5 Mountain Biking Workouts That Don’t Feel Like Workouts

If you’re a mountain biker, you likely got into the sport to enjoy time on trails, out in nature and off the road. Mountain biking is meant to be free and adventurous, not data-driven, and restrictive. When it comes to doing intervals on the trail, it can be tricky. Off-road terrain is so variable it can be hard to execute the same workouts you read about or see your road-cycling friends doing.

Doing serious workouts was likely the last thing on your mind. But it is possible to do fun (and structured) workouts on the mountain bike to get fitter, stronger and ultimately, enjoy your ride even more.

With these five simple workouts, you can add variety and a daily goal to your mountain biking without feeling like the fun has been sucked out of your rides and replaced by a never-ending list of reps, sets, and wattages:

1 TRY A FARTLEK

Fartlek, or speed-play, is an old-school Swedish workout style often done by runners and is the simplest workout to incorporate into your mountain bike training. Simply ride harder than you typically would when you feel like it or at a certain point in the trail — i.e., sprint from one big tree to the next. It’s meant to be free-form to allow a motivated athlete to push their limits while recovering as they need, rather than rigidly prescribing timed durations that may not be optimal for that athlete or that day.

On hilly terrain, you might go hard on most uphills and relax on the downhills and flats. On flatter terrain, you might sprint after each trail crossing. You can progress the total time you do the fartlek (e.g., 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes of Fartlek) and keep the area/trail you use roughly the same over a set of weeks. Start with a few bursts of 5–15 seconds and work your way up to a few full minutes of all-out effort as you get better at keeping your speed up.

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