Winter can feel like the perfect time to wind down your training, ease off the hard sessions and get ready for a cosy Christmas in front of the fire. In the same vein, January can be a great time to pick up, start up again and hit it hard, so hard that you burn out mid-February from exhaustion; but hey, you’re making good progress right? So it’s worth it. But what if you didn’t have to hit it so hard and fast in the new year? And what if you didn’t have to burnout weeks later, but could still reach the same standard?
This guide is meant to share a few tips to keep you on course over Christmas and New Year, preventing you from slipping and sliding into mince pie-madness and having to make up for it excessively.
The key here is to take the gradual progression approach, not running the risk of burnout or boredom before the 2015 season starts.
Build up strength – it isn’t just for weightlifters!
Strength is the foundation for everything in sport, and even though you may not think grabbing a barbell is a smart move for someone training in a sport such as cycling, it is crucial for power, speed and performance. Strength will serve as your muscular base for the explosive power and time trial skills you develop later in your pre-season training.
If you’re the sort of person who cycles month in, month out, but could make room for a little more strength work, then you may want to start on the very basics: bodyweight exercises. Performing a simple succession of press ups, squats and pull ups a couple of days a week can help to balance out your body’s weak areas and reinforce your posture.
For the more advanced athlete who already spends time working on their strength and core work, introducing weights and higher reps can be a good technique to increase muscular endurance. An example is lunging with weights to mimic repetitive pedalling against resistance.
Advanced tip: hit it heavy.
If you want to take it further and focus on max strength, then you can try a low rep range with a high weight, in the same way powerlifters train. Now the danger alarms might be going off now, but don’t worry, you won’t become muscle-bound overnight!
Periodisation is key.
Periodisation is an important factor in off season training, you’ll need to set yourself crossover periods and transitional phases to ensure you’re building the required strength, speed, endurance and power and are able to hold onto these different skill sets whilst moving onto the next one.
There really is no set rule as to what order periodisation has to be in, but it will usually start with either base strength or base endurance depending on your goal. If your goal is strength, you will focus first on lifting a weight (strength), then on how fast you can lift it (power), and then how many times you can do that for (endurance). You can interchange the order depending on what you want to achieve.
It’s impossible to maintain all phases of training at 100% intensity at once, so always start with one, focus on building it to the desired level, and then move onto the next whilst performing a maintenance phase for the previous skill. An example would be to work on strength for 4 weeks, then add in speed training whilst cutting down strength, then add in endurance training whilst maintaining but cutting down on speed and strength.
Maintain your base endurance, don’t let it slide.
If you’re going to concentrate on strength, power and other extra-curricular developments for cycling, then it’s crucial that you don’t let what you already have down to a tee, such as endurance, fall by the wayside.
Going into a new season with an edge on your opponents – or even your Sunday riding friends – can be a brilliant thing, as long as we incorporate it into our existing strengths to add something to our pace. Don’t just drop your current training for the new improvements, incorporate them!
Rest up to race up.
Winter is cold and harsh, and this often means we have to spend more time and effort keeping our bodies warm and fuelled. This means that each ride we do actually takes up more and more energy, and valuable effort is lost to simply maintaining a temperature, which then expends more calories, and so we start on a handicap of less resource and fuel.
This means it’s very important to stay hydrated, rested and ready for the next ride. Taking recovery shakes, eating chicken soup and getting enough nutrients to keep you ready for the next ride is vital in colder months, as every stage of preparation counts. Hit the hay with enough time as well, as eating the right foods, doing the right training and taking the right supplements means nothing if we aren’t getting enough shut-eye to heal our bodies and minds.