top of page

I asked OpenAI to write me an XCO MTB Training Plan


Artificial Intelligence is incredible. As a MTB tech creator, rider and coach, I've been watching this space closely. Since the inception of ChatGPT (openai.com), I've been using the new AI most days to help me brainstorm and troubleshoot.


Recently, I asked ChatGPT to explain the benefits of BrakeAce for mountain bikers. It did an incredible job! Check that whole conversation here (including mistakes). It was super surprising how well the AI did, especially considering that we are still running a waitlist for future BrakeAce orders.


This stuff is all still very new, but the idea of computer-generated training plans is not new. In fact, we talked about this on the Performance Advantage Podcast before ChatGPT became available. We got quite a bit of criticism, but I do believe that AI can help us with training.


So this got me thinking...


What I did today was ask ChatGPT to write me a MTB XC training plan. The conversation is copied below, and I've included my thoughts on the following prompts in bold and italics.


Keep in mind this is totally free! Below is what I typed in the AI prompt, and the training plan it gave me. Note how week 4 is a rest week - it's totally periodized!!




____________


Matt: write me a mtb xco training plan


ChatGPT: Here is a sample training plan for a Mountain Bike Cross-Country (XCO) race:


Week 1:

Monday: 1 hour easy ride on flat terrain

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 1 hour easy ride on flat terrain

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride on flat terrain

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 1.5 hour easy ride on flat terrain


Week 2:

Monday: 1 hour easy ride on flat terrain

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 1 hour easy ride on hilly terrain

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride on flat terrain

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour easy ride on hilly terrain


Week 3:

Monday: 1 hour easy ride on flat terrain

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 1 hour easy ride on hilly terrain

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride on flat terrain

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour easy ride on hilly terrain


Week 4:

Monday: 1 hour easy ride on flat terrain

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 1 hour easy ride on hilly terrain

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride on flat terrain

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour easy ride on hilly terrain


Week 5:

Monday: 1 hour easy ride on flat terrain

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride on hilly terrain

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride on flat terrain

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour steady ride on hilly terrain


Week 6:

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 1 hour easy ride on flat terrain

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride on hilly terrain

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride on flat terrain

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour steady ride on hilly terrain


Week 7:

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 1 hour easy ride on flat terrain

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride on hilly terrain

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride on flat terrain

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour steady ride on hilly terrain


Week 8:

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 1 hour easy ride on flat terrain

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride on hilly terrain

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride on flat terrain

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Race day!


This plan is based on the assumption that you are starting from a base level of fitness and can ride for at least 1 hour at a time. If that is not the case, you should start with shorter rides and gradually increase the duration over time.

It's also important to note that this plan is only an example, it's important to adjust it according to your own time schedule, fitness level and any other limitation you might have. Also, it is important to stay properly hydrated, eat well and get enough rest to help you perform at your best.


In addition to this plan, it is important to incorporate some specific training for XCO racing, such as interval training and strength training. During interval training, you can focus on short, intense efforts followed by recovery periods. This will help improve your power and endurance on the climbs and descents. In strength training, focus on exercises that target your core, legs and upper body, such as squats, lunges, and push-ups, to help you handle the demands of the technical trails.


Finally, it's important to note that riding on technical terrain and perform specific movement on mountain biking is also a very important factor, so make sure to ride on different trails and get use to the movement and bike handling on various terrain and situation.

__________


What do you think? Is this free training plan good enough?


I'd say this is a great place to start!


BUT


If you've followed me at all, you know that I think power meters are the ONLY way to train for MTB (propulsive [pedal] and brake)


PC Alex @ Th Oceanian Bike Project - featuring Quarq Power meter, BrakeAce and TyreWiz

So I took this a bit further, and asked the AI about power meters...

_____________

Matt: can you outline power meter training zones for each workout?


ChatGPT: Power meters are a useful tool for measuring and tracking your training progress. One way to make use of a power meter is by defining specific power zones for different types of workouts. Here are a few examples of power zones that you can use for your training:


Zone 1: Active Recovery

This zone represents the lowest intensity of training and is used primarily for recovery rides or warm-ups. The power level for this zone should be around 50-60% of your functional threshold power (FTP).


