20 episodes

This podcast is dedicated to bringing the 40+ year old mountain biker the best training strategies to help them ride stronger now and for year to come.

The Riding For A Lifetime Podcast James Wilson - MTB Strength Training Systems

    • Sports
    • 4.1 • 67 Ratings

This podcast is dedicated to bringing the 40+ year old mountain biker the best training strategies to help them ride stronger now and for year to come.

    Strength Training Basics For The 40+ Year Old Rider

    Strength Training Basics For The 40+ Year Old Rider

    As you get older, strength training changes from a “good to do” to a “must do” status. Losing your strength, muscle and power are all realities for the 40+ year old rider and strength training is the best way to slow that process down.
    This is the #1 tactic for riders who want to do this for a lifetime - get and stay strong and you’ll avoid age-related physical decline for as long as possible.  
    Plus, improving your strength, power and muscle mass can help improve performance and reduce your risk of injury, so it helps now and acts as insurance against future losses. And while a lot of things can help, if you want to maximize your results there are some basic principles that the 40+ year old rider should be observing.
    First, almost anything can “work” but it eventually stops working and it may not build the strength and fitness you need for riding. The goal is to follow a training program that will help us on the path towards riding for a lifetime: improving our MTB specific fitness and our overall longevity/ health.
    With that in mind, here are some basic guidelines to help you with designing or choosing a training program.
    Podcast Notes:
    2-4 days a week is plenty and the specific number depends on how much you are riding and your ability to recover.
    The more you are riding and the more important your performance the fewer days you will lift.
    The more you are trying to focus on strength training/ building muscle the more often you need to lift.
    So this breaks down to 2 days a week during the riding season and 3-4 days a week in the off season depending on time available and goals.
    You want to focus on big, compound movements but doing some isolation exercises won’t make you dysfunctional and can be beneficial in some cases.
    You want to focus on getting stronger or doing more volume with the main movement patterns and the exercises that train them - Squat, Hinge, Push, Pull, Carry and Rotate.I’d also break them up into unilateral and bilateral exercises

    But doing some isolation exercises like curls and tricep extensions can help with total body isometric strength as well as help with muscle building/ preservation.
    You want to use a variety of set and rep schemes, with the bulk of them focusing on the 2-4 sets of 3-8 reps. 
    2-4 sets is enough volume to build strength and power without excessive fatigue.
    3-8 reps covers the strength and power end as it gets into the hypertrophy end of things, giving you a variety of training stimuli to pick from.
    I’d recommend 80% of your training falling in this range and the other 20% falling into the higher rep ranges, going up to 20-30 reps.
    I don’t recommend spending time in the 1-2 rep range as the risk to benefit ratio isn’t high enough for me to be comfortable with recommending to most riders.
    You don’t need to train to failure to see results and IMO it should be avoided as a 40+ year old rider.
    There is a lot of science that tells us that you don’t need to train to failure (or beyond) to see results.
    You can train to near failure and see the same results while also saving your body some wear and tear and also lowering your injury risk.
    Training to within 1-3 reps of failure is plenty to see results. This usually occurs when you start to slow down the concentric portion of the exercise, so as long as you go until you start to slow down then you are fine.
    Leaving 3-1 Reps In Reserve (RIR) also helps avoid injury since the closer you get to failure the more likely you are to see a technical breakdown that can lead to an acute or overuse injury.
    Don’t use bodypart training and instead focus on total body or upper body/ lower body splits.
    Using bodypart training split (where you train the body by body parts like Chest, Back, Legs, Biceps, ect.) is a great way to build muscle but not the best way to build functional strength and power.
    Like I mentioned before, you want to focus on training movement patterns and so you want to divide your workouts based on t

    • 1 hr 3 min
    My Morning Routine: High Leverage, Healthy Habits For The 40+ Year Old Rider

