Your XC/Endurance Mountain Bike Training

I know there’s a contingency of XC racers here and I’m curious about those that have been incorporating a TR plan into their mountain bike riding and racing. After two years of TR I’ve found that it’s pretty similar for me, I tend to be very dedicated to the base training TR plan and then I fade out of even using TR workouts by mid-summer. Moving forward I’d like to plan for the need to change focus especially coming out of base training (I seem to enjoy the trainer time during the winter, but like most I’m very ready to ride outdoors once the weather breaks). I stopped forcing myself to ride indoors after the winter months and the outdoor workouts are an obvious and welcomed solution.

The problems I’m facing even with outdoor workouts are responding to HIIT work, I seem to have a hard time recovering from anything over threshold. I was getting beat down even following a LV build plan, and I was not performing at my best during hard group rides. I had been focusing on VO2 max work but it didn’t seem to translate to better performance. The other issue I faced this year was trying to balance a structured training regime with bike handling skills. I was so fitness focused at the beginning of the year I felt like I lost a ton of my mojo. Recently feel like that’s coming back.

I guess this boils down to still learning what works for me, and what I’ll actually adhere to. I’m curious how all of you balance structured training with skills work, longer rides and fun sessions?

There’s so much going on here that finding what works for you may take some time.

Firstly, I think you’re doing right by choosing low volume. What I will say is that adding in group rides, skills sessions etc should all still follow the general plan, i.e be consistent. If you do group rides, do them every week. The same with skills sessions. I see some people do just TR workouts for a few weeks and then suddenly throw in 2 group rides per week for a couple of weeks. You may get away with it, but that spoils the structure (i.e slow increase in TSS every week) that is important to overall gains.

Can you do the 3 LV TR workouts per week and then do a longer endurance ride at the weekend, incorporating some skills too? I think doing those 3 TR workouts at a minimum is pretty important to seeing improvements. However, you don’t want to get fatigued so maybe do a skills session on the same day as a TR session so that you free up a day in your week for total recovery?

There’s obviously a tonne of other ways to improve recovery if that’s what you’re struggling with. There’s loads of info on this forum if you search for it.


That sounds smart. It all comes back to consistency. Trouble with consistency (for me) is boredom doing the same thing every week. There’s ways to battle that of course and I hear you on progressive loading of TSS.

History suggests that 3 TR workouts is too many for me during the outside months. This assumes 3 HIIT workouts of course. That was my problem, I could do the 3 HIIT sessions but would have nothing left for life, or a longer ride on the weekends.

This might be a pretty big limiter for me. I’ve known this even before getting serious about structure, I seem to take a longer time to recover from big rides than my friends do. And, again, when I was adhering perfectly to the TR plan, I was always cooked. That said, there’s certainly ways to improve recovery in my life, sleep being the key “low hanging fruit”

Thanks for the reply, interested in hearing your annual plan.

I have a similar problem (I primarily do XC and CX but ride the road a lot too) I’m really good about sticking to the TR plan over the winter but once the weather gets better I’d rather be outside. A few things that I try to work to keep some consistency: I’ve always done mid volume plan in the winter, but this coming year I’m going to drop to low volume once I can get outside. I think this will help me still get the key workouts but I don’t feel so bad missing everything on the TR plan. If I’m going to ride the road bike, I will usually do an outdoor version of the TR workout. MTB is for fun and skills training, as it is pretty hard to do intervals in the woods as you probably are aware. I will do some ‘race pace’ rides as well.

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Depending on how much outside riding you’re doing, this doesn’t surprise me. The LV workouts tend to up the intensity a little it seems, especially since you’re only riding 3-4 hours per week on a LV plan if you don’t add rides. I’d consider maybe cutting a TR workout out if you’re getting enough volume from outside riding. Just make sure it’s the same type each week so you don’t screw with the progression at all, and cut the one that makes the most sense based on the intensity you’re getting outside. I find it’s hard to work on skills work if I’m cooked, and I think for MTB that’s pretty important, so I think sacrificing a little interval work for it is probably fine.