Zone 2: Endurance

This zone represents moderate intensity and is used primarily for building endurance. The power level for this zone should be around 60-75% of your FTP.


Zone 3: Tempo

This zone represents a moderate-high intensity and is used primarily for building endurance at a higher intensity. The power level for this zone should be around 75-90% of your FTP.


Zone 4: Threshold

This zone represents a high intensity and is used primarily for building your ability to sustain high power outputs over longer periods of time. The power level for this zone should be around 90-105% of your FTP.


Zone 5: VO2max

This zone represents a very high intensity and is used primarily for building your maximum oxygen uptake capacity. The power level for this zone should be around 105-120% of your FTP.


Zone 6: Anaerobic Capacity

This zone represents the highest level of intensity and is used primarily for building your anaerobic capacity and power output. The power level for this zone should be above 120% of your FTP.


It's important to note that Functional threshold power is a measure of the highest average power that a rider can sustain for one hour, and it is a key value to use as reference for the zones.

Also the power zones depends on a variety of factors, including the individual rider's fitness level, the specific demands of the event, and so on.

It is also important to note that a power meter is not a requirement to use power zones, you can use perceived exertion or Heart Rate, to approximate your effort and intensity.

It is recommended to consult with a coach to fine-tune the power zones according to your fitness level and race goals.





As a power meter expert, I thought ChatGPT did a great job explaining power meter zones. Of course, our power meter course explains everything you need to know to use your power meter, but this was a nice intro. So of course, I had to ask it to make the same training plan, but with the addition of power meter training zones.


THIS IS WHERE IT GOT INTERESTING - it added tapering!!

__________

Matt: write me a mtb xco training plan using these power meter training zones


ChatGPT: Here is a sample training plan for a Mountain Bike Cross-Country (XCO) race that incorporates power meter training zones:


Week 1:

Monday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 1.5 hour easy ride in Zone 1


Week 2:

Monday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride in Zone 2

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour steady ride in Zone 2


Week 3:

Monday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride in Zone 2

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour steady ride in Zone 2


Week 4:

Monday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride in Zone 2

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour steady ride in Zone 2


Week 5:

Monday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride in Zone 3

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour steady ride in Zone 3


Week 6:

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride in Zone 3

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour steady ride in Zone 3


Week 7:

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride in Zone 3

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour steady ride in Zone 3


Week 8:

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride in Zone 3

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Race day!


During race week decrease the volume and increase the intensity by including some interval training sessions targeting the power zone 4 and 5.


This plan is based on the assumption that you are starting from a base level of fitness, already have a well-established FTP, and can ride for at least 1 hour at a time. If that is not the case, you should start with shorter rides and gradually increase the duration over time.

It's also important to note that this plan is only an example, it's important to adjust it according to your own time schedule, fitness level, and any other limitation you might have. It is important to stay properly hydrated, eat well, and get enough rest to help you perform at your best.


It is important to check your power data and heart rate after each workout and adjust the zones accordingly, and make sure to test your FTP every 4-6 weeks.

It is also important to consult with a coach to fine-tune the power zones according to your fitness level and race goals.

It's also important to practice technical skills and bike handling, ride on different trails and get use to the movement and bike handling on various terrain and situation.




________


This is really cool! But obviously this is missing specific interval sessions. If you've ever tried my training plans you'll know that I really do think we need to avoid doing too many hard intervals, but this plan had NO intervals! We need at least some!


So here's what I did next:

__________

Matt: can you add intervals?


ChatGPT: Sure, here is an example of how you can incorporate interval training using power zones into your Mountain Bike Cross-Country (XCO) training plan:


Week 5:

Monday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride in Zone 3, with 3 x 8-minute intervals at Zone 4, with 4-minute recovery in between

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour steady ride in Zone 3


Week 6:

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride in Zone 3, with 3 x 8-minute intervals at Zone 5, with 4-minute recovery in between

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour steady ride in Zone 3


Week 7:

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride in Zone 3, with 3 x 8-minute intervals at Zone 5, with 4-minute recovery in between

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour steady ride in Zone 3


Week 8:

Race week:

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride in Zone 3

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Race day!


