Mountain biking is a very fun way of getting in some exercise. If you are looking for something new to do that will make you forget that you are exercising, (at least some of the time) mountain biking is a great option. Mountain biking isn’t just good for losing a bit of weight, it has loads of health benefits. Personally, I think it is one of the best workouts you can do and here are a few reasons why.
1. Fat Loss
Mountain biking is an efficient way of burning fat. How many calories are burned varies from rider to rider, but it is possible to burn up to 1000 calories per hour. This will also vary depending on the terrain you are riding. Mountain biking also increases you metabolic rate. This is why you come across rider that manage to scoff a pre ride full English breakfast and a post ride cake, while staying super skinny.
2. Lower Blood Pressure
As an active person you are less likely to push your blood pressure to a dangerous level. Exercise helps to build a strong heart and supple arteries. If you have high blood pressure, it is never too late to start trying to improve it.
3. Build A Stronger Heart
Mountain biking is excellent for a cardio workout. You can easily control the intensity of the effort you are putting in. This means you will be able to work longer and get fit without burning out.
4. Improve Your Lungs
By getting out on your bike, you can improve your lung’s capacity by 25%. This is compared to someone that does nothing but sits in front of the TV all day.
5. Build Muscle
The obvious muscles mountain biking improves, is your legs. By riding regularly, you will notice that your legs will get stronger, as well as your bum.
However, mountain biking doesn’t just work out your legs. Your upper body gets a work out while riding tough terrain. Downhill riders have strong chests and arms to cope with the punishment they get.
Mountain biking is a good core workout too. This is because you are constantly moving around on the bike and bracing yourself ready for jumps and other features on the trail.
6. Increase Stamina
Stamina is built in a couple of ways on a mountain bike. You will come across long up hill slogs big days out. This will build up your endurance. Additionally, when you are taking on long descents, you are virtually in a squat position until the terrain levels out. This is something I am very aware of when riding in the French Alps.
7. Low Impact On Joints
Unless you are going full send off massive jumps, mountain biking is much better for your knees than running. Pedalling means you don’t have the constant pounding running gives you and the bike’s suspension will soak up most of the impacts from jumps etc.
8. Makes You Happy
Mountain biking improves your mood. You will have adrenaline and endorphins crossing through your system after a good ride. This improves your mental state and your mood. The other bonus, is an increased libido, so don’t wear lycra shorts lads!
9. Improves Your Mental Health
By this, I mean you will be able to deal with stressful situations better. This is because mountain biking improves your mental health. Your sleep will be improved and your confidence will be boosted.
In addition to the longer term benefits, you will experience the joy of making progress with your riding. Taking on a more difficult trail, making it up a climb that you previously couldn’t do or tackling a particularly difficult section of trail will fill you with pride and happiness.
10. Makes You Clever
Exercise helps you focus and helps you to solve problems. This will help you be better at work and will reduce how tired you feel at the end of a working day. Mountain biking requires a lot of concentration when you are picking your line and working out how to ride certain parts of the trail, so you get a double whammy of brain improvement.
11. Gets You Out In To Nature
Pedalling around forests, countryside or mountain vistas is pretty amazing. It is a great way to get away from screens and day to day life.
12. Very Social
If you have a group of mates that are mountain bikers, you will probably work harder without realising it. By riding with someone fitter and better than you, you will push yourself and improve each time you ride. It is also a great bonding session and is almost as good as the post ride beer.
13. Injury Prevention
OK mountain bike injuries happen, this is why we wear protection.
However, general riding will not cause you any injuries. The extra strength you get from riding will also prevent the likelihood of injury later in life.
14. Improves Your Reflexes
Mountain bike trails require you to make a lot of quick decisions. You are constantly calculating risk, judging where the best line is, reacting to the terrain and to what the bike is doing. All this will keep your brain sharp and adaptable.
15. Get Vitamin D
You get vitamin d from the sun and it makes you feel more energetic. Being outside will keep you feeling more awake, but don’t forget the suncream!
16. Stress Relief
Being fitter and having a past time that you look forward to is a great way of reducing your stress. When you are less stressed, you feel much more energetic and won’t need as much sleep.
