Stronger. Fitter. Faster?

Training. The plan for attack

You have to ask why?

It’s simple. Carbon, energy drinks and risk alone does not win races. Neither does a gasping motor. The fact is aluminium or steel can still be the hardware of champions, not all the athletes drink the stuff they promote, and while all racers will all take a gamble in the heat of the moment, you can bet your bottom dollar that in each and every winner the generators will be strong.

A decade or so ago, athleticism and downhill were not the best of comrades, and many racers simply preferred the booze and bikes approach. On the surface at least. Nowadays its cool to post yourself in the gym, and a source of banter to goad your rivals into squatting or deadlifting ridiculous weights.

A good coach will be your guide and your motivation in the gym, they will get your body into a shape that will take the beating dished out by a downhill run much better than an untrained version of you. Stronger, fitter, faster. That’s the idea at least. A bad coach on the other hand will do the opposite for it will it will be they who are beating the shit out of you more than a track.

It’s an incredibly complex business. While a strength and conditioning coach will work wonders, if they fail to recognise the aspects of your life outside the gymnasium the race will only be one way – to fatigue and failure, a spent body in no condition to be at the sharp end of racing. Over the years I’ve had many coaches who simply have not taken into account the amount of riding I do, often replicating the kind of workout I do on a bike but in the gym.

It’s often a case of if you require a life plan or a race plan. There is a difference. A good coach will take your lifestyle into account and make a plan that identifies and recognises the stresses being put on your body on a daily basis. He or she will also tune the training to suit the racing. This will build you up for the race before recovering, regrouping and building back up.

A good coach might even take you to places you’d never dreamed of. Last year while under the guidance of Alan Milway he noticed an alignment issue in my body which he suggested I should get looked at. I took his advice and signed up to see a specialist he’d recommended.

Within minutes of lying on the bench in a room the man in the white coat and strong specs said to me “what’s it been like walking around in circles for so long?” After ten years of scans and medications he had identified a twisted pelvis, and after a few more minutes a knee issue that had probably gone back to early bike days. Today, my back and neck have never felt so good.

Many coaches will tell you about body symmetry, a few more will get you to recognise and work on getting parity but a great coach will recognise things others don’t.

Once I began writing this piece I soon realised that it would be pointless getting into detail for it’s only when you’re ‘in it’ so to speak that everything becomes clear. Being an athlete is not about going to the gym and training it’s about diet, stretching, planning, sleeping. In many ways it leads to a mindset change and you begin to realise how one aspect of training cannot live without another, or at least the greater benefits cannot be realised.

At first I was going to ask Alan about periodisation, sustainability, progression, identifying weaknesses, body symmetry, V02 max and interval training but that’s all personal detail you’ll be wanting to know for yourself once you take that step.

Training with Alan Milway for the Masters World Champs in Val Di Sole made a massive difference to me. It changed my mindset and sorted problems that had been hanging around for many, many years. Don’t get me wrong I still enjoyed a few beers, but at the bottom of one of the hardest downhill tracks in the world yes I felt I’d been in the ring but ready for another round. Was that great preparation or race run management? I guess you cannot have one without the other, not on that hill. And I’ll never ever forget the advice he gave me before I headed up. Maybe that alone made the difference.


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