Body and Mind (Pre-Season Conditioning)
By Colin Marsdale
Changing leaves and frosty mornings signal that the new snowmobile season is rapidly approaching.
I made a choice at the end of last season to be better prepared for the start of this season by starting a training plan. Technical Backcountry riding is a physically demanding sport, and with limited daylight hours available to spend carving up lines and exploring new zones, I wanted to make sure this season I would be better prepared to spend more time on the throttle, pushing my limits.
After chatting with the Kinesiologist at the camp gym where I work in Northern Manitoba about the physical demands of backcountry riding. I came up with a plan of attack on where to focus my training. The first area I decided to focus on was my endurance. I thought about one particular ride in 2016 where I tagged along with Jonathan Anstey, and half way through the day I felt as though I was half way through the Boston Marathon. I was spent. So my immediate logic here was, the best way to train for something that feels like running a marathon, is train as though I’m going run a marathon, so I started running. I immediately realized that running is hard. Although my runs were very short at first, I stuck with it. Surprisingly results came rather quickly. I kept a log of each run and it was very encouraging looking at my results which further motivated me to the point, I actually challenged a 10km outdoor race in October. I finished the race in second place only 20s behind the winner. A quick look at the table below shows the progression. The harder I pushed, the further I could go.
|10/02/2016 (RACE DAY)||10.0||48.18|
[sc name=”VertQuoteBlack” param1=”Although my motivation was to improve my riding. The impact the training has had on my entire life has been a complete 360.” ]
Although I chose running as my main cardio exercise, a lot of people have knee issues and running may not be an option. On weeks that my knees were not up to the task, I substituted time on a rowing machine or elliptical. If you have access to a pool, swimming would be a great option also.
Second part of my training plan was focusing on strength and balance. The Kinesiologist recommended avoiding heavy weight training. Although being big and bulky might be advantageous pulling a sled out of a stuck, bulking up would actually increase my risk of injury. He recommended a series of exercises to increase total body strength, balance, and mobility. I still did weights once a week, which consisted of a total body routine. His advice was use free weights, and chose weight where I could do 3 sets of each exercise at 12-15 reps and body weight exercises such as pull-ups and push-ups.
I want to take a quick minute here to make a recommendation. I was able to take advantage of a weekly TRX Suspension Training class at the camp gym. Right from the get go I thought, this is where it’s at when it comes to off season training aimed to prepare your body for the rigors of technical backcountry riding. Every exercise focuses on strength and balance. The handles on the suspension straps almost feel like the handle bars on your sled. The straps are not rigid so they act as a near perfect substitute to holding on to, and manipulating a moving sled in tight areas. Another great feature is that beginning physical condition does not matter. Resistance is determined in each exercise based on your body position. You are in control of the resistance for every repetition. Standing vertical you can complete an exercise with very little resistance. Every slight adjustment of body position towards horizontal increases resistance and decreases stability. Strength and dexterity are worked equally. Personally I like to find a starting position with enough resistance that I can do 5-6 reps comfortable, and then keep adjusting myself closer to vertical as the muscles start to burn. It provides all the advantages of lifting with heavy and light weights and all the while building my balance. The variety of exercises you can do is pretty well limitless. You can target the same muscle groups exactly as you would with any weight training. The TRX is also great for stretching exercises. Throwing a few stretches in at the end of a workout, will increase your overall mobility and flexibility. Very important as it will reduce the risk of tweaking a muscle or joint and missing out on valuable sled time. The TRX training home kit is available online and it made my Christmas wish list this year. No doubt in my mind whatsoever the TRX is a must have if you are looking for that extra physical edge this winter.
Although my motivation was to improve my riding. The impact the training has had on my entire life has been a complete 360. I started feeling better about everything. As my physical condition improved my mental health followed with it. I never really felt that I was that it was lacking, but almost immediately after I started training I noticed that I was enjoying life more, my job felt less stressful, I just felt good all the time. My end results, I am 30lbs lighter, I feel a major increase in both strength and endurance, and an overall feeling of well- being and happiness. I feel ready and extra motivated to take my riding to a whole new level this coming winter. We still have a little bit of time before the snow flies, so get out there and get moving, and be prepared to push yourself when you hit the snow this year.