By: Cate Wittman
My name is Cate Wittman, I am 15 and a member of the Athletic Mentors Junior Development Team. I primarily mountain bike race but occasionally race gravel. And I understand how hard riding can be in the early part of the year!
Winter training is the time to build up for the season. It is the factor that determines how your year is going to go, yet it can be difficult to manage. All cyclists have experienced the weird feeling of going from indoor riding to outside cycling. For instance, my legs always feel like jello and my arms as stiff as a chopping block. But here is how it’s been so far…
This winter season, I have been training on rollers and a trainer. I personally like to train inside since the cold can affect my breathing. Of course I do the usual sprints, long rides, spinning, etc, but for mountain bikers, how do you keep your technical skills over the winter without fat biking?
When it finally warmed up, we rode as much as possible to take advantage of the “nice” riding weather. I’ve found myself riding sloppy gravel roads, pavement and even some dry trails. As soon as I hopped on the seat and put my hands on the handle bars, I thought I was going to crash. My whole body tensed up and every little movement made me think I was just going to tip over. There was a very noticeable difference between the trainer and the road.
After riding for about a week in warmer weather, I got used to outdoor riding. Sprints felt unsustainable and long. Spinning felt like I was moving a foot in an hour compared to the rollers. But now I’ve gotten used to my legs spinning, the wind blowing in my face and the road moving underneath me. However, there will still be the weird feeling of not being able to grab a snack from the tableside next to you.
Getting ready for Barry Roubaix was a challenge, going from the comfort of my basement to the intense, muddy, hilly pavement and gravel roads. What made training for the race even better was the cold, icy air of the month of March. It’s hard to breathe in the thick air and I would hyperventilate and cough to try to inhale as much as I could to get a little oxygen to my lungs. It felt impossible.
Luckily, there are techniques that I’ve learned this season to help control things and calm me down. Things like breathing exercises, positive self-affirmations and more can help with my riding. When I can’t breathe, I try pushing all my air out as much as possible rather than in as much as possible. And when things start getting tough and I start thinking I can’t do it, I start talking out loud to myself saying I am able to do it. By doing things like this, it has helped my training and riding this early season. It can even help my mindset which therefore helps my ability to ride as well as I am able to.
At the start of everyone’s season, it feels weird and uncomfortable. Something that you’re not used to. But it’s important to remember that everyone feels this. Calm down if possible; take a few deep breaths, say some kind words to yourself, and try your best. I still need to work on these things, but I know that it takes time and patience. Making racing more enjoyable starts with your own mindset and base training.