Chris Carmichael Blog: Mild winter makes June 2012 a critical month for athletes

The start of a new month is a great time to look at short-term goals. You have your long-term season goals already and you’re working toward them, but as you rip May off the calendar hanging on your wall, think more specifically about what it is that you want out of the month of June.

Leadville 100 athletes, for instance, will likely see June as a great opportunity to start piling on the miles, particularly with long weekend rides and long back-to-back weekend training blocks (3-4 hours each on Saturday and Sunday, maybe more if you’re conditioning is already there).

Criterium riders could be focusing on speed work to hone the power and acceleration necessary for ultra-fast finishes. But if you’ve just come out of a big month of criterium racing (like riders in the Southeast US), then June would be a very good time to back down the intensity and focus on longer efforts at lactate threshold. Your aerobic fitness can actually erode out from under you during periods when you’re racing criteriums 2-3 times a week for a month. Some aerobic/lactate threshold focus in the next month will help you get incrementally stronger for your next block of criteriums.


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On the other end of the spectrum, the beginning of June is also a good time to look for signs that your workload is too high. The season is still young, but many of you have been hitting it hard since January or February and you need to listen to what your body is telling you, even if it’s different than what the beautiful weather says to you.

The trouble starts quietly, and your goal should be to keep problems from ever becoming extremely loud and incredible disruptive. Maybe you have small cuts from mountain biking that aren’t healing as quickly as usual. Maybe you’re getting small skin infections even though you haven’t had acne since you were a teenager. Or perhaps you’re having minor joint or tendon pain that’s easy enough to work through, but unusual all the same. These can be physical signs that your body needs more recovery. Over time, athletes even develop their own personal “tells”, individual responses that only crop up when they are fatigued or struggling to recover adequately to their training workload.

June is one of the months when these problems come up for athletes in the Northern Hemisphere, and this year’s mild winter in the US seems to be making it more of a problem than usual. Athletes in the US were able to start hard outdoor training earlier this year than in some previous years, and many have already accumulated the annual mileage/kilojoule workloads we’d typically see at the end of July.

Here’s my advice, especially for US Athletes: take a look at your training logs for 2012 and compare with January-May of 2011. If you’re already far ahead of the workload you achieved in 2011 already, look at what happened to your performance when you reached this workload level in 2011. Did your performance continue to improve, or did you take a significant recovery period first, and then see improvement? You may be able to handle more workload this year compared to last (that’s the point of training, after all), but don’t underestimate how significantly the mild winter may have shifted the build/recover cycles of your spring and summer.

It may seem too early in the year to need a break, but if that’s what you’re body is telling you it needs, it pays to listen.

Have a great weekend!
Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach
Carmichael Training Systems 

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