Building Mountain Bike Fitness
As we have established, mountain biking is good for you. But you will enjoy it even more the fitter you get. There are a few things you can do to improve your fitness when mountain biking.
With day to day life getting in the way of our riding, it can be difficult to build up endurance. But the best way to do this, is to gradually build up the distance each time we ride. By making our rides a bit more challenging, out bodies adapt to what we put them through.
If you are lucky enough to be able to ride to work, why not add extra miles to your ride on the way home? Or pick longer routes each time you ride at the weekends.
If you can’t find the time to ride further, you should up the intensity of your rides. Try to choose more challenging routes with hills to ride up or add intense intervals to your ride.
Climbing on a mountain bike is one of those things that you either love or hate. But everyone has to do it a some point. Your ability to climb is linked to your endurance, but when it comes to climbing technical terrain, you will improve with experience.
Nobody wants to be the last to the top, but the best way to improve your climbing skills, is to go looking for hills to pedal up. Climbing relys on your power to weight ratio. So the lighter you are, the easier it will be. Therefore, adding interval training to your exercise routine to get rid of a bit of flab will make a huge difference.
The key technique for climbing, is to put your bodyweight over the back wheel. So staying on the saddle and adjusting your bodyweight to steepness of the climb, will help you keep traction.
By adding some strength training in to your life, you will feel a lot of benefits with your mountain biking. The main benefits will be that it makes you stronger on the bike and more resilient. Strength training will increase your bone density, this will help to prevent injury when you crash.
The extra strength you develop in your arms, chest, back and shoulder muscles will improve how you handle the bike on technical descents.
Building A Strong Core
A strong core is very important for mountain biking. It gives you a good platform to push on the pedals. The other advantage of having a strong core is that you will feel more stable on the bike and be able to corner and pump the bike more effectively.
The best way to train your core is to do big compound exercises, such as squats, press ups and pull ups. This type of cross training is more effective than isolated movements, such as bicep curls. This is because it works more of your body and you are training the movement, rather than just the muscle.
To learn more about building a strong core check out my guide for mountain biking for fitness.
Recovery is just as important as the exercise. When you get in to mountain biking, it can be a bit of an obsession and you want to ride all the time. However, you do need to recover. You don’t have to stop completely, so you can go for a short ride, do a light workout or do some yoga.
For yoga, I recommend Abi Carver on Youtube. She has put together a series of mountain bike specific yoga routines. The 15 minute post ride routine below is a good one to start with and helps you recover from your ride.
Check out more yoga routines for mountain biking from Abi Carver on YouTube
Another way to kickstart your recovery, is to get on a foam roller. To be honest, this isn’t particularly pleasant until you get used to it, as it really hurts. You put all your weight on a thin piece of foam. It pushes lactic acid out of your muscles and loosens the tight fascia that cover them.
Other Training Tools
Sometimes you may not have time to get out on the bike, but you may have time for a session on a turbo trainer. These are also a good option for keeping up your fitness levels during the winter, when the weather isn’t very inspiring.
A turbo trainer is a device that you can hook your bike up to for an indoor workout. Some turbo trainers are quite simple, while others act as a simulator. The more sophisticated turbo trainers automatically adjust to simulate climbs and even a change in the surface you are virtually riding on.
Heart Rate Monitors
Heart rat monitors are not essential to you mountain bike fitness, but they do help you keep tabs on your improvement. When you see measurable improvements, you are motivated to keep trying.
If you are riding at a steady pace, you can use a heart rate monitor to maintain the optimum intensity, for building endurance, fat burning or for achieving whatever goal you are aiming for.
GPS Smart Watches
A GPS Smart watch is another thing that isn’t essential to your mountain bike fitness, but it is a handy tool to monitor your progress and your rides.
You can use them to plot your routes. This is great to ensure that you are increasing the distance you are riding each time. Many of these watches have built in heart rate monitors or connect to them wirelessly.
Is Mountain Biking Good Exercise? - Answered!
Mountain biking isn’t just good for your body, but your mind as well. If you have any questions about this subject, please leave them in the comments section below.