Sometimes It’s the Simple Things

– Ride Slow, and Get Faster

words by Monika Marx

Monika Marx Portrait





How an endurance block can make a big difference and fast.

While summer for most means lots of time on your bike, and peak cycling fitness, for me it often means a decline in fitness, and therefore sanity.  I do a decent job at scheduling my rides and making sure they happen, but nothing can throw a damper on your cycling fitness like out of school children.  Couple this with an early June knee injury for one of them, and riding this year came to a halt.  Imagine having a 105 lb newborn, who not only requires you to sleep on his floor, but also requires you to lift him into your truck on a daily basis.  Good thing I practice what I preach and lift heavy stuff regularly.

This summer and last, I’ve taken the two week opportunity when my kids disappear for their vacation with the other parent to institute an endurance block, with results that ask to be shared.  This year my mental state was such that I really needed to throw myself into training.  I’ve been reading the book Spark, and now that I have a better understanding of the neuroscience of exercise, I fully accept that it’s an area of my life I need to be absolutely selfish with.  It’s for the greater good, ensures the survival of my offspring, and works way faster than Prozac.

I don’t invent these things, just regurgitate.  I’m on Chris Carmichael’s newsletter list – the somewhat debatable coach of Lance Armstrong.  (Read Tyler Hamilton’s The Secret Race and make your own decision as to whether he actually coached Armstrong).  Recently he sent out an endurance block and it reminded me that last summer, I followed his endurance block as set out in the “Time Crunched Cyclist” and felt a definite fitness gain, my rides were easy, enjoyable, and….wait for it…I got faster, noticably faster.  This year I was even more disciplined, incorporating longer rides that began and finished at my home, therefore easily adding in some distance and road miles.  I know many mountain bikers hate, hate, hate riding on the road, but there is an efficiency you develop with flat terrain and high turnover of your pedals that just can’t be shortcutted.  To be truly fit, you have to invest time in training base miles.  As I said to a client last week, I love base endurance training, as it’s the easiest intensity at which you get to ride your bike, and you are guaranteed to get faster.   It’s almost cheating.  Given most mountain bikers don’t ride nearly easy enough at any point in the year, it’s definitely worth considering.

Here’s what you will need:
1. Two weeks and three weekends.
2. Time available to ride consecutively for three to four days.  Work half days or flex day, but make it happen.
3. The ability to say NO.  Can you make me a sandwich?  NO.  Take me shopping?  NO.  Drive my friends and I downtown?  NO!  You get the idea.  It’s all about you.
4. Inspiration.  Stock up on endurance related biographies.  My reads this year:
a. Rick Roll – Finding Ultra
b. Scott Jurek – Eat and Run
c. Tyler Hamtilon – The Secret Race
5. A faithful training partner, who won’t question your pace.
6. Ample supply of training fuel – think good nutrition, real food.  In my gym, we stock Prima and that’s what I eat.
7. A saddle you love.
8. Chamois butter – lots.
9. A kick ass playlist.  (here’s where the teenagers in your house can sometimes prove to be useful – however, be warned, if you listen too closely to the lyrics of most music of the hip hop genre, you may never let your daughter leave the house again)

I’ve used this program more than once.  In January, when I’m feeling less than bike fit and sabotaged by Christmas cheer, mid March when I want another boost, and summer as mentioned, when I’m not on parenting duty for two weeks.  Every time I am stunned by how quickly I feel my efficiency build, and how I get faster just by riding slower.

Try it!!    You have nothing to lose, and lots to gain.


The Muddbunnies encourage and welcome female riders of all experience and skill levels to join them in getting down and dirty. Come on, ride like a girl!


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