    My Morning Routine: High Leverage, Healthy Habits For The 40+ Year Old Rider

    In this episode of the Riding For A Lifetime Podcast I share with you my morning routine that helps me set my day on a good trajectory. 
    Maximizing your health and longevity becomes a big priority as you get older. You can get away with abusing your body in your 20’s and still being able to get after it but if you want to be able to perform well on a consistent basis into your 40’s and beyond you have to start making good daily habits a part of your routine.
    Over the last several years I’ve developed a morning routine that I feel has helped me slow down the performance decline and maximize my results from training. Remember that training actually breaks your body down and how well you support the recovery process plays a big role in how hard you can train and what results you see from your training.
    You can stream this episode or download the MP3 file by clicking the link below. You‌ ‌can‌ also find the podcast ‌on‌ ‌‌Itunes‌,‌‌ ‌Podbean‌,‌‌ ‌‌Spotify‌‌ ‌‌and‌ ‌all‌ ‌other‌ ‌major‌ ‌podcasting‌ ‌platforms.‌ ‌
    Click Here To Stream This Episode or Download The MP3 File
    The three things that I do every morning are…
    Hydrate with water and electrolytes, particularly sodium.
    Breathwork drills like Box Breathing or Super Ventilation + Breath Holds (a.k.a. Wim Hof style breathing).
    Cold water exposure.
    First, hydration with sodium. After waking up I drink 16 ounces of water with a supplement called LMNT (I pronounce it Lemon T but it is supposed to be pronounced Element), which contains 1 gram of sodium along with 200 mg of potassium and 60 mg of magnesium. 
    Yes, I know that the FDA says that we should be limiting sodium intake but there are a lot of holes in their recommendations. Robb Wolf is a founder of LMNT and he has done a lot of great work on illuminating the difference between what we’re told by the FDA and what the research on sodium intake actually says.
    While a fat, pre-diabetic person who doesn’t exercise and eats a lot of fast food probably doesn’t need extra sodium, if you are reasonably fit, workout on a regular basis and try to eat whole foods then odds are pretty high that you could stand to use more sodium in your diet.
    Several studies have shown that there is a sweet spot for sodium intake between 4-6 grams a day that result in optimal health outcomes. Restricting sodium intake to less than this has been linked to higher incidents of high blood pressure and cardiovascular death (ironically the things we’re told that low sodium diets are supposed to protect us against).
    By starting your day off with a gram of sodium you are hydrating your body in a healthy way since water without sodium can throw off fluid balance. Sodium helps to regulate fluid outside your cells and potassium helps to regulate fluid inside your cells so your body needs these minerals to maintain optimal fluid balance. 
    If you don’t get enough of these minerals from your diet then your body will leach them from your bones - along with calcium, which can weaken the bones and is something you want to avoid as an older athlete. 
    I usually take another 1-2 LMNTs throughout the day, especially if I’m doing something that causes me to sweat a lot, like going for a bike ride. If you have low energy, brain fog, muscle cramps or even recurring headaches it may be a result of low sodium intake, in which case increasing your sodium intake can have a massive impact on your health and performance.
    The second thing I do is spend 10-15 minutes doing some kind of breathwork. I’ve talked a lot about how better breathing can impact your health, performance and even your mood and so starting the day with some focused breathing drills can make a big difference in how your day unfolds.
    My two favorite breathing drills are Box Breathing or Wim Hof style breathing. 
    Box Breathing has you assign a time to the four parts of your breath - the inhale, hold at the top of the inhale,

