How many hours per week do you think a professional endurance athlete trains? Specifically, how many hours per week does a pro mountain biker train? Got a number or a range in mind?
I bet some of them train less than you think and get great results.
Profile of a First-Year Pro Mountain Biker
Let's take a look at the actual hours of training and racing completed by first-year professional mountain bike racer Ernie Watenpaugh. Before diving into the training details, first some background on Ernie.
He received his upgrade to professional status in October of 2010 and we began working together. He was not a full-time professional and was juggling training for a sport he loves with his studies to become a Civil Engineer at Colorado State University. This was his junior year and obviously his school load was not easy.
Summary of One Year
Take a look at the chart below. The chart displays actual hours accomplished. Notice that the majority of his training weeks were between 8 and 12 hours per week. Only three weeks in the year were above the 12-hour mark. The weekly hours shown on the chart include endurance training and racing. In his first year he didn't do any leg or arm strength training work, but did do core work. The core work time is not included in the chart of training time and amounted to some 20 to 30 minutes two or three times per week.
Over the course of the race season, he moved his way up the overall rankings in the Mountain States Cup (MSC) series. At the very last event of the year he secured his position as overall series winner with two podium finishes. Performances in this series, one PRO XCT race and the USA Cycling National Championship race earned him a year-end ranking of 26th in the nation and a new contract with the Tokyo Joe's team for the 2012 season.
With limited time available, Ernie's training had to be very economical and precise. He could not afford the time to ride several hours every day and take the time required to nap and recover from that type of training. His training could not be high volume. Even with what many would agree is a low-volume plan, he did get sick three times during the season. In addition to illness affecting his racing fitness, some of his races suffered due to mechanical troubles and there were crashes too.
In addition to training and race-day challenges, as a new pro with limited resources his pre-race accommodations often included camping. Camping is certainly not optimal for pre-race rest.
As you can see it was not an easy, trouble-free season. Even with all the challenges, consistent performances allowed him to end the year strong with a solid national ranking. Let's take a closer look at his training in more detail. At the end of the details, I'll leave you with take away messages you can apply to your own training.