"The most important thing is time on the bike. People get distracted by the gym and the desire to lift weights, and they spread themselves too thin," says BMX star Arielle Martin, one of the top contenders for the Beijing Olympics.
Martin advises riding your bike even if you can't get to any hills, "Even if it's in a parking garage, even if it's just wheelies or bunny hops."
As an aside, she describes how to pop a wheelie, the cool move that most adults don't even try. "The most important part is making sure your weight is back behind the seat. Lean back before you attempt to pull up the handlebars with your arms. Put your butt over the real wheel. Keep one finger on the brake lever. If you feel like you're starting to lose balance, touch the brake and that will transfer your weight back forward and your front end will drop."
For those who really want to become good riders, Martin says, "Lifting weights is important, but only if you have extra time. If it's a choice between the gym and the bike, ride the bike."
Few amateur riders would want to do Martin's workout. She starts out every morning around 7:30 a.m. with a road ride--a 20 minute light easy spin before breakfast. Then she spends two hours on a duplicate of the Olympic BMX course, working on various sections, "Maybe the start, or the straight-aways; different aspects."
Her method is excellent for any level of rider preparing for a race. Check out the course, practice going faster on the difficult sections. Or, for riders having trouble on technical trails, don't just ride past the hard parts. Turn back and re-ride the difficult section; practice getting over that log or riding over that rock garden until you can do it without stopping.
She does her gym workout in the afternoon, after her body has had a few hours to recover. Right now, in her season, she is working on power.
"I'm doing lifts like power cleans and squats. You can't go wrong with a squat. But I'm not squatting that heavy because I'm trying to be fast. When you're in season, heavy weights and lots of reps are not very beneficial, because we're a sprinting sport."
But Martin, who also has a degree in sports science, says that a key component in bike riding that is often left out is nutrition. She says even for beginners, it's a really important part of how a rider will function.
"Particularly hydration, drinking enough," she says, adding that the length of your ride or workout should decide whether you go for a sugary energy drink or water.
"When you work out, you are primarily burning carbs, which is mostly sugar. A carb drink provides a lot of calories. So if you are working out more than an hour, that's when the carb drinks become beneficial. But if you are going to be riding or working out less than an hour, stick with water.
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