Choose the programme you need to follow according to your experience and try to stick to it. See “What sort of rider are you?”.Don’t convert yourself from a regular MTBer to an experienced rider in a week!
On the other hand, if you are finding the training at your chosen level too much, feel free to change to an easier programme rather than risk over-training by pushing yourself. Some experienced riders may be used to a greater volume of training than detailed in the planner. If this is the case, you should still use the same basic training principles of progression, just increase the ride times appropriately. However, try to be realistic and work out how many hours of training time you have available each week. It is far better to start slowly and progress your training a little at a time than bite off more than you can chew and find that you haven’t got enough hours in the day.
Experienced riders who would like to know more about planning training through a year, "The Cyclists Training Bible" by Joe Friel is an excellent source of information.
Basic Guidelines for using the MTB Marathon Training Planner
• Keep things in perspective – Remember that the emphasis should be on enjoyment, satisfaction and fun!!! Training shouldn’t be a chore.
• Listen to your body – If you are feeling unwell, don’t train on regardless. As a general rule of thumb, if you have symptoms below the neck such as a sore throat, cough, chest infection then REST and do not train. If you are injured – see a Chartered Physiotherapist who will give you advice on how to avoid further damage.
• Vary the speed – or intensity that you ride at. Although you have entered a MTB Marathon, your training rides should not be all long distance trundles! If you train slowly, you’ll ride slowly in the event! On the other hand, if all your workouts are done at break neck pace, you run the risk of over-training and injury. Varying the intensity that you ride at has the best results.
• Warm up thoroughly with at least 15 minutes of steady riding before each training ride to prevent injury and prepare the muscles for exercise. Also, try not to finish your ride at full pelt or on an uphill grunt! Cooling down with easy pedaling for 15 minutes helps recovery. See warming up.
• Progress slowly – Avoid getting too carried away early on! Too much, too soon can cause injury and prolonged fatigue. If you are new to cycling, your training plan should include lots of easy workouts initially and plenty of rest days to ensure recovery. Even as an experienced cyclist, training should start gently, particularly if you’ve had a bit of a layoff over Christmas and the New Year.
• Recovery – If you do not allow your body sufficient recovery between training sessions your performance will be affected considerably. Recovery means having plenty of sleep and incorporating rest days into your training programme. Experienced cyclists may manage to train on a daily basis but need to build in "easy" days. New and regular MTBers should have several rest days each week. All groups have a recovery week every 4 weeks where training intensity and volume is reduced.
• Technique – Once you can physically ride a bike, you tend not to think about technique! However, good pedaling technique will make you more efficient. A poor technique will cause muscles to fatigue and can lead to injury and decreased performance. Concentrate on a smooth pedaling in circles and make sure you are not pushing too high a gear. When cycling on the flat aim to "spin" the pedals at approximately 80 revolutions a minute rather than muscling it in the biggest ring! As you change down the gears on hills, try to keep the revolutions (known as the cadence) as high as possible whilst maintaining technique.
• Cross training – This means including other sports into your cycling programme, for example swimming, running, football, an aerobics class or gym workout. Cross training has numerous benefits – it rests the cycling muscles whilst still training the heart and lungs and it introduces variety to your training so prevents boredom.