“It’s your training in the gym, outside the gym, on the bike and off the bike that creates greatness. You can never come home and say, ‘I’m done; I can stop working because I’m off the clock.’ Every minute of your life is adding up to how well you perform when the time matters.”
– Neko Mulally, Elite Downhill Mountain Biker
“People ask me how I got into mountain biking. The clean and simple answer is through BMX,” Neko says. “Growing up, there was a local track that held races during the weekdays and double-header races on the weekend. Open to the public, this track fueled the start of my career. It started with me begging my mom to let me race every day – this was a commonplace in the Mulally household, and I loved it. Biking soon became my lifeblood and my existence. It became my life.”
Neko’s weeks were engrossed with daily trips to the track with one goal in mind – to fine-tune his biking skills.
“When frequently riding BMX, you start to develop a skill-set worth talking about. I probably raced 100 times a summer as a kid, and the more I raced the more comfortable I became on my bike. Terrain that was originally difficult started to get progressively easier, and before I knew it, it was like second nature to me. I couldn’t yet race with my eyes closed, but that was the ultimate goal.” Neko winked.
The gradual confidence Neko built by racing BMX fit perfectly in line with that his Dad stood for. Neko’s dad was a mountain biker himself and had a goal that when his sons got good enough at BMX they’d transition over to mountain bikes. “Hey boys, let’s try a mountain bike race this weekend and see what it’s like,” he said. So on a calm summer morning, as the earth lay cool and still, Neko and his brother fell in love with this new sport.
“We’re not out there creating enemies, which I felt was par for the course with BMX racing. Competing against a group, instead of one-on-one, was a breath of fresh air and something I wasn’t used to. I found the atmosphere at mountain bike races more friendly. I knew this sport was for me.”
In 2006, Neko made the transition over to Mountain Biking, and three years later in 2009, he signed his first pro contract.
“When I first started racing World Cups, which is the highest level of racing, there were things on the course that I could do to save time. I could take different lines down the hill, or float over rolls versus getting air between them. After a few years under my belt, I’m getting to the point where I’m not fazed by course difficulty. It’s a nice feeling”
Now that his body is his livelihood, Neko’s training has taken a turn for the better. “It’s the training in the gym, outside the gym, on the bike, and off the bike that makes an athlete great. You can never come home and say ‘I’m done; I can stop working because I’m off the clock.’ Every minute of your life is adding up to how well you perform when the time matters.” Neko goes on to explain that even with all this constant physical and mental training, knowing when to dial it back, and when to turn it up, is something he’s missed from his training regimen.
“I’m a numbers guy — always have been. When I’m training, I want to see quantifiable results so that I know my hard work is adding up,” he explains. Seeing this information can give athletes the confidence to look back at their training and know how accurately they are preparing for their big event.”
This seems to be the running trend with professional athletes. They want to peak. They want to make sure that when it’s time to perform they’re ready to at the highest level. Many times that’s hard for an athlete to do. Measuring “on the court” Strain is one thing; however, measuring “off the court” strain is another. This is a common dilemma athlete’s face prior to using WHOOP.
“I’ve always wondered what I’m doing to my body if I log the two hours I spend in the gym, the hour I spend fixing the lips to the jumps, the two hours I spend cutting down trees on my property, and the hour evening ride I do at the end of the day. There are many times I do all that a few days prior to a race. I show up feeling lazy and un-energized.
Just like any professional athlete Neko is consistently training for optimal performance. When he’s racing 7 times a week in April through September, he needs to be consistently ready to perform. Balancing the proper amount of strain with the right amount recovery is the key Neko and many other elite mountain bikers are looking for. He can’t just peak for one race and call it quits, he needs to maintain his fitness over the course of the summer with enough time to recover from race to race.
“People don’t really understand how much fitness plays into the sport of mountain biking. It’s such a technical sport that the nuances get lost. I guess you can say the same about baseball. However, if I tried to put it into perspective, downhill biking is like sprinting for as hard as you can for five minutes – while handling a bike going 40–50 MPH. It adds up.”
On the World Cup Tour, Neko annually races 7 races in 7 different countries. The demand on his body to prepare for competition with excessive travel can take a toll on an athlete’s body. Neko now uses WHOOP to optimize his training regimen. With WHOOP’s data, he’s now able to quantify his strain to always make sure he’s recovering well.