THE FIT FILE: Training, mountain biking share the trail for GJ man
James Wilson was 30 years old when he visited Grand Junction for his sister’s wedding.
What he discovered was mountain bike bliss, and the rest is history.
He went back home to Tyler, Texas, quit his job as a gym manager and moved here.
Wilson got hooked on mountain biking long before coming to Grand Junction. He remembers the first time he hit the dirt on a four-wheel drive road, and that’s when he knew mountain biking was his sport.
But East Texas didn’t have a lot to offer when it came to off-road riding, so Wilson turned his back yard into a mountain bike obstacle course with ramps, drops and all kinds of fun challenges.
Now 38, Wilson said he’s been mountain biking for more than 14 years.
“Mountain biking to me is the perfect blend of an action sport like skating or BMX and an endurance sport like running,” he said.
He’s also a “real” mountain biker.
“Real mountain biking isn’t road riding on dirt,” he said. “(It) contains a danger aspect that a lot of people are uncomfortable with, so they avoid it.
“That moment where you’re dropping in on a new trail or line and you don’t know exactly how it’s going to play out is what mountain biking is all about for me.”
He said the combination of abilities is one of the big appeals of the sport.
“The only thing I can think that comes close to the mixture of strength, power, mobility, endurance and skills you need to excel on the trail is a sport like MMA (mixed martial arts),” he said.
Like any physical activity, to truly enjoy the sport, Wilson said training is an essential element to getting the most out of a sport and increasing its enjoyment.
“That’s the whole reason that I train is so I can get out and ride,” he said.
He has a simple philosophy when it comes to training for mountain biking.
“How you ride is an extension of how you train, and how you train is an extension of how you live,” he said.
He also has a unique riding philosophy where he’s out of the saddle a lot and he uses flat pedals on his bike. Where most riders use clipless, where their shoe is clipped into the pedal, Wilson said he advocates that flat pedal offers a better ride.
“Clipless pedals get oversold to new riders and mountain bikers in general based on myths about the pedal stroke and half-truths about bike fits,” he said. “Letting your feet move naturally lets you tap into your true potential and avoid a lot of overuse injuries.
He added that clipless pedals have a place, but he doesn’t think they are good for new riders and no rider should use them 100 percent of the time.
Some of Wilson’s favorite trails are the Lunch Loop area, Horsethief Bench and Butterknife.
When it comes to his flat pedal riding philosophy, he wrote what he calls the Flat Pedal Revolution Manifesto, which is posted on his website, bikejames.com.
It’s impossible to ride hard and well without good training, Wilson said.
As a strength coach who specializes in mountain biking specific training, Wilson practices what he preaches.
His training is a mixture of strength and mobility exercises that are geared toward the same movements he needs on the bike.
Wilson, who hits the trails between two and five times a week, said that it’s important to bring all the skills together to improve your riding and increase your enjoyment on the bike.
“I focus on basic human movements each training session since we use those basic movements every day and on the bike,” he said.
For weight training he uses kettlebells, dumbbells and barbells, plus he uses sandbags, suspension trainers and other tools — all types of experiences that come down to moving better but not over-training. Another simple concept he embraces is be consistent while not overdoing it.
He said strict focus is essential for good long-term results.
“I tend to focus on the same basic exercises and change the sets and reps to change the focus on the workouts,” he said.
He also said that cardio isn’t the most important part of his training.
“I do some cardio but I don’t go crazy with it,” he said. “Most riders make the mistake of focusing on it all the time and don’t focus on the things that really go into making them better mountain bikers, like strength, posture and skills.”
When you realize that the key to success is simply applying the basics on a consistent basis and with some focus, you understand why they work,” he said.
Wilson said he doesn’t do anything special with his diet, except eating well.
He avoids excess in things such as soda, sugar and carbohydrates. He tries to stick with lean proteins, fruits and veggies — “good fats” and avoid the “empty calories.”
His diet is just like his training, he said.
“It isn’t anything fancy, just the basics applied with consistency and focus.”