with your bike?
Does it make sense to jog vs. sprint uphill?
To start why not go for more walks during your day with your family? (is walking as similar to uphill, offroad cyclocross running as JOGGING on flat pavement for 20min?)
Why not do more running in your cyclocross specific workouts and incorporate hike-a-bike into more rides in summer/fall?
Bill Shieken of CxHairs was also on the podcast and I was really happy to talk about this and other issues since he has watched so much cyclocross (and has a book about it). He felt that the one thing that running might do is help with confidence in that if you do run periodically than you may not be able to list that as a, “I can’t run” limiter.
I am so excited for the launch of the ‘Cyclocross Mounts and Dismounts course’. It consolidates many of the drills I use to help clients learn to get on and off their bikes for cyclocross, mountain biking and other disciplines. It is also meant to help overcome bad habits and compensations that might be slowing you down after years of racing cyclocross.
Learning to Dismount and then Get back on your bike smoothly, is something that changes cycling profoundly. Mounts and Dismounts are essential skills that I believe transfers to many other areas of riding, such as cornering and wheel lifts.
This week we talk about paleo and how it applies if you are a vegan (or does it) + Paleo for endurance athletes (cycling) and more about getting ready for cyclocross season and racing twice in a weekend.
Cyclocross is Hard – Racing twice a weekend and Cleaning it all up is REALLY HARD
As cyclocross season (or what we used to call Fall) starts looking more like winter in many areas it is normal to start feeling your energy for cycling decrease. Where is all the #CXISCOMING? And who stole those fresh September legs!
Regardless of where you live and how you built or failed to build your fitness for cyclocross season, it is a bold goal to take on 1, or 2 (or more!) races for 1, or 2 (or more!) months. Most of us come out of a mountain or road season and neglect to take a mid-season break or rebuild our endurance. We jump into one or two (or more) cross practices (which are races) a week plus the early season races to test our legs, get the intensity and those coveted early points.
The problem is we get tired from the repeated back to back weekends of racing. We miss our weekend fun rides, our endurance decreases, and the weather starts requiring more work to get motivated and prepared for. 1 or 2 (or more!) bikes need to be prepped before each race and repaired after each race. Then work comes Monday. This is tiring just to type!
Are you just racing too much? Re-Focus on The Goal
If your goal was to race until a certain race then that may still be possible. Take a week off hard efforts. That includes cross-practice, zwift, weekly races, and group rides. Go to bed early and do only easy workouts all week. If you have to race on the weekend consider doing only one of the days. If you can get a weekend off. Stay home and get a hard workout in focused on your limiters but not so hard that you are very fatigued. Finish knowing you could do another. The other day should be a longer (whatever that means for you) workout perhaps 90-180min as a rough range. This should make next week and next races go much better. If there is no obvious reason to race twice weekly (including weekly races) than stop doing that and focus on the key races remaining on your calendar.
Getting your indoor training environment setup to make workouts quick and get to sleep earlier will help with short days. Many athletes forget that they can ride indoors and outdoors and don’t put the preparation work in to make sure they have options. Riding outdoors all fall means a lot of cleanups and, eventually, a loss in quality if the weather is always cold and rainy.
Keep focused on recovering from the weekends, perhaps add an extra day easy and reduce intensity days to one mid-week workout plus the racing on the weekend. Skill workouts, especially if limited by your mounts/dismounts or cornering can still be done but, again, watch adding too much intensity. Mud/rain preparation is valuable BUT don’t overdo it, especially after you have done a few of these workouts and races.
Are you racing without a goal?
If you did not have a big goal race or end date for the season then this may be part of why you are feeling slightly off/tired/sad/unmotivated.
How would you feel if you ended the season now?
What are the positives of doing this?
Are there any downsides?
Why race yourself into deep fatigue and low motivation for no reason?
When You do call the season make sure you give yourself a break
As a busy, working person you likely don’t need an extended offseason but simply going back to light and varied workouts without racing, competition and travel will have you feeling better and provide for mental recovery quickly.
Inevitably or eternally, #CrossIsComing, so when you decide it’s time to get ready for CX season what workouts are best for you to do?
The best workouts for one athlete may not be the best ones for you. Your friend, or your favorite pro, may be very good at high power, sprints and spend the summer racing road while you may be a time-trialist all summer with limited time to train. You may be much older or younger, or you may have a background in BMX-racing or no cycling background at all! We need to consider many factors when choosing our key workouts to get ready for cyclocross to ensure we have worked on our limiters.