Interval training is an effective way to increase your power and endurance, and to be able to hold a higher intensity during a race. By including intervals into your training, you will be able to target specific power zones, such as Zone 4 and 5, which will help you to improve your ability to sustain high power outputs over longer periods of time.

It's important to note that intervals intensity and duration should be adjusted to your fitness level, it is also recommended to start with shorter intervals and gradually increase the duration and power level, also, make sure you have proper recovery during and after the intervals, and not to do too many intervals close to the race day, to avoid fatiguing.

As always, it's important to check your power data and heart rate after each workout and adjust the zones accordingly, and make sure to test your FTP every 4-6 weeks.

It is also important to consult with a coach to fine-tune the power zones and intervals according to your fitness level and race goals.


Note how it added intervals only to weeks 5+ - impressive!!





Matt: 8 minutes in zone 5 is too long. can you redo it?


ChatGPT: You're right, 8 minutes at Zone 5 is quite a long time, especially for a mountain bike race, as it represents a very high level of intensity.

For XCO race, intervals at Zone 5 should typically be shorter, like 30s to 1min for example, with longer recovery periods of about 2-4 times the work interval.

Here is an example of how you can incorporate shorter intervals into your Mountain Bike Cross-Country (XCO) training plan:


Week 5:

Monday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride in Zone 3, with 8x 30 secs intervals at Zone 5, with 2 minutes recovery in between

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour steady ride in Zone 3


Week 6:

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride in Zone 3, with 8x 1 min intervals at Zone 5, with 2 minutes recovery in between

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour steady ride in Zone 3


Week 7:

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride in Zone 3, with 8x 1 min intervals at Zone 5, with 2 minutes recovery in between

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour steady ride in Zone 3


Week 8:

Race week:

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride in Zone 3

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Race day!


By using shorter, high-intensity intervals, you will still be able to target specific power zones, such as Zone 5, but also avoid fatigue close to the race day.

As always, it's important to check your power data and heart rate after each workout and adjust the zones accordingly, and make sure to test your FTP every 4-6 weeks.

It is also important to consult with a coach to fine-tune the power zones and intervals according to your fitness level and race goals.

Also, practice technical skills and bike handling, ride on different trails and get use to the movement and bike handling on various terrain and situation.


Not bad, but what about the importance of strength training, I thought...


Matt: Can you add strength training to this entire plan?

Chat GPT: Sure, here is an example of how you can add strength training to the previous Mountain Bike Cross-Country (XCO) training plan:


Monday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1 + strength training session (30-45 minutes)

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 1 hour steady ride in Zone 3, with 8x 30 secs intervals at Zone 5, with 2 minutes recovery in between + strength training session (30-45 minutes)

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 1 hour easy ride in Zone 1 + strength training session (30-45 minutes)

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 2 hour steady ride in Zone 3


Strength training is an essential component of MTB training and can help improve power, stability, and durability. To optimize your strength training sessions, you should focus on exercises that target the major muscle groups used in mountain biking, such as your legs, core, and upper body. Examples of exercises that are beneficial for mountain biking are: Squats, lunges, single leg deadlifts, step ups, leg press, calf raises, core exercise (planks, side planks, Russian twists, etc) and upper body exercises like push-ups, pull-ups and rows.

It's important to note that you should start with a manageable weight and gradually increase it over time as you become stronger. Also, avoid fatigue by also respecting your recovery time, and also by not overtraining, you should aim for 2-3 sessions per week, depending on your schedule and recovery abilities.


It's also important to consult with a coach to determine the best strength training


WHAT THE HECK?! It added that sentence above all on its own!!

_________________________


FINAL THOUGHTS:

You can see how tiny bits of information improve this training plan, but this is far from the end of capabilities of computers. I mean even with BrakeAce, we can provide personalized opportunities for improvement - imagine what we could do with the help of a trained computer!


This plan is not bad, and I'd totally try it. But there is quite a bit of room for improvement - and it's missing the human touch.


One major problem I see here is accountability. This is what a real coach or custom training plan offers.


I wonder if AI will ever gain that human element?





Comments


bottom of page