    • 29 min
    MTB Specific Exercises You Might Not Be Using…But Should

    MTB Specific Exercises You Might Not Be Using…But Should

    The term “MTB Specific Training” gets thrown around a lot but what does it really mean?
    At its core, it means using a training program that helps you ride faster, longer and with more skill. While the most “MTB specific” thing you can do is to actually ride your bike, there are certainly things you can do off of the bike that can help.
    In the gym this takes the form of strength training that improves your strength and movement quality in ways that help your riding. Strength is one of the more general physical attributes, meaning that what works for an athlete in one sport will generally work for another.
    About 80-90% of what you do with an athlete will be the same from sport to sport but there are some MTB specific things you can do to enhance your results. And no, this doesn’t mean using light loads and high reps because you need to build more endurance.
    In general, getting stronger in the 2-4 sets X 5-10 reps range will get you what you need. You can benefit from time spent outside of this range but this should make up the bulk of your strength training. You should also focus on the basic movement patterns of Push, Pull, Squat and Hinge.
    But once you have the basics covered there are some exercises that will help your MTB specific results.
    You can stream this episode or download the MP3 file by clicking the link below. You‌ ‌can‌ also find the podcast ‌on‌ ‌‌Itunes‌,‌‌ ‌Podbean‌,‌‌ ‌‌Spotify‌‌ ‌‌and‌ ‌all‌ ‌other‌ ‌major‌ ‌podcasting‌ ‌platforms.‌ ‌
    Show Notes:
    If there was one exercise that I wish every mountain biker would add to their program it is this one.
    This movement is the core movement pattern behind cornering on your bike and the #1 reason that most riders struggle with this skill is because they lack it.
    It is also an essential skill for riding switchbacks and, coupled with track stands, would make it much easier for riders to execute this skill as well.
    You can do it with no weight using a stick on your back.
    You can also weight it by holding a weight over your head or by using a Steel Mace on your back.
    I recommend checking out the videos I have posted at https://www.bikejames.com/strength/carving-faster-corners-with-the-stick-and-kb-windmill/ to learn more about how to execute this movement in the most MTB specific way possible because there is a lot of bad instruction around this movement.
    In general, you are getting into a pedal stance position with your feet and shifting your weight to the back leg while rotating your shoulders as you hinge back.
    If you do this movement and struggle to keep your weight on the back leg then you are “tipping” over instead of “corkscrewing” your way down, which is how you end up leaning too far inside of a corner and crashing.
    BTW, the lack of this movement pattern is what has led to the “lean your bike and not your body” advice, which is wrong. You have to lean your body but you have to do it in a balanced way.
    This is also a great way to work out the differences between right and left cornering that most riders have.
    I recommend doing 2 sets of 5 reps for this exercise although you can also do the Stick Windmill on a daily basis as part of your mobility plan.
    2. Elevated Lunge
    This is something I started using a few months ago and I really like it for improving a rider's Standing Pedaling ability.
    It has you using a box that is 6-12 inches high and stepping back into a lunge.
    It is a cross between a step up and a lunge and it really works on the range of motion in the hip flexors.
    Lunging is the movement pattern behind Standing Pedaling and elevating your front leg helps build the movement skill of being able to stand up and pedal without rounding the low back to make up for a lack of ROM in the hip flexors.
    Plus, it targets the glutes a bit more since you are getting more of a stretch at the bottom, which helps with pedaling power and looking good from behind.
    I recommend doing

    • 40 min
    Meditation For Mountain Biking

    Meditation For Mountain Biking

    In this podcast I wanted to share my experience with meditation for mountain biking. I’ve been meditating in some way since I was first introduced to it through a Tai Chi class I took in college and I’ve found it to be a powerful tool in helping me perform better.
    You can also read a summary article from the notes for the podcast below…
    Meditation is one of those words that elicits a pretty mixed reaction from people when you bring it up.
    Some people are totally into it, some people think it is a bunch of nonsense and some people think it might have some benefits but don’t know what to do or where to start.
    For those of us who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, it has undergone a bit of a cultural shift over the years.
    Seen for a long time as one of those things that hippies did that had no real world value, it has been studied and found to have a lot of benefits for health, mindset and performance.
    Meditation is something that I have been using in various ways since I was 19.
    I got introduced to it through a random Tai Chi class that I took during my first year of college along with some of the philosophy behind it.
    As I became a strength coach and started to study more about how the human body works and how to improve its performance I came across a lot of ways to train and harness the power of the mind.
    While sports psychology and meditation aren’t the exact same thing, there are a lot of similarities and both have been used over time to train people to perform in high stress situations.
    Meditation has also been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve mood and lower stress.
    And while breathwork and meditation aren’t the same thing, there are also a lot of crossover practices and, at its core, meditation is about using your breathing to help control the mind.
    For the 40+ year old mountain biker I think that having a meditation practice is as important as strength, cardio and skills training, meaning that if you need to cut back on something else to find time for it then it is worth it.
    As little as 12 minutes a day has been clinically shown to make a difference.
    My goal in this podcast is to give you a broad overview of meditation practices and some practical tips on how you can start using it as part of your training program.
    I use meditation in 2 ways - to train my attention and to visualize high stress situations I want to perform well in.
    The first thing I recommend you start with is using mediation to train your attention.
    With this method you want to find something to focus your attention on like your breathing, an object or a sound.
    I recommend using your breathing since it is also a great way to train your breathing and work in some breathwork.
    To do this you would get set up in a comfortable position - you can be sitting or lying down, just make sure that you are in a position you won’t need to move to stay comfortable in.
    You don’t have to but I recommend also closing your eyes to help you focus on your breathing.
    Set a tempo where your exhale is even with or slightly longer than your inhale. 
    I find that 4-6 and 5-5 breathing work well.
    Simply follow your breathing and count off the tempo in your head or using a timer.
    Feel your breath going into the belly and filling the lungs from the bottom to the top and then feel the breath reversing and being pushed out.
    If your mind wanders then just bring it back - this will happen and is part of the process.
    You could also focus on an object like a flame or you can focus on a sound/ mantra like “om”.
    What you will find is that it is tough at first to sit there and not have your mind wandering around and you will constantly be having to bring it back to your breathing (or other focal point).
    With practice this will happen less and your ability to recognize it and bring your attention back will be more automatic.
    You can create even more of a breathwork challenge by adding in pauses to the top and bottom of the breath, creating Triangle and Box Br

