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Make the Most of Your Off Season

By Earl Zimmerman, Elite/Master Coach

Peaks Coaching Group

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After a season of hard training and racing it's good to build in some down time, let your batteries recharge a little and take a mental break from training. Doing so may allow you to come back stronger in the new year.

Have you had your down time this year?

Take a break from competing and hard training and you may be surprised at the results. I can almost guarantee that your mind body will thank you later. You may be able to use this to your advantage as a platform to help launch your fitness beyond what you have seen in the past. It’s both mentally and physically challenging for competitive athletes to take time off the bike. Usually, their first thought is that they will lose a fair portion of the fitness they gained during the racing season. You could race CX in the “off-season”, but that’s a topic we won’t cover here! Of course you will lose some fitness during the off season, but that will occur for the most part only in the upper training zones. With just a few Endurance/Tempo rides per week, you can maintain your base fitness.

This is a great time to check off a few items on the To Do List, get your mind and body to focus on other tasks. This rest period can last a couple of weeks to maybe up to four weeks for those with higher mileage and more racing in their legs. Also, this is a great time of year to assess your strengths and weaknesses.
For one athlete, it’s been a long rewarding season with over 35 races, winning a Spring Stage Race, 10 podiums and finishing the season by winning a Criterium Series.

It was time for a much needed 2-3 week break composed mostly of unstructured short recovery rides with a couple 90 minute Endurance/Tempo workouts per week. During his off season, his CTL (Chronic Training Load) dropped to 50 (from a high of 70) and FTP (Functional Power Threshold) to 315 (from a high of 360 in May). The athlete was a little concerned that he had lost too much fitness. However, the reduced training load each week allowed the athlete to recharge his batteries. His break from hard training was just long enough that he again looked forward to structured workouts.

It’s important to note, during the off season that you reduce your caloric intake in order to limit weight gain. You just aren’t burning near the calories you were when you were training hard and racing.

Don’t minimize the importance of the re-build process during the off season. It’s important to adjust your FTP during this time, so that you’re not over-training during your re-build. Traditional LSD (Long Steady Distance “rides”) or Endurance/Tempo workouts work well for some athletes. Most, especially Master athletes will benefit from a shorter 8 minute FTP and 2-3 minute Vo2 max intervals every 7 - 10 days and longer group rides on the weekends. Yes, those first few workouts aren’t going to feel as good as they did in August, but after a couple weeks you’ll be back in the groove again. You might suffer for a few weeks on the group rides, but that’s okay too. After an adaptation period, you should see improvement on the climbs and your FTP should be back on the rise.

Off Season power analysis

By following these basic guidelines and taking time off this bike and beginning the re-build process, this particular athlete’s FTP is now 20 watts higher than the same time in the previous year (340 vs. 320). He now has a spring board that may help him get to the next fitness level.

Will this athlete will be a “January Star”? Probably not, since he has headroom for at least 20 additional watts according to his FTP of 360 in May, but then, many athletes purposely don’t train as hard during the build phase since they have no desire to be a “January Star”. If you fall in this camp, this might work to your advantage as it has for this athlete.

Notes:

CTL (Chronic Training Load): The overall quantity (i.e., combination of frequency, duration and intensity) of training that you have been performing over a substantial period of time – for example, several months or more.

FTP (Functional Power Threshold): The highest power that a rider can maintain in a quasi-steady state without fatiguing for approximately one hour. When power exceeds FTP, fatigue will occur much sooner, whereas power just below FTP can be maintained considerably longer.

Earl Zimmerman is an Elite/Master Coach with Peaks Coaching Group.

Back to Training and Fitness index page