Do You Even Strathpuffer Bro? - Preparing For The 'Puffer Part 1
Posted on by Sophie Nicholson
Part 1 of our Puffer Preparation Blog Series written by Naomi Freireich - 24 hr endurance MTB specialist, 2016 Puffer Solos and 2017 Mixed Pairs champion and Gore Apparel Ambassador.
Preparing your body
So you ride a mountain bike, you’ve got the skills, maybe you’ve raced XC or Enduro, even a 7 or 10 hour race, but how do you prepare yourself to take on the 'Puffer - one of the toughest 24 hour events on the planet?
24 hour racing puts you body under extreme stress, and muscles that barely get a work out on a 2-3 hour ride get pummelled, so it’s really important to prepare your body to cope with what you’re about to ask of it. And I’m not just talking about your legs.
Riding over rough terrain for any long period of time can cause serious arm-ache, and there are things you can do to minimise this. Good foam grips and gloves with ulnar padding will help to a degree, and are definitely worth the investment, but preparing your arms and shoulders for a workout is really important if you want to still be able to hold onto your bike by the end. A combination of handlebar-width press-ups, triceps dips and upright rows will help strengthen the major muscle groups that typically suffer from this kind of extended battering, and make you more resilient. And give you sick guns.
Never underestimate just how much you’ll gain from improving your core strength. Improved balance and stability on your bike, better positioning, less stress through your arms and greater power transfer through the pedals are all noticeable as your core improves. Alongside the usual suspects of sit-ups and plank, try adding in crunches, Russian twists, c-sits, scissor kicks and twisting sit ups to work across all of your abdominal muscles. Doing just 10 minutes, two or three times a week will make a huge difference and build in protection for your back and arms which suffer on a long day in the saddle.
Seems almost silly to say it, but there are things you can do off the bike as well as on. Try to eliminate any weak spots in your pedal stroke. A lot of cyclists suffer from weak hamstrings and so doing hamstring curls off a Swiss ball will really help strengthen against muscle fatigue and improve your endurance capacity quickly. For general leg strength try squats with a kettlebell (or amenable small child), lunges, calf raises and clamshells for your glutes.
As well as muscle strength, a mountain biker really benefits from agility, and proprioception, or an ability to sense movement within joints and joint position, is something that can be exercised too. Squat thrusters, jumping jacks, step-ups, ‘Spiderman’s and ‘Superman’s (know your Marvel hero from your DC star here) and any form of dynamic exercise will really help build muscle memory, joint strength and improve your body’s ability to deal with the rougher trail decoration as the tiredness sets in.
Last but not least, give your head a good work out. So much of 24 hour racing is about the head game: that internal struggle when your body is crying out to stop. It all boils down to keeping your head focussed on your goal and believing in the work you’ve put in. Everyone’s goal will be different. From taking part with your mates to competing for the top spot, it’s good to understand what this is up front and have plans to help get you through those periods when it’s all getting too much. I could write a whole article just on this! Give your head some respect in this game.
If you can fit in 2 10 minute burst for each strength exercise plus a session of agility in every week you’ll be flying. Even one a week will help, and in small 10 minute chunks can be fitted in while the dinner cooks or while you’re catching up on Game of Thrones* (*other tv shows are available).
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