Off the back of winning the British National Downhill Series overall title, we caught up with Becci Skelton to chat about her new training outfit.
Becci Skelton took the win at the final round of the 2019 British National Downhill Series and with it, the overall title. It’ll no doubt be back to the coal face in her daily job as a personal trainer.
We caught up with Becci Skelton to see why she’s launched her own MTB-specific training setup.
For those who might not know you, who is Becci Skelton?
I’m just a wee dog-bothering, metalhead raised in the flats of North Lincolnshire, trying to not suck at stuff.
What’s your background in cycling?
Late starter over here. I’ve always been able to ride a bike and was the proud owner of a Raleigh Lizard for many a year, but I didn’t take it up properly until I was about 28. My mates were going on a lads riding holiday to Dalby Forest and I had massive FOMO.
I bought myself a £700 Cube Acid, smashed myself into a tree on the first day, snapped my forks in half and it was love ever since. The same holiday I ended up in a pond and jumped off the top of the cottage with one of those pub sun umbrella things, thinking I was Mary Poppins. I wasn’t.
Following that, I did a few trail centre rides and got myself in the deep, dark, inescapable hole of needing to go faster and hit rougher, harder and bigger sh*t.
I kinda just cracked on from there; I entered loads of races and worked my way up the ranks. I trained hard, played hard, the results came and now I’m super fortunate to have the support of some amazing brands which enables me to compete at an elite level in National and World level downhill races.
What’s your background in fitness coaching?
You know that irritating super sporty kid at school that kisses the PE teacher’s ass, is captain of all sports team and wins everything? Yeah that was me.
I graduated from Durham University with a degree in Sports Science and went on to complete my Personal Training and Sports Massage Therapy diploma. Since then I have gained 13 years’ experience in the industry, working with a massive range of clients, from little old Betty just wanting to keep mobile, to top athletes at Leeds Rhinos.
How did Becci Skelton MTB Training come about?
I train at an awesome CrossFit gym (Stronger Together CrossFit) but I’ve always done my own extra training on more bike-focused work. I love figuring out and developing exercises that mimic and benefit movements on the bike. Over the years, I’ve thought about it a lot and quite a few folk have asked me for bike specific training programmes, but never really did anything about it.
After a crappy day at work (I do actually love my job), I thought I’ll just pop a post in a Facebook Girls MTB group, literally saying something like ‘I’m thinking of doing some bike specific online personal training, it will involve X, Y, Z, would anybody be interested in it?’ and my phone didn’t stop for a week! I thought, ‘Bugger, I’ve said it now. Gonna have to crack on!’
What made you want to offer an online training package rather than hold classes?
I love physical coaching in classes, but you’re very restricted by a few things. The main ones are location and time. I’d either have to travel or they would, resulting in more expense and time. I have very minimal spare time as it is, so this wasn’t viable. Plus, with physical training, you can only really see people one at a time or in a small group, where you’d have to have all people working toward the same goal, which isn’t generally the case.
The online packages are a lot more accessible: All you need is a phone, computer or tablet (who doesn’t have these nowadays). The programmes are scheduled when the client can fit them in, not when I can fit them in, this makes it easier to adhere to. I was initially a bit concerned about client’s form, and not being able to physically assess and correct it. To address this, I ensured that on my app, all exercises come with an instructional video and an option to video yourself and send to me for analysis.
Did you ever consider going down the ladies-specific route?
As I mentioned above, it all started from dropping a message in a girls MTB group on Facebook and getting a really positive and supportive response, so yeah at that point I thought about making it female specific.
After some consideration, though, I went against it; Firstly, because I’m personally not really into gender specific stuff and excluding folk cos of their tackle. I mean, it definitely has its place, and I think what some folk, like the awesome Gowaan Girls, are doing for female mountain biking, is bloody awesome. All of my programmes are tailored toward that individual and their goals, not what they’ve got in their pants. And secondly, from a business point of view, it doesn’t make much logical sense to significantly reduce my pool of potential customers by making it female-only.
How do the training needs differ between guys and girls?
To be honest, I tailor programmes to the individual and their goals rather than looking at if they are a guy or girl; I haven’t got a guy programme and then a girl programme. Yeah, there are obviously, certain things that I look at when designing training and nutritional programmes in relation to gender, but I don’t let that be the overriding factor in it.
