Mountain Bike Training
Mountain Bike Training
2 The Physiology and Anatomy of a Mountain Biker
2.1 From Beginner to Pro From a Physiological Perspective
For an individual with little endurance background, mountain biking will trigger certain changes in the body. The purpose of these changes is to adapt the body to increased performance demands. In addition to visible changes, such as more defined muscles or weight loss, a series of other more subtle adaptation processes take place, which increase the performance level of the body's complex system.
For a mountain biker who takes his hobby seriously, learning as much about the body as possible should be a fundamental requirement because it enables him to do the sport he loves. An understanding and awareness of the body are becoming less and less emphasized in a time of computer-controlled training, and an unavoidable consequence of this is that many elite athletes overtrain until their bodies break down.
This chapter presents the anatomical and physiological basics relevant to the endurance sport mountain biking. It also looks at the adaptation processes caused by endurance training and should help the mountain biker to understand the physical processes, injuries and also performance improvement. This knowledge will also provide a basic understanding of training and all associated factors.
There is not enough room to explore these topics in great detail, but interested readers can always consult good anatomy and physiology books to find more in-depth descriptions.
2.1.1 Training Effects on the Heart, Circulation and Musculoskeletal System
The body's adaptation process is divided into two phases. During the first phase, at low training volumes and intensities (i.e., at grass roots and rehab level), there is just a functional adaptation that is characterized by an improved metabolism and a corresponding increase in the economy of the cardiovascular system.
The second adaptation phase is dimensional adaptation, during which the size of the internal organs changes.
The heart becomes more efficient.
Regular, long-term endurance training leads to an adaptation process in the heart that results in what is known as athlete's heart, characterized by an increase in size and a resulting drop in heart rate. This adaptation process is a result of the faster metabolism, especially in the muscles, in which increased oxygen and nutritional requirements can only be met by a greater blood circulation, requiring a more efficient heart. While an untrained heart weighs about 10.6 ounces (300 g), that of an endurance athlete can weigh up to 17.6 ounces (500 g). This increase in weight is accompanied by an increase in size. From about 800 ml for men and 500 ml for women, heart size can increase up to 900-1200 milliliters, and in rare cases up to 1500 milliliters. The largest hearts can be found in road racing cyclists and are the result of their often extreme endurance training loads.
The increase in heart volume enables a greater stroke volume. The stroke volume is the amount of blood that the heart pumps into the aorta per beat (80 ml for the untrained and up to 150 ml for trained endurance athletes). However, as the body does not need more blood for the same performance, the heart can pump more slowly. The maximum possible cardiac output per minute (i.e., the total amount of blood pumped by the left side of the heart per minute [heart rate × stroke volume; e.g., 70 × 80 ml = 5.6 l/min at rest]), rises in a trained athlete compared to an untrained person so that the muscles have more blood available to them per unit of time. The maximum heart rate increases only minimally after years of endurance training, so the greater maximum stroke volume produces a greatly increased maximum cardiac output per minute.
Fig. 2.1: Anatomy and the cardiac cycle
At maximum effort, the untrained indiv