Below are three general scenarios that athlete ‘types’ that you may fit into. I have included some workout ideas that you may want to include as cyclocross season approaches. I am not suggesting all of these be done in a single week, but you may very well find yourself spending a month on each of these ‘scenarios’ as you go through the cross season and your abilities and strengths evolve.
1) Technically limited, struggle with continuous but undulating efforts of cross
If you haven’t spent much time off-road, especially racing off-road than cross practice will be your friend, and getting skill coaching will also be valuable. If you can get riding on a cross course frequently, or setup some obstacles around your house, this will be very helpful.
Workouts that require you to alternate your output and skills will also be great. Micro-intervals where you ride hard and easy (15 seconds hard /15 seconds easy and 30/30 are most common). Most often these are done for 10-30 minutes and should feel very much like the unrelenting hard work of cyclocross!
Including running in these micro-intervals can be another way to simulate race situations and improve technique (once you have the basics down at slow speed with low fatigue). Try building a short loop that makes you ride hard for ~30 seconds, recover on a descent or set of corners, then dismount for a barrier and do a run up a steep hill, then do a bunch of corners back to the start of the short loop for a 1-3 minute repetition.
I usually do 1-5 x 1-2 min rounds together, take a 5-10 minute break then do another 2 sets. Mix very short and maximal efforts with longer efforts in another session in the week to get really fun and specific workout.
2) Struggle with ‘going all in’, starts, attacks, sprints
This is common in endurance mountain bikers, gravel-grinders, Fondo-riders or time-trialists. Putting yourself into some criteriums, hard group rides or short cyclocross practice races will be helpful in developing the love of going hard!
Many times cross practices will include some start repetitions, which really help develop your ‘starting routine’ and your starting power. On your own, you can do this by practicing 6-10 short (10-20sec) start efforts from standing at the beginning of a few workouts each week.
If you are not a sprinter or struggle with maximal short efforts, it is worth putting a focus on this by doing a focused workout on sprinting or very short efforts with full recoveries (8+ minutes). It is quite valuable to get skill-coaching for standing and sprinting as your power can increase simply by learning the technique of sprinting.
These start efforts might be paired a workout that puts you on your limit and then makes you attack over that intensity. These might be called ‘over-unders’ or ‘threshold with bursts’ depending on the coach but basically, we want to ride at a hard pace and then surge for 15-60seconds before returning to that hard pace.
Start at 2-3 reps of 11 minutes (1 minute hard/4 min threshold/1 minute hard/4min threshold/1min hard). Use longer recoveries 5-10 minutes of light pedaling to ensure you will push the pace. While it is tempting to do this on cyclocross course it is best done on the road to ensure your power output is hard alternated with very hard, and to track your progress.
3) Great technical skills, low fitness, or tired/sick from a lot of summer racing
Did you spend the summer in the bike park, racing BMX, winning every criterium, or were you off the bike a lot for injury or vacation? If you believe you will be limited by your engine more than your driving skills then bias towards extended road-endurance sessions 2-3x a week. If your technical ability is sufficient this can be polished or maintained around the focused intensity days and/or at a weekly cross practice, which could be included after intervals, or for fit athletes with a lot of cyclocross skills, after some endurance road riding.
*If you are racing twice on a weekend during the cross season this can also be a nice way to spend your weekdays to provide enough recovery between weekends while maintaining some training load.
Once you are back to feeling good on the bike during these endurance sessions you can start to include 1-2 sessions of threshold intervals per week. Progress a set of 3 x 10 minutes towards a burly 2 x 20-minute session over 4 – 8 weeks keeping an eye on your intensity (more is not more). Recovery is 5-10 minutes typically.
In all of these scenarios, the focus/interval days will vary but these in all cases these couple of days should be surrounded by sufficient rest, cross-training and low end, steady endurance. 1-2 days of focused training (intervals/skills) with lower intensity and recovery will ensure you make progress in the desired areas. Work hard on the hard days then recover and allow yourself to improve!
I worked with Canadian Cycling Magazine on 3 videos to help enhance your cross experience. These 3 foundational skills critical to review and practice frequently if you want to have a great cyclocross season. The dismount and mount are also very important for mountain bike bikers and triathletes.
Providence was perhaps the best Cylocross race I have been at in terms of organizers planning for a festival and full weekend of events. With 1200+ racers and 8000+ spectators the numbers tell the story. Exiting courses, food vendors, and beer gardens make for a super weekend of spectating .
I wasn’t feeling super over the weekend but managed some mid pack finishes and enjoyed the beer garden jump and a few laps with Mike Garrigan on Day 2.