The way I approach training with guys and girls can be pretty different though. this is a very broad sweeping statement but men generally like a tough love approach , whilst girls tend to prefer a softer angle, but again everyone’s different.
One thing that does get to me about our lovely ladies is their training confidence and again this is a generalisation as I know loads of girls this doesn’t apply to. I find so often with mountain biking and training, women in this environment can be so negative about themselves. I’m constantly hearing “I’m not good enough to ride with them”, “not quick enough”, “I can’t do that”, “not strong enough”, “it’s too heavy”, “it’s too far”, “I might fail” etc…it drives me mad.
I don’t know where this deep-set lack of confidence comes from. It might be from way back, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, sport was a man’s thing and women were meant to be weak in mind and body, avoid perspiring and be very pretty and agreeable. Screw that. Women are strong as fu*k. They sometimes just need a helping hand in some form to get that strength out… and that’s my job.
What are the pros and cons of doing training in a gym compared to at home?
The main pros of training in the gym are the quantity and variation of equipment and the habit-forming structure it offers; you go at a certain time of the day with the mindset to workout. However, gym membership can be costly and if you lack a bit of confidence, can have a negative effect and discourage you from going.
Home workouts don’t include costly gym memberships and can be done anytime you’re at home but often lack progressive equipment and it’s hard to get into the correct mindset in your front room.
Do you plan to offer one-to-one coaching sessions?
I would like to in the future for sure, I don’t currently have the time but one thing I am looking at doing are group workshops/seminars in various places throughout the country, followed by a coached ride out.
Is there one thing that mountain bikers always seem to do wrong when training?
I think there’s a few common mistakes; girls (again sweeping statement) tend to focus more on the cardio side of things and avoid weights, whilst blokes tend to just be all about the weights and only on certain muscle groups…i.e. doing 1 rep max on chest, biceps and triceps every training session which will have very little benefit to riding at all.
Folk seem to love doing loads of isolation exercises which has its place in training, for sure, but big compound movements that incorporate most muscle groups are the way forward.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to career in fitness coaching?
Probably just to get as much experience working with different people as possible. You can have all the knowledge in the world but if you don’t have experience of how to read people, understand what motivates them and the way they respond to training, they aren’t going to get real results, and results are key to a coaches success.
What did you have to sacrifice to get to this stage?
Well at the moment my usual week day starts at 4.30, I have an hour’s commute to work (my normal PT job) which starts at 6, I work till 5, drive an hour to CrossFit, do an hour and half training, take the dogs out, have my tea, then do a couple more hours of the MTB work, and bed about 11… and repeat; so I’d say the main thing I’ve sacrificed is time. I wouldn’t change it for the World but would love a few more hours in the days.
Did you have day jobs that you had to give up?
I’m a personal trainer, sports masseuse and assistant manager at a health club near Leeds. I’ve just reduced my hours a bit since starting this venture and hoping I manage them both for the time being. I would eventually like to be able to do the bike training and coaching full time.
Where next for Becci Skelton?
Well after the season is over, I’m going to get ridiculously drunk. After that it’s really time to knuckle down with training others, getting them strong and fit on a bike and simultaneously doing the same with my own training. I’ve had a great season and really want to push for more next year. I’m also looking at moving to the lush valleys of Wales with my pup. At the moment, I live so far away from any riding spots, it’s very rare I can get out midweek and to get better on a bike, I need to ride more. It’d be a dream to be able to ride out from my house.
Anybody to thank at this point in the journey? Long suffering spouses/parents/friends?
Firstly, my family are always to be thanked. After losing my mum a few years ago, my big bro has been my rock. He’s ridiculously clever (or good at convincing people he’s clever) and has always got loads of super sensible advice I’m not the most sensible and I’m very much a see it, want it, do it and deal with the consequences later kinda girl.
Secondly, as always, I would be nowhere without the support of my sponsors. I’m still so amazed and humbled that folk wanna give me stuff so I can go have fun on my bike/ Blows my tiny mind. I’d still be on that Cube Acid with snapped forks if it wasn’t for them, so huge thanks.
And last but not least, my social media fam for supporting me, my riding and this new venture. I really can’t wait to crack on with creating training programmes and build a Skelly army to take over the mountain bike world.