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Expert Opinion: Go the Distance

We asked for endurance tips from Tom Bender, 26, a professional mountain biker who grew up in Lindenhurst. He currently competes for the Adventure 212 racing team out of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, and was the winner of the 2008 Palos Meltdown mountain biking race in the expert category

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO FUEL UP BEFORE A LONG BIKE RIDE?
I try to eat three hours before to give food a chance to settle down. Personally, I like to start a race not feeling empty, but also not feeling like I’ve just eaten a huge meal. Oatmeal loaded with things like blueberries, bananas, and walnuts is going to give you those complex carbohydrates for that long burn, plus a little muscle protein.

WHAT ABOUT SNACKING DURING THE RIDE?
For someone just getting on the bike, after an hour is a good time to have a bite of a granola bar or a Clif bar—something to keep all of your levels topped off. Keep that steadily going as you ride. Because when you start to get hungry, you’re already almost too late.

WHAT MILEAGE IS A GOOD IDEA FOR A BEGINNER?
As with anything, you can’t just jump into a 30-mile ride. It’s important to work up to certain distances slowly so as not to injure yourself. You need to slowly progress into it. If you’re just getting started, 20 to 30 minutes on the bike is good training in the beginning, and then build up another five or ten minutes every time.

WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR WEIGHT TRAINING?
I’ll just do a regimen of leg workouts: squats, one-legged squats. I use standard free weights, no machines. But as the year moves on, I focus strictly on cycling. Weights build muscle but cycling is where the muscle is fine-tuned. I also do a 45-minute core routine twice a week and a ten-minute routine of pushups and sit-ups every day. And every night before I go to bed I stretch. I’ll do core work year-round. It helps you recover much quicker.

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