Professional cycling coach and kinesiologist Peter Glassford has lived and trained in Collingwood for nearly two decades—and when he’s not out riding or running on the trails, he’s probably at home talking about bikes on his podcast, The Consummate Athlete. We caught up with him in June between sessions at Three Stage to ask him about tips for all levels of riders hoping to improve fitness and fundamental skills during this upside-down season.
ML: Where are your favorite places to ride?
PG: I grew up just south of Collingwood, but I moved up here because of the escarpment. As long as I’m climbing and descending, I’m pretty happy. So obviously I’m a fan of Three Stage. But in this area, we’re very fortunate that we have a lot of different places to ride whatever type of bike you want. I think what’s really exciting now is Highlands Nordic and the local mountain bike club, Collingwood Offroad Cycling (CORC), both developing a lot of private trails.
ML: Where can beginner mountain bikers go now?
PG: It is a challenge for beginners in the area. Because of the rocky escarpment, it’s hard to find a place to learn to bike. But nearby we have a lot of sandy trails in Wasaga Beach Provincial Park that are beginner-friendly.
ML: How can people stay in shape if they can’t always get out to ride on trails?
PG: This is a really good consideration, because a lot of the routes shouldn’t be ridden when it rains, as the clay-based trails are really susceptible to damage when wet. I encourage people to ride the Collingwood town trails—we have some decent sandy trails just off the paved paths. For mountain bikers, it isn’t just the fitness that matters for racing or just having fun riding—skills are huge. For a beginner or intermediate biker, there’s so much we can be working on just while riding around town or even in your backyard. Practice riding up onto curbs, or work on corners by riding around a water bottle on the ground.
ML: How can people build endurance in general?
PG: When you’re getting started, try to ride more often throughout the week—even if it’s just for 20 or 30 minutes—instead of only riding longer on the weekends. Once you’re riding regularly you need to start getting a longer ride in on the weekend to extend endurance. The key is doing all of this really gradually, not going out and doing a five-hour ride off the couch. And for anyone who’s going to be off-road a lot, your upper body has to do a lot more work, so strength-training is key. Doing some sort of core work and a simple strength routine to keep your upper body strong can be hugely beneficial.
ML: How has the pandemic affected your coaching clients?
PG: I think it has helped us get back to training for training’s sake rather than working toward a specific race, and remembering why we got into this sport. I also think the last year has made a lot of us become very aware of the importance of mental health. We’ve always talked about mental skills or mental training in sport, but lately I’ve been focusing more on checking in with the people I coach. We’ve added things like weekly online yoga sessions for everyone to join, and we’ve done a few “coffee chats” via Zoom—really just doing what I can to let people know I’m here.
ML: Best tips for new mountain bikers?
PG: It’s all about frequency. A lot of beginners go to one clinic or go out for one ride with a friend or spouse, and then they’re exhausted, or just don’t go back to it because there wasn’t a focus on fun. Try to make that first exposure to mountain biking not so long and not so extreme. Town trails and big fields are actually great places for beginners to start, because they have lots of room and lots of margin for error. Do short rides on your bike and slowly you can start to add in more advanced singletrack, longer rides, more elevation. But make sure you’re focusing on fun and keeping it easy at first.
“The more sports we can do, the more communities we have access to, the more friends we have.”
ML: Your coaching business and podcast is called The Consummate Athlete. What does that mean?
PG: The Consummate Athlete is an athlete who can do a wide variety of movements in sports. I’m a huge proponent of cross-training, and I want athletes to have a sport they focus on and have goals in—usually cycling, with the athletes I coach—but I want them to also be able to do things like go for a hike, swim in the bay or cross-country ski in the winter, and of course do some strength training and mobility work. That’s going to help an athlete to move consistently, which is critical for fitness. Then, trying these new modalities, moving regularly, improving skills—that’s all going to build confidence. And the last pillar for being a Consummate Athlete is building a community around you. The more sports we can do, the more communities we have access to, the more friends we have.