MTB PhD and Seamus Powell 3 Week Nationals Enduro MTB Training Plan

Average Weekly Training Hours 06:57
Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Training Hours 06:57
Training Load By Week

We all know that you need to be fit for gravity racing, but sometimes just trail riding isn't enough to get some for the big gains you can get from a specific training plan. Matt Miller from MTB PhD and professional enduro racer Seamus Powell have teamed up to offer you the chance to do the same types of training Seamus does to prepare for the races! We've compiled these sessions into a 25-day block leading you right in to the US enduro national championships! These are the same types of things we address in Seamus' training throughout the year, and this is a similar schedule to what we used when he won his two Elite National Championships races.

From Seamus Powell:
Matt Miller (MTB PHD) and I have come up with a comprehensive 3 week training plan for national championships coming up in July. This will help any and all riders prepare physically and mentally for the big race. Don’t worry if you haven’t had structured intervals and training before now. You have probably been riding heaps and have a great physical cornerstone to build on. This is a great opportunity to get in those last digs before National champs and jump start your summer race campaign and beyond!! Enjoy!!

From MTB PhD:
Hey everyone, Matt here. We get asked all the time about how Seamus trains. This is because not only is he a boss on the descents, but he is also really fit. We think these two things complement each other and help add to his success. It's easy to give little tips here and there, but adding in too many little tips can often misguide riders to getting too fatigued. We want you to be fit and fresh. We're assuming here that you've been riding a bunch of the spring and summer, as well as doing some races. With that, we know you have built up some fitness. However, we want to guide you to working on some of the specific aspects of fitness that you miss out on when trail riding and racing. In this plan, we build you up for a few weeks, without over-stressing you. After that, we taper straight in to the big day so you can ride smooth and fast. Enjoy!

All you need to complete this plan is a bike and good health :)
Be sure to see your doctor to make sure you are ready for a physical training program.

Check out for reasons you need to be fit for gravity racing!

Feel free to get in touch!

Sample Day 1
Easy endurance road ride

From MTB PhD: Woohoo! Day 1 of training! Head out on to the road today for a relatively easy but steady spin. It's OK to use your mountain bike, but try to stay mostly on the road or bike path--the steady terrain helps you to stay in an effort. In this case, we're working on aerobic fitness. This low-level fitness is super important and is what builds the base for higher end fitness, but importantly is what helps you recover between hard efforts (such as within an enduro stage), and also between stages.

For help on guiding your effort, a heart rate monitor will help out. If you have a power meter, even better! For help on guiding your heart rate zones, check out:
Aim to stay within Zone 2 today. The effort shouldn't feel very hard, and you should be able to hold a conversation. Try to stay at 90-100rpm throughout the ride.

Check out to see why we think this is important!

From Seamus Powell: Congrats on joining in on the training plan! Matt and I hope to prepare you the best we can with some simple training that we have been using for several seasons now. Racing is fun and challenging and that is why we do it!! You are more than welcome to ask me or Matt on any training questions via email, text, instagram or facebook if you have any more questions about your training program. I’ll see you at the races! Cheers!
For endurance...DON’T GO TOO HARD !! These rides are a great way to stress your low-end aerobic system, give your body and mind a rest from MTB rides while working your fitness. I like to find a flat easy road that I can get into a good spin and look at some scenery. I barley ride above an RPE of 5 even on hills!! Endurance rides should feel easier than you think they should be. Trust me on this. Go to hard today and you will suffer when you go to do your proper interval. That is when you’re going to make gains!!

Though we normally train with a power meter, sometimes we go by RPE (rating of perceived exertion). You can find more info here:

Sample Day 2
3x8 @ 95% Threshold

From MTB PhD:

Threshold work today: this is super important! This is your high-end aerobic fitness--working at this level trains your body to be better at using metabolites from hard efforts as fuel, which means less fatigue during race stages! This is the kind of effort MTBers often avoid or simply skip...unfortunately too much emphasis goes in to those all-out efforts. If you want to get more fit, these should fill the void!

Get in a good warmup for 10 minutes; start off easy then work your way in to Zone 3, spending the last few minutes in Zone 2. Then, it's in to the efforts: aim to hold your heart rate within Zone 4 for 8 minutes. You can do this on trails or the road, mixing up between hills on one effort and flat ground the next. Try to keep moving throughout the duration. You get 3 minutes between each effort- try to go real easy (Zone 1), then it's on again!

Nice easy spin to cool down after the last effort.

Check out to see why we think this is important!

From Seamus: Threshold is the corner stone of all cycling fitness. These are designed to stress your high-end aerobic system. I like these because it builds my engine so I can recover faster from race stage efforts (during and after). These are hard but not draining. RPE scale is 7-8. Most riders including myself (sometimes) tend to start these efforts too hard and end up riding near max RPE. Which will decrease your quality of proceeding interval and makes it harder to recover when the work out is complete. You should start and finish these efforts with the same intensity. It’s ok to start slightly easier while building through your effort up to your RPE 7-8.