I haven’t decided what I’m doing plan-wise for the season yet for a few reasons (one being that I may not self-coach this year), but I’m working through Traditional Base right now to build a better foundation for longer races. Last year I did the LV SSBase-Build-Specialty plan during the week and outside riding on the weekends when I could, but I felt the week was leaving me pretty cooked despite not a ton of volume. I also sometimes had to shuffle a TR workout to the weekend due to work scheduling, which didn’t help. I’m personally leaning toward doing less intensity and more Z2 this year to help with recovery, so I’m thinking I might do 2 interval workouts a week and leave the rest as either Z2 indoors or MTBing outside to work on skills, etc (and have fun because that’s important to me). The outdoor riding will probably be harder than Z2 because that just seems to be how it goes with MTBing here, but I am going to try to be mindful of how hard I’m going and try to keep the intensity lower.

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Do you have access to lift riding? I find that a good way to build or keep the skills high while the leg fatigue is significantly reduced (but not zero).

My weeks have been looking like this:

M - Off or easy
Tues - Hard TR workout
Wed - Endurance (TR or outside)
Thursday - Hard TR workout
Friday - Easy/Endurance (TR or outside)
Saturday - Long ride/fun ride/endurance MTB ride
Sunday - Park/Lift skills work

If you don’t maybe there is a steady climb on a road you can take up at an easy pace and some single track down?

I personally feel fitness is much easier to build than bike skills so I agree it’s good to keep some focus there.

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I do. Good point and something I’ve considered doing again. I had a big park focus a few years ago when I had a bigger bike. There’s a new “e-Bike” park that’s pretty cool too. I actually have access to borrow an e-Bike when I want so that’s something that I’ve considered as well, just more runs with a lot less pedaling fatigue. E-bikes, I know. :wink:

That’s a full week, but looks fairly manageable. Thanks for sharing it!

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I’m thinking 2 HIIT days are as many as I can handle mentally and physically with the addition of any sort of skills work. I agree with you, when I’m fatigued things don’t stick when I’m working on skills, plus I find skill work to be draining in and of itself to a certain degree.

This is one thing that I wish I had better access to. I just did a bike park for the first time last week and it was amazing to be able to get in 10+ descents with a fraction of the fatigue that would be required to do that on normal trails. But living in Michigan with very rolling XC trails you have to put in a decent amount of effort in able to hit features or turns at speed.

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It’s a different kind of fatigue though, isn’t it? :slight_smile: I found tough DH only days to be pretty taxing in their own flavor.

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Yeah closer to the fatigue I feel after heavy weight training vs hard bike workouts. I had forgotten the forearm and hand fatigue that comes with the longer descents. I was there with my brother and it was his first time riding a MTB so I wasn’t as fatigued as I might have been if I was trying to push every run.

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there’s some good suggestions here but for me it has all depended on what the race calendar looks like. Like for example if i have an XC race every weekend, or if it’s CX season and there is a CX race (or two!) every weekend, then i will tell you brothers and sisters that i am not doing really any structured training (certainly not a TR type plan) during the week.

A sample week “in-season” for XC would look more like:

Saturday: Race
Sunday: easy (VERY easy) endurance ride
Monday: off, but with some abs, pushups and hip openers
Tuesday: Zone 2 outside with some openers to test out the legs, OR flowy singletrack ride
Wednesday: Wednesday Night World Championships weekly “practice” race, usually about 1.5 hours and HARD
Thursday: Easy endurance ride
Friday: Easy endurance ride with small number of hard efforts to test out the legs, but still feel good afterwards
Saturday: Race

If there was a race i really wanted to do well at, i might skip the Wednesday Night Worlds, but if i’m feeling good i’d do it anyway. But about two or three weeks before that target race, I’d do a week where the endurance rides are longer and with two hard workouts instead of one, to get a fitness boost / top-up the endurance. But i don’t find that sustainable long-term.

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I agree with above.
No point being exhausted the whole time.