The days are getting shorter, the temperatures at night cooler, and the leaves are starting to change in the high country. A long summer of hard training rides and big events are behind us, fall is just ahead and most of us are trying to figure out what’s next. For a lot of us, we’re at our peak fitness for the year. Our legs are tone, our skin is tan and riding seems effortless. We’d love to stay in this moment and at this fitness level forever but (and sorry to break it to you) it’s just not possible. So what’s next? Where do we go from here?
Reflect On A Season Of Hard Work – Take some time to look back at the year. You probably set numerous goals at the start of the season. Did you meet those goals? What did you do right? What went wrong? What could you have done better? Knowing the answers to these questions won’t help you this season unfortunately, but they can be invaluable when you start to plan for next year.
Get Off The Bike For A Bit – Taking some time off the bike completely will help you rebuild after a long summer. The amount of time needed can differ from athlete to athlete based upon their age, training load and personal needs. For the average recreational athlete that’s only been averaging around six to eight hours a week of training, a couple of weeks off should be sufficient. If your training has been more intense, three to four weeks off may be needed. But just because you’re off the bike doesn’t mean you should be completely lazy. Stay active by trying something different like running, swimming, snow shoeing, nordic skiing, etc.
Gradually Build Back Up – When you do get back on the bike, don’t just jump right back to doing the same long hours and hard workouts. Gradually build back up the time and effort level. With the time change, most riders weekday training hours will naturally be reduced. But while the weather is still good, try and still take advantage of the weekend to get in longer endurance rides. Overall, a decline in fitness during the off-season is an integral part in getting stronger from one year to the next. You just don’t want to lose everything so that you’re starting from scratch every season.
Hit the Weights – An off-season strength training program is threefold in that it provides a change of pace, helps us to rehab any injuries we sustained during the season and allows us to address any weaknesses we have. A common weak spot for cyclists is a lack of core strength that can often lead to inefficiency and discomfort on the bike. Building a program around functional exercises and core strength can help you become stronger on and off the bike. Focus on lightweight and high repetition to build endurance rather than bulk. Also spend some time working on flexibility, as most of us tend to neglect this during the season.
Maximize Your Training Time – Invest in a good stationary trainer to ride your bike indoors when the weather turns bad. While it may be tough mentally, a trainer is the perfect tool for maintaining fitness when you can’t make it outside. It allows you to really fine tune the intensity of your workout and helps you avoid the coasting and dead time you experience riding outside. Building some intensity into your shorter, indoor workouts will help to make up for some of the lack in duration.
Adam Fivehouse is a USA Cycling LII Certified Coach with Optimize Endurance Services. Contact him at 720-270-6876 or firstname.lastname@example.org with your training questions. He is also partnering with Peak To Peak Training Center in Lakewood this winter to teach group Computrainer classes.