How Crossfit Improved My Mountain Biking Trip.
Every year, we take a boys mountain biking trip to New Mexico or Colorado over Labor Day. Three rules are in effect: no women; no kids, no whining. Three or four of us usually make the drive from Austin and meet up with friends at the other end. Camping, biking, beer and the odd shot of whisky. This year we drove up to Durango (a short 14 hour drive) with mountain bikes in tow.
I have been mountain biking for about 10 years and cannot be described as fast. Since I usually ride the Austin Green Belt alone, I tend to be cautious – the idea of breaking an ankle or shoulder in the middle of the GB in the middle of the week is not appealing. This style usually extends to bigger rides in the mountains. So I tend to stay at the back of the group and lag behind.
Fitness also has a lot to do with mountain biking – the better shape you are in, the better the ride. Aside from good legs, you need strong arms and shoulders to move the bike around at the front. Endurance is needed for the long up hill climbs and long down hill sections. Plus you need some strength to power up over over obstacles. And since we are starting our rides at about 11,000 feet (we camped at about 7,500 feet), the ability to get air in the lungs tends to be important.
I started Crossfit in May and have been working out regularly since. I did the Challenge in the summer and dropped a solid ten pounds plus added muscle. Aside from the encouraging comments of Javon and Joss (can you REALLY believe a trainer when he tells you “You look great!”? They are just marketing… :) ), this trip was the first really big comparison I had to indicate if I was benefiting from Crossfit.
So let’s go ahead and answer that question now – ABSOLUTELY! This was the best trip every for me – I was climbing faster and keeping up with the group; I was descending at the same rate but going longer; and the altitude did not impact me. Oh and my friends all commented on what good shape I was in :)
Rather than be limited by my heart and lungs (I usually feel my chest is about to burst when climbing on a bike in Colorado), this time my legs gave out before my lungs did. I was still riding at the back (I like it back there!) but kept the rest of the group in sight throughout the rides. And on some of the longer climbs (the Kennebeck ride has a nice 5 mile climb in the middle, just before the 11 miles of sweet single-track downhill), I was right with the group. When I stopped, it was to rest my legs, not to catch a breath.
On the down hills, I have previously been limited by my forearms – pulling a bike around while standing on the pedals puts stress on the arms. Not this time. When I stopped on the down hill sections, it was usually to cool the brakes or to rest my legs. This was especially true at Phil’s World in Cortez, when a series of long sweepers and dips takes it out of your arms. And at the end of a ride, instead of feeling wiped out, I was feeling fresh and pumped.
Finally, I did not feel any effects of altitude. Camping in the mountains usually affects me so I do not sleep well and have to be careful what I eat. While I took Ibuprofen the entire trip, I felt no other impacts – no shortness of breath, no sleepiness nights, no upset stomach. This made the entire trip far more enjoyable.
Now, I cannot promise you that all of this was due to Crossfit. But I can say that I am in better shape now than I have been for years, that this was the first biking trip I have taken since starting Crossfit, and that it was by far the best. I personally think Crossfit made all the difference to me, especially in dealing with the altitude. And I was riding far more aggressively and confidently.
The next test? The MS150 ride from Houston to Austin in April…
*Results may vary