After being on a constant adrenaline high from racing all summer long, the months of September and October approach and all bike racing ceases until February.
This is time for a little rest and recovery — before reflection, planning, and then dedicating yourself to winter offseason training … if you can stay motivated during the cold, dark months with no race weekends close on your radar! Remember – early races in the season will go on whether it is cold or not, so get used to wearing the proper clothing to stay warm while you are training in the offseason (and build a thick skin against the cold).
I’m going to break down my offseason and hopefully be able to help your offseason training or planning if you have found yourself unmotivated. There are many aspects of winter training to talk about, but I want to take a wide, more general view for the purpose of this article.
First, I tried to identify my weaknesses that became apparent through the past racing season. When I reflected on all of my races, I realized that it was never my fitness or endurance that was my downfall during big races, but my sprinting and max power output left me just short. Sometimes I fell short only by a couple of inches of winning or getting in a breakaway group. So, what is your biggest weakness? I realized that maybe if I had planned a more functional training schedule during the winter that addressed all aspects of racing and training, then maybe I would not have been so terrible at sprinting.
I’ve realized that many athletes get caught up in only doing long, slow miles during the winter. I was guilty of that last winter, since all I did was go out and ride for hours on end with no real intensity or purpose to my training. It may have not been terribly slow riding, but no functional or purposeful training was involved. While there is definitely time for long, slow rides at the beginning of your offseason to adjust your body back into training after taking some weeks off post race season, it isn’t necessary, or even beneficial, to train like that for months on end. If you only train slow, then you will race slow. Just as runners can’t expect to run 6 minute mile pace if they only train at 10 minute pace, you can’t expect to race bikes reasonably well at 24mph if you only ride 16mph all winter.
So, lets take a step back here and really think about the purpose of offseason training. If asked what the purpose of your offseason training is, what would you say? If you would have asked me that question last winter, I would have said “building an endurance base.” **Silence and stares among experienced cyclists….** This past year was a huge learning year for me. What I learned from clearly seeing my weaknesses on big race days, and working with a coach to improve those areas — is really only half of the answer.
The offseason is there for you to utilize in a plethora of ways! Yes, you should build your endurance base, but also take on other workouts that address all aspects of racing. It sounds so simple, but your offseason should prepare you to be ready to race during your race season. In other words, training your aerobic base, threshold power for various interval lengths and types of terrain, and sprinting power and technique should all occur during your offseason. Of course, these aspects of functional training should be introduced in a logical sequential order that does not overload your body. How you develop and execute a training plan during the winter can be a pretty good indicator of how you might perform during the race season.
Use the later months in the winter to train hard on tired legs and really develop yourself in all aspects of racing. If time allows, a great 3-hour winter workout can include aerobic riding with threshold intervals or sprint repeats thrown in. Come race season, you do not want to be playing catch up … you don’t want to constantly be putting in long, hard hours of training during the weeks you want to race well. You don’t want to be playing catch up because you did not put in the efforts during the winter (hopefully your excuse isn’t because it was cold). That never ends well. The race season should be carefully used to maintain the fitness you have gained, set you up for peak race performance, and continually fine-tune your weaknesses you have dedicated yourself to improve on during the winter.
So, does your offseason training plan need some adjustment or an overhaul? There is still a little bit of time before the road racing season starts, but it is quickly approaching!
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