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How to best maintain your fitness
during COVID-19

By PCG Founder & Coach Hunter Allen

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Hunter Allen breaks down how to maintain your FTP between seasons in these turbulent times. As Hunter has been saying for years: “Maintaining is training and training is maintaining.”

Maintenance. It’s what you should do now. I have read about coaches that are still prescribing hard, hard workouts to their athletes, and I have read about coaches just throwing their arms up in the air and do not know what to do with their athletes. So, let’s solve these problems now.

1: Take the fitness you have (unless you are peaking now, then skip to #3 below) and maintain it.

What does that mean exactly? It means that you need to keep your Chronic Training Load (CTL) the same as it is now and plateau it. This means that you will continue to workout and ride and do some intervals, but not doing intervals 3-4 days a week. One set of intervals per week is fine.

What kind of intervals should you continue to do? Well, sweet spot of course! Just below your FTP is a perfect place to stay to maintain your fitness. It’s enough strain to cause the needed stress in order to maintain your fitness. How much is right amount? I would suggest at least 40-60 minutes per week of sweet spot work. Now if you want you can do sweet spot with bursts every two minutes to 120% of your FTP to keep your ability to change speeds or even ride right at your FTP. Those are all fine.

2: Hours per week should remain roughly the same.

IF you are riding 8-10 hours a week, it’s fine to maintain those hours. Just reduce the intensity. Keep riding for both your physical and mental health, but be sure to reduce your intensity so you are not creating too much training stress. This is critical to preventing a peak of fitness in the middle to late April.

3: What if you are peaking or about to peak NOW!?

Oh Sugar! If you had planned on peaking in late March through April– and/or you are peaking now–then it’s time to shut it down and LOSE some fitness. Yes, you need to shut it down and lose fitness. Why? Well, the world is going to return to normal–and there will be gran fondos, races, rides, etc., later this year. When that return date will be, we don’t know, but let’s be optimistic and say they will be in the late summer.

So you have 4 months (April, May, June, July) to create another peak of fitness for the season at the end of the year. That’s what you need in order to create a second peak of fitness.

How much fitness should you lose?

Well, if your FTP is 250 watts now, then let it drop to 230. If it’s 300 watts now, let it drop to 280. You should let your fitness drop roughly 7-10% of your peak fitness and that’s enough to give your body a little rest, along with not losing too much that you have to dig out from a hole. Why? Remember that fitness improves in 6-8 week cycles. SO, when things start to return to normal, you can easily begin training like mad again and create the peak that you wanted to begin with.

4: What about those of us that love doing hard intervals and riding our indoor trainers and we don’t necessarily have a specific event goal?

So, if you’re psyched and motivated to keep doing hard intervals and pushing it–then do it. The riders that need to move into maintenance mode are the ones that were doing events now or in the coming 4 months.

The riders that need to move into maintenance mode are the ones that are doing events now or in the coming 4 months.

5: What about those of us that are really out of shape and we were on a “comeback?”

These riders can continue to do harder workouts and improve their fitness, lose body fat, etc. Continue on with your hard and smart work! Let’s get your FTP back up to where it was years ago or to where it should be–and then enter into the maintenance phase.

6: Immune system suppression: Should I be worried about suppressing my immune system from working out too hard?

Yes, Yes, you should be concerned. BUT, only if you dig deep. Only if you come back to the house after a 4 hour ride where you did 20 intervals and you barely make it in the door because you are so fatigued. Yes, in those cases, you should be concerned. For the rest of us that are doing 1 hour workouts with some intervals in there, then do not worry about it. Your workouts are not hard enough (sorry) to suppress your immune system. Only when you go long (over 3hours) and are doing tons of hard work, should you be worried. Now, that does not mean you can go out and drink beers with your buddies after either though! Maintain social distance for now.

Maintenance is the answer that 80% of us should be doing now. Keep riding, keep having fun.

When I ride, I am reminded of the “normalcy” of life and how doing a fun ride, sweating, breathing hard and burning some calories helps me to reduce and relieve stress. It’s my rock. It’s home. It’s the foundation that makes life good. So get in a workout, sweat, have fun, and remember that all you need to do is just reduce the intensity a bit so that you’ll be ready to rock it out when it all comes back. Because it is.

Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” and “Cutting-Edge Cycling,” co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes.

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