Over the past few weeks things have been changing faster than ever.
Anyone who rides their bike aggressively has had a tumble or two. In the past six months, I’ve had a healthy dose of crashes. Luckily I’ve been able to avoid significant injury on most of those. I fully believe that a big part of this has been from consistently hitting the gym.
I do all kinds of videos about the latest and greatest mountain bike gear, and I have a strong Patreon page where I post monthly riding tutorials. But honestly, none of that stuff is remotely as beneficial to becoming a better rider as a good training program. Being in good shape allows for higher performance riding AND injury prevention. But I know the reality of this is that most of us can’t stay motivated enough to follow through with a good gym program. And I’m no different.
I struggle with motivation to work out. But despite that, I have been consistently going to the gym for about 9 years now. I know if I want to keep riding my bike at the same level of intensity, going to the gym can’t be optional. One motivational trick I found was simply paying for a gym membership. If I was going to be “one of those people” who paid every month for a facility, well, I’d sure as heck get my money out of it. Having a financial stake is a great motivator.
Since I know that in order to keep up with my mountain biking livelihood, I need to keep in shape, I started thinking about options other than a public gym. During our first quarantine weekend, I started looking into building out an affordable home gym.
With body weight exercises and a good yoga routine- it’s completely possible to do more than enough to maintain a high fitness level. Heck, you could probably get all sorts of “swoll” or jacked or ripped or whatever with no real equipment. But that’s never worked for me. My wrists don’t bend very far and they can’t support much weight before they ache really bad. And I just can’t get motivated to suffer on the floor! Motivation is the big factor here.
So I did what any millennial would do- I googled “garage gym”.
The next few days I visited every local thrift store in town searching for old fitness gear. I got an ab wheel, a jump rope, and a few random bits to start with. I found an olympic barbell on Facebook marketplace. At Tractor Supply Co I bought three horse stall mats to use as a safe flooring.
Knowing that the low price amazon fitness items are generally dangerous and trash, I tried my best to wade through pages and pages of listings to build out something that wouldn’t kill me.
For riding your bike, and protecting your back, core muscles are key. The exercises I’ve found that work best for me are planks, the ab wheel, ab straps, and oblique sit ups on the decline bench. Next up are pull ups and push ups. Speaking of push ups, let’s get into actual weights. When you’re smashing your way down a bumpy trail, it’s like a mini-push up every time. I’ve always done some bench pressing, and while my goal has never been to get huge, I believe it’s a great complement to the simple push ups.
Any time I have a lot of huck to flat tricks, my triceps can get sore. While push ups certainly help, dips and tricep extensions are critical.
I’ve broken my pelvis three different times, and physical therapists have recommended that I do one legged stuff on a bosu ball to help regain stability. I really like these moves, and they are a lot safer than barbell exercises. I do one legged dead lifts and one legged pistol squats on the ball.
If you’re watching this video with the goal to get in shape without breaking that bank, that stuff would cost around $300-400 to build out. Add in a yoga mat, and follow along with any of the YouTube yoga instructors after your workout. Yoga is HUGELY beneficial- it’ll help stretch your high hamstrings, and it’ll improve your balance.
Now, I didn’t think just that stuff alone was going to be enough to keep me going. A squat rack would be really helpful. Squats help the core, back, legs, all kinds of stuff. While I’d love to go goblet squats with some big kettle bells, I don’t have any. Since I was planning on getting a decent bench for sit ups, I thought I could also use a squat rack for bench presses. I got a cheapo squat rack on Amazon for $400, and added some less sketchy j-cups and spotter arms. The rack flexes a bit, but it’s not terrible. I’m not lifting very heavy weights, and this will be MORE than enough to test the garage gym waters. Should I use this enough, then maybe in a couple years I’ll invest in a higher quality rack. The fact that I can do tricep pull downs, lat pull downs, and weighted rows is HUGE. I do expect the cable to wear out soon, so I’ll need to source new cables and perhaps pullies by the winter, most likely.
The nicest item by far is this adjustable bench. I watched video after video about benches, and realized that it’s probably the most crucial item to splurge on. If I’m benching 150lbs, and I weigh about 170, well, that’s over 300 pounds of weight. I’d hate to experience a bench breaking, but even more so, I don’t want a loose and rattly bench that’s distracting. I spent about $300 on this thing, and it’s better than a lot of the equipment at the gym I used to visit. The advantage is that one bench can work for bench presses a well as decline bench sit ups. It clunks enough on sit ups that it wakes my family up, so I fixed that with a mossy oak Moto tie down.
Ease of use is critical. I’ve installed a ton of 5000k daylight balanced light bulbs, and I’m trying to keep it as turn key as possible. When I realized that the bench would block the pull up bar, and that the pull up bar was janky, I splurged on a nicer pull up bar. Turns out the owner of that company is an avid mountain biker and was even following my Instagram before I bought this thing!
It’s been a few weeks now and I’ve found myself using this equipment even MORE than I anticipated. It’s actually a nice upgrade to be able to open the garage door for light and fresh air. And early mornings before the family is awake, or evenings after kiddo goes to bed, it’s great to squeeze in an exercise or two.
Now I’ve been struggling to find more weight plates, as shortly after I bought some 45 pound plates the local gym supply store had to close. Supposedly I have weights in the mail from Amazon, but I suspect they never shipped or simply got lost. If you have any spare Olympic weights I can borrow, lemme know!
While I’d love to ask all of you what sort of exercises you do to train for mountain biking, I think it’s actually more critical to ask, how do you stay motivated? What advice would you have to other viewers who might be quarantined at home during this time, and want to use their time as productively as possible?
Here are all the products I mentioned above.
Please note, many of these links are affiliate links, meaning I may earn a small commission from purchases.
- Ab Roller: https://amzn.to/2R7QFaU
- Incline Bench: https://amzn.to/2X6eCmH
- *That is a similar model. The one I actually bought can be found here.
- Ab Straps: https://amzn.to/2xOM0ny
- Stall Mats: https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/4-ft-x-6-ft-x-3-4-in-thick-rubber-stall-mat
- Squat Rack: https://amzn.to/2wSp32G
- 45# Plates: Purchased locally- can’t find more weights available anywhere currently!
- Bosu Ball: https://amzn.to/3aFhjPX
- Barbell: https://amzn.to/3bLjkuf
- J Hooks: https://amzn.to/2X2IujX
- Spotter Arms: https://amzn.to/346bkBg
- Pull Up Bar: https://amzn.to/3bSVmwX
- Perfect Push Ups