    • 46 min
    My Biggest Training Mistakes & Lessons Learned

    My Biggest Training Mistakes & Lessons Learned

    Something that I try to impress on my kids is the importance of being able to admit when you are wrong and make a change. Too often we spend our time trying to justify why we do what we do rather than trying to challenge it and see if it holds up.
    But that isn’t how we grow. There is a saying about how there is a difference between 10 years of experience and the same year of experience repeated 10 times. For too many people they end up repeating the same things over and over and never really grow or gain experience.
    One of the areas in my life where this is most apparent is training. I’ve been working out for over 35 years, I’ve been a professional trainer for over 20 years and I’ve been working with mountain bikers since 2005. And in that time you better believe that I’ve made some mistakes and learned some valuable lessons.
    In this podcast I wanted to share some of those lessons with you. Hopefully you can learn from some of these mistakes and avoid the same problems I ran into. 
    You can stream this episode or download the MP3 file by clicking the link below. You‌ ‌can‌ also find the podcast ‌on‌ ‌‌Itunes‌,‌‌ ‌Podbean‌,‌‌ ‌‌Spotify‌‌ ‌‌and‌ ‌all‌ ‌other‌ ‌major‌ ‌podcasting‌ ‌platforms.‌ ‌
    You can also read a summary article from the notes for the podcast below…
    Not doing any “isolation” or “bodybuilding”/ Focusing too much on “functional training”
    I’ve talked about this a lot lately but something I’ve been doing more of in the last few years is more isolation and bodybuilding type training.  
    I came up at an interesting time in the strength and conditioning field where we were making the switch from bodybuilding to Functional Training. The problem is that you need “isolation” exercises - which build isometric strength and joint strength - and you need bodybuilding type training to build and hold onto muscle mass.
    You can train like a bodybuilder and still be functional if you are doing other stuff outside of the gym. Plus, as you get older muscle mass becomes a valuable commodity and needs to be trained for.
    Using too much unstable surface training
    This is one I haven’t been using for a while but back in the day I was really into unstable surface training.
    I was around when the Swiss Balls first got introduced to the fitness field through a guy named Paul Chek. The rationale behind UST seemed good and I ended up with every size Swiss Ball you could get and used them for just about everything.
    The problem was that I couldn’t get strong or add size, I just got better at balancing on things while lifting weights. Several studies have shown that UST lowers motor unit recruitment, results in lower strength and muscle gains and have very limited carryover to other activities.
    In other words, it may look cool on Instagram but the results are lacking.
    Giving too much weight to strength training
    This is a common mistake with new strength coaches.
    I had seen how getting stronger had helped me and so it made sense that getting stronger would make you a better athlete. I had literally tried to talk some of my athletes into skipping sport training so they wouldn’t miss strength training.
    The problem is that strength training is only the most important thing you can do if you are really weak, and even then your sport training should still take precedence. The only thing that will make you a better mountain biker is time on the bike and strength training is supposed to support that, not take away from it.
    Thinking that Long Slow Distance training was a waste of time
    This is a bit of a tricky one because context matters a lot here.
    One of the first things I got known for in the MTB world was advocating for the use of High Intensity Intervals instead of Aerobic Base Training for MTB. Back in 2005 this was unheard of since roadie training programs dominated the scene. 
    A lot of riders who followed these programs felt that they weren