Sample Day 2
Micro Sprints- 2 sets, Seamus Powell favorite!

From MTB PhD:
This workout will be added as additional to some interval sessions. Complete these after 10 minutes recovery from preceding workout.

These will recruit all the muscles you have for pedaling with the goal of being able to use those muscles during sprints and to stay smooth while riding down the trails.

For 10 minutes, sprint at the beginning of each minute for 3 seconds. Each sprint is all-out from a seated position. Start in a moderate gear and do not shift during the effort. Continue spinning in your endurance zone (power Zone 2) until the next effort. These might feel a bit easy until the end, but that's OK!

Spin easy for 5 minutes between sets.

Cool down for 15 minutes before stopping for the day

From Seamus:
I feel these are crucial to Enduro specific fitness. I have found through my racing power profiles that these intervals closely resemble race stress. Along with it being a very good neuromuscular stimulating workout it will improve your ability from a psychological standpoint to train your mental feel for suffering during a race. In general these should start to hurt at about your 4th effort of each 10 min interval. Make sure your efforts between the sprints are not “too” hard so you get good variance. This way you can complete each interval at your optimum. Most of the time these workouts are relatively easy to recover from and shouldn’t leave you wasted the day after on their own. However paired with another workout earlier in the day you should feel pretty tired afterward. If you are using the RPE scale (perceived exertion scale 1-10) the sprints should be a 10 RPE and the recovery during the interval should be around 5-6 RPE.

Sample Day 4
Hard MTB Ride

MTB PhD: After an easy warmup hit the trails hard, using your ride as an unstructured interval-style workout. Focus on weaknesses you may have (e.g. exiting corners with speed, looking ahead, short punchy climbs, pacing, etc.). Cool down for at least 10 minutes easy at the end of the ride. This is more fun in a group!

Seamus: These are really fun. Find your favorite place to ride and pin it!! This ride is a great opportunity to utilize/build your skills and fitness in an unstructured fun ride. I sometimes do these with a small group of riders of similar skill levels and do 2-3 min sections of trail riding “fast” leading or following others to push my personal limits.

Sample Day 5
Recovery spin

MTB PhD: Stay below and do not enter Zone 2 power or heart rate, should feel like your legs are just falling down with each pedal stroke. Easy as, but keep a high cadence (90-100 rpm).
If going by RPE, stay in the 2-3 range.

It's not possible to do this kind of ride on trails--the vibrations and spikes in pedaling are not what you need today.

Seamus: I do these on the road or trainer, sometimes taking the dog with me. I don't ride hard or even breathe hard!

Sample Day 6
Enduro Preride

From MTB PhD:
Plan A, THERE"S A RACE TOMORROW: Practice the race stages with the goal of learning the tracks and pedaling enough so your legs stay fresh. Transitions should be easy, but stages should be closer to race pace while holding back a little on the hard pedal efforts. Be sure to cool down for at least 15 minutes by spinning on the road once done. Stay hydrated and fueled.

Plan B, NO RACE TOMORROW: Head out and have a fun, enduro-style group ride!

Seamus: Pre- riding isn’t about plowing through the tracks at race pace and thinking you’re ready. Take your time ride sections at speed. Stop and look at troublesome sections. I often stress about trying to remember every detail of stages. But our brain is an amazing tool and you won’t forget once you have seen it once. Be aware of your energy expenditure. Eat!! Even if you think you don’t need to. Our brain run on glycogen and even at low energy expenditures your focus on pre riding takes its mental toll. Eat simple carbs often and drink plenty of water. The last thing you need is mental fatigue while pre riding stages. Pace yourself and ride the stages that are giving you the most trouble twice… that’s all you need.

Sample Day 7
Enduro Practice Race

MTB PhD: If there is a race on, go for it!! Have fun!! If not, run your own race simulation on trails similar to what your next race will be. Practice what you will do to warm up before your first stage and the power you will hold on liaisons. Try each stage twice, with a different pacing strategy on each one. For example, try three stages alternating between all-out and even pacing strategies, and do each stage twice. This way some stages will have been all-out on the first and some will have been all-out on the second go. Use the lap timer on your garmin to separate stage times.

Check out to see why we think pacing is important in enduro racing!

Seamus Powell: This is your opportunity to get in race efforts in a low stress environment. I like to do these solo to focus on my race preparation, tactics, focus and flow. I find a trail that is enduro specific and do small 2-5 min Time Trials while trying new lines, pedaling hard on the up hills , out of corners, while trying to pump and rest on DH sections maintaining speed. I usually don’t use more than 2-3 tracks so I can do them back to back and learn better pacing, line options and where I need to pedal or coast. Since adding this to my training I have been able to ease into my race stages easier and have learned how to pace my efforts better. These rides help bridge the gap between your road intervals and rides to get your body and mind ready for races.

Matt Miller

Dr. Matt Miller is the premiere international MTB researcher and coach. He has over 10 scientific publications on factors affecting MTB performance and more than 10 years of competing at the elite level in cross-country and enduro MTB.