    • 53 min
    HRT for MTB

    HRT for MTB

    Something that I think is hard to have a conversation about Riding For A Lifetime without touching on is the subject of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). HRT has gotten a lot more popular over the last few years and is something that I think the 40+ year old rider should consider.
    To be honest, HRT is something I resisted for a long time. I felt like it was cheating and if I couldn’t do it “naturally” then I didn’t deserve it.
    However, as I’ve gotten older I’ve had a few things change my mind. I’ve now been on HRT for a little over a year now and in this podcast I wanted to share my experience with it and some things you should know before looking into it.
    You can stream this episode or download the MP3 file by clicking the link below. You‌ ‌can‌ also find the podcast ‌on‌ ‌‌Itunes‌,‌‌ ‌Podbean‌,‌‌ ‌‌Spotify‌‌ ‌‌and‌ ‌all‌ ‌other‌ ‌major‌ ‌podcasting‌ ‌platforms.‌ ‌
    You can also read a summary article from the notes for the podcast below…
    The first thing that got me to rethink HRT was having several friends of mine go on it and seeing their results. Their feedback was that they were recovering faster, getting less sore from training, had more energy and they were sleeping better. Of course, they were also seeing some benefits from the aesthetics side as well.
    I have certainly seen myself losing ground in all of those areas despite my best efforts.
    I also realized that I was using modern medicine to steal extra years of life - I have had antibiotics save my life at least twice. I figured that if I was going to use modern medicine to extend my life then why not use it to maximize those stolen years?
    So I swallowed my pride and contacted a Hormone Replacement Therapy doctor and started to process.
    The first thing I learned was that I was going to have to pay for it out of my own pocket. Insurance doesn’t cover comprehensive blood work that includes hormone levels and it also doesn’t cover HRT.
    The medical establishment isn’t here to optimize your health, instead it makes money off of you being sick. Despite the fact that HRT has been shown to have a positive impact on mood, energy levels, lean body mass, production of red blood cells, bone mineral density, cognition and some cardiovascular risk factors, because it is a preventative measure instead of an intervention it isn’t seen as important.
    So the first thing you need to know is that your regular doctor may not be on board with the idea simply because they don’t have much experience with it based on their lack of exposure to it through the medical insurance industry. This means that you will most likely need to find a HRT doctor and just explain to your regular doctor that you are going to keep them informed about what is going on but that you are going to use someone else for HRT.
    After getting my first blood work done I found out that I was in the healthy range for everything but that some things like my A1C and triglycerides were creeping up. My dad was a Type 1 diabetic and my mom has a history of high cholesterol and so that made sense from a genetic history perspective.
    Based on my results, my HRT doctor prescribed a regime that addressed what I was low in. This led to the second thing I learned, which is that HRT is about more than just testosterone. 
    Something else that is often out of whack is thyroid levels, which are important for energy levels through carb and fat metabolism. Beyond that I also had B12, DHEA and Vitamin D levels that were below optimal levels.
    This means that it is important that you find a doctor that addresses all of your hormones and not just testosterone. I started a HRT regime that included testosterone, thyroid, Vitamin B12, DHEA and Vitamin D.
    It took a couple of weeks but I started to feel the difference in my energy levels and how sore I was getting from training. Through the process I was also getting regular blood work done through my HRT docto

    • 33 min

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5
67 Ratings

67 Ratings

DanaEDRN ,


I have been following the blog in the podcast for the last year. I really like bike James coaching point of reference, his thinking outside of the box, and his training tips. At times, he can get very wordy making his points, which makes his line of thinking hard to follow. But the podcast notes help keep me on track, and overall I find this very quality experience.

more_life_less_work ,

slaughtering the sacred cows of MTB skills training and performance

This podcast is for you if you want solid information on how things really work on your bike based on science and how your body really moves. I like how James breaks things down, no vague info here. The only thing I’d say could be better is the audio, but the content has been solid and helpful for me.

robinlyons ,

Lower Order Education for Enduro strength training

Lack of understanding In exercise physiology and human biology when discussing how to train for MTB enduro. A lot of hot air and repeating statements that don’t